Parent-School Partnership

Our son was diagnosed as dyslexic two years ago, when he was eight. Since then he has been receiving tuition outside school hours, in addition to the support he receives in school. His tutor mentioned that another child she taught had set up a Dyslexic ‘club’ at school; somewhere the emphasis was on socialising and not school work. We thought this was a great idea and would be helpful in boosting our son’s confidence, by showing him that he is not the only one who is dyslexic in the school.

We suggested the group to the school, although at first they were not sure how this would work. Under the supervision of a teacher, it was agreed the club would meet once a week over a lunchtime, as a trial.  This started last year and approximately ten children attended the group each week. Feedback from the children told us that they felt relieved to see that they were not the only child struggling with dyslexia in the school. One child’s response when joining the group was “you mean I’m not the only one?”.  My son said to me “mum there are some really clever people there too from p7!” The children, with the help of the teacher, got together and produced a PowerPoint presentation of Dyslexia and how it affects them.  They then presented this to the parents of the group one evening.   They used bullet points and pictures to help them and avoided using lots of writing and long words.  This presentation gave the children confidence and a sense of comradery.  The club was well attended, however when it was a sunny day the teacher noticed attendance dwindled.  Therefore, it was agreed with the input of the children, that it would move to once a week during morning break.  They felt that it was good to continue with the club, however didn’t want to miss out on playing with their friends outside during the lunch break.

At the same time, the Headteacher at the school set up a parent’s support group. This was a trial group also, to see if coming together to share ideas and difficulties would benefit those of us supporting a dyslexic child. The group met four times last year. Like the children, it was great to meet other parents who are experiencing difficulties helping their child with school work and life in general with dyslexia.  The Headteacher and club teacher were also present to give their input and receive feedback from parents.

In the future, we hope to produce a school leaflet for children and parents, explaining a bit about dyslexia and the help they can receive. We also hope to have guest speakers both at the children’s and adult groups, who can inspire and give strategies and advice to us all on managing life and work with dyslexia.

Both clubs are still in their infancy, however we feel we have taken a step forward in raising awareness in the school community about dyslexia. Most important of all, the children enjoy socialising and realising they are not alone, which is a great confidence boost.

Lorna Murray – guest blogger


The invisible superhero

Dyslexia is hardly a superpower – in fact it’s a ‘specific learning difficulty’. But this ‘difficulty’ seems to have a strange way of making people better at some things. Dyslexia often co-exists with high levels of:

  • creativity
  • intuition
  • interpersonal skills
  • perseverance and determination.

Look at Pablo Picasso, who never amounted to much in school but came up with a bold new artistic vision. Or Richard Branson, whose business acumen more than overcame his academic difficulties. These are only two names on a long list of dyslexic high achievers.

It’s not that being gifted causes dyslexia, of course. Nor is it proof of a genetic connection between dyslexia and creativity, the way blonde hair and blue eyes often go together. It could be that having a brain that’s wired differently gives you different abilities. Or it could be that struggling with everyday tasks like reading, writing and coordination simply pushes dyslexics to compensate. We use skills that aren’t hampered by our unusual brain wiring to make up for the ones that are. That sounds like a good thing – and it is. But unfortunately it can cause problems of its own, because dyslexia’s real superpower is invisibility.

I wasn’t diagnosed with dyslexia until I was in my teens. It probably didn’t help that I’m hardly a ‘classic case’; I was (and am) a voracious reader. My spelling may have been, let’s say, idiosyncratic, but my writing was fine for my age. Everything was fine for my age, in fact, and that was the problem. Unless a child is failing in something, their difficulties may not be picked up. It’s easy to see ‘careless’ or ‘rushed’ work by a child who is doing fine when it’s actually painstaking work by a child who is struggling to keep up. That label of ‘careless’ was the bane of my school life until a teacher who was trained in dyslexia finally saw the mismatch between my spoken ability and my written work.

After that I got extra time in exams and natty purple glasses to stop lines jumping around. I was also taught techniques to help me overcome my poor memory and spelling. They were so effective that I am now an excellent proofreader, and people are impressed by how well I remember names! But if I hadn’t been diagnosed, perhaps I would simply believe that I was ‘careless’, always letting myself down.

Some people believe that dyslexia is a ‘gift’. I’m not sure that I agree with them. I had a friend at Scotland’s top university who could not write without a voice-operated computer. That didn’t seem like a gift. My younger sister can never fully enjoy a book because reading is such hard work. To me, who inhales books, that doesn’t look like a gift. When I break another glass, or have to stare at a road sign to figure out which way it’s pointing, that doesn’t feel like a gift. But when I can effortlessly make connections that most people miss, or ‘see’ the past behind present-day places, that does feel like a gift. And perhaps I wouldn’t have these abilities without my dyslexic wiring. Dyslexia may not be a gift, but it comes bearing gifts.

Karen Murdarasi, guest blogger

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Dyslexia Awareness Week kicks off…

Dyslexia Awareness Week starts 7th of November and I’m quite excited about writing this blog just before it kicks off.

I’ve always loved books, and was inspired to write my own stories long before I could actually spell. I was lucky because my dyslexia was acknowledged early and I was sent to a special school, where I got extra help to learn how to read and write. I remember the first book I read all on my own and how I carried it around all day and kept re-reading it – because I could! After that there was no stopping me. A whole new world opened up for me. It was as if I’d entered some secret universe – full of adventures and escapism and even a sense of acceptance – all aspects missing from my real life outside of books. My local library became my sanctuary and I started swallowing up one book after another. Without these stories to comfort me and take me away to different worlds, I don’t think I would have coped as well as I did being a teenager. The more I read the more words I learned and the better my spelling became too.

So, I was lucky. I got special help from an early age and eventually I learned to read and write well enough to fool others into thinking I’m not dyslexic. I was also lucky to go to school in the 90s, where dyslexia was becoming recognised. Some of the stories I’ve read about people who went to school before then are truly saddening – how teachers didn’t recognise or accept dyslexic students’ struggles and how they suffered. How they were labelled as stupid and left behind, and the stigma and mental health problems that followed. These same people, now adults, come into the literacy centre, where I work, full of self-doubt and self-defeating attitudes and it’s truly heart breaking because they are anything but stupid. They are full of self-taught coping strategies and have so many brilliant but overlooked strengths.

Nevertheless, dyslexia still wasn’t very well understood in the 90s and I struggled in most of my other classes, even when I enjoyed them, because back then there wasn’t the same awareness around the link between dyslexia and dyscalculia, short term memory problems and problems organising one’s thoughts (always being told my essays were too incoherent). So teachers would pull me aside and tell me I ought to do better and try harder and like so many others, I was left feeling like I was actually stupid; that it was my fault I wasn’t doing better, rather than my dyslexia. In fact, I wasn’t told any of these facts about dyslexia until I was 27 and I decided that I was good enough to get a university degree and was finally properly diagnosed. By then dyslexia had become a stigma for me too. It took me many more years to be able to openly and proudly say I AM DYSLEXIC. And it’s with joy that I welcome Dyslexia Awareness Week because so many people – especially in key roles, like teachers – still don’t understand that there’s more to dyslexia than spelling and reading, and our unique skillset, creativity and different way of perceiving the world are often not rated as important as high grades, but should be. So I encourage more awareness and acceptance and take great joy in the fact we’re all different and thereby make the world a more interesting place. I, therefore, also encourage you to engage with Awareness Week – learn new things, share the knowledge and help us spread the word.

What has your experience with dyslexia been? Have you been affected by a lack of awareness of dyslexia?  You can learn more about Dyslexia Awareness Week here.

Terese Smith – guest blogger