Dyslexic children deserve our best help

6th April 2007 at 01:00
Dyslexia has certainly hit the headlines, courtesy of Ruth Kelly. There are many issues raised by her opting not to send her child to a state school and instead seeking specialist help in the private sector.

Personally, I am glad that Ms Kelly has put her child's welfare before her own career. By this act she has drawn much-needed attention to the plight of dyslexic children in mainstream education.

Things have definitely improved since my elder son was confirmed as being dyslexic. More children are being diagnosed correctly, but it is still a struggle.

At the time of my son's assessment, it was down to where you lived as to whether your child's condition was acknowledged. Some local authorities didn't believe dyslexia existed. Now we have teachers trained to help dyslexics. But are there enough? Do they have small enough classes to make the difference? And what part so parents have to play?

Some see my son - highly articulate, bright, with a Master's degree - as just another graduate in the workplace. I see him as a walking miracle.

I listened to him read three times a day. He was 10 before any real progress was made. I copied out words for him to spell, writing them out in dots and dashes so that he could develop a kinetic memory of the word.

In primary school, he was so keen to get full marks for his spelling tests that he was willing to practise morning and evening. When eventually he did get full marks, he came home triumphant, waving his work for me to see. He had spelt his name wrong, the ultimate irony.

I made him say the letters of each word aloud so that he could develop an aural memory of the word, and took him to special lessons where they taught him the crazy rules of English spelling.

He learnt how to use a word processor, and I fought for the right for him to use one in his exams. We learnt about eye exercises, tried coloured glasses, and worked on his physical co-ordination. The struggle was immense.

Parents also need to be trained as to how they can help their child overcome their handicap. So many dyslexic children go off the rails as young adults, and we need to do everything in our power to help them overcome their difficulties.

Let's give them the best opportunities possible, and make these available in all state schools.

Helen Yewlett is a former ICT teacher

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