Literacy Day - Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association

Journalist


Sunday 8 September is International Literacy Day, aiming to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals. Thanks to your support, we're able to help young people like Alisha, who has dyslexia.

Many of us struggle at school in different ways, but for children with learning difficulties, the “best years of their lives” can be particularly challenging. Imagine, for instance, if you couldn’t read by the age of 11?

Alisha, from East London, was about to start secondary school before she knew her alphabet. She had difficulty spelling, with sequencing or patterns of letters and had never read a book. Teachers sometimes asked whether or not she was daydreaming because she had her book open at the same page for so long. As a result, her self-esteem suffered and she started to dread going to school.

Her parents realised that Alisha needed expert help. An educational psychologist diagnosed Alisha with severe dyslexia and referred the family to Waltham Forest Dyslexia Association.

With the help of Lois, a specialist tutor there, Alisha started going for extra lessons in the summer holidays and then on Monday evenings too. Lois went to meetings at Alisha’s secondary school to help her obtain a statement of Special Educational Needs. She had a scribe and a reader for lessons and exams too. And her tutor continues to stay involved in Alisha’s education plan. As a result, she passed her English Language and English Literature GCSEs – an amazing achievement.

Alisha said: “I didn’t know I had dyslexia when I was little. I wouldn’t see sentences I would just see letters. My dyslexia tutor is a really nice person and really helpful. I’ve met other children like me at the classes too.

If I was to give one bit of advice to someone else with dyslexia it would probably be to encourage them to join their local dyslexia group to help them and not to let literacy problems get in their way because they’ll probably find something else to do that they enjoy, like art or sport.

Using computers can also help because of spell check and people understand what you’re trying to say with texting, because it’s just like it sounds, so that’s ok.”

Alisha’s skills have improved to the extent that she’s now read half of Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton’s biography. Her spelling scores have gone up from 68 to 75 while her reading scores have improved even more over the past four years – from 69 to 86 – where the average, on the WRAT system, is 100.

Alisha’s tutor Lois, who went into the profession after her own children were diagnosed with dyslexia, said: “The special thing about Alisha is that she is so determined. Alisha will now have a go at doing things. She’ll tackle reading a book and has become a confident and creative writer. Most of the work I did with her was around literacy. We studied the Dyslexia Institute’s Literacy Programme which takes an individual through every bit of the English language – its points of grammar and different spelling patterns – which really worked for her.”

Alisha’s Dad, who’s a former youth worker, said: “Dyslexia is an overwhelming and isolating impediment. If children can’t achieve anything, it can have long term implications and they can feel excluded from school. I was worried about the risk of her going down the wrong path. But with intervention, things started to improve. If things like this aren’t put right, society suffers. So often, dyslexia is swept under the carpet and people don’t admit they can’t read or write. We have to enable people to face up to it.
“Since Alisha started extra tuition, the improvement has been unbelievable. We have regular meetings about Alisha’s educational plan that her dyslexia tutor comes to which has been a huge help. She’s done well enough in her GCSEs to get onto the Animal Care course she wanted to do so she’s very happy.”

Thanks to your generosity, children like Alisha can have a much less daunting experience of school life and are more likely to achieve their full potential. A three year grant from BBC Children in Need funded the sessional costs of eight different dyslexia tutors and an administrator. Between them they supported 45 children and young people like Alisha who are struggling to read and write.

To find out more about the difference your money makes, visit our 'Who You Help' section.

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