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, 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

Monday, 6 November 2017

Can specialist tuition really make such a difference?

One of the questions I get asked a lot, is how a specialist tutor can help a child. Does specialist support really make a difference? Well, I think it makes a huge difference in so many ways, not just academic as this case study shows how. I've changed the child's name.

Ella was eight when I first met her. Her mum had taken her out of school because Ella had become so anxious. She didn't want to read and found ways to avoid writing. Once a very outgoing child, she had become withdrawn.
We did a screening, identified Ella's difficulties, then started meeting once a week. At first, we didn't do any reading or writing; we just 'played games' – ones Ella turned out to be very good at! I gradually introduced reading and writing into the lessons. 
We worked steadily, at Ella's pace. Because it was just the two of us we didn't have any distractions or constraints. There was no one to tell Ella to hurry up like in the classroom and no other children for her to compare herself to. Her confidence grew and grew.
After a while, Ella felt able to return to school – on the understanding that she could still come to see me one morning a week. Her school used the results of the screening to assist Ella in the classroom and ensure they were meeting her needs.
A year on, her teachers say they have noticed a big improvement. Ella is very  confident and happy, she reads fluently and enjoys writing. There is still more work to do but Ella is on her way to mastering the English language despite all the inconsistencies. Oh, and we still play games and Ella nearly always wins...

Don't forget, you can also find me on Facebook where I regularly post links and articles. You never stop being dyslexic but it can become manageable.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Raising the self esteem of a dyslexic child

Unsurprisingly, children who struggle with something like literacy - which is so much a part of the school curriculum and our daily lives - quickly become despondent and deflated as they see their friends progress through the reading levels, leaving them behind. The situation is made even worse if their needs aren't being met by the school.

So,what can you do to support and bolster their self esteem? First, tap into the things you know they are really good at. It is very easy when you are trying to help your child to master something, to focus on it to the exclusion of everything else. A balance is needed; it is important to help your child develop their literacy skills but equally your child needs a chance to shine. They need to think of themselves as a success and for other siblings and friends to also see them in a positive light.

So, whether it is music, art or sports, encourage your child to develop and explore their talents. After school activities can become an important part of their lives, helping to define who they are and sometimes even influence future career choices.

Sometimes, particularly if it has taken a while for their dyslexia to have been spotted or if their school or teacher has been unsympathetic, a child will become of the opinion that they are 'stupid'. They will tell you they can't do anything. In this case, you need to show them that they are not. Help them to make a list of things they are good at and things that they are not so good at/ find hard. Include everything from baking cakes to running to tidying up or being a good friend.

Talk about the lists, praise all the achievements and acknowledge the things your child finds difficult - explain that it is not your child's fault that they are dyslexic anymore than if they had a leg or arm that didn't work. Explain that with help, your child will get better at reading and writing but that there are loads of other skills that they already have that are very important and useful.

Talk to your child about all the successful dyslexics - past and present - this may include family members and people you know. There are also a number of famous people including authors who have overcome their dyslexia and done well (just google 'successful dyslexics' to find them). Talking about other dyslexics will help your child realize that they are not alone and that being dyslexic is no barrier to success or happiness.

Finally, make it easy for your child to enjoy books - audio books of stories by authors that you know your child will love (Dr Seuss, Julia Donaldson, Roald Dhal or J.K Rowling to name but a few) will help them to develop a love of books without the effort and upset of tackling the text. Sometimes, a book or series of books are the talk of the playground, if your child has heard the story, then they can join in the conversations without losing face or feeling left out...

Monday, 26 June 2017

When to screen for dyslexia

I've had a lot of enquiries recently about screening and when it is suitable to screen a child. In a lot of countries including Malaysia, Singapore, parts of Australia and many U.S states screening all children for dyslexia soon after they start school is routine. In Singapore there are moves to start screening pre-school children with pilot studies already underway. Despite all the evidence that early identification is the key to helping a dyslexic child, there are, sadly, no such plans for routine screening on the horizon in the U.K.

So, how do you know when to get your child screened? If there is a history of dyslexia in your family then it would be prudent to let the school know straight away and ask if they could screen your child as a matter of urgency. For children with no family history, then the signs to look out for are as follows:

  • A noticeable difference in your child's literacy progress compared to their peers - do they keep coming home with the same level reading book?
  • An obviously intelligent child who just doesn't seem to 'get' letters and words. They may also struggle with numbers and have problems organizing their time. You may wonder at first if they're just daydreaming...
  • Some gifted dyslexic children can master sight reading but then are unable to spell and may find writing difficult. This is can be referred to as 'stealth dyslexia' and often goes undetected ...
If you have concerns, then the first step is to raise it with the class teacher and the special needs coordinator (or equivalent). If they seem reluctant to do anything then you can always seek an independent screening test. 

Lots of charities like Dyslexia Wales, The British Dyslexia Association and Dyslexia Action offer screening services as well as individual specialist teachers. A screening test will not confirm dyslexia but it will tell you if your child has dyslexic tendencies and highlight where they need support. 

Many schools will suggest waiting and seeing if your child 'catches up' or 'gets it in the end' but you know your child. You know how many hours they have spent poring over that book, not understanding the contents. You know how upset and frustrated they are when they can't spell a simple word or when someone points out that they have written their letters back to front. 

If you're concerned, help is out there but you will probably have to ask for it.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The value of Screening

I recently did a screening for a young student just starting out in college. Her mum had always known something was wrong but successive schools had told her that her daughter was fine, that she would "go far". Once at college, it became clear that she was struggling. She couldn't keep up with her peer group, not because she didn't understand the work but because she didn't have the literacy and organisational skills to complete the written work effectively.
I did the screening - it revealed that she had a number of dyslexic tendencies - and when I gave them the results, it was very emotional. For the mum, there was guilt that she hadn't done something sooner mixed with relief that at last they had some kind of explanation as to why her obviously intelligent daughter had struggled so much. For the student herself, there was relief. After years of being told to "try harder" and being called lazy - something she had started to believe - she finally understood why she found reading and writing difficult.
They took the screening results to the college and at last the student got the support and help she deserved. It would be wonderful if all dyslexics were identified early (see my previous blog) but, when it comes to dyslexia, the old adage of "better late than never" applies...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The importance of Early Identification

As with all things, the sooner you spot it, the easier it is to treat. Dyslexia is no different – you can't cure it but early identification is key to helping your child overcome and manage their dyslexia.
Long before children are able to read, there may be signs that something is wrong. Parents are often encouraged by childcare professionals to “wait and see” - even if there is a history of dyslexia in the family. However, there is a great deal you can do to help your child, long before they ever get past the school gates.
So, how soon can you tell if a child is dyslexic? According the British Dyslexia Association, signs start to appear around the age of three. Delayed speech, clumsiness and the inability to understand simple rhymes can all be signs of dyslexia. Many dyslexic pre-schoolers regularly come up with jumbled phrases such as ”gig birl” meaning “big girl”. They often muddle up the names of familiar things such as colours, for example saying blue when they mean brown. Crucially, whilst they may love listening to you read, a young dyslexic often shows no interest in reading books to themselves.
There are lots of ways you can help. First, don't panic and try not to worry. Spotting signs of dyslexia doesn't mean for sure that your child is dyslexic (screening and, if necessary, assessment are needed to confirm that) but whether they are dyslexic or not, the activities needed to support a dyslexic learner benefit all children. In other words, you and your child can only gain from doing the following activities.
Try out some of these ideas taken from the BDA book ”Dyslexia:Early Identification” plus some of my own tried and tested activities that I've used with my younger pupils.
  • Sing nursery rhymes and encourage your child to join in
  • Talk about words that rhyme and clap out the rhythym of your child's name
  • Play sound lotto and try closing your eyes and identifying the noises around you
  • Sound words out using the letter sounds e.g m-a-n
  • Play I Spy – there are lots of variations e.g I spy something that rhymes with hat/ starts with the same sound as dog/ starts with the sound b/starts with the letter b
  • Look at pictures together – use the picture to encourage your child to tell a story or to descibe and develop positional language (e.g in front of, behind etc)
  • Play Kim's game to help improve memory skills – put objects on a tray, cover them then remove an item and ask your child to say what is missing
  • Practice forming letters in sand, using shaving foam,playdough or simply using your finger in the air
  • Use wooden or magnetic letters to help your child to sequence and name letters of the alphabet
    Essentially, make letters and words an everyday part of your child's life – constant exposure in a relaxed way can make all the difference....

Next time: When to screen for dyslexia …..