One of the greatest challenges for a parent of a dyslexic child is knowing what to do to get the best support possible so that the child can thrive through education.
On my Parenting Dyslexia Facebook Page, one of the most common reasons for parents applying to be a member of that page is simply that their child has just been diagnosed and they need information. For some, they simply do not know where to turn and organisations such as the British Dyslexia Association are fantastic at providing signposts for parents in finding resources e.g the Dyslex.io resource website.
Resources that help us as parents to understand more about what dyslexia is and how dyslexia presents specifically for our children is really useful. We can start to put strategies in place that are supportive and empowering for our children but what do we do if we get a situation when our school draws a line as to how much support they are prepared to give when you believe that your child needs more intervention?
I remember my daughter's year manager initially saying that our daughter was passing what she needed to pass and so as a school, they didn't feel that they needed to intervene with further help and support. As a parent, it can be so understandable to assume that the school knows best and to stick with their advice, after all, they want your child to do well, don't they?
In principle, of course they want your child to do well, but equally, they have to balance time, money and resources and prioritise who needs the most support. Added to this, there is still a lack of understanding amongst teachers about SEN which stems from an inadequate level of training at teacher training college. With schools that have specially trained teachers, I believe that the knowledge and understanding is still varied and not at a consistent standard resulting in some schools being more supportive than others. In some schools, despite there being a 'SENCO' it would appear that the 'SENCO' is not a specially trained teacher, just a member of staff who has been given the responsibility to coordinate special educational needs support.
My point is that, as parents, we need to make it our responsibility to get to understand as much as possible, from an independent source, what the educational lives of our dyslexic children are like and to get to understand what support could be available from either the school or the Local Authority.
In a previous post, I wrote about Staffordshire County Council and how their position on supporting literacy was misleading when it came to the barriers to education that dyslexia brings. I personally do a lot of reading about dyslexia and research for articles on this blog and so that advice, for me, is clearly inaccurate, but many parents won't have time to keep updated on the latest information about dyslexia and so may well believe what they are being told, leading to, potentially, poor educational outcomes for their children.
So we have a situation for many where support for a dyslexic student could be ill-informed due to lack of skill, knowledge and specialism with SEN on the part of some schools across the UK. That support, even with the best intentions, can't help but be influenced by the levels of available funding and often once support is in place, it would appear from conversations that I have had with parents that the support is not guaranteed or maintained as a child passes through different key stages or moves to different schools.
One school that is making a difference in this area is St David's College in North Wales. Whilst it is an independent mainstream secondary school, St David's has been active in making parents aware of their rights in claiming adequate levels of support from their Local Authority. Whilst each local authority must have a 'Local Offer' articulating their provision for SEN, often the information presented is not clear enough for parents and the current EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) system is often misunderstood. With this lack of clarity, parents and teachers alike will avoid investigating whether or not a particular dyslexic child is eligible for support when the reality is that providing the correct steps have been made, support from an EHCP is attainable.
St David's has been working with education law firm, HCB Group, to raise awareness of the rights of parents to guaranteed special educational needs support, especially for dyslexia, by speaking at meetings for parents all over the country.
Head of Education at HCB, Andrew Barrowclough shared the following information about what is important about Education Health and Care Plans:
|Andrew Barrowclough, HCB Group|
"EHCPs are extremely important for a dyslexic child because they ensure that the provision the child needs is legally guaranteed. The relevant law is contained in the Children and Families Act 2014 which states as follows:
‘Education, health and care plans,
(1) Where in the light of an EHC needs assessment, it is necessary for special educational provision to be made for a child or young person in accordance with an EHC plan—
(a) the local authority must secure that an EHC plan is prepared for the child or young person, and (b) once an EHC plan has been prepared, it must maintain the plan.’
So if a child needs additional specialist support in school to include teaching assistant support, specialist teaching or even withdrawal programme based work, such intervention is guaranteed if it is quantified and set out within Section F of an EHCP. If the child does not have an EHCP and the support is not specified properly then legally it can be withdrawn without consultation with parents due to the school’s organisational issues or funding cuts. The provision however within an EHCP is guaranteed by law and cannot be removed without proper consultation through the Annual Review process.
Beyond in school support, if a dyslexic child is severely struggling an EHCP is the vehicle to get in place funding for a specialist school for pupils with specific learning difficulties. A tribunal appeal to secure such a placement is only possible if an EHCP is in place first. If the child does indeed need such a specialist placement then through the EHCP the Local Authority can be required to fund the school fees, specialist support, transport and boarding fees if appropriate.'
Top Tips For Getting Support For Your Dyslexic Child.
Firstly I always recommend getting your child assessed if you think that they have dyslexia. Having an assessment in place will help you to understand how dyslexia specifically affects your child. Once you know that you can then be more specific in your research on the key aspects of dyslexia that are causing barriers to education at school. It will also help you when you speak with your SENCO (see Top Tip Number Two).Not sure where to get an assessment from? There are lots of organisations available which are listed on the Resources page of this blog. Just click here to see them.
If you have any concerns about your child experiencing barriers to education due to dyslexia your first move must be to speak with your school SENCO to understand what your school's position is in terms of providing support. Have they already identified dyslexic traits for your child and are they already putting measures in place? If not, ask them about what it would take to secure support, especially if you already have an independent special needs assessment report already in place. This report gives you and the school accurate information as to what your child needs.
As a parent, you can't possibly absorb all the information that is out there about supporting your child especially if your school has indicated that they have reached the limit for the amount of support that they are prepared to give. You are going to need specialist advice.
Whilst specialist solicitors can be costly, many will be happy to give you an initial consultation for free to help you to see if you may have a case to apply for an EHCP. This will be useful advice regardless of whether or not you decide to engage with the solicitor and they will also be able to give you a sense of what you need to do to get that EHCP in place. Just make sure that you are speaking with an organisation that is a specialist in education law and in particular the laws surrounding getting an EHCP in place. Earlier in this article, I mentioned Andrew Barrowclough who is a specialist education law solicitor whose team is extremely experienced at getting EHCPs granted from Local Authorities across the UK for children with dyslexia.
Andrew can be contacted by clicking here.
Please note that I do not have a commercial reason for recommending Andrew and his team, I just know that they do good work.
I hope that you have found this a useful article. Please do get in touch with me and let me know what you think about what I have written and (more importantly) what your experience has been in getting support for your child. Please comment below or use the contact form to get in touch.
For now, let me invite you to click the banner below to download a free E-Book from St David's College about strategies that support children with dyslexia in schools.
|Click to download your copy.|