Articles written by members of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity team covering dyslexia, other specific learning difficulties, neurodiversity and related issues.

Dyscalculia Awareness Day 2024

With Dyscalculia Awareness Day just around the corner, we explain what dyscalculia and we look at helpful tips and tricks to support people who struggle with maths…

What is dyscalculia?

The SpLD Assessment Standards Committee (SASC) defines dyscalculia as:

‘Dyscalculia is a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers which can lead to a diverse range of difficulties with mathematics. It will be unexpected in relation to age, level of education and experience and occurs across all ages and abilities. Mathematics difficulties are best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and they have many causal factors. Dyscalculia falls at one end of the spectrum and will be distinguishable from other maths issues due to the severity of difficulties with number sense, including subitising [perceiving a number of items in a group without counting them], symbolic and non-symbolic magnitude comparison, and ordering. It can occur singly but often co occurs with other specific learning difficulties, mathematics anxiety and medical conditions.’

Around one person in 20 has dyscalculia.

The Dyscalculia Network and Jane Emerson and Patricia Babtie in their book ‘Understanding Dyscalculia and Numeracy Difficulties’ states that indicators include:

  • Inability to subitize (recognise up to 4 or 5 counters without counting)
  • Counting errors
  • Miscounting objects
  • Lack of one-one correspondence
  • Sequencing errors
  • Inability to count backwards
  • Not understanding the count 70, 80, 90, 20, 21 / 48, 49, 51, 52
  • Calculation difficulties
  • Persistent counting in 1s
  • Cannot remember number facts
  • Uses unstructured dots or makes tally marks to do calculations
  • Difficulty with mental arithmetic
  • Cannot remember times tables facts
  • Misunderstanding of maths language
  • Errors writing numbers
  • Reversing digits
  • Not understanding zero as a place holder
  • Inaccurate estimations
  • Inability to recognise if an answer is reasonable
  • Weak reasoning e.g.. inability to see number relationships
  • Weak at making connections e.g. 4 + 4 = 8 therefore 14 + 4 = 18
  • Problems with money and time
  • Lack of place value understanding
  • Errors when completing formal calculations

Tips for maths difficulties:

    1. Use imagery: Link mathematical facts and equations to images to help build memory. For example, an octagon has eight sides like how an octopus has eight arms.
    2. Use mind mapping: For example, create a mind map with the word ‘circumference’ in the middle. You could draw initial arms on this mind map to help the person, the arms could be labelled ‘write an equation’, ‘draw it’, ‘define it’, ‘write a question involving it’ – this encourages the person to interact with the information in different ways whilst acting as a revision tool. For the ‘write a question involving it’ arm, this is a good chance to talk through language by discussing how the person could have made the question clearer and correct mathematical terminology to use, whilst of course celebrating anything they do well! Then, you as the person teaching could use the question that they wrote to demonstrate how to approach problems, which links to the next tip …
    3. Think aloud: When demonstrating how to answer a question, speak aloud every step of the process: reading, annotating the question, making notes from the question, trialling an approach, trying a different approach, reaching a final answer and finally checking. Watching somebody do the whole process really makes it clear to the person you are helping.
    4. Build confidence: When assessing the person, don’t only ask questions that push the person to the limits of their capability but also ones that you know that they can answer – no matter how easy! The person can then see that they have remembered some knowledge that they didn’t know before!

Dyscalculia and maths resources and books

We have many resources and books in our shop that can help teach maths and numeracy. These include:
dyscalculia products in the shop

Fraction segments

Tabletop number lines

Awesome Games and Activities for Kids with Numeracy Difficulties

GCSE Maths for Neurodivergent Learners

All About Dyscalculia 


Want to understand more? We were joined by Dyscalculia Network’s Rob Jennings for a Spotlight webinar on the subject. We offer dyscalculia top-up assessments, and we offer specialist maths tuition and maths Personalised Learning in the Easter and Summer holidays to children.

By |2024-03-01T11:04:23+00:00March 1st, 2024|Homepage featured, Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Why choose a Helen Arkell dyslexia assessment?

Why choose a Helen Arkell dyslexia assessment?

There are plenty of reasons to choose a dyslexia assessment from Helen Arkell:

• We have over 50 years of pioneering dyslexia experience.

• The assurance of the highest quality dyslexia assessment; we only employ highly qualified and experienced specialist assessors and educational psychologists. Everyone is required to take Continuing Professional Development courses and workshops to keep their skills up to date.

• Our team of assessors share their experience and knowledge. Each one is peer mentored and supported by Helen Arkell specialist staff.

• We have a variety of options for your dyslexia assessment; where appropriate, you can have an online assessment. If a face-to-face assessment is required, we offer these at a variety of locations across the south of England and the Midlands.

• We can see you quickly! For most assessments, you can be seen as soon as the paperwork is done.

• As well as dyslexia assessments, we offer top-up dyscalculia assessments for primary-age children and non-diagnostic Learning Literacy Assessments for children under eight.

• When we send you an assessment report for your child, we include a personal letter to your child from the assessor, explaining the outcome of the assessment in a way they will understand.

• Helen Arkell is a widely respected name in the world of dyslexia and education. Teachers have confidence in an assessment report’s findings and recommendations.

• You will benefit from a wide range of follow-up services including specialist tuition, parents’ and children’s courses and a range of books and learning resources to help with home study.

If you are unsure whether an assessment is needed for your child, book a specialist parent consultation to discuss the next steps. If you go on to book an assessment, the consultation fee will be deducted from the assessment fee.

We want everyone to be able to access dyslexia support. We offer bursary funding for our dyslexia assessments and some other services to low-income families. We also offer the option to pay for a dyslexia assessment in instalments.

By choosing Helen Arkell, you are helping us to support other children and adults with dyslexia.

Why choose a Helen Arkell Dyslexia Assessment

Make an enquiry button


By |2024-03-07T12:51:52+00:00February 28th, 2024|Homepage featured, Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Understanding problems with working memory

Children (and adults) with dyslexia can have trouble with their working memory. These are the short-term memories that we use when we are doing a task such as following instructions or adding two or three numbers together. This can affect performing a series of tasks such as getting dressed, making a sandwich and maths ability. It also affects reading; having figured out each sound in a word, remembering what those sounds to make the whole word can be tricky.

Here are some ways to help with working memory:

  • Explain what the end result of the task will be and why so that the child understands the outcome, eg you need to have warm clothes on to be ready for school.
  • Only give one or two instructions at a time, eg please put your socks on, then put your shoes on. In maths, this may mean giving only one part of a sum at a time.
  • Present the instructions in the order they are to be followed (so not ‘put your shoes and socks on’).
  • If necessary, repeat instructions and ask your child to tell you what they have understood.
  • If you can, and especially for a new task, show the child what you mean as well as say it.
  • Give them time to process and respond to these instructions, then carry them out, before offering further instructions, eg now get your coat from the hook and put it on.
Understanding that your child may have problems with their working memory and adjusting how you instruct them but also your expectations, will hopefully make life slightly less fraught – especially in the mornings!
By |2024-02-29T11:02:20+00:00February 26th, 2024|Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Westminster Abbey Christmas Carol Service

Once again we were delighted to be invited to the Princess of Wales’ Christmas Carol Service at Westminster Abbey earlier in December. The service is a ‘moment to thank all those who work to support babies, young children and families’ and aims to being people together at Christmas time.

The lucky recipients of tickets this year were Julie Hall, our Services Manager; Claire Hughes, one of our consultants; Claire Harvey, our Head of Education; Lynne Adamson, one of Specialist Teachers; and Gill, our very recently retired Assessments Manager.

In Julie’s words, they had ‘amazing seats’ at the front of the Abbey with a great view of all the royals in attendance. Here is what Lynne had to say about this special afternoon:

‘Wow! I feel so lucky and privileged to have attended Carols at Westminster Abbey. It was a truly magical and heart-warming experience.

From the surprise mince pie to keep us going as we queued, to the awe as we entered the vast, beautifully decorated aisle, the eager anticipation was palpable as the expectant audience waited. Finally, the huge beam of the TV camera rising and turning to face the main aisle, was the signal that royalty had arrived and clutching our lit white candles, a solo choir boy’s voice began the first notes of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. We were in for a treat!

There were celebrities galore, readings and poetry, poignant songs and great company from my fellow companions.

Afterwards, there was feverish photo taking from everyone as we walked slowly out, to secure this incredible experience as treasured memory keepsakes!’

And here are Gill’s thoughts:

‘There was such a happy vibe on Friday. While queuing outside we apparently looked like we were struggling to take a group selfie with the Abbey in the background so a kindly police officer offered to take the photo for us. Then once through security we were offered delicious mince pies.  Very welcome.

So many people (perhaps the Princess’s friends and supporters) greeted everyone passing by, imploring us to have a good time. The Abbey really was absolutely stunning. It was so full of rich colours and beautiful trees and decorations.

We were seated pretty early but the time flew by as we people watched. A few celebs walked along the aisle in front of us.  A young lad behind us caused a laugh when he excitedly shouted out “It’s Adam Lambert!”. Adam Lambert [a singer, if you don’t know]  heard him and duly beamed and waved!

Such memories to treasure for a long time.  Thank you so much for the opportunity. ‘


By |2024-01-26T13:40:09+00:00December 22nd, 2023|Homepage featured, Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Three reasons to have a dyslexia assessment as an adult

Many people don’t find out that they have dyslexia until they are adults. Perhaps your schooling is over – quite recently or a long time ago – and you feel it’s too late to worry about whether you are dyslexic.

Here are three reasons why a dyslexia assessment as an adult – at any age at all – can be a good move.

1 You will understand yourself better

Many people with dyslexia are very bright but found school a struggle. This may have had a huge impact on confidence and made them feel they are stupid and affected the choices they made and continue to make.

Having a dyslexia assessment may explain why you found it so difficult to achieve academically. You will discover what your weaknesses are and why you have them, but also where your strengths lie – and how you can use these to overcome those weaknesses. This can be a huge boost to confidence and a relief to understand what has been going on over the years. It can help you forgive yourself if you didn’t achieve what you might have and help you imagine what you could do with the right support.

2 It can have a positive effect on your career

Once you have your dyslexia report, you can approach your employer and ask for reasonable adjustments to your work environment or work processes to help you do your job more easily and effectively. This may be having presentation slides given to you in advance of a meeting, being given verbal rather than written instructions, having notes printed on pale-coloured paper or it might be that some tasks are given to someone else while you take on those that are better suited to your skills. Under the Equality Act 2010, dyslexia is classed as a disability and you have a right to reasonable adjustments being made by your employer.

Employers are now beginning to see that there is huge value in employing workers with dyslexia. People with dyslexia can be incredibly creative in all sorts of ways, including problem solving. They often approach problems and tasks in a different way to those who do not have dyslexia and can be innovative in their solutions. This kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking is hugely valuable to employers.

An assessment can also open the door to support for further training or academic opportunities. What could you achieve?

3 It can help your child with their dyslexia

Dyslexia is often inherited. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, it can be hugely helpful to have any concerns about whether you have dyslexia addressed. You can both be ‘in it together’. It can help you both to help each other, give you both confidence and help you both to find ways to overcome struggles. It can help you discuss your child’s dyslexia at school if you have a better idea why and how they are struggling. You speaking openly, positively and without embarrassment about your dyslexia can help your child do the same, changing how they feel about being dyslexic and ultimately celebrating their strengths.

How can you get an adult dyslexia assessment?

If now is the moment to have a dyslexia assessment, Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity offers a range of services for adults, including adult dyslexia assessments.

‘Having spent all my life not knowing why I was experiencing difficulties, and believing I was not intelligent at all, finally having official recognition of my condition is extremely helpful: a lot of things now ‘make sense’… It might sound dramatic, and would definitely have been something I would have been very skeptical about if you had asked me before my diagnosis, but my diagnosis has allowed me to feel validated for being myself.’

Assessed adult, aged 61

‘It helped me understand where my difficulty with memory retention came from and feel more confident because of it.’

Assessed adult

‘… my diagnosis has helped me get the support I need from my university to accomplish my full potential in my studies. I have recommended Helen Arkell to anyone I know struggling with symptoms of dyslexia who may wish to have an assessment.’

Assessed adult

By |2024-02-09T15:31:14+00:00January 27th, 2023|Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Lunch and Learn sessions for workplaces

Online Lunch and Learn sessions for workplaces: Dyslexia – its effects upon your employees and their families

This online session introduces your team to the issues surrounding dyslexia, a condition that affects more than 1 in 10 people in the UK.

A Lunch and Learn session is likely to appeal to many people across your organisation, whether they have a basic awareness of dyslexia or not. Dyslexia is a hidden disability and is recognised as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. As such, participation in this interactive session will demonstrate your commitment to inclusive practice within your team. It is relevant to all workplaces, across all sectors.

The session’s aim is to provide you with a clear understanding of dyslexia and its effects upon colleagues, including strengths in areas like problem-solving and ingenuity as well as challenges commonly experienced with literacy-based tasks and processing information. Interactive elements help simulate some of the experiences of dyslexia to the audience. Also, it gives an opportunity for those attending to share their own experiences of dyslexia if they wish.

Lunch and Learn sessions are normally an hour long, including time for questions and answers, but can be adapted to suit the needs and availability of your staff.

“I just wanted to say a big thank you for doing the presentation on Monday. It was well received and got some good discussion going which is exactly what we want. People particularly liked the practical challenges at the end which really brought home some of the challenges dyslexic people face.”

Simon, British Land
Please contact us to arrange your Lunch and Learn session.


By |2023-02-10T15:29:07+00:00January 26th, 2023|Course news, Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

VIDEO – Supporting reading during the pandemic

During Dyslexia Awareness Week, Dr Anna Tsakalaki of University of Reading presented the findings of her research into supporting reading with children during the pandemic and how we can learn from these findings. If you missed the webinar, you can watch the video here. Go to University of Reading’s to watch and try out literacy activities.

Dyslexia Awareness Week 2022

Monday 3 October to Sunday 9 October

Dyslexia Awareness Week is an opportunity to build understanding of dyslexia, highlighting both the strengths and challenges it may bring.

We’d love you to join our events during the week or why not get involved at home, school or work.

Join in

A Big Bowl of Self-Esteem – practical strategies to improve self-esteem in learners with Specific Learning Difficulties

Free Webinar with Claire Harvey – Head of Education.

Monday 3 October, 19:00 – 20:00 hours.

Watch the recording of this webinar here.

Spotlight – supporting children at home with reading during the pandemic

With Dr Anna Tsakalaki – Lecturer in Education at the University of Reading.

Thursday 6 October, 13.00 to 14.30 hours.

Tickets £15.

Find out more and book your place here.

Get involved

You can get involved in Dyslexia Awareness Week in a number of ways:

  • Fundraise for the charity, at school, at work or as an individual. You could do a bake sale, run a sponsored challenge, hold a mufti day, put on a quiz or hold a film night. There are more ideas here.
  • Encourage discussion about dyslexia in your workplace. You could even book a Lunch & Learn session.
  • If you work at school, why not book an in-service session about dyslexia awareness or join the Supporting Learners with Dyslexia course.
  • Take part in the events we put on during the week.

Keep up to date

Check back here for updates on our Dyslexia Awareness Week plans or sign up for our e-newsletter here.

By |2023-11-13T16:10:27+00:00September 22nd, 2022|Latest news, Team blog|0 Comments

Dealing with back-to-school anxiety

Anxiety over going back to school can affect both parents and children and this year, as with last year, returning to school while Covid is still with us could be particularly stressful. 

While as a parent you are managing practicalities such as school uniform, the household, the logistics of school runs and work commitments, the feelings of nervousness and anxiety that build up in some children can sometimes be overlooked.

After a long summer break children have become accustomed to lazy mornings, treats and a lack of routine. They may have several worries around returning to school: being away from you, having new teachers, being able to keep up with the work and anxieties around relationships with friends. They might also be anxious about mixing with a large group of people and due to Covid.

Support your child in the run-up to school

Have an informal chat with your child about whether they are looking forward to going back to school. They may say no because they just prefer holidays – you needn’t put the idea in their head that there is something to worry about!

If they have any worries, listen and offer empathy and support; talk about what is concerning them, and think of solutions together about how they could manage situations. Focus on the positive aspects of school, providing encouragement and getting them to talk about the things they like about the school day. You could ask your child to write a list of what they are looking forward to going back to school.

Build confidence

Key to helping children feel at ease about starting their new school year is to build their confidence by offering specific praise and, most importantly, being a great listener. When children know they can share their worries, and their parents will listen, they go to school with the parents’ calm, steady voice in their heads feeling reassured.

Remember that what might feel trivial to you, may be a big worry for your child, so be careful not to dismiss worries. It’s also ok to be sad that the summer is ending and ok for you to say that you are sad about it too.

For primary-school-aged children, have short, relaxed chats about positive memories of school – when a teacher was especially kind, fun things they have done with friends – so that they remember that school is a positive experience.

Look after the basics

Getting back into a routine can make a huge difference to your child’s anxiety. Ensure they are getting enough sleep and returning to term-time sleep patterns. Go back to regular healthy eating schedules and include physical exercise so that they sleep well.

Get ready together

Make fun jobs of getting ready for school together – prepare by organising equipment, stationery, lunch and school bag.

If school has informed you about changes to the school day – handwashing, bubbles, drop off and pick up instructions and other Covid arrangements – make sure you pass these on to your child so that they know what to expect and what will be different to last year. Unknowns can be scarier than knowns.

One lovely suggestion on those first days back is to give your child a little reminder that you are thinking of them. This might be a sticker or toy in their lunchbox, but our favourite idea is to draw something very simple on your child’s wrist or the back of their hand – perhaps a smiley face or even just a coloured dot – to remind them you are ‘with’ them through the day.

Once school has started

Give your child time and space to talk about their school day and any worries. This may always seem to happen at bedtime which can be frustrating but it’s important to listen.

If your child is going to a new school, be prepared for it to take some weeks for them to settle in – and bear in mind that most children are happy as soon as they are out of your sight and with their friends!

When to take it further

If your talks bring to light serious concerns about bullying or worries about inappropriate behaviour from fellow pupils, follow this up with the school.

Lastly, if you are worried that your child is more anxious than is normal and this persists after returning to school, consider talking to school or your GP about getting help. If your concerns are around how they learn and this is causing anxiety, speak to the teacher, and check our website for advice on getting your child diagnosed with Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs).

Useful links – this is a useful video that was recorded for the 2020 return

By |2022-12-08T15:22:47+00:00August 25th, 2022|Team blog|0 Comments

Fun ways to help your child spell tricky words

Here are some ways to help your child learn the spelling of tricky words at home

Most children have difficulty spelling some common words, such as ‘does’, ‘your’, ‘because’.

Top tip – whichever methods you use, try to get your child to say the letter name each time they write or select a letter, and then to say the whole word once it is complete.

Get your child to practise writing the word

  • With their finger in sand/flour/couscous
  • With a stick in the mud
  • Using an empty washing-up liquid bottle/shower gel bottle filled with water – write the word on the pavement/driveway/patio
  • On the window or on an old bathroom tile using a dry wipe pen (make doubly sure that it is a dry wipe pen!)

Build the word

Write the letters of the word (and some extra letters that are not in the word) on individual pieces of paper. Place them around the room/garden.  Get your child to collect the letters in the correct order to spell the word.

Put the pieces of paper on the floor and ask your child to jump on them in the right order to spell the word – shouting out the letter name each time they jump on the letter and then shouting the word when they have finished.

Get your child to make the word in play-dough, plasticine, Wikki stix, Lego, spaghetti – anything you have in the house.

Build up automatic knowledge of the spelling
Time your child for 30 seconds and see how many times they can write the word correctly and legibly.  Repeat and see if they can beat a previous record.

Have fun and if you’d like to learn more about helping your child with their learning, our course full of practical tips for parents is now available online – full details here.

Email if you have any questions.

By |2022-12-08T15:53:19+00:00July 8th, 2022|Team blog|0 Comments


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