Families call for dyslexia screening in Prep

Ms Asome was trained by the Australian Dyslexia Association in a literacy approach known as Multisensory Structured Language, which engages every sense when teaching children to learn to read and write.

At Bentleigh West Primary every child in prep is screened for early indicators of dyslexia at the beginning of term two.Instead of waiting until year 1 - when schools typically offer programs such as Reading Recovery to struggling readers - preps identified as being at risk of a learning difficulty work individually or in small groups with prep support teacher Sarah Asome...

"We try to get in before their self-esteem is affected," Ms Asome says. "There will be very few kids who won't meet the benchmarks by the end of the year." Preps draw letters in boxes of sand, jump on boxes to sound out words, read flash cards and learn to identify the number of syllables by placing their hands on their chins and feeling their mouths move. "Hip - po" - they chant, hands on chins. Their mouths move twice, ergo two syllables in hippo.Ms Asome provides special assistance to 13 of the 72 preps at Bentleigh West Primary and professional development for the other teachers.She says the whole school now teaches spelling rules more explicitly and there is a lot more emphasis on phonemic awareness - the ability to distinguish individual sounds."We've made big changes in prep … before children might have clapped the syllables but it makes it easier to feel the syllables if they put their hands on their chins," Ms Asome says "They are feeling it, hearing it, saying it, all at the same time."The school also promotes the use of touch typing and assisted technologies for students with dyslexia.Bentleigh West Primary hopes to become one of the first schools in the nation accredited by the Australian Dyslexia Association. And its policy of screening every child in prep is something families affected by dyslexia would like to see rolled out at every school across the state. About 90,000 Victorian primary students are estimated to have dyslexia, which is characterised by a difficulty learning to read and spell.


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