Dyslexia - making sure no one else goes through the same difficulties


Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and I'm apologising in advance for the possibly rambling message!

This is really a question about diplomacy!

I have been talking to my son's school since he started in yr 7 about my concerns that he is dyslexic. I was fobbed off at every attempt by his form tutor and when I asked to also speak with his head of year was actually told that I was just being a little hard on him and "he's so sweet" - I never disputed the fact that he's a really lovely boy but I thought 27 detentions in the first term probably warranted some attention in a boy who has never had a single discipline problem.

I was very conscious of being labelled as a worrier, or even worse making excuses for him, despite the fact that his Grandma actually emailed them with her observations as someone who has worked with dyslexic learners for 35 years and now heads a student support service. I was unable to get past his teachers to the SENCO and was passed back whenever I tried so eventually I took the step of paying over £500 to have him assessed privately by and educational psychologist. This showed that he was in fact quite severely dyslexic and had simply been getting by because he is also incredibly bright.

My dilemma is now that I have the form I have a way to get the school to provide the appropriate support but I am also keen to make sure that the school know that I am extremely disappointed in their attitude over the last 12 months. Many people trust the teachers to know and, had I not had my mother pointing me in the right direction and the ability to scrape together the money to pay for testing, I would have probably given up and my son would have still been worrying and blaming himself.

How do I ensure that the school is appropriately made aware of the problem, and forced to make changes, without jeopardising my relationship and potentially making things more difficult for my son to get the right support?

Hi there and welcome - wow what a dilemma to arrive with!

Personally I'd probably not make waves at the school, but use their no doubt falling over themselves willingness to keep you onside to my child's benefit.

So I'd make damned sure they stepped up to the plate now, and trust that they had learnt sufficiently from the experience of dropping such a huge clanger that they would be more careful next time.

If you know the name of the SENCO contact them directly - and I would probably get hold of some leaflets and information and 'drop it into school' so the teachers 'can all be aware' of issues that we may face 'together'.

But I have to say, for the sake of my child, I'd trust to their self preservation to ensure they didn't do it again (they won't!), and play the political game to make sure my child was ok.

After all, they won't risk doing the same thing again.

Oooh, that's a difficult one isn't it...

That is a lot of detentions in one term- and like you I'd be extremely worried that that alone didn't set the school thinking hm- could there be an issue here we haven't got to grips with yet? And you are right, he may be 'sweet' but that hasn't answered any questions has it?

On the other hand, your son has (presumably) gone all through primary school without attracting any concern, so he obviously hides his difficuilties VERY well... and secondary is much more 'remote' in a way than primary so if they didn't notice at primary, I can see why secondary wouldn't have picked it up.

I think you would be justified in insisting on an appointment with the SENCo to share the report's findings and to discuss some strategies, that would be my first port of call.

Welcome to MyChild, by the way!


Thanks for the quick replies

I think you may be right to suggest that I play nicely for the sake of my son (rather than take up a personal crusade - has been known to happen!), especially as he will have the same form teacher for the next 4 years

I think more than anything I'm disappointed in eth whole system. He went all through primary school with a pat on the head for being so nice but he had actually 'checked out' completely and did nothing until he was 9 when he had the most amazing teacher who allowed him to be creative and praised his imaginatioon and intelligence and ignored the mistakes on teh page - she really brought him back to learning.

Fingers crossed the SENCO is better than his form teacher

............and thank you for the "welcomes" too!

Hello there and welcome to the forum. Whilst I agree that you will achieve nothing by alienating the teaching staff at the school the bottom line is that so far they have failed your son and that needs to change pretty quickly. You need to take a polite but firm line with the school.

There are so many concerns with the information you have provided in your original post (OP). No one should be blocking your access to the SENCO, whilst it makes sense to have levels of contact you are entitled to speak to the SENCO, Head of Year, Head of the School and anyone else employed there that you want to.

There is no way that you should have been put in the position to have paid out for a private diagnosis but unfortunately you felt that was the only option available to you. The problem you might face now is that they feel unable to use the report as it wasn't provided by an LA employee and they want to wait until they have followed their own assessment procedure.

My top tip to you now is to put everything in writing in future so that there is a paper trail, if a school receives written correspondence they have to respond. Download a copy of the SEN Code of Practice so that you know how the system works and write to the school requesting a meeting with the SENCO, Form Teacher and Head of Year as soon as they go back in September. Think through in advance of the meeting exactly what help your son needs, don't just wait and see what they suggest.

Good luck sorting this out.

Oh, check and see if you have a Parenting Partnership near you!

We have one in Norfolk, and I know members have found them in other parts of the country - they are invaluable.

Although you know lots of things about your son, they know lots of things about the system - and they also, and even better, know lots of people sitting in the right seats in the LEA to talk to.

Just google them and see if you have one locally - if you do, they are worth a call.

sounds like me as a child..... actually it's vital that he does get the right support, kids who are both bright and have learning disabilities are often double let down by the system, as they are most often ignored completely as many teachers refuse to believe that we even exist. See what you can find in terms of literature and groups/organisation for 2e (twice exceptional) kids, i.e. very bright and learning disabled at the same time in order to give to the school to back up your case. There's the 2e newsletter (you should find it from an internet search) that has lots of information and articles about 2e kids and the problems/difficulties they face, and the importance of getting the right kind of help.

re what electron blue said about hiding difficulties very well - that's exactly what I did, but the longer I was in school the worse the problems got and the more the problems I did have were put down to laziness and an attitude problem on my part, and the less willing and able the teachers were to help me, and the less able I was to get any help at all. In fact my attempts to get help with work I was struggling with were met with total negativity, even refusal to believe I was having difficulty, being admonished for being lazy and being told off for asking for help. According to them I was "bright but lazy", in fact I was struggling constantly to stay on top of all the work and really did need a lot of help. Tasks that according to the teacher should take 20 minutes would take me two hours, producing a piece of writing was a torturous ordeal, I think I turned in about 7 or 8 pieces of English homework in the whole of the 2 years I was doing GCSE's, needless to say I was constantly in trouble for missing homework. Wasn't just English though, cause written work is required in all the subjects and I also had difficulties with arithemtic/tables (a kind of dyscalculia) and inattentive ADHD which caused a whole lot of other difficulties. After I was diagnosed though (age 19), I did get help at university, and I did very well and got a 2:1 and my tutor asked me to submit my undergraduate study to an academic journal. The Educational Psychologist who diagnosed me said if I'd have had the right help at the right time, I'd have got straight A's and gone to Oxford or Cambridge.

Regarding dealing with the school - the problem is that the school has no idea what they are dealing with here. They very likely don't understand what a 2e child is, or perhaps don't even know that someone with learning disabilities could be bright, or that a very bright child could have learning disabilities. They don't know what is at stake, or that help now could make the difference between a child getting top grades and going to a good university, or struggling to get even mediocre grades, or not even getting grades at all. (that's before you even get onto the self esteem issues of constantly being called lazy when you're working very hard and struggling with so many things) This is why you need to provide the school with the necessary information, articles about 2e kids, information about what kind of help and support 2e kids need in school, and also your son's educational psychologists report. As for making it a personal crusade, I wish my parents had made it a personal crusade to get me the help I needed. (they didn't know any more about learning disabilities than the teachers did, this was back in the 80's and early 90's)