The earlier a child with dyslexia is diagnosed, the more effective educational interventions are likely to be.
But identifying dyslexia in young children can be difficult for both parents and teachers because the signs and symptoms are not always obvious.
If you're worried about your child
If you're concerned about your child's progress with reading and writing, first talk to their teacher. You may also want to meet with other staff in the school.
If there's an ongoing concern, take your child to see a GP. It may be that your child has health problems that are affecting their ability to read or write.
For example, they may have:
- vision problems, such as short-sightedness or a squint
- hearing problems as the result of a condition such as glue ear
- other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
If your child does not have any obvious underlying health problems to explain their learning difficulties, it may be that they're not responding very well to the teaching method and a different approach may be needed.
Read about managing dyslexia for more information about educational interventions that may help.
If there are still concerns about your child's progress after they have received additional teaching and support, it may be a good idea to have a more in-depth assessment.
This can be carried out by an educational psychologist or an appropriately qualified specialist dyslexia teacher.
They'll be able to support you, your child and your child's teachers by helping improve the understanding of your child's learning difficulties and suggesting interventions that may help them.
Requesting an assessment
There are various ways to request an assessment for your child, although it can sometimes be a time consuming and frustrating process.
The first step is to meet your child's teacher and their school's special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) to discuss your concerns and any interventions that have been tried already.
If your child continues to have difficulties despite interventions, you can ask for them to be referred for assessment by a local authority educational psychologist or another specialist in dyslexia.
The Independent Parental Special Education Advice (IPSEA) is an independent charity for parents of children with special needs.
IPSEA does not offer assessment themselves, but its website has information about steps you can take to have your child's needs assessed by other organisations.
Or you can approach an independent educational psychologist or another suitably qualified professional directly.
You can find a directory of chartered psychologists on the British Psychological Society's website.
You can also contact a national or local dyslexia association for help arranging an assessment.
The assessment procedure
Before the assessment takes place, you and your child's school may be sent a questionnaire that asks about your child and related issues, such as:
- the general state of their health
- how well they perform certain tasks
- what you think needs to change
The assessment itself may involve observing your child in their learning environment, talking with key adults involved with your child's learning, and asking your child to take part in a series of tests.
These tests may examine your child's:
- reading and writing abilities
- language development and vocabulary
- logical reasoning
- the speed they can process visual and auditory (sound) information
- organisational skills
- approaches to learning
What happens afterwards
After your child has been assessed, you'll receive a report that outlines their strengths and weaknesses, with recommendations of what could be done to improve areas they're having difficulties with.
Depending on the severity of your child's learning difficulties, it may be possible for their difficulties to be managed through special educational needs (SEN) support, an action plan drawn up by their school and their parents.
SEN support replaces the individual education plan (IEP), but some schools may still use IEPs.
In a small number of cases where a child's difficulties do not improve and progress does not seem to be made, you may want to request a fuller assessment that covers all aspects of your child's development.
This would result in a more formal educational plan being drawn up for your child, known as an education healthcare plan (EHC).
This sets out what your child's educational needs are and the support required to meet those needs in a document that's reviewed formally every year.
Visit GOV.UK for more information about children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).