When I began writing these notes about tracking and reading problems, I thought that tracking was the only problem afflicting my youngster, then about nine years old. But I was wrong. He has severe dyslexia as well as tracking problems and that fact, once recognized, helped me to understand and to solve some of his major difficulties.
Real dyslexia is much more than bad spelling or slow reading. It is best diagnosed by a professional psychologist using what are known as the Weschler tests and this series of about fifteen different tests can give an unusually clear insight into children’s problems. Unlike the tests for tracking, they are suitable for both children and adults, from about 3 years old to 21+.
When my youngster was assessed in this way, using the Weschler tests, a lot of things became clear. For example, he is just as intelligent as we always suspected – on the Weschler tests he scores around 128 or 130 for verbal reasoning and comprehension when the average score (for his age group) would be around 100. He is, in other words, exceptionally bright.
But he is also, to use an old-fashioned but useful phrase, ‘word-blind’. Abstract symbols, like letters and numbers of any type, are very very difficult for him to decipher, to remember and to manipulate. That is why this highly intelligent boy (now aged 13) can’t yet recite his 7 or 8 times tables despite my best and most persistent efforts, can’t yet sort out the difference between ‘right’ and ‘write’ and (in assessing his own progress at school this year) spelt mistakes as ‘mesteks’ and (in a recent e-mail to his father) hair gel as ‘hearjell’ and address as ‘adres’. His father was not impressed.
A psychologist using the Weschler tests will be able to assess the level and type of dyslexia from which a child suffers and will recommend to the school (and to the Exam boards) what level of allowances need to be made for the child. If his or her reading is very bad, a reader should be allowed in exams, probably with a scribe as well. 25% more time to complete exams is normally allowed (though children with a scribe often find so much time excessive.)
Teachers also need to make allowances in day to day work and often they do not bother. Dyslexic children are unlikely to be able to take notes at the same pace as ‘normal’ children and are often quite incapable of reading hand-written notes or notes printed in small fonts. A good school and skilled and sympathetic teachers will take account of these difficulties and allow for them. Not all school or teachers are ‘good’ in these terms.
There is a great deal of information about dyslexia on the internet but not all of it is to be trusted. The first place to go for more information and self-assessment tests is the British Dyslexia Association’s site at:
I am also (June, 2017) starting to create a small series of video blogs about dyslexia and I hope these videos will guide the parents of dyslexics through some of the troubles that they will face. There are details on the Home Page of this blog.