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 School support for secondary school students

Question: My daughter’s dyslexia is not being catered for at her secondary school. What could I do?

  • Answer: The school needs to summarise the findings of the SLD report and circulate this, and the  Conclusions and Recommendations, around all XXX’s  teachers. They need to follow the recommendations carefully.  (Many students will benefit).
  •  They should keep the full report on XXX’s file. XXX should be entered in their Special Needs register.
  • They need to make sure XXX trials using SAC ( in XXX’s case, a reader/writer/or computer) in Year 9-10:  this means she will be ready to use special assessment conditions for NCEA  if warranted.
  • XXX should continue to have a tutor to address her SLD. It is good the school can assist.
  • Our website has some ideas for how a teacher can adapt the curriculum to suit the needs of struggling students. This will benefit many students – not just XXX.
  • You could also draw teachers’ attention to this website as a source of information. It’s great professional development for teachers.
  • I quite like this link for teenagers. It may be suitable to show XXX to boost her self-worth, although there are many good youtube clips about coping with dyslexia and how it doesn’t mean the student is any less bright. In fact, they often have other ‘gifts’
  • It’s good you are working with the school dean. It sounds like XXX is going through a really rough patch.



 Specific advice for teachers of students with SLD.

Question: A pupil that I teach, XXX had an assessment done earlier in the year. As a class teacher I feel I have tried to implement the findings. 

I did however feel they were quite generalised and would like to know if there are any specific learning strategies I could work on with XXX or helpful web sites. 

Many Thanks

Answer: I have been forwarded your request for further information about specific learning strategies to use with your student XXX who has a mild SLD.

Our recommendations are described in the conclusion of the report. These recommendations are good guidance for a specialised tutor: such as specific programmes to teach phonics systematically and touch/ typing lessons.

You will also see from XXX’s formal report that nine classroom accommodations are listed (p7). Some are necessarily of a general nature as there are many variables in each child’s situation. We cannot presume to tell the teacher what will work specifically in their class. Each teacher should keep our advice in mind and use their professional judgement as to what will best achieve the outcomes for the child.

The conclusion also recommends teachers check out the TKI website for inspiration.  However, it may be easier for you to follow the links in our site:

Go into Resources for teachers. You will find many links to all sorts of guidance for teaching students with dyslexia in the classroom.

The Differentiating and adapting the curriculum section has many specific ideas.

Under Websites for teachers, click on Responding to Individual needs.

Scroll down to the section on Dyslexia. You will find a wealth of information.

The Dyslexia Foundation also has some great resources to help teachers.

Thank you for being willing to support XXX in your class and for taking the time to email us.



 Executive functioning skills

Question: I am currently undertaking an inquiry into the development of Executive Function skills in our students. I am also looking at how the development of Executive Functions skills enable students to cope, and thrive, throughout the many transitions they face in their schooling life. 

As I am teaching in a high school, the main transition point that I am focusing on is from year 8 to year 9 (Primary to Secondary). However, our students face transitions constantly: during activities in class, from class to class (and teacher to teacher) and between semesters (for our Junior Students).

As the SENCO, I read many reports that come from your organisation. I have noted that many mention Executive Functions as an area of weakness. Working memory in particular.

My questions to you are:

  1. Do you think that students with SLDs have less developed Executive Functions? Or, perhaps it would be better to ask if you see any correlation between SLDs and Executive Functions.
  2. How important to you see the development of Executive Functions to support students to cope, and thrive, through transition processes?
  3. Is there anything else you would like to comment on in regards to Executive Functions? It is an area of great interest to me and I am hoping to support students and their teachers to better understand this and to support students to improve these skills.

Thank you very much for your time.

Answer: I am a psychologist at Seabrook McKenzie, so have been forwarded this email to respond to. Your research sounds very interesting and valuable.  In order to respond to your queries I have copied some sections from the website which sums up my general opinion (based on experience rather than research in my case).

So in answer to question 1:

“Trouble with executive skills isn’t a diagnosis or a learning disability on its own. But it’s a common problem for kids who learn and think differently. All kids with ADHD have difficulties with executive function. And many kids with specific learning disabilities have challenges in some executive skills”.  I certainly agree that children with SLD (especially in the more severe cases) seem to have difficulties in varying degrees and combinations of all three of the main areas identified on the website:

  1. Working memory
  2. Cognitive flexibility (also called flexible thinking)
  3. Inhibitory control (which includes self-control)

In answer to question 2:

I think that the skills associated with executive functioning play a very significant role in transition processes generally, and in particular between primary and high school (due to so many differences in these environments). In particular, we see many children with SLD who have difficulties with attention, organisation, planning and prioritising, regulation of emotions, and self-monitoring that can cause issues with adapting to or coping with such changes and differences. Therefore, I think the development of these skills is very important, though would consider this to be a lengthy process with a lot of support/external management required before skills are able to be adopted by children independently.

In answer to question 3:

Executive functions aren’t specifically in my area of expertise and I am sure you will have so many ideas on areas we don’t even explore. As we are more focused on academic performance, we tend to look at difficulties from that lens, though are very aware of the effects of executive function difficulties and the effects they have on children with learning disabilities in order to function in general (e.g. navigating the environment in order to access curriculum, interpreting and understanding instructions, difficulties coping with expectations of others that they be able to ‘self-manage’, interacting socially and understanding rules/expectations of others, and even just processing and making sense of the environment around them).

I hope these thoughts help. We wish you all the best with your research and would certainly be interested to hear the outcomes down the track.