Tuesday 3rd December is the United Nation’s International Day of Disabled Persons. The aim is to promote the wellbeing and rights of people with disabilities across society. Although dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence, under the law it is defined as a disability. The Equality Act 2010 defines a disability as ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition that has a significant impact on a person’s daily life.
Here we talk about the legal rights of children with dyslexia and what provision you can expect from your child’s school.
Identifying special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
The SEND Code of Practice: 0-25 Years is the government’s statutory guidance for all organisations working children and young people with SEND. This guidance is based upon the Equalities Act 2010, the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014. Under section 6.2 of the SEND Code schools are ‘required to identify and address the SEN of the pupils that they support’. In doing so they must:
- Publish how they identify and assess SEND so this is clear to you.
- Identify and do everything possible to meet your child’s needs.
- Ensure that your child is included in activities with other children in the class.
- Inform you when they plan to make special educational provision for your child.
- Actively involve you and your child in any decisions they make regarding them.
- Regularly review whether the provision they are making for your child is working and how they will make any improvements.
- Make sure you know what steps they take to ensure children with SEND aren’t discriminated against and have the same chances to succeed as everybody else.
Identifying dyslexia from the earliest possible point (around the age of 5 or 6) is important so that provision can be put in place for the child straightaway to improve their long-term outcomes. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) told BBC News that schools are ‘failing to diagnose at least 80% of dyslexic pupils’ and they blamed cuts in funding for this failing. The BDA identified that undiagnosed children have ‘significantly poorer results and far higher incidents of disruptive behaviour’.
Is my child being discriminated against?
The Equality Act 2010 defines disability discrimination as:
- Penalising a child by failing to accommodate their needs. For example, by not allowing a guide dog in school or by penalising the child for having time off for medical appointments.
- Direct discrimination. When a child receives worse treatment than other children because of their disability.
- Indirect discrimination. When a school has a policy or particular method of working that has a negative impact on a disabled child, unless the school can provide a water-tight justification for this.
- Failure to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate disabled children. See below for more about reasonable adjustments.
- When a child is treated in such a way that they feel distressed, intimidated, humiliated, degraded or offended.
- When a child is poorly treated because their parents have made a complaint against the institution.
Unlawful discrimination covers all school activities including:
- After school clubs such as homework clubs and sports and leisure activities.
- School trips.
- Access to school facilities like IT facilities, for example.
What are ‘reasonable adjustments’?
Under the Equality Act 2010, schools must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that the disabled child is not discriminated against. Reasonable adjustments could include reviewing policies, raising staff awareness, arranging training for staff so that they can meet the child’s particular needs, providing resources to support the child, changing the arrangement of the room, or making adjustments to routines. Examples of reasonable adjustments for a dyslexic child are:
- Allowing the child extra thinking time before answering a question.
- Breaking down information or instructions into smaller chunks.
- Providing coloured overlays.
- Giving handouts in lessons so the child doesn’t have to take notes or copy from a board.
- Providing handouts printed on coloured paper.
- Using a dyslexic-friendly font (and font size) in printed materials.
- Changing the colour of a computer screen.
- Providing assistive technologies.
- Teaching in multi-sensory ways.
- Providing exam access arrangements.
I think my child is being discriminated against – what can I do?
First arrange a meeting with the headteacher, special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) and class teacher to discuss your concerns. If no satisfactory action is taken then you can escalate your complaint by:
- Talking to the school’s governing body or academy trust.
- Following the school complaints procedure – all schools have a written procedure.
- Contacting your Local Education Authority (LEA) or Education Funding Agency (EFA).
- Claiming unlawful discrimination through the Special Educational Needs and Disability First Tier Tribunal. The Citizens Advice Bureau are a source of free, impartial guidance and support.
How we can help your child
Our sister company, Tutor My Kids, can put you in touch with a specialist dyslexic tutor who will tailor their teaching style and set the pace of learning to suit your child.
Our tutors believe in setting high expectations for children and addressing barriers to learning at the outset so that they feel happier and more confident to achieve in school too. Please get in touch to discuss your child’s needs.