TutoDys: The importance of early detection of specific learning disorders (SLDs)
Specific Learning Disorders (SLDs) emerge in different ways and at different ages from one student to another. When talking about SLDs we think about so-called “Dys” which refers to students with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysphasia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, or dysorthographia.
Having a Dys affect an individuals’ experience in the classroom and represent significant challenges for children, but also for parents, guardians, and educators (Moreau and Waldie, 2016). Dys do not simply dissapear over time and children do not outgrow them. Instead, they tend to become more problematic as time passes which is why early detection of a potential Dys is important.
Why is early detection so important?
Labelling a child with Dys as a “slow child” or the one with “lower intelligence level” hinders the learning process of a specific child and eventually, may result in making the problem worse. Children with Dys have the appropriate level of intelligence, but face some learning problems which prevent them from reaching their full potential (Feola et al., 2015).
If the reasons why children struggle in school are not recognized, it will prevent them from getting the help they need to reach their potential, both on a personal, and academic level. According to Colenbrander, Ricketts, and Breadmore (2018), research shows that children who enter school with poor reading/writing abilities are at risk of continuing to be behind their peers in later years of schooling, or to fall further behind. Children with Dys may feel a lack of confidence and self-esteem since they struggle with skills such as reading, writing and speaking which to other children may be a trivial task.
Benefits of early detection
When Dys are recognised early, children can get proper help in obtaining the skills they need to succeed. Early detection improves one’s ability to reach and fulfil their academic and personal potential, and prevents the development of problematic behaviour, poor self-esteem, and poor mental and physical health (Colenbrander et al, 2018). When identified early, children can be provided with the intervention they need early in their schooling years, which minimizes the risks of falling behind in later years.
When Dys are detected early, child’s ability to fulfil their potential improves. With the right techniques their learning in classrooms can be significantly enhanced. According to Colenbrander et al. (2018), evidence shows that early detection has benefits in later stages (can be apparent more than a decade later!).
The success of early detection relies on the methods and assessments which are used to identify children who are at potential risk of learning disorders. The assessments have to be specific and sensitive enough to detect all children who are at risk of potentially having Dys, as the consequences of missing children who are at risk are serious and long-term (Colenbrander et al., 2018).
What do we do in TutoDys?
Learning disorders may be recognised at all ages, but, it is important to get the correct diagnosis as soon as possible to prevent the situation from getting worse.
One of the outputs in our project TutoDys aims to create is a pre-testing module, with a series of questions that will enable early detection of specific learning disorders. This module aims to help parents or teachers to check their suspicion of a potential issue and to be able to provide more adequate support.
This module does not offer a diagnosis but rather serves as a tool to support adults in identifying if the child is potentially an undiagnosed learner with Dys, to provide some information about the disorder and to encourage the parent to see a specialist if needed.
Early detection and intervention should be seen as the beginning of intervention and support process – children’s progress needs to be monitored closely throughout their schooling years. Early detection may be complex and challenging, but it is essential to optimise the outcomes for children with Dys.
Colenbrander, D., Ricketts, J., & Breadmore, H. L. (2018). Early identification of dyslexia: Understanding the issues. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 49(4), 817-828.
Feola, A., Marino, V., Masullo, A., Trabucco Aurilio, M., & Marsella, L. T. (2015). The protection of individuals affected with Specific Learning Disorders in the Italian Legislation. Clin Ter, 166(3), e177-181.
Jersey Shore Learning Center, The Importance of Early and Correct Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities. Retrieved April 13th 2021 from: https://jerseyshorelearningcenter.com/2019/06/11/the-importance-of-early-and-correct-diagnosis-of-learning-disabilities/
Moreau, D., & Waldie, K. E. (2016). Developmental learning disorders: from generic interventions to individualized remediation. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 2053.
Project website : https://tutodys.eu
Our partners in this ambitious project are EDULOG (France), Euphoria (Italie), Les Apprimeurs (France), DABG (Sdruzhenie “Asociacia Dyslexia – Bulgarie) et Josip Matos PS (OSNOVNA SKOLA JOSIPA MATOSA – Croatie).
First European bank of free educational resources for dyspraxic children, from 6 to 15 years old.
Open online course about learning disorders.
Inclusive education system in higher education to help teachers integrate good practice and new methods to support students with specific learning difficulties and also foreign students studying in a foreign language.