Can you afford to be Dyslexic?
I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, in my final year at university at the age of 21. I am now 42 and I haven’t really spoken about my struggles with dyslexia before. As a child, I was seen as hyperactive, most probably due to having ADHD, which can be linked with dyslexia. I am aware that Hypo Sensory Awareness can also be evident, due to the fact that I was known as a child for taking off all clothes, socks and shoes, as they felt too uncomfortable. No I don’t run around now naked, but there are social engagements that I can find uncomfortable and language difficult at times.
I am aware that Dyslexia can stop an individual developing within the schooling system, as it’s often hard to diagnose and most learners will start to develop issues around reading and writing from an early age within primary education.
My Son, who is 9, has also just been diagnosed with dyslexia. I have found that some schools are reluctant to get learners diagnosed early on and very few County Councils are prepared to pay for pupils to be diagnosed whilst at primary school, seeing dyslexia as a ‘lesser disability’ and not a priority. This has led to my own son having to have a private diagnosis, which cost £700. This is totally unfair, as many parents and families cannot afford for a formal diagnosis and are unaware as to the correct procedures in gaining a written report. So many children are going through the educational system without being identified as needing extra support and are not given the provision to help them achieve their full potential.
I was a lecturer in a local College for 18 years and many students came to college without a formal diagnosis of dyslexia to find out that they required SEND provision. I now understand the battle that some families have to go through to gain a diagnosis for their child, and it’s very important to do this as this enables the individual to gain extra time in exams and utilise equipment that will aid written comprehension and gain qualifications. The battle lies now within Local Authorities and education departments, to provide for individual learners’ requirements, and whether the SENCO within the school has been trained enough to understand the requirements of the range of disabilities and provisions. It also falls to Head Teachers of schools to provide adequate support for the learners, which is a cost that would come out of the schools budget.
This in turn falls down to what provision the Head believes to be adequate, for example: providing additional extra classes before class starts, I believe is not adequate provision as this makes the learner even more tired extending the learning day. Provision for SEND learners in small groups, even if they have different requirements is not adequate as each learner would have different requirements to improve personal educational plan. It has also been suggested that the school may undertake their own test to see if the individual learner requires extra time in tests, even if it is stated on their diagnostic report, again this is inadequate.
It’s time for change! Why are our school systems against trying to educate learners who learn in a different way? Inclusion for all? Multiple learning strategies? Does the teacher forget this? No, as it’s drummed into them especially before an OFSTED review is due. I know what this was like having to include all and differentiate. It’s hard to range your teaching. Teachers don't get paid enough for the time to differentiate on a daily basis, and we all know that Ofsted just see a very small ‘snap shot’ of the learning that takes or doesn’t take place in the class-room. This is not a good reflection of a school or tutor, as teachers can have good and not-so-good classes within a week, month or year.
If it’s funding that the schools need, then why do we hear that the government and local councils is going to cut more funding for SEND provision? And why is the SEND provision broken down Into High and Low needs? So where does Dyslexia sit in this? Well at the moment it’s seen as low needs unless your child has extra add on requirements like ADHD, Hypo mobility and other SEN requirements. Then your child could be given an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). This plan has to be activated by the school or parents, and is not easy to achieve. It opens doors to funding and takes time to access, often at the expense of your child’s education, as this is a slow process and while you wait to see if you are granted EHCP, your child gets left behind and less engaged with learning. In my opinion and experience, some Primary schools if not already used to activating EHCP plans, they are reluctant to chase these, as this will require the school to provide additional support for the learner at a price that they can ill afford. This does differ from county to county and not all schools fall into this category, but its unclear to parents to know what schools are good with this and what schools hold back on gaining diagnostic reports. It’s down to the parents or carers to research this for their own child. Which has been very disappointing with the findings so far.
As a dyslexic myself, I left school without gaining at C grade at English and Maths. I had no extra support or tuition before my exams and was left to fend for myself. I was encouraged to seek a practical skilled job that I might be able to do. Now I know you have to have some skills to do these types of jobs, but academically this would not have stimulated me at all. So I went to art school, got my degree, went onto complete my MA with distinction and a PGCE with had 18 years experience of lecturing.
So I thought that the schooling system would have got better by now, but how wrong I was! Is it right the only children that can have a great education and achieve the job they want, come from a high income demographic and have no SEND condition!!
From my research and personal understanding, the door will only be open to individuals who hand over the cash and tip heavily the educational doorkeepers? I look forward in the future to see what sort of society will be made if it is only the kids from rich backgrounds can achieve. What happens to the mavericks of our times, the ones who see things slightly differently, who ask the questions that we don't, who might just change things or invent things for the better? It’s easy to type into Google and get a list of famous people who have dyslexia, and see Pablo Picasso, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Henry Winkler, Whoopi Goldberg to name but a few. I’m no doctor and have not looked at their SEN reports!! But do you want a society that loses people like this and don't get a chance to shine, due to the poor educational option available to them or the pot luck approach to teaching across our country? No, they will be stacking shelves, or banged up in jail! They didn't get the help they needed.
You see, people with dyslexia are not thick, the often have high IQs. It’s just they can find it hard to negotiate the language systems that are set in place and it can take a lifetime to do this. Yet the intellect and creativity is still there. If County Councils and Government don't do something soon, then we are going to have a lost generation that doesn't have a sense of purpose, disengaged with learning and social systems. This needs to change now before it’s too late.
So it is with a heavy heart that my family have decided to act. We are taking our son out of the state system and putting him into the private sector, into a school specifically for Dyslexic boys. This goes against my personal views of ‘free’ good state education for everyone and it is costing us financially a great deal and even the potential of selling our home to cover the costs. But we have to make this sacrifice, as we believe in the ideals that education and knowledge is a key factor in any individuals’ progression with the chance to succeed. I just hope that the governing bodies within our society also value individuals who would not be able to have this opportunity to flourish, due to their families’ financial buoyancy.
Here are a few statistics that you might also be interested by By Katherine Sellgren BBC News education reporter
Of these, 1.1 million are in mainstream schools rather than special schools.
§ 82% of mainstream schools in England do not have sufficient funding and budget to adequately provide for pupils with SEND
§ 89% of school leaders believe cuts to local authority services have had a detrimental impact on the support their school receives for pupils with SEND
§ Three-quarters of schools have pupils who have been waiting longer than expected for assessment of special educational needs or an education, health and care plan
§ 88% of school leaders think initial teacher training does not adequately prepare teachers to support pupils with SEND