Saturday, 29 April 2017

‘When Is The Right Time To Tell Your Child They Have A Specific Learning Need?’ by  Dyslexia Toby © 2017
Is there ever going to be a right time?  Well, you will always blame yourself for telling your child or indeed not as the case may be.  I can say from my own experience I would have loved to have known that I had a learning need, but back in the fifties and sixties, there was no such diagnosis.  With dyspraxia, however, the first mention in the medical journals was as far back as 1962, although there was little heed paid to this and many other learning needs.  I spent my early life being very confused and angry at my lack of academic and sporting ability, I was constantly measured against my more able siblings and called many horrible things, including a word I despise to this day (‘spa’ or ‘spastic’).  I am far happier now that I had a reason for the problems I continually came across in the early years and it was out of my control and was deemed to be the way I would go on through life from birth.
Genetics sets the seed with most specific learning needs and this is the case for so many others… I am not alone!
You may have had a diagnosis, or be in the very early stages of wondering why your child is behaving or learning differently to others and you may be starting to suspect something is not quite right.  They may well be slow at hitting milestones and you may have also spotted the early signs of a specific learning difficulty.  I will say at this point, having dyspraxia myself and also for children with dyspraxia, I wouldn’t despair, as we go on to achieve great things and, if shown the right way, excel both physically and academically… we are great social animals too!
 What about those that are just late starters?  Many children find a variation in both physical and visual stimuli.  Some like to watch you, or programmes, also some watch and listen to conversations… these are usually the early readers.  Some like to construct and by this I mean those who show a preference to play with toys and build things… these are for the most part late/later readers.  As mentioned, it’s what pushes our buttons that drive us from the start.
You can never be too early to encourage both forms of stimuli and your engagement in this process will lead to your child joining in.
It is so important to work with the school or college on this, the more eyes the better.  You need to keep a very close eye on their academic work… teachers are being forced to teach ever larger class sizes than ever before and don’t always get the chance to check every piece of homework and quite often the students will cross mark each other’s work… this can result in them falling behind.  Don’t forget the square of over teaching - those with a learning need may require a more graphical description of what has to be learnt compared to a child who has no SPLD… quite often 2-3 or 4 times longer.
Make sure you keep your concerns written down with times and dates… this comes in really handy to monitor progress, take to open days, parents evenings and IEP meetings (individual education plan). Never discard this information as you can use it when your child steps up in that, or a new, school… not all teachers inform each other of someone leaving their class to move to another, even though you might take this for granted.
Always check school reports and note discrepancies from teacher to teacher and subject to subject… the problem more often than not is in the core and language subjects.  Be positive, proactive and constructive with your child’s school/teacher, aggression often meets aggression… suggestions and inducing suggestions from others tends to yield positive results.
If you have no diagnosis, ask the school or college as they have funds for this, although I will say they are extremely limited and have to be used wisely.
Try and benchmark progress and always leave a meeting with a date for the next review, this leaves nothing to chance which is important because, as we all know, the years flow quickly by.
Keep your child informed, they often resent going to resource when they are older, especially boys.  Try and keep their confidence high by talking about their great efforts in other areas.
Kinesthetic learning is so often the way forward and it’s important to work at the point where the wheels fell off rather that at the coal face.  By the time the school and maybe your concerns are heard, the child will be at least eighteen months behind… so imagine putting a second class student into fourth class, how would they feel?  That is the way your child feels every day.
Look for tell-tale signs like stammer/stutters, keeping themselves isolated during school and maybe they have no interest in inviting friends over, they avoid the competitive aspects of school (sports, etc.).  Maybe they have moved up a year and the new teacher gets them to read aloud to the class and this is bothering them, the dreaded Friday spelling test or other tests like the STEN, SATS or Drumcondra… maybe you can reflect after reading this and remember episodes of reluctance or faking a day off and see a common link.
Above all, support from all moves this forward and if you haven’t told your child about your worries, there is a good chance school friends or even a teacher might have… not always directly, but your child will read between the lines.
If you have a diagnosis and a statement you are entitled to an IEP, ask your SENCO/SNA or the principal and if you haven’t had one, drive it forward… I have written articles on the IEP which you can read either on Facebook or on my blog (
Some may try to convince you that you should be under a recognised group/umbrella group, either independent or recognised by the government, to obtain resource… this is not the case, all you need is a statement.  Whilst some will be happy to kick the problem down the road, many will go the extra mile… I know several schools that support struggling learners through extra resource and they don’t have a statement.
When you are doing homework, start as soon as they are home from school and make sure they drink plenty of water, hydration is a key to focus and, whilst on the subject, check that they can drink fresh water whilst in class too.  Front load all study and taper down towards the end of the session, leave plenty of time to relax and help the processing… remember the rule of four!
 It’s worth focussing on the positive sides of your child in or out of school… this alone will move them forward and they will find their plateau.  You as a parent will get your reward from seeing that happy child you always knew you had!  They are not lazy, clumsy or stupid… we just process in a very different way and we all get there in the end!  We just need to reinforce this constantly as low self-esteem and confidence is a peril we would rather avoid.
Have a read of another article of mine related to this subject –
The Why’s and How’s of the IEP:
 NB. This information is from our personal experience and research of our extensive team and also partly sourced through the work of others. It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and other specific learning needs and to offer help and advice only. Dyslexia Toby © 2017