Facing up to dyslexia

6th May 2005 at 01:00
We have just found a maths tutor for our 13-year-old daughter. We are not pushy parents. It's just that she has fallen behind, and we want to make sure she catches up, particularly while she is still enthusiastic.

She is dyslexic, but this was not identified until her self-esteem had taken a battering. We watched a bright, motivated child become unhappy and sullen. She developed mysterious tummy pains. Some mornings we would be dragging a weeping child to the school gate. She had become defensive, aggressive, her short fuse making her a prime target for bullying behaviour by both pupils and teachers.

In P5, her teacher gave up on her altogether, expressing amazement that she had been in the "top group". We decided to have her assessed privately for dyslexia, having been advised it would take years to get support from our local authority.

The assessment confirmed our belief that our daughter was highly intelligent. Her behavioural difficulties were quite simply classic symptoms of someone coping with dyslexia in an unsupported environment.

High school started off well. She was stimulated, motivated, enjoyed engaging with a range of supportive teachers. However, despite her having moved on, she found old ghosts coming back to haunt her. The tummy pains returned, and she became reluctant to go in.

It was felt a fresh start would be beneficial, so she changed class, where she found herself faced with new subjects, and work she hadn't covered, as well as a new set of peers to fit in with. Struggling with new work in maths, her instinct was to ask to be put back a group. However, since her attainment was still above average, she was unlikely to get support, hence our decision to find a tutor.

We are keen to keep her at school, engaged in the learning process, and see her achieve her many ambitions. However, we realise that there simply aren't the resources to support her in the state system.That, despite all the grand policies and fine rhetoric, teaching staff are often just "fire-fighting".

We find ourselves with a number of questions. How many children go through this kind of thing? What happens if there is no support at school or at home? If they go on to be parents, what attitudes towards school do they pass on? How many go on to be "antisocial" pupils and parents? Most of all, which is the greater cost - addressing it now, or paying for the consequences later?

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