Dyslexia FAQ

Frequently asked questions regarding support for dyslexia in Skerries Educate Together NS


  • ‘Children with dyslexia do not get resource hours.’  – Can you explain this process & how the department of education determine a school use resource hours?


The system for allocating additional support for children with dyslexia (or other learning difficulty) has changed in recent years.  No longer does a child need to have a diagnosis of a recognised learning difficulty for them to be eligible to receive learning support (i.e. help from another teacher either in class or through withdrawal in a small group or on an individual basis).  Instead the school has the flexibility to respond to the learning needs of the children as they see fit.  This support starts with in-class differentiation by the class teacher (e.g. by giving the child slightly easier work to do, or by giving them more time to complete the assigned work).  Should this not prove to be sufficient to meet the needs of the child (in consultation with parents/guardians) then further support, involving the learning support teacher, will be considered.  In the case of a child with dyslexia, it is quite possible that they are managing well generally with their school work and may just need some support from their class teacher to help them.  In this case there may be no involvement of the learning support teacher.  Equally however, some children with dyslexia may need more intensive support that requires them to work with the learning support teacher.  It is really worked out on a case by case basis, so that whatever means of support that works best for the child is put in place, wherever possible.


  • ‘Intervention programmes are designed by classroom teacher and learning support teacher.’

Does the learning support teacher have specific dyslexia training?

In all teacher training courses, there is considerable time spent on planning for children with learning difficulties.  The area of Special Education Teaching (SET) is growing in importance in teacher training all the time, especially as children enrolling in school today have a wide range of abilities and difficulties.  Teachers working with children with dyslexia have all gone through this training programme and they are also encouraged to avail of additional courses in specific areas such as dyslexia (often during the summer and referred to as Continued Professional Development, or CPD, courses) which they do in their own time.


  • Are teachers designing their own individual programme or is there a school standard or program they use?

As each child with dyslexia has a different level of ability and difficulties, an individual plan is put in place for each child.  This is based on the report that was issued at the time of the diagnosis being made and the recommendations that are included in this report.   By this stage, the school has built up a significant amount of experience and expertise in working with these psychological reports and in implementing the recommendations with children.


  • How is continuity maintained from one year to the next?

The child’s support plan (or support file), referred to above, is a document that is updated twice yearly in consultation with parents, teachers and the child themselves.  At the end of the year, a review of the plan for the preceding year is carried out and this is passed on to the child’s teacher and learning support teacher (if necessary) for the following year.  By keeping all of this information together in this type of document, it ensures that all interventions and the learning development of the child can be tracked effectively.


  • ‘MICRA-T doesn’t cover phonics accurately enough to inform teachers about reading difficulties.’  – Why do some SETNS teachers use this as a primary classroom assessment for determining the teaching plan and supports?

The primary assessment tool for determining which children receive academic support for reading is the MICRA-T test which is carried out at the end of each school year.  This is an assessment of reading levels of all children in Irish schools, from the least to the most able.  Depending on the score attained in this test, schools are advised to prioritise reading support for those children who are having the greatest difficulty.  This can mean that a child with dyslexia is not recommended for learning support if they are managing well with their reading in class generally.


  • An in school screening test called the Dyslexia Portfolio (by Martin Turner) can only inform….Does this mean it cannot diagnose?

Yes, this is correct.  The Dyslexia Portfolio is a screening test for children who display characteristics of dyslexia and gives an indication of the likelihood of them actually being dyslexic.  In order for a diagnosis to be made, an educational psychologist needs to carry out an educational psychological assessment.  This includes a number of different tests of both cognitive ability and literacy skills.  The psychologist will make a diagnosis on the basis of the child’s performance in the test and taking into account the specific background and context of each child.  It is this assessment and subsequent report confirming a diagnosis of dyslexia whereby the condition is identified.


  • WIAT-II, WRAT-4, C-Topp, PhAB – Are all of these needed to diagnose dyslexia?
  • Is this a current list of how dyslexia is diagnosed?
  • And can you advise what tests & subtests are accepted by SETNS for a recognised diagnosis?

The above named assessments are some of the literacy and cognitive assessments that an educational psychologist can use to diagnose dyslexia (and other learning difficulties).  There is no one test that can do this but rather a combination of literacy assessment and cognitive assessments together with information on the background and context of the difficulties facing the child that will be used to confirm or rule out dyslexia.


  • ‘18 months after starting school, teachers should be able to tell whether a child has learning difficulties.’ Is there a universal screening around 1st class, or before or after if at all?

In Skerries ETNS we do use an assessment called the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile at either the end of Junior Infants or during Senior Infants to determine any areas of concern relating to social skills, motor skills and to identify preferred learning styles.  Other assessments that can be used at this time include the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) that assesses elements of early literacy development.  These tests are not carried out across the whole class but in cases where children have been observed by their teachers to have possible issues of concern.


  • The ‘Incoming plan to organise a literacy group of children to meet once a month and share experiences and read together’ sounds really good. What is the timeline on the project being ready? Can parents help?

This has not happened on a whole school basis, although there are many reading groups set up in individual classes to assist children with their reading and then to respond with discussion or other activities.  There are also some reading buddy programmes (where children from older classes will help children in the younger classes with some reading on a one to one basis) that take place at different times during the year.  It would be best to liaise with your child’s class teacher to see if this is happening in their class.


  • What is ‘ICT’ and what are the ‘hardware and software supports’ for children with dyslexia? Are these all available in the school and what children with dyslexia can & cannot access them? Is funding needed to further add to supports needed by the school?

ICT refers to Information and Communications Technology, essentially using computers and technology to assist with reading.  The ‘hardware and software supports’ refers to specific programmes such as the Nessy Learning Programme and Wordshark/Numbershark programmes which use computer-based methods to engage children with literacy.  As a school we subscribe to these programmes for a number of children each year which allows them to use them in school but also at home with their parents.


  • How are ‘differentiation’ and the child’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ supported? What do they mean?

‘Differentiation’ is a term that refers to a number of strategies used by a teacher to make the learning at the most appropriate level of difficulty for children in the class.  This might mean that the work is made slightly more difficult or slightly easier depending on the child and on the subject being taught.  It should ensure that each child is challenged by the work but is also able to achieve success when they focus on the task objectives.

The term ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ refers to the level of difficulty of the learning material being close to the level that the child has already progressed to.  For example, if a child is competent and confident at reading a book that is graded as being at level 15, then a book in the level 16 or 17 range would be slightly more difficult, but not impossible, for them to read (and therefore it would be in their zone of proximal development).  However, a book at level 25 would be considered to be outside of their zone of proximal development, i.e. it is too far above their current level to be used effectively in their learning at this point in time.


  • ‘The Emotional Climate of the child is paramount…’ What strategies are used by the school to deal with the specific frustrations and anxieties children with dyslexia have? Parents would especially like information about how we can use the same techniques at home.

Essentially this revolves around keeping children positively engaged with their learning.  It is very important that they experience success in school (hence the role of effective differentiation by their teachers) so that their confidence and consequently their motivation to keep learning is sustained at a good working level.  The same approach would be encouraged at home; even reading to your child without asking them to read to you can be a really positive experience that helps them to enjoy reading and prevents it being seen as a chore at all times (this is especially the case when children find certain tasks difficult, as a child with dyslexia often will find reading to be difficult).


  • What is the current policy on the Irish Exemption? Is there a national policy and can a school policy be different? When does the exemption start and what does the child do in place of Irish? Can you advise on what an Irish exemption looks like in practice and continuity year to year during primary school?

The Department of Education and Skills’ (DES) policy on the management of Irish exemptions has recently (August 2019) been updated.  The full details of the changes to the policy can be found by reading circular 0052/2019 which is on www.education.ie  Up until August 2019, parents of children seeking Irish exemptions were required to submit a report from an educational psychologist who had assessed the child’s literacy attainment scores and had found that there was a score below the 10th percentile in at least two areas (word reading test, spelling or reading comprehension).  This has now been changed and there is now no requirement for this assessment and report.  Schools can assess separately for these literacy scores and the school principal will take all relevant factors into consideration when making the decision about whether an exemption is awarded.

Once an exemption is awarded, this can be carried forward to secondary school.  In practice, at primary level, a child with an Irish exemption will stay in their class during Gaeilge lessons and are encouraged to get involved in the oral element of the lesson but there would be no requirement for them to do Gaeilge written work or homework.  Their teacher might sometimes give the child additional English literacy work to complete during Gaeilge lessons also.  Management of the situation is carried out by the class teacher in communication with the child and their parents.


  • Why is Reading Recovery used at the school for dyslexic children if it’s a short-term intervention with 5-6 year olds who can ‘catch up’ with their reading level?

The Reading Recovery programme is indeed a short term (20 week programme) used to help all children with reading difficulties to catch up with their peers.  Some of these children have dyslexia and some do not.  Research has shown that regardless of this, the programme is effective in helping children who are struggling with their reading to make up ground and therefore this is why it is used at times.


  • What can parents expect from an IEP or sometimes referred to as a learning support plan? Are these supported by IEP meetings and if so what can a parent expect from these?  How would parents prepare for one? How often and when are they held?

An IEP (or an Individual Educational Plan) was a term used for an agreed learning plan that was to be implemented to support an individual child over a set period of time (usually one school term).  Now, we use a school support file (which is referred to above) to capture all of the details necessary to support a child with their learning in school.  This document contains background information on difficulties they have presented with during their time in school. Any diagnoses that may have been made, notes on meetings with parents and a summary of the current needs that have been agreed will be focused on in the coming school term.  A meeting with parents to discuss the needs of their child will typically be arranged in October/November to decide on the areas of support that are of most concern and how these will be supported by the Special Education Team (SET) teacher and the class teacher.  Once this document is agreed, together with targets set for the child to attain in certain areas, it is signed by all parties and parents are given a copy for their reference.  This document is then reviewed at the end of the term and another plan is put in place for the term following that, if necessary.


  • What should parents be doing with their child so reading progress isn’t lost over mid terms, summer holidays etc.

By reading regularly with your child at home (either a book, newspaper, magazine, online article, or simply identifying words and letters in the world around them), you will be helping to keep your child on track with their literacy.  By modelling reading and sharing the experience with them you can help to foster a love of words and the written language that will support them in their school work and beyond.


  • What advice would you give parents on seeking support & assisting our children, what is available?

Please read the accompanying section on the website concerning how best to support your child if they have been diagnosed with dyslexia.  We would certainly recommend liaising with (and becoming members of) the Dyslexia Association of Ireland (DAI) for all of the support that they can provide to both children and their families. DAI  has a nationwide network of  workshops, a list of which can be seen at www.dyslexia.ie . These workshops provide specialised tuition in small groups for children from aged seven years of age upwards who have been assessed as having dyslexia. Workshops also provide information and support to parents and families.

Worried about your child’s reading and writing?