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The fish in the tree: Why we are failing children with dyslexia

Most of us take being able to read and write for granted. In fact, it can be difficult to imagine how we would go about our daily lives without literacy skills. Yet one in ten people in the UK are dyslexic – a disability which can seriously affect the ability to read and write. Dyslexia is nothing to do with intelligence. Winston Churchill was dyslexic. So is Richard Branson.

Not everyone, of course, can become Prime Minister or a successful business leader. But with the right support, those with dyslexia can be helped to overcome their literacy challenges.

The tragedy, however, is that this simply is not happening. In too many cases, either the condition is not identified or pupils fail to get the help they need in the classroom. Instead children with dyslexia can find themselves written off as stupid or  accused of being lazy. Not surprisingly, they all too frequently become demoralised and unhappy. They are more likely to leave without qualifications or be excluded from school. The consequences can be enormous. In many cases, it can blight lives. Being unable to read or write properly, for example, makes getting and keeping a job much harder. Four out of ten people out of work are dyslexic.

And it is not just the individual who suffers. Society faces huge costs. It has been estimated that, by the age of 37, each illiterate pupil has cost the tax-payer an
extra £45,000 through school, unemployment support and the criminal justice system. For the sad fact is that as many as one out of every five people in prison suffer from dyslexia.

We know a great deal more about dyslexia than we did in the past. There have also been improvements in recent years in the teaching of literacy. But when nine out of ten parents with dyslexic children still complain about the lack of support they receive from teachers, it is clear they have not gone far enough.