Teenager feels 'failed' by education system for not getting a dyslexia diagnosis

  • ITV News' Katie Ridley has been looking into the issue of dyslexia diagnosis.

A teenager who struggled to get a dyslexia diagnosis at school has described how she feels she was failed by the education system.

Matilda Johnson, 16, found reading and writing difficult at primary school, and often felt like she was falling behind with her work.

Her mother Lisa Johnson pushed for her to get a dyslexia assessment at school, but it was not possible and she ended up having to pay hundreds of pounds to get Matilda diagnosed privately.

"All the way through primary school, I was always asking for support, which we didn't really get," said Mrs Johnson.

"Then when she got to high school, we did ask quite a lot what help she could get when she was coming up for a GCSE as she got an assessment done.

"She was then given 25% extra time in her GCSEs and the option to use a laptop which was very helpful," she added.

Matilda was finally diagnosed with dyslexia when she was nine years old and said she often wondered what her primary school experience would have been like if she had been diagnosed sooner.

She told ITV News: "I do feel that like I've been failed by the education system because for so long I felt like I was stupid and that there was something wrong with me before I got my diagnosis. If I had never got that diagnosis, I would still feel that way.

"I don't think I would have done well in school and I don't think I would do very well mentally."

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that often affects people's reading, writing and spelling, and affects more than six million people in the UK.

How is it diagnosed?

The only way dyslexia can be formally diagnosed is though a diagnostic assessment carried out by a certified dyslexia assessor.

According to the British Dyslexia Association a school does not need a formal diagnosis to put support in place.

How can you get a child diagnosed?

The first step is to meet with a schools special educational needs co-ordinator to discuss any concerns and put support in place.

If your child continues to have difficulties despite interventions, you can ask for them to be referred for assessment by a local authority educational psychologist or another specialist in dyslexia.

According to the British Dyslexia Association the earlier people are diagnosed with dyslexia the more support they can get while in education.

Some schools across the country screen all of their pupils to see if they could potentially have dyslexia.

This does not diagnose the child, but can can identify the condition and refer them for a formal assessment.

Forest Academy in Brandon in Suffolk screens all of its pupils for the learning difficulty.

Claire Edmeades, special educational needs co-ordinator said: "We can detect from early years, so when they're in reception and they start to learn phonics.

"So right from that early age, we are robustly making sure that they are picking up the sound at the same rate as everyone else," said Ms Edmeades.

"And if we find that a gap starts to form, then they go on my list and then as soon as they're old enough, then we get the more robust assessments done."

Forest Academy in Brandon have put in place specialist support for students who they think might be dyslexic. Credit: ITV News

However this is not a routine practice for every school and some pupils will not have access to a screening test.

The charity Made By Dyslexia is now calling for the government to provide more funding for teachers so they can have specialist training on how to spot the signs of dyslexia.

They are also urging for dyslexia screening to be compulsory for schools.

Katie Griggs, founder of Made by Dyslexia, said: “We have just done some research that shows that 95% of schools say that they need more training to identify and support dyslexia. So we need to be training every teacher, because every teacher is teaching dyslexic children.

"The government needs to make screening a compulsory thing for all schools to do [and] they need to make sure all teachers are trained.

"And they also need to look at how they're testing and assessing children because the way that we're doing that currently is hugely disadvantaging dyslexic children, who have exactly the thinking that the workplace is looking for."

The government said the SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan would "reform" the support for children across the country.

A Department for Education spokesperson told ITV News: “All state-funded schools must make sure reasonable adjustments can be made to cater to individual pupils’ needs while providing a balanced curriculum.

"Our recent SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan will reform the support system for children, prioritising earlier intervention and creating consistent high standards across the country.

“We are also putting significant investment into the high needs budget to support local authorities, including a further £440m for 2024-25, bringing total funding to £10.5bn – an increase of over 60% since 2019-20.”