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.