Monday, 30 June 2014

Why Do Dyslexics Struggle With Reading And Spelling And Yet Have A High IQ? by Dyslexia Toby, ©

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The left side of the brain has evolved slightly slower than the right side… the left giving us the ability to decipher such things as the written and, in some part, the spoken word.  This side of the brain is very analytical and linear in its approach to life as a whole… many in education and politics would be linear thinkers and, as a result, it is enormously important in certain areas of employ.

We fill our minds one way or another by gleaning both information and knowledge from others, during our early years to our last breath, through many sources… parents/carers, teachers/educators, family/friends and later in the workplace and personal research through reading, listening, etc.

‘Innate’ is the ability within… we all have the ability to improve by simply building on what we already know about ourselves and the world around us.  Our ability to retain information is in some part down to innate intelligence.

Simply learning a process, be it from early years or as a child/adult, we need to tap in or practice our new skill to increase our personal skill set.  Dyslexics, dyscalculics and many dyspraxics need to practice and very much need to over learn every new skill and indeed all the skills they have already mastered… it’s rather like the guy spinning the plates when one is spinning another is nearly ready to fall, it’s about keeping practising to keep the skill level up.

We need to learn to the style that suits our brains strengths.

The right brain is known to be very much a creative area, its benefits are very much holistic/3D thinking and that is why we tend to be extremely intelligent, even though we struggle with certain left brained skills like reading, writing and learning languages.  Put us in an art or drama class and stand back and watch us fly! We can often leave our left brained counterparts for dead in this environment and for this reason we need to graft all our learning to our stronger right side.

How do we do this?

We need to be taught in a very stimulating multi-sensory/kinaesthetic style that will be retained with greater ease than note taking, be it verbally or visually from the whiteboard.  Students need to feel the subject and engage with it.  We must remember that we survived on this planet for thousands of years, pre reading and writing.  Why?... because we had a very strong right sided problem solving area of the brain.  This makes dyslexics some of the biggest players in business today… the ability to think of alternatives, and look at the situation holistically.

We throw our teachers and, on occasions, our friends and peers due to this innate ability.  If we can turn situations on their head and display an exceptional long term memory, then we must simply be labouring over reading, writing and spelling?  Not so, way off target… they use the left linear side, which is not our best, so we have to think and learn in a different way.  Afford us this and we will surprise many!

We mentioned good long term memory; however our short term suffers through many things including learning style and, as a result… stimulation, during the learning process.

Memory in particular, or working memory, is as mentioned weak in those that are right brained and have problems as comprehension seekers.  Our working memory/recall is one of the main components within the cognitive process.  This function allows the storage of relevant and sometimes non-relevant information for a limited time whilst studying the required skill set. However it’s not just limited to our study programs, we use this in so many activities, including reading, writing and two-way conversations and also in problem solving.

Reading is a great way to improve our short term, working memory and recall as it’s one of few things that require our brain to build text throughout the passage of writing until it creates meaning.  However, the down side is the longer it takes to read (fluency) the more of a struggle it becomes… we can end up reading something and are then unable to recall the story line due to having poor spelling ability and breaking words down to such a degree that all we remember are bits of words and not complete sentences, thus giving a loss of meaning and huge frustration on the part of the reader, especially if the teacher/tutor prompts you for your opinion or input on the book in front of others . It is extremely important to have material available that suits the learner, they have to see a relevance to the subject/book…dyslexics tend to be very factual and their books should reflect this.

 We can therefore state that there is a relationship between working memory, our word recognition, fluency and our knowledge of vocabulary.  So what does this all mean and how can we improve?

 It’s very much like the chicken and the egg… accuracy of speech improves spelling and the better we can spell, the easier it is to read and the faster words are recognised.  This in turn puts less constraint on working memory to access those words and their meanings… giving us far greater retention rates in an area that we would normally struggle with.  It helps to make a story come alive by thinking of you or your friends as the very characters you are reading about (visualisation)… this helps us by stimulating us and this improves our retention of both the written and spoken word.

However, these days we need to be high academic achievers as proving yourself on paper has become a necessary evil for all scholars, so we need that harmonisation between both fact and analysis (our intellect) and demonstrating knowledge through creativity (intelligence)... and we have the later in abundance.  We are very good at improving our skill sets, so contrary to what many believe, we will survive and we can create other skill sets from what we already know.


See three dimensionally.

Have great long term memories.

Construct things from visualisation.

Are highly connected to their immediate environment.

Use past images to repeat processes.

Have a higher than normal degree of curiosity.

Are very picture driven (not text or verbal)

Are very kinaesthetic learners.

Are extremely practical and artistic.

Our posts are for guidance only and are put together with the knowledge  of our team and that of others…you are welcome to comment or share our work but please mention the originators of the post

Dyslexia Toby © 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014

Organisational Skill levels of Children with Dyslexia and  DCD (Schools out, a must read) by Dyslexia Toby © 2014

With children who struggle to plan and structure their events, including school, this often stems from weak or non-existent organizational skills. This can lead to incomplete tasks, such as failing to complete homework and other activities. Parents work particularly hard in all they do, but vigilance is key to making sure this is picked up early.

Due to the sheer nature of both Dyslexia and DCD, it is important that we don’t leap to the wrong conclusion and blame our children through the likes of inattention, lethargy or avoidance…for the most part they are not disobedient children, often the contrary. It can be quite difficult for parents and teachers to know if a child is struggling with various tasks due to lack of motivation, poor organization or the inability to organise (multi-tasking) or demonstrate sound time management skills. Children who attempt, but struggle, with set tasks require a structure to enable them to organise events on a daily and weekly basis…it is very important to structure their week and allow very little to get in the way of that structure. It would be so easy for this to all collapse after all your and their hard work. Masking is something girls do very well, boys tend to let the world no they are bother by lack of organisation or they are unable to grasp a new concept.
How can we help our children?

Start by having a structured routine. This will include set times for regular events like homework, household, etc…make this fair by allowing them more time than a child without DCD…give shorter lists of instruction…sand timers are very good for showing children time in a very visual way.
Start with a colour calendar week planner and show the different tasks in colour, as this will be easier to follow…reward good progress!

Ask them if they have followed the schedule/planner and eventually move to allow them to plan in the future…this also takes some of the fear away from new events and holidays, etc.
Have a designated area for putting school books, backpacks, etc.
Make sure they give you things like their lunchbox and ask them if they enjoyed it (this will give you some idea that they have eaten it!)

Keep an eye on the planner and double check that the dates for assignments and trips are correct.
Try a white board in the kitchen for remembering bigger events (visual is good)!
Make mind/road maps on post it notes to help with getting ready for school…use one post it for each task to start with and stick them in bedroom bathroom kitchen etc
Use a jug of time….I find this very good when teaching…take a jug with say one or two litres and divide it by the time you think they need to get ready for school…including maybe some telly.
Homework where possible should reflect the work they are doing in class and not fresh work they have never studied before, why…well dyslexics and those with DCD have slower processing speeds and need to over learn by revisiting their earlier work and going over this two, three or in some cases even four times is required and if they are afforded this extra mile they will retain the information, we see this in our centres and also with our distance learners .

And fill the jug as time passes at the same time telling them how they are eating into their telly or treat time…I do this with the tuition and the bit at the end is playing games time and its amazing how after a period they associate being quicker at everything they get more game time.
Children with both DCD and dyslexia are known for their long term/episodic memories, however short term is the opposite in many cases…if you want your children to improve their organisational skill set a program of support will yield great benefits and will also improve their academic ability.

Memory training is a must for taking this forward and we sell a lot of resources to help improve memory and I would also use these in our own training centre to great effect, you can find them at www,

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Our posts are for guidance only and are put together with the knowledge  of our team and that of others…you are welcome to comment or share our work but please mention the originators of the post

Dyslexia Toby © 2014

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Apps And Supportive Software (friend or foe?) by Dyslexia Toby © 2014

There are several areas to explore on the question of apps and supportive software.
Many would believe that products are designed to support and improve a child or adult’s ability to read, write and spell more fluently.  Is this true or are they just a crutch that, when removed, put the child or adult back to square one?

If the technology supports the learner, will it be accepted in the class and further still in exams?  Many children with dyslexia or dyspraxia or even those with a specific learning need don’t all have statements and many would not be allocated resource software, as they would not be statemented dyslexic and very few as dyscalculic.  Also, is that software allowed in exams?…it’s often the case that with re-evaluation come Leaving Cert/ A level time, that technology is not always allowed!

Some of the software on offer today has not been evaluated in controlled group situations. This is paramount if we want to ensure students benefit from the possible use of assistive technology.  Much research has been carried out to see if there are such benefits from assistive support, with evidence being sparse to support long term benefits.  How many parents and adult learners are of the belief that this can improve spelling, reading and writing?

Students in a normal class environment are hard to evaluate, as teaching styles and subjects can make a big difference to the learner.  We would need to ask the question of such software… has this been evaluated in a controlled test and what were the outcomes from those tests?…ie. where students in the group with a specific learning need were broken into two groups - one using the support and one not using any support and were the groups of the same academic and not chronological ages?

Children cannot afford to lose any more time when it comes to their education and people need to ask any question they feel is relevant or will benefit for their child… we cannot get months or years down the road to find that we have made a big mistake at this very vital time in their lives.

There are many stories around about some schools being very wary of assistive technology, from coloured lenses/filters/smart pens, through to software.

The other thing to think about is that companies produce assistive technology for profit and, if profits fall, the technology will no longer be produced and you will have to look for replacements, in some cases.  Also, make sure (in the case of software) when committing to a purchase that it can be moved from one machine to another… meltdowns can be avoided if you factor everything in to the equation.

I would say that helping to improve spelling, which in turn improves reading and writing is often the best way forward.

“Assistive and adaptive technology does not "cure" a specific learning disability. These tools compensate rather than remedy” a quote from Washington University.

There is also stigma that needs to be taken into account… how many children would be prepared to use this in class, if it makes them stand out or feel different from their peers?

We are all for anything that will improve someones position, be it in education and on into employment, but it’s worth carrying out your own personal evaluation before you make your decisions… be informed.

NB: this information is for guidance purposes only, you must make your judgements and seeking professional advice is very important.