Dyslexia affects one in five children in every classroom, according to Kate Griggs, founder and chief executive of Made By Dyslexia, a charity raising awareness of the issue. That’s why she believes it’s crucial that all teachers – not just those focusing on special educational needs – are able to identify and support children who might be struggling.
Challenges and strengths
Dyslexic children will have problems with spelling, reading and memorising facts, which can affect their learning if they don’t receive help. “They will have wonderful, creative ideas, but often struggle to get their thoughts structured and down on paper. That’s why traditional tests, which we tend to benchmark against in education, really disadvantages dyslexic students, because we are measuring them against the very things they find challenging,” says Griggs.
Earlier this month, former health secretary Matt Hancock, who wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until he was at university, acknowledged the importance of supporting children with the cognitive difference when he announced he was introducing a Dyslexia bill. The legislation would ensure all school children are screened for reading and writing difficulties before they leave primary school.
Griggs wholeheartedly supports the bill. “We 100% support universal screening,” she said, but insists: “It’s really important that teachers are trained as well. It’s fantastic to screen these kids and pick them up, but every single teacher is a teacher of dyslexic children, so it’s vital that we train teachers too.”
Apart from making sure they are trained, the next step is for teachers to identify those who are experiencing problems. Dyslexia can be recognised in children aged five or younger. The key signs to look out for are: a mismatch between what an individual seems capable of verbally, and the written work they produce; strengths in creative, problem-solving, and communication skills; and challenges with spelling, reading and remembering facts.
Teachers can support children in their classroom in a range of ways. They include:
- using multisensory interventions, such as learning that combines visual, auditory, tactile and moving elements
- providing positive praise by pointing out strengths, such as imagining, questioning and exploring, and helping them carry out more work in these areas
- using technology to support children with their learning, such as speech recognition software and spellcheckers that are specially designed for people with dyslexia
- encouraging children to use speech to text applications, make videos and undertake mind mapping exercises.
Griggs explains: “It is actually very easy to help and support these children. Also, technology is a massive support to dyslexic children. So use as much technology as you can, and a lot of things that support affected kids are absolutely free now. It really is time to embrace it and realise the amazing brilliance that these kids have.”
She adds: “If teachers are aware of how to spot and support dyslexic strengths and challenges and make the small accommodations and adjustments that they need, then every dyslexic child can flourish in mainstream education. I have never met a teacher who doesn’t want to do the best for the children they teach…so it’s all benefits.”