Unfortunately, children, and in particular young children, don’t have a tendency to tell adults that they are experiencing literacy difficulties; instead they are far more likely to show you. Watch out for:
Remember that all children experience difficulties as they go through their school years at one time or another. It is the persistence of the difficulty, despite their hard work, that is an indication of dyslexia or another specific learning difficulty. The only way to know for sure if they have dyslexia is for them to be assessed by a specialist teacher or an educational psychologist. Ordinary teachers cannot diagnose dyslexia.
Related blog: Do you need a diagnosis of dyslexia?
Related blog: What is the definition of SEND?
Sometimes, problems with reading can occur because of visual stress. Symptoms can include headaches, sensitivity to bright lights and glare from white pages. Some people describe effects such as letters which move about on the page or are blurred or fuzzy.
If your child experiences these effects it may be because they are struggling with visual stress. Coloured overlays may help, or reading from cream paper with text that is both sans serif and larger than the size they previously found difficult.
Not all people with dyslexia have visual stress, so it really depends what their needs are as to whether coloured overlays or paper will help.
Read more about the debate and how best to use coloured overlays for dyslexic Learners:
Here are some helpful suggestions:
First of all, don’t panic. Many children who find school work difficult, and not just in the area of reading, are reluctant to repeat the performance at home, and many parents, instead of finding that hearing their child read is a precious time of sharing, find it becoming a nightmare. You are not alone.
The first thing to do is to take the heat out of the situation. If your child is refusing to read and you find that you are becoming stressed, stop. Nobody can learn when negative emotions are running high. Take a break and come back to it later. Sometimes, you may need to take a longer break than you think, it depends upon the circumstances and the nature of your child’s reading difficulties.
Talk to your child’s teacher. Make an appointment as soon as you can to explain the situation; worrying that your child will get into trouble for missing reading practice will only make the situation worse. Explain what is happening at home and ask for advice or a temporary solution.
Turn reading into a positive experience. Rather than finding yourself struggling with a reluctant reader, instead, look for those moments when you can share good times with books and stories together. Bedtime stories, picture books, reading recipes or even deciding on which biscuits to choose according to the label are all reading activities that can reinforce the idea that reading is a pleasurable and worthwhile activity, rather than something to be feared and fought against.
Have a wide variety of books available to read and share. This doesn’t have to cost a fortune; remember to visit the local library and peruse the shelves of fabulous books, suitable for all ages and standards of reading together. Picture books with detailed drawings or illustrations that invite discussion contribute to key reading skills such as tracking and inference – looking for specific information and words, and understanding what is going on in the background of the story.
Don’t forget recordings. Got a long car journey? Try an audio book.
Pupils who are challenged by learning spellings need lots of consolidation opportunities to help secure words to memory – watch more tips to help in the classroom.
There are a number of excellent computerised teaching resources for developing spelling knowledge, such as Wordshark 5 that make learning spellings particularly appealing to learners.
Other useful pieces:
Any child, who exhibits a difficulty in trying to acquire basic literacy skills is a worry for a family. However, the Educational Health Care Plan is typically aimed at those children with the most complex needs affecting verbal, sensory, physical and cognitive issues.
The ECHP covers long-term needs from 0-25 years old. To accommodate less complex pupils, every school is funded a ‘high need budget’. Some schools use this money for additional adult support in the class and others use it for resources. Parents need to be clear about the universal, targeted and, if appropriate, specialist support available in schools.
Related blog: What is the definition of SEND?
A great way to help your child to become in tune with language is to sing songs and nursery rhymes at home. There are also many wonderful rhyming picture books that you can read aloud to him and encourage him to join in with as you read, such as Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty or Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See by Eric Carle.
Spending time together having fun with language, rhythm and rhyme will help your child to hear the bigger chunks of language. This is an important precursor to being able to hear phonemes (the smallest unit of speech sounds). You can have lots of fun together when you are busy cooking, driving, walking to school or shopping, just by singing together and rhyming.
If you are concerned about your child’s progress always talk to their teacher, find out which letters and sounds are being learned that week at school. You could then help to reinforce the sounds in fun ways at home, by playing snap with sound cards, collecting objects around the house that contain the sounds being learned or by having fun painting and writing letters in sand or flour.
The most important thing that you can do at home is to develop your child’s love of reading. Focus on making reading fun, find out what your child likes to read. It could be a magazine, a book about dinosaurs, cars or insects. Reading aloud to your child allows them to enjoy books without being bogged down with the mechanics of learning how to read. You will be sparking an interest in books and unlocking the magic just by reading and talking about what you’ve read together. If children are inspired to read, then it will help them in their motivation and resilience as emerging readers. Also, remember to give your child lots of praise for their effort and for talking about and understanding the books that they hear. Building up a positive attitude to reading is key in later reading success and something that you can foster at home.
Related blogs: There have been many changes to exams over the past few years, which DYT have commented on. Again, these are best explained in the following blogs.
Prepare your child for text
Introduce the book by looking at the layout and where to find information. Parent-led reading of the text, introducing key words and topics. Pausing at the end of paragraphs to summarise.
Encourage your child to ask questions about the content of the text to encourage active reading and listening.
Create a mind map or summary of the text with your child.
Home school contact
Confirm with the school that all teachers know that your child is dyslexic. This can be done through your daughter’s Head of Year, Form Tutor or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator.
Ask the school for an overview of topics to be studied each term, this will be a great help for you when supporting homework.
It is reasonable, and advisable, to request a meeting after a few weeks to review progress and identify any difficulties your daughter may be experiencing.
Supporting at home
Place a large copy of her timetable somewhere it can be seen easily to remind both of you what is needed each day.
Ask to see her planner every day to check on any homework set. If there is any confusion over homework (this is a common experience) contact the subject teacher for clarification.
If possible, have access to technology. Ideally have a laptop with spellchecker, predictive software and access to a printer. This develops independent recording and research skills.
Young people with literacy difficulties can have issues organising their time and equipment. Try these strategies:
Homework can be an area of conflict at home. Sometimes this is because the pressures of homework cause anxiety for young people, especially those with literacy difficulties. Try some of the strategies below to help reduce your child’s anxiety:
Many young people find examination periods stressful (and most adults do too!). However, young people with literacy difficulties are likely to be more concerned because they have the added worry about reading the paper and responding in writing. Here are some ideas to help your child cope with exams:
The most important thing to remember is to work closely with the school. It may be that your child is hiding their difficulties at school and their teachers are unaware of any problems. The first point of contact is normally your child’s form tutor. You might arrange a meeting to discuss concerns; usually school staff will be able to give you ideas on how to support your child further. This will also provide a good opportunity to ask how the teachers feel your child is getting along and if they are keeping up with the work in class. Schools have a statutory duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure all young people have access to the curriculum to allow them to learn effectively, whatever their difficulties. If you are concerned that your child is not getting the support they require, do not be afraid to ask to speak to the Head of Year, Assistant Head or even the Headteacher.
Remember, this is a new phase in your child’s life so it’s bound to be tough at first; more challenging work and the pressure to achieve good GCSEs can mount up. However, with your support at home they will soon become more confident in overcoming any difficulties with learning.