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You are here Parents School Policy on Dyslexia

Section A: What are the telltale signs of dyslexia?

The criteria most commonly used in assessment is the disparity between a pupil's intelligence and their actual achievement. If a pupil you teach appears to speak and listen normally, yet they are unable to read and spell, then there may be more to check out.

Some of the well-known symptoms of dyslexia are:

 confusion over the direction letters/numbers face (b/d, p/9, p/q);
 difficulties with left and right;
 difficulties with keeping organised;
 difficulties with spelling;
 difficulties with directions (e.g. east and west);
 missing out words when reading
 inability to distinguish short vowel sounds

A short list of possible symptoms would include some, but not all, of these in a dyslexic child:

(1) a noticeable difference between the pupil's ability and their actual achievement;
(2) a family history of learning difficulties;
(3) difficulties with spelling;
(4) confusion over left and right;
(5) writing letters or numbers backwards;
(6) difficulties with math/s;
(7) difficulties with organising themselves;
(8) difficulty following 2- or 3-step instructions.

Possible Dyslexia Symptoms in More Detail

(1) A discrepancy between the pupil's ability and their actual achievement
If you notice that a child who appears to be average or bright when they are talking to you is struggling to read, spell or cope with math/s, this may be the strongest indicator that they may be dyslexic. It is very common for dyslexic children to be quite able, especially in the areas of creativity (art, drama, drawing, etc) and physical co-ordination (physical education, swimming, sports, model making, etc.). However, there are differences in the neural links in their brain that makes it hard for them to deal with text (and often with numbers) without extra support. A reading age or grade level of two years below what you would expect from them is a sign of possible dyslexia. Obviously, this could also be caused by other factors such as lengthy absences from school due to illness.

(2) A family history of learning difficulties
Dyslexia is inherited through the genes. It can be made worse by early ear infections, which make it harder for a young child to be able to distinguish the difference between similar sounding words. The numbers of boys and girls who are dyslexic are roughly the same.

(3) Difficulties with spelling
Spelling is the activity which causes most difficulty for dyslexic children. The observation of spelling errors in short, simple words is the way in which most dyslexic children first come our attention. Examples of words which cause particular difficulty are: any, many, island, said, they, because, enough, and friend. Other words will sometimes be spelt in the way that you would expect them to be spelt if our spelling system were rational, for example does/dus, please/pleeze, knock/nock, search/serch, journey/jerney, etc.

Dyslexic children also experience difficulties with 'jumbled spellings'. These are spelling attempts in which all the correct letters are present, but are written in the wrong order. Examples include dose/does, freind/friend, siad/said, bule/blue, becuase/because, and wores/worse. 'Jumbled spellings' show that the child is experiencing difficulty with visual memory. Non-dyslexic children and adults often use their visual memory when trying to remember a difficult spelling: they write down two or three possible versions of the word on a spare piece of paper and see which spelling 'looks right'. They are relying on their visual memory to help them, but the visual memory of a dyslexic child may not be adequate for this task.

(4) Confusion over left and right
A fairly quick way to establish this type of confusion is to ask a child to point to your left foot with his or her right hand. If you try similar instructions - in a non-threatening environment - you will soon be able to see if this causes difficulties or not. You may also notice difficulties with east and west, or in following directions like 'Go to the end of the road and turn left, then right, etc'.

(5) Writing letters or numbers backwards
You will have noticed some children who mix up 'b' and 'd', or even 'p' and the number 9. These letters are the same in their mirror image, and cause regular confusion for a dyslexic person. Some pupils make a point of always writing the letter 'b' as an upper-case or capital 'B', as they find this much easier to remember in terms of the direction it faces. Does our cursive writing help here?

(6) Difficulties with math/s
One feature of dyslexia is difficulties with sequencing - getting things in the right order. Math/s depends on sequences of numbers - 2. 4. 6. 8. etc. Whilst many people are aware that dyslexic children and students have problems with reading and spelling, they do not know that math/s can also be a real challenge.

(7) Difficulties organising themselves
Whilst you may quite reasonably think that all children live their lives in a mess, this is particularly so for dyslexic children and students, who may have genuine difficulties with planning and thinking ahead to when a book or pen might be needed next. They can really benefit from help with organising papers and folders under a simple colour-coded system.

(8) Difficulty following 2- or 3-step instructions
'Go to Mrs. Doyle and ask her if Seán Murphy is in school today. Oh, yes, and ask if I can borrow her dictionary' - such an instruction is just too much! It involves both sequencing and memory skills, and you would be very surprised to see a dyslexic child return with the dictionary and information about Seán Murphy! Dyslexic children love to take messages as much as any other child, but it has to be a less complicated instruction, e.g. 'Ask Mrs. Doyle if I can borrow her stapler'.

If a Child Presents With a Number of these Symptoms

No two dyslexic children are exactly alike, and the aforementioned symptoms are just the more common ones. The list is not exhaustive, and few children would show all of these signs. However, if a child is having difficulties with spelling and writing, and has some of these signs, it is time to follow the procedures as outlined in Section H: Screening and Assessment.

Section B: Giving Homework

Many teachers are guilty of hastily writing homework on the board in the last minute of a lesson, and dyslexic children often arrive home with an incoherent and incomplete note of what is to be done. Parents try to help, but cannot work out what the homework is supposed to be.

Copying homework from the board is a daily problem for children with dyslexia in school, and a regular nightmare for parents. The following are some teacher guidelines for making it easier for dyslexic children to go home with an accurate note of their homework.

 Put daily assignments on the morning board. Some dyslexic students seem to function better in the mornings. They might not have a problem transcribing from the board when school first begins. (There also might be less on the board at the beginning of the day.)
 Try to keep the board clear from several days’ work and only do one day at a time. The extra clutter seems to be very distracting and frustrating. It is hard to distinguish yesterdays work, from tomorrow or today’s.
 Leave the assignments on the board for the entire day. This not only prepares the students for the day, but also allows adequate time for copying from the board. Dyslexic students like being informed ahead of time about what will be expected of them. This would be an excellent way for the student with dyslexia to know the day’s agenda.
 Use short assignment terms and always the same terms.
 Position the assignments in the same place on the board everyday. This will help the dyslexic students feel confident that they are copying the right thing down.
 Asking to see all the students’ assignment sheets before they leave for the day would be a way of checking to make sure it was copied correctly. Students could pull the assignment out and lay it on their desk. You wouldn't be asking only the dyslexic student to do this, but at the same time you would be able to check the work.
 Make sure that the student’s desk is in close proximity to teacher and front, so that copying from the board was not difficult, and if questions arose the teacher was easily accessible to him.
 When necessary allow the dyslexic child extra time to complete assignments, and have the ability to use a computer since when handwriting is illegible.
 Adjust the dyslexic child’s spelling list and vocabulary to words that were more on his level of comprehension and ability.
 Make sure that the dyslexic child knows the instructions for all assignments and can recite them back to teacher verbally, before leaving the classroom.
 Provide a peer-tutor, not only in class, but also someone he could call for help if needed.
 When giving homework give the dyslexic student enough work to practice the concept but not so much that too much time is required to complete the homework (e.g. 12 out of 20 math questions).
 Second copies are useful for assignments not due immediately, one to keep at home and one in the workbook. That way, if the workbook is forgotten he/she can still work on their project or study for their test.
 Take into consideration what additional homework the student will be given from other teachers. If each teacher gives the student 45 minutes of homework times 6 classes it is impossible for them to complete it, and for the dyslexic student it is entirely overwhelming.

Section C: Teaching Methods

Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development in the US have shown that for children with difficulties learning to read, a multi-sensory teaching method is the most effective approach or treatment. This is especially crucial for a dyslexic child. But what does it mean?

Using a multi-sensory teaching approach means helping a child to learn through more than one of the senses. Most teaching in schools is done using either sight or hearing (auditory sensations). The child's sight is used in reading information, looking at diagrams or pictures, or reading what is on the teacher's board. The sense of hearing is used in listening to what the teacher says. A dyslexic child may experience difficulties with either or both of these senses. The child's vision may be affected by difficulties with tracking, visual processing or seeing the words become fuzzy or move around. The child's hearing may be satisfactory on a hearing test, but auditory memory or auditory processing may be weak.

The answer is to involve the use of more of the child’s senses, especially the use of touch and movement (kinetic). This will give the child’s brain tactile and kinetic memories to hang on to, as well as the visual and auditory ones.
An example
An example will make this clear. The majority of dyslexic children experience confusion over the direction of ‘b’ and ‘d’. They can both be seen as a stick with a circle at its base. But on which side does the circle sit? A teacher might give the child a tactile (touchy/feely) experience of the letter ‘b’ by getting the child to draw the letter really large on the carpet. This will involve the child using their arms, their sense of balance, their whole body. They will remember the day their teacher had them 'writing' on the carpet with their hand making this great big shape, and can use that memory the next time they come to write the letter.
Some teachers purchase letters made out of sandpaper so that the children can run their fingers over the letter ‘b’, giving them a strong tactile memory.
Writing the letter ‘b’ in cursive handwriting on paper and with a big movement in the air puts a quite different slant on this letter. The letter starts on the line and rises to begin the down-stroke: there is nowhere else to put the circular bit but ahead of the down stroke.
Yet another way to give a strong tactile memory of ‘b’ is to make the letter out of plasticine, play-dough or clay.

A commonly used ‘trick’ to remember the direction of ‘b’ and ‘d’ is to show the child the word ‘bed’ on a card.
This word begins with ‘b’ and ends with ‘d’, so that if you draw a bed over the letters, the upright part of ‘b’ will become the head of the bed, and the upright part of the ‘d’ will become the foot. You can draw a child lying on the bed to complete the picture. This gives a strong visual memory for the child to use each time the letter has to be written.

You can also show the child how to hold up their index finger on each hand, with the thumb and second finger touching, making the word ‘bed’, but without the ‘e’. If they learn to do this, they can make this shape discretely with their fingers each time they need a reminder in class.

The net result of these activities will be that a child has a visual memory from seeing the letter, an auditory memory from hearing the sound it makes, a tactile memory from writing the letter in cursive handwriting, in the air, and from touching the sandpaper letter, and a kinetic (body movement) memory from having drawn the letter really large on the carpet. Altogether a multisensory experience!

This tried and tested method has been used successfully for a long time, and its success lies in the fact that the dyslexic child is not limited to visual and auditory experiences but can make use of other areas of the brain in trying to establish clear memories of letters, words and numbers that are difficult to remember.

Section D: The Dyslexic Pupil in Regular Class
 The most important step is to give extra consideration to a dyslexic child in any areas which involve reading, writing or math/s. The child may need to use a spell-checker or laptop computer as a spelling aid, and may need to do a piece of work in a rough format in the first instance, returning to it later to correct spellings and punctuation.

 A dyslexic child has difficulty scanning along a line of text, and should never be asked to read aloud in class. Being asked to do this can cause children to experience stomach aches, headaches and extreme anxiety, resulting in loss of self-esteem and sometimes in school refusal. However, if you really need to get the student to read, discretely let them know the previous day what section they will be asked to read so they can prepare it.

 Copying from the board frequently causes great difficulties, and a dyslexic child should be placed at the front of the class with an unobstructed view of the board. It can make things a lot more manageable if writing on the board is not joined but printed clearly by the teacher.

 Homework should be written on the board well before the end of the lesson in very clear printing, as it will take a dyslexic child twice as long to visually scan the words and copy them down. If they miss this vital information, there is nothing the parent can do to help at home, and a child may experience dreadful anxiety about going to school the next day because of fear of punishment.

 Dyslexic children experience failure many times each day because their disability is not visible to teachers. Their self-esteem suffers and they come to think of themselves as stupid. It is important to recognise their efforts and praise small points about their work, even though the overall quality may be poor. Saying: "You had a good idea when you answered my question in class, Wayne. I think you deserve a credit" could make a vast difference to a dyslexic child's day - it would probably be the first thing he would tell his mom when he got home. The other pupils would not find this unfair: they know that the child has real problems with writing and reading, and deserves praise for what he is able to do.

 Teachers need to be aware of the ability profile of each of their dyslexic students and what different needs each student has. Once you understand how a student learns, you can modify your approach to suit their needs. Be as understanding as possible.

 Don't give a dyslexic student a long list of words to learn every week. Give them a short list of words from a word family, e.g. boil, coil, spoil

 If giving students sequential information to learn off, be understanding. Some dyslexic students may find the learning of sequential information virtually impossible.

 Remember that over-learning is essential. You can never assume that the student will remember a topic covered only once or twice.

 Do not correct every error, but instead concentrate on a small number of errors and set manageable targets. Take time to correct the work and focus on content rather than presentation.

 Don't ask a dyslexic student to copy out corrections/mis-spellings. This will be of no use.

 A cursive handwriting style is often best as it aids spelling, neatness and fluency.

 Note-taking can be difficult, so arrange for notes to be photocopied. When photocopying use a buff coloured paper – the contrast of black ink on white paper can present problems for dyslexia students.

 Any worksheets given should be carefully presented, with large clear text, bold headings and many diagrams to aid visual learning.

 Ask the student to repeat back instructions given. This can be a useful memory aid. Instructions given should be clear and concise.

 Careful consideration needs to be given to lesson planning to ensure that the interest level is high, but the literacy levels are adapted to suit the student's needs.

 The dyslexic student should sit near the teacher, so that the teacher can monitor progress and be available to provide any necessary assistance.

 Never compare the work of a dyslexic student to the rest of the class. The work presented will often not be indicative of the effort put into producing it. Ability should not be judged solely on written answers, but on oral, taped and project work. Encourage the use of word processors, computers, calculators and tape-recorders.

 Rewarding effort is as important as rewarding accuracy.

 Encourage students to build up their stronger abilities in sports, technology,

 drama, science, maths, etc. This is an important way to build self-esteem.

 Work closely with parents. They are a valuable source of help and information.

 When using a computer allow the dyslexic student to adjust the brightness of the computer monitor to suit their needs.


Section E: The Dyslexic Pupil in Support Class

 Learning in a small group or, if at all possible, one-on-one, is essential for a dyslexic pupil to progress.

 The dyslexic child’s disability has made it hard for him to hear the individual sounds within a word, for example to hear that 'camp' is different from 'cap'. He needs to learn to hear and deal with the sounds the letters make. The need to develop phoneme awareness is vital.

 Dyslexic children need to use structured multi-sensory methods. This means using as many senses as possible at a time to make learning easier - looking, listening, saying and doing. A new sound may be listened to, then spoken. It may be 'drawn' in the air on an imaginary screen. Then the letters representing it are looked at, written down, and possibly wooden or plastic letters are handled.

 A word-processor can be a real help to a dyslexic child. Errors can be easily corrected using the spell-checker, and the finished product looks as good as anyone else's. Excellent for raising self-esteem!

 The development of cursive/linked or joined handwriting is crucial. The brain finds it much easier to remember spellings if the letters are linked: single letters can jump around like monkeys in a cage for a dyslexic child, but the links from one letter to another help him to remember the sequence.

 Dyslexic children experience great difficulties with the initial stages of math/s, especially the sequencing processes. They frequently struggle due to an inability to count up to 100, to count to 100 in steps of ten, two and five, as well as being able to count backwards in all these steps. Once these sequences are mastered, the basic processes of number work can be dealt with.

They just need to learn their multiplication tables: this can be helped by cutting up the tables into small pieces on card (e.g. '2 x 2 ' and '4').

 It is essential that the support teacher and class teacher work closely so there is a common approach taken in the school. The issue of homework also needs close co-operation between support teacher and class teacher.

The most important foundational skills addressed by the Support Teacher includes:

 The skill of concentration
 Accurate perception
 Visual discrimination of foreground-background
 Visual discrimination of form
 Visual discrimination of size
 Visual discrimination of position in space
 Visual discrimination of colour
 Visual analysis of position in space
 Auditory discrimination of foreground-background
 Auditory discrimination of position in time and space
 Auditory discrimination of colour
 Auditory analysis of position in time and space
 Auditory synthesis of position in time and space
 Visual discrimination of dimensionality
 Decoding and integration of information
 Visual closure
 Imagination
 Visual memory of forms
 Visual memory of sequence
 Auditory memory
 Short-term memory
 Long-term memory
 Concept of numbers
 Reasoning
 Logical thinking
 Fine motor co-ordination
 Gross motor co-ordination
 Sensory motor integration

Section F: Dyslexia and Maths

Many dyslexic children often experience problems with math (maths) because of their difficulties with sequencing. Many have not yet learned the basics - how to count to 100 forwards and backwards, and do not understand any processes beyond addition

Many dyslexic children have problems in some areas of math (maths), especially the multiplication tables, fractions, decimals, percentages, ratio and statistics. A dyslexic student usually needs extra instruction particularly as new concepts are introduced.
With this subject, it is particularly important to grasp each concept thoroughly before moving on. If not instructed properly in math (maths), it will become yet another thing to weigh down their self-esteem.
Getting numbers in the correct order, and being able to reverse that order is a challenge for the student. A problem with short-term memory can make it particularly hard for the student to learn the multiplication tables.

To help a student with math (maths) the first thing that needs to be established is how much they know or understand about the subject. It cannot be assumed because of age or grade how much a student knows.

Small steps
Teach math (maths) concepts sequentially and in small steps. Do not move on to another concept until the student is ready and thoroughly understands the preceding concept.
For example, do not move on to counting backwards until basic counting has been mastered. The following exercises can be beneficial in reinforcing the relationship of numbers to actual quantities. They utilise the same multi-sensory approach used to teach dyslexic children to read. Introduce these methods as games, keeping them a fun activity. If the student becomes tired, seems distracted or bored at any point move on to another activity, or take a break for a while.

Counting to 100
Have a child with dyslexia arrange 100 counters in a long line on the floor. Have her place a marker after each ten. The child can then practice counting all the way through to 100. Teach tens by using a different coloured counter in place of the tens number so that they easily stand out.

After that, they can learn to count by fives. The counting of numbers by ten and five will help the child immensely when it comes to multiplication and time telling skills.

Have the child count forwards until they can do so fluently, then they can start to count backwards. Practising counting can be done in any situation, counting cars as they pass by, or stairs as they climb up them. Parents can help here.

Another exercise that can be done anywhere - in the classroom by the teacher, or at home with a parent - is to call out a number and have the child call out the following one. At first the hardest numbers for the child to remember are usually where there is a change of tens, as in 29 to 30.

Multiplication and division
Multiplication and division are the most difficult for a child with dyslexia to master. It will make it easier for the child to learn if they actually understand the concept. The following may help: collect 5 pairs of items, gloves, shoes, toy animals, anything as long as the pairs are the same. Lay out the pairs in front of the child, show her that there are two items in each pair, one pair has two items, two pairs has four items, etc. When the child sees the five pairs have ten items, explain as you write it down, that is what 5 x 10 means.

This exercise can be repeated with each of the different pairs until she understands what the "2 times" means. Once the child is familiar with the 2 times table, they should begin to work on all the tables in the following order: 2x, 10x, 11x, 5x, 3x, 4x, 9x, 6x, 7x, 8x, then finally 12x, which they should know from the other tables.

When first using worksheets, use pictures of familiar animals or items for students to count. If a student has difficulty with one particular fact show them how to use the facts they do remember to help them. An example of this is if a student knows 6 x 5 well, show them how to use that to figure out 7 x 5 by counting up by five.

Relate mathematical story problems to things they like and their friends or family, this way they have the added dimension of visualisation to work with.

Games work particularly well
Games work particularly well with dyslexic children, as they seem to have an aversion to plain work sheets. Children enjoy playing Bingo. This multiplication Bingo game is a big hit with most kids. Make a Bingo type card on a piece of paper, fill the squares with the answers to all the multiplication facts, up to 6 x 6 with regular dice, 9 x 9 and 12 x 12 (or with the polyhedral dice available at school supply stores). Take it in turns to roll the dice; multiply the two numbers rolled and mark it off on the players' Bingo sheets. Without making it too obvious, let the child win any games to build up their self-confidence.

Teach the child to talk through math/s problems, saying it softly to themselves, without disturbing others. This will employ auditory as well as visual memory abilities. Explain to them how this will help because the brain can store different kinds of memories. Often a child will read a whole problem, remember some numbers and do any kind of math calculation that comes to mind! Show the student how to jot down the key facts and symbols in a problem as they come up.

Use a calculator
Show a child with dyslexia how to use a calculator. Students should not use the instrument to do all of their math (maths) work, but to check their calculations and make corrections where necessary.
Make individual worksheets for students. Structure worksheets to meet the students knowledge and ability; simplify word problems so they will not be an obstacle for dyslexics; customised sheets will allow for success, not failure.

Real coins
When teaching about money use real coins instead of plastic, this is far more fun and exciting for the child. It is not always necessary to spend a fortune on items for tactile use; change from your pocket, pieces of cereal, simple circles cut out of coloured paper are great for whole number and fraction work. Utilise the many resources available to construct a suitable curriculum for students.

Section G: Screening and Assessment
If a child is having difficulties with spelling and writing, has some of the telltale signs and the class teacher has concerns, the following steps should be followed:

1. Class teacher talks with the child’s parents outlining his/her concerns and gets permission for the Support Teacher to administer screening tests. Contact will be made by posted letter.

2. The Support Teacher administers the most suitable screening tests. The school has the Dyslexia Early Screening Test (4 – 6 years), the Dyslexia Screening Test (7 years + ) the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) Resources, Quest Starter Pack (6 – 7 years) and the Aston Index Test (5 – 14 years) and the Neale Analysis (3rd Class +) .

3. Following completion of the screening tests the Support Teacher arranges to meet with the parents in conjunction with the class teacher to discuss the results of the screening. Contact will be made by posted letter. Letters/notes will not be given to the child to bring home as often such letters stay in schoolbags for days.

4. A copy of the screening results will be retained in the child’s file in school records. This will be the Support Teacher’s responsibility.

5. Should the screening tests indicate a strong indication of dyslexia the principal will be asked to arrange a formal assessment.

6. The principal will arrange to have a formal assessment done as soon as possible within the limits of the school’s financial resources and within the guidelines for the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological assessments.

7. The Support Teacher will arrange to get parental permission for such assessment at the meeting held to discuss the results of the screening tests.

8. Following assessment the class teacher and Support Teacher will meet with the psychologist to discuss the results of the assessment. They will then arrange to meet with the parents to discuss the implication for the child.

Section H: How Parents Can Help

The most important thing they can do is to build up the damaged confidence and self-esteem of their child. Make sure the child knows he is loved for himself, and that this love is not dependent on how well he does at school. A parent should:

• make it clear that the child's difficulties are not his fault;
• be very encouraging and find things he is good at;
• praise him for effort - remember how hard he has to try to achieve success in reading, writing and math/s;

• help with homework from school, or from any Support teachers;
• help him to be organised;
• encourage areas in which he can experience success, such as creative areas and activities such as sports which involve physical co-ordination;
• encourage hobbies, interests and out of school activities.