Thursday, 25 April 2013

Short Term , Working and long term memory part two by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Short term memory this is the first port of call for all we see and do and not one thing slips quietly past this point…the importance those is how do we hold on to this information long enough for it to be of use to us.
We must be able to feel hot and cold and smell good and bad odours…even walk and hold things.
But most importantly we need to turn all those things into our long term store, especially if they are relevant for future use (times tables) in studying etc.
Short term memory is so very important in help us to grow our lives and better our position whatever that might be. Working memory includes many systems for processing incoming data these store and issue information to and from the brain and help to coordinate all we do…this function could be very basic like get your finger to scratch your eye or could be something far more complex like a maths. We also have to have a very strong visual representation of the possible moves we need to make, and our awareness of the flow of information into and out of memory, and this is all stored for around 20 to 30 seconds.
In order to make that initial processing of what’s ahead we need to consider the importance of our working memory it’s a very important cognitive tool and indeed it helps achieve many things in our day to day living and learning routine. We all go on at times about the memory span of a gold fish…just imagine how chaotic our lives would be if that was the case; how would we go from place to place and how would we find the school never mind retain the information when we get there…people and things would always seem to have appeared for the first time no matter how many times we would have met them before; all would be un imaginable and but for our short term/working memory would be the case.
There are many who are unable to hold much in their short/working memory and in many cases this can be extended/improved, to move forward in life we need a sound short term memory to feed important information to our long term memory and stored ready for instant recall. The initial kick start just like that of a baby is through the senses and on into the short term memory and if the exercises is repeated (non stimulating) or maybe even done just the once it can be retained (stimulating) in the long term memory; hence the reason why we might not be good at maths and be exceptional at art.
Most of memory recall is sun conscious it just happens and on other occasions you can be distracted and not realise you have carried out an action and at that point you start to recall events to try and resolve the problem and thus bringing it into the conscious mind. We can look at many of the greats…Thomas Edison…Stephen Hawking’s they would take something apart in their memory and reassemble it in order to understand how it worked. Many of us think we have a poor memory especially short term.
I remember helping out at an old peoples home many years back and many just sat around (perceived to have bad memories) until the bingo started; I was amazed at how they could work one, two and three boards checking numbers whilst retaining them in their head; that da taught me an awful lot about how the brain responds to things it finds stimulating and the person who one will remember that for a very long time.
Poor memory has no bearing therefore on the word stupid or stupidity…this could be simply down to one part of the whole memory picture.
Take a look at getting to the bathroom in total darkness…we have travelled that path many times over months and years and this has allowed the brain to store the layout of the room and allows us to navigate all of the objects…the only time you are likely to trip is if something new has been left in your path or even a cup of water which you placed the night before you can retrieve this and take a drink without spilling a drop even whilst half asleep; why because you put it down and the brain witnessed that and passed it to the long term memory
Short term cognitive therapy/ training can really help. How would you be able to know if your partner or child had a problem with their short term memory? Does your child/partner struggle taking things down…maybe they transcribe one word at a time or even break multi syllable words into smaller parts or look up for every letter…if the former is the case they could well have short term memory problems…if you send them to fetch a few things do they return with them all or maybe return with nothing, then there is a good chance they could benefit from memory training.
There are many things you can do to stimulate the brain and thus improve memory.
Games in the car…choose a colour or make and go up to two each and then increase…the car has to be coming towards you…you can increase or make it more complexed by say choosing the model.
Helping in the kitchen to bake or cook meals will improve their memory and also increase their taste range and help out with their maths by measuring out and portions (fractions) of cake.
Send them off whilst shopping to get something off your list…you can help by creating flash cards of Google images…Heinz Beans…Cornflakes or your preferred brand show the flash card but retain it and then increase to two products and so on…flash cards can be used for anything even packing school things or a holiday.
We have many games in stock that can help improve memory like matching pairs or brainbox; remember little and often just like eating.
Always take safety as the first port of call when carrying out any intervention/training and please seek professional advice as we are only offering guidance.
Watch out for our DVD coming out soon.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Short Term or Active Memory Why’s and How’s (understanding why we have so much frustration and occasional meltdowns) by Toby Lee Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

We only rely on our short term memory for storing up to seven things for periods of 20 seconds. Information is then passed onto our long term memory.
Have you ever arrived into a room and forgotten the reason for going in there or maybe about to place an order for food and you can only remember some of the order?…you may have a short term memory problem. This could be short lived (caused by being ill or stress) or more permanent due to a learning need.
We have several areas that we can move information into - short term or long term storage and that is through our sensory channels…hear /say something, see something , touch something, taste something, smell something…all but our hearing happen very much without us realising.

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For many, poor memory when it comes to some aspects of learning or life, can be easily forgotten…these are generally areas that hold little interest and therefore become far easier to forget. One area that never ceases to amaze me is the power of the short and long term memory to retain information through the visual channel.
This is why so many struggle with maths at school, as for the most part it is numbers and not visually stimulating. Try bouncing on an exercise ball or playing maths snap and see the difference… retention is far higher.
I was at a teacher training session many moons ago and can still remember some of the names!
The main reason for this lapse or poor short-term memory is often attributed not so much to the ability of the brain to retain such information, but to the ability of the person to engage in a given task.

How many of you go into a venue and are met by a friend who introduces you to a few people and seconds later you have forgotten their names? It might not necessarily be down to a memory problem. When you entered the room you might well have been distracted by i’s fine architecture or maybe the decor or an intriguing character in the corner. You might be nervous and maybe anticipating awkward conversation, or maybe you weren’t listening when you were first introduced. Try playing a game with yourself by linking each one to a theme or maybe the way they are dressed, like ‘dashing Dan’ or ‘delightful Diana’… this will help you remember names and those other niggling things that are likely to cause awkward moments.

Train your brain everyday…it’s a large muscle and think what happens to our other muscles that get little use. Make sure you do things you find stimulating, this will aid retention and short sharp regular bursts of games or activities will help also.
Get in the habit of recording things…I encourage my students to keep a reflective diary…that way you will refresh your mind of the day’s events and names/places, etc. and a calendar for forthcoming events.
A good memory is key to our survival and one of the things that can also affect it is confidence. If you put yourself under pressure…many melt when the word test is mentioned and that can trigger a shutdown in our memory. This can also cause us to stutter, stammer over an important speech or reading out loud. Take the praise of others but also praise yourself when you achieve something… this raises confidence and self-esteem, which will also sharpen your memory.
When we pop to the shops quite often we make a list and this would be something we could introduce into many things we do…you can also try visualising a previous time to help you remember something you were going to do or even help you track something you have lost or misplaced. This is also a handy technique for doing something new. I remember taking my Motorcycle Test… I know I am dyspraxic and yes, you heard me correct, my Motorcycle Test! During the training I struggled to come up to the expectations of the instructor and was staring at a fail. After thinking it through, that evening I decided to try a different approach. The next morning I said to the instructor that I wanted to follow him, he was shocked but agreed. I was able to visualise all I needed to know and that afternoon much to his amazement I passed and passed well.
I am a very strong believer in short bursts of stimulation through the visual channel to help strengthen short term and long term memory.
The information we provide is for guidance purposes only and professional advice should always be sought.
Resources can also play a part in stimulating and improving short term memory. One such game we stock is the BrainBox range of Memory Training Games. Have a look at the various titles on our Online Resource Store,

The Why’s and How’s of the IEP (Individual Education Plan)
and the benefits to individuals in the learning environment by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Specific Needs Education is the education of students with special needs in a way that addresses the students' individual differences and needs. This process involves the individually planned scheme of work with an agreed level of help…sometimes intense help… to achieve a learning objective, such as learning the alphabet for example. This will also give an outline of the resources required to achieve an outcome equal or close to their peers (see article on Accommodation for further details).
This will include provision of in class support (SNA) and one to one (resource teacher), requiring extra resource hours.
There are a range of learning needs and not all children in a class would have been through a diagnosis. The school however should be able to identify such students and should offer as much support as they possibly can. Parents must also be informed of this, which is key to helping move their individual child forward.
In most countries, inclusive education is in place; schools and teachers are changing the way in which they teach, to accommodate all students and allowing far more children with specific learning needs to be taught in the mainstream school.
Integration is less likely to cause stigma amongst the students as they are submersed in this modern learning environment. Inclusive education, with adequate resources and qualified knowledgeable staff, can offer almost everything to everyone in regard to education.
Specific learning needs students can be identified early in the learning process…observation of work and participation in group and solo activities can be monitored, along with performance in both testing and homework. These would all help to identify individuals that are struggling to understand the information being presented.
IEP (Individual Education Plan)
A learning programme should be agreed between teachers and this should also involve parents and the support staff within the school. This will vary from country to country and will be unique to the student that has been identified with a learning need. The IEP will set out the support and resources required to help the individual and will also document the resource hours and in-class provision (scribe…reader, etc.) required to help the student cope within the mainstream class.
As schools become more familiar with the range of individual needs, they will resource accordingly. This will require changes in the way they accommodate all within the group and this could be down to gaining physical access to classrooms (old schools) with the use of lifts to upper levels, to the introduction of computers for children who cannot write because of a physical disability. They must also take account of the child’s needs outside of the classroom during break times, to include access to the playground, toilets and eating facilities.
In the case of a child on the Autism Spectrum, it might be necessary to school them in a smaller group or classroom. This can also be the same with children who have SPD if they are tactile or not tactile, they might struggle to concentrate and would need to be positioned accordingly. This would also be the same for children with auditory processing problems and also those who may have visual stress.
Modifying the Lesson to include the IEP.
Students workload can be reduced and be more specific…for instance, handwriting can be in print rather than cursive to help students keep up with lessons that are dictated.
Project work can be assisted by giving the student a text book and also an audio or DVD to watch, such as Michael Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse’, for example.
Reduced homework given on a more consistent basis, with maybe one subject per night instead of several subjects…this also means there is less to forget and fewer books for the student to carry home.
Students should be given access to certain resources during testing, like the use of a calculator or having a bank of words to aid comprehension. Extra time for tests can also be agreed during the construction of the IEP.
ECM (every child matters) is an integral part of every school and classroom, or should be. The Teacher is responsible for ensuring the safety of all children in their care and take appropriate advice/action to maintain the safety of all.
The information is for guidance only and advice should be sought from learning providers.

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Friday, 12 April 2013

Let’s look at Inclusive Classrooms…what does that mean?  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

The definition might suggest many things. Let’s take a look - Including or covering all the services, facilities, or items normally expected or required.

The definition of inclusive education is… ‘Inclusive education is a process whereby the school systems, strategic plans and policies, adapt and change to include teaching strategies for a wider more diverse range of children’.
Equality and diversity that encompasses all and is not rigid, it can move with the times.

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Students are those with a physical disability or specific learning need and would be better placed in main stream education and we could say all students in education would benefit from an inclusive learning environment...
Making an Inclusive Classroom effective  and areas that breed successful integration:

• Allow all Students the opportunity to be active, not passive, learners. Interaction can be aided by skilful teaching… if a nervous student gives part of an answer, help them to expand or maybe add some suggestions and make sure the answer is acknowledged… either verbal recognition or on the whiteboard.

• All students should be encouraged to make choices as often as practical/possible. A good teacher will allow students some time to flounder, as some of the most powerful learning stems from taking risks and learning from mistakes.

• Feedback from parents is as important, as not all students will tell you how they feel about their learning experience.
• Trust is a big one… go slowly as you move towards the inclusive teaching practice and allow students to feel comfortable about the new style of learning. Discipline is still required to hold this together.
•Students with disabilities must be free to learn at their own pace and resource for note taking and readers for exams needs to be in place. Make sure you have a comprehensive course folder (this is so important for supply teachers coming in).
•All students need to taste success… lesson plans and learning objectives need to be very relevant and attainable with targets that are measurable.
Front load courses where possible, as students become jaded towards the end of the terms and academic year.
Facilitator first, Teacher second:
The role needs to reflect an interested partner that is in the room to inspire and encourage learning to take place. This is achieved by structuring lessons that flow freely and are full of interaction between students and facilitator/ teacher, keeping the class manageable and on course and in line with the syllabus by accurate and relevant questioning. Encourage by giving a slightly incomplete answer to a scenario and getting the students to add to or give alternative answers.

Always take into account learning styles that will cover all learners in the group and if not in one lesson, some rotation to stimulate all learners. Use the board freely and take a back seat on occasions and allow students to present their findings… start to use micro groups to research pieces of work and then pull this altogether and give an evaluation of the task. Use brain dumps and let them go for break after they have written on the board or answered a question. This acts as a little treat and stimulates responses from all in the group.

If resources are tight maybe you could get some help from a panel of parents/parents association to make this more achievable.
How would I recognise an Inclusive Classroom?
The room would include lots of visual resources and have an active/positive feel to it. Furniture in micro groups or horse shoe to make the students feel part of the group… lots of large and small group activities built into the lesson plan.
Observation of a range of exercises that will encompass all lesson styles with students actively involved… role play is a great way to stimulate learning.
Interactive whiteboard with suitable software and a teacher that occasionally sits back and lets the students take turns to direct class.
The students are all informed of the session/lesson aims.
Sessions are well planned to keep students engaged… allows the learners at all levels to gain knowledge from the session.
Class rules are a great idea if agreed at the start of the year/term… let them feel part of the decision making process:
1) Acceptable noise level
2) Time keeping
3) Use of toilets and hygiene
4) Tidying classroom and work areas
5) Temperatures (this will vary from child to child) - try to strike a happy medium.
6) Anti-Bullying
7) Mentor for new students
8) Buddy system for someone who misses a lesson
It is important that learning is constantly checked… random sampling of homework should take place on a regular basis… brain dumps (encourage students to answer questions based on lesson content at the end of lesson). The whiteboard can be used for this.
Keep an eye on quality during the early days of transition and don’t give up… It WILL work!

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Top  Anger Management (part three) - Inside the mind of the angered and angry child
Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

What happens when a meltdown occurs is very important and the key is to reduce its longevity…it can be over in seconds or could take hours, depending on how it’s handled. One method is to try and be neutral in your emotional approach. Unstable reactions to an individual’s behaviour cause the situation to become more volatile. Emotion may give you feelings of being in free fall (lacking control). This will undoubtedly affect and may even frighten your child, this again could lead to a flight or fight situation leading to a point of no return
This may also lead to a permanent belief that your child has the upper hand and may encourage regular conflict as direct connection, albeit strained communication, is made between child and parent/carer.
Save the emotion for times when you want to reinforce positive behaviour, and then pour it on. When dealing with negative behaviour, try to stay unemotional and matter-of-fact. Quite often energy is found and it’s not unlike fuelling a fire. You are far better stifling the conflict by not reacting and you may well find the temper tantrum will simmer far quicker than you being verbally reactive…save that for promoting good behaviour.
Try to be more proactive, and less reactive. The best way to handle bad behaviour (and now I might be guilty of stating the obvious) is not to let the opportunity to arise in the first instance and moreso with children with specific educational needs, as their understanding of good and bad behaviour is far different than that of a fully able child. Looking at bad behaviour and then reflecting on the problems that led up to the event is a very worthwhile opportunity to prevent a repeat occurrence.
I often use a reflective diary during tuition with students/parents who come to me…get them to reflect on their day…good and bad (don’t worry about the information being legible). It’s very important to allow your child to communicate and at the same time allowing him/her to download information and switch off and relax/sleep easier at night.
One other thing you could do is use a colour coded week planner to identify the things your child likes to do and things they don’t like to do…encourage positivity by using their favourite colour for the things they least like to do and their least favourite colour for the things they like to do (reverse psychology)…image with specific educational needs children is everything.
Try keeping a reflective diary yourself and log down all of the immediate activities that led up to the meltdown. This will allow you to plan for the future and at least remove some of the events that lead to your child getting confused, then frustrated and then angry…things can then start to become a lot more fun and reduce stress levels in all quarters and there will a be a far more positive feel/bond between you and your child which will improve their social skills too.
Remember listen to every statement your child makes, as you might be agreeing to something that you will come to regret and promise nothing unless you intend to deliver on your promises. Time is another big thing…allow more time and try not to be late as again this can cause meltdowns.
Try to limit change…painting bedrooms , changing room layouts, etc…even changing the car should be gradual as children with specific educational needs enjoy stability and, believe me, they notice far more than you give them credit for…even seating arrangements whilst eating at home or even dining out are so very important to stop your child from feeling isolated or indeed the opposite... suffocated.
Please remember this information was based on parental experience…teaching and researching the work of others and should only be used as a guide.
I hope you have enjoyed reading these 3 posts on Anger Management and we look forward to posting more items on Specific Learning Needs.
Toby Lee Dyslexia Dublin CETC ©

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Friday, 5 April 2013

 Living with Dyspraxia by  @
Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

We are mature adults and parents who have lived a lot of years…spent quite a few of them comparing ourselves to others and deep down we probably knew we were somewhat different.
How can we begin to explain what it’s like…how it feels…how many have to cope with being dyspraxic? It's a hard condition to explain to people who don't have it, a task many dyspraxics face a lot of the time. There are so many aspects to it which make it very difficult to explain...want to explain or even admit it. You go through a phase of denial and inward beating yourself up (why me?) and then the comes a point where you start to make things happen and the world, in part, stands up and begins to slowly take note of you. That is the time you are happy to stand up in a crowd and feel quite happy to say ‘I am dyspraxic... look at what I have achieved…practice really does make perfect!’.
Dyspraxia causes a variation of disrupted signals to various parts of our brain. In short, it prevents messages to and from the brain being received and transmitted precisely. By and large it affects our intellect…emotions…our physical activities…language…social skills and our sensory processing.
Dyspraxic children can present with variety of problems or a mere few. For example, some have problems with balance and co-coordinating (gross motor skill) and others are very good at sport…they in turn might be poor academically. Dyspraxia is quite different in most every individual, although there is a general list of problems many dyspraxics face every day.
Dressing in the early years can be difficult and take some mastering (boys doing up a shirt is a big thing). It’s so important to start at the very bottom or very top button. Post-It notes can help with building a dressing and hygiene routine.
Short socks are far easier to master and also a small bit of talc on the feet will help them slide on much easier…coloured heels help line up the sock. Trousers start off with Velcro fasteners or track suit bottoms, if allowed, and the same with trainers/shoes. With jumpers, remove the label from the back and sew one in the front, it’s easier to see if the garment is the right way around just by looking at the label when the garment is on.
Coughing (with hand over mouth or using a tissue), nose blowing and licking lips, etc. are all things that children with dyspraxia often forget to do. It’s wise to practice these on a regular basis till they do them naturally. Remind them also about going to the toilet...the reason it’s so often a rush and embarrassing mistakes can happen is they just simply get so engrossed in an activity and forget until it’s almost too late.
Is your child reluctant to clean their teeth? You could try plaque disclosing tablet dye (can be purchased online). The dye simply colours the plaque on your teeth allowing you to easily see areas that need special attention…most children find it fun and cannot believe how stained their teeth are! The special dye is easy to remove with a toothbrush.
Going to the loo can be a task in itself…have baby wipes on hand and encourage their use. Quite often children will wipe briefly after going to the loo and not clean thoroughly…the wipe will speed this process up.
Wiping our mouths whilst eating…make this a positive habit with tissues always available and encourage use at all meals, but don’t keep at them about it in the presence of guests as this tends to embarrass the child, just leave the tissues for them to use themselves. Cut up food initially to reduce the size of meat especially…never buy tough meat as this will be taken out of the mouth after a short period…some dyspraxic children have poor gag reflex.
Let them try as many different foods as possible…it’s all about taste plus texture. Some fruits are a no no…pears are quite stringy as are some peaches…most would dislike the taste and texture of an apple skin but would be quite happy with the apple peeled. Trial and error is the best way.
I would like to point out as always I am not a psychologist but a teacher of specific learning needs for well over twenty years and a parent of children who also has dyspraxia. From my own childhood and being a parent of dyspraxic children (and now grandchildren!), these are some of the things I have seen, tried, used and even invented!.. all to provide practical support to make my child’s life that bit easier when growing up. Maybe some of these you may find of help to you...and any feedback or contributions would be most welcome!
And finally.... praise, praise, tons of praise when they get it right! This is the key, as self-esteem is 9/10’s the key in overcoming obstacles!

This is my story and based on are welcome to share my experiences above but please mention the origins and author of the post and feel free to comment Toby Lee

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