Irish-medium post-primary education and dyslexia
Children are often anxious during the first few months of post-primary school. This page seeks to make the transition from primary to post-primary easier for children with dyslexia and their parents.
Good preparation is the key. Find out what systems you can put in place to help your child with the higher level of self-management and self-organisation expected in post primary.
What advice would you give regarding the transition from Irish-medium primary school to Irish-medium post-primary school?
A successful transition from primary to secondary education starts with good preparation. Ensure that the school is aware of any additional needs that your child may have and of the type of supports your child needs. Children are often anxious during the first few months of post-primary school so check in with your child regularly. Reassure them that things will get easier, praise them and motivate them to keep going. It is worthwhile looking at the school diary every day to catch any concerns early.
In post-primary school, there is usually a higher level of self-management and self-organisation expected. Some children with dyslexia have difficulties with organisation. If this is the case for your child, it is worthwhile making sure that there are systems in place to help your child stay organised:
- Schedule daily reminders on phones or tablets to remind your child what is needed for class each day
- Ask the teacher if your child can take a picture of the homework if he or she has trouble recording the homework.
- Copy extra timetables and keep them in schoolbags and lockers.
- Use coloured zip pockets to make work for different subjects easy to find.
- Put one tick next to each piece of homework as it is done, and a second tick next to it when the homework has been placed in the schoolbag.
- Break big tasks such as preparing for end-of-year or state examinations down into smaller steps and plan schedules in advance to avoid stress.
- Use mindmap apps to organise information and topics within a school subject. If choosing a mindmap app, consider whether the information can be written in Irish and whether the font size and colour can be changed to accommodate your child’s preferences or needs.
Language technology can help support your child in post-primary school. Online dictionaries such as teanglann.ie and focloir.ie can help your child to learn terminology for a specific subject. There is also a ‘grammar wizard’ available on teanglann.ie which is particularly helpful for writing essays or answers for homework. There is additional information on text-to-speech software and spelling and grammar checkers in the section on Supporting a child with dyslexia.
What is the advice on sending a child with dyslexia to a school where iPads are used?
Technology can be a huge help to children with dyslexia. There are many different types of software to help with language and literacy (e.g. text-to-speech software and spelling and grammar checkers) as well as with organisation (e.g. mindmaps and reminders). This means that an iPad school could offer advantages to your child. It is important, however, to make sure that the iPad school has adapted their teaching and learning for the technology and that there are other paper-based learning resources available for pupils if they wish to use them.
Will dyslexia affect my child’s ability to learn a third language?
Recent research (Von Hagen, 2019) shows that many children with dyslexia are as good as children without dyslexia at learning an additional language, though there are some that will need more support than other children. Children in gaelscoileanna with dyslexia are very capable of learning an additional language as the language and literacy skills developed in Irish and English should support the acquisition of a third language. Having become proficient in two languages, they are very aware of how languages work.
Make sure that your child is provided with lots of exposure to the spoken language as this will play to your child’s strengths and provide a good basis for literacy development. When choosing a foreign language to study at school, there are a couple of things to consider. The first is the writing system of the language. Languages with a simple writing system (such as Spanish and Italian) are the easiest languages to learn to read in. The second is the availability of assistive technology in the language, including text-to-speech technology as well as grammar and spell checkers. Unlike other subjects, language exams have a large listening and oral component which your child might enjoy and be very good at.
Are there any scenarios where it would not be recommended to continue to Irish-medium post-primary school after Irish-medium primary school?
Without knowing the details of any particular case it is difficult to answer this question, however the most important thing to consider when choosing a post-primary school is the school’s ethos. Find out whether the school has a good policy of inclusion, experience of children with the type of needs your child has and the willingness to keep learning about how to cater for your child’s needs. Ask the school about these factors and make a decision based on the ability of the school to cater for your child’s needs as well as your child’s motivation and interest in going to a Gaelcholáiste. Having attended a gaelscoil, your child should have a good foundation in language skills which will stand to them in post-primary school.
What are the best subjects to choose at post-primary level? Is it better to avoid those that require a lot of memorization of text?
Choose subjects based on your child’s strengths and interests, as well as the requirements of the subject. If your child has the opportunity to try out different subjects at the beginning of first year, they will soon learn which ones they enjoy best. If your child is good at problem-solving and understands abstract concepts well, physics or chemistry might suit them best. If your child is creative and has good visuo-spatial abilities, art or technical graphics might suit well. It is not the case that every child with dyslexia has a poor memory, but if your child does, subjects such as history which require the memorisation of facts and dates may be more difficult for them. It is worth looking at past examination papers to see what type of answers are required. Some subjects require longer passages of text or essays as answers, while others do not.
In relation to languages, people with dyslexia are likely to do best with languages such as Spanish which have a simple writing system where every letter is pronounced. It is worth checking the availability of online resources and of assistive technology in a language before choosing it. It is also important to consider your child’s interests. The interest a person has in a topic influences their ability to remember facts about the topic. If your child has an interest in the subject they will be more motivated to study it and more likely to remember the content. Your school will be able to give you further advice on this area.
Is it better to sit State exams through English?
If your child learns the subject matter through Irish, it is best to sit the state examinations in Irish. Your child will be most familiar with the terminology used in each subject in Irish as this is the language of schooling. They will also be used to writing and structuring answers in Irish based on their experience in school. In addition, your child may be eligible for additional points if they sit the exams in Irish.
What supports are available for State exams, i.e. spelling waivers, etc. across all subjects?
Students with literacy difficulties may be eligible for the following accommodations, depending on the severity of the child’s needs:
- Spelling and grammar waivers in language subjects only (does not apply to other subjects)
- Exam reading pen which scans and reads out the exam script (for exam scripts in English)
- A reading assistant to provide support to the student’s own reading where necessary i.e. to read words or phrases when needed.
- A reader, who will read the examination paper
- A computer or a recording device to record the students’ answers
- A scribe (in exceptional circumstances)
If your child has a co-existing hearing impairment or visual impairment, there are other accommodations which can be made. Guidelines are made available but they are amended every year, so be sure to check with the school about the most up-to-date guidelines and closing dates for applications. Here are the 2019 guidelines: https://www.examinations.ie/schools/BI-1013-1972533.pdf
Your child’s eligibility for accommodations is based on their scores on recent literacy tests (within the previous twelve months). It is a good idea to document your child’s scores on school exams and keep samples of their work where possible. A psychological report is not required in order to apply for accommodations.