Kids shouldn’t have to struggle with dyslexia

4:24pm Monday 10th November 2014

FOR most of us, it’s the simplest thing in the world to pick up the Gazette and read the paper.

The words flow and give us an instant understanding of what is meant.

The exception, however, are the 10 per cent of Britons who have dyslexia, many of whom feel excluded and isolated by their condition.

A group of north Essex parents are working hard to make a difference for people with dyslexia, via a new group called Dyslexia Assist.

They are pooling their knowledge and sharing ideas on ways to help their children cope with dyslexia.

It might be a technique for learning to spell or to get the days of the week in the right order – or even the best way for their children to tell a teacher they’d rather not read aloud in class.

The group’s website has been carefully designed to make it easy for people with dyslexia to use. It uses a font, chosen to make the letters as clear as possible, and even offers text-to-speech conversion, if needed.

Dyslexia Assist’s Val Bennett said there was a popular misconception that the main symptom of dyslexia was the reversing or jumbling up letters.

She explained: “It is a decoding issue. A dyslexic child struggles to recognise words, so cannot then understand or process the information in the written form.”

Teachers and parents often first spot a dyslexic child from a discrepancy between the way they perform verbally in class and their written work. Mrs Bennett, 45, from West Bergholt, added: “Quite often, you will see a child who, perhaps, comes across as very able in class discussion, but their written work, or reading age, is not where you would expect it to be.

“As with anything, if it is picked up early, it helps.

“Children need one-to-one help to understand how to use their strengths to overcome their weaknesses.

“The reverse is also true. If it is not picked up, the child can become frustrated or withdrawn, their self-esteem goes down and they just think they are silly.

Then, they sometimes cope with that by being naughty.”

Mrs Bennett was instrumental in setting up the website, dyslexia-assist.org.uk She said: “We are a local parent group, but through our website, we’re hoping to have an impact at national level. Our idea is to share as much as we can in one central hub, so parents and children have somewhere to go.

“There are plenty of websites which detail how to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ dyslexia, but none which gives really practical help, which says, ‘we tried this and it worked well’, or ‘we tried this, it worked with one of our children, but not the other’.”

Three of Mrs Bennett’s four children suffer from dyslexia to varying degrees.

Her eldest daughter was eight before she was diagnosed.

Her youngest son, Tim, 14, was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, but was lucky to get one-to-one support and be allowed extra time in exams to complete his work.

However, not all parents tell the same story.

Mrs Bennett said: “One mum we have spoken to was just told her son was lazy and naughty. She didn’t get the support from the school.

“In the end, she paid for a diagnostic assessment and the results showed he was severely dyslexic.”

The boy has been given the help he needs and is doing well in his GCSE studies.

Some state schools have their own special educational needs assistants, but feware qualified to diagnose dyslexia, leaving parents to pay as much as £450 to get a private assessment.

Because the education system is not working for dyslexic children, Mrs Bennett says parents and children really do have to help themselves.

That’s where Dyslexia Assist comes in.

She added: “Children and parents can use the website to look for ideas to help them with their learning, or share their experiences in the knowledge they are not alone.

“We know how frustrating it is to see your child scraping along the bottom of the class and to be thinking ‘why?’.

“You just have to keep fighting for them.”

! To find out more about Dyslexia Assist, visit dyslexia -assist.org.uk, or you can follow @DyslexiaAssist on Twitter.

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