I have been fortunate enough to work with many youngsters over the past few years. Many have been academically able and highly motivated and have achieved outstanding results at school. Many have lacked self-belief and have needed encouragement and backing, in order to progress to levels they would not have believed possible. So today, I am going to tell you about a student who we shall call Alan (this is not his real name and is used to protect his identity).
When Alan’s mother brought him to me for an assessment, he was 14 years old and had a reading age of 7 years and 5 months. His spellings were also poor and he thought that punctuating sentences wasn’t important. At school he was not getting any timetabled extra support.
I urged her to speak to the school again and to get him properly assessed for learning difficulties and specifically dyslexia. Alan definitely had dyslexic tendencies, so I decided that he needed to concentrate on improving his reading. This problem with reading held him back in other subjects. I put him on our reading programme which consists of a series of reading booklets, accompanied by audio CD’s, computer programmes and workbooks specifically designed to tackle reading strategies.
The reading scheme would:
- Teach him how to break down a word into syllables
- Help him to learn the sounds made by different letter combinations
- Make him become more fluent by recognising sight words. Sight words are the most commonly used words in the English language and must be learnt by rote. An example of a sight word is the word “the”, which cannot be worked out by the sounds of each letter in the word.
- Free up some more working memory when he is reading so that his reading comprehension improves.
Alan has recently been diagnosed as having “mild dyslexia” by a professional and it is now acknowledged at his school. The school are now giving him extra one-to-one support in reading and spelling and he will be given extra time in exams. We re-assessed his reading this week and found that his reading age had gone up by 11 months in just 6 months. His attitude to learning has changed and he now “takes pride in his work” says his teacher. When I shared this good news with his mum, she said that at the last school parent’s evening he got an “outstanding” whereas previously he was getting “satisfactory”.
Children like Alan can easily slip through the net and learning difficulties like dyslexia can go undetected throughout a child’s schooling. But once it is diagnosed, then it is fairly easy to rectify. In Alan’s case, he had to read and do certain reading drills 2 or 3 times a week each lasting at least 30 minutes and he had to attend the centre twice a week. I remember at times we nearly gave up because the progress just didn’t seem to come. So it was a big commitment and it paid off. And I think I’ll end with an appropriate quote …
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” By Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) American writer and philanthropist.