Bringing up a child with dyslexia

by Mrs Burnham. One mother’s story – how dyslexia was diagnosed, the support they received and what they have learnt along the way.

Child writing on blackboard

Introduction

We have two dyslexic daughters - Laura who is 20 and Eliza who is 11. Sophia, who is our other daughter, is 18 and does not have learning difficulties. This article looks at how we coped, how we helped our daughters and the lessons learnt along the way.

Our story

Laura's dyslexia was not discovered until she was 14. When our optician suggested we had Laura tested for dyslexia, as she was getting simple words muddled, we were both surprised when she was diagnosed as dyslexic. Laura's response was one of relief: "At last it is out in the open, I don't have to pretend any more!"

We felt terrible. Maybe we had been too laid back with her. She had always been popular at school, lots of friends, always being invited to parties. Laura used to tell us that her muddled writing was her 'short hand'. We believed her, not knowing her friends had been correcting her work for her. Her old primary school were as surprised as we were.

Her secondary school were extremely supportive. We arranged to meet with the educational psychologist and the special needs coordinator regularly, and each time we requested a meeting Laura joined us. They were always constructive meetings, focusing on Laura's achievements and not her failings or the trouble she had been in.

Laura also had lessons at a local dyslexia centre where she made good progress and managed to pass all her GCSEs. We were so proud of her achievements.

Although Laura's dyslexia wasn't discovered until she was older, I am sure it is never too late for a person to begin to feel better about themselves with the right support and encouragement. Laura continues to blossom and is doing extremely well at work, even receiving an award earlier this year!

When Eliza started school, we were very aware that she may also have dyslexia. We discussed our concerns with her class teacher and, while she was still in Reception, they decided that she needed extra help.

We also had her assessed at the dyslexia centre. We chose not to give her extra lessons at the time as this time she was receiving plenty of help at school and we didn't want to burden her with any more. She loved school and got on well with her teachers. She was constantly being praised for her achievements.

It was so important for Eliza to show off her gold stars on her jumper at the end of the day and to hear how proud I was of her. She could hear other parents praising their children for getting a star for achieving 10/10 in their spelling. Eliza maybe got 2 or 3 correct but still had a star for neat writing or giving her homework in on time.

When Eliza was put on the special needs register, we met regularly with various services and the educational psychologist which was always good and positive. We were always involved in decisions made regarding Eliza's education and we always told her how pleased everyone was with her progress, how hard she was trying.

One of Eliza's reports suggested that maybe an occupational therapist might be able to help her. I decided to speak to her health visitor to find out how to get her referred. Our GP wrote a letter, Eliza was assessed and accepted for six months' occupational therapy which helped her enormously.

The ideas and strategies suggested were also used in the classroom situation and rather than the teacher just focusing on Eliza, she used the ideas for the whole class.

We arranged a multi-disciplinary meeting at school which enabled everyone to exchange ideas and have a better understanding of how all the teams could work together to help Eliza. Unfortunately, due to changes with government funding, Eliza's literacy support and OT stopped. It was at this point we decided to go to the dyslexia centre for extra lessons.

Having discussed this with Eliza's school, we felt it was important to have their support as Eliza would have to come out of school for her lessons. We have a communication book which travels between school and the centre so that the two teams can work together.

The lessons at the centre have been a good experience for Eliza. She really looks forward to going each week. But if Eliza has a school trip which clashes with her lesson, then she misses her lesson as we feel it is important for her to be one of the crowd and not feel different.

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Expert opinion

Once your child is receiving specialist teaching, be patient. Miracles will not happen over night. The important thing to remember is dyslexia is an explanation not an excuse. Dyslexic children are just as capable of learning as everyone else – some things are easier and some are a lot harder.

Jenifer Davies, Dyslexia Action

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