Back to School 2023
Back to school is an exciting time, whether your child is entering the classroom for the first time or settling into a new academic year. Any young person with dyslexia can thrive at school with the proper support. But many dyslexic kids find it challenging to go back after a long summer break – back to new routines, homework, and exams. Don’t panic if your children are struggling with the thought of school once again. With information, inspiration, and tools at your disposal, the transition can be a positive one for learners with dyslexia. Check out our tips and ideas to make returning to school less stressful and more exciting for dyslexic children.
Tips for a dyslexia-friendly school transition
Returning to school can be tough for any child after they’ve enjoyed a long summer without the pressures of formal learning and the social demands of the playground. But for a child with dyslexia, the new school year brings added worries.
Before school starts, talk to the teachers and support staff that will be working with your child. Review any plans you have in place and make sure there is enough support for the start of the school year and beyond. It helps to have children meet their new teachers and look around their new classroom immediately before term begins, so they can familiarise themselves with the environment and the people they will be spending their days with.
If your child has not been diagnosed but you suspect they may be dyslexic, read up all you can about the subject and find more information on dyslexia online so you can be informed and have a discussion with your child’s new teacher. You may be able to get the dyslexia assessment process started with the beginning of term.
Try to make the end of summer fun, with an emphasis on exciting activities at home or days out, rather than talking about the start of school. Keep your own worries and anxieties in check and don’t pass on stress to your kids – make the transition as low-pressure as possible.
It also helps to think about the tools your child needs for a successful school year. Consider items like coloured paper, grips for pens and pencils, diaries for organisation, and assistive technology and apps.
Assistive technology in school
A host of new and innovative technologies are now available to help dyslexic children learn. Everything from apps to computer programs, reading aids to scanner pens make the school day easier for young learners with dyslexia.
Check to see what is available, particularly from the school – ask about funding, and find out what is already in place.
For example, the C-Pen ReaderPen supports learning by scanning text which is then read out loud. You can scan and store text and access a variety of dictionaries. This digital highlighter helps strengthen multi-sensory education and promote language retention.
Help for older students
Older students returning to the education setting also require support to thrive.
The ExamReader from C-Pen is a digital reading pen for older students to use in exams. You can scan text on exam papers and hear it spoken, to enable understanding and make exams less stressful. Nothing can be loaded onto the pen, so it assists with tests without providing any unauthorised support.
Numerous apps also help with organisation, spelling, numeracy, time management, and planning.
Teachers can also support students by making lesson content available before the class and ensuring the student has the slides or the handouts to familiarise themselves with prior to learning.
Multi-sensory learning is also helpful, as is the opportunity to “overlearn” – provide recordings of the class, give students extra handouts, and allow the time to go over the material multiple times.
Signs of dyslexia you should look for
Signs of dyslexia are many and varied, although it is most often identified in the first years of education.
Signs of dyslexia in the early years, according to the British Dyslexia Association, include problems learning nursery rhymes and difficulty reciting the alphabet, slow speech development, and little interest in learning words or letters. Children may find sitting still and listening to a challenge, and forget the names of things, friends, and teachers. Young children often confuse words like up/down and struggle with sequencing tasks.
Older children in the first years of school often have poor writing skills, which contrasts with good oral abilities. They may complete very messy work and cross things out multiple times. Reading is slow and they show no enthusiasm for the task, and they may fail to recognize familiar words. Behavior can be problematic and the child may be excessively tired due to the effort of understanding and completing work.
Teenagers display poor standards of organization and get frequently confused by tasks. Older students also tend to know more than they can write down and read slowly. They may be easily distracted, forgetful, and have problems staying focused in class.
This list is not exhaustive. For more information, the British Dyslexia Association has many valuable tips on how to find out if your child is dyslexic, at each stage of their educational journey.
What to do if your child has reading difficulties
It can be hard to tell if a child has dyslexia or problems with reading. Dyslexia is a specific learning difference that affects how people process and remember text and images. It affects how quickly a child can develop literacy and numeracy skills. Dyslexia makes it more difficult to read but it also impacts organization, coordination, focus, and communication.
If your child has reading difficulties, with or without dyslexia, there are useful strategies to try.
Try changing the type or level of book the child is reading. Story books are not the only way to learn to read – kids may prefer comics or graphic novels, non-fiction texts, magazines, or even instructions and hacks for their favorite online games.
Make sure learning to read is a stress-free experience, free from pressure and expectations. Make the environment as inclusive and comfortable as possible. Give children the time to explore texts and talk about the books they enjoy.
Above all, don’t panic about the new term. Make back-to-school an enjoyable time with just a little extra preparation and understanding of the issues dyslexic learners face.