Hi, I am a mum of a 19 year old dyslexic. I have lived with this subject for so many years and when I went onto the mumsnet site I can see parents still are wandering around in the dark. I was speaking to a mum yesterday whose daughter is going through the GCSE stage and I could see myself back there 3 years ago. I believe that as a country we should be able to have a coherent approach to this subject for parents, schools, teachers and in the workplace.
I don't want this subject to be placed under the heading special needs. If we knew how many children were dyslexic in our schools, we could have a situation where it is seen as a "norm" and not as a special need. I do not know how to go about trying to have a seamless approach across the country which would help all the above groups. Any ideas? I know there are organisations out there who are doing very good work, some are paid for by parents privately, but we really do need to have an all access approach to the best information and help so that we able to ensure that dyslexia is not perceived to be different, strange, difficult, confusing, misunderstood, I could go on and on. Where do we go?
My DS has dyslexia.
For me, part of the problem is that the education system, especially at primary school places so much importance on the very things that dyslexics are not good at. If more recognition was given to creative thinking, originality, verbal ability then the dyslexic kids might have a chance to shine. There must be kids in every single class in the country who are being judged on their handwriting and punctuation rather than their ideas.
Yes, it is always good to concentrate on their strengths. However, in my experience the child knows how they are different and are not satisfied knowing what they are good at when they cannot do what everyone else can, the reading and writing bit etc. This is where the teachers' understanding of what will enable a dyslexic to participate in the school learning process is crucial. I always think you wouldn't say to a blind child "look at this" and expect them to see what you're pointing at. So why say to a dyslexic "copy this off the board"? Or say to them this is how to write letter shapes in the same way as others and teach them how to read the same way as others. Why? Because this is not how they learn. The blind can learn to see in other ways, just as a dyslexic can learn to read, write and sequence, and use their memory in a different way. It is not rocket science, it's just that teachers do not know how to teach them. Even those teachers who try really hard and have some success with one pupil wonder why another pupil with dyslexia doesn't respond to the similar techniques. I still find it unbelievable that teachers think that if you go over and over something a dyslexic will learn. All it shows to me is how they are limited in their teaching skills. Look, say, cover, write for a spelling technique for those who are severely dyslexic is just a joke, only it is not funny. Acceptance of the numbers who are dyslexic should enable teacher training to change.
I read an article about "inclusive education" in a magazine in the Ed Psychs waiting room recently - sorry no idea what it was . Basically the premise was that the varied methods of teaching that suit Dyslexics can enrich the learning experience of all children, the issue for teachers was achieving a balance between what works for all and what works for the individuals. However inclusive education needed the teachers to be trained, and currently they just are not. It was reassuring that the idea is at least on the table for Education Professionals.
However I think the real problem is that political influence looks like taking away what has already been achieved for our children. At my daughters school the English GCSE marking debacle definitely had a disproportionate effect on the grades of the dyslexic cohort. They were all marked down with several predicted A* getting Bs even though they had been given an A* for the coursework which was 40% of the whole. Whatever the formal limitation on marks lost for spelling, punctuation etc. couldn't help wondering if there had been a hardening of the attitude to idiosyncratic ways of expressing yourself, messyness etc.
Now we have just had a crisis with my DD in relation to justifying her extra time at AS. The exam boards have tightened up the regulations and now apparently have a computer programme that spews back any applications for extra time where processing, working memory scores etc are not in the below average range. The scores from her last assessment were in the low part of the average range though the gap between those and her verbal and non verbal reasoning scores, both in the superior range, was considerable and certainly the basis of a recommendation for extra time by the Ed Psych (also supported by reading and writing speeds at the 10th percentile)supported by the evidence provided by her teachers. We have been busy compiling all this evidence to try and gain an approval from the exam board but also got the assessment that would normally be done for uni applications done a little early to have the most recent assessment possible. In that assessment her processing scores were well below average so we will not have the uncertainty of whether the exam board will accept all the evidence we have gathered.
Throughout this process what has reallv upset me is the total disregard for the pupils they are proposing to take extra time away from weeks before the exams who may have been used to working with extra time in exams for years, the total disregard for the actual nature of Specific Learning Difficulties, the departure from the aims of trying to level the playing field and the fact that many parents and teachers would simply not have the resources to gather all this evidence. As the Ed Psych said, universities assess on the basis of the gap between ability and working memory skills etc so able Dyslexics will be fine once they get there but A levels will no longer give them the same opportunity to demonstrate their ability, meanwhile the exam board have tilted the playing field for the less able since they are giving extra time to those with below average processing and memory skills even if the gap with their ability may not actually be that wide.
My experience of secondary has been way better than primary (DS put on "bottom table"). He is in Year 8 and your post makes depressing reading Copthallresident. He will fall foul of all you mention if he has to take those tests - the low marks may well be at the bottom end of normal but way below others. I think he will qualify for a scribe or laptop (with spellchekcer) on the basis of illegible handwriting but this will mean that he will automatically be down whatever percentage they give for spelling (even in Science ). He could potentially get every question correct in a Science paper but get a lower mark than someone who got several questions wrong.
Good luck to your DD.
Actually, after a check, not sure if the new spelling rules apply to Science but a TA friend told me that when scribing, the pupils would have to spell out the scientific words to them....
Dyslexic teacher here, but in FE.
I teach as though the whole class is dyslexic, things like note taking is kept to a minimum, I will give a handout with the essentials, maybe with some gaps to fill in.
As much practical as possible to go with the written.
There is so much more that could/should be done at school level.
Just here because I am worried sick about dyslexic 17 yr old in a grammar school with fantastic ed support teacher but appalling attitudes from 'normal' staff - he's well below average on every working memory score (0.02th percentile) and the lack of lesson structure (and signalling of lesson structure) seems to really throw him. Even the move away from exercise books seems to have been too much. Naturally, AS levels are stressful which exacerbates the problem, apparently he managed to mis-spell his own name on the front of the exam booklet yesterday. Not sure what to do next, as there seems to be a dearth of reasonable things to do if you are bright but not academic. So agree that provision is not joined up - I work in uni where support is truly excellent but large numbers of students with problems turn up undiagnosed and feeling like failures before they even start uni courses and desperately want my son not to feel the same - so I agree with the previous post.
On a more positive note my son's reading speed improved markedly after training (and adolescence - the two might be linked - see this article about brain growth http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/complete-index.shtml)
- and the secondary school used a book called toe-to-toe which he said really helped but there are loads of resources out there. He used to demand 'his' bedtime story long after his friends were rejecting parental involvement and that was probably protective in terms of vocabulary development. However, the result is a 17 year old whose vocabulary is not particularly limited and whose problems are therefore masked in classroom discussion but very apparent in written work (especially under time pressure, and there are penalisations for incorrect spelling of special terms at A level). But it is good that you have a diagnosis now. If I had to go back I would not choose a grammar school - the end result is that he feels 'stupid', just a solid all round comp with decent a-c results and a nice feel would have been better. The British Dyslexia Association are meant to be good to talk to.
Just to let you know that there is light at the end of that long tunnel of education for Dyslexics. We have been through most of the above situations with our son,trying getting access to all the wonderful things that are available, we lived in a very rural area and so nothing much was available. OUr boy was statemented at the age of 5 but then there was a policy of not statementing any dyslexics at high school age so we coped and he learned coping stratergies. He scraped through the A levels and didn't really get the results for Uni. He used his personallity to go through an interview and they gave him a chance to do a degree in Product Design, not Oxford, but a once was Polytec, now university.
Well here we are now, he is just finishing uni and it looks like hes going to get a hounours 1.1. so don't dispair about the system. It changes constantly. the best you can do for your child is to give them confidence, give them a love of knowledge, and be with them when it goes wrong, help them pick up whats good and what they enjoy, keep them moving forward and looking to the future. They maynot fit into the System, but then neither did Einstien. Ask if they are happy frequently, and if they aren't ask the teachers why not.
Copthallresident I have a DS with 5 SLDs discovered late and he also has med conditions. he is in the top 1% of ability (very superior scale). DSs university has great support for dyslexia and do for him the best - bless them- some London ones also do support dyslexics but unfortunately not all universities are the same. I totally agree there is 'total disregard for the actual nature of Specific Learning Difficulties' and there is 'departure from the aims of trying to level the playing field though I cannot see there ever was such an offer of even one .... I feel this disregard is aggravated by inaccurate or poor understanding of dyslexia from those who work with dyslexic pupils/students and by the total lack of heart from politicians to deal with this. A dyslexic thinks and learns in different ways and should not be classed as a disabled or with 'learning difficulty - dyslexics have been amongst those with great reasoning ability, fast thinking and superior problem solving capacity. At the end one has to address the question: Who has the right to call themselves the normal one? Dyslexics should be taught and assessed in different styles than the rest of students/pupils. I agree memorisation skills and processing speed are not to be confused with ability or reasoning. GCSE exams and A Levels might not be the best or suitable assessment for all the dyslexics some of whom may shine if they are set different kind of exams. DS did well with US exams, he was HE and did not take the UK exams.
Attitudes towards dyslexia need to change. But these changes to level the playing field for the dyslexics are not going to be 'offered on a plate' to us the parents without trying hard to campaign to bring changes. We are a significant minority and perhaps writing to the MPs is important and there are other ways as for example to take matters to outside like EU. Making the cause heard is important.
My DS has just scraped a 2.2 at university in Biological Sciences. I am both incredibly proud of him, and sad that he did not get the support and understanding he needed to achieve a higher mark. With marks varying between 81% and 38%, he has a typical dylexic profile of wide swings in achievement. Also the constant belief that the 38% was the 'right' judgement on him, didn't deserve extra help etc, couldn't possible ask for it...
Just getting to university is not enough: you need the self-belief to seek out and access the help. I wish I'd been able to help him more in this area.
But he did a lot of growing up, had a good time overall, and is a lovely young man. And at least he need never take another exam ...
I am a SENCO in a comp and am incredibly frustrated that I have pupils who can articulate their Dyslexia as if they had memorised a text book but are achieving above all the thresholds for any access arrangements (except use of computer) and so do not qualify. I have worked so hard to persuade teachers to teach in a dyslexia-friendly way to pay regard to these young people, especially when all indicators show it will benefit all pupils and disadvantage none. The education system is designed for the left-brain thinkers that run it.
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