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Empowering Dyslexic Students: The Invisible Gift

Updated: Mar 21

Thank you, Andrew, and Paloma, for the inspiring webinar recently. Your insightful discussions and the questions asked by others have motivated me to write this blog, focusing on answering some of the questions raised.

As a parent of a 7-year-old boy with literacy challenges, a professional who supports schools, families, and wider organisations to support literacy and a researcher, I am passionate about this area. I have learnt after over 30 years in mainstream and special schools, being a mum and supporting people across all aspects of literacy, that there is no ONE answer. Every child and young person need us all to be flexible, positive, creative, and understanding. We need to know that this is a difficult journey but that there are many paths to success, which will look and feel different for each of us.

Being literate infiltrates all aspects of our lives, print surrounds us all irrelevant of our ability to access it. My PhD focused on the teaching of reading for all learners and the impact it has on our self-concept, self-esteem and crucially our self-worth. Struggling with literacy has a negative impact on us that can last a lifetime. So where do we begin?

Early Identification and Intervention

Andrew and Paloma both emphasised the crucial role of early identification. Identifying dyslexia early is essential for effective support to be put in place and support developing a positive mental wellbeing. This means we must look out for early signs of dyslexia, such as difficulty with phonological awareness and letter recognition.

You mentioned that we can identify children younger than 7 with Dyslexia, but the Dyslexia assessors I have approached have all said they cannot assess until 7. Where do we go when our children are 5?

While some dyslexia assessors may prefer to wait until a child is around 7 years old for formal assessments, it is crucial to seek support and resources for identifying dyslexia in younger children. The use of informal observations, dyslexia screeners, speech and language assessments, early intervention programs and reading indicators are key to building up a profile of strengths and areas for support. Keep communication open with schools and other contexts, follow key people on social media (my favourite time-wasting activity).

There are some useful links and discussions on this forum that summarise the key areas that may be more difficult for children with dyslexia. They may develop these skills later than others or continue to struggle. The key is knowing what they find difficult and supporting this early on, as well as making them feel better about themselves, will never be a waste of time or impact negatively on them!

This leads me to the next questions:

How can you help a child who is dyslexic but has other neurological diversities?

Having spent most of my career within special needs contexts and working with children and young people with a huge range of abilities and needs, I feel that this illustration sums this up.

Creating a profile of strengths and areas for support, rather than a simple diagnostic approach, enables a more proactive understanding of what’s needed. This means that providing effective strategies for learners struggling with literacy will be useful for all but will be essential for some! The key is to know what these struggles are.

Making literacy accessible for all from the start is a no-brainer, in America, universal design for learning (UDL) is a legal right. This means that before you even struggle and begin to create a negative relationship with print, access is provided. When I access my Google documents, an icon come up automatically and says, ‘would you like this read to you’. This allows for the development of literacy skills, built on a foundation of rich literacy experiences. We need enjoyable, regular, engaging, motivating and accessible opportunities to understand the link between oral language and print. This is a very simple explanation but if we understand why we need to provide access to print in many ways, again and again, we can see the value of providing all learners with this.

To find out more about UDL click here

What is the best way to find effective interventions specifically for dyslexia?

To find out what our children and young people can do, we need to immerse them in an inclusive literacy environment that makes literacy accessible to everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or background. This needs to include access to print in new or different ways (audio books, e-books, graphic novels, sensory stories, picture books, song, dictated text, drama, menus, social media, texts and more).

Don't forget the importance of reading aloud, both by us and our children and young people. This allows learners to experience the joy of storytelling/ oral language and helps them develop their listening and comprehension skills. This supports joining up the dots between oral language and print, in many different and engaging ways.

There are some amazing accessible resources available that bring print to life! Check out some of these links:

Make sure you use informal observations, screening tests, assessments and more to understand what learners struggle with. Seek advice from external professionals, keep communication open with school and other organisations to ensure all information is shared and used within a collaborative approach. If you know what the key issues might be, you can provide specific targeted interventions that aim to support these gaps/areas. You could use this forum to ask for help, look on the internet, use AI (ChatGTP is amazing!) or find inspiration on social media to find effective ways in.

Look at short specific interventions, do them for 4-6 weeks and see if they make a difference, ask the child or young person how it impacts on them. Use informal observations, record progress, and change as needed. Remember this is a journey that will need flexibility and that there is no one answer, celebrate the wins when they come.

How do I know whether having an EHCP will benefit my child?

Deciding whether an EHCP will benefit your dyslexic child requires careful consideration and collaboration with professionals, educators, and support staff. If your child exhibits significant learning difficulties and requires individualised support beyond what the school can offer, an EHCP may be the key to unlocking their full potential. Advocate for a comprehensive assessment and discuss the options with your child's school and educational authorities to make an informed decision that best supports your child's unique needs. Remember, the goal is to empower dyslexic students to thrive academically and personally, and an EHCP can be a valuable tool in achieving that aspiration.

I am finding that schools are reluctant to allow the use of technology within the classroom. What would your advice be on this?

In many cases, a lack of confidence and understanding from professionals in terms of the powers of technology for all learners, has become a barrier for many. We, therefore, need to begin with highlighting how we use technology at home, provide short clips, audio or examples of how they help your son/daughter to enjoy books, use speech to text to record experiences, voice notes to support memory or dyslexia-friendly fonts to make information accessible. Show how it enhances their learning experience and empowers them to succeed. Use links such as these to share ideas and ways in.

It is important to acknowledge concerns about distractions and propose strategies to manage technology use effectively, ensuring a balanced and focused learning environment. Highlight how early exposure to technology and assistive tools can equip students with dyslexia for future success in education and their professional lives.

We need to advocate for a supportive environment that allows the use of technology to empower dyslexic students in their learning journey. Empower dyslexic students by breaking down complex tasks into manageable steps, providing guidance and support along the way. Encourage dyslexic students to embrace technology tools that can assist them in breaking down tasks and managing their work more effectively.

How important is it for senior school dyslexic pupils to excel at spellings which they obviously find very difficult?

Do exam boards take spellings into account when they give their GCSE's?

In terms of spelling, it is important for educators and parents to adopt a supportive and understanding approach, focusing on progress rather than perfection. Providing appropriate accommodations, individualised learning plans, and emphasizing effective communication skills can empower dyslexic students to succeed academically.

During GCSE exams, exam boards consider the content and knowledge displayed by students, but it is crucial for dyslexic students to use available accommodations to ensure they can showcase their true potential. By embracing their unique strengths and fostering an inclusive learning environment, we can empower dyslexic students to flourish and achieve their goals.

By fostering their unique strengths, addressing individual needs, and embracing technology as a tool for support, we can help dyslexic students thrive academically and emotionally. Together, let's champion the success of every dyslexic learner!

Find out more about me at or check out my book! The book aims to pull together theory and practice in a way that is useful for those working with children and young people who may be struggling to learn to read. I call for a more inclusive definition of reading, that enables us all to be part of the established reading community (20% with the code AIK23 or read the first chapter free on Amazon!). Contact me for more info

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