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Counselling and Dyslexia

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My bag is all about dyslexia. With this in mind, I am very keen to highlight the importance of counselling in the assessment and support process of dyslexia. Probably, the most suitable service provider for this whole process in the UK would be the NHS. 

I have conducted hundreds of diagnostic screenings for dyslexia, and the reaction of the individual is generally profound. However, rarely, if ever, is counselling discussed or made available to the person at that time.

I had ‘hardened’ offenders, who had come via the probation service, cry when the screening was positive. We constantly were buying boxes of tissues for the clients to use. The individual being tested was suddenly being confronted with an explanation as to why they struggled with a range of issues. They had not been diagnosed at school; they maybe were not at school enough to be recognised as dyslexic; no one had ever explained how their dyslexia may be compounding their feelings of inadequacy and frustration, and definitely, no one had discussed these feelings with them.

I can still see the teenage mother (15 years old) who reacted to her positive screening by saying: ‘I wouldn’t have had him!’, directing her gaze to her new baby in its pram. The consequences of not diagnosing and fully supporting are clear to see in all our communities. This person had struggled throughout her time in education and was ‘pleased’ when she became pregnant, as this meant she could leave school.

It was common that the positive dyslexia screening left the individuals with a range of emotions: numb, confused, angry, let down, etc. It left me feeling frustrated as there was no pathway to guide that individual to. There was no follow up counselling session where they could talk about their issues and feelings around their new self-awareness. There was also nowhere to encourage them to get practical support for their dyslexia.

It would be good to open a discussion in the educational/occupational psychologist’s community that addresses this huge area of need. Maybe, we should have a pre- and post- counselling session for the assessment consultation for dyslexia. I have dyslexic associates who still well up when discussing the bullying they encountered from their school days by teachers/pupils. The different types of dyslexia (dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, and dyslexia) make up 20% of the global population. We need to start handling the condition with the respect it deserves. I firmly believe that this duty should fall to the healthcare provider; thereby, helping all, young and old.

We, at the Dyslexia Institute UK, will be hosting a range of webinars during Dyslexia Week, on 5th–10th October.

Roger Broadbent is the director of Dyslexia Institute UK.

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