Dyslexia is a rainbow, a spectrum of abilities and difficulties. The difficulties are what we focus on and what I thought dyslexia was, but it’s so much more than that. Some of our most brilliant and talented minds are dyslexic, Richard Branson, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Oliver Reed, Agatha Christie, to name but a few.
When we first spotted dyslexic tendencies in K, I felt like we were facing an illness with no cure, it was something she would have to live with and it pained me. Now, I realize that dyslexia is what makes her who she is. She is enormously creative and can literally make anything out of, well………anything! She loves to write stories and has been praised for her creative writing abilities at school. She’s bright and bubbly with far too much energy, and when she mentioned that the (really annoying) Ribena advert with the strange bunnies wearing sunglasses etc., popping up and bouncing around, was “What it’s like in my head”, I can understand why following multiple instructions is so hard for her!
Having now begun our journey into the realms of dyslexia, I realize just how many people are effected by it, to a lesser or greater degree, around 10% of the population! This includes J, who, neglected to tell me (and to be fair, I didn’t notice or have reason to ask) that he is dyslexic himself, until the issues with K arose! Which goes to show, that it really isn’t too much of a problem in later life (I accept there may be, in severe cases), it is in fact a strength and ability to be nurtured in many creative occupations.
K was an early talker, she was saying ‘dadadada’ at 5 months, and spoke in full sentences by 18 months. She could fully recite The Gruffalo at 18 months while turning the pages at the appropriate times, giving the (very convincing) illusion that she was reading it! I used to sing Joseph and his amazing Technicolour Dream coat songs to her and she could sing the song with all the colours, also at around 18 months. I wish now that I have filmed these things but, we didn’t have camera phones and I didn’t see the significance of it, as she was my first. I realize now that my other two were far later developing.
While at nursery, I was told how bright K was, her use of language was way in advance of her age, making conversation like a 6 year old at age 3/4. Something that every parent loves to hear! But, once she started school, K blended into the crowd and settled in the middle ability group. I assumed that her early mastery of language was simply that, and the others had now caught up. In year one, her year was the first to take the phonics test and she failed. For a child showing such good language skills, I was surprised but assured by the school that it wasn’t a problem. In year two, K was still struggling to spell common words and still regularly mistook b’s for d’s, her writing was always phonetically correct, just using the wrong phonics! However, her creative writing was beginning to shine and the fact that she couldn’t spell, didn’t discourage her use of imaginative language. J began to see traits of himself in our daughter and informed me during parents evening, that he was dyslexic……I had no clue!!! However, according to the school, K wasn’t showing many of the signs and they therefore didn’t think she was.
In some ways, I wish I had acted on things sooner and pushed for more testing, but in many children it is difficult to diagnose until they are a little older anyway, so I’m not going to beat myself up! We do that as parents so much anyway!
Year 3 threw up other problems, with K’s appendix bursting and then missing a chunk of school. We were then playing catch-up and as I mentioned in ‘To Tutor or not to Tutor’ K joined Explore Learning where they have continued to help consolidate and assist in her math’s and English education.
K settled back down in year 4 but her class teacher insisted that she was lazy in her approach to spelling- I just couldn’t accept this, as she is so keen to please. He dropped her down to the lowest ability group in English, which completely knocked her confidence and meant her grammar homework was ridiculously easy. They still wouldn’t except that she may be dyslexic, despite the family history and the similarities to J, but did place her in an intervention, spelling group. We continued with various spelling strategies to try to engrain them into her brain!!
Finally in year 5, her class teacher (who happened to also teach her in year3) agreed that she should have progressed further than she had and gave us the support and encouragement K needed. Some of the main signs were that K’s reading age had dropped below her actual age (where it had always been around a year above in the past) and in math’s tests she was still putting number’s the wrong way around. We immediately had her assessed by a specialist dyslexic tutor who confirmed what we had been suspecting for so long and who was surprised, with the severity of it, that K had coped so well for so long. Apparently, more intelligent children often get diagnosed later due to their ability to cope and therefore hide the classic signs. K’s dyslexia effects her ability to take information from short to long term memory, she can lean 10 difficult spellings and get 10 out of 10 in a test, but the next day will spell them wrong in a piece of writing.
Where we are now
We have now been advised by the school to have K formally diagnosed after they tested her with a new computer programme and realized the extent of her difficulties. This will cost us around £500 and is essential for K to be recommended by the school to receive extra time in exams (11+ and possibly SAT’s), they will not consider this without the report. So what happens to children, whose parents can’t afford it?
I will be following up on this post, as K progresses through the system.
Do you have a child with dyslexic tendencies? What has been your experience with school support and funding? Where are you on your on-going journey to understanding dyslexia?