Updated: Feb 7
This is a frustrating position to find yourself in and can leave parents undecided about the action that should be taken. This is also a real danger point for your child as a lot of parents don't take any further action, believing that the teachers at the school know best. They often only receive 1-2 days training on Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia so it is not surprising that they don't always recognise what they see.
This can lead to your child struggling through their school years, the BBC reported in February 2020 that some Specific Learning Difficulties were being missed by schools and leading to those children being faced with exclusion because of the deterioration in their behaviour through their frustration with not being taught in a way they can access.
There are reasons why schools won't test for dyslexia.
1. There are costs to the school once your child is recognised as having dyslexia.
At this point, your child's education will fall under the SEND provisions as well as being covered by The Disability Act 2016. This means that the school has to take action and provide your child with the correct interventions to help them succeed academically.
If your child is not recognised formally as dyslexic then they are not covered by these statutory acts and the cost to the school is less.
School budgets are being squeezed in real terms and as one headteacher told me recently, 'my school can't afford to have too many SEN pupils'.
I was talking to a parent recently too who told me that her child's teacher wasn't allowed to suggest to her that her child may be dyslexic, they had to wait for the parent to mention it first. They still wouldn't screen for it, but suggested that she pay for a private diagnostic assessment.
2. Your child's teachers may not have enough experience and training to recognise your child's problems as dyslexia ( including the SENCO).
Research by the National Union of Teachers has shown that the majority of state school teachers lack the confidence to identify pupils with dyslexia. I would cite this as a major hurdle to overcome when trying to get your child's school to carry out a dyslexia screening or assessment.
Teachers do form opinions about children, especially if your child's frustration comes out as bad behaviour in school. It has been shown in studies that teachers cannot always get past the behaviour to see why it is happening and formulate a plan to help your child learn.
3. Your child is not struggling as much as others in the class.
Your child may be getting frustrated and not reaching their academic potential, but they may be just about at 'age appropriate levels' or just below. This may be well below where they should be performing, but schools are not looking at your child as an individual. Don't forget that they are deemed to be doing their job if the children hit 'age appropriate levels' at the end of Year 6.
Unfortunately, this means it becomes the job of the parents to try and figure out if their child should be performing better and to look at them more as an individual and not part of the school herd.
You can see from the reasons above that there are political and behavioural angles to why your child may not be tested for dyslexia at school, despite them struggling with some of the basics.
You now need to consider what you should do next.
You may not be feeling very confident about taking further steps, especially if you view your child's teachers as the professionals who should know. However, I would urge you to take further action and I have listed my top 3 ideas for what you should do next.
1. Make an appointment with the SENCo and present your evidence as to why you think your child may be dyslexic.
Never take no for an answer! It can be very difficult for a school to refuse a dyslexia assessment if you provide really good evidence for why you think your child has this.
Spelling is a key area where dyslexia shows up, more so than in reading skills. If your child struggles to learn their spellings, can't remember them the following week or spells the same words differently within their writing, then these are key flags. They may also struggle with putting their ideas down in writing and sequencing ideas correctly.
Dyslexia can show up in reading with a child not being able to sound out words or being able to blend sounds into whole words. They may get to the end of a passage and not be able to tell you what they have been reading about.
In maths, dyslexia can show up with trouble in learning their times tables and being able to work out word problems.
In older children, they may keep on getting bad exam results despite seeming to put in a lot of effort into their learning.
If your school is refusing to test for dyslexia, ask them to explain their reasons for this in light of your evidence.
2. Talk over your fears with a specialist dyslexia tutor.
A specialist understands the type of problems that dyslexic children have, including the lesser known aspects such as how working memory or processing speed affects academic performance.
I am always happy to chat with a parent about their child's difficulties and I have set up a free Facebook group where you can also receive help and advice from me - you can join this here.
3. Arrange for a private formal dyslexia assessment to be done.
Many parents have to resort to paying for an assessment themselves. It is often the first time that you have your concerns taken seriously.
A formal diagnostic assessment explores your child's learning strengths and weaknesses and checks whether the difficulties conform to a definition of dyslexia. Most importantly, you will take away a detailed report which makes full recommendations for the steps your child's school needs to take to move their learning forward, which also means you know what they should be doing. This makes it much easier for you to take the school to task if they fall short in your child's education.
A full assessment will take about 3-4 hours and it is relatively expensive ( I charge £450.00 which includes gathering background information from you and your child's school, the assessment meeting and then a full, detailed report together with a follow up to talk about the contents if required).
Many parents in my Facebook Group say that obtaining a full diagnostic assessment was the single best thing they did to help their child.
If you would like to find out more about this or book in for an assessment then please click here.