Dealing with Dyslexia

HMIE’s launch of “Education for learners with dyslexia” this week in Dunfermline was a significant contribution to the continuing discussion around a very sensitive issue. Acknowledging that there is still no generally agreed definition of the term and the “condition“, the report nevertheless goes on to describe a very broad range of provision for young people across Scotland who have difficulties with reading of one kind or another. What most authorities are able to agree on however is the British Psychological Society’s definition of dyslexia;-

“Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the word level and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis for a staged process of assessment through teaching.”

Sadly, the report found that “in most (secondary) schools, including independent schools, learning and teaching focused too heavily on textbooks and activities on reading and writing. ICT was not readily accessible within the classroom or sufficiently integrated into pupils’ learning experiences.” This doesn’t apply only to young people with reading difficulties of course, but highlights yet again the need for us to re-define literacy and make sure we are preparing young people for the world of the present and the future, not the world of the past.

For the record, the report’s description of a school which was developing a “dyslexia-friendly” ethos is one whose approaches included:-

  • a strong emphasis on early intervention and solution-focused approaches
  • high quality learning support accommodation including ICT provision and a range of appropriate resources
  • staged intervention processes which ensured that pupils were identified at an early stage
  • taking good account of the needs of pupils needing more choices and more chances
  • regular monitoring and tracking of pupils’ progress at reviews
  • effective links with partner agencies, where appropriate, to support pupils and families as required; and
  • a culture of inclusion

Despite the challenges outlined in the report, it was clear from the conference that there is great deal of work being done already by a few very committed individuals, and very often it is the simple, practical ideas which are most effective. I particularly liked the practice introduced by Carol Cutler, PT Support for Learning at Barrhead High School, of issuing pupils with a small ID card outlining their reading difficulties, which could be handed over to unfamiliar adults such as supply teachers, thus avoiding the dyslexic pupil’s biggest fear, being asked to read out in class. Read the report

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