More than 2 million people in the UK are severely dyslexic and about 350,000 of these are schoolchildren, according to the British Dyslexic Association. Early help was necessary to detect the condition in children, to ensure that their lives were not blighted.
Baroness Warnock, president of the association, said knowledge of dyslexia, which affects reading, writing, spelling, speech and sometimes arithmetic, must now be incorporated into teacher training, especially for nursery and primary teachers.
Launching a new policy document, she said: 'It is of the greatest importance that teachers, even when quite young and inexperienced, should know what to look for as signs that a child has specific learning difficulties, or dyslexia, which may well not appear until school work begins.
'We believe that, if children cannot learn conventionally, then it is the teacher's responsibility to teach them in a way that they can learn. Dyslexic children can develop behavioural problems because their basic needs are not met.'
She said obstacles to learning, in the path of many children, must be removed as soon as possible. Specialist training would also reduce stress in the classroom and ease teachers' workload.
Dyslexia, the association points out, is nothing to do with intelligence or a child's socio-economic background. Dyslexic children may be creative and quick thinkers. They often excel at drawing, and have a good sense of colour. They frequently show an aptitude for constructional or technical toys and computers.
But they often have difficulty with catching, kicking or throwing a ball. They enjoy being read to, but show no interest in letters or words. When the signs are missed they can be accused of not listening, or failing to pay attention.
It sometimes shows in a child who walked early but did not crawl: a 'bottom shuffler' or 'tummy wriggler'.
These children can have difficulty getting dressed, fastening buttons, tying shoelaces or even putting shoes on the correct feet.
Children without the difficulty sometimes make similar mistakes to dyslexic pupils. It is the severity, intensity and persistence of the trait which give the vital clues to the identification of the dyslexic learner, the document says.
Dyslexia: The Training and Awareness of Teachers; British Dyslexia Association, 98 London Road, Reading, RG1 5AU; Helpline (0734) 668 271.
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