Keeping dyslexia in perspective

THOUSANDS of people in North Somerset are affected by dyslexia – a disability which can have a huge impact on a person’s reading, writing, memory, speech and organisational skills.

Affecting about 10 per cent of the UK population, in North Somerset there could be more than 18,000 people working to overcome its effects.

There is no cure for dyslexia but there are ways of managing its impacts in the hope of minimising the self-esteem and confidence issues which can result.

One charity working to help people in North Somerset is Dyslexia Action, which will run a parents’ awareness evening in Portishead on Monday.

Thanks to funding support from the Portishead Nautical Trust, Dyslexia Action has been working in the town for the past 20 years.

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It runs an outpost centre at the St Barnabas Centre in West Hill, where it puts on specialist lessons for children aged seven to 11.

Principal for Dyslexia Action in Bristol, Helen Donovan said: “We have helped so many different children, many of whom have gone on to be hugely successful.

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“We try to give strategies for helping with it and we teach in a very multi-sensory way. Our lessons are either one to one or two to one.

“There are other things we try to also boost a child’s self esteem. Keeping it in perspective is important.”

Dyslexia can be genetic and is caused by differences in the language areas of the brain or the connections between them.

It primarily affects the skills involved in accurate word reading and spelling as well as verbal memory and verbal processing speed. It can affect a person’s ability to express themselves on paper, however, it does not affect a person’s intelligence and can occur at any level of ability.

Helen said: “Mainly speaking, alarm bells ring at a school parents’ evening when the class teacher may flag up problems with spelling, hand writing, reading or an unexpected under achievement.

“The child may be very bright but their confidence or ability may drop without explanation.”

Dyslexia Action provides advice and support for parents, through sessions such as awareness evenings, and will also carry out assessments to determine whether someone can be diagnosed with dyslexia.

It also works with businesses and organisations to train them on how to deal with someone with dyslexia.

* A dyslexia awareness course for parents and teaching assistants will be held at the St Barnabas Centre in West Hill, Portishead, from 9.30-11.15am on Monday.

The course will cover what dyslexia is, how it can affect individuals, techniques for supporting children at home and school and information about further support.

Places, costing �10 per person, should be booked in advance by calling the Dyslexia Action Bristol centre on 0117 923 9166 or emailing

Dyslexia Action - a complete godsend:

THE Neal family from Nailsea have seen their lives transformed since contacting Dyslexia Action for help and support for 10-year-old Grace.

Described by staff at the charity as one of the most severe cases of dyslexia they have seen, Grace experiences speech and language problems as well as difficulties in reading and writing. She also struggles with the concept of time.

Her parents, David and Michelle, were first alerted to the possibility of her having dyslexia while she was at preschool when an assistant raised concerns about her speech.

During her first year of primary school it also became obvious she was struggling in class. She would show signs of anxiety before going to school and her difficulties resulted in her being separated from most lessons.

David and Michelle first heard about Dyslexia Action when Grace was seven.

For more than two years she attended two hours of specialist lessons at the charity’s base every week, half paid for by her grandparents and half funded by the Portishead Nautical Trust. The charity also provided advice and support to David and Michelle, who attended workshops and met other parents.

David said: “It was massively helpful. It was great to network with other parents who had been on this journey before.”

Due to the severity of Grace’s dyslexia, she has now began full-time lessons at Shapwick Prep School in Somerset, which is dedicated to teaching children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.

Before she started these lessons, however, her parents and staff at Dyslexia Action had to build up a wealth of evidence, including independent psychological assessments, to convince authorities she needed the specialist schooling.

Her reading is now progressing and she no longer gets anxious before school.

David, of Godwin Drive, said: “She is a completely different child now.

“Dyslexia Action has been a complete godsend.”

* For more details about Dyslexia Action visit

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