Friday, 28 March 2014

Why Don’t You Listen To Me? (Auditory Processing) by Dyslexia Dublin, © 2014

Listening relates so closely to most of what we achieve in school and in our daily lives.
Let’s take a look at Auditory Processing and the causation.

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is common amongst children and also goes into adulthood. It affects around 5-6% of the world’s population, myself included, and is also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).  We have real problems when it comes to picking up verbal instruction, we simply don’t hear quite the same as others who don’t have auditory processing issues.  Why… and a very important why?  Our brains and ears function in a slightly miscued way and at a far slower connection rate.  This can have a huge effect on the way we speak, we quite often have to slow speech down to avoid mistakes.
This is so important… the connection between the individual and their instructor/teacher needs clarity and, if there is a cross infection with other noises, the signal becomes confused, or even lost, and the reaction/response is often the wrong one.  This is more prevalent today than ever before as modern class environments are more open with micro learning groups.  Some teaching styles and resources can work very much against those with auditory processing, eg. teaching as a facilitator… using mainly student input which may well involve various voices and demonstrations/role play, lots going on within the classroom.  It seems such a shame in many ways, but the old school layout and delivery was very much favourable to good linguistics… a single voice in a quiet classroom, with the exception of the teacher talking whilst writing on the board.  However, at that time we didn’t understand specific learning needs, now we do... or should do!  Very often the work is projected onto the whiteboard which allows the teacher to face the class, but the background noise minimises the pluses here.
Have you ever been in a cafĂ© or restaurant and struggled to listen to your friends/family?  Do you look up if someone drops something, or they turn on the ice/smoothie machine, or maybe driving in the car and the children are talking or playing loud music and you make a mistake or go the wrong way?  Have you ever wondered why some children and adults don’t enjoy swimming?  It’s not always the water that puts them off… swimming pools amplify sound to unbelievable levels.  My own daughter used to hate going to motor racing circuits and bonfire nights use to be a real problem too.  We often never realise how noise pollution affects some of us, although I will say the majority of us don’t even notice competing sounds and can just keep zoned into the person talking, or focus on what they are doing.

How do we assess for auditory processing problems?

This can be quite easy for both parent, teacher and indeed self-diagnosis in an adult.
Most who parent or work with children will notice how they can appear to switch off/zone out whilst doing certain activities, like at home watching television or deep into a game, they simply don’t hear you telling them dinner is ready or to turn the TV down.  You are competing with other sounds and they don’t hear you… this is often the case with missed instruction in the classroom too.
If we go into a quiet room, like a library for instance, we can listen to sounds without any problem… why?  Because they are clear and unhindered.  If you have ever been for a hearing test, you might have wondered why you walked through so many doors and into a sound-proof room?  It’s because they have to ensure there are no competing sounds or noise pollution.
Some children and adults can have an over-sensitivity to noise, however there will also be those that have an auditory problem.  This needs clarification if it’s suspected, so that treatment can be given and any problems are addressed before they fall too far behind, ie. speech delay or studies.
We can go through childhood into adulthood and this might not be picked up due to lack of awareness, or maybe it’s not severe enough to cause concern.  However mild, moderate or severe, it should all be looked into to avoid any problems.
One of my children would have problems with competing sounds as mentioned earlier and maybe you can already see similarities… shout them for dinner and, if they are listening to music or watching TV, they won’t hear you.  Trust me, this is not with intent, they just can’t hear you… stand in front of the TV and they will hear you fine.
So, do you notice any of the following…
Do they have volume control problems, ie. they raise their voice for no reason?
Do they dislike noisy places like swimming pools, cafes, etc?
Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
Do they look round when there is a sudden increase in competing noises?

Have you noticed a variation with them in different settings?... like at home with maybe just you and them with no competing noises they can completely focus, whereas if there’s two or three children doing homework together and you’re making dinner or whatever, they can’t focus.
If the environment is noisy, is their accuracy with tasks or commands affected?
Remember that this can be comorbid with other SPLD’S like dyslexia and dyscalculia, add, adhd and can lead people to believe that they have other problems, when it can just simply be auditory processing.  Lack of understanding/clarity of what they’re hearing can cause students to appear hyper and disruptive and while I must say this is not one size fits all, it is well worth exploring… especially if you see a change in your child.
Maybe they have a problem academically that is caused by their inability to zone into the teacher?  Maybe their class is noisy at times?  You can often find noise levels increase in more non-kinesthetic subjects like English and Maths, as some children are less stimulated and distracted and this can raise noise levels to the point where your child cannot focus.  We need really good listening and processing skills in the early phases of learning English, as there is such a small variation in sounds between certain letters and letter formations.  We can also look at confusion with homework… what happens when the teacher wraps up or the children know the school day is coming to an end?  Ever wondered why they forget books or misunderstood what was required for homework?  This is often laid at the door of poor organisational skillsets… however, a simple fix is to set the homework earlier in the day, as when it is coming near to home time the class in general is winding down and getting reading to go home.  Better still, give them one or two subjects per night for homework, less books to carry too! 
Maybe your school is proactive and are prepared to offer FM (the student wears headphones  linked to the teacher which allows them to hear only the teacher’s voice) or take steps to reduce competing noises.  You can also work on this at home when tasks require a high level of accuracy.  Help them to speak with good tone variation, try talking into the mirror with them, record their voice and play it back… this helps pitch.  Try not to use high level vocabulary, make it fit their academic age range, we often talk to our children these days as if they are adults, this never happened years ago.  Also, keep an eye on the type of programmes they are watching on the television.
We tend to slow our speech down when talking to non-English speakers and this is also a good idea for talking to people with APD, but not to the point where the person feels that we are mocking them, there has to be a good balance.  School environment can account for some issues… teachers can make sure those who they feel may have APD can be seated nearer the front of the class and preferably away from the noisy elements.  Let your child share ownership of this, especially if they are of an age where they can see the negative effect it has on their progress both in and out of school.

How do we find out if our child, or indeed an adult, has APD?  You can monitor activities and mood swings during events… like the school disco, a visit to the circus or swimming for example.  If we feel concerned, then we can see our GP and maybe get an auditory test by an audiologist.  We must wait until sufficient maturation has taken place to give a fair and conclusive assessment, from age 7 years up… this would be from first class in Ireland, junior school in the UK, the equivalent would be third grade in America.
Processing Information

We are slower auditory processors than most others… we take far more time to devour information and we often need to be told a few times or read text several times.  We can even take things the wrong way and miss punch lines in jokes or be the butt of a joke without realising it.  There are several ways information can be interpreted and we often only figure one angle, this can lead to people belittling us and bullying can also result.
NB. This information is from personal experience and research and also partly sourced through the work of others. It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and to offer helpful advice. Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2014 

we have a great product to help with auditory processing

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Saturday, 15 March 2014

‘Dyscalculia - (revised) The Why’s And How To Spot Some Of The Signs’ by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2015

Do you as an adult, or maybe your child, have problems with immediate number recognition?   This article has been penned to give you an idea of what dyscalculia is all about and some helpful tips to improve things along the way.
 Dyscalculia can be described as an innate specific learning disability (in the mind) that prohibits various levels of understanding in mathematics.  It is very similar to dyslexia and, in some cases, children/adults can have both (co-morbidity).

Unlike its close relation, dyslexia; dyscalculia is new to many within the education sector, we are one of very few that work in this subject area.
Maths as we all know is a core subject and therefore has to be studied, but there are ways that it can be improved by becoming number fluent… we suggest and use a very visual/kinaesthetic approach to improving fluency and improving mental imagery, and visualisation is all important. Those of you who share dyslexia and dyscalculia, as I do, will know that we are constantly told we have a great imagination… can you imagine how many football players or snooker players would have never reached the height of their profession without great imagination? It is a great asset and if we can apply this to our studies, we will truly fly! Numbers for many is tiring, unless you are an accountant or extremely rich and spend all your time calculating your wealth
We have great results from many that at one point shook just hearing the word maths, it needs to tuition needs to take into account all the various learning styles.

There are very few centres that work with dyscalculics, if you would like to discuss this further then you can visit our website at

Just to mention… to see other articles and information around Dyscalculia, check out our Facebook forum page -
There are many variants with dyscalculia, which can include a difficulty in understanding numbers, ie. 5 back to front and getting sums reversed (54 x 4 can be read as 45 x 4), learning how to manipulate numbers, learning maths facts and a number of other related symptoms, such as recognising the letters/words side of maths (dyslexia) and even down to reconstruction of the sum onto to your workbook (dysgraphia) and number alignment, which is key to totalling sums correctly.  As with dyslexia, Maths disabilities can also occur as the result of some types of brain injury (apraxia), in which case the proper term is acalculia, to distinguish it from dyscalculia which is of innate, genetic or developmental origin.
Although maths learning difficulties can be genetic, occurring in children with low levels of academia, dyscalculia also affects people from across the whole IQ range (Einstein had dyslexia) and sufferers often, but not always, also have difficulties with telling the time and measuring (eg. cooking).
 Many find counting numbers going forward in a particular pattern straightforward, however they have problems with reversing numbers, especially those that have a sequence involving 2's and 3's.  Very few develop islands… by this I mean number platforms like 5-10-15 or 3-6-9… this alone can improve calculating as many use their fingers and count from the base line of say 1-10-20, so 20 + 8 becomes 21-22-23-24-25-26-27 and finally 28, instead of platform 25 and 26-27-28, much easier and quicker too.

Estimates of the population with dyscalculia range between 3 and 6%.  Around 50% of those with dyslexia have dyscalculia and those who don’t are generally quite good at mathematics.
Dyscalculia can cause problems with the written maths and indeed for those with dyslexia and dyscalculia, algebra can cause particular problems as the calculations and written word become entwined… however, not so with physical maths (eg. counting with fingers or an abacus) as this is visual.  Learning Maths through the visual channel is very important (games, etc.).  Also, I find that some, but not all, children are no longer being taught by rote (ie. memorising through repetition)… children with specific learning needs would benefit from this method also as it creates rhythm and provides another method of learning. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, over learning is so important, ie. a variety of ways of learning a subject and lots of repetition.
Children suffering from visual stress and those with dysgraphia can also have a problem with writing down sums, as they have a problem in forming columns and rows.
Symptoms of dyscalculia could be if you throw down a number of coins or counters in a random fashion the child/adult would have difficulty in arriving at the correct value/number.  They would have a far greater chance of accuracy if they were in rows.  This, in itself, can be a problem if your child goes into a shop to buy something.  If, for example, you ask them to buy milk in the shop and get something for themselves, it’s helpful to give the money for both separately so they know which is which and don’t get confused.  It can also be useful to let them pay the cashier when you’re with them, counting the money out loud, to help them get used to the values of different notes and coins.  As they get more confident, you could get them to calculate the supermarket shopping, adding each item as you put it in the basket either on a calculator or by writing and adding the numbers in their maths copy book (squared).  All these things help to build greater number recognition.
Also, with varied objects, ie. one of each… cow, pig, horse, dog for example… they would then use their visual image side to great effect and gain the correct answer and with increased speed too.
Reading a clock is also difficult, especially analogue as opposed to digital… again, games can speed this up.  Also, going in up in 5’s is good (5, 10, 15 mins) again using platforms and try, for now, to avoid introducing the ‘to the hour’, just use past the hour, ie. 10,20,30,40 mins past, etc. ‘Quarter past/to’ and ‘half past’ can be introduced later on.  Also. time keeping can be a problem – it’s beneficial to use minutes when giving instruction, ie. we’re going out in 10 minutes, it’ll be time for bed in 20 minutes… as they will find this easier to understand.
As with Dyslexia, left and right is a problem - with map reading people often turn the map towards the direction they need to head.
Other symptoms are an inability to process multiple requests, difficulty in multi-tasking. Also, problems with reading music and with visualisation in general.
Many adults with dyscalculia have learnt to adapt their world to allow them use their strengths. Being creative for the most part, many become writers and artists.

Software intended to intervene and improve children and adult’s academic ability is now widely available.
Multi-sensory educational therapy is a very effective way of increasing academic (ability) age up to a person’s chronological age range.
Need resources to support those struggling with maths?... then visit our online store at
 NB. This information is from personal experience and research and also partly sourced through the work of others.  It is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia and to offer helpful advice.   Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Visual Stress

 Want to know more about visual stress @ Dyslexia Dublin CETC 2014 ©

Visual stress (don’t call me stupid) can cause many people to stop reading due to eye strain and result in possible headaches.
Around two in every ten people can suffer with stress. Constant use of laptops and computers can irritate sufferers of visual stress and also working for long periods in artificial light and unfiltered UV light can also put a huge strain on the eyes.
We all have tolerance to white light (glare); many would be quick to turn away from intense light such as the sun.  If you monitor this in your own family, you will quickly see the variation (tolerance levels) in each person.  Some will pop sunglasses on with the slightest increase in brightness and others won’t.  You might have noticed your children in the car… one could be looking towards the light and one looking away from the light.  This doesn’t automatically suggest they are visually stressed, but those that have a very low tolerance, might just be.

What is the main cause of eye strain and irritation?  This occurs when the eyes are working overtime trying to focus, in particular, on written script, be it in hard copy, whiteboard or on a computer screen.  Words seem to crash into each other with no apparent gaps between letters.  Letters can also appear to move around and can be missed altogether; causing fragmentation of information taken in during reading and this can have a knock-on effect with retention of information and memory recall at a later date. Writing can and often suffers due to wondering off the margin, we have a problem spacing and words can be cramped or words can be split at the end of a line.

(In the case of schools, keep your eyes open for children in class who...)
- quickly when working with text.
- Have problems copying from the whiteboard board.
- Seem to experience increased difficulty reading after an initial period of about 10 minutes.
- Keep moving their head or body position, or moving closer to or further away from the page.
- Read slowly and haltingly.
- Track with their finger.
- Yawn while reading.
If any of these points are noticeable, you can contact us for more details on Visual Stress and what can be of help.

What can be done to help sufferers of visual stress?... early intervention and testing is vital. We at Dyslexia Dublin CETC offer a screening test that will give you a clear indication and results will not only indicate that you might be suffering with visual stress but will suggest filters and other resources that will help to remove the problem, so you can get on with your life.
We also stock intervention products such as: overlays…reading rulers…exercise books…software etc visit our online store or order a catalogue

All our articles are for guidance purposes only and we recommend that you always seek professional advice.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Fine & Gross Motor Skills (Dyspraxia, Balance Co-Ordination) by  Dyslexia Dublin CETC ©2014

The co-ordination of the skeletal, muscular and neurological body functions combine to perform fine motor skills.  Fine motor control is the ability to make small, precise movements, such as picking up a tiny object with your thumb and index finger.  There are several things you can do to improve fine motor, such as working with a soft ball… making sure you get your child to squeeze the ball, stretching the fingers and pull the ball in by using mainly the finger tips. Rolling up a tea towel from flat is also good.
Use of manipulative materials is great, such as jigsaw puzzles and Lego… Plasticine is also very good.
Marbles is a great game for improving fine motor skill and children love to play it.  Set up a marbles game and play it for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.  To shoot marbles, set up a small box on its side either on a table, on a carpet or on the floor. Pick up a marble between the tip of your index finger and thumb and place on the ground.  Flick it with your index finger (and other fingers) off your thumb to shoot it towards the box, trying to get it inside. Start close to the box and as co-ordination improves move the box further away, which will also continue to develop more accuracy.
Encourage the use of a pencil from as early as possible, even scribbling helps to improve fine motor skill… point this out to your child’s teacher, as they might not understand how this causes them to struggle and fatigue can also be monitored.  It’s always a good idea to get them to tell you what they have sketched, rather than embarrass them by second guessing their subject.
Another exercise to strengthen the fingers and improve fine motor is to get an elastic band and thread it around the fingers and try to spread the fingers as wide as you can and return to normal position. Repeat this (a few minutes at each end of the day) every day.
It’s also important to help your child with adequate support and stability.  Rather like we rest our wrists on a laptop, the wrist plays an important part in writing and hand/eye co-ordination is also very important.

The same can be said for the feet… it’s so important for stability as our feet and toes are our anchors to the ground.  Many dyspraxic children tend to have fallen arches (flat footed) and this, like many of the above, is caused by lack of or poor muscle tone.  I can remember one occasion during my early years as a teacher, when my balance caused others to think that I took a drink and my wobbling was down to this.  I can remember explaining to someone in our Human Resource Department that this was a part of my dyspraxia and he hadn’t a clue about the daily struggles and high levels of concentration required to get by day on day.  These thingsdo improve because we learn ways to compensate, but they never leave us for good. 
I am going to explain this a little deeper, as many believe it has no relevance to us with balance and co-ordination issues, but believe me it does.  If we go as far back as primal times, our feet played an equal part in our ability to climb, just like some animals do to this day.  You only have to look at a ballerina and see how they use their whole foot from heel to toe.  We have 26 bones in our foot and it is far from the most complex bone structure in the entire body… the metatarsals link to the midfoot and hind.  If we think of a shoe and its widest and narrowest points front to back, this is triangular shaped and we use this to great effect when balancing.  Try and balance whilst lifting your toes and see how hard it is!  It’s no shock to see top athletes taking a long time to recover when they have a broken metatarsal, as this is the backbone of our foot and responsible for most of our ability to balance.
 Try to get your child to stand on tip toes for very short periods, this will help strengthen this area… also, stand facing a wall with hands against the wall for stability, keep one foot flat and lift the heel of the other so on the ball of the foot…. repeat around six times per foot and repeat twice a day.  Arching the feet and then flattening again can help improve and strengthen arches, you can also buy orthotics which support the collapsed or weak arch and this will also help stability.  Always demonstrate and supervise any exercise routine and don’t forget the rule of ‘times four’ for those with specific learning needs (show them the routine four times).
Facial muscle tone is very similar and we rely heavily on this to do many things such as talk, eat, smile, frown, lick, blink, etc.  It is again important to exercise this area… encourage laughter as it works more facial muscles than any other activity, encourage games like blowing bubbles and also sucking drinks through a small straw… anything that gets the muscles working will improve many things, including verbal dyspraxia.
We require fine motor skill for many things including dressing… many will struggle with zips, buttons, belts and shoelaces.  Until they have sufficient strength avoid these, especially at school…you can buy special belts, Velcro shoes are great and jackets too.
This information is for guidance purposes only and we always recommend that you seek the relevant professional advice.
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