Specific Learning Difficulties
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Specific Learning Difficulties or SpLDs include dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. All of these conditions are thought to arise from similar neurophysiological features.
Are you worried your child might be dyslexic?
If so, you might find this page useful! In the first instance, please discuss your concerns with your child’s class teacher. As we progress through identification, screening and intervention you will also be able to meet with the SENCo, should you wish, either during a regular parents evening or at a separate appointment.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects the ability to learn to read and spell and it often runs in families. It can affect working memory, and can cause difficulty in processing the sounds of words. Unlike a learning disability, dyslexia does not impact on a person’s intelligence, although it may present some significant barriers to learning. The current estimate for dyslexia prevalence is between 5 and 10%.
Dyslexia cannot be ‘cured’ and is a lifelong condition. Support is available to improve reading and writing skills, and we aim to give students the help they need to succeed at school.
How is it identified?
Parents and school staff may become aware of certain things that start to become apparent in the first few years at school. It is possible that your child did not make the ‘required’ score in the Y1 Phonics Screener, which can serve as a useful indicator for dyslexia. The list below is by no means exhaustive, and lots of children present with many of the quirks below who do not have dyslexia. We do not usually screen for dyslexic tendencies before Year 3.
- May read and write slowly
- Confuse the order of letters in words
- Reverse certain letters (commonly b and d)
- Have poor or inconsistent spelling
- Demonstrate a difference between understanding verbal information compared to written information
- Find it hard to carry out a sequence of instructions, or remember sequences such as the days of the week/months of the year
- Are disorganised and can’t plan ahead
- Confused between left and right
- Takes longer than peers to learn to tie shoelaces
What does school do to help?
Here at Waterbeach School we follow best practice and aim to teach all our children in a ‘dyslexia friendly’ way. Teachers use specified fonts and layouts to make text as accessible as possible. We present text on the interactive whiteboards using pastel backgrounds and aim not to give suspected dyslexic students white paper to work from.
Teachers are aware that all students have different learning styles, so make their lessons varied to suit a variety of learners. Dyslexic students can sometimes record their work in ways other than through writing text.
We have invested in some dyslexia-friendly reading books (sometimes called ‘Hi-Lo’ books) which provides our readers with age-appropriate material at a level which suits them. Students can look out for these in the school library as they are identified with an 'X' on the spine. They are fully compatible with the Accelerated Reader programme.
This year we continue to run ‘Nessy Reading and Spelling’ program in KS1 which is especially designed with the dyslexic student in mind. We also offer a reading intervention called Expanded Rehearsal Technique (Y1-2) which aims to improve students’ fluency and accuracy. ‘Attack Spelling’ will be launched this year with Y3/4 with a view to extending to Y5/6 if successful.
Ingrid Tregoing, our SENCo runs workshops for parents with suspected dyslexic children to discuss and explore ways to effectively support the students. She also attends training sessions to keep up to date with the latest research and methods which she cascades to staff.
It may be possible that dyslexic students require Access Arrangements for the KS2 SATs. These can include extra time, a reader, a scribe, using a computer, using assistive software, using coloured paper etc. These arrangements are usually made by the Year 6 Team Leader, the SENCo and the Head Teacher in collaboration (see Exam Arrangements).
Can we see a specialist for a formal diagnosis?
Unfortunately, dyslexia assessments are not funded by either the NHS or the Local Authority. We are able to offer dyslexia screening to a limited number of pupils in school, but it must be stressed that this is not a formal diagnosis and only provides us with an indication of dyslexic tendencies.
It is possible to pay for a diagnostic assessment privately: you can expect to pay between £400-600 for this service.
The Local Authority has published ‘Dyslexia Guidance’ as part of the Local Offer. This can be accessed here. Page 24 has FAQs for parents.
Dyslexia Action has an online shop for dyslexia-friendly resources
British Dyslexia Association has a great parents' page.
Dyspraxia, is a common coordination disorder probably affecting between 6-10% of children. Children may present with difficulties with self-care, writing, typing, riding a bike and play as well as other educational and recreational activities. There may be a range of co-occurring difficulties which can also have serious negative impacts on daily life. These include social and emotional difficulties as well as problems with time management, planning and personal organisation.
At Waterbeach we use a range of strategies to support children with Dyspraxia (or Dyspraxic tendencies). We are pleased to be able to offer Sensory Circuits three mornings per week for a small group of children. This helps them to improve balance and coordination, and also provides a great start to the school day! Sensory circuits has been shown to help children develop greater body awareness and can improve concentration in classes, following a session earlier in the day. Our younger children practice letter formation and fine motor skills in a multisensory way, using rice trays, writing in foam and taking part in Dough Gym which all help to improve motor skills and dexterity. We encourage typing in addition to handwriting to help our older students complete some extended writing tasks on a laptop.
The Dyspraxia Foundation website is very informative https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk
Dyscalculia is a specific difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding number or quantity, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics: it is not simply ‘being weak at maths’. It has an estimated prevalence of between 3-6%, although diagnoses are much fewer than dyslexia (which is thought to have a similar prevalence). Research into dyscalculia is in its infancy compared to other specific learning difficulties.
At Waterbeach, we have trialled a screening test for dyscalculaic tendencies. We have also invested in the Sandwell Early Numeracy Test, which can give us an indication of particular areas of mathematical strength and weakness in a student. We use Numicon to support maths learning throughout Early Years, KS1 and into KS2 if necessary. Our teachers make sure that maths resources are always on hand to support a more hands-on learning style for those who need it. ‘On Track Maths’ is our current intervention for maths: our aim is to support students in acquiring basic maths skills that they might have missed first time around, in a small group setting.
More information about Dyscalculia can be found here on the British Dyslexia Association website.