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.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Why the lockdown is a golden opportunity for dyslexic children and parents

Over the last week I've picked up on a lot of anxiety from parents voicing concerns that their children will fall even further behind their peers during the current lock-down. Many parents have already reached breaking point trying to get their children to complete all the schoolwork that well intentioned and hardworking teachers have provided. If this includes you then stop. Take a deep breath. 

First, remember, teachers are not expecting all the children to complete the work. They have provided a lot of tasks because a) that's their job and b) there will be children out there who need the routine and/or academic stimulus to maintain their mental health and well-being. Teachers are aware that most parents aren't teachers, that many parents are still working either as key-workers or from home and that many children will find it hard to accept classroom lessons being delivered by a parent! 

So, what can you do? In all honesty, now is actually a perfect opportunity to support your child in the way you know best. You may not be a qualified teacher but you are, and always will be, your child's first and most influential teacher. Remember all the things you taught them before they went to school? Walking? Talking? Using the toilet? Making friends? The list goes on and on...

Take this time to focus on building your child's self-esteem. Let them concentrate on the things they love and are good at. My pupil's interests range from creating fabulous comic books to baking and sketching to developing an encyclopedic knowledge of Harry Potter! If you can cover some of the school curriculum through their interests then do so. For example, if you have a budding chef in your home then encourage them to record their recipes; write them down or use voice to text software to record their recipes. Maybe compile their own personalised recipe book. Encourage illustrations, research recipes on-line or make videos. 

There are lots of positive role models out there, in all walks of life, like the chef Jamie Oliver, who are dyslexic so maybe take some time to find out more about them. Let your child see that they can be successful and happy too.

Alongside raising self esteem and letting them take the lead on tasks, you can also use this time to teach them useful skills that will help them in the classroom. These could include:

1) Undertaking an on-line phonics program like Nessy or Reading Eggs. Most children, particularly primary aged children love these and make good progress.

2) Getting an on-line specialist tutor (I've moved all my lessons to Skype during the lock-down with very positive results). A different face can make all the difference and a specialist tutor will be able to gauge where your child needs specific support.

3) Buying a teaching manual and working through it. Many children respond well to structured multi-sensory programs like Toe by Toe and Alpha to Omega. You can find these on Amazon or you may be able to order them via your local bookshop if they offer deliveries.

4) Teaching your child to touch-type. The BBC have a good free touch type course called Dance Mat aimed at 7-11 year olds. Ideal if your child struggles with their writing speed or has poor handwriting.

5) Playing games such as Uno and pairs to improve memory. Try brain-training games online. Some children find these help to improve their working memory.

6) If your child struggles with maths then check out books by Ronit Bird, The Dyscalculia Toolkit is my favourite. Playing games on-line like those on Sumdog or Mathletics can also help.

7) Listening to audio-books. These allow your child to enjoy books without the pressure of having to get the words right. Audible are giving away lots of free children's audio books whilst schools here remain closed.

Please don't worry. Teachers know that they will have to support most children to catch up with the curriculum when they return to school. Focus for now on being happy, staying healthy and, if you can, helping your child to learn those key skills that will help them to succeed and to feel better about themselves. 

Above all, stay safe and enjoy each others company. 

Want to know more? Contact me today to get your child the help and support they need to succeed. 

Monday, 2 March 2020

Catching them young. How to help your pre-school child.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing a drop in session at a toddler play session in Mid Wales. As the toddlers spun around the hall in toy cars and happily played alongside one another, I chatted with parents and carers. Many people had tales to tell of how their dyslexia hadn't been properly addressed by schools. There were some positive outcomes but, sadly, they were largely down to the determination and sheer hard work of the individual rather than down to getting the right support from the education system.

Knowing that dyslexia runs in families, I knew that some of these little ones, playing in the hall, were bound to be dyslexic. I hoped that they would get more support in school than their parents had. School shouldn't be a big struggle for anyone and with the right support children with dyslexia can and do thrive. 

Many parents wondered what they could do to support their young children. Early intervention is key with dyslexia and whilst you can't spot the signs till the age of three or screen till they are four and a half, there is no harm in supporting them in their toddler phase. The truth is, the things you do for children with dyslexia work for all children. There is no downside.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for things you can do with your pre-school child.
  • Sing nursery rhymes and encourage your child to join in
  • Talk about words that rhyme and clap out the rhythm of your child's name
  • Play sound lotto. 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
  • Play with foam letters in the bath. Spell out your child's name or names of other family members. Just let them handle and play with the letters
  • Play Kim's game to help improve memory skills – put objects on a tray, cover them with a tea towel then remove an item and ask your child to say what is missing
  • Practice forming letters in sand, using shaving foam,play dough 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, you want to make letters and words an everyday part of your child's life – constant exposure in a relaxed way can make all the difference. In addition to the suggestions above, just read to your child and fill them with a love for the written word. Listen to audio books in the car or have them on in the background at home. The more familiarity the better. And it is never too early to start!

Want to know more? Contact me today to get your child the help and support they need to succeed. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Children with dyslexia don't need to struggle. They just need the right support.

As a new year begins and everything gets back to normal, many children with dyslexia will be back at school and getting used to feeling like failures again. It's sad but true.You see, it's fairly easy for these children during the holidays, easy to let them just get on and enjoy those things they're really good at, whether it's spending hours sketching or drumming, dancing or swimming. I know children who shine at all these things.

The trouble is, school is largely a place of words and numbers where additional skills such as following complex instructions and listening are required. These are things that many dyslexic children struggle with. The result is a child whose self esteem hits rock bottom the moment they walk into the classroom.

Children with dyslexia don't need to struggle to succeed
It doesn't have to be this way. With a few simple adjustments, the classroom can be a dyslexia friendly place. Here are a few easy changes that will cost your school next to nothing to implement:

1) Keep instructions concise; many dyslexics have poor working memory so will forget instructions if they are too long-winded.

2) Print handouts instead of expecting a child to copy from the board; whilst a child with dyslexia is copying from the board, they're not able to listen to what is being said. Also, many dyslexics make mistakes when copying   - which may lead to huge problems later when they try to complete the task.

3) Print handouts on off-white paper. Many dyslexics will find them easier to read.

4) Provide appropriate spellings for tests. Start with the high frequency word list. Give no more than ten words per week and make sure they all correspond to a word family e.g words with 'ay' in.

4) Provide dyslexia friendly reading books. It is really demoralising for a child to be faced with a 'baby' book simply because they struggle with reading. Books produced by companies such as Barrington Stoke match actual age to reading age so that the books interest the child.

5) Allow more time for a dyslexic child to complete their work and never use staying in at playtime as a sanction. They are doing their best.

Many schools will already be implementing these changes for their dyslexic pupils but many more won't be. It's not because they don't care. It's because they don't know. When I trained to teach twenty five years ago, dyslexia was mentioned once in my training. Things have improved a bit since then but remember, a lot of class teachers will have had little or no training on how to support dyslexic pupils.

So what can you do if your child isn't being supported and is feeling that sense of failure?

Well, firstly, does the school recognise that your child is dyslexic? If not then ask the class teacher about screening. Can they screen your child? Many schools will, some won't. If they are not prepared to screen (or if they do and you want a second opinion) then get a private screening done. A screening will highlight your child's dyslexic traits and whilst it is not a formal diagnosis, it is enough to get most children the initial help that they need.

I have had a lot of success screening children here in mid Wales. It makes me so happy when I hear of all the positive changes that have been put in place when parents take my report and recommendations back to school.

Remember as well that the law is on your side; if a school suspects that a child is dyslexic then they have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments in the classroom and to provide appropriate additional support (often referred to as 'interventions').  Depending on the results of a screening, the school may also refer your child to the LEA educational psychologist for a formal assessment.

Finally, if you can afford to, consider employing a specialist tutor. I first became interested in tutoring children with dyslexia after seeing how my friend turned her seven year old daughter's life around by getting her weekly lessons with a specialist tutor. Her daughter is grown up now, at art college in London and is reaching for the stars. Remember, children with dyslexia don't need to struggle. With the right support they will succeed.

Want to know more? Contact me today to get your child the help and support they need to succeed.