It has been shocking to hear the stories of neglect of dyslexic children in school in the comments here:
Inspirational too, to hear how so many people have managed to achieve success in such difficult circumstances.
It is criminal that children are treated as stupid, when in reality it is the educational system that is stupid for not recognising that children have a diversity of educational needs and don’t all fit into one system. Some teachers still even denying that dyslexia ‘exists’.
Whether you believe it exists or not, whether a child is diagnosed or the difficulties labelled as dyslexia or not, the point is that every child has the right to an education suitable to their needs. There is no question that the system neglects to provide this.
Trying to cope with the pressure in school is sometimes hard enough without the extra challenges dyslexia presents young people. And although some dyslexics can read, it is just as difficult for those with problems other than reading and writing which are not immediately apparent. Problems like not being able to organise yourself to cope with the workload, not picking up clues and hints that enable you to click with what’s required, not understanding instructions, not being able to remember instructions and therefore it seeming as if you’re deliberately not doing as you’re told, not being able to notate fast enough, not being given enough time to fully understand a concept, not having enough experiential practical opportunities to learn as opposed to purely academic ones, not being able to sequence or order, being colour blind, etc – if you’re dyslexic, you’ll be able to add to the list.
These are the things that make it extremely difficult for children and young people to operate successfully in a school. The older they become, the further they get left behind. The more frustrated they become, the more they give up, the more likely they are to become switched off to learning, labelled as stupid and disruptive. It’s a common scenario.
We need as parents to get angry about it. I’m angry as a parent and former teacher and home educator. These children are seriously let down.
If we take children away from this learning pressure and a learning system that tries to make them all fit the same, if we take them out of this destructive learning environment which is set up to make some kids achieve and other kids fail, then these children can thrive and achieve. This is what home educators are finding. So it’s not that the children can’t learn – it is the approach the school provides that is wrong.
But not everyone can home educate, obviously. So how can parents help?
Whilst we were home schooling our children, a friend of mine has been trying to support her dyslexic child in a secondary school that was failing him miserably. Her story is one of appalling neglect and incompetence on the part of the so-called professionals, similar to the other stories here in the comments. She tried to provide as much support as she could after understanding from our home learning approaches that there are all sorts of ways to learn, not just school ways, and maintain belief that her child was not ‘thick’ as labelled.
Some of the things she did to support her child in school were:
– Buying her own set of text books so that she had the information to hand to help her child understand lessons and revise (she was told that there were no lesson notes and that the school only provided text books for the grammar stream – as I said, we need to get angry!)
– Continuing to remain on his side, when the school was reluctant to help and unsupportive
– She did continue her battle to get extra help but sadly this was next to useless, even that provided by the SEN
– Fighting to get her child more time to accomplish tasks
– Encouraging her child and focussing on other things he was good at
– Involving her local dyslexia organisation for testing and support – which involved costs.
The hardest thing to do is to maintain your belief in your child and to keep their self esteem from being eroded. It is soul destroying to be in a system that recognises a select few as intelligent and disregards the rest. There are all sorts of skills we can be good at but sadly it is only the academic skills that are accepted as valuable in school. Children who have to operate within this destructive climate of learning need all the support they can get.
I said to my friend she was basically home educating yet still with her child in school! She told me that if she had not had my voice in her head all the time encouraging her to believe that it is the system not the child who is at fault, she never would have believed it. She can see it so clearly now.
What was hardest for her was to have her unshaken belief that all teachers cared, all schools cared and they all knew what they were doing, completely shattered. There are many, many caring competent teachers, but the system ties their hands and they sometimes have to become something else in order to survive themselves. Equally there are as many professionals who are incompetent and less able to understand how a child learns than the parents themselves.
Ironically, the law states that it is the parents who are responsible for providing an education suitable to their child’s needs. Most parents hand that responsibility for their children’s education over to schools as they are encouraged to do. Some choose to home educate, but if you do and you fail to provide for your children in the way the law states then you face court proceedings. Yet here we are with many, many schools who are clearly failing to do just that, but somehow they seem to be getting away with it!
That’s why we need to get angry and bring the neglectful treatment of dyslexics out of the school cupboards and prevent it from being treated like a dirty secret.