Don’t be down on dyslexia - pupils need support

Helen O’Callaghan reports on how pupils need support 

‘THE class doesn’t let me show that I’m clever — it shows the things I can’t do” — how one student described the experience of having dyslexia in an Irish classroom.

The view is captured in a survey by the Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI), which found schools need to be more responsive to individual needs of students with dyslexia. In fact, 90% of teachers reported their pre-service training didn’t prepare them adequately.

After the survey, the DAI invited people to tweet their experiences using #iwishyouknew to drive public understanding of dyslexia. One mum said she thinks teachers do a super job but added: “I think the understanding of dyslexia by [many] teachers is if you can read, you’re fine, if you get average amount of spellings on a Friday you’re fine, if you blend in and don’t show any obvious signs you’re fine too. The problem is children with dyslexia from an early age develop techniques to get by that can mask problems with working memory, that allows them to read to an [acceptable] standard, that means they’ll get the spellings right on Friday but by Tuesday they can’t.”

Four of Galway-based Martha O’Neill Brennan’s five children have dyslexia. She doesn’t remember doing homework with her oldest child, Joshua — he didn’t need her help. It was very different with Noah, 13, Aaron, 10, Lucca, 8, and Mollie, 6.

Martha recalls telling herself to stop comparing Noah with Joshua. “But deep down, I knew something wasn’t right. Things weren’t coming easy to Noah, yet he was extremely clever. He’d get 10 out of 10 in weekly spelling tests but he could only retain them for a short while.”

At first, Noah’s issues were put down to “a boy thing, an immaturity thing”. When he went into third class, Martha again voiced concern and found his teacher “amazing”.

“He was so bright, articulate, but his written work was a disaster. We got him assessed — he has severe dyslexia.”

She says school’s tough for kids with dyslexia. Noah’s transition to secondary school was major in September. “There are lockers, room changes, he has to bring books home — but he’s getting there.” She has seen school support for children with dyslexia improve but pays €600 monthly to get private help. “We put help in place early — it took a lot of work. My children are happy and confident. That’s good — if a child’s confident, they’ll try and try.”

dyslexia.ie.

Factfile

- 91% of teachers agree unidentified dyslexia damages children’s self-esteem.

- 82% of young people with dyslexia feel the Government doesn’t provide enough
support for students.

- 93% of parents want specialist training on dyslexia for all teachers — 88% want such training mandatory in teacher training courses.

- 72% of adults with dyslexia said it enabled them to develop skills in other areas.


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