Dyslexia, gain clarity on this learning difference

Dyslexia is often misunderstood and regularly thought of in a very negative light but what actually is dyslexia?

The formal definition regards it as, ‘a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling…Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.’ Rose, 2009.

Despite these challenges with traditional education, dyslexia is a cognitive difference that produces unique ways of thinking. Dyslexic people are highly creative, naturally curious, lateral thinkers often solving problems others can’t. Dyslexic individuals have transformed our past, inventing everything from the lightbulb to the iPhone.

“Dyslexia is the biggest single driver of ingenuity, imagination & scientific achievement in history. When you look at the inventions & innovations that have had the biggest impact on human progress so many of them have flowed from dyslexic minds.”

Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Heath & Social Care

So what does dyslexia look like?

The challenges:

  • struggle with manipulating and holding on to sounds and words which can make learning to read and spell difficult.
  • have challenges with executive function skills, such as organisation, concentration, and sequential tasks.
  • find maths operations difficult.
  • struggle with memorisation.
  • require more time to process thoughts and complete tasks, including classroom and high-stakes tests.
  • not have test scores and grades that reflect how much that student has actually learned.

The strengths*

  • Visualising – Interacting with space, senses, physical ideas & new concepts. (75% of dyslexics are above average at Visualising).
  • Imagining – Creating an original piece of work or giving ideas a new spin. (84% of dyslexics are above average at Imagining).
  • Communicating – Crafting & conveying clear & engaging messages. (71% of dyslexics are above average at Communicating).
  • Reasoning – Understanding patterns, evaluating possibilities & making decisions. (84% of dyslexics are above average at Reasoning).
  • Connecting – Understanding self; connecting, empathising & influencing others. (80% of dyslexics are above average at Connecting).
  • Exploring – Being curious & exploring ideas in a constant & energetic way. (84% of dyslexics are above average at Exploring).

*Taken from research commissioned by Made By Dyslexia

Recent research has shown that UK schools often lack the knowledge and training in how to support their dyslexic pupils as well as a lack of understanding of the strengths associated with this learning difference.  As many as 1 in 5 people are dyslexic but up to 80% go through their entire schooling undiagnosed and loosing out on accessing the right support.  Of those that are identified as having dyslexia, currently, rather than being seen as capable, dynamic and creative individuals, these children are classed as ‘learning disabled’, having ‘specific learning difficulties’ or ‘disorders’ by our education system. Whilst often dyslexic children do experience difficulties with their learning, these labels can filter down to the child, affecting their self-esteem.

So, what can you do to help your child if you are worried?

Firstly, speak to the school, I have written a handy guide to help you approach teaching staff and communicate effectively with them for the benefit of your child, you can download it by clicking here.

Secondly, do your research.  Make sure to read articles from trusted sources like the BDA to ensure you are well informed about dyslexia.

Here are 5 facts to get you started:

  1. Up to 1 in 5 people are dyslexic.
  2. Dyslexia is genetic so it runs in families.
  3. Dyslexic brains process information differently from non-dyslexics.
  4. Giving them a pattern of strengths such as creativity, empathising, problem solving and lateral thinking.
  5. It also produces difficulties such as reading, writing, spelling, memory and concentration.

Thirdly, ensure your child is screened, or even better, assessed for dyslexia. The sooner the better.  This not only clarifies the matter for you, the child and the school, but it provides all concerned with an in-depth report collating information from you, the school and another professionals involved. You get a detailed breakdown of your child’s cognitive profile, a clear outline if their current their reading, writing and spelling abilities and a comprehensive list of recommendations, tailored to your child, outlining exactly what changes need to be made in order to meet your child’s specific educational needs. You and the school will know how best to support your child and your child will get a greater level of self-awareness, becoming more confident using and developing their cognitive strengths.

Final thought

Make sure your child develops a growth mindset.  This can have a transformative effect on your child’s emotional wellbeing and academic achievement throughout their life! I talk more about this in a previous blog post with 5 effective ways to help your child develop their confidence and resilience to setbacks.  You can read it here.

As a dyslexia specialist, I offer help, advice, assessments and tuition. 

Get in touch  – call (01986) 788011 or email zoeb@mancroftlearning.co.uk

Author: Zoë Brown

I am a dyslexia specialist, qualified in assessing dyslexia and literacy related difficulties as well as tutoring dyslexic children and those who need additional literacy support. Having been diagnosed as dyslexic at an early age, I have a personal understanding of both the challenges and advantages that dyslexia brings. I feel strongly that when given the right support and positive encouragement, dyslexic people of all ages can excel in confidence and academic attainment.

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