One in five children struggle with reading and writing. The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust explains how its new campaign to recruit a national network of volunteer parent Dyslexia Champions will help support children with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties.

By Lisa Salmon.

Although one in five children has difficulties with reading and writing through no fault of their own, they are sometimes viewed as lazy or slow, and not given the help they need.

Many of these children have specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia (difficulty with words), dyspraxia (difficulty with movement and co-ordination), or dyscalculia (difficulty performing mathematical calculations).

The conditions are not always picked up quickly by schools, and this can be frustrating for parents who often don't know where to turn. And even after their child is diagnosed, parents may feel isolated and in need of help.

The Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, a collaboration of organisations involved with specific learning difficulties, is taking steps to help such parents by recruiting a network of Parent Champions who understand the challenges the mums and dads of children with specific learning problems face.

Dyslexia Action, one of the members of the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, points out that without the correct identification and support, such problems can be a barrier to learning and can lead to failure at school, exclusion or anti-social behaviour.

For many children who struggle to learn, their behaviour and confidence can be badly affected.

Tim Mungeam, spokesman for the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust, says: "Our Parent Champions will play a vital role because they understand the challenges mums and dads are facing.

"We're not looking for experts - we're looking for people who care, who know what families are going through and can offer support at a time when many parents feel isolated."

The idea, says Mungeam, is that the Parent Champions will act as a conduit of information from the expert organisations to parents locally, and also help the organisations understand what's going on for those parents.

"They'll be the voice and the ears of the experts in the local community," explains Mungeam, "to tell us about the issues that mums and dads are concerned about so that we make sure we're supporting families in the best way possible."

The Trust is looking for volunteers - who don't have to be parents themselves - who are passionate about helping parents and carers of children with dyslexia and other difficulties with learning, and can give an hour a month to help families in their local community.

That help might involve directing them to the right organisation to help with problems at school, or passing information from parents whose children have had a full diagnosis on to other parents.

"Some of it is just about reassurance, telling parents about some tricks and tips, and saying you're not alone," says Mungeam.

He adds: "Most importantly, we want Parent Champions to be our heart in the local community and to be someone that other parents can talk to so they know they're not on their own.

"If we can create ways for parents to talk together and share information and experiences, we might be able to better assess children and identify difficulties early on and avoid heartache further down the line."

Many parents of children with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties haven't truly grasped what the problem is, says Glenys Heap of Dyslexia Action, who points out that Parent Champions will be able to help them understand.

She says that information workshops will be offered for Parent Champions, and explains: "If they can talk to parents about what the difficulties are and why the child is behaving in a certain way, and why they can't do some things, that's one of the biggest things a Parent Champion can do."

She says this will give parents the confidence to go into school and talk to teachers, which may be particularly daunting for parents of dyslexic children as the condition can be hereditary and parents may be dyslexic themselves and have also had bad experiences at school.

The Trust has already signed its first Parent Champion, Abida Khan, who says: "As a mum whose own child has difficulties, becoming a Parent Champion is not only a great way for me to keep up to date with things that could be relevant to him, but also to keep others in my community in the loop and get my views heard by the decision-makers operating locally."

:: For more information about Parent Champions, visit, or ring the Parents Champions line on 020 7921 4530.

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