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Any professionals who can help with a homework/dyslexia/SEN query?

(26 Posts)
PippertyPip Thu 24-Oct-13 10:44:16

DS(7) is in Yr2 is on an IEP as he is behind the national standards for reading and writing, and his self-esteem is suffering. He is showing some signs of dyslexic tendencies and we have dyslexia in the family, but it may also be that he is simply developing at a different rate to others and it will all fall into place eventually, hopefully by the end of this year. I fully understand that school is unlikely to test for dyslexia until he is 8 for this reason.

The school has quite a strict HW policy, in that it starts weekly in Yr1, and increases year on year. In Yr2 for example, they have a weekly reading/writing task, and 2 extra pieces of homework to complete each half term, as well as daily reading; each HW task is more challenging than the previous one.

While I would personally prefer a more relaxed approach to HW in general for all children, I accept we have chosen a school because it is good in many aspects and is our local community school so we want to be part of it! I just don’t want DS to go too far down the route of feeling he is unable or somehow different in a negative way, before really knowing if there is some kind of SEN.

Can anyone help me to understand the thinking behind a strict HW policy in terms of the affect on those who later go on to be diagnosed with dyslexia (or other SENs)? I guess I am wondering why school might be so keen to push them all so early, my concern being whether this can actually do damage to children who later go on to be diagnosed with SENs - i.e. they will already have experienced at least one whole year of feeling behind, pressured with work that might be too far advanced for them and general awareness of not being as able as everyone else (which is how DS feels).

I appreciate I am a "layperson", but I can't help but wonder, since there is no clear evidence that homework at this age actually has any benefit long term, why not wait until Yr3 to start building homework up, when any dyslexic (or other SEN that might be diagnosed by then) children would hopefully have a diagnosis and support in place to cope?

I’m hoping to take a query of this nature up with the School SENCO, so any thoughts or guidance before I do would be very much appreciated smile

PippertyPip Thu 24-Oct-13 10:50:30

While I would personally prefer a more relaxed approach to HW in general for all children at this age (Lol, I am not advocating abandoning it completely for ever!)

mummytime Thu 24-Oct-13 11:20:12

H/W is something that Gove and OFSTED like.

My biggest regret is the time I wasted encouraging forcing my dyslexic DS to do H/W in Primary school. He would have been far better doing tasks which were designed for and would have helped him.

If you do do the homework, feel perfectly free to limit the time spent on it, when that time is up, stop the work and write a note to inform the teacher how much time your son spent on it. I would also keep a watch that they don't keep him in at break to finish work, and complain if they do.

If you want a reference on why spelling tests are a waste of time how about this one? Or that most homework is a waste of time.

Good luck!

PickleFish Thu 24-Oct-13 11:32:41

I don't think it's a strict homework policy in itself that is the problem, but rather inappropriate homework.

Daily reading of suitable phonic-based readers is very helpful, as is general phonic revision. Writing tasks can be done working with him to make sure that he is listening to the sounds that he hears, and choosing a suitable way of writing - or if that's not possible, having someone else do some of the writing, whilst he works on the skills it's designed to test (e.g., coming up with adjectives, or whatever).

Longer projects over the half term can also be adapted as needed.

I don't think homework is particularly needed at these ages, but it also doesn't have to be self-esteem destroying, and it can provide useful skills in learning to plan time (with parent help) - e.g., not leaving it all to the day before for a longer project, and also with some self-discipline - i.e., the fact that this small task has to be done, but the child can choose to an extent when to do it, so getting into the habit of just getting on with things that might not be first choice of activity but have to be done. Often dyslexic children do, in the end, have to work harder than others to achieve the same results, and/or do extra practice/revision etc outside school, and it can be helpful if the child already just sees this type of activities as part of a daily routine, rather than something bad or horrible that has to be done (they can pick up very quickly that a parent thinks they shouldn't have to do it, or is apologetic rather than matter of fact about having extra sessions/work etc).

PickleFish Thu 24-Oct-13 11:39:56

Forgot to add - but the homework needs to be accessible and suitable, and actually provide some learning, rather than just being something that the child can't do. If it's appropriate and adapted so that they are learning something (even if that means adapted by the parent), then it can still provide some useful benefits if approached in the right way.

PippertyPip Thu 24-Oct-13 14:10:35

Thank you mummytime and PickleFish, I agree it's about doing tasks that are appropriate, and indeed suited to stage of development.

PickleFish, when you say about adapting the homework even if that means by the parent, this is what is sitting uncomfortably with me. I kind of feel a need to be guided by the school (as the experts) and working with the school, so that we both know and are aware of the level and type of work that is appropriate. Otherwise it feels a bit that the onus is on us to do the assessing of what is appropriate and not sure that's how it should be.

Is this where the SENCO comes in?

Basically at the moment, because DS is lacking in confidence with reading daily, I feel he would make better progress if we focussed on just that during the week, with maybe a writing task at the weekend. When DS is at a stage where he is comfortable in a routine of doing that, would I feel more comfortable to introduce extra work on top. Right now, it just feels too much too soon, and is creating unnecessary pressure.

Sorry to post and run, it's going to be a bit like that for a while!

PickleFish Thu 24-Oct-13 14:27:06

I think there are ways of adapting the homework that would still show his level - or in fact, show it even more clearly. I would hope that they are not really specific tasks, but slightly more open ended - so if the writing were to write something about a visit to a zoo, some children might already write sentences, but others might have a go at the name of one or two animals, and the parent could help with the rest of the writing if the child wanted to add anything more, or he could draw a picture to go with it or something. That way he has done something, but it can be suitable for his needs and not something to get stressed about or to compare with other children, unlike a worksheet or something that he to be complete quite specifically.

NoComet Thu 24-Oct-13 15:09:54

If he has an IEP you ought to be able to ask to see the school SENCO and talk about HW and reading.

I total agree that being forced to do daily reading and not properly differentiated HW is potentially damaging.

DD1 and I spent 6 years doing it before her primary accepted she's dyslexic. She is the most copy book, tick all the boxes dyslexic you will ever meet and yet she never had so much as an IEP, that I ever saw.
(Senior school are way better, they offer her support and ensure she gets extra time in exams, but they can never teach her the basic phonic, accurate reading and spelling skills she's learned to cope without.)

Your DS school are clearly far more on the ball and it's totally in order to ensure this remains the case.

juniper9 Thu 24-Oct-13 17:33:28

I've always adapted homework to meet the needs of children with SEN if their parents want me to. It's a bit of a pain to organise, time wise (I had a child who was 3 years below expected levels last year so the work was completely different) but it is part of the job. One of those things that, as a teacher, you have to just suck up.

Alternatively, maybe you could opt out of homework? I'd speak to the teacher about it personally. Ask if the homework can be made simpler, or that you do half of it, or that you do 20 minutes and then stop etc.

I am very anti-homework in primary, though, so my views are quite biased! I set it and I mark it, but I resent everything about it.

maizieD Thu 24-Oct-13 17:58:44

Senior school are way better, they offer her support and ensure she gets extra time in exams, but they can never teach her the basic phonic, accurate reading and spelling skills she's learned to cope without.)

Err. Some secondaries would. I have just retired from doing precisely that at a secondary school.

I would be interested to know what the OP's school is doing to support his reading & spelling skills and what sort of books they are expecting daily reading of. If there isn't some good, systematic phonics help in place, supported by decodable readers at an appropriate level then he is going to struggle.

PippertyPip Thu 24-Oct-13 18:52:56

Thank you all, it is really helpful to have different views coming forward on all of this! And I agree Star, that the school do seem on the ball as far as IEP is concerned so far.

PickleFish, I agree with the theory behind what you are saying, and I think some of the tasks have been less open ended. Some have felt entirely beyond DS, resulting in him shouting that he can't read, throwing his book and pen across the room and saying it's to hard and he's useless and stupid etc (language I am passionate about not using around him btw). Which is heartbreaking to see, because he's actually a very bright kid, who loves nothing more than being read chapter books to every night, and who did have a liking to write (ok dictate some of it grin) and illustrate superhero adventure stories, which has now gone out of the window.

I usually let him have a bit of a break, then basically try to encourage him to do something that he CAN do, as homework related as possible, or alternatively DP will sit down the next day and try again, sometimes with results, sometimes not. Often having simplified the task a lot and practically writing it out for him for him then to copy. This maybe ok, I'm not sure, there was a suggestion at the beginning of term that it should all be DS's work, so am feeling a little at sea! So yes, a chat with the SENCO I think is in order.

Juniper, I feel we could do with someone like you as DS teacher this year smile

PippertyPip Thu 24-Oct-13 18:54:46

Sorry Mazie x post - left the last under constrution for a while there! Will absorb your post more thoroughly and come back porbably tomorrow now as off out smile

toomuchicecream Thu 24-Oct-13 19:27:29

What did the class teacher say when you spoke to her about it? I assume you've done that already....

youarewinning Thu 24-Oct-13 19:31:15

My DS has SN and also SEN. His literacy is extremely poor. I have always set aside some h/w time but tbh not ever forced it and if he's really anti it or feeling 'stupid' because its too hard I support him and have been known to write for him what he's told me. IMO if he's saying it and I'm writing he's still learning something.

NoComet Thu 24-Oct-13 22:54:33

MaiseD I think secondary tried a bit in Y7, but the reading exercises were too easy and she hated coming out of lessons.

It's incredibly hard to teach the sort of bright, academically inclined dyslexic, who will get A/B at GCSE, with in your average comprehensive school SN dept. They simply don't have the resources to divert to DCs who will do ok on their own. Especially ones with a deep quite self confidence in the fact that they will manage just fine because they have always had to.

This is why the OP is quite right to want to ensure her DS does worth while HW, not wastes hours trying t o read books he struggles with or do spellings he instantly forgets.

Even if I could have found a tutor, or secondary school SENCO had been able to set appropriate work. It would have had to have fitted in with all her other HW (which of course takes longer), Guides and Singing. The last two are non negotiable they are what keeps her sane.

youarewinning Fri 25-Oct-13 07:05:32

That's very true starball about the 'extra curricula' activities being important. My DS does swimming and trampolining - his body doesn't wok both sides together - and I feel these activities as well as keeping me him sane also help with his work as they are building his co ordination. I believe he gets as much, if not more, out of them than he does out of just writing which he struggles with.

maizieD Fri 25-Oct-13 10:09:55


I don't know if it is because it is morning, and I don't like mornings, or if it is perfectly justifiable feeling but your post about your daughter just made me a bit mad. Your child is labelled with 'dyslexia' and is likely to play on that label all her life, expecting exceptions to be made for her and to be 'accommodated' for her 'disability'; but you couldn't actually be arsed to get help for her because it would interfere with the school work which she presumably found hard to do because of her 'dyslexia'. Bizarre.

youarewinning Fri 25-Oct-13 23:10:10

As an aside have you tried using a different pen for writing? My DS has been using the stabilo easy writer since September and his writing has gone from illegible and not even sitting on the line to legible and fairly straight. His actual writing has improved too with regards to content because not so much of his energy is focused on pen grip and the actual movement required for writing.

He's year 5 so older than your DS.

NoComet Sat 26-Oct-13 01:14:04

MaizeD, I could ask "if you meant to be so rude", but nothing in life is as simple as a brief MN post.

Had I realised DD1 would still have as many problems at 15 and had I realised school would offer no worth while academic help I might very well have tried to find her a tutor.

However, it isn't school work DD1 finds hard, she is very bright (written works a pain, but understanding anything that's thrown at her isn't).

What she found impossible was the social side of school, I think there is a crossover between dyslexia and dyspraxia when it comes to social skills.

DD1 just doesn't fit in. The nice girls at primary left her out and the DCs with their own problems took their frustrations out on her. The Y2 teacher who should have sounded alarm bells about her reading found her fussy and frustrating, they absolutely did not get on. (And the old head just didn't get sLD)

To cut a long story short I cut the lovely teacher she had for parts of 3 years in juniors far too much slack on the academic side because she made school a happy and safe place for DD1 to be.

I think she always assumed that one day reading and writing would click, reading did, but writing never will. I'm certain the new, very inexperienced HT thought it would too, especially as DD2 was the best reader in the last class he taught.

As for senior school, Her tutor finds her as difficult as her Y2 teacher did and he is bone idle.

SENCO's and heads of English have changed at the same rate as Hogwarts' dark arts teachers and Ofsted came and didn't like what they saw. There simply is no spare energy for DCs who can manage.

They found her a mentor for the social stuff in Y7, who she really liked and tried a bit with reading utterly the wrong level. They never told me she'd stopped bothering going and she certainly didn't tell me.

Gradually she's become less fussy, better at group work and with GCSEs looming her class mates have come to realise she's actually rather useful, she can sing, learn drama lines and do the science practical they can't.

In fact the SN dept have suddenly remembered she exists and she is doing something once a fortnight in PHSE and after half term I will Email and check whats going on.

Quite simply I will say it again senior school is not the place to sort out messes that junior schools should have spotted.

NoComet Sat 26-Oct-13 02:10:06

Ah, MaizeD I see you did mean to be so rude I discover I've blocked PMs from you.
Which either means you've tried to sell tutoring services or you reported me to HQ for asking you not to derail useful threads havibg a petty bun fight.

NoComet Sat 26-Oct-13 02:10:45

Apologies OP for doing the same thing

PippertyPip Sat 26-Oct-13 09:05:27

No worries Starball, in fact it is all very interesting to gain an insight into the potential challenges which might arise should DS continue to experience difficulties in learning to read and write. What you have posted about cutting your DD's teacher slack for making her feel safe etc is poignant; one of the best things about DS school is that DS feels happy and safe in lots of other ways, it scores well with OFSTED in this respect too.

MaizeD I am not sure Starball's posts came across as "not being arsed" to do anything, I thought your post was a bit harsh.

To the poster who asked if I had spoken to the teacher (yes I have, when the IEP was first put in place) and they use the Oxford English Reading Tree, we also have some graded phonics books at home. We did discuss HW in terms of getting into good habits etc and are due to reconnect after half term at parents evening, though not sure how much we'll cover in 10 mins so hence wondering if worth making an appt to see the SENCO as well.

Youarewinning - I will try different pens too, that's a great suggestion - as a lefthanded person myself I have struggled a bit and the pen makes a big difference - can't believe I've not thought of that yet myself - doh! smile

Thank you for all the posts.

maizieD Sat 26-Oct-13 11:02:51


Thanks for that explanation. I do apologise for being harsh, but then, I have been on the receiving end of parents who uinsist that their child is dyslexic (and whose child clearly needs help) but who decline to take advantage of the very effective intervention which we offered from Y7. Fine, it's their choice but they then continue to play the 'dyslexia' card; which then makes it look as though we've never tried to do anything to help!

You say that secondaries should not have to sort out the messes that the primary should have spotted, but I think that we would be failing in our duty if we didn't! The thought of a child being left to struggle because they are no longer at primary is abhorrent to me.

Of course primaries should, in some cases, do better. That is why I am a passionate advocate of the effective teaching of synthetic phonics for reading and writing from the word go. Jobs like mine shouldn't exist.

I am completely at a loss as to why you should have blocked me. I have never done either of the things you mention. The only person I have ever complained about was masha bell when she was being extrememly defamatory about a colleague if mine. And I have never done private tutoring, let alone try to sell services on the non-commercial forum pages. How strange.

NoComet Sat 26-Oct-13 12:31:29

I can't work it out either as a quick search only finds you giving some very good advice to me, wearing my non Wimbledon name.

maizieD Sat 26-Oct-13 13:19:56

Now you make me feel even more guilty, Starball...blush

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