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How do I know if I have a dyslexic pupil in my class?

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A recent NUT survey found that only 14 per cent of teachers feel confident about recognising dyslexia and 77 per cent said they would like training in this area.

Dyslexia is often described as a hidden disability, as it is not always obvious that a child is dyslexic, particularly in the case of bright children who have developed coping strategies.

Below you will find a checklist that may be helpful when identifying children with difficulties in the classroom. Not every dyslexic child will exhibit all of the following, but if the answer to the majority of the following questions is 'yes', then you would be wise to discuss the results further with the child's parent/guardians.

(The pupil is referred to as 'she' for ease)

For primary aged children:

  • Is she struggling to learn to alphabet and the sounds of each letter or to master how to break words down into units of sound?
  • Does she confuse, for example, 'b' and 'd' or '9' and '6'?
  • Does she confuse names or objects or use Spoonerisms e.g. par cark?
  • Have you noticed that she has difficulties with rhyming, e.g. learning songs?
  • Does she have difficulties learning times tables, days of the week or months of the year?
  • Is she struggling to learn to tell the time?
  • Is she struggling to write letters?

For secondary aged children

  • Does her performance, particularly seen in her written work or exam results, fail to reflect her ability?
  • Does she find it hard to organise her thoughts or construct arguments in written format and/or spoken words?
  • Is she always late to hand in essays and assignments?
  • Does she struggle with mental arithmetic?
  • Is she finding learning a foreign language difficult?
  • Is she finding revision hard - finding it difficult to retain factual information and confusing detail?
  • Does she have difficulty taking notes?
  • Does she turn up to lessons unprepared or with the wrong books?

Common for all ages

  • Does she excel in some ways but unexpectedly struggles in others or appears to have 'a block'?
  • Does she have difficulties with spelling and/or spells the same word in a variety of ways?
  • Is she struggling to read unfamiliar words and lacks the ability to break words down into units of sound; is her reading ability slow?
  • Does she appear to make careless mistakes?
  • Does she make unexpected errors when reading aloud, miss words out, read the wrong word or lack automatically when reading?
  • Does she have slow/or poor handwriting for her age?
  • Is she unable to remember a list of instructions and/or appears to be very forgetful?
  • Does she have difficulty copying from the blackboard?
  • Do you notice that she puts a lot of effort in with little to show for it?
  • Is her concentration poor and/or does she tire easily?
  • Does she seem disorganised?
  • Does she confuse left and right?
  • Is she the classroom clown or is she shy and lacking in confidence or does she exhibit bad behaviours and get very frustrated?
  • Has she developed work avoidance tactics and/or does she truant from school?
  • Does she suffer unduly from stress and/or anxiety?
  • Does a family member have similar difficulties or is he/she known to be dyslexic?

Full diagnostic assessment

  • If you suspect that a pupil is dyslexic then it is very important that this is recognised so that the most appropriate programme of support can be identified. Normally, confirmation of a specific learning difficulty is through a diagnostic assessment with a recognised educational psychologist or specially trained teacher.

Screening tests

In addition there are screeners that teachers can use to help identify those at high risk for confirmation or whether a full investigation through an assessment is required. Two good computer-based products are the Dyslexic Screener and the Dyscalculic Screener.

Learning aids

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