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Understanding Dyslexia: A Guide for Foster Carers

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Although one in ten of us has some form of dyslexia, it’s often misunderstood and can be difficult to diagnose. Because of this, some foster carers can find it challenging to support young people with the condition, or to even spot the signs.

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that doesn’t affect intelligence, but it is defined as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If dyslexic people don’t get the help they need in childhood, they can find it difficult to fulfil their potential in later life. That’s why it’s so important that the right help and support are available to them at an early age.

To help foster carers spot the signs of dyslexia and get the right help for their child, we’ve put together an introductory guide. We’ve included the signs and symptoms, FAQs, and information on the support and resources available.

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Use the links below to skip ahead or read on for the complete guide.

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How to Spot Dyslexia in Children and Young People

Mother and Child Reading

Dyslexia can be really difficult to spot, especially in younger children. Many people make the mistake of ignoring the early signs, putting them down to a child’s age and intelligence rather than seeing it as a bigger problem.

But the earlier dyslexia is diagnosed, the less it will affect a child’s learning and development – so it’s important that foster carers know what to look for.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs of dyslexia in children, as well as young people who may be struggling with their schoolwork.

  • Slow reading and writing
  • Confused by the order of letters in words, making reading and writing difficult
  • Placing similar letters in the wrong order, such as ‘b’ and ‘d’
  • Struggling to understand written information or instructions, but fine with verbal communication
  • Poor spelling skills
  • Struggling with organisation and planning – a lack of linear thinking
  • They may find it difficult to follow directions and instructions

The symptoms of dyslexia are different for everyone and range from mild to severe. Not only that, but children with dyslexia often excel in other areas, like art and creative subjects – which can actually make the problem more difficult to spot.

FAQs and Essential Information

Tired Boy Doing His School Work

If you think your child could have dyslexia, you may have a lot of questions about the condition and how you can help. Here are some common questions about dyslexia to get you started.

I think my foster child has dyslexia – can I take them to my GP for an assessment?

You can’t take them to your GP because the NHS doesn’t fund dyslexia assessments. Instead, they’ll need to see an independent professional.

Some schools offer dyslexia screening, especially if you’ve raised concerns about your child. But, this is normally just a basic screening test, so you’ll need to take them to see a specialist for a full diagnosis.

If you spot any of the signs of dyslexia, talk to your child’s social worker. They’ll put you in touch with dyslexia screening services run by the local authority. You can also find your nearest Local Dyslexia Association (LDA) on the British Dyslexia Association’s LDA Directory.

Will my foster child’s school be able to offer dyslexia support?

The majority of schools offer some form of learning support for dyslexic children, so talk to them to make sure your child is getting the help they need.

If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia and you agree with the local authority that it would be best if they changed school, most regions offer specialist learning centres for dyslexic children. We’d recommend CReSTeD (Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils) for finding the best schools with dyslexia support in your area.

Young Boy At Desk Doing Homework

How can I help my foster child at home?

There are lots of things you can do to help your child at home. From general activities like nursery rhymes and finger play to poetry and mime – there are loads of activities and tools out there that can make a big difference to how your child copes with their dyslexia.

We’d highly recommend the British Dyslexia Association’s Early Help, Better Future resource for fun and useful ways to help your child at home.

Are there any other non-language signs that could indicate dyslexia?

Struggling with reading and writing isn’t the only sign that could show that your child is dyslexic; there are a few non-language symptoms to be aware of, too. We’ve listed these by school age group below:


  • Bum shuffling as opposed to crawling
  • Often looks like they’re distant or detached; like they’re not paying attention
  • Tripping, falling over and other clumsy traits
  • Difficulty catching or throwing a ball
  • Struggles to clap along to a simple rhythm

Primary school:

  • Struggles to tie shoelaces
  • Difficulty telling right from left
  • Poor sense of direction
  • Struggles with days of the week and months of the year
  • Poor self-image and lack of confidence

Secondary school:

  • Bright and alert when talking or being creative, but not when focusing on a specific task
  • Difficulty processing verbal instructions at speed
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Strengths in artistic and creative topics
  • Clumsy traits

Dyslexia Support and Resources

Child Practicing Writing

There are many places where you can get help and support for your child online. Below, we’ve listed some of the best places for dyslexia support on the web.

British Dyslexia Association

The UK’s leading dyslexia society, offering lots of training and support for parents and carers with dyslexic children, as well as a place for dyslexic people to talk with others in the community.


Official site for the Council for the Registration of Schools Teaching Dyslexic Pupils. This is the place to find schools in your area which offer support for dyslexic children. It can also advise on how to approach schools to get additional support for your foster child.

Helen Arkell

A great, no-nonsense resource for foster carers looking to learn more about dyslexia. With videos, guides and personal stories from people with dyslexia, this site can help you build on your knowledge and come up with ways to really help your child.

The Dyslexia Shop

Stocking products designed to aid people with dyslexia, The Dyslexia Shop can help children fulfil their potential and live life to the full. From stationery and books to games and electronics, there are lots of useful tools and products that can help with your child’s development.


The NHS offers lots of practical and useful information for diagnosing and managing a child’s dyslexia, and how to get help. If you need the facts on dyslexia, this is the place.

At NFA, we offer round-the-clock support and ongoing training to all our foster carers, so they can provide vulnerable children with the very best support. To find out more about fostering with us, visit the homepage or call us now on 0330 022 9135.

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