Saturday, 28 December 2013

ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) by Dyslex © 2013

What is ODD and how can we begin to understand those with the condition?

ODD is thought to be a childhood disorder… however, although this starts in childhood it can continue, if unchecked, into adulthood.

What would be an example of a child presenting with ODD?  Children would show above levels of anger, stubbornness towards those they consider to be in authority (teachers, parent/carers), compared to that of an average child.

This is seen as abnormal and in some cases the need to annoy or bother others is sought by those with ODD.

To get a diagnosis of ODD, a child must show signs for a period greater than six months and must be causing the family considerable distress at home and during other external activities, such as school and social settings, ie. scouts/guides.  It’s worth noting that sensory issues can cause children to be bothered, as in extremes of noise and also others being tactile.  It cannot be stressed enough the importance of getting an accurate understanding of the root cause, as this can lead to your child being excluded from these activities.

It’s also worth noting that this can co-exist with ADD or ADHD… try not to be confused with frustrated defiance or anger, as you may find in those with dyspraxia.  Also, look at others around who might appear in the eyes of the one demonstrating bad behaviour as being more favoured, as again the attachment theory can come into play if the individual feels someone else is being favoured over them and they’re being neglected, bad behaviour can then ensue as a way of gaining attention.  Separation anxiety can also cause an adverse reaction and again this must be taken into consideration… has the family had a change of routine recently?

We must also take into account immaturity and the lack of effective coping mechanisms.  Some literally feel they have no other way of showing their dislike of others carrying on in a way that bothers them.  It could be them singing in the car or dancing in front of the tv and they are simply not able to structure any reasonable way of communicating their dislike to the situation.

Things to watch for include:

Increased anxiety.

Continues to obstruct others having fun by deliberate actions.

Shows a high level of resentment towards others and becomes very angry… for example it is someone else’s birthday and they are feeling left out (again be aware of separation anxiety).

Always argues, no matter what the requests are for.

Very short fuse (poor control of their temper).

Expresses evil thoughts and needs to seek revenge for anything that bothers them (vindictive).

Losing the run of themselves over very small things.

Has a tendency to blame others when thing go wrong, like maybe they have smashed a plate or something as simple as they have tripped up and it’s all your fault, even if you were miles away.

If your child is displaying half or more of these traits for a prolonged period, it could be well worth mentioning this to your GP or heath care worker (OT).

A comprehensive test and diagnosis is paramount, the information you give to the assessor is equally important and you should also mention other issues that bother you and the individual, such as disturbed sleep, stress, hyperactivity and sensory issues (noise, etc.).

There are many things that can be done from you understanding the condition through to parental training programmes and things that can help your child, such as:

Ignoring bad behaviour as this only pleases the individual.

Introduce measurable and achievable reward schemes (self-administered)… they choose 3 or 4 rewards they’d like at the end of the week (ie. cinema, park, McDonalds, etc.) and when there is a bad behaviour situation, then they themselves choose which one is taken away.

Give lots of praise for positive behaviour.

Try not to engage in a war of words, send them to a neutral corner and when they re-engage with the family talk it though at that point.  They will be much calmer and more likely to give you the chance to explain the wrong they have done.  At that point, also offer them the chance to right that wrong.

Try to make things achievable (rules should be age appropriate).

Try to maintain your interaction with others… don’t let the individual consume your every second.

Take time out when you can and let others share your load, otherwise you will become stressed and possibly depressed due to its longevity.

As we have briefly mentioned above, the need to sort this quickly will prevent problems both at home and socially. There are cases where this can develop into conduct disorder if left un-checked and lead to greater problems with higher levels of authority in teenage years and later life.

There are many organizations, such as the Mayo Clinic, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) that provide invaluable information and I would suggest to anyone that has concerns around this area to look at the respective sites for further information.

We write all our articles for guidance purposes only and always stress the need for seeking professional advice.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Why Do We Dyslexics Confuse Those Who Need To Understand Us? by Dyslexia Dublin © 2013

Recent times has seen a raising of awareness due in part to  the announcement of new technology backing up what many researchers and practitioners, myself included, have thought for many years, that dyslexics have a high and often higher than average IQ.  But where does this leave us in that all important academic setting?
As each and every year passes we understand far more about the brain, how varied they are and its development in the early years.
Learning during the years of neuro-plasticity (childhood up to early adult) is so important, we have all referred to children’s brains  as  sponges and, yes, they can soak up information at this early age, providing the information is fed to them correctly in the style they require to consume the information that’s being presented.  We so often fail to figure this out and indeed many teachers are left bemused as to how we can talk so expertly on something that happened recently and yet we can’t take information down from a whiteboard… you could even put up the very content that was being spoken about by the students and you might as well stare into space. When will they realise that content of a lesson has nothing to do with the lack of retention… it’s the way its delivered, that is where the problem lies.  However, we can go on to be taught kinesthetically at any age, with the proper literacy intervention, which is great news for those adults with dyslexia.
Indeed  William James (Psychologist) shared his thoughts on plasticity and went on to suggest that the brain was perhaps not incapable of change as many had believed  back as far as 1890., he wrote, "Organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity." Extract from his book The Principles of Psychology.
And more recently we have heard about creativity and dyslexia from Dr. Sally Shaywitz and her husband Dr. Bennett Shaywitz.  She originated and championed the “Sea of Strengths” model of dyslexia, which emphasizes a sea of strengths of higher critical thinking and creativity surrounding the encapsulated weakness found in children and adults who are dyslexic.
So, when we have such a wealth of knowledge backed by technology, is the message failing on occasions to get across to those at the cutting edge of academia?
We even see many support teams that work in afterschool with children, using the same techniques and deliver resource in a very similar fashion to that during the school day. Children very quickly lose their confidence and if this is not checked will continue into adulthood… so, at this point, we need to move to a one to one situation and allow them to benefit from multi-sensory tuition where we can bring them up or ahead of their peers, before we immerse them back once more into a peer group where they can survive and partake in study.
We must realise that this is a manageable lifetime association, it will not disappear but we can work with it and control it (do we drive a car or does the car drive us?).
Parents are not fooled by what they hear from school anymore.  You only have to take a look at the reports… ‘He fails to engage, wanders off into a world of his own. Needs to improve. Well below average’…English Teacher. Then, under that comment, comes ‘He excels really, inputs into the class.  He is an asset, above average and I would expect on this performance to see him with an A grade in his exams’… Geography Teacher.
Do they not look at each other’s comments and maybe just maybe think why?  Do they talk to each other about this?  I see this all the time with students I work with.  So, if not, why not?
Don’t look at the children for answers to these questions.  By all means use their insatiable appetite and high IQ to develop them in the way that they have learnt so far, albeit self-directed learning.  I see this all too often and there is no other explanation than the student gains a high proportion of knowledge through self-motivated learning.  It’s also worth mentioning that dyslexics will never lie down, due to their own self-belief, and are known as three dimensional thinkers… they will get there eventually.  Why not help them get there sooner?
I don’t want to sound patronising, but this is far from rocket science for professional people to work out.
Even politicians seem to miss this one… perhaps it’s because many of them sailed through school being taught in the almost singular linear style, which suited them; but we need to have a far greater holistic approach if we want to solve the problem.
Why we are so far down the academic table?  We need to take a long look at the many other education authorities, curriculum developers, exam bodies, politicians… not the children.  It’s far from them failing Maths and English, it’s us that are failing our children… the very people that are trusted with this precious life and should be doing far more to ensure accuracy and a much higher qualified school leaver.  Stop looking at averages and indeed quoting the high achievers. We like to say we are an inclusive society… are we really? Talk is very cheap, we need to act… and act now!
Written exams are only a means of seeing who has the best memory at that time, whereas practical exams show us who can actually do the job (vocational)… many right brained (dyslexics) fair far better in this type of setting.
Next time you see a child yawning or looking out the window don’t believe they are lazy, lethargic or uninterested… they could well have a learning need going unnoticed.  Try a change of theme (kinaesthetic, practical exercise) and notice how quickly they engage.  If you don’t, then they will continue to develop through self-directed learning.

As I said above, it’s not rocket science… change is far from insurmountable.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Its Christmas time.  Poem by one who was once described as a literary fool Dyslexia Toby © 2013

The 24th is a special day, it’s when the hard work is all but done. 

The very day that tells us Christmas has begun. 

The most magical time for all girls and boys around the world. 

The elves have been busy throughout the year helping to produce Christmas cheer. 

The day Mrs Claus cuts Santa’s hair and trims his fine beard. 

The day that Santa loads up his fine sleigh. 

The reindeer are fed and are ready to pull the big sled. 

The snow is falling and covering the ground. 

The Robin is looking through the window and chirping with joy of all he sees around. 

The house is all set for Santa and Rudolph to arrive. 

The tree is decorated and the cakes are baked too. 

The plumb pudding is ready full of shillings for me and for you… 

The stockings are chosen and hung by the fireside ready for filling. 

The carol singers are at the door singing carols, what a joy to hear. 

The hard work is all done, Mum thanks mostly to you. 

The fire is out as we don’t want Santa to shout when he comes down the chimney, do you? 

The table is set with Santa’s fare…the milk, mince pie and carrots are all there. 

The list is complete and presents arrive by the dozen at the fireside. 

The children are sleeping and not a peep to be heard. 

They have all been practising to be really nice…at least since the 23rd! 

The clock strikes twelve and the house is still, it’s that time of year when you know who is due… 

The sleigh has arrived and Santa appears to deliver presents to all we hold dear. 

So dream little people of all things nice. Tomorrow is nearly here and your day will begin just full of surprises. The joy on your faces is such a priceless treasure, it’s all parents look for, it’s their reward…to see such fun filled emotion is pure pleasure. 
Developmental Delays and Missing Milestones (DCD, Dyslexia, ADHD and SPD) by Dyslexia Toby© 2013

We often wonder about development in our children, like when should they sit, crawl, walk and talk.
We know from being around people we are all different in so many respects, but in the main areas like sitting, crawling, walking etc. we are pretty predictable.  So why do some of us appear to be later at hitting these nonetheless important milestones?  
There are four milestones that we are concerned with in early child development and they are - Motor Development both fine and gross (movement of limbs and core), Cognitive (thinking), Communication (speech development and basic understanding of needs) and Social and Emotional (engaging with others).  It’s worth mentioning that there are parameters in normal development and we should only get concerned if we get well past these dates (walking between 10 and 18 months).  Now let’s take a closer look…
We know in the case of DCD (developmental co-ordination disorder) that due to the nature of the syndrome, we are likely to fall short on many of our aforementioned milestones.
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One answer could be we quite possibly try to bite off more than we are able to chew.  One of the most unfortunate things is memory and if we all stop for a minute… how far can you remember back to?  Was it five or six? maybe not as far back as that.  Few of us can go back to the point where we should have hit certain milestones… it would be great if we could. We would be able to explain to our peers why we find these complex hurdles so problematic.
I once heard that if it takes someone without a learning need x time to learn a new skill then multiply that by 4 for someone with a learning need… so did it takes us a few months to figure out how to crawl?  Then it would take up to 8 months longer for someone say with DCD to learn to crawl.  I bum shuffled and never crawled.
Back to what I started to say earlier… maybe there is a possibility that we find crawling very complex and would have fared better if we had the ability then to break it down to arm movements and then followed by the leg movement. I know this was the case when I learnt to swim… I just couldn’t get the whole front crawl thing in one go and to this day I only do the breast stroke as I find the whole leg-arm and breathing thing in the front crawl far too much to take on.
This planning can also apply to social interaction and conversational fluency in such things as Asperger’s (DSM5) and Dyslexia. These can be further inhibited by destructive criticism and low self-esteem which causes us to withdraw from the vary areas that would aid our development.
Much of our learnt behaviour comes from listening to others through our visual or auditory channel, however those with DCD learn far more from watching and it’s important the person showing the tasks understands the need to slow the process down and make it repetitive for a successful outcome.
DCD and Dyslexia are things that never leave us but we can minimise their impact with time and the right help.
You may have heard me mention in previous articles that both Dyslexics and Dyspraxics have great imagination and superb long term memories, this all helps to build up our required skill sets.  Quite often we would fall short on our immediate memory and memory recall; this is due to lack of understanding in presented tasks and also through lack of stimulation. We like to use imaginative play like that in Lego, puzzles, things that are colourful, creative and can fuel our imagination.
You don’t have to look far for someone else with dyspraxia or dyslexia, as it affects between 6 and 10% of the population.
We can also have delayed speech due to poor facial muscle tone and the co-ordination required to produce early words, again time spent working with us on a one-to-one basis reaps great results (speech and language therapy).  We benefit from over learning these early routines; practice.
We generally show early signs of inactivity and later appear to be very clumsy, hence the early title for dyspraxia of clumsy child syndrome.
There also appears a link between dyslexia and dyspraxia to justify thoughts of some, but not all, that both have an impairment/deficit in the cerebellar area of the brain, which controls much of our motor skill including posture, limb movement and eye hand co-ordination and this can affect phonological processing (vagueness of new and unfamiliar words)  and hand writing. This can also lead to frustration and would lead many to believe that this could include ADHD.
The cerebellar is the main controller in planning and motor control but not the initiator, this occurs in other areas of the brain.  The cerebellar does the fine tuning making our actions smoother and more deliberate.  This is a good pointer towards dyspraxics like myself being clumsy on occasions… I can overcome this, as can many like me, by slowing things down, practicing and concentrating when carrying out tasks.  We can also include balance etc., as the receptors in the body suddenly recognise rapid changes in limb movements, such as coming downstairs carrying something (constant weight changes), signals to the brain and the cerebellar makes the required change rapidly… in dyspraxics this has to be adjusted as we go and is far from automatic.
We can also count SPD in on this, we rely on receptors to calculate high, medium and low tolerance, especially where temperature is concerned.  We can all relate to being in a room where one of us is too hot, one too cold and another quite happy with the temperature… maybe you have never associated this with sensory processing disorder.
The cerebellar also plays an important role in improving co-ordination.  An example would be catching a ball… each time we try to catch, this important area of the brain would try to make adjustments, along with the eye and hand, until the technique is mastered.
The cerebellar is virtually the last area of our brain to mature and can go some way to explaining why many feel that DCD ebbs with age!
There is growing evidence to point to the importance of early intervention whilst the cerebellar and other areas are developing (plasticity), as opposed to later in life when the corrective actions take far longer to implant (requirement to over learn).
Thankfully, there is plenty of information on all the above and great resources available to help improve skill sets.
All our articles are aimed at giving guidance and we always advice that you seek the relevant professional advice. Dyslexia Toby ©2013
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Sunday, 15 December 2013

We will be screening the Big Picture Movie (rethinking dyslexia) and a presentation on dyslexia and other specific learning needs at the Dean Crowe Theatre in Athlone on the 26th of January tickets are through advance sale l

Dyslexia And Its Possible Causation (Magnocellular) by Dyslexia Toby 2013 ©
I hope you enjoy this article, it merely skims the surface of this hot topic.

Dyslexia, as mentioned before, is a term used to describe a person who has a literacy delay and means difficulty with words.  This has no direct correlation to IQ; in fact many dyslexics have a high IQ.

We can say in many cases there is more to this condition than just reading and spelling… we can also see difficulty in orientation (left and right), organisation and processing; short term memory and memory recall can often be below that of their peers.
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Reading requires a high level of skill in the area of orthographic and phonological awareness. We also are aware of the variation in area of the left and right temporal (language region of the brain) being smaller and almost symmetrical compared to the left (linear) brained person who has a large variation; this is the area where we go to for our phonological referencing.  Dyslexics can also have auditory problems and, in some, this can affect the way they hear letter sounds. This is due to poor grasp of amplification or pitch in letter sounds (vowel sounds have a much narrower band width (pitch variation) than consonants… this is more of a problem where dictation is employed.  In order to get an accurate grasp of phonology we need to have a high tolerance level to vocal frequency (fm and am - frequency modulation and amplitude modulation),  however dyslexics generally  have a very low tolerance to both and this has an effect on our overall phonological processing . This is also important for inner speech when reading, sounding out letters in order to construct the words in our head… it has also been suggested for those that may miss words when reading, that covering one eye is a short term fix, although not recommended!

We have also seen in more recent times, an impairment in the magnocellular system leads to a form of visual instability when focusing on or reading text and can also cause problems with motion sensibility.  We can also see that dyslexics can easily lose their place whilst reading and may often find them compensating by using finger tracking whilst reading, although they will struggle when taking text from a whiteboard, etc .

Reading out loud can also be a problem and should be limited or avoided.  Again, it’s thought that the tools required to read and spell fall well short of our ability to speak and this could possibly lead to many malapropisms (random words and even stuttering to occur).

It is also now thought that dyslexics have a higher level of development in their parvocellular system which gives us talent in the areas of creativity over our left brained counterparts, being also gifted in 3 dimensional thinking and a far higher incidence of entrepreneurs as a result.

The dyslexic brain is also thought to be deficient in fatty acids and there is a direct link between a higher intake of fatty acids and the development of strong magnocells, thus maintaining a higher degree of flexibility and improvements in some areas.
This article is for guidance only and professional advice should always be sought

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

How Does Dyspraxia And Dyslexia Affect Us In Relationships? by Dyslexia Toby © 2013

A strong, healthy relationship can be one of the best and most important supports you will ever experience in your life.  A good, strong relationship improves all aspects of your life, it helps strengthen and maintain a healthy existence, it settles and improves your mind and it can also help you maintain and develop connections with others.  However, if the relationship isn't working, it can also be a tremendous drain and strain.  Relationships are for the long haul and you should reap what you sow.
As has been mentioned in previous articles, we are made up of left, right and those with left and right brains… this is important to understand as communication between like-minded people is, for the most part simple, straightforward and often without problem.  However, communications between a left brain dominant and a right brained dominant can have its fair share of moments… equal left/ right brained should find communicating with others less problematic.
Dyspraxia and dyslexia can affect us in many of our relationship’s, families… friends, school peers and also loving relationships.  One of the key elements that can cause mood swings and distancing is so often the fear of being let down or letting others down, through poor judgement or negative criticism (often rings bells from the past), doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time (this is mainly down to lack of confidence).  We can also miss the point due to our slow processing speed, which leads to incorrectly picking up the wrong signals and we can also appear shy.  I had a huge problem with dancing due to co-ordination… this was a real inhibitor, as those that could dance always got the girls.  We also tend to be very trusting; we don’t always see the worst in others until it’s too far down the road and, coupled to this, we tend to fall in love very quickly.
I think this is down to the draw of being loved, attention and the initial lack of criticism; the wheels can very quickly fall of when the relationship settles down and our partners tire of our ways and then start to pull us up with regularity due the many things we struggle to do correctly.  This is hard and often brings us back to all the criticism we have had to face from so many throughout our lives.
It’s so important to get through conflict.  Some couples talk things out quietly, while others may raise their voices and passionately disagree.  The key in a strong relationship, though, is not to be fearful of conflict.  You need to be safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation or insisting on being right and this can be difficult with those of us who have dyspraxia.  We by nature have excellent memories, we don’t tend to let things bother us in the early stages and we store things, often quoting letter and verse at the person we are upset or arguing with.
Honest, direct communication is the mainstay of any relationship.  When both people feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears and desires, trust and close bonds are maintained and indeed strengthened.  Non-verbal cues, ie. body language like eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching someone’s arm, are critical to communication and again this is an area that doesn't come as natural to a dyspraxic as it does to those who don’t suffer from the syndrome.
Touch has long been accepted as a fundamental part of human existence; however this can be a problem for those of us that have tactile processing issues.  Studies on infants have shown the importance of regular, loving touch and holding has a long lasting benefit to early brain development. These benefits do not end in childhood. Life without physical contact with others is a lonely life indeed.

This article seems to have an adult flavour to it, however I would like to point out that some of these points would be relevant to our children too.
Our articles offer guidance and we always recommend that those reading them should always seek professional advice on any thing that might concern them.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

‘Left Brain, Right Brain…Is There a Right or Wrong Side?’ by Dyslexia Toby © 2013

I like to construct and she likes to read… my wife and I are polar opposites which, as they say, are supposed to attract. She is left and right brained with no lobe dominance and I am right brained dominant. I am dyslexic and dyspraxic and she is very much mainstream.

This leads me nicely to my next point… has it ever crossed your mind why some love to be creative like the painter Michael Angelo but have real problems reading text or listening to verbal instruction and indeed, why the opposite applies?... many left brained cannot and have little interest in painting or even going along to an art exhibition. Well let me start by saying we arrive in this world in our nice little pink birthday suit equipped to one or the other to a high degree… I can already hear many of you saying you like to paint, read and or love the arts… well you are more likely to fall in to the category of left brain. If you are left brained, then you would be much happier just listening to someone talk about something, providing they kept it short and sweet, but hand you a novel and you would read forever… the nearest I get to reading a book is if its factual, otherwise it’s a real chore.

You will have a real problem writing and drawing sufficient information to complete a project as a right brainer, but if they asked you to act it out you would be right there.

We know the brain is made up of two halves spliced together, and as mentioned we can be left brain or right brain dominant. We are aware that learning comes from one area, sight another, balance another and for most people, these areas work together when called upon (left-right brained), whereas in others they perform below par and it is very much down to dominance.

Is Left brain right? Right brain is not left behind… it’s imaginative.

People who are dominant on the right half of their brain fare better with turning dreams into reality and are far more intuitive. They see things very much in 3D and from a young age will play with toys rather than look at the TV or read a book. This does not mean that we right brainers can’t and won’t ever read, we can train ourselves in this, as in many other things. Our long term memory, which supports us throughout most of our lives is very much equal, it’s the drawing down of that information (memory recall) and the processing that slows us up and is very much the area to work on.

So, Mr. Left brained… will he ever get to grips with building that barbeque in the box? He will read the instructions thoroughly from start to finish… then the fun will start and a bit of head scratching will ensue. What about Mrs. Right brained, will she fare any better?... well, she will more than likely ignore the instructions and go straight for the photo in her head of the display model or the picture on the box and hey presto she has it put together while Mr. Left is still reading the instructions… maybe he can turn them in to a best seller! They can put the proceeds towards lots of nice things to cook on Mrs. Right’s work of art!

We also know from the latest MRI technology, as well as former research, that our right side soaks up the latest information in lumps, and it is very much the job of the left brain to decipher what comes in. In relationships, we can be in a position to lean on each other if we can work each other out, let the cook work away while the other reads the tax form… both utilising their strengths to work together.

Academics and Thinking…

We now know that we arrive on this planet as a blank canvas (tabula rasa), however, our brain dominance or sided is already in place. We are born with left and right side dominance plus a few who are ambidextrous. We can also say very much the same about the brain… we can be one of three types - either left brain, right brain or left/right brain thinkers. Unfortunately our education system, with its emphasis on rote learning and exam syllabi, is more tuned to encouraging left brain activity, often to the detriment of right brain creativity. School examinations are designed to test left brain activity and encourage conformity in thought. There is a possibility that if right brain skills are not exercised, they may not develop sufficiently.

Do we all think in a linear way?

Most politicians and those who dominate debate would be convergent thinkers (identify the problem and use resources to find a single solution), whereas most right brained would be divergent thinkers that would look at the problem and come up with lots of ways around it, with new ideas and perspectives resulting in a variety of solutions.

The right brained person would most likely paint the house ahead of the sun (in the shade) and the left brained would attempt to paint in full sun and wonder why it was drying too fast.

Divergent thinkers, on the other hand, are creative and tend to throw the rules out of the window. They are artistic and always looking for ways to express themselves, or indeed verbalise themselves.

There is no right or wrong that it is better to be left brain dominant or right brain dominant. You need both kinds of thinking to function well. While a person may have a dominant style of thinking, it would be interesting to see how the other half works and even learn to develop the skills that you lack, although this is far from straightforward and requires the correct learning style.

Left brained are also thought to be the more controlling type, so you will read the manual Mrs. Right Brain, even if it’s the wrong way for you.

So, it’s not one size fits all and we wouldn’t want it to be. I, for one, would not want to have a world without right brained people, or left brained for that matter. Can you imagine how the world would stall without all the strengths both bring in life and eventually we would all be poorer as a result… we need each other and it’s this realisation that we need to work on.

Our articles are for guidance only and we recommend you always seek professional advice Dyslexia toby © 2013

Saturday, 23 November 2013

’ Dysgraphia -The Whys and How’s’ (revised 23-10-13) by Dyslexia Toby © 2013

Dysgraphia can affect many people in various ways…it is generally regarded as deficiency/learning difficulty in the ability to put pen to paper in terms of the written word. It can be a handwriting issue, or a cognitive issue (transcription difficulty)…taking thoughts from the mind or indeed the teacher and putting them down on paper, and this can also be down to agraphia. It must be mentioned that as with dyslexia most students have very high intellect; this causes many teachers to believe the student lacks interest or is lazy; this is far from the truth, they have great ideas until it comes to the art of putting pen to paper. Again like dyslexics they are the ones that create the idea in group discussions and are great at the practical side of projects but cannot write a report etc.

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We all have moments when our mind goes blank whilst writing or in conversation… with dysgraphia and agraphia this is more profound and on-going. One of the problem areas is the using of graphemes (single letter and often silent in writing – as in debt). Although this is thought to be very much of a cousin to dyslexia, it does not actually bear any relation in so far as many with Dysgraphia and Agraphia students have little if any problems with their reading or spelling.

Dysgraphia is, as mentioned, a lack of connection from the information stored in our brain and the lack of moving that information when commanded by the brain to the hand (fine motor)…this can be seen as comorbid (exists with other conditions) as it can be seen in children/adults with poor motor skill, such as DCD…Verbal Dyspraxia…ADD…ADHD.

Agraphia, whilst having the same symptoms as dysgraphia, is often caused by damage to the temporal or parietal lobes and also in the motor cortex, which can be as a result of a stroke or other brain injuries. Although we talked about high intellect earlier, this can co-exist with dyslexia in some cases.

Poor motor skills can result in dysgraphia due in part to immature fine motor skills and poor co-ordination (dexterity)… the most common being weak hand/arm muscles. Poor posture can also add to this, especially in DCD children and adults…they tend to tire very quickly and their writing space becomes very crowded.
Students can often present with poor writing and this is down to spatial and even scoptopic issues (visual stress)…they can view the paper as if its tapered top to bottom and their writing moves away from the margin…or their writing simply gets bigger as they work across the page.

Taking down the written word requires huge concentration and you can often find that writing starts off fairly legible and then quickly deteriorates…it can also become slow and laborious due to poor retention of the information being dictated or from a whiteboard, etc.

It is worth checking to see if your child is writing with the correct hand…I too often find that a left dominant student is writing with the right hand and this was never corrected at the early stage of learning to write.
Very often we put people in boxes (jump to the wrong conclusion) and in doing so miss diagnosing the actual cause of many areas such as dysgraphia. The student does not lack motivation or evade the learning process…it is important for all parents and teachers to observe students in their charge as vigilance will tell a lot. It is important to look out for:

Students who work head down covering their work…this is often through embarrassment (fear of their peers looking at their work and making negative comments).
Crabbing the wrist and fingers whilst writing…could also be a sign of using the wrong hand to write with.
Fingers tiring quickly (hand shaking) when writing even short passages of texts.
Constant correction of work (tipex-ing or rubbing out).
Moving to upper and lower case in the same word.
Letters growing in size or, as mentioned, moving away from the margin (visual stress).
Inability to keep up with teacher or peers dictating (writing speed).
Lack of attention to detail (just want to get it over with).
Constantly looking to the board to re-affirm words (also poor short term memory can cause this).
Faint and illegible writing (can also be due to poor coordination and pressure on the paper).
Poor handwriting (can so often lead people to believe that the student is dyslexic).
Poor Comprehension…unable to build a story from scratch.
Students often complain of feeling tired and will yawn a lot while writing.
How can Dysgraphia be helped:
By introducing gross and fine motor exercises…this will improve posture and also arm, wrist, hand and finger strength and as well as reducing fatigue.
Using whiteboards to practice on and gain correct tip pressure of pen or pencil.
Introducing pen and pencil grips or stubby pens and pencils.
Using a multi-sensory teaching package.
Having a test for visual stress and the possible introduction of filters and coloured writing books.
Students with learning difficulties put far more effort into everything they do even though on the flip side teachers will often disagree…these students are, as previously mentioned, very clever and will in usually excel in subjects other than those that involve writing copious notes.
Delivering very visually stimulating and kinaesthetic type projects are so important. Memory recall work is also important to grow confidence in students with dysgraphia, we at dyslexia Dublin have great results in this area.

Dyslexia carries a huge range of resources to help with Dysgraphia and we ship worldwide.
Please feel free to comment on any of our posts…the information we use in our posts is that of our own opinion and research and occasionally will include the work of others. It is for reading and guidance only and should never be taken literally.

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

‘How Will Dyslexia Alter The Way I Live My Life?’ by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

If we see this as a negative and think about the thoughts of others, including those that pour on stigma, we will struggle.  However, there is absolutely no need to feel this way, as Dyslexia brings with it so many positives.
We have to look at the success of others and then focus on those with Dyslexia.  We can’t automatically say that life will be sweet and there will be few hurdles along the way, but take a look at Thomas Edison’s story and many others such as Sir Richard Branson and Leonardo Da Vinci and many more, to see the sky can be the limit. These leaps of faith have been in the face of many around them being negative and offering up smart comments about their lack of literate skill.  I heard someone at a presentation I gave recently say that it was fine for these guys to claim this success but they have, or have had, a team around them.  Very few start with a team… it’s early and often solo success that brings finance to employ that team and again, many like Branson started out in this way.  It’s funny, but these famous people no longer have to put up with people poking fun at them and only have their memories to remind them about the past.  As we speak, unknown entrepreneurs of the future are being diagnosed at seven, eight and nine years of age with Dyslexia.  If you are one of those who have bullied someone with a learning difficulty, watch out!… they could well be your future boss!
 We can offer all the support we can, but it is still down to the individual to accept those words of positivity and also promote the positives of those who have made it.  Many have reached greatness and have withheld their past and, to some degree, it has made their route to the top so much harder… however, they would possibly have used this to motivate and kick themselves forward. This can be a very powerful tool for driving us on, however it can remove the opportunity of others benefitting from watching that person develop, often in the face of adversity.  This can be down to the person fearing failure as they may have failed a few times already.  Dyslexics and many with specific learning needs do fail, but they have huge self-belief and this allows them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go forward again, having learnt from their previous mistakes and we know that this always makes a much stronger and better person.
We have heard and I have mentioned on many occasions, that most Dyslexics have a high IQ and the evidence is far too strong for anyone to deny this fact.  They watch and take in many things subconsciously that those without Dyslexia let slip by, this gives them so many tools to use throughout their life.  They, for the most part, are helped in this by having great long-term memories and could tell you what they had to eat last month.  Having Dyslexia doesn’t mean that they will never be able to spell, read, write a letter or email… if they are worked with and helped with their literacy deficit, they will be able to do anything they desire to do and do it with relative ease.  Dyslexia never leaves us but with help, we can learn to manage it.

We have seen in the last paragraphs that with the right help we can go forward and shout from the roof tops that we are Dyslexic and we got there!  I believe that the world would be a lesser place if it was void of those with Dyslexia and often wonder would we be as advanced without the likes of the Edison’s, Piccaso’s and Branson’s being born with Dyslexia?  When you land that important position or start your own company, you will have many Dyslexics working with you and next time you are having your hair cut or eating at a fine restaurant or maybe watching the latest car design on Top Gear, the person behind that could well be Dyslexic!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

‘Dyspraxia (DCD) & Adult Diagnosis’ by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Diagnosis of dyspraxia in adults is far harder to detect/diagnose… why is this?  As we go through life, we find ways to compensate in many areas that would highlight balance co-ordination and processing and we can avoid tasks that bring about problems for adults with dyspraxia. Competition is one area, children tend to either get, or want to be, involved in sport during school time or with friends, adults can avoid sports if they wish and it goes almost unnoticed as is so often not the case when young.
We tend to have greater levels of concentration and are more aware when carrying out tasks that require a greater focus, we also develop our short term memory over time and this helps improve our processing speed and reaction time.
It’s also important to understand that dyspraxia has a wide spectrum and affects many in a variety of ways, this can also vary from mild to severe.
There are online tests, which I must add are only a first pointer before seeking a professional diagnosis.  You may have had a child, niece or nephew recently diagnosed and noticed similarities with yourself.
There are professionals/psychologists in the UK that can diagnose adults, although I believe this not to be the case in Ireland, as is the same with qualifications. There are many that work in this field, in particular those that are qualified fitness Trainers (gross motor), OT and SPLT and there are many that support academic areas such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.  You can contact us for advice and names of professionals who work in these areas as we have contacts across several countries.
Dyspraxia affects basic motor skills - Gross (such as walking or sitting upright) and Fine motor skills which include many things (such as writing or picking up small objects), in children as well as adults.  This is something that will last for life and it is recognised by many international organisations, including the WHO.
As an adult, we find that DCD can affect so many things… learning to drive, dancing, playing sport, further education, employment and even relationships.
This can be as a result of being over anxious, frightened of failure and through a general lack of self-belief/confidence and also through poor organisation skills.
It can also bring about language problems and this can be exacerbated through increased anxiety or pressure… we can often throw out random words or indeed full sentences and can also have problems with voice control, including volume, speed and pitch.  We also have a tendency to interrupt others and often have to apologise for cutting in on conversation (due to slow processing speed).
Dyspraxia never goes away but we can learn how to cope with it.  If you think you may have dyspraxia and want to follow it up, perhaps as a result of a family member being diagnosed and you may recognise similar traits in yourself,  given that it is often present or can run in families, first check with your GP.  You can also contact an Educational Psychologist or Occupational Therapist that specialises in dyspraxia... in Ireland you can check with the Psychological Society of Ireland.  If you are in the United States, we have contacts over there that can provide further details.
Dyspraxia is relatively new when compared to dyslexia, however new research is coming to the fore, which is leading to improved diagnosis and the availability of resources. It’s an area well worth keeping an eye on, so you are up to date with the disorder.
All our articles are for guidance only, we strongly recommend obtaining professional advice with regards to any concerns you might have on a given subject Dyslexia Dublin © 2013
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Friday, 1 November 2013

‘Random and Wrong Words Come Out’ by Dyslexia Dublin © 2013

When penning this post, I couldn’t help thinking about the advert for the Random sweets… ’turn right at the trumpet and left at the jelly bean’… well it’s not quite as bad as all that!
Many actors did this deliberately and were gifted in this area including the late Ronnie Barker (Open All Hours) however, this apart, it’s quite an unnerving and completely non-deliberate act, that haunts many of us from time to time. 
I often say during my presentations on dyspraxia and dyslexia, that if I drag or slur my speech it’s not due to me suffering from the “afluence of incohol!” … it gets a laugh and settles me.
 The causes for random or wrong words (malapropisms) to come out are many.  Why do they come our wrong?... it can be deemed a short-term problem when under pressure, for example talking to or reading to an audience, or it can be more medium or long-term and can be as a result of slow or slurred speech and, in many cases, stutter or repeating words and sentences with lots of mm mm’s in particular when we are asked to read out loud or we are generally unsure of the subject.  This can often be found in dyspraxics and in some cases dyslexics.  It can also result from confidence and self-esteem issues, delayed speech or indeed slow processing, to such an extent that we miss the point and put in the wrong word.  Even in conversation, we can go to make a point and, whist waiting for our opportunity to add to the conversation, completely forget what we were about to say and then find ourselves apologising.
I know find it easier to apologise before I set into a conversation and will openly tell people I am dyspraxic and its part of the deal.  This often leads to me being more aware of others speaking and also relaxes me, which reduces the amount of mistakes I make.
 We will also take a look at ‘mondegreens’… these in a way are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally applied to the mishearing of verbal questions, instruction poetry and song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech.  This can be caused by a lack of knowledge, comprehension, processing issues, lack of interest/stimulation or pure lack of concentration.
Slurring your words can lead to unexpected situations; this can also be linked to balance too. Again, it can be caused whilst under pressure, maybe giving a speech, a part in a play or being asked to read out in class or give an opinion to friends.
I remember in my early days as a college lecturer people were giving a suspicious eye to anything that wasn’t the norm.  We had a few heavy drinkers and a few alcoholics across the college and I remember being asked to the Human Resources Department on one occasion as the HR Manager had been told that they thought I was drunk during the day as I have been known to lose my balance on occasions. I found this amusing and many close friends would vouch that I rarely touch alcohol. I explained about my DCD and all fell into place.
 One of the key things with verbal dyspraxia and the above, is due to poor facial muscle tone and correct use of the diaphragm. Many dyspraxics not only breathe through their mouth but they breathe very quickly (short breaths, they also tend to groan whilst eating). They can therefore run out of breath which leads to the breaking of sentences.  We also have difficulty programming our speech cords, which can lead to shortening words and getting letter sounds wrong… this can also be down to incorrect or minimal lip movement.
This can also be similar in the case of:
Auditory – where the individual has difficulty hearing the correct sound… often confusing similar sounding letters or words ending in  i, e, y (eg. spy sounds like spi) and phonetics.
Visual – where the individual has difficulty seeing the difference between similar looking letters or words.
Audio-visual – a combination of auditory and visual difficulties.
As we also know this can be down to dyslexia, with the words have been incorrectly programmed into the long-term memory in the first instance.  This needs to be identified and worked on with the child/adult to produce the correct letter/word sound and repeated until the incorrect word has been overwritten/erased in the long term memory.
Looking at this further, the child or adult knows what they want to say.  Once this has been processed by the brain, however, they cannot say it correctly on a given occasion (stress) even though they know what they want to say and realise that they have said the word incorrectly.
Quite often this is way beyond the control of the child/adult and if this happens on a regular basis (coming out of the comfort zone), it could lead to a stammer.  Planning and promoting confidence is key to avoiding this… it may also be exaggerated when the child/adult is angry or frustrated.
The way forward is through support and, if it’s a constant problem, speech and language therapy should be sought.
This article is for initial guidance only and we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice.
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