The Promethean Trust, information about Dyslexia. Separating fact from myth. Norfolk, UK.

The Promethean Trust - Dyslexia: seperating fact from myth

A guide for parents: I think my child might be dyslexic…

If your child doesn’t learn how to read in school, he (or she) will be in good company. Tests we carried out in 1996 and 1997 at Costessey High in Norwich—an average suburban comprehensive—showed that 40% of our intake were more than two years behind in reading or spelling.

You will be bombarded with conflicting advice. Your teachers may say that your child is lazy, won’t concentrate, or is just a slow developer. They may even imply that he isn’t too bright, or that your parenting skills aren’t what they should be.

Television documentaries portray dyslexics as bright children who have ‘special abilities’ that must be nurtured to compensate for their inability to learn to read. There is very little scientific evidence to support any of this. There is no accepted criteria for distinguishing a dyslexic from any other poor reader. They all suffer from the same kind of problems which make it more difficult to learn the English spelling code. There’s only one question that really makes any sense: is my child behind in reading or spelling?

All children can learn to read. There are many schools in Britain where all children learn to read. One of the more striking examples is Kobi Nazrul in Whitechapel, where over 90% of their pupils come from Bangladeshi families where little or no English is spoken.

When we tested their year 4 pupils in 1999, they were on average almost two year ahead in spelling.

The Daily Telegraph reported that: All the seven year olds at Kobi Nazrul, without exception, can read. Their not-so-secret ingredient? Intensive phonics from the very first day of reception.

Don’t shoot the teacher Your teacher is not to blame for the Literacy Hour, one of the most misguided policies ever to come out of Whitehall. The National Literacy Strategy was widely hailed as a "return to phonics" in the media, but in reality it is nothing of the sort.

The schools that have documented success in teaching all children to read use a far more rigorous approach. Teachers are mis-trained, mis-advised, and burdened with pointless paperwork as never before.  Teachers are leaving the profession in droves, and Staff Room morale is lower than ever before.  Most teachers genuinely work very hard to do the best for their pupils, and get very little thanks for their efforts.  Bear in mind how you’d feel if you had to look after 30 kids all day, with very little freedom to discipline them.

What can I do for my child?

  • Getting a statement of special education needs for your child is largely a waste of time. All you will be doing is creating more paperwork for your school, and reducing what little time they have for teaching.
  • Bear in mind that no teacher wants to see a child fail, and your school is doing the best they can already.
  • Once children fall behind in reading, they only have a one-in-eight chance of catching up. Those chances go to the children whose parents who find the right private tutor.
  • Special needs teaching must be very strictly focussed on learning the English spelling code. It must be highly structured, with plenty of over-learning, and oriented around a multi-sensory approach.
  • All skilled readers can read non-words such as ‘sandanker’ just as easily as they can read real words. Learning to identify words quickly and accurately has very little to do with understanding the meaning of the text.
  • There is no point at all in listening to a child read when they haven’t got skills to decode the words will only promote frustration and loss of confidence.

Paired reading programmes, where the teacher reads the words the pupil can’t decode, produce very few lasting gains. They do nothing at all for spelling. Short daily lessons are essential—otherwise, too much is forgotten from one lesson to the next. 15 minutes per day is usually enough to ensure rapid progress with a structured programme.

Who can I contact?

The Promethean Trust will assess your child’s reading and spelling ages, and determine phonological skills.

This is not the same as a full assessment by an educational psychologist, but except in cases of fairly severe dyslexia, this is seldom necessary. Our Norwich-based programme (which is fully-booked at the moment) consists of ½ hour weekly lessons, where the parent learns how to use simple structured materials at home. We are a registered charity, and we keep our fees as low as possible.

Advice by phone or e-mail is free. Tom Burkard: Secretary The Promethean Trust Riverside Farm Easton Norwich NR9 5EP

Tel: 01603 881158 Fax: 01603 880037 E-mail: Burkard@promethean.fsnet.co.uk

Please visit our web site for more information: www.promethean.fsnet.co.uk

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