One in every ten children is dyslexic and many more struggle with reading and writing. Early intervention and a structured multi-sensory teaching programme can make all the difference. As a qualified teacher and member of the British Dyslexia Association, I have taught countless children to read and will help your child to become a confident and competent reader as well as helping them find ways to improve their writing and spelling.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you and your child.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

When the numbers don't add up.

Does your child struggle with maths? No matter how often you teach them the 'basics', does nothing seem to sink in? Is it like they just don't understand numbers? At all? They may well be dyscalculic but a recent study suggests that it is unlikely that anyone at school has noticed. 

According to a study by Queen's University Belfast, a child with dyscalculia, also known as a specific learning difficulty in maths, is 100 times less likely to get their dycalculia recognised than a dyslexic child. 

Parents who have struggled to get their child's dyslexia recognised will appreciate just how significant this is! Sadly, without recognition, children with dyscalculia are unlikely to receive the support they need in school and they need extra support if they are to master numeracy.

The findings may come as no surprise to the many parents struggling to get schools to take their child's persistent difficulties in maths seriously. There appears to be a tacit acceptance in education that some people just 'can't do maths'. Of course, schools vary and for every school that says 'we don't do dyscalculia here' and 'she'll get it in the end', there are schools trying really hard to help those struggling with maths to master the subject. 

So why the startling statistic? Well, in my experience, the biggest problem that children with dyscalculia face is that teachers, in general, lack awareness and training. Dyscalculia isn't just finding maths difficult or being a bit slow to grasp mathematical concepts. It is a lack of understanding of numbers.Teachers will use all the strategies that they have learnt to help children make progress in maths but children with dyscalculia need specialist support. More of the same simply won't work.

Also, for most teachers, dyscalculia simply isn't on their radar so they don't suspect it and therefore don't screen and school educational psychologists don't assess.

But what if you suspect your child is dyscalculic? What can you do? 

  1. Raise your concerns with the class teacher and ALN (Additional Learning Needs) Co-ordinator. Ask if they can screen your child to see if they have any of the signs of dyscalculia.
  2. If they are not willing to screen then seek out a specialist tutor - they should be able to carry out a screening to assess your child's ability. A screening will ascertain the likelihood that your child's maths difficulties are related to dyscalculia. Costs will vary but should be less than £150.
  3. Take the results back to the school. As with dyslexia screenings, I find that if parents take the results into the school, it helps to galvanise the school into action; many schools want to help but, when it comes to dyscalculia, they simply don't know how. A screening report should provide teachers and parents with practical suggestions to support your child.
  4. Ask the school to tell you how they're going to address your child's needs. What adjustments are they going to make for your child in the classroom and how are they going to provide suitable activities to help them develop their mathematical skills?
  5. Schools have limited resources. If you feel that your school isn't able to provide adequately for your child then consider arranging additional lessons with a specialist tutor. 
  6. You might also want to consider a formal dyscalculia assessment. This needs to be done by an Educational Psychologist and will cost around £700.
There are a number of things you can do at home - which I'll cover another time- but essentially, dyscalculia, like dyslexia, does not go away. However, with the right help and support your child can master the basic skills necessary to do maths.

I screen children for dyscalculia from six years and up and, as with the dyslexia screening, many children are genuinely pleased to discover a reason behind their difficulties. As one child said to me: "I'm not stupid after all". No, not stupid at all. 

If your child is struggling then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed. Screening and tuition for dyscalculia and dyslexia available now.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Who is responsible for educating your child?

Who is responsible for educating your child? If you home educate then you will know that the responsibility for ensuring your child receives a 'suitable' education lies entirely with you. But what if you send your child to school? Doesn't your responsibility end at the school gate? 

Well, no it doesn't. All parents with children at school are used to supporting them with their homework, listening to them read and doing what we can outside of school to complement their education. We may make trips to museums or buy them books but we largely rely on schools to educate our children. 

Don't get me wrong, schools do have a responsibility to ensure that they provide a broad and inclusive curriculum suited to each child's individual needs. But, and I'm going to get technical here, according to Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, it is the duty of parents to to ensure that their child receives a 'suitable education' for them.

A big part of this duty can be met by sending your child to school but if they have additional learning needs, for example, dyslexia, that the school is failing to adequately address then it is up to you as a parent, to ensure these needs are met.

This may sound daunting but in truth, the legislation is to your benefit - particularly if you find yourself at loggerheads with the school over how to meet your child's needs.

Many schools are strapped for cash. Even those that aren't find that the LEA places constraints on them that limit their ability to help children with special or additional learning needs. 

However, knowing that you as a parent have to ensure that they get adequate help means that if you need to take your child out of school to receive specialist support then the law is on your side.

If you feel your child needs additional support that the school aren't providing, then seek out a private specialist teacher. Then approach the school and tell them that you intend to take your child out for regular lessons to get additional support and ask when would be the best time. Some schools will work with you on this without further explanation or discussion.

If the school are resistant, try not to be confrontational - even if you think the school has let your child down. Explain that you appreciate that they have budget constraints but are doing their best to support your child. Explain that you have a duty to ensure that your child's needs are met - quote the Education Act if you feel it will help. Present the use of a specialist teacher as a positive - for the school as well as your child; your child will do better. This in turn will improve the school's overall results as well.

I provide a letter for parents to take into school, which helps.The key thing is to get your child the help that they need as soon as you can - wherever you can. Don't let anyone stand in your way.

If your child is struggling then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed. Screening and tuition available now.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Are you or your partner dyslexic? Then your child could be too.

Are you or your partner dyslexic? Then your child stands a good chance of being dyslexic too. It is hereditary. Your child has a 50% chance of being dyslexic as well.

So, what can you do to help your child?
Well, the first thing to know, is that if you teach them as if they are dyslexic and they're not then you won't do any harm. The way dyslexic children need supporting benefits all children with gaining literacy skills. On the flip-side, if your child is dyslexic and you don't address it, then that will be damaging.

If your child is very little, then teach them lots of nursery rhymes, read lots of stories and put your finger under the words so that they start to make the link between what you are saying and the words on the page. Familiarise your child with letters; buy them an alphabet chart - I put my daughter's chart up next to her nappy change mat when she was a 18 months, give them foam letters to play with in the bath, magnetic letters for the fridge and wooden inset alphabet puzzles.

As they get older, you can play games like I Spy. You can use letter sounds or make a collection of picture cards with rhyming names e.g pot, cot, hat, mat etc and play 'I spy something that rhymes with .....' Being able to rhyme is very important when it comes to reading. It is also something many dyslexic children struggle with.

Before your child starts school, think about getting them screened. Schools will typically wait till children are about seven or eight before screening for dyslexia - and some, sadly, won't screen at all. If you know your child is likely to be dyslexic and need support, it is prudent to arm yourself with proof before your child starts school. 

Screening for dyslexia is possible from four and a half years old. Screening does not confirm dyslexia but will give you a sense of how likely your child is to be dyslexic and will also give you an insight into what they find particularly difficult and the sort of support they need. 

If your child is already at school and struggling, make sure the staff know that you or your partner are dyslexic. Share your concerns about your child and see what they can do to support them. If you're not happy with the response or feel your child needs more, then seek out a specialist tutor and consider a screening test to establish their difficulties.

Above all, don't panic. Help is out there; many schools are good at dealing with dyslexia but if they cannot meet your child's needs or if your child needs additional support then tutors like me are available to supplement your child's education and help you to ensure that they reach their potential.

If your child is struggling then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed. Screening and tuition available now.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Is Dyslexia really a Superpower?

Is dyslexia a superpower or is it simply a disability that makes everyday life difficult? It is true that a great number of creative people in our society are dyslexic, but there are many more working in low paid jobs or languishing in prison. So what makes the difference, is it possible for all dyslexic children to grow up to reach their full potential and follow their dreams?

I'm reading a book at the moment entitled Dyslexia is my Superpower (most of the time) which seeks to explore the positives and negatives of being dyslexic and what can be done to best support dyslexic learners. It is a collection of interviews with children who have dyslexia and the tips for supporting them come from the children themselves. 

So, what are the 'superpowers'? Well, dyslexics tend to be very creative in their thinking and many of the children in the book talked about being able to solve problems in different ways to their friends. 

Dyslexics tend to be good at visualizing things, often being able to see how something will look before they have made it. A lot of the children talked about being able to see things in 3D and many said that art and design were favourite subjects.

Of course, the children also described their struggles with dyslexia; as well as struggling with reading, writing and spelling, many of the children also found maths hard. Some also described problems with memory. The major impact on their lives was that it took them longer and they felt they had to work harder to do the same things as their friends. 

So, what helped them? Finding out that they were dyslexic was key for many as it proved that they weren't 'just stupid'. Specialist teaching was also a turning point along with supportive family and friends. Adjustments at school were also helpful to many such as more time in exams, handouts in lessons, quieter classrooms and patient teachers.

As with the children I teach, the children interviewed had great plans for their futures with many wanting to pursue creative or caring professions. Some wanted to become teachers so they could support other dyslexic children.

What was striking and upsetting was how long it took for some children to be identified - one child in Wales went through primary school without anyone spotting his dyslexia - and without learning to read at all. Many parents also had to battle to get their children supported.

Despite the positive titleDyslexia is my Superpower also reveals how much more needs to be done to ensure all dyslexic children get the help and support they need.

If your child is struggling then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed. 

Monday, 8 January 2018

Handling homework meltdowns

It's seven o'clock. You are preparing the evening meal when your child reveals that they have homework. Your initial response is one of irritation; why didn't they tell you earlier? You stop what you are doing and sit down with them to try to work out what they have got to do. It looks pretty straightforward but when you discuss what needs to be done with your child, you are met with resistance, confusion and tears. 

From time to time, all children will experience homework that they don't like or understand, but for children with dyslexia, perplexing and time consuming homework is the norm. Many will try avoidance tactics, putting it off till the last minute or persuade you to tell them what to write. Others will really want to do it to the best of their ability and will spend hours on a homework designed to take twenty minutes. 

One mum recently told me that their valuable family time at the weekend was "ruined" by her dyslexic son's desire to get his spelling right in his homework. "It takes him hours," she said. "It makes me cry when I see all the effort he puts into something that is only supposed to take 30 minutes."

So, what can you do to help? Well, here are a few tips collected from my pupils and their families.

  • Ask your child if they have homework as soon as you get home so that there is plenty of time to complete it.
  • Break the task down into manageable chunks; if you can, do a little bit over several days. If you only have one evening to complete the work then set a timer and take regular breaks.
  • Read the questions to your child and ensure they understand the task before you begin.
  • Agree a time limit and have something fun lined up for when the work is finished e.g playing a game or watching a favourite programme on their tablet.
  • Talk to the class teacher if homework is taking over your life, taking too long or unduly upsetting your child; discuss strategies to reduce the stress on your child.
If dyslexia has not yet been identified or help and support in the school is inadequate then contact a specialist dyslexia tutor. Tuition will help your child  learn strategies to help them cope with homework as well as improving their general literacy.

Many schools, once they know a child is dyslexic, will allow pupils to complete homework more tailored to their needs, so consider dyslexia screening to help you and your child's school to understand where your child needs support.

Most importantly of all, don't let homework become a battleground. Remind yourself and your child that it isn't the most important thing in the world and if you think you have spent long enough on it, then put the books away and do something else. 

If your child is struggling then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

What is Dyscalculia?

Which of these numbers is the biggest? 21 or 25? This may seem obvious but it isn't if you are dyscalculic. So, what is Dyscalculia? Dyscalculia is often described as being like dyslexia for numbers. Children with dyscalculia just 'don't get' numbers so if you ask them which number is higher or greater or larger, they will often just guess. Give them a simple sum like 8 plus 3 and you'll probably see them using their fingers - even when they are seven or eight and past the 'using fingers' stage.

A number of the dyslexic children I teach are also dyscalculic and finding ways to help them understand the value of numbers can present a challenge. I use a variety of methods to show the children what numbers mean, often going back and re-visiting those early mathematical skills that many children acquire in reception classes. 

Whilst children with dyscalculia need specialist support, there are lots of things you can do at home to help them and Christmas provides some great opportunities.

First, there is the advent calendar. Advent calendars tend to have the numbers arranged randomly. For a lot of children with dyscalculia, this randomness makes no more or less sense than the correct number order. You see, if you don't understand than 2 is one more than 1 then it is not clear why you would put them next to one another in a number line or on a calendar.

You can help your child by making or printing out a number line with the numbers up to 25 - there's a link on my resources page if you want to print one out. Each time you open a calendar door, go back over the sequence, pointing at the numbers on the calendar and then on the number line. Explain that today is, for example, the 19th day of December. Talk about what day was yesterday and what day will come tomorrow. Children also love to do countdowns to the big day, so use your number line to count back from 25.

Secondly, when buying presents, encourage your child to handle the money and examine it. Talk about what the coin or note represents e.g £1 is made up of 100 lots of 1p. This may seem obvious to you but to children who struggle to understand value, it is a mystery. If you have the time, get out some 1p coins and try showing your child how to make 5 or 10p.

Thirdly, with holidays coming up, keep them busy with Christmas themed dot to dots which will help your child to correctly sequence numbers. Let your child keep a number line next to them whilst they join the dots to make sure they join them in the right order and succeed in creating their Christmas picture.You'll find a link on my resources page. Merry Christmas all.

If your child is struggling with understanding numbers then contact me today to get them the help and support they need to succeed.

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Rise in Home Education

It is clear that the education system is under increasing pressure and are struggling to meet children's needs. Specialist tuition helps your child whether they are at school or educated at home. Contact me today and get the support your child deserves.

There is a huge rise in the number of children being home educated. According to the BBC, there has been an increase of over 50% in the number of children with statements or equivalent, being taken out of school over the last five years. The headline is that it is mostly children with autism who are making up these numbers, but I imagine that many home educated children are also dyslexic. Certainly, I have taught a number of home educated children with dyslexia here in mid Wales.

For those families educating their children at home and families whose children are in schools with increasingly squeezed budgets, getting the help needed to meet their needs is proving very hard indeed. There are charities and information on-line of course but, essentially, families are now in a position where, more than ever, they are having to take full responsibility for providing appropriate support to meet their child's educational needs.

Specialist tuition is key to supporting a dyslexic child. As well as a child receiving tailor made one to one lessons, parents will also find out from the tutor how to support their child at home. For home educators, this can be the huge boost they need to support them in educating their child to her full potential. For parents with children in school, a good tutor will not only help them to support their child but will also be able to point out and ensure that parents get the best support they can for their child within the school system.

I've put a link to the BBC article below along with some relevant links to assist all parents, carers and adults supporting a child with dyslexia. I hope you find them useful.

To contact me for specialist tuition, dyslexia screening, advice and support and to keep up to date with dyslexia and dyscalculia research, visit my Facebook page