06 Oct New Research Findings Launched
The Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI) is delighted to be marking Dyslexia Awareness Week by holding an online briefing session today (October 6th, 2021) for Oireachtas members.
The DAI will be presenting the lived experience of people with dyslexia in Ireland as well as releasing new findings from two large surveys conducted in September 2021 which illustrate the experience of (i) those directly affected by dyslexia (adults and students with dyslexia and their parents/guardians) and (ii) teachers working in the Irish education system.
The findings of the survey highlight some of the mental health, educational and financial implications of dyslexia, especially when it goes unidentified and unsupported.
Access to dyslexia identification is a real challenge. 79% of respondents reported waiting more than 2 years for an assessment and 39% waited more than 4 years. Only 23% were able to access a public dyslexia assessment (e.g. NEPS), leaving the majority with no option but to seek an expensive private assessment. This drives inequality and places families under financial strain. The average estimated cost related to managing dyslexia has increased to €1,426 per year, an increase of 9% relative to 2019 data (€1,334). DAI CEO Rosie Bissett noted “Access to dyslexia identification should be open to all and free at the point of need. Dyslexia assessment enables understanding of an individual’s profile. It is not about labelling a child or adult, but instead re-labelling them, casting aside negative labels like ‘stupid’ or ‘lazy’ and instead understanding and embracing the individual’s unique neurodiverse profile of strengths and challenges. This understanding is very positive for mental health and well-being.”
100% of teachers report having students in their class with unidentified dyslexia – a third of these stated that they had five or more undiagnosed dyslexic students. 91% of both parents and teachers report that having a child’s dyslexia identified helps them to better understand and support their learning needs. The majority of parents and teachers also report improved self-esteem, confidence and mental health after dyslexia identification.
Another finding from the survey is the urgent need for training about dyslexia for all teachers. Less than 20% of teachers reported getting any training on dyslexia during their initial teacher training, and only 3% felt prepared for dealing with dyslexia in the classroom. Just over half of teachers have had some in-service training on dyslexia, but not a sufficient amount. Over 96% of teachers said they would benefit from more training on dyslexia identification, interventions and assistive technology. Donald Ewing, DAI’s Head of Education, Training and Policy stated “DAI is calling for basic training for all teachers, enhanced training for Special Education Teachers, and the establishment of dyslexia specialist teachers who are trained to identify dyslexia and support schools on best practice in terms of their support provision for dyslexic students. With only 40% of parents satisfied with the level of support their child receives in school, and only 46% of teachers feeling that they are adequately supporting dyslexic students in their classrooms, it is clear that investment is needed to address the ongoing deficits in provision.”
The quality of support and teacher knowledge in reading schools and classes was noted by parents, but for many these are not an option as there is no such provision in many areas, even if a child meets the criteria for enrolment. 85% of parents feel that children with significant dyslexia should be able to access the support that they need in their own school. Bissett stated “In an ideal world where teachers are fully trained and schools adequately resourced to cater for all children with dyslexia, reading classes or schools would not be needed. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and the reality for some children with significant dyslexia is that their needs are simply not being met in mainstream provision. DAI believes in equity of access and therefore all children who have very severe dyslexia, and whose parents wish them to be in a reading class, should have equitable access to this as an option for their education.”
Only 2% of DAI members are satisfied with the current level of support provided by the government to assist individuals and families with dyslexia. Both parents and teachers agree that the top priority should be the upskilling of all teachers about dyslexia. Teachers surveyed also called for additional Special Education Teaching (SET) hours and the creation of dyslexia specialists posts within or shared between schools. Lack of access to assistive technology, the urgent need to review how grants are provided for this, and the need to enhance the use of such technology in schools were also noted.
Both surveys asked about the impact of Covid-19 and remote learning on children and young people with dyslexia. For many, remote learning was hugely challenging, and often compounded in situations of socio-economic disadvantage, or where parents were working on the frontline. 58% of parents felt that their children had fallen further behind in their literacy skills during the pandemic, and 44% of teachers felt that dyslexic students were more severely affected than their non-dyslexic peers. Both parents and teachers reported a drop in standardised test results between 2019 and 2021. There were also some positives, however. Some parents spotted the signs of dyslexia while home-schooling during lockdown. Others noted literacy improvements due to the one-to-one support from parents, less pressure from homework, and reduced stress and anxiety as a result of not being in the school environment.
Bissett concluded “All the evidence shows that early intervention and support for young people with dyslexia makes a huge difference educationally and emotionally, and is also more cost-effective in the long run. At our briefing today and in our ongoing advocacy work, we will be asking Oireachtas members for their commitment to appropriate provision for the 1 in 10 people in Ireland who have dyslexia.”
Commenting on the importance of Dyslexia Awareness Week, Rosie Bissett, CEO of DAI, said, “People with dyslexia bring real personal strengths and add beneficial neurodiversity to our schools, workplaces and communities. They have a right to have their needs identified early and should be able to access appropriate supports. While our education system has made advances in some areas, our research clearly shows that there is much more to be done.”
We also welcome the Seanad discussion on dyslexia scheduled for 18:00 this evening.
More detail on both surveys can be downloaded below: