Help, My Dyslexic Child is Selecting their GCSE Options, How do I Best Support Them?

Posted: 12th February 2018

Selecting GCSE options, can be a challenging experience, especially if your child has a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia.  I’d like to share with you some points for consideration which may make the decision process a little easier and less stressful.

So, what should you and your child consider during the option process?

Dyslexic pupils will no doubt be very aware of their difficulties and potential barriers to learning, but they will also have strengths, skills and talents which should be a key consideration.  What are they good at?  Where can they excel?

Options are an excellent opportunity for self-reflection, allowing your child to acknowledge where their strengths are and to select the subjects where they can shine.

Consider their individual interests. If they study something they enjoy and are passionate about, they are more likely to be motivated, especially as the work becomes more demanding.

Do they have a favourite subject, one that they adore? Why do they adore the subject?

Does your child have a preferred way of learning?

A child who loves learning through experimentation, exploring and discovery may find Science based subjects more appealing.

A child who adores designing and building or who is fascinated by taking items apart and rebuilding them, may particularly enjoy Design Technology or Computer Science.

A child who enjoys learning about people and their behaviour, may excel at History or Geography.

Which areas of the curriculum does your child find more challenging?

This question isn’t intended to knock them or deflate them. It’s to try and determine what they find difficult and why.

Do they dislike a subject because of the content or are their dyslexic tendencies possibly holding them back?

A pupil may adore History, but struggle to write up the essays and capture their ideas adequately on paper, because of their dyslexia. But, if they were eligible for a scribe or speech to text software, would this enable them to compensate for this potential barrier to learning and allow them to achieve? Could studying History therefore become a possibility for them?

If your child struggles with Maths, might they be better to focus on obtaining a secure pass at GCSE and focusing their efforts on getting higher grades in other subjects, which have less mathematical content?

Do they have any career aspirations yet?  Will they require specific qualifications and subject based knowledge and experience?

It is important that your child studies a broad and balanced curriculum, especially if they don’t yet have any clear career aspirations.  Individual schools will provide specific guidelines on the options available to their pupils. Different schools offer different option choices, and the number of GCSE’s studied can differ from school to school also. Check your school guidelines carefully!

Consider the nature of the final examination and the syllabus content. Will the exam allow your child to perform to the best of their ability?

Having worked through these considerations, you can then start to draw up a list of potential subjects to study. If you need further support and guidance, contact your child’s school as there will be various sources of support for your child.

Subject teachers have a wealth of knowledge, not only about their subject, but also the nature of the exam syllabus and paper, and most importantly about your child’s ability, where they excel and where they may potentially struggle. Do not be afraid to ask the subject teacher whether they believe your child has the capability to achieve in their subject?

The school SENCo and the Learning Support department may be able to provide guidance regarding the nature of your child’s specific difficulties and how they can be supported during their GCSE studies. Your child may be eligible for exam concessions to help them compensate for their learning difference, and the SENCo should be able to provide further guidance.

Having worked as the Head of Learning Support in a Secondary school for almost 10 years, I have supported many families during the GCSE options process. If you would like support and guidance during this crucial phase, please do not hesitate to contact