Is Your Child Dyslexic?

18 April 2005

Publication: Woman’s Own

The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, 45, says her daughter, Princess Beatrice, is struggling with her school work because she’s dyslexic. The 16-year-old, who takes her GCSEs this summer, does extra reading and writing to compensate. Beatrice was diagnosed at the age of seven after her mum saw her struggling to read books that younger sister Eugnie, then five, found easy. People with dyslexia have difficulty recognising, reading and spelling. There are about 375,000 severely dyslexic school children in the UK, and famous sufferers include Jamie Oliver, Tom Cruise, Felicity Kendal and Richard Branson.

What to look forInvestigate further if your child has several of the following signs.

Persisting symptoms across agesConfusion with words such as up/down, in/out; difficulty with sequences like days of the week or numbers; a family history of dyslexia or reading difficulties.

Pre-schoolPersistent jumbled phrases such as ‘cobbler’s club’ for ‘toddler’s club’; substituting words such as ‘lamp post’ for ‘lampshade’; inability to remember names of everyday objects such as table and chair; difficulty learning nursery rhymes and rhyming words (cat, mat, sat); late speech development; enjoyment listening to stories but lack of interest in letters of words; difficulties getting dressed and putting shoes on correct feet; inattentiveness; tripping, bumping into things and falling over excessively; difficulty catching, kicking or throwing a ball, hopping and/or skipping and clapping back simple nursery rhymes.

Primary school ageDifficulty with reading and spelling, and remembering times tables and the alphabet; writing letters and figures the wrong way round; leaving letters out of words or putting them in the wrong order; confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’ and words like ‘no/on’; taking longer than average to complete written work; problems understanding what they have read; poor concentration; difficulty processing language at speed; problems tying shoelaces, ties and dressing; difficulty telling left from right, and order of days of the week and months; poor sense of direction and still confusing left and right; lack of confidence and self-esteem.

12 years and overStill reading inaccurately and having difficulty spelling; needing phone numbers and instructions repeated; stumbling over long words; confusing places, times and dates; having trouble planning and writing essays and processing complex language or long instructions at speed; lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Steps to takeThe British Dyslexia Association says seeking help is vital. Tell the school why your child might be dyslexic and they should provide support. If not, see their Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for an education plan – setting out how the school will support the child’s needs.If your child isn’t receiving the appropriate help, they may need assessing by an educational psychologist. If the school won’t refer your child to the Local Education Authority (LEA) for this, apply direct and ask to speak to the Parent Partnership Officer at the LEA. You can also get a private assessment by a Chartered Educational Psychologist (visit the British Psychological Society on www.bps.org.uk), who specialises in learning difficulties. The assessment costs around £350 and the report will form the basis of an action plan. If the school refuses it, contact the Chief Education Officer and request the school implements the plan.* For more information, call the British Dyslexia Association on 0118 9668271, or visit www.bda-dyslexia.org.uk.

Top tips you can trust!- Taking fish oil capsules, such as Efalex (£6.99 for 60, from Boots and Superdrug) has been shown in trials to help aid concentration and improve eye and brain function.- Until a child knows left and right, attach a bicycle bell to the left handlebar, so they can cycle on the ‘bell’ side of the road.- It’s vital to keep your child motivated and build on their strengths. Encourage their interests and remember to give praise, however small the achievement.- Sometimes dyslexic children feel defeated. If they say ‘I’m dyslexic I can’t do it’, say ‘Yes, you are dyslexic and it will take you longer, you know that, but you can do it.’- Suggest that you type up their class notes after lessons. Copying from the blackboard is difficult because words are often omitted and writing deteriorates. Use fonts (such as arial or verdana) that space letters, at a minimum of 12-14pt, in lower case letters, so it’s easier to read.

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