Claudine very kindly wrote up a Guest Blog for us about her family's Dyslexia Journey to help other families that might need the support/information. We would have loved to have had Claudine on our Education Panel Discussion, but she was unavailable to attend.
Our Dyslexia Journey
We have a beautiful, bright engaging child called Charlotte (aged 10), who is also profoundly dyslexic and dyspraxic. Three years ago we were living in Perth, Western Australia but there are no schools for dyslexic children over there. After Charlotte began pulling her hair out because of the stress we decided to move country and came to live in Hampstead where we put her into a dyslexic school in which she is now thriving. Just in case any of you have a dyslexic or dyspraxic child here are a few lessons I learnt along the way and a few pointers – I am not an expert so please don’t take my words as gospel, it’s just what I have learnt.
Firstly and most importantly dyslexia does not mean ‘stupid’, Charlotte has a genius IQ and is a wiz at computers, knows a billion and one facts and is pretty good at science and chess – she just has problems reading and writing. The dyspraxia means she has trouble talking properly. Dyspraxia at its simplest means a ‘co-ordination problem’ this can be motor – i.e. catching a ball or verbal and oral as it is in Charlotte’s case – so for example she will have problems co-ordinating the syllables for words like hospital or spaghetti and may not be able to pronounce them properly.
So how do I know my child is dyslexic/ dyspraxic?
In my experience there are certain warning signs. If your child is clumsy / a late developer in talking / gets muddled and confused with reading, spelling or learning the alphabet, can’t tie shoe laces or do up buttons but otherwise seems bright and engaged, these are things I would be concerned with. When is it right to get them tested? In Australia the DSF (which is a dyslexia charity set up because the government won’t test them) will only test children after they are 8 – but I think this is too late. The earlier you start intervention the better. Here in England you can test for dyslexia as young as 5 or 6. The dyslexic school that Charlotte goes to starts in Year One. The Hampstead Dyslexia Clinic will test them at 7, however, an Educational Psychologist may be able to identify dyslexia at a younger age (although they often don’t like to label too young).
You can either go to an Educational Psychologist to get them tested for dyslexia or to a qualified Specialist Assessor. This can be expensive, however, I know that there are some insightful dyslexia friendly schools who will sometimes fund the assessment in school. Charlotte’s school does do it as part of their admissions program. The Hampstead Dyslexia Clinic (read on for their details) gives a Full Diagnostic Test which is carried out by Delia and Seth Gascoigne. They are Specialist Assessors as well as Specialist Teachers and consultants on dyslexia so they approach the testing from a different angle, with lots of practical recommendations for the parents, schools and any specialists.
Once they are tested for dyslexia/dyspraxia what do you do?
This really depends on how severe the problem is. Check out the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) in your child’s school – what do they offer? Do they give one on one support or help in the classroom. (In my experience, and it is only my experience, one on one support is better)
What are the qualifications of those giving assistance to they have any special qualifications in teaching dyslexics?
If your child is dyslexic and not getting the help they need in school you might consider taking them to the Hampstead Dyslexia Clinic, now based in Finchley Central but which operates across North West London, with a team of Specialist Teachers, Educational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists and Specialist Assessors. They do one to one lessons. It is run by Delia and Seth who are great people and they also run a summer camp for dyslexic kids and touch typing classes during the half terms. Their number is 02083463518. www.hampsteaddyslexiaclinic.co.uk.
Charlotte goes to Fairley House – its junior school is in Lambeth and its senior school is in Pimlico. This sounds like miles away but lots of families in Hampstead send their children there. There is a school bus that can come to your door and pick your child up and drop them off. Class sizes are tiny; 7-11 children often with more than one teacher the teaching is incredible. They can get speech therapy and Occupational Therapy (OT) at school if they need it this is included in the fees. They only really take dyslexic and dyspraxic kids so everyone is in the same boat. Their website is http://www.fairleyhouse.org.uk/ their telephone number is for the senior school 0207 9765456 for the junior school 0207 6303789. Junior school is year 1-5 and senior is Year 6 right the way to GCSE’s.
You can find other dyslexic schools in London such as The Dominie in South Kensington or Abingdon House School in Broadley Terrace, but in my opinion Fairley house is by far the best. You can get a list of specialist schools from the crested website http://www.crested.org.uk/
So if your child is profoundly dyslexic why wouldn’t you put them in a dyslexic school?
The answer to this is cost. Fairley House is hugely expensive. Fees are about £9,000 a term and the bus from Hampstead is about £1000. If you can’t afford this there is the possibility of getting your child statemented. This is a statement of special educational needs advice can be found on https://www.gov.uk/children-with-special-educational-needs/overview. Getting a statement may mean that the school fees will be paid by the local council. About 25% of the children at Charlotte’s school are statemented.
If you are dyslexic enough to get a statement it is worth doing as the fees at the school are so high. A statement may also provide for extra help in their existing school rather than a special provision school. It is worth looking into.
What I am trying to say is don’t panic. There are options available from Hampstead Dyslexia Clinic to Fairley House to statementing. But start early be proactive and don’t think for a moment that your child isn’t smart.