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.

Thursday 5 December 2019

How to get schools to listen

"I just can't get them to understand." This is something I hear a lot from parents who have tried to talk to their child's school about their concerns around dyslexia. Schools are busy places and it can be hard sometimes for busy teachers to separate out the 'big' concerns from the 'little' ones. 

So how can you get your voice heard? Well, first, pick your time wisely. First thing in the morning, most teachers are very busy. The sorts of issues they'll need to deal with then are things like what staff are off sick and whether everyone has remembered their P.E kit.

Ask the class teacher if you can have a chat after school then raise your concerns - be sure to take a list. Give concrete examples of where you feel your child is not making adequate progress, e.g perhaps they are still on level 2 reading books whilst their friends are on level 6, and ask the teacher what she is doing to help them make progress. 

Allow the teacher to tell you their take on your child's performance. They may well have already spotted weaknesses and be doing all they can to address them.

Ask about screening. A screening will highlight areas of weakness and dyslexic tendencies. In Wales there is a lot of confusion about whether primary schools will screen. There appears to be no general consensus from the Welsh government or even amongst a lot of the local authorities. I know some schools that screen, if asked, schools that won't and a small number that screen automatically if they have concerns. The class teacher will probably have to consult the SENCO/ALNCO to arrange a screening.

If your school refuses to screen then you can get your own screening test done and take the results into school. When I do a screening, I include a detailed report plus suggestions for reasonable adjustments and specialist support.

Once a screening has been done, and depending on the results, make an appointment with the SENCO. Ask them, in light of the results, what they intend to do to support your child. Can they implement the suggestions in the screening report? Have they got their own ideas? 

Remember, however exasperated you may be with your child's school, try to be positive. Praise and thank the staff for what they have done so far to support your child. Approach the meeting as an opportunity to focus on what you can all do to provide your child with the best support possible.

Many schools, when faced with screening results that confirm that a child has dyslexic traits will put reasonable adjustments in place and offer specialist interventions. For example, additional reading support, use of a computer programme to improve spelling etc.

Some schools won't. And this is when you'll have to quote legislation and take things to a higher level. Dyslexia is covered by the Equality Act, 2010. Schools have a duty to identify, assess and support children with dyslexia. A school must support a child if they know or suspect that a child is dyslexic. So, if they have concerns, it is no defence to say that they haven't screened so don't know. It is also no defence to say that the school doesn't recognise private screening tests or private assessments. In law, they have to do so.

Ask for a meeting with the headteacher as well as the SENCO. Faced with a parent who knows their rights, most schools will either accept the screening that you have had done or will do their own - which is likely to have similar results to yours. Then they have to act. 

Once you have everything in place, make sure that you have regular review dates - in order to check that what the school said was going to happen has been implemented and to check on your child's progress.

Finally, accept that what your school can offer may not be enough. Budget cuts mean many schools hands are tied when it comes to getting adequate funds. Also, despite their best efforts, some schools may simply lack the expertise to adequately cater for your child's needs.

If this is the case then, if you can, find a specialist tutor in your area. I find schools are generally amenable to allowing pupils out to see me in school hours. The phrase to use when asking a headteacher for permission to take your child out for regular lessons is to request that your child leave school to be 'educated off-site'. Remember, you also have a legal duty under the Children Act to ensure that your child receives a suitable education that matches their needs.

If you cannot afford a regular tutor, then you can teach your child yourself. There are many books available with suggestions on ways to support your child or you can invest in apps or software packages such as Nessy. Little and often is the key to ensuring that your child will retain the information and not get fed up.

Essentially, don't give up. Push the school to support as much as they can and then do whatever else you can to give your child the support they need. Remember, dyslexia doesn't go away but it can be overcome. 

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