Spelling out the needs of students with dyslexia
One in 10 people is affected by the condition, and although general teacher training doesn’t include enough about how to teach children who have it, knowledge and support have improved
The association commits significant time and resources to working with teachers so they can respond in productive ways to students with dyslexia.
“A simple thing like focusing on two or three key errors in a piece of script, rather than pulling a student up on every last error, can make big difference. Focusing on the positive in a student’s work can really help.”
Bissett says it’s not surprising teachers don’t always know how to handle dyslexia constructively. “The small amount of training on dyslexia during initial teacher training is a big issue for us. They might only get an hour’s lecture on it over their entire training. It is a goal of ours to address this in initial teacher education and continuing professional development.”
In the meantime, the main focus is to support the association’s 2,500 member families through information, assessment and tuition, and to reach out to the many more Irish families dealing with dyslexia.
“We have witnessed huge increases in learning support in schools during the past 40 years, which is welcome. We’ve seen the introduction of accommodations for exams, exemptions from Irish, and new entry routes into third level. ”
However, there is still a great deal to fight for. “The special-education resource infrastructure is being eroded. Accommodations for exams and exemptions from Irish can be laborious to access. We still hear parents frequently talking about ‘fighting the system’ to get what their children need.
“There’s a real issue for families without means,” Bissett says. “Often a diagnosis of dyslexia is based on a family’s ability to pay for assessment. The State assessment capacity could be trebled and it still wouldn’t be enough to meet the need. We would love to see a leaner, less medicalised system with equality and fairness at its heart.”
In her years dealings with adults and children with dyslexia, Bissett has noticed a common characteristic that goes beyond reading and writing. “Children and adults with dyslexia often have a highly developed sense of social justice. There’s an empathy for those who have to struggle with the system. I suppose it probably stems from their own struggle with things everybody else takes for granted.”