How can I tell if my child is dyslexic?
When parents ring The Promethean Trust, 9 times out of 10 they will start off with this question, or something very much like it.In spite of the fact that our Yellow Pages advert is listed under 'Dyslexia', we have to tell them that they are asking the wrong question.All they should really be asking is "how can I help my child learn to read?"
If your child is having trouble learning to read or spell, most likely you will be desperate to get a diagnosis of dyslexia. This anxiety seems perfectly reasonable. After all, if your little Benjamin isn't dyslexic, he must be thick. Or lazy. Even worse, your own parenting skills may be called into question. There is a pretty good chance that some teacher will have suggested that your anxiety is just making matters worse. But if you can get that magic diagnosis, the shoe is on the other foot. Then it's their problem....or so you think.
Alas, it's not so simple. For a start, remember that if your school knew how to teach your child to read, they would already have done so. Teachers really do want the best for their pupils. Armed with your diagnosis of dyslexia, you might get a bit of specialist help for little Benjamin, but chances are that any improvement will be slight and temporary. At The Promethean Trust, we hear the same sad tale day after day: having finally got some extra help after a long battle, parents find that their child is still struggling.
If it is any comfort to you, you have plenty of company. In 1997 at a white, middle-class high school in Norwich (England), a staggering 40% of the 7th grade intake were two or more years behind in reading or spelling. At a less-favoured Norwich high school, 55% of the 2002 intake were three or more years behind. And to be honest, there isn't much a high school can do about such massive problems, and most of them barely try.
By the time dyslexics are approaching adolescence, their confidence is usually non-existent, and it normally takes a long time to correct all the bad reading and spelling habits they have learned. So whatever you do, don't take any bland assurances from you school that your child will "catch up later". The odds are strongly against this happening; research has shown that children who can't read independently at 8 years have no more than a 1 in 8 chance of catching up.And if they do catch up, it is almost alway because the parents have taken matters into their own hands.
With this said, The Promethean Trust has helped a lot of high-school children to make remarkable recoveries. Providing the child is willing, and the parent is determined, even huge deficits can be overcome. But it won't be easy, and it can take several years.
By contrast, under-7s can usually catch up in a year or less.