Should my dyslexic child get support at school?
Updated: Mar 4
This is a question that comes up lots of times in my Facebook group and other groups dedicated to helping parents of dyslexic children. It is a difficult question to give one clear cut answer to.
Once your child has been assessed as being dyslexic, usually by an educational psychologist or a specialist teacher, then in the UK, " The SEN Code of Practice which came into effect on 1 September 2014 requires schools to provide appropriate support so that all children have the opportunity to benefit from an inclusive education. A dyslexic child should be offered differentiated support to address the child's particular learning needs." according to the British Dyslexia Association.
The first part of the problem is whether your child has been identified as being dyslexic. In my experience, this is where parents come up against their first obstacle. If a school doesn't believe that your child is, then they will not screen for it and they definitely won't bring in their Educational Psychologist to assess your child.
Some examples of children who schools will arrange for an assessment in my experience are:
- those they are really concerned about - especially if there are behaviour issues involved or the child is a 'looked after' child ( i.e. in foster care).
- those they feel they really don't understand ( often because there are multiple issues such as epilepsy ,dyslexia, autism all thrown in together) and the school really needs extra funding to pay for a Learning Support Assistant.
In a large school, there may be significant numbers of these children. School budgets are really stretched with many support staff having their hours cut - you can start to see why they may be reluctant to identify more children who need support, if they are just about coping with classroom and work demands.
However, if you feel that your child shows signs of dyslexia, then you mustn't be put off by this. Instead, contact a dyslexia specialist who can chat through your concerns and give you an indication of whether you are right to be thinking that dyslexia is a possibility. You can contact me here. I am always happy to listen to a parents concerns and give advice, which I do on a daily basis in my free Facebook group.
You may need to accept that you will have to fund an assessment yourself which I know is not always easy for every family to do as they are expensive. I do find that many schools will accept a dyslexia screening from a specialist teacher, following which they will put a lot of provisions in place in the classroom and for exams such as extra time and readers/scribes. They can often offer small group lessons in the week , if they have the staff available to do this.
A screening is much cheaper than a full assessment .I can talk through whether this is appropriate for you - for example,if you intend to obtain an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) then this will not be appropriate. If you are seeking answers and want to know how to help your child or what skills your school needs to help your child develop, then it may be appropriate.
The second part of the problem is that there is a difference in the interpretation of 'appropriate support'. Schools are there to educate all the children, to develop skills so that they can become a useful member of society and pay taxes when they are older ( this is possibly a major simplification!).
They provide a general education and, in fact, go way beyond this for many children. Within a class of 30 children ( or up to 35 in some schools I know in my area), there can be 10 who have some kind of issue which the school has to help with - this can range from serious health issues ( with the children at risk from dying ) to children experiencing unsettled home lives, to others with autism, ADHD ( Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and then our dyslexics.
1 to 1 and small group support is given on a needs basis, with those children who are most behind receiving this extra help. Schools do deal with a range of issues from helping children develop their speech and language to social and emotional skills. Often, our dyslexic children struggle to keep up but they can be working within average ranges. If they struggle more than this, then they may well receive some extra help for a period of time- although not necessarily covering the exact skills that they need to develop.
As parents, I know you all want your children to receive the 1 to 1 and small group help. However, with finite resources ( which lets face it, we all have), this may not be possible for a school to achieve. Even private schools only allocate a certain amount of extra help before a parent has to pay for more.
However, all schools can achieve classroom support which can also go a long way to helping your dyslexic child. This can be really simple things like changing the background colour on the whiteboard; providing rough paper for your child to brainstorm their ideas onto;teaching children how to plan a piece of work properly or even ensuring your child is sat where they can see the board better or away from distracting neighbours. This can form part of 'appropriate support'.
Your child's school should also differentiate their work so that they can achieve success too. Examples of this are asking for fewer spellings to be learnt, giving your child fewer questions to answer or asking for a shorter story. In this way, your child is expected to provide quality answers rather than quantity, which is something a dyslexic child can struggle with.
If your child is struggling with the amount of homework being set, ask how long they should be spending on this and just get your child to work for this amount of time.
A lot of parents do struggle to get their child's school to do classroom support and differentiated learning, let alone receiving small group or individual interventions. If this is the case, then you will need to keep having meetings with the school so that all the free and easy support is put in place ( and kept there). You may have to accept that your child will not receive small group or individual help from the school.
Unfortunately, your child's school is not there to ensure they reach their potential, but that they reach the government's acceptable standards.If this happens, then it will fall to you to provide the specialist help that they need to ensure they reach their potential. This does sound quite tough and I do honestly believe that most teachers are incredibly caring and want children to do their best. But, there are major issues with the speed of the curriculum at the moment and they just can't provide the kind of teaching that they yearn to do and which your child will excel at.
A further side to the problem of support is that many teachers simply don't know how to provide this. I know this is unacceptable. But it is a reality at the moment - dyslexia is still not a compulsory part of a teacher's qualifications. Worse still, your SENCo may not know a lot about this either. There are many schools and teachers who take it upon themselves to find out more and are actively improving their knowledge in this area. It will take action at Government level,though, to make it compulsory for all teachers to know this.
In summary, you can see that what support your child should receive at school is dependent on a number of factors:
1. Whether they have been assessed as dyslexic and by whom
2. How far behind your child is academically, in relation to others in your school
3. Whether a school receives extra funding for a child
4. The teacher's understanding of their dyslexic issues which need development
However, all children should receive appropriate classroom support and differentiated learning.
If you would like to receive more tips and strategies to help your dyslexic child, then please join my free Facebook group here.
If you would like to discuss a dyslexia screening or full diagnostic report then please contact me here for a free, no obligation discussion.