by Vicki Lader
360 Dyslexia ltd.
This article is for parents and carers with concerns about their children’s learning and progress in school. It describes dyslexia and dyscalculia and explores some of the questions a parent might have about assessment, including the benefits and what age might be best to assess.
Dyslexia is a learning difference that affects a child’s ability to read, write, and spell. It is known to affect around 10% of the population. Children with dyslexia have challenges with phonological processing and verbal memory skills which means they have trouble understanding the sounds that make up words. This can impact on reading and spelling. However, there are often great strengths linked to vocabulary, having creative ideas for writing and reading comprehension. Dyslexia can also make some areas of maths trickier such as learning times tables, sequencing, telling the time and word problem solving.
Dyscalculia is less well-known than dyslexia although it affects at least one in 20 people and possibly higher. Children with dyscalculia may find it challenging to understand maths concepts and remember math facts. Estimating, ordering and counting can be hard. They may also have difficulties with spatial awareness and understanding mathematical symbols and notation.
Dyslexia and dyscalculia both sit under the umbrella term of neurodiversities, including ASD, ADHD, Dyspraxia and others. Instead of seeing these as problematic, it is important to think in terms of diversity, difference and to focus on the strengths that they can bring.
The first reason it may be beneficial to assess a child for dyslexia or dyscalculia is to identify any needs as early as possible. This means support can be put in place as and when it is needed. Current recommendations are to assess from the age of seven, although it can be more suitable for some children to wait until eight or nine years and this can be discussed with the assessor.
Another reason would be to provide the appropriate support in class and additional interventions. A full diagnostic assessment (undertaken by a specialist assessor) leads to personalised recommendations, including those for specialist teaching, ensuring the right support can be put in place, tailored to that child’s profile of strengths and difficulties.
Children with dyslexia and/or dyscalculia can find some aspects of school hard work, and this may lead to low self-esteem or frustration. Using a strengths-based model, an assessment will identify what your child does well, or excels at alongside their challenges and this can help them to feel more positive about their learning overall.
A formal diagnostic assessment should be carried out by a trained specialist. They will use different tools to find out the child’s unique profile of strengths and difficulties. These tools can be referred to as quizzes, games or activities and this can help reduce any worries the child may have. A report will give thorough and personalised recommendations and advice to help in both the short and long-term.
To label or not to label?
As a final thought it is worth considering the potential impact of a label on your child. Some children find this helpful and reassuring as it explains their challenges. A few may struggle with the idea of having a ‘condition’ and possibly use it as an excuse to not try. Only parents know what is best for their child and talking this through with an assessor can be very helpful. Many organisations promote these neurodiversities as differences with some exceptional strengths attached to the profile. An example is the British Dyslexia Association short film; ‘See Dyslexia Differently’.