Tell us a bit about Dyslexia Action and what has been accomplished in the last few years
Dyslexia Action is a national charity with over 40 years’ experience in providing services and support to children, young people and adults with literacy and numeracy difficulties, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. As well as helping many individuals, Dyslexia Action has succeeded in spreading awareness, understanding and knowledge to help create a world in which dyslexia need not be a barrier to success. We provide assessments and tuition through our national Learning Centres and in schools across the country, alongside supporting teachers and educators through the provision of teaching resources and training. We also undertake research and campaigning to improve the lives of those affected by dyslexia.
Which signs should we look out for to recognise dyslexia in children and how should we approach it if we think someone may be struggling?
The first thing that is usually noticed is slow progress in reading or maths. Children with dyslexia can often be very tired after school due to the effort they have to put in during the day and often they will go to great lengths to avoid reading or writing if they can. Sometimes the first thing to notice is a loss of confidence or unwillingness to go to school; it is important to find out if dyslexia or something else is behind this. Always raise your concerns with the class teacher or Special Educational Needs co-ordinator, ask what they can offer and talk about how you can work together; you can also contact Dyslexia Action for free specialist advice. You can read more about the early signs of dyslexia at www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk.
What are the most important things to get right when supporting someone with dyslexia?
The most important thing to get right is to be positive and supportive and to emphasise that dyslexic people can have many many talents and abilities; being a bad speller or a slow-reader does not have to place limits on achievements. Then comes a balance between working hard to improve in areas of difficulties and finding alternative pathways. Speaking to someone who understands is the first step. At Dyslexia Action we have specialists who can do this. Dyslexia is life-long and understanding how it impacts on a person’s learning and work performance helps build strategies for the future.
Do you have any tips for parents trying to help their children with reading?
First and foremost, try not to let reading and homework become a battle, find a good calm time in the day, and if it gets to be too much seek help from school or Dyslexia Action. Encourage any kind of reading including fact-books and comics and try to get hold of books about things your child is especially interested in. Also remember that you can use audio books either just to listen to or to read along with the text. Reading builds vocabulary and comprehension and is a critical skill.
What things should we consider when picking a book for a child that is struggling with reading?
There are many appealing books that can be read and enjoyed even by those who find reading a struggle. It’s always a good idea to let your child choose the book. They are more likely to read it if it is something that they are interested in. Too much dense text can be intimidating so illustrations can help, and some children prefer non-fiction and picture books. Remember you can choose some books to read together with your child and some for them to read for themselves.
Tell us about your new guide and what you hope to achieve with it
The guide is the start of a conversation for parents, teachers and librarians who are looking for inspiration and ideas of how to help their children. There is information regarding ‘How to‘ establish a regular reading habit and a selection of titles for age groups 5-8, 9-12 and teens. The challenge in selecting the titles was to get a variety of plot-driven and fun books that might encourage reluctant and dyslexic readers into reading. Barrington Stoke are our partners in this book guide and they publish books specifically for this group of readers. A number of their titles are listed too.
What is still left to achieve in the future to help dyslexic children?
Dyslexia is now well understood. It is mentioned in the Equality Act (2010) and the Children and Families Act (2014). These laws make it a duty to ensure those affected by dyslexia are not disadvantaged compared to their peers. But there is still much that needs to be done to support children with dyslexia. For example we believe that all teachers should be given basic awareness training in dyslexia, to enable them to best support children with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. There also needs to be a greater commitment to tackling reading difficulties early rather than the ‘wait to fail’ approach that is still common. This also comes down to better training for teachers to identify warning signs and a commitment to put in resources before children have become frustrated and demotivated by their lack of success.
To find out more about Dyslexia Action you can visit their website here.
You can view Dyslexia Action’s new guide here.