The Benefits of Early Identification – Under 7s
The four-year-old who can't quite learn about letters becomes the seven-year-old who can't match sounds to letters ,the thirteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud, the sixteen-old-year who thinks they are not ‘clever’ enough to achieve GCSEs and the twenty-one-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly and doubts they are ‘good enough’ to apply for their dream job. This negative thread is something that can persist throughout a person's life and is an experience many of our adult learners share.
But, with early intervention, this scenario doesn’t need to happen.
Early identification and early intervention are recommended in the Children and Families Act (2014) and SEND Code of Practice (2014).
Through modern techniques, it is possible to reliably identify boys and girls at high risk of experiencing literacy difficulties before they fall behind; specialist help is available all over the UK. Labelling a child with dyslexia at a young age may alarm some parents and schools but this should not be a reason for disregarding language and literacy tendencies that may lead to difficulties later in life. Additional support will never hinder a child, but it can be harder to close the gap if identification is left too late.
In line with recent reliable research, this is what we believe to be the most sensible approach to identifying young at-risk children before they experience reading and spelling failures:
1. Observe your child’s language development; be on the alert for problems in rhyming, pronunciation, peculiar word choices and word finding.
2. Observe your child’s ability to connect print to language; notice if he is beginning to name individual letters and see symbols in books and familiar signs.
3. Know your family history. Be alert to problems in speaking, reading, writing, and spelling, telling the time, learning times tables, memory and organisation. Some families who report dyslexic tendencies seem to have an abundance of family members who have pursued creative, sporty, caring and manual jobs. Somewhat less frequent, but still impressive, are the large number of families sprinkled with great writers, entrepreneurs, and jurists who are dyslexic.
Once difficulties are identified, an assessment of needs can be carried out by various service providers. In the first instance ask school and then referrals can be made to a Speech Therapist, Educational Psychologist, Dyslexia Specialist assessor, GP, Paediatric doctor, Parent Partnership or SEND local authority as required . It is worth pursuing all lines of referral, but be aware that the services available, and the cost of these services, may vary between local authorities.
During the process of early identification it is important to also focus on strengths as well as weaknesses. Strengths can be developed more easily, counteracting weaknesses and helping the child to have a more positive image; over emphasis on weaknesses may affect a child’s self-confidence and demotivate them. It is important to speak to your child openly and positively about what they are experiencing and show them how motivation, resilience and having a positive, calm attitude can support their learning and reduce stress.
Taking time to collect evidence of your child’s difficulties will help the various agencies to determine your child’s true learning needs and be able to provide the most effective strategies and resources; it is always better for parents and schools to choose evidence-based programmes. Through all your research you may become an expert!
Do not be afraid to ask for the support of a dyslexia specialist teacher or psychologist if necessary; a formal diagnostic assessment may be required. Do get in touch with NDN to speak to one of our specialist teachers or assessors. Our initial advice is free. There are also other organisations specialising in dyslexia but ensure they have postgraduate qualifications and are fully registered with PATOSS, Dyslexia Guild or British Dyslexia Association.