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Parents' Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I know if my child is dyslexic?

How do I go about getting my child tested?

When should a child be assessed for dyslexia?

When should a child be screened for dyslexia?

How do I know where on the scale of dyslexia my child is?

Why does it take schools so long to pick up on/diagnose dyslexia?

Does my child need an Educational Psychologist Report?

What do I do after I have had the assessment report? I don’t understand it.

What is the connection between dyslexia and dyspraxia?

When should you consider a Specialist Dyslexia School?

Should I find a dyslexia tutor for my child?

What qualifications should a teacher/tutor have that are useful when supporting a dyslexic?

How do I help my child at home?

How do I help my child with self-esteem?

How do I work with the teachers at my child’s school?

What are exam access arrangements?

How do I know what access arrangements my child needs?

When should my child use a laptop?

How do I know if my child is dyslexic?

Dyslexia manifests itself in many different ways.  The most common symptoms of dyslexia are problems encountered with any of the following: reading, writing, spelling, organisation, memory, word retrieval and speed of processing.  You may have noticed difficulties with some of these. There are also well known ‘at risk’ factors such as a family history of similar difficulties.

Many of the difficulties are common during a child’s first year or two at school. However, if a group of these symptoms persist beyond the time when the average child has grown out of them, this may indicate dyslexia and expert advice should be sought.

How do I go about getting my child tested?

If you are concerned that your child may have dyslexia, first discuss this with your child's class teacher. You could also arrange a meeting with the school's SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) to discuss your concerns and thoughts. The SENCo may be able to carry out assessment or screening to give an indication of possible dyslexic difficulties.

You can have your child privately assessed, however you will have to pay for this.

As a starting point, you could come and have a consultation with one of our experienced professionals in order to gain a better understanding of what is going on. We can then work together to see if an assessment is appropriate.

If you decide that you would like to have your child assessed, visit our Assessments page to complete the required forms.

When should a child be assessed for dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be identified by a series of straightforward tests tailored to be taken by anybody from the ages of 4 or 5 upwards. However, identifying dyslexia in younger children can be difficult for both parents and teachers, because the signs and symptoms are not always obvious.  Many children develop ways of compensating for their dyslexia which can mask their difficulties.

It is useful to identify dyslexia early as this means a person has more time to develop the coping strategies to meet individual challenges.

When should a child be screened for dyslexia?

Screening tests are designed to give an indication of possible dyslexic difficulties and are used where a child is failing to respond to the ‘normal’ learning to read process or where there has been a request from a parent. They do not provide a diagnosis and are not 100% accurate. They can provide a profile of strengths and weaknesses which can be used to guide the development of in-school support for the child.  The Screening results can give useful evidence to justify a request for a full assessment.

There are screening tools available for all ages right through to adulthood.

How do I know where on the scale of dyslexia my child is?

Because dyslexia can exist on a continuum from mild to severe, difficulties may not be noticed in the early years, particularly with children who may have developed strategies to compensate for difficulties. 

The Rose Report (2009) stated:

“Dyslexia is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.  Until recently, a child was deemed to either have or not have dyslexia.  It is now recognised that there is no sharp dividing line between having a learning difficulty such as dyslexia and not having it.”

The continuum, from mild to severe, helps to account for the differences in how pupils respond to support and intervention.

Why can it take schools so long to pick up on/diagnose dyslexia?

Teachers at your child’s school will be monitoring his/her progress carefully right from the first day in school.  It is quite difficult to decide how early an assessment should take place because some of the characteristics of dyslexia can be noted in the normal development of young children.  However, if the child has not made the expected progress throughout the first year of school then at that point a formal assessment could be considered.

Schools may use a dyslexia screening test to give an indication of possible dyslexic difficulties and will then put in place relevant support for your child.

Does my child need an Educational Psychologist Report?

An Educational Psychologist assessment provides the more detailed analysis needed for those with more severe or complex learning differences. 

What do I do after I have had the assessment report? I don’t understand it.

At Helen Arkell we believe that the assessment is just the beginning of your journey to understand what a diagnosis of dyslexia means to you and your child.  

When your child has been assessed by a Helen Arkell Specialist Assessor (HASA), we offer a follow up phone call or meeting with the assessor in order to ensure that you have the opportunity to ask any questions, or clarify information.  Helen Arkell also offers a free presentation, ‘You’ve got your report – what next?’ to the parents/guardians of children assessed by our HASAs.  These presentations are held at the Centre and are usually scheduled termly.  The presenters give an overview of some of the key aspects of a report and explain terminology such as working memory, phonological awareness etc. in simple terms.

At Helen Arkell we also run a subsidised 6 week, half day Course for Parents, which offers many practical ideas about how parents can help at home.

If your child has been assessed by an Educational Psychologist (EP) at Helen Arkell, then we recommend that you contact him/her directly (contact details will be on the report), as EPs are affiliated with, but not employed by, Helen Arkell.

What is the connection between dyslexia and dyspraxia?

There is a lot of overlap between the signs and symptoms of dyspraxia and dyslexia. Research suggests that 52% of children (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2013) with dyslexia display features of dyspraxia. 

Dyspraxia, a form of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults.  There may be additional problems planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order in everyday situations.  Dyspraxia can also affect articulation and speech, perception and thought. Although dyspraxia may occur in isolation it frequently coexists with other conditions such as: dyslexia, the term used to describe a difficulty in learning to read, write and spell; Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD); language disorders and; social, emotional and behavioural impairments. 

When should you consider a Specialist Dyslexia School?

For many children mainstream schooling will meet their needs. However, for those with more complex needs ‘a mainstream placement may not be right, or not right just yet.’ (DfEEa1998, p23).  On his website, Gavin Reid states that ‘…. full inclusion in a mainstream setting for some groups of children, although socially desirable, may not be educationally appropriate at a given point in time.’  He goes on to say that ‘….with support all children can aspire towards an inclusive educational environment but there should not be an assumption that for all this is the best practice at every point in their school career’. 

It is worth considering whether your child is learning in an environment where his/her needs are fully supported.  

The Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils (CReSTeD) maintains a register of schools and learning centres which meet their criteria for the teaching of pupils with specific learning difficulties.

Good Schools Guide may also be useful.

Should I find a dyslexia tutor for my child?

Sometimes children need an extra ‘boost’ to help them with learning.  This may help them to discover more about the way they learn and strategies that can be put in place to support their difficulties.  This extra support can be for a short period of time or for longer should your child need it.  Follow this link to read more about Specialist Tuition from Helen Arkell.

What qualifications should a teacher/tutor have that are useful when supporting a dyslexic?

We recommend that tutors have a specialist qualification such as the OCR Level 5 or 7 Diploma in Teaching Learners with Specific Learning Difficulties.  

We employ a team of specialist teachers who have trained in teaching both children and adults with Specific Learning Difficulties. Specialist Tuition for children can be arranged through the Centre to take place at school, college or at the Centre.  An individualised approach is adopted for all tuition and is not restricted to any particular method. We offer Skills Development for adults – we believe it is never too late to gain valuable skills to help you succeed in life.

How do I help my child with self-esteem?

A child’s self-esteem is very important.  Many children who find learning difficult can get frustrated and demotivated which may lead to low self-esteem.  Make sure your child understands what having dyslexia means for him/her, as knowing there is a reason for his/her difference can be a turning point. Knowing that difficulties are not an indicator of a general lack of ability can be reassuring and, at the same time, he/she needs to be helped to understand that he/she may have to work twice as hard as peers to achieve similar results. Support, understanding and realistic target setting are useful ways of maintaining a positive self-image.

Our HELP Course for Parents will help you to gain a deeper understanding of how to overcome challenges and boost self-esteem.

How do I work with the teachers at my child’s school?

We would suggest that working with the school and seeing yourself as part of the ‘team’ supporting your child is all important.

Please listen to the following audio to learn more from Bernadette McLean:

Parents and Schools Working Together To Help Your Child Achieve Their Potential

Why not join our Parents’ Course where we have a session that tackles this? 

What are exam access arrangements?

Dyslexia is a recognised disability under the Equality Act (2010) which requires organisations to ensure that people with disabilities are not treated unfavourably and are offered reasonable adjustments. 

Formal tests and examinations can present challenges for dyslexic candidates. Difficulties with speed of processing, organising information, sequencing, short term and working memory, reading accuracy and automaticity and fluency in writing can all be particular issues preventing the dyslexic candidate from achieving his/her potential. Difficulties in reading on-screen or tracking from one piece of paper to another can cause further problems. Some people with dyslexia may have difficulty producing legible handwriting.

Dyslexic candidates in tests and exams may require Access Arrangements in order to level the playing field with non-dyslexic candidates.  There may be specific recommendations for particular formats of exam, such as multiple choice and case study exams.

How do I know what access arrangements my child needs?

Each person with dyslexia will have different requirements. Assessors investigate the need and eligibility for access arrangements in examinations based on evidence of need and normal way of working. Test scores are considered but also the individual history of performance in examinations and the current ways of working and the individual’s preferences are taken into account.

Access arrangements assessments are ideally carried out by specialist dyslexia assessors, but this is not a statutory requirement for school exams. It is important to note that assessors do not hold authority over arrangements as the examination body regulations will determine the outcome.

Accommodations can include:

  • Extra time (25% is usual)
  • Reader/Computer Reader
  • Oral Language Modifier
  • A Scribe
  • Using a word processor instead of handwriting
  • Exam papers to be on a coloured paper 
  • Hard copy instead of on-screen
  • Supervised rest breaks
  • There are also other arrangements available.

When should my child use a laptop?

Use of a laptop may help your child access the curriculum, it can re-motivate learners and boost self-esteem.  Some of the benefits are that printed work can be more easily read by the child, a range of useful software could support your child, and word processing school work may give your child independence, confidence and raised self-esteem. 

ICT is a really effective tool for dyslexic users.  It can save hours of time, especially when planning, writing and editing information. However, it is important to ensure all users have a good keyboard awareness and efficient typing skills.  A dyslexic with illegible handwriting may be able to use a laptop in exams so that the examiner can concentrate on the content rather that deciphering the handwriting.  You may like to consider enrolling your child on our next Touch Typing Course.

If your child wishes to use a word processor for exams it is worth noting that a word processor cannot simply be granted to a candidate because he/she prefers to type rather than write or can work faster on a keyboard, or because he/she uses a laptop at home. The use of a word processor must reflect the candidate’s normal way of working at school and be appropriate to the candidate’s needs.  This should be discussed with your child’s school.

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