Coronavirus is compromising the learning needs of dyslexic children

Credit: Michael of Crawley

School closures amid the Covid 19 pandemic are potentially having a greater impact on the mental health of dyslexic youngsters than those without the learning condition.

According to YoungMinds, the UK’s leading mental health charity for children and young people, anxiety and depression are more prevalent among this vulnerable group as they struggle to cope with the pressure of the pandemic.

With so many facing essential learning support restrictions, the charity is urging teachers and parents to recognise the needs of those requiring extra support to overcome increased anxiety.

Emma Thomas, the charity’s Chief Executive, said that while government measures to close schools are essential, the needs of dyslexic children and young adults must be recognised.

 “We need to find ways to help those young people who have lost their support – not least because, in many cases, they have also lost many of their coping mechanisms, including contact with friends or routines that help them to manage their conditions.

“We also know that many young people who previously might not have needed mental health support are likely to do so in future. As the impact of the pandemic and the restrictions on their lives continues to sink in, more young people are going to struggle to cope.”

A spokesman for the Dyslexia Association of Staffordshire Ltd agreed it was important to address youngsters’ educational entitlements.

“Learning will inevitably not be deemed as important right now. Parents instincts will be to ensure that their children enjoy the best emotional health possible and to keep them safe and physically well.

“Whilst they want to ensure their children are as well educated as possible, it has to be recognised that effective learning will not take place until the needs lower down in the hierarchy are fulfilled.

“Children and young people may not always demonstrate outwardly that they are feeling anxious, but instead try to cope with the feelings inwardly so as not to worry their parents or to admit to what they may interpret as a failure.”

A survey carried between 20-25 March this year by YoungMinds revealed that 32 per cent of the 2,111 respondents with a history of mental health needs, agreed that the coronavirus crisis had worsened their mental health.

Just over half of the respondents – 51 per cent – said it made it a bit worse.

The main three concerns amongst the respondents were isolation and loneliness, not having enough supplies and managing their mental health.

However, of the 1294 respondents who said that they accessed mental health support in the past three months, 74 per cent said that they were still able to access this support in some form despite the lockdown restrictions.

Among dyslexic children, the loss of social interaction outside their family is of greatest concern. Many said they are not as confident in using technology and have not interacted online with school friends because of concerns about using incorrect spellings when emailing and texting.

Earlier this month, Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England recently recognised the social and educational needs of children.

“The stark reality is that the situation for many of the most vulnerable children could get worse over coming months as the economic impact of the virus kicks in. There will be children whose parents could lose their jobs or income in the coming weeks, some of them already living in families struggling with poverty. It is vital that the benefits system is able to respond quickly to protect their needs.

“I have been reassured so far that the Government are aware of the need to protect children. Over the coming weeks and months, I will continue to push them to do all they can and to stand up for children and their rights in Whitehall, not just on COVID-19, but on the many other important issues affecting children that won’t disappear just because much of the focus might be elsewhere.”