Dyslexia, a specific learning difficulty, impacts around 10% of the population, according to the British Dyslexia Association. While many associate dyslexia solely with difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling, it extends to affect other areas such as organisation, memory, and processing. Consider this: statistically, approximately three children in every classroom will have some form of specific learning difficulty. With over 25 years of experience in the education sector across all key stages, I’ve witnessed significant progress in education. However, one challenge that persists is the early screening process for dyslexia. In this article, I emphasise the critical role of early screening and early intervention, debunk myths surrounding the screening process, and provide insights into how these practices can support children in today’s schooling system.
Parents often hear the discouraging myth that dyslexia can only be identified when a child reaches Year 3 or turns 8 years old. This is simply not true. Children who are showing signs of dyslexia can be detected as early as nursery age. You just need to know what to look out for. Early signs vary from child to child, but there are a few signs that will continually show up with younger students such as; difficulty in remembering nursery rhymes, showing a preference for pictures in books over letters and words and reversing words. (e.g., “flutterby” instead of “butterfly”). Many reading this article will be thinking “But surely many children show these signs in the early years?” This is correct; however, the key difference is for how long these children continue to show these signs. Keeping a very close eye on these difficulties and keeping a record is vital in the journey of early detection. Also, ensuring that conversations are being held closely with the child’s parents. Finding out if dyslexia runs in the family. A child is 50% more likely to have dyslexia if either parent has it.
Once these initial concerns begin to grow, the next step is simple. This is the time to screen a child for dyslexia. Again, there’s a prevalent misconception that dyslexia screenings can only take place when a child is 8 years old. This confusion often arises from the distinction between a full diagnostic assessment and a screening. A full diagnostic assessment, which is administered by qualified assessors or educational psychologists, relies on standardised scores and is typically offered around age 8. This is due to the tests being given where there is a supposed expectation that the child has already been exposed to reading, writing and spelling skills in schools. Therefore, many of the standardised scores are measured against 8-year-olds. Dyslexia screenings can be given by SENCOs, teachers, or even parents in just 30-45 minutes with immediate results being offered showing a child’s strengths, weaknesses and whether there is a likelihood of dyslexia.