She has dyslexia, is there any point in her learning spellings?

I have been waiting for today with eager anticipation. Today was results day.

Results for what? Let me explain.

Two of my children have dyslexia. ย They are intelligent, bright individuals, who happen to somehow be wired to read what is written in a totally different way to the rest of us. It is not a tragedy or something I stress over, but it does make school a challenge. Even in today’s modern thinking world, there are some who judge my children on the results they achieve in exams. In exams which do not take their reading difficulty into account.small_2441457811

Earlier today I was commenting on the facebook page of the blogger Dr Hows Science Wows. We were commenting on a report into Education in Finland, and how successful it is. Over there there is no standardised testing and no league or grading of schools. I went on a major rant shared with her my opinion on testing.

In my experience there is little point in yearly testing of our children in primary school. If we or the teacher believes there is an issue then by all means have them tested, otherwise twice in total is enough.
These tests our children are subjected to were initially to be given twice during primary school, (between the ages of 5 and 12 years). However in many schools now it seems to be done in an unofficial capacity every year.

Why?

Probably for a number of reasons. Parental pressure, departmental pressure as the numbers who “fail” can be used to ensure adequate resource teachers in the school, and school pressure, to be able to see how all pupils/teachers are performing.

This leaves me as a parent of a child with dyslexia very frustrated. I know she has dyslexia and I know exactly how she will perform. Why then must I put my child through three hours of testing?

Let me enlighten you as to the way my daughter approaches these tests.
She tells me she reads the question on the paper.
“Which is the odd one out?”. BLAH, BLAH, Or BLAH?
As she cannot read the words she cannot answer the question. If someone read it to her she would have no difficulty.
So she approaches this and other questions in a similar manner. She answers A, B, C or D trying to mix up the letters in an attempt to guess the answers.
There are other questions on the paper.
Which word is spelled correctly? ? or ? or ? or ?
What is the point of my daughter answering these questions? She hasn’t a clue of the answer. Once again it is just a random guess.

So for hours she sits there and feels stupid. She tries to make a joke of it to herself but I have seen her come home after these tests and she is a little girl who has lost so much confidence. What on earth is the point?

Clearly none.

The same is true for a lot of tests my daughter does in school. Unless there is someone to read the questions to her there really is no point in her doing them, as she is not on a level playing field with her peers.

So we have begun a social experiment. photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dwulff/17892243/">David Wulff</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Last Monday she came home from school and triumphantly produced her Friday spelling test. I was genuinely surprised. It was a lot better than she usually does. She had not got all her spellings right, but she had got quite a few right. I gave her great praise, and then she said, “Actually Mum, I forgot to learn them last Thursday night”.
I was momentarily taken aback, but I must admit I was inwardly amused. For years I’d been revising her spellings with her, all the time believing it was pointless, a time in our lives we would never get back!

Fast forward to the following Thursday night. I asked her had she learned her spellings. “Mum, she said I think I do better not learning them”. I hesitated and then I said, “Okay, lets try it once more. Don’t learn them and we’ll see how you do”.

So the results are in and guess what? She got more right than usual. Once again she had done better without learning them. What does that say about learning spellings when you have dyslexia? I’m not sure, but I think if you ask me “Will she be learning spellings this Thursday night?”, I’ll say, “lets continue the experiment another week”, and like my daughter, inwardly I’ll be dancing!.

photo credit: David Wulff via photopin cc
photo credit: Jamison Wieser via photopin cc
photo credit: ludwg via photopin cc

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25 thoughts on “She has dyslexia, is there any point in her learning spellings?

  1. I totally agree with you, Tric. I used to be an elementary grade teacher and whenever I gave tests (only because I HAD to), I would always give them orally to my dyslexic students. They always passed with flying colors! I really wish administrative “educators” would get their heads out of – well, you know.

    1. Thanks Susan Irene, your pupils were very lucky. Luckily my children too have met amazing teachers, but the system is not able for them at all. It takes a lot of work to ensure they remain confident in their own intelligence and not get sidetracked by poor results.

  2. I was very surprised when my 6 yr old in senior infants came home last week to tell us they had no homework because they had done a very big test that day that was kinda hard!! Thought they were a bit young for tests… That’s great that your daughter has found a way that works for her, learning them off probably jumbles it up more for her, hope the experiment continues to work for her ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I do too, but I do worry that I am giving her the wrong message, but as she is my fourth child it is very nice to be on a spelling break.
      I think it’s sad to hear that little ones are being tested, especially when they know they are. At least your little one, and you, had a night off homework.

  3. It wasn’t a rant really, just an “enthusiastic” discussion ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for the mention. It baffles me in our current education system where dyslexia is so well recognised that it is still so poorly catered to.

    1. Yes. I suppose in a way we are lucky because my two are so obviously dyslexic. The older one got a reader for his leaving, hopefully this little lady will too, but it’s a long road ahead.
      So think about me celebrating on Thursday. Joy no spellings. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love the look of your new website.

  4. Tric they do standardized testing here as well. I believe for the most part it ALL comes down to funding. Because it sure isn’t making things better for the student. Some of our most brilliant minds came from log cabins, stone cabins, one room school houses, or self taught individuals. Schools will ruin themselves (or the politicians who make ridiculous laws for schools to follow).

    And seeing as how this is 2014….why don’t they get it? Brilliance is not in spelling. How many brilliant, and I mean successful and advanced persons, do we have who are dyslexic, or other wise “learning challenged”.

    I admire you and all parents/teachers who work with how the child DOES learn and doesn’t focus on what methods they can’t learn by.

    1. Thanks for that endorsement. There is such a fine line between encouraging my little one and letting her see how ridiculous some of what she is being asked to do is.
      But as for no spellings… I’m delighted to be taking part in this social experiment. ๐Ÿ™‚
      I hope it is better for the next generation, but i’m not convinced things over here are going in the right direction.

  5. i love this tric and you have removed the stress leading up to the test for her. you know how i feel (very strongly against) testing children. and i have read about finland’s philosophy on this and totally agree. if someone who learns differently must be tested, then offer it to them in a chance that will help them to succeed.

    1. Your little ones in your care are very lucky. My daughters teacher is excellent too and does the best she can, but it is the system. I am loving our social experiment though. Another spelling free day tomorrow!

  6. What you describe is a major shortcoming of testing: a snapshot based on a single assessment cannot ever provide the same insight as the opinion of a teacher who has spent all year with a pupil. Dyslexia is not a barrier to achievement given appropriate accommodations. One of the most brilliant people I work with is dyslexic (Dr. James Cain), as is my brother who obtained a degree and is a certified accountant. Intelligence is not defined by the ability to put letters into order.

    1. I so agree and if our children can make it through school with some confidence remaining I have no doubt they will excel as nothing they ever encounter can be as hard again.
      My son has made it to college and is doing so well. Just another seven years before this little one gets her chance. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. It is great, that your daughter feel, she has found her way to manage the school.
    There are private schools, who work without testing, because they know, how tough those tests are for the kids. They learn in different ways there. I have been teacher in such schools and the results are wonderful for all the kids, when they don’t have this kind of pressure in their daily life.

    1. It just goes to show they could do just as well without so many tests. We’ll just have to keep doing what we can to try to ensure she stays confident in her ability.

  8. I notice that you are in Ireland. Obviously I am not familiar with the educational system there, as I live in Georgia in the United States, but I have great concern for public school education here, and it sounds like Ireland places the same emphasis on testing as the U.S. does. Without going off and doing a 5,000 word comment, I’ll just say that I’m a believer in Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. http://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html
    I always enjoy reading the stories about a student admitted to Harvard or Yale or another Ivy League school, and they were homeschooled or even “unschooled” in the wilds of Minnesota without electricity at home, without shopping malls, and such as that. Fantastic!!
    Children need to be led to love learning for learning’s sake, to get excited about all the wondrous things there are to learn about in life, and their little minds will blossom.

    1. That was a really interesting read. Thank you for sharing it with me. I am very much in agreement with it.
      Come back to me in ten to fifteen years time and I’ll tell you if I’m sorry we didn’t do her spellings.

  9. A dear friend of mine is dyslexic. She is also a professor of English, a published author and a complete and utter sweetheart. She uses spellcheck, asks people to check her work, dictates things, and general maintains a good sense of humour about her situation. My brother can barely spell his own name. This has not stopped him from being a successful architect. My teaching motto is: remediate until remediation does not prove successful and the compensate. We are so luck to live an age where we have technology to help us with the things that are challenging to us. For me, that’s a GPS. Curse my lack of spatial awareness!

    1. Thank you for giving me such hope. I agree that we are so lucky to have modern technology. I think it will be of huge benefit to my children in years to come, with spellcheck and speaking text etc. A few years of spelling tests to go first though. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Argghh. Spelling tests. I don’t understand how teachers can still give these knowing what we know now. I do one test at the beginning of the year that tells me what they need to be working on (vowels, consonant blends,whatever) and then each child has his/her own word study program. Then they progress at their own pace. It just makes more sense (to me, anyway). Your kids will be fine – they have a mom who is on their side!

  10. Definitely not a barrier for achievement! But I think you know that already Tric. I know three people with dyselxia. All have completed their master’s degrees, and one of them did two! Irish Universities seem well equipped to support their students with dyslexia.. I’m not looking forward to my little ones being tested at school though.

    1. I think for most children the tests are no bother at all. It is just for little ones like mine they are, and they do her confidence no good at all. I’m sure your two will do great.
      I get all militant and protective when it is time for them. My daughter loves me getting all annoyed though and smiles away at my rants.

      1. Aw. At least she is reassured that you are in her side and she can see the system is flawed. We had a parent-teacher meeting last week. I just want to hear they are normal 4 year-olds.. They run around, just want to play all the time, need to be told ten times to put their coats on. That’s pretty normal for 4 year-olds I reckon!

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