I support and help parents of dyslexic children all the time. I recently asked a group of parents who belong to my Facebook Group what their main concerns were and I am sure their responses will resonate with many of you.
1.'My child isn't learning the basics at primary school and I'm worried about how that will impact Secondary School'.
The key issues at primary school is in identification of a problem and then being able to provide an appropriate programme which remedies that problem. I hear a lot of the time from parents who are fobbed off with ' don't worry, they'll catch up' to 'they're too young for us to see if there is a problem'.
There are many good schools who do recognise the problem, but then allocate their resources to other children who are struggling more. But, there is also a hidden issue where a child is receiving an intervention which isn't improving their skills. Some schools will keep repeating their 'dyslexia intervention' despite evidence that it is not working.
All primary schools need skilled practitioners who understand how children acquire skills for reading, spelling and writing and can therefore see which skills our dyslexic children are lacking at that time and provide the correct intervention to help.
2. 'I'm really concerned about finding the right secondary school'.
This is a key concern for parents who have experienced a really good primary school, where their child has received support and help but are now worried that this won't continue at a secondary school. It is also a key concern for parents who feel that they didn't get the primary school right, so they don't feel empowered to make the right decision about secondary school.
I do have a questionnaire which you can use to 'grill' schools to see if they are a good fit for your child - contact me here to get your copy.
3. 'I don't think my child will gain any GCSE's'.
This is a 'biggie' and there is , rightly, a lot of parental concern around this. We all know that a 'c' grade ( grades 3/4 under the new classification) opens the door to apprenticeships and further education. If your child doesn't obtain these, then they are going to find themselves doing a college course that they don't really want to be doing, as well as facing retakes of their core English and Maths.
There is a real feeling of being let down by the system where our GCSE exams ( and many others after) rely on memory recall rather than creative thinking. In the words of one parent ' my dyslexic son doesn't stand a chance'.
4. 'My child is suffering high levels of anxiety, low levels of self-esteem- where will this end?
So many threads on online forums and groups are around this subject. At a time when we are becoming more aware of mental health issues, it is disturbing that so many of our school children have such high levels of anxiety.
A lot of anxiety for our dyslexic children is caused by a lack of support and understanding of their weaknesses, meaning that they experience repeated failure on a daily basis. In the end, this knocks their self esteem and their confidence.
We know it doesn't have to be this way and with an understanding of why a dyslexic student struggles, a teacher can make simple changes to help them succeed. It is also important for them to be following a programme which will help them with their difficulties, so that these are remedied as far as possible. When a child stops struggling with the basics, then they do become less anxious.
A lot of parents try and combat self esteem issues by encouraging their child, focussing on their strengths and ensuring they participate in sport, drama or an organisation such as the army cadets.
5. 'Funding isn't available for the technology recommended for my child'
This is another key issue identified by parents - often an educational psychologist recommends a laptop or a reading pen for the child, but the school is unable to provide one. There will be very valid reasons why this type of accommodation is recommended and it will allow that child to fully access and understand their school work. Without this, it can be hard for them to show the teacher what they know.
It can fall down to the parents to provide the technology themselves, but what happens to the child whose parents can't afford to do that?
6. ' I worry that I won't keep having the energy to fight for my child'
If I had a pound for every time this came up I would be very rich! Every parent of a dyslexic child can tell you how much time and effort they spend in fighting for their child to receive the education they deserve.
If your child is really struggling, then it takes an endless amount of time ( and often money) to obtain an Educational Health Care Plan. Some parents have fought for one of these for years - often only receiving one by the end of primary school. It is no wonder that there are many children leaving primary school without the basics when it takes so long to get their child's needs identified.
It isn't much better if your child struggles a bit - in fact, they are more likely to slip through the net because they are 'just keeping up'. Many dyslexic children shouldn't be 'just keeping up', they should be excelling in line with their levels of intelligence!
When you do get plans in place, you have to be vigilant to make sure the school does do what they say. Or you have to make sure your child doesn't miss the one subject they excel at ( sport, art, drama and so on) to do an intervention. Or you have to continually email the teachers to make sure they are aware of how to support your child. Well, you get the picture!
I think I've covered many of the concerns I see, what have I missed out ?
Would you like tips and ideas for how to help your dyslexic child? Click here to join my Free Facebook Group.