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The Gift of Dyslexia: No Barrier to Success!

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One in 10 people are dyslexic. Ray Robertson reports on how parents and schools can help dyslexic pupils flourish in the classroom and beyond [PHOTOS COURTESY OF Adobe Stock]

Chloe rushes up to her bedroom as soon as she comes home from school. If I try to ask her about her day, lessons or friends, she yells at me and slams the door.”

“Danny, is a scatterbrain – ask him to do things and he forgets. I give him a few things I’d like some help with and he stands there looking confused and mouthing my instructions.”

“I’m so worried about Sam, I sometimes think she is bipolar; she can be lovely, sociable, kind – she has some great friends, she loves sport and art, but she can get so angry and frustrated; it’s as if she’s a different girl altogether.”

If you can see your son or daughter in one of these quotes, it may be a sign that he or she has dyslexia.

The first thing you need to know is that dyslexia effects at least 10% of any given population. This makes it one of the most common learning difficulties in the world.

The good news is that dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with the brain processing information differently. It is also known to run in families. If you have a dyslexic child, take a look at your family; you may recognise the same traits in other family members. In fact, in taking a close look at your son or daughter, you may begin to see why you struggled so much through school yourself.


Thankfully, attitudes towards dyslexia have become much more enlightened in recent years but for some, there is still a massive stigma attached to these children, who have what is perceived as a learning abnormality. It’s essential that you find a school that celebrates dyslexia as a gift rather than seeing it as a special educational need. Fail to do so, and students can become casualties of an education process that has pushed them to the back of the class, sent them out because they are causing a disturbance, told them they are not trying or are just stupid. In reality, they simply see things differently; the way they learn does not match the way they have been taught and frustration has led to outbursts or disruptive behaviour. As this cycle of imposed failure and rejection occurs again and again, the child retreats into his or her own world.

Interesting enough, when it comes to teaching methods, what works best for a dyslexic, actually works best for all children. Every child has a preferred way to learn; if teaching and learning is tailored then not only does it become much more effective, it becomes much more enjoyable.

At school, teachers will want to discuss a student’s problems with reading and writing, the jumbling up of words and possibly poor organisation or difficulty carrying out a sequence of directions. Perhaps the one most common factor for dyslexics is how they process information and instructions. Their processing speed is much slower, meaning they become very easily confused by multiple instructions.

If you would like to try something simple at home to help ease frustrations on both sides, you can try a technique that teachers call “chunking”. Rather than asking your son or daughter to do multiple things, just say, “Please can you help me by taking the trash out?” Follow up with the next request once this has been achieved and make sure you praise them every time they succeed in achieving a task.


There’s no doubt that dyslexics can flourish in a mainstream academic context, provided they are enrolled in a truly inclusive school that caters for children who learn differently. A model of small classes, highly specialised mainstream teachers, expert 1:1 and small group SEN specialists, who teach strategies that dyslexic children are able to use in mainstream lessons, provides the academic springboard for achievement.

Dyslexic students need to be encouraged to use their laptops for writing – there are so many speech-to-text and text-to-speech apps available to ease the process. They can also use their phone to set reminders – to help them remember what they need to do and coordinate where they need to be. A good mind mapping programme is also invaluable, so children can put their ideas down quickly before they forget them, and then get them into an order once they are recorded.

A lot of the stress for dyslexic pupils is remembering where all their pieces of work are and what they need to revise. Technology like Google Classroom that allows work to be saved to a cloud can do this for them meaning their anxiety levels decrease.

While getting away from the neurotypical chalk- and- talk approach and into engaging kinaesthetic learning is essential, there has to be a wider mechanism in place to unlock a dyslexic child’s full potential. Dyslexics need to be inspired to fulfil their absolute holistic potential, in academic, physical and moral aspects of life. Provide an environment that develops each of these areas and you will discover a young adult ready to take on the world. Focus on developing character, confidence, leadership and self-esteem, and then wonders can happen.

There is still one more key to a truly holistic education and it is very simple – creating a sense of belonging for every child. School should not just be a school; it should be a community where both pupils and parents find a place of belonging. Education is a three-way partnership between parents, children and the school.

We all know, sometimes with a certain amount of embarrassment or even pain, that learning actually comes most effectively through failure. We need to encourage dyslexic children to just try things and not worry about whether it will work or not. The home and school environment needs to be a place where failure can be safe and positive – a place of belonging. In such a place, children know that there will always be someone to pick them up, put them back on their feet, dust them down and say, “Here have another go.”

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