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Interview with parents and family background

Children that grow up in an environment where they are encouraged to use the written language from early years will have an advantage in learning writing/reading unlike those who do not experience reading or writing other places then in school.

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To make sure we understand the influence and teachings the pupil/student has experienced growing up, the interview with the parents can give a lot of important information. This will give the assessor the ascertains of a confidence level for the testing of the pupil/student’s level of reading and writing ability. 

There are a lot of information that can be found when interviewing parents and assessing the pupil/student’s environment now and growing up. Children that grow up in an environment where they are encouraged to use the written language from early years will have an advantage in learning writing/reading unlike those who do not experience reading or writing other places then in school.  This will put the pupils/students in different stages of reading/writing ability, not only accordingly to age – but also accordingly to how they’re environment have affected them.

To make sure we understand the influence and teachings the pupil/student has experienced growing up, the interview with the parents can give a lot of important information. This will give the assessor the ascertains of a confidence level for the testing of the pupil/student’s level of reading and writing ability.  When children are dyslectic, there is a strong possibility that one or both parents also have dyslexia. This can be undiscovered or undiagnosed, and for some shameful to talk about. When interviewing parents and discussing the child it is important that we take into consideration the parent’s possible difficulties.  

Studies show that pupils that have parents with dyslexia have on average a 45 % risk of developing dyslexia themselves. Studies (Snowling and Melbye Leirvåg 2016) show that the difficulties of dyslexia were present at earlier ages, even as toddlers. In the early years these presented themselves as slow language development, and as children started school they showed difficulties with phonological awareness, as well as rapid naming and grammar and terms.

When we speak with the parents, it is important to find out if there is any history of reading/writing-difficulties, language difficulties or mathematics-difficulties in the family as that strongly suggests that the pupil/student is at risk (Midtbø Aas 2021). We can also discover how the student/pupil’s early language development have been, like vocabulary, articulation and so on. Like when did the child begin to speak, has the child been read too a lot or has he/she taken an extra interest in reading at any point or indeed lost an interest at some point.

Any pupil/student that is tested for dyslexia, should also be tested for other difficulties or impairments, such as seeing- and hearing difficulties. If not for any other reasons to rule them out as a source of the troubles. There is also a high level of comorbidity between dyslexia and diagnoses like ADD/ADHD. One does not rule out the other, but it helps the assessor to form a greater picture of the person being tested to know what has been tested for and if there is any other problem-areas then learning reading and writing.  

The pupil/student will have had language teaching in school, and how that teaching has been done can be important to the assessor to get a clear picture of how this has impacted the language level the pupil/student is at. Have there been many different teachers involved or a consistent pedagogical way of teaching, this could be for numerous reasons like moving, changing schools or staff-practice at schools.

Dyslexia is recognized as a persistent difficulty; this means that time and measures to overcome the difficulty have shown little to no effect. There may have been some sort of specially adapted measures taken along the language training, and it will be of importance to the assessor to hear if they have had any effect (Pene 2019).

To be able to compare how the pupil/student performs during tests vs what we can expect from the pupil according to age, it will be of great help to know if he or she has experienced any emotional or motivational problems in their language-learning, and the parents can be of help identifying this.

Parents can have great expectations to the assessment, and many questions. A good interview with the parents gives the assessor a good occasion to answer these questions, clear any misconceptions and give advice on how they can best support their child. Staff who attempt to understand the parent’s frame of reference are more probabelly going to reach them in a way that is helpful for their child. The parents can also be of great help with homework and support for the use of aids.

The parents of a child has in depth knowledge on how the childs development have been on language, motor skills, sight and hearing, if there is any similar symptoms in the family, when the difficulties showed themselves and how the difficulty is today. Knowledge on what the child is experiensing that they need help with, such as motivational, attitudes and confidense is a good guide to determine how to best help the child  in dealing with the difficulties.   

When children come for assessment, the age can vary. Depending on the age, the questions for parents will be different. This is because symptoms of dyslexia can present themselves differently in different stages of learning and development. If we want to know how the difficulties affect the child, we can ask different sort of questions.

When the young child was learning to read and write, it will be valuable to know how the problems presented themselves and at what age. Like for instance when a child mixes letters that have a similar form, this can point towards visual problems. (Lundeberg & Høien, 2019)

If the child has shown difficulty in spelling words that are spoken to them, this can point more towards a phonetic issue. Some show signs of jumbling letters and struggling with spelling over time, and this can point at sequencing problems.  [MP1] [SG2] 

What measurements/aids or different techniques have been tried in school – if any? The progress in the earliest days of school can give vital information to help the assessment. Have there been a consistent teaching environment, or has there been changes in teachers, schools or other things that have affected the progress of the child’s reading and writing training? If there has been a change for the worse, what went missing in the teaching? Or if there was a change for the better, what specifically made it better or easier? The answers to these questions can help a long way to point at what kind of difficulties the child is facing.

As the person that is being assessed gets older, they can better explain how the difficulty is affecting them. But the age can also have given them time to overcome or compensate for some of the problems they have experienced. Because of this it is important for the assessment that the different ways problems have occurred is uncovered. Parents and teachers can give vital information about this.

In assessing dyslexia, it is important for the assessor to see the big picture – to fully understand how the difficulties occur and emerges faced with what tasks. Dyslexia is not the same for every dyslectic and will influence dyslectics in different ways. A big picture understanding of how the dyslexia is affecting each individually is key to aiding and implementing the right measures for helping the person overcome the difficulties presented. A good interview with the parents will give a lot of information to this big picture.  

 Sources:

Dyslexia Handbook for teachers. Åsne Midtbø Aas 2021

Dyslexia, from theory to practice. Høien/Lundberg 2019

When measurements don’t have an effect. Article in newsletter 12019 Spesialpedagogikk – Når tiltakene ikke har effekt – en kasusbeskrivelse av en elev med dysleksi. https://www.utdanningsnytt.no/files/2020/02/19/Spesialpedagogikknr12019.pdf

(Pene. 2019)

Oral language deficits in familial dyslexia: A meta-analysis and review. Snowling, M.J. and Melbye-Leirvåg, M. (2016)

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