Dyslexia and Homelessness

In a 2019 survey conducted by Made By Dyslexia, 84.41% of teachers, parents, and carers said that the process of identifying dyslexia in their schools was difficult, very difficult (36.67%), or impossible. 22.96% said that a child’s dyslexia is never identified in their schools, and that when it is, the majority of respondents said that children do not receive any specialised support.

A report commissioned by the British Dyslexia Association found that students with dyslexia or other SpLDs are 200% more likely to fail to achieve a grade 4 or above in English and maths at GCSE. Dr Alison Mitchell of Lexia Learning found in her report that those with poor reading proficiency by third grade were almost 400% more likely to drop out of school without graduating. For students who were unable to master basic reading skills, this rose to 600%. Meanwhile, government statistics in Britain show that every year around 6-7% of eleven year olds in England leave primary school with very poor literacy skills.

It is safe to conclude that those children whose dyslexia remains unidentified and unsupported during school will be among the 600% higher risk group.

What we do know is that 78% of permanent school exclusions issued were to pupils who had either Special Educational Needs or social disadvantage; and that 61% of parents and carers of pupils who had been excluded who responded said their child had Special Educational Needs.

The Turning The Key Thames Reach Action Research report surveyed over 100 people in supported accommodation or of no fixed address. They found chronic low literacy issues among the homeless, such as:

➼ Over a third of respondents have difficulty understanding what they read.
➼ Around a half had problems with writing.
➼ Almost 10% indicated that they are functionally illiterate.
➼ 55% needed help to fill in forms.
➼ 46% had trouble writing letters.
➼ Roughly a quarter of those with practical reading and writing difficulties reported that poor literacy had in the past prevented them from getting jobs, training for employment, or going to college

Research findings clearly demonstrate:

⦿ Pupils with poor literacy skills are much more likely to be excluded from school than their peers.
⦿ Pupils who entered secondary school with very low literacy skills have an exclusion rate five times that of pupils entering Key Stage 3 at Level 4 or above.
⦿ Excluded pupils are more likely to have lower Key Stage 2 attainment.
⦿ If you have literacy problems, you are roughly twice as likely to experience periods of homelessness.
⦿ Outcomes for permanently excluded pupils are poor. In one sample 63% had criminal convictions by the age of 24, with a particular risk of involvement in violent crime and a suicide rate 19 times the national rate for their age.
⦿ 16-year-olds with poor reading skills were up to 400% more likely not to be entered for any public examinations.
⦿ Poor readers as adults are much less likely to be in employment than better readers. If they are in employment it is likely to be low-paid.
⦿ 4% of those who left school at 16 and had very low literacy when tested at the age of 37 had never worked.
⦿ 33% of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals achieved C or higher in English, compared to 62% of non‐eligible pupils.

13% of women with literacy difficulties have experienced a period of homelessness, compared to 6% of all women.
For men the figures are 7% compared to 4%.

52% of homeless young people in one study showed symptoms of learning disabilities.

In the studies that have examined the relationship between dyslexia and homelessness, there is a general consensus that people with dyslexia are overrepresented within the homeless population; these figures have suggested a range from 46% to 52%.

In one study of homelessness, the dyslexic study group experienced homelessness earlier in their lives than the control group. Respondents with dyslexia described first sleeping rough on average at the age of 22 compared with that of 30 years for the general homeless population, and for an average of five years compared with the non-dyslexic average of three years – a 67% increase. There was also an increase of 14.3%, in the consumption of hard and addictive drugs by respondents with dyslexia.

Another study reported a 22.22% increase on the average level of homelessness for people with dyslexia.

People with poor literacy skills are associated with higher mortality,
according to the World Health Organization

The national gap in life expectancy between children from communities with the highest and lowest vulnerability to literacy problems in the country is shocking:

⦿ A boy growing up in an area with one of the highest vulnerabilities to literacy problems in the country has a life expectancy 26.1 years shorter than a boy growing up in a ward with one of the lowest vulnerabilities to literacy problems.
⦿ A girl growing up in an area with one of the highest vulnerabilities to literacy problems in the country has a life expectancy 20.9 years shorter than a girl growing up in a ward with one of the lowest vulnerabilities to literacy problems.

Studies clearly show that
people with low health literacy have a 75% increased risk of dying earlier
than people who have high literacy levels.

Sources include:
>>Croydon: Institute of Public Finance, 2003. Estimating the short and longer term costs of statutory homelessness to households and service providers
>>Mitchell, A. Examining the Link Between Poor Literacy Skills and Dropout: Effective Strategies to Improve Reading Proficiency for K–12 Students, Lexia Learning
>>Turning The Key: Portraits of low literacy amongst people with experience of homelessness – A Thames Reach Action Research Report