Identifying dyslexia

Bileog Disléicse 2

Are the early signs of dyslexia identified in an Irish-medium or Gaeltacht school in a similar manner to an English-medium school?

All schools use a Continuum of Support to identify needs. Irish-medium and English-medium schools follow the same guidelines in relation to how to identify and support dyslexia. Teachers in gaelscoileanna and scoileanna Gaeltachta monitor the language development of children from the very beginning of primary school and can identify possible issues early.

The Continuum of Support has three stages:

Stage 1: If a child’s teacher or parents notices that emergent literacy skills are not developing as expected, support is provided by the class teacher depending on the needs of the child (e.g. additional phonics instruction and practice). The teacher sets targets for the child and if they do not meet those targets, they move onto the next stage.

Stage 2: When formal reading instruction has begun, early screeners can be used to identify needs. Many of these screeners are based on the development of English literacy in English-medium schools, so gaelscoileanna and scoileanna Gaeltachta use other tools such as the Áis mheasúnaithe don Luathlitearthacht and Mar a Déarfá! to provide information about needs. Based on this information, individual learning support is implemented by the class teacher or learning support teacher in a small group. After a period of intervention, the child’s progress is reviewed and if the learning targets are not achieved, the child moves on to the next stage.

Stage 3: A team which may include the class teacher, learning support teacher, parents and an educational psychologist meets to consider the child’s strengths and their response to intervention to date. A formal diagnosis is made at this stage by a psychologist and the child’s learning plan is reviewed and any necessary adjustments made. Support is usually provided by the learning support teacher at this stage in a one-to-one setting outside the classroom.

Before a child moves on to post-primary school, a review of their learning needs should be carried out to see what supports will be needed in post-primary school.

How would you know for certain if your child had dyslexia? What are the other tools available apart from screening tests for dyslexia which identify the symptoms or difficulties in relation to dyslexia?

The signs of dyslexia are different from person to person. Everyone with dyslexia has various individual strengths and weaknesses. There is additional information on some of the most common symptoms in relation to dyslexia available on the Dyslexia Association Ireland website or on the Health Service Executive’s website.

A diagnostic test has to be undertaken with an educational psychologist initially to know for certain if your child has dyslexia. The psychologist who undertakes that test should understand bilingualism and the literacy acquisition of two different languages. Also, particularly if Irish is the language at home, the psychologist should be proficient in Irish. Before undertaking a diagnostic test, a lot of information on the child’s needs can be obtained through various instruments such as the Áis Mheasúnaithe don Luathliteartacht (Assessment Resource in Early Literacy) or the assessment resource Mar a Déarfá! (As You Would Say) as well as the screening tests in English. 

What are some of the benefits of receiving a diagnosis? Are there any potential disadvantages?

Receiving a diagnosis for dyslexia usually brings relief to parents though it might feel overwhelming initially. The relief comes from knowing that their child’s difficulties is not a question of overall ability and that there is a community of people who have had the same experience as your child. A diagnosis can help move the discussion forward from trying to define the difficulties a child has to addressing those difficulties. The report that is provided with the diagnosis contains valuable information on a child’s strengths as well as the areas in which support is needed. These findings are incorporated into an intervention plan that focusses on their strengths while tackling areas that they find difficult.

The effect of labelling a child is often a worry for parents when seeking a diagnosis. It is usually the case that the child is aware of their own difficulties whether they are named or not. Naming the difficulty is useful in order to identify with people who have had a similar experience. It is important to remember that while the psychological report gives a good picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses at a given point of time, this picture can change over time. A psychological report is a tool to inform intervention and not a forecast of a child’s abilities.

Can children access supports at school for reading and writing without the need for identification of a literacy problem by a professional?

Yes. The Continuum of Support ensures that as soon as an issue is identified, support is provided by the class teacher or the learning support teacher and the progress of the child is regularly reviewed. See the first question on this page for a more detailed description of the Continuum of Support. 

Is there a link between Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia?

There has been much research on the link between ADHD and dyslexia. About 25-40% of children with either dyslexia or ADHD also meet the criteria for the other disorder (Pennington, 2006). One disorder does not cause the other. Instead, it appears that there are common risk factors for both ADHD and dyslexia, which can result in a dual diagnosis of both.

There has been much less research on the link between ASD and dyslexia. Based on what we know currently, a person with ASD is no more likely to have dyslexia than a person without ASD. Similarly, a person with dyslexia is no more likely to have ASD than a person without dyslexia.

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