Everyone has their own best way of working and their own difficulties with particular skills in handling words.

Some students get labelled as ‘dyslexic’ which means that they have a number of difficulties dealing with words which have often been found to cluster together. But no two so-called ‘dyslexics’ have just the same difficulties or at the same level. For this reason, each student needs different remedial action. Some just need a decent programme of phonics at primary school, others need private support with a trained tutor, which we can provide. Some need help organising ideas. Some need practical help in taking notes. Some need other strategies to get round the problems which the situation presents.

I think most of us would have benefitted from this help when we were younger!

Some parents are accused of using the label as a convenient excuse if their child is a bit slow or lazy about learning.

After forty years, I have yet to find one.

There are students who find being given the label an enormous relief: ‘At last I know what is wrong. Someone else understands how I feel; how difficult I find spelling or remembering things, or keeping things tidy. Even better they think they can help me to keep up at school!’

So the label can be a real help, provided it then leads to the right kind and level of support.

More often these days, dyslexia is found in a student together with other things that are given even more obscure and mystifying labels like ‘dyspraxia’, ‘dyscalculia’ and often ‘mild autism’. At this stage panic sets into the heart of any parent. Well, don’t let it. Names don’t matter. Your child does. What is needed is to know just what your son or daughter needs by way of help and that means finding the precise difficulties that he or she has in everyday work at school and home.

It helps to remember that if a boy or girl is weak in one area they are probably better at another. It is probably more important to find out what that area of real talent and strength is and develop it, than it is to identify the area of weakness, whatever its name might be. Confidence is just so important and it is probably the paramount need in all children.

More severe difficulties may call for more help, in which case look at the CReSTeD website for a suitable school near you (see below).

  • Do you think you may have specific difficulties with some aspect of reading or writing?
  • Do you see yourself as slow at reading or writing?
  • Does your teacher complain about the untidiness of your work?
  • Do you have difficulty copying off the board?
  • Do you find it hard to organise your work?
  • Is remembering things sometimes a problem?

If so, you may be dyslexic and need extra help. There are ways round these problems.

As a qualified teacher of dyslexics, I can offer assessment: particularly to those pupils whose needs are not sufficiently urgent to receive help at school. These boys and girls are often overlooked but a little help can raise their grades and improve their confidence tremendously.

If you are looking for a school for a dyslexic student, particularly if the dyslexia is more severe and needs a very special teaching programme; and perhaps it is linked to some level of mild autism, dyspraxia or dyscalculia, then it is worth looking at the CReSTeD website which offers excellent and independent advice on choosing the right local school for you. www.crested.org.uk

A word of warning

There is a debate going on at the interface between neuro-scientists, dyslexia charities and teachers, educational bodies and the government about the existence, nature and best treatment for dyslexia. Each has their own agenda and some scepticism and caution is needed. The more inflammatory newspapers like to scare parents with horror stories of neglect, wasted money or by exploiting parents’ worries.

But among those who study the subject and find out the facts there is a broad area of agreement. I have reflected that in my description of dyslexia above. They do disagree on certain aspects of cause and treatment and there are probably some quack or unproved remedies on offer. What no-one disagrees with is that there are a variety of brain functions involved in using language and that some of us are more effective, some less effective users of language than others. All agree that some of us benefit from support, particularly when we are young and the brain is not yet too set in its ways to change.