English Summer Schools and Dyslexia
Should I send a child or teenager who I think is dyslexic to an English summer school or camp?
Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. You can read about the symptoms of dyslexia at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia/symptoms/
The term dyslexia is sometimes controversial. In some countries it is barely recognised; in others it is increasingly or routinely accepted as a condition requiring an appropriate educational response. What is sure is that all children who fall behind with their reading or writing need support.
A child 'diagnosed' with dyslexia might already have problems learning their first language. So is it a good idea to start them on a second language? If so, can English summer camp help?
To answer these questions, we need to emphasise that a struggle with reading or writing does not indicate that a child is unintelligent or lazy. Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, John F Kennedy, John Lennon, Pablo Picasso and many other famous and successful people past and present were and are reportedly dyslexic. For a full list see https://www.helenarkell.org.uk/about-dyslexia/famous-dyslexics.php
Being dyslexic does not make a child a genius, but dyslexia does not necessarily disadvantage a child’s life chances either. Not learning English, however, almost certainly will disadvantage a child. This is because English is commonly used around the world as a medium of communication between people from different countries and cultures. Being able to speak English opens up career opportunities and educational and social pathways that might otherwise remain closed. Dyslexic pupils, then, should certainly learn English.
Pupils who struggle with reading or writing might have feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. They might have gained the impression that they are stupid or lazy. English summer schools and camps can give such pupils a sympathetic and supportive educational experience. Summer school can help them to understand that their problems with reading and writing need not be a barrier to progress and that they can enjoy fun, friendship and learning like every other pupil on the camp.
If you think your child struggles more than normal with reading or writing, tell the school before the pupil arrives. This will enable the school to respond appropriately. For example, many summer schools ask pupils to sit a written placement test shortly after arrival. This might worry the child and give misleading results. However a school that is aware of a child’s difficulties can use a simple verbal assessment instead to ensure that the child is placed in the correct class for his or her general level of English.
Once in class, a professionally qualified teacher who is aware that a pupil has particular problems with reading or writing can use various techniques to help. For example the teacher can use mnemonics, art and humour to help students memorise the spelling of difficult words. This will not only help 'dyslexic' pupils, it will also make the class more interesting for the other pupils. There is not time to discuss all the strategies here, but for a useful article on this see https://www.eflmagazine.com/dyslexia-efl-learning/
The English Language teaching profession is increasingly aware of 'dyslexia' and how to deal with it. As a parent wishing to send a child to an English summer school, check to see that the school or camp is properly Accredited - see https://www.britishcouncil.org/education/accreditation. This will provide assurance that the school meets or exceeds agreed professional standards in teaching - as well as in care of under 18s, resources and environment and general management. In addition, schools that are members of professional associations such as Young Learners English UK receive additional professional support and training in areas such as working with pupils who struggle to read or write - see http://yleuk.com/
Finally, it is important to understand that the learning of English on an English summer camp can continue well beyond the classroom. On an international summer camp pupils will hear and use English all day long - on the sports field, during social activities, at meal times and during free time, while they mix and make new friends with pupils from different countries and cultures. Pupils with 'dyslexia' can improve their general English comprehension and their spoken English outside the classroom as easily as any other pupil on an international summer course.
Who knows, English summer school might even help us to find the next Albert Einstein!
© Christopher Etchells, English Country Schools, February 2019, updated 17 September 2020
You can read more about ECS residential English Language summer courses in the UK for children and teenagers here
Related resources can be found at:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/sep/17/battle-over-dyslexia-warwickshire-staffordshire - Does Dyslexia really exist? Does it matter?
https://hampsteadandfrognaltutors.org.uk/dyslexia-guide/ - Tests, Apps, and the latest technology to help with Dyslexia
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/dyslexia - free and paid short courses for teachers on Dylsexia and Foreign Language Teaching
http://dystefl2.uni.lodz.pl/ - Dyslexia for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language 2 - including a full self-study course
https://ipsen.iatefl.org/about-ipsensig - Inclusive Practices and Special Educational Needs - special interest group of IATEFL - offering
http://eltwell.com/ - company offering dyslexia (and other neuro-diverse) assessments, training, individual tuition, resources, etc
British Dyslexia Association – https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
NHS Dyslexia – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dyslexia
Dyslexie Font Plugin – https://www.dyslexiefont.com/