It can be difficult for Primary schools to identify dyslexia, one of the reasons is that emphasis is on development and some students not being ‘ready’.
How to spot dyslexia:
The suggestion is that given time and opportunity to catch up, they will. Dyslexia is, however, a specific difficulty and students do not typically catch up but fall further behind, until the gap is too wide for them to bridge it. We know from research that students who fall behind in Reception do not catch up and this is why emphasis is now on this phase, in terms of assessment and intervention. We also know that high quality teaching has a considerable impact in this phase.
What is going on for dyslexic learners in Reception/Year One?
To begin with, they struggle to acquire automaticity around letter shape which most other students acquire with varying degrees of ease. Reversals are common in dyslexia (yes, this is SOMETIMES developmental) and they do not readily right themselves but need help to do so. They typically have low working memory and may struggle to follow teaching input, instructions and to remember what they wanted to say/write.
Asking them to write the date and LO is an exercise in frustration as the letters must be held in mind and kept in sequence to transfer to the page when they do not have mastery of letter shape. It is exhausting and energies are best placed elsewhere.
When writing independently, spellings are difficult to decipher. Sometimes vowels are omitted and sometimes in the ‘flow’ of writing, a page of vowel sounds is written as words. I often think of this during choir when we are taught to linger on vowel sounds. Dyslexic students often struggle to identify specific sounds in words due to low proprioceptive feedback.
The writing demonstrates b/d confusion and a lack of sound awareness.
In Year Two, the student started the alphabet writing 8 (this was done for 6 months) and for reading, Toe by Toe. The student did not take the end of KS2 SATs. School provided Fischer Family Trust as a reading intervention. The student also began Apples and Pears, a structured programme which incorporates phonics. How to use the writing 8:
The opening ‘wonst aponatim’ demonstrates a difficulty with language closure. The writing includes reversals e.g., p/q and the writer has missed sounds e.g., staride for started. Spelling is phonetic e.g., windo for window.
In Year Two the student started learning words for reading and spelling as ‘pictures’.
Writing is not aligned to the margin, although it is slightly easier to read. Spellings show that the split digraph rule is not understood e.g., ‘sicke’ and the writer is not sure when to use c/ck/k e.g., trunc.
Here, ed for a past tense verb would be a useful teaching point as danced is spelled danst. Place is written two ways (plase, plas) so the learner would benefit from being taught that place is like face, ace, race and the ‘c’ is soft = is makes the sound /s/ when followed by e or i.
The learner has applied the ed past tense verb ending mixde but the ending is transpose which is a common dyslexic feature.The word ‘could’ is spelled several different ways and is worthy of focus: could would and should share the same pattern, in the ould sequence, only the /u/ and /d/ can be heard.
Some etymology here:
In Year Four, there was a lot of scribing, however, the student also began Kumon for literacy which enables daily reading and writing at the student’s level. The student must demonstrate that they have mastered the level at the Kumon Centre before they can move on. Improvements can be seen in handwriting and composition. Thoughts on handwriting:
The student has some sound confusion e.g., swithed for swift: /th/ instead of /f/ and caliping instead of galloping. The student has lack of awareness that ‘y’ makes an /e/ sound at the end of words, thus ‘ugle’. The student is using similes and show not tell: ‘my hands were sweating like a llama getting chased by a leopard’, but the similes can be quite unusual. Dyslexics like to invent and do not naturally draw from typical similes and metaphors, intertextuality does not come easily to them.
See my post: Ways with phonics
The double consonant in ‘begged’ is missing and the vowel sound is missing for collapsing (clappsing), bodies does not demonstrate the y to i and add es pattern and is worthy of explicit teaching. Handwriting focus should be the letter ‘i’ (too tall) and ‘o’ which does not always join from the top. The word ‘through’ is spelled as throw and would be a good spelling target.