There are many different definitions of what constitutes dyslexia with many experts disagreeing over what it actually is. Schools within the City of Edinburgh Council use the definition drawn up by the British Psychological Society which focuses on literacy difficulties.
‘Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and/or spelling develops very incompletely or with very great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the “word” level and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities’
Support for Learning Staff at James Gillespie’s High School are trained to identify dyslexia in pupils. There is no one ‘dyslexia test’; rather an identification of dyslexia is arrived at through conducting a number of literacy assessments which look at factors such as a child’s reading rate, reading fluency, comprehension, decoding and spelling. Consultation with class teachers is crucial, as they have an insight into the child’s literacy skills in practical settings. Dyslexia is usually identified whilst children are still at primary school, however, some dyslexic pupils develop successful strategies that can mask signs of dyslexia and it is only when the difficultly level of school work increases that the signs become apparent. If you feel that your child may be showing signs of dyslexia please get in touch with the Support for Learning department who will undertake an investigation to assess your child’s literacy skills.
Support for Dyslexic Pupils
Dyslexia can present in children in a range of ways and in varying levels of severity, with some children displaying relatively minor literacy difficulties and others struggling to read at all. With most dyslexic pupils support will come from their class teachers. Class teachers at James Gillespie’s are trained in supporting dyslexic pupils within the classroom. Many of the strategies for support pupils with dyslexia are examples of good teaching practice and staff will already have integrated these into their lessons. These include strategies such as encouraging pupils to build up a glossary of new words, employing a range of ways for pupils to present their work and making use of IT.
The Support for Learning department will extract some pupils with more significant literacy difficulties in S1 and S2 to take part in a catch up reading programme called SRA Corrective Reading. In S3 and S4 the department offer tutorial groups as a course choice option. Pupils can choose to pick seven subjects, rather than eight, and are timetabled to SfL for 3 periods a week in small classes of around 6 pupils. These classes are staff by a SfL teacher and often a Pupil Support Assistant and offer curricular support to pupils through assisting with homework, helping to prepare for tests and reinforcing learning taking place in the classroom. These have proved to be very successful at improving pupils’ performance in their exams.
Parents can support pupils at home by assisting with revision (see the Revision Skills page) and encouraging pupils to revisit their studies. Evidence shows that the most effective way to support dyslexic pupils with their schoolwork is through over-learning. This means that pupils need to revisit their work and do many practice questions; not very exciting, but it is effective. Encouraging reading is also very helpful. This can be any sort of written material: magazines, factual books and online articles are all as good as novels in helping pupils develop their literacy skills. Audio books are also useful at helping to maintain a child’s interest in stories. A wide range of these are available from both the school library and council libraries. Try to establish a routine at home where reading becomes part of everyday life. Discuss books and newspaper articles and make use of the excellent library facilities the city has to offer.