Identifying dyslexia in students Comment by CLARE OTHMAN, Operations Director, Supply Desk

Teachers who are able to identify dyslexia in affected students provide a wonderful benefit to those students. Identification enables children to access life-changing support. Dyslexic students learn very differently from other students, and really must be taught differently in order to help them maximise their potential.

Why is it important to identify dyslexia? Children with dyslexia who are not identified during the early years of their schooling may develop coping strategies that disguise their dyslexia. While these coping strategies may be positive or negative, they can prevent accurate identification, and this leads to secondary effects. Low self-esteem, frustration, loss of motivation for learning, as well as social and emotional issues, can all stem from unidentified dyslexia. On the flip side, dyslexic children who are identified early are more able to access effective instruction, learning support and other tools to help them with their learning difference.

Dyslexia identification in children How do you tell if a student is dyslexic? The condition may affect boys or girls, from all backgrounds. One of the more frustrating issues for teachers attempting to identify dyslexia is that, often, dyslexic traits seem to be normal variations in childhood development milestones. Dyslexic

traits start becoming more apparent around aged 3, and observant teachers will notice clusters of issues that stand out. Some signs are more obvious than others. Dyslexic children can have a wide range of difficulties, and don’t necessarily experience them all. Dyslexia is often suspected by teachers (or parents) of children who are struggling with speaking, writing, reading, or numeracy. Often the child does not progress as quickly as classmates, or may not seem to progress at all, yet they may also have areas of strong ability.


There are numerous lists of symptoms available which describe specific dyslexic traits to look for at different ages. The British Dyslexia Association provides useful lists of indications for pre-school, primary and secondary students, from which teachers can look for a cluster of difficulties. While a checklist itself cannot provide enough information for a diagnostic assessment, it can certainly be used as a guide to whether further testing would be beneficial. It is important to point out that people who do not have dyslexia can still tick many of the boxes on the checklist. Therefore, checklists must be used with caution, and not in isolation.

Diagnostic assessment Diagnostic assessments should always be

conducted by qualified, certified personnel, such as chartered psychologists or specialist teachers/assessors with an Assessment Practicing Certificate. Your local Dyslexia Association, or your school’s SEN Co-ordinator, may be able to recommend suitable practitioners.

Identification is crucial

Identifying dyslexia is a crucial step in the lives of affected students. Identification can be a catalyst to get the help and support they need. Dyslexia is so often a ‘hidden disability’, but it is also the most common learning difficulty. Importantly, many schools don’t recognise dyslexia as a disability, simply a learning difficulty. This is because when, taught in an appropriate way, dyslexic students are able to achieve outstanding success in this modern world. Teachers and support staff play an important role in the early identification of dyslexia amongst students and can make a real difference in the lives of many.


New Year, new joys…old problems Comment by MARK BENTLEY, Online Safety and Safeguarding Manager, London Grid for Learning

The holidays are probably a distant memory already, but I wonder if some Christmas gifts have kept giving on the return to school: have new devices led to problems in the classroom? Or perhaps a child has expressed worries about something viewed over the holidays? Here’s a whistlestop tour of how you might be able to support parents with issues around technology and online safety.

The Ofcom Children and Parents Media report came out at the end of November; as usual it contains many revealing statistics. For example, mobile phone ownership – not just use – has more than doubled among 5-7-year olds. And 96% of all children between 5 and 15 now have access to the internet at home. Yet 69% of parents do not use the baked-in parental controls and filters.

It’s a fair assumption that Christmas didn’t lead to a drop in either of those numbers, so what better time to remind parents that there is plenty of support for them regarding settings. Two top tips from our parent resource collection are to check out Internet Matters for how to turn on parental controls for home broadband, and call the NSPCC / O2 Parent Helpline on 0808 800 5002 for help setting up new mobile devices. It’s not just about controlling, blocking and filtering, of course. Knowing what children are doing online and offline is invaluable, and there are tools to help teachers and parents with that. At we have selected guides to the apps young people use, to help you tell your CoD from your Roblox. As ever, it’s more about what they are doing, not where. And whilst the guides will help with that, the best way to find out


is through conversation. Easier said than done? The Internet Matters tablet app will help with that, guiding parents through the right questions to ask.

Many people head into the New Year with resolutions to cut back on the things they felt guilty about over Christmas. Not just food and drink but perhaps the screen time their children had. So New Year may be a good time to remind parents that not all screen time is ‘bad’ screen time. Any ‘official’ limits are fairly arbitrary in fact: there are so many factors that define what’s good and what’s bad. If you want to delve into all the research, start with Professor Sonia Livingstone’s work. But for a great overview to share with parents, Digital Media and Learning (DML) have an excellent flyer: “It’s time to end the screen time scare”. And back that up with the Children’s Commissioner’s new idea of a Digital 5-A-Day. That’s before you even start thinking about livestreaming, gaming, sexting and all the other justified worries that parents and schools have dealt with over the festive period and have fallout from this year. Remember if it’s all getting too much, there is help for school staff too – get in touch with the Professionals Online Safety Helpline from the Safer Internet Centre for help and advice on specific cases too. Finally, if you share two links with parents, you might want to share and The first is an overview of all the links we have collated that can support parents with online safety and safeguarding; the second has all the major helplines, hotlines and advice lines – you don’t need to wait until things go wrong.

January 2018

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