"She has had to work two or three times harder than her peers"

Aurora and Helen - dyslexia
Helen Barylo from Coventry describes her experience of the SEN and school system with her son Aurora, 16, who is dyslexic, and shares her tips for other parents.
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"When Aurora was born she had a slight cast in one of her eyes and had to have a patch and glasses by time she was three. When she was at primary school I noticed she had difficulties in reading and was a little behind her peers, but I put the delay down to the earlier trouble with her eyesight.

"However, as she progressed through primary school, the gap just widened – and she continued to be slower in reading and writing than the rest of her friends. Her spelling was always very bad and I noticed that she would get all the correct letters for a word but not place them in the right order, even with simple words like cat. She also had great trouble with telling the time. Her progress wasn't helped in Y3 where her teacher told me Aurora was 'useless' at reading and spelling at parents' evening.

"We moved house when she was seven and she went to a better school with teachers who were slightly more supportive. However, she's only had a small amount of support from the school and although she worked with three different SENCOs during her time there the most help she was offered was around half an hour every fortnight.

"Finally, in Year 6, she was seen by the educational psychologist who said she had strong dyslexic tendencies in his report. This enabled her to get some extra help with a teaching assistant. Eventually, by the time she was 12 and to help us to get some further support, I went to Dyslexia Action and was able to get a full report and a dyslexia diagnosis which highlighted her strengths and her weaknesses in areas such as spellings and maths. She now has a tutor for reading which has helped her greatly.

"Because Aurora works very hard she did do well in her SATs and in her formal exams but just to keep up she has had to work two or three times harder than her peers and has had to develop a lot of her own strategies to help her manage her work. Her diagnosis meant that for her mock GCSEs she was allowed to have extra time and a scribe to transcribe her answers for most of her exams which did help.

"Aurora's now planning to take her GCSEs in June and wants to stay on at her current school to do these as dyslexia also effects her organisation and long-term planning, so in some ways it will be easier as she know her way around."

Dyslexia: practical tips for parents

  1. If you think there's something not right with how your child is developing, don't be put off with the opinion of just one person – trust your instincts and fight.
  2. If there's a gap between your child and their peers there will always be a reason for it. So spend time doing your research and do whatever you can to find that reason; the gap will get wider as your child gets older unless you do something about it.
  3. If you can get some support – be that via the local education authority, school teachers, local support groups, extra benefits, or even privately if you have the money – go for it and make sure you get it.

Dyslexia: advice and information

Find more advice about dyslexia and the education system in our dyslexia section; The Dyslexia Toolkit for Parents is available in TheSchoolRun Shop.

The charity Dyslexia Action offers information and support for parents, including free half-hour consultations and assessments, screenings, tuition and consultancy.