Tuesday, 3 September 2013

‘Dyslexia…From the Teacher’s Perspective’ by, Dyslexia Dublin (CETC) © 2013

 I have worked as a teacher/practitioner with children and adults for many years and, in my experience, teachers are well aware of the variations in ability within in the classroom.  That is also the case with many siblings within or passing through the same school… many times I was compared to my brother who preceded me and indeed to my younger brother also.  I remember my elder brother was much better at soccer than I was and not a week went by that this was not mentioned to me by one or more teachers!  So… why are we with dyslexia so different?

I, along with many children and adults with dyslexia, have are and will often have to face so many challenges in the classroom.  We are far from alone as the challenges we face, bring fresh challenges for those that teach us.  Many who have taught for years follow older styles of teaching (traditional), which for many have brought great success stories… but there are also many that would love to do more and get greater success rates.

In education, be it junior infants to adult education, we have classes full of dyslexics and those with LDD (literacy deficit disorder).  They are confused and want to learn… how do we bridge that gap and help teacher’s embrace all in their class/group?

There is little or no support from the governments of this world to fund change and supply resources to meet that change.

We are seeing increasing numbers at our intervention centres… why is this?  Parents are digging deep into their pockets to fund additional support in academic areas, with one aim, to give their child the best chance with their education and allow them chase ever elusive jobs when they become adult.  Class sizes are getting bigger and this is acceptable with more mature teens and adults, but the contrary at junior level where there is a greater demand on building strong academic foundations.
It is well known that literacy deficit and dyslexia are the main causes of low exam pass rates for many students.

Understanding Dyslexia and LDD

It is so important to understand what dyslexia and LDD is all about and how it inhibits learning within the classroom and wider academic environment; however, this is not the case in all subject areas.  For those who closely monitor their students, it can be somewhat confusing that they are alert one minute and lethargic the next… this is down to levels of stimulation within a given subject.  Dyslexia varies in severity and will affect some to a greater degree than others (reading, spelling and retention)… they can have good days where they make lots of progress and other days where they appear to go backwards.  This can often be down to confidence levels and the pressure they feel they are under, as waves of new information hits them (learning/lesson content).  It is so important to plan content to incorporate much of what the student already knows and a small percentage is fresh (new words), this will help have a positive effect with their confidence and will also help with retention (memory). The thing that should remain uppermost is these students are confused at times and are far from lazy, some days they would feel like a non-swimmer being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool and other days well able to float.  You should always gauge the individual before asking them to read out loud in class as this could rock their confidence and in some cases put them back years… you might find this odd as they may have read to their resource teacher and she said his/her reading is fine, however in a larger group lack of confidence and pressure to perform could kick in.  It is so important that we as teachers find new and improved ways to raise their confidence and give them a greater chance of success.

Learning About Your Students

Students with Dyslexia and LDD have very high IQ.

One area that should be worked on is the spoken word… in resource classes a greater emphasis should be put on this as it’s one of the main areas that stimulates the brain in dyslexic students and aids retention.  Unlike those with a strong left side of the brain that can take information in through reading and writing, most dyslexics will be working far harder to retain information than their mainstream peers.  If you observe students (3-5 in an average class will have some form of dyslexia) yawning or looking around or out the window (distracted) it could well be that they have hit a mental roadblock and it is important at this point to introduce a change of tact.  Try introducing a tactile exercise or something very visual, even a short clip of say a film or play in your English lesson… graphs or maybe weighing something in a maths lesson… this will release them from that mental block and also raise their confidence levels.

An understanding of specific learning needs is paramount and needs to be shared between parent/child and teachers; it is easier to keep this low key from a teacher’s perspective if you are aware of a child’s shortcomings.  This should be voiced from teacher to parent or parent to teacher and never teacher to student unless you have the parents’ permission.  It is important that a teacher raises their concerns to the principal of the school and then the parent and, if the parent has a diagnosis or concerns, that these are listened to and if an IEP is in place, it is adhered to.

Many students will throw teachers in a certain subject or subjects and this is mainly in the core subjects such as English, Maths, etc. and thrive in non-core (practical subjects) like home economics or wood work, where there is a greater emphasis on learning through doing.

Students with Dyslexia have good long term memories and have the ability to spell multi-syllabic words and yet can trip over mono-syllabic words such as son…bun.  This is another area that confuses many and the reason for this is down to the student storing words through images such as mother, father, birthday, anniversary… they see these words constantly on cards for family members.
Quote from Liz Ball, teacher at the Foote school and a fellow dyslexic, “Dyslexics are lifelong learners. We often share an insatiable curiosity and commitment to figuring out the world around us that is unique in its intensity.  We are not only compassionate about learning—we are driven to analyse and critique the world around us—to turn arguments inside out, then right-side back again.  This, after all, is what dyslexics do well. We see the world from a unique perspective, and we are compelled to share our perspective with others. This is why we make great teachers”.

Dyslexic students require more fact content rather than less… and they are great with reciting statistics (letter and verse).

Students with dyslexia should be encouraged to take up subjects that use a lot of visual stimulation such as art and vocal such as drama… they will often astound you by remembering not just their lines in a play, but those of many others in the cast also.

 If they have no choice but to learn a second language, encourage them to choose Italian as this is one of the easier languages to learn for a dyslexic student, due to fewer word sounds and is also very expressive.

 The use of a multi-sensory approach is a positive mode of learning for those with Dyslexia.
 Remember dyslexia is for life… we never see the back of it but we can, with the right help, move around with it and if you look no further that people like Richard Branson… Stephen Spielberg… Henry Winkler… Jamie Oliver… Mollie King and many others, you will know this will not hold us back… at least not for long.

 “We always remember great experiences in our lives and school can be one of them, along with the very teachers that made school so interesting”, Toby Lee, Dyslexia Dublin (CETC)

 Let’s all remember you, the teachers that inspire a generation! 

The information above is for guidance purposes only and we always recommend that you seek professional advice. Toby Lee Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

We are showing a Hollywood Film/Documentary, ‘The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia’ a very moving and inspiring story of students with dyslexia who have struggled within education. Dates confirmed so far:  Glór, Ennis on Wednesday 9th October at 7.30pm.  Dates in North County Dublin soon.  Tickets can be purchased from www.dyslexiadublin.ie.

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