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Interesting article from ‘Tricky questions’ answered in The Telegraph Online by Josie Gurney-Read.
My grandson is dyslexic – how can we support him and can you recommend any appropriate books?
Being unable to read at a level that is expected for your age can be frustrating for children in two key ways. First, it puts you behind classmates; second, youngsters can end up with books that are inappropriate for their actual age.
According to the British Dyslexia Association, around one in 10 of the population are dyslexic with four per cent severely so, highlighting how important it is that support is available. Indeed, one of the association’s key campaign areas is to encourage schools to become dyslexia-friendly.
Many schools do a great job catering to pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and have dedicated SEN professionals to help children achieve their potential.
But what about at home? What can parents and grandparents do to help children, and are there any good books that children – particularly early-teens – can read that are appropriate for both reading and actual ages.
Here the experts offer their views:
Question: Can you recommend age-appropriate books for my dyslexic grandson?
My 12-year-old grandson is dyslexic. He is an intelligent boy and is good at sport. I was wondering if you could suggest any reading books that are suitable for his reading age (nine years) but where the stories are appropriate for his actual age? Also, is there anything we can do as a family to help support him with his reading and development outside school?
Sally Nuttall: Books by Barrington Stokes and Dockside are both very popular and dyslexia friendly
Many people believe dyslexia to be a difficulty with reading, when in fact it can be a difficulty in one or more areas involving reading, spelling and written language. This can also be accompanied by difficulties in number work, short term memory, sequencing, auditory or visual perception and motor skills.
In spite of these difficulties, it is essential that all dyslexic students are given the support they need to be able to make academic progress in school, and should be encouraged to use their strengths as a way of expressing their learning.
A way of supporting your grandson at home is with daily reading. It is recommended that a ‘little and often’ approach has the biggest impact on progress and that if it’s only for a short time he is more likely to engage.
There are several different series of reading books that are specifically designed with dyslexic learners in mind. These books are written with an interest age that is age appropriate but with language that is aimed at a lower ability.
Barrington Stokes and Dockside are both very popular as they use visuals and characters within the books to help re-enforce the story. There are many similar styles available that can be purchased online.
Another way of supporting your grandson at home is to watch television together. Television or You Tube videos can be a useful form of learning as they give scope for further discussion and activities. Older children often enjoy factual programmes involving nature or exploration.
You could also teach your grandson to use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Often schools allow homework to be completed on the computer; this will help him to recognise his mistakes as they happen and help him to develop independent working skills outside of school. This will benefit him as he progresses through school and help to prepare him for the Key Stage 4 curriculum and his exams.
Sally Nuttall, assistant SENCO at Bedminster Down School, Bristol
Dyslexia is a ‘specific learning difficulty’, the British Dyslexia Association say it affects around 10 per cent of the population. Dyslexia impacts on the way a person is able to process written and verbal language which can impact on the acquisition of literacy skills. Dyslexia is not reflective of intelligence and people who have Dyslexia often have many areas of strength and talent.
Difficulty with reading such as losing place in text, needing to re-read text and text that may appear to move or overlap is often an obvious indicator of dyslexia.
It is important to remember that this condition can also affect other areas such as spelling, writing, organising work, getting ideas down on paper, memory recall and difficulties with sequencing and motor control.
As your grandson’s reading age is beneath his chronological age it is important to find literature that will not reduce his confidence. Reading text that is age appropriate will be challenging for him and texts that are appropriate for his reading age he may consider ‘babyish’.
High street books stores and online retailers now have good selections of high-interest reading material for young people whose reading ability below their age.
If you haven’t already, I would speak to his school SENCo to find out what strategies the school uses to support him that could be replicated at home. Practical strategies that may support him include the use of coloured overlays and dyslexic friendly font.
Reading may be an area he already feels less-confident in, so in order to stop anxiety surrounding it, reading should be fun. Look at creative ways of getting him to read, such as online or through football facts and scores and get books and magazines on topics of interest to him.
You could consider getting audio tapes to listen to alongside his reading books which will help word recognition.
Most importantly, continue to build his self-esteem and resilience through promoting activities he is talented in.
Kate Wells, deputy head at Knowle DGE Learning Centre
Louise Van der Valk and Patricia Reed:
It’s fantastic that you are considering how you can support your grandson as a family, and happily there are a number of dyslexia-focused organisations and resources to explore.
Dyslexia Action (dyslexiaaction.org.uk), PATOSS (patoss-dyslexia.org.uk) and the British Dyslexia Association (bdadyslexia.org.uk) are good places to start. They all signpost reading resources and the Dyslexia Action site features the ‘Dive In’ guide which recommends specific titles by age group.
Barrington Stokes is a specialist publisher which lists books by both actual age and reading age. When choosing a book, consider those with shorter chapters and larger text, but keep the content age-appropriate so that reading continues to be interesting and enjoyable.
Your grandson might like to try non-fiction books about sport, or biographies of sportspeople, for instance. Reading on a device such a Kindle can be helpful, as they allow the reader the option to increase the size and spacing of text, and to change the background colour (black and white can be ‘dazzling’ for some people with dyslexia).
Audiobooks can also help to encourage enjoyment of a story, and your grandson may like to follow the physical book whilst listening.
Liaison with school is vital. The SENCo can provide support and access to dyslexia resources, and can advise if they feel your grandson would benefit from specialist tuition to improve his phonological skills (how he breaks down words). The school librarian will be able to signpost age-appropriate books.
Ensure your grandson has the right tools for learning; reading rulers and coloured page overlays can have a very positive supportive effect. He should have regular sight tests undertaken by an experienced optometrist, as many people with dyslexia also experience visual stress that can make reading even more difficult.
From a family perspective, enjoying general activities together, reading and talking will all help to improve your grandson’s vocabulary. Balance in life is important, so structure at home, set times for homework and plenty of rest will all contribute to your grandson’s well-being and ability to manage his dyslexia.
Encourage his sporting abilities; they will help to build his confidence and self-esteem in all areas of life.
Louise Van der Valk and Patricia Reed, heads of learning support at Alleyn’s School and Alleyn’s Junior School