Friday, 30 December 2016

“Should we truly forget those who have spurned us for another’s ear or think and consider them in this the coming year? Maybe their friendship has chilled like the cold nights of winter and shunned as many plus me.Shall we reflect just this once and show the hand of friendship and toast to all acquaintance past and present, for the sake of times gone by?” (inspired by Robbie Burns and Auld Lang Syne, great poet). Happy New Year my friends! Toby Lee Dyslexia  2016 ©

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Dyslexia. One Way Dyslexia Toby © 2016

Children with dyslexia (dysgraphia,dyscalculia, dyspraxia)so often struggle with academia, full stop.
They however are very inquisitive; they also have very good long term memories. On the flip side, their short-term memories are very weak!
So what do we do! We focus on their long-term memory as a principle learning tool.
Many children incorrectly overcome the reading in some cases.
Why incorrectly? They skip or replace words depending on how the storyline is going.
Is this a problem! Yes. If we allow children to replace or skip words while reading, they will tend to skip words when they are reading important documents like exam papers or written instructions. Reading maps requires a degree of orientation, this is an area dyslexics are okay with, they have almost an instinctive knack of knowing where North is.
We need to look at the cause and produce an effect.
Many parents accidently overlook the need for work with reading as their children pick up books and read. It’s only when you stand behind or sit beside your child will you see how many words they skip.
Shared reading can also highlight problems! I have heard so many parents comment on how great their children are at reading, only to be disappointed when they see test results and feedback from teachers.
Most of us have seen the talent in our children and dare I say it in ourselves; we are very practical people.
If people use a myriad of ways, we can learn most things and to a very high standard.
I wonder why few have picked this up during their time tutoring us.
The Germans have a very good second level model, they recognise the students strengths be it academia or creative.
The children are guided into specific centres that specialise in these areas of the curriculum; they are still given tuition in the secondary area.
They as far as I am aware have not linked this to a pattern of brain/learning types.
As mentioned earlier we need to accommodate the child in the style that best suits them.
We specialise in breaking problems down into manageable chunks and then repeat that same problem from several angles.
This style of learning promotes both learning and retention. We can all remember watching a program or reading a book, only to forget the whole thing. On the other hand we can remember the opposite, yes we glean every minute detail, why! We were not stimulated in the first instance and stimulated in the later.
You have probably seen your child stuck on homework and yet able to construct the most amazing things at home; why…stimulation!
Try and bring to his teacher/tutors attention the areas they have excelled in; pennies might drop.

why not pop over to our new page and read more on the 3 Dy's @
All our posts are for guidance only and professional advice should always be sought.  Why not friend us on Facebook or Twitter @ Dyslexia Dublin and follow our Blog at
Dublin Toby © 2016

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Part Three of ‘Dyslexia - The Why’s and how to spot some of the Signs’  by  Dyslexia Toby  © 2016

Problems with accuracy and recognition of the written word, decoding of words (phonetics), reading comprehension and slow growth of vocabulary come in a variation of forms of Dyslexia and Dysphonesia (problems with blending pairs... see below).

Like what we write...join us on facebook 

Spelling and Visual memory weaknesses prevent a child from having a strong memory of what many common words look like. Using multi-sensory materials and techniques is the most effective help. With spelling, 96% of the English words are regular. A Dyslexic’s spelling word list should be very limited and the use of computers for spelling word practice and tests is encouraged.  Spelling words forwards and backwards is a big help for long-term memory of spelling words.  Please do not tell a Dyslexic to use the dictionary to find the spelling of a word as they will have trouble locating it, which may cause frustration.

There are many ways in which our children with dyslexia/dysphonesia can be helped. One way is to teach them how to break words into different sounds. Then how to write the different sounds and create and build new words. This helps with both reading and writing. As previously mentioned, children with dyslexia have poor processing power due to signals sent from one part of the brain to the other through various neural pathways are often misaligned. In order to improve/re map those areas a multi-sensory teaching method is favoured…as this works through 4 senses (touch, sight, speech and hearing) and uses the left side in tandem with the right, which means the information is far more likely to be retained.

Dysphonesia is a very important area to work on as previously mentioned…children with dyslexia and/or dysphonesia very quickly improve their single syllable words (dog…cat…rug) with the use of phonics. Mono syllabic words are slightly more challenging…we can improve this area by breaking down the words into syllables like SUM-MER…WIN-DOW, etc. We also need to introduce work on blends which is equally important. What are blends?…blends are pairs of letters that become a single sound like sh and ch and depending on where they are placed, as this could have a slight variation of sound. We are looking at a language that has a Germanic and Latin platform on to which the English was framed...known to be one if not the hardest languages to master.

With children going into second level schools it is also worth considering Italian or Spanish as a preferred language choice, if a 2nd anguage choice is mandatory.  As previously mentioned, they appear to have a lower rate of dyslexia which could be due in part to fewer variations of the way a word sounds, and in relation to how the word is written down (reading and spelling). “The average language has about 50,000 words in its vocabulary compared to English which has( approx) a quarter of a million million. France has the second largest amount of words" - Lloyd Lofthouse. 

Around 80,000 words in the English dictionary are latin based or taken directly from the French language.

Visual stress can also be a problem with around 20% of the world’s population suffering with this…however don’t be tricked into believing that this can cure dyslexia. Visual stress aids can certainly help with visual tracking and give words greater clarity, which can give improved reading levels for some students presenting with visual stress, but it is not a cure. I have posted an article on this condition previously.

Hand writing is often slow in sufferers due to poor word recognition and retention…often students will look up at the board twice to write down one word. It’s also important to strengthen memory and this will improve writing skill along with tuition in this area (dysgraphia).

you can find our resource store at

We use a variation of software and games in our tuition...all the work we do engages the main senses (multi-sensory) to stimulate and improve our student’s literacy skills and we generally find that they improve by one reading year for every 50 hours of intervention. We feel this is in part to do with the holistic approach we take in our training programme 

Please ask for professional advice as our articles are to guide only.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

‘Dyslexia - (part two) The Why’s and how to spot some of the Signs’ Part Two by  Dyslexia Toby © 2016

Want to read more about what we write, we have a great site on specific learning needs at   please tell your friends

It is still very much exploratory times on the origins of dyslexia. What we do know is it affects far more boys than girls and seems more common in English speakers and those that speak languages with multiple rules/variations in sounds and spellings, such as German and Irish for example. Languages where the spoken word is close to the written word seem to fair better, such as Italian and Spanish.

There are also suggestions that it can be passed on from family member to family member, genetically. However, it will not descend in a uniform pattern…if one or both parents suffer with dyslexia it could miss most of the next generation. There are many such cases, where one child or more in a family has dyslexia, but some brothers/sisters do not. There are also families, where one child has dyslexia and parents do not, pointing to the fact that dyslexia can also skip a generation.

Dyslexia can also be brought on in later life due to stroke or other forms of brain trauma… overcoming this is a very slow process, unlike dyslexia from birth.

There are many commonly held beliefs, as with all things…Dyslexia has nothing to do with a low IQ or that we read letters in a different way to others…there is little wrong with a dyslexic child’s eyesight in comparison to a non-dyslexic child.

We need to head in the direction of linguistics and why our spelling performance doesn’t always reflect that of our reading ability… are we reading exactly what is in the books or are we adlibbing, replacing words with words that are stored in our brain? We need to take a holistic approach so we can begin to understand the problems faced by the dyslexic child and apply the preferred teaching/learning style, if we truly want to move this forward!

Language/speech is an art most have little problem with…we start forming our early words long before we start to read, write or spell and have a fair vocabulary by the time we do, so why do some find it difficult to read or spell? Our early venture into the spoken word is often through pronouncing whole words like mama and dada…we don’t use phonemes (words segmented into letters or blends of letters ch…sh, etc.) at this early stage. This is related to the ability to process in a phonological manner. However, it is widely believed that people with dyslexia find this much harder than those without dyslexia (Dysphonesia – problems with letter sounds and blends).

We certainly know from our own training centre that children retain more words through the photo image side of the brain and also through the phonetic /phoneme channel with far greater accuracy than the words they read or indeed write.

Next time in our final part we will look at ways of improving the lives of those with dyslexia.

NB. This information is from personal research, research of our team and also partly sourced through the work of others and is purely for improving the understanding of dyslexia…we do not make any suggestions in our posts.  Dyslexia Toby © 2016

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

`Dyslexia - (part one )The Why’s and how to spot some of the Signs’  by  Dyslexia Toby © 2016

We can all relate to our early learning and the struggle at school to grasp the English language. We all share one thing in common…it was a subject that couldn’t be skipped, we had to learn it…we need it…we would struggle to manage without it.
I was talking to someone in their fifties who struggled with the very subject and they remarked “Even now getting on a bus is a worry…I have to ask the driver as I can’t read the sign or understand the numbers that tells me where the bus is heading”.
If all our food came in a plain package with no images so many would struggle to read what the package contained…even cooking instructions would prove difficult, as would instruction manuals for all our gadgets…so much so that what many take for granted is a struggle for others in society.
If we take a look at education…most subjects involve English…even maths!
It’s unfortunate but poor reading and also poor learning skills is becoming ever greater with young people…modern technology that has been designed to make our lives easier is helping to fuel the problem…predictive texts…spell checkers…voice typing software, etc.
With some 10% of the population suffering from Dyslexia, how can we spot that our child might be dyslexic?
Some of the suggestions below could also point to dyscalculia and dysgraphia.
The most obvious sign is letter reversal and common letters are b and d…p and q.
Some children get the number 5 the wrong way round (dyscalculia).
Letters within words can be the correct letter but in the wrong order, leading to spelling errors such as ‘girl’ could become ‘gril’.
Diagraphs/blends tend to prove difficult, the sh…ch...ur…ir , etc.
Word endings are often difficult with the y very often replaced with i or e.
Monosyllabic words are often easier for the dyslexic child to relate to as they can sound the letters out.
Children often confuse right with left.
Poor or slow writing is another possible indicator (children have to constantly look up at the board to replicate the correct spelling) and this can also point to poor short term memory (dysgraphia).
Memory can also show up in a slow reader and also the lack of retention or reference to the passage of reading.
Tracking is another problem (if the teacher pauses note taking or classroom noise distracts the student). Reading rulers can help to keep your sight line/passage of text.
A lack of interest or understanding in subjects that involve reading, writing and spelling, but a flair in creative subjects can be another indicator of dyslexia…dysgraphia…dyscalculia.
Part Two on what causes dyslexia and how we can help will follow next week.
Please note all the information in our posts are taken from personal knowledge and research and may contain the work of others in our field. Dyslexia Toby © 2015 I am happy for people to share my work...please mention the producer of this piece

look out for part two on here soon! Like what we have to write...join our new page on facebook @ Dyspraxia/Dyslexia/Dysgraphia/Dyscalculia at

If you like our work feel free to comment...there are many posts on here produced by ourselves.


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Praxis makes perfect? (Understanding thought processes and physical reaction)  Dyslexia Toby  © 2016

Praxis is the ability to organise a thought/action from the brain into a pre-planned movement. In order for someone to demonstrate the appropriate movement/command, the brain extracts and uses information from all of our memory and sensory processing areas ie. touch,  auditory, smell, vision, taste plus vestibular balance/inner ear  (proprioceptive/muscle receptors) to start and finish a given task… an example is right hand knowing what the left hand is doing.  Taking this into useful terms, apraxia and dyspraxia expresses the lack of maturity in the areas required  to fully plan some coordination of movement or speech…this does not mean that we cannot carry out all processes…indeed some with DCD/Apraxia are very good at sport but lack maturity in other areas.
Before we talk about Praxis further let’s look at how we send signals from our brain to our body (movement planning and activation of those movements) -
Cognitive …what does that mean?
It is the mental/thought process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment…everything we do for every second of our lives involves our brain in some way, shape or form…even whilst asleep (dreaming…moving, etc.)!
Sensory memory is the first tier of memory. Sensory memory retains the briefest image of a sensory stimulus…one effect of brain training is to strengthen this part of our memory…look at an object that is new to you and then close your eyes…then open them.  After the object has gone, can you still remember or visualise that object?  Rather like turning off the bedroom light and planning your journey to the bed without tripping over the bed or your shoes, we manage it sometimes but not always.
A baby learns this from around 8-10 months of age.  Up to this point it believes everything that goes out of its immediate visual range has gone forever.  This is due to lack of maturation of the short episodic and indeed long term memory.
We use this as a means to also determine body actions/movement…without signals from the brain to our body we would only move due to nerve or spasm  reactions (to coin the phrase ‘running around like a headless chicken’) having no control over movement.
Psychomotor - relating to the origination of movement in one or more (single or multi-task) conscious mental activities.  It is the transition from the thought to the planning and doing of actions, be it big or small physical activity. Psychomotor learnt skill stored in the motor cortex is portrayed by  us through physical skills such as movement, coordination, manipulation, dexterity, grace, strength, speed… actions which demonstrate the fine motor skills, such as use of precision instruments or tools, or actions which evidence gross motor skills, such as the use of the body in dance, musical or athletic performance.
We feel cold and a signal is sent from the skin surface to the brain, we then react by shivering…a part of our clothing irritates and the brain moves us to try and create a resistance to that irritation though scratching the area affected…most of these would be deemed primal reactions.
Visual motor integration is about taking all this into consideration in order to move forward with a given task and we can do this with all children and adults, but on occasions we must adapt the way we attack the learning process… this means linking coordinated visual perception skills together with gross-motor movement and fine-motor movement in a way that becomes as simple as possible in the early stages of learning new tasks, until sufficient levels of proficiency are reached… for both practical and academic outcomes to be fulfilled.
Praxis for the most part comes from learning and development (maturation) although as mentioned some would be primal (genetic).  We use several processes to complete the most basic of tasks. Some of the tasks in early infants are learnt through monkey see monkey do and others through stimulus and natural development.
These would range from the sitting up phase of a baby around 6-8 months, to coordinating limb movements to enable the child to crawl and then to stand and eventually walk…much of this progression is down to curiosity and the need to survive….keeping warm to eating and drinking.
 However we have far more complex tasks along the way and we can’t do everything by ourselves. On occasion we have to coordinate with others… this could be using one’s thoughts and another’s physical skill to complete a task.
Fine motor tasks are often harder for someone with Dyspraxia or DCD… like learning to ride a bike involves multi-tasking or tying your shoes for the first time is a very complex task and one which many take for granted.
 We don’t perceive all these components separately.  For example, as you watch a child/adult complete a task, such as tie his/her shoe laces, we don’t break it down into different actions, even though in the case of dyspraxia we should (over-learning is vital).  Also, balancing maybe to put on a sock or wash their feet.  However, when a child has apraxia, these tasks have to be broken down into singular components and then practised and built in order for the child to complete the whole task.
If you take a sequence like dressing, which becomes second nature to many, this would be an extremely complex task to someone with dyspraxia or apraxia.
In order to achieve this, as with other activities, they could benefit from visual instruction in the early days until the skill becomes second nature…pictures or even post-it notes are very handy.
Tying shoe laces is a task made easier by practising with the shoes on their lap at first, break the task down to single actions and then let them repeat it until it’s achieved with ease…my son achieved this after two hours and is now delighted to be able to wear any shoes he so chooses.  Being honest he did better than I…when I was young I remember sitting with a very tolerant girl in our village (who wasn’t aware I was dyspraxic) nearly the whole day and I finally mastered the skill!
The focus of many dyspraxics is more often than not is singular…multi-tasking is quite difficult, if you overload them with several things to accomplish be prepared for them to get this wrong or complete only part of your request and always remember rarely is this done deliberately.
“Be patient and praxis will eventually make perfect”. For those whose children bum shuffle, show them how to crawl, the increases in co-ordination are invaluable. it is so important due to slow processing ability to give long periods for practice that you would to their peers, remember demonstrate a task several times and show them piecemeal (over learning wins every-time).

Nb.The information is the work of our team and will occasionally contain the words of others…all our information is provided on a guidance basis and we always recommend that you seek professional advice. Dyslexia Toby © 2016

Friday, 7 October 2016

‘Dyspraxia (DCD) & Adult Diagnosis’ by Dyslexia Toby (C) 2016

‘Dyspraxia (DCD) & Adult Diagnosis’ by Dyslexia Tiby © 2016

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 mature slower than most around us, however as others slow we catch up.
We tend to have greater levels of concentration and are more aware when carrying out tasks that require a greater focus, we also improve our short term memory (building a structure) 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, sitting upright and balance) 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 (World Health Organisation). We take Dyspraxia to our end and that is the same with our close cousin dyslexia. The secret is learning to cope and work around these.
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 Toby © 2016

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Dyslexia. "Hidden secrets to improved spelling"!by Dyslexia Toby © 2016

Are dyslexics so different, not at all? If anything those with dyslexia tend to be far more advanced in lateral and creative thinking.
Reading, writing and the text in mathematics are our bogies.
It’s a kinda blend thing, "those silent letters and vowels that say one thing and mean another".
It's no wonder when we look at how complexed language is. English is a mix, the  coming together of two languages,an then tweaked to build waht we know as the English language.
Maybe we should look at the German, French, and English language.
So many words are derivative from those languages mentioned earlier!
Take voyage, the same in both French and English, there are so many more; Café, coffee, passage, etc.
German derivatives such as haus = house Hammer = hammer,minute = minute, motor = motor, auto = auto (automobile).
It is so important to be able to use graphemes and phonemes when constructing new words.
We also need to encourage learning through visual imagery, along with any word patterns.
We can see through the research that there are many facets in early word recognition and learning. We also see idiosyncrasies from the gentle introduction of the phonetic alphabet. Three and four-year-olds are introduced to addition, deletion and substitution of phonemes, this helps them to build new whole words with a similar structure and elements of shared sound. We fail to pick this up in the main until first class (age 6-7).
This later phase is the point where most with literacy deficit/dyslexia would fall away. This is the point when the intervention (support) needs to be deployed; this will help students keep up with their literate peers.

I so often hear of support programs concentrating on reading and comprehension, and not working on spellings, We need to run spelling alongside sighting of new words. It is well known that those with literacy deficit have a very quick mind and they can figure where a story is going. They replace the words they can't pronounce with another word. This is often missed by those listening to the story.
I believe that spelling is an integral part of word formation. There are so many silent vowels and consonants (thumb, Gnome, etc.) that leaving out letters due to local or national dialect makes it so much harder for the native or non-native speakers to learn.
If you speak to parents and teachers of other languages, you will find more problems where English is a second language. This can be said certainly with those who use Latin-based languages as their first language. The complexity of English is not mirrored to the same extent as other languages, most have fewer blended letters. Most languages share the same problem with vowels influencing other vowels.
Many schools teach through sighting words. We need to look at spelling with an holistic approach.

We encourage all of our students to sound out the words, this allows us to pick up incorrect letter sounds. They can also increase retention if they sound out words, we hear all of what we say!
We should also forget teaching rules that only partially apply like two letters go out walking, and one does the talking( works with clean, not with friend, etc.) or, i.e., before e except after c (receipt-c, leisure-no c). Children and adults with dyslexia only get confused with this as they apply it in the main! We can do far more research, and we will all find that the rules work for around 50-60%. Most dyslexics and indeed those with dyspraxia (slow processing speed) take things literally. If the rule can be applied 100% then by all means, use it.

Homophones tend to be very confusing for dyslexics; these should be gently introduced as confidence grows.
Teaching children to read correctly is so important; try shared reading, sit alongside. These techniques will allow you to pick up early problems. Reading aloud helps with the correct use of grammar and punctuation. When you work with your children get them to pause for short and long breaths, this stops them rushing sentences and again helps retention.
Encourage them to record their voices, this again will improve retention and test scores.

why not pop over to our new page and read more on the 3 Dy's @
All our posts are for guidance only and professional advice should always be sought. 
Toby Lee, Dubli © 2016n 

Monday, 11 July 2016

‘Dyscalculia - (revised) The Why’s And How To Spot Some Of The Signs’ by  Dyslexia Toby © 2016

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.

Lets not forget that this could also be down to their lack of comprehending very wordy questions. This is the biggest cause of problems within mathematics and this is linked to dyslexia.

Dyslexics tend to omit or add words around 10-15% so you can imagine how this causes problems in mathematics.

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.

 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 Toby © 2016

Friday, 17 June 2016

Best practice and co-educators by Dyslexia Toby  © 2016
 Is it so hard to understand those who need to learn in a different way!

Teaching in general is a very difficult but rewarding profession. The biggest problem facing existing staff is the lack of opportunities to upskill, and if we are to get on top of learning needs this is essential! In the UK they have introduced this very important addition to the skill set in teacher training and not before time. We still need to make this the case in many other countries around the globe. These new teacher/trainers have an uphill task as is! Early expectations from others and indeed themselves is to hit the ground running. The big fear is lack of support and acceptance of these new energetic vibrant thinkers and their ideas. Many see them as a hindrance or threat! They should be both embraced for all their good will and great ideas and nurtured to ensure they remain enthusiastic and buoyant. Teaching will heap enough pressure on them as is!
Walking into a new school with little knowledge of the pupil’s needs and possible hostile environment gives the new teacher little time to take stock, catch their breath or indeed reflect.
This is also evident in learning resource centres or specialist schools. Most up to now have been self-taught. Knowledge is power and it’s very important that new teachers are both eased in and encouraged, both in and outside of inclusive teaching environments!
The adage is a ratio of one in ten children have an individual learning need, however recent research in the UK has pointed to an increase… we were aware greater numbers but didn’t want to take heed of it. The big worry is that governments will try to change the parameters to address the numbers rather than offer actual support! The big problem is that some experienced teachers don’t see this as a problem and some are reluctant to retrain. The new recruits will get quickly absorbed into this way of thinking if we don’t take care and endorse both their thinking and methods of approach.
Understanding of this area is paramount if we wish to make learning truly inclusive.
Where has the increase come from? Many children that wouldn’t have been considered as having a learning need have been failed by society and successive governments. Socio-economic reasons also have their part to play.
Best practice
If we are to ensure best practice we don’t just need to look at successful teaching. We need to look at poor practice and see why this is failing. Many teachers are propped up by other teachers within a course. I have witnessed this first hand during my years as a teacher.
As we know, the curriculum is wide and students can excel in some subject areas giving them a variation in scores. This can also have a variant where more than one teacher is teaching a subject or a particular year of the program. Many parents have mentioned to me about the change in their children from year to year and it’s not the child or school that changes (that’s a constant), the teacher does (that’s a variable)!
Many believe that those working in this area have qualified as something special whereas for the most, as mentioned, it’s themselves that have up skilled. These staff are rare and we need more, however we now have a greater understanding and should be able to think on a much wider plane when it comes to teacher training. We need to put new teachers into schools that are non-confrontational for the first few years to help build their confidence and allow their new techniques to flourish and cascade to others.
Then they will be ready to be deployed in schools that are operating below par! They are so often used as cannon fodder in troubled schools where no one wants to teach. This is a dog chasing its tail as many get disillusioned and either emigrate or leave the profession altogether.
Assessment and awareness
The teacher is not the only issue here… good support, modern thinking and adequate resources are key ingredients. Changing exam structures to continual assessment does not address those students disaffected with school. It’s a myth! This puts unnecessary pressure on both resources and teachers. Reducing class sizes would also allow this to flourish and we would see far greater exam successes.
The Curriculum needs to be embraced by all. Results are driven by like minded people.
A broad look at all subjects for each child needs to be looked at and understood. Why is the Geography or Art teacher raving about a pupil that’s being condemned as a no hope by the English teacher?
The curriculum should be both available and achievable for all students within the learning environment.
Assessment should be fit for purpose. It’s so important to look at the needs of each student both now, previously and in the future. Many view this as a hot potato and try to dissuade difficult students from signing up to the school. Few take into account valuable information gleaned by their previous schools.
Information should be available to all, including supply teachers! These are often the forgotten few…just like newbies, they have to know all the background of the pupils and hit the ground running. The last school I taught at used to have group/course folders with all the individual students’ information and stages of teaching/curriculum within.
All of this helps to nourish and grow a better learning environment.
Specialist Areas
Encourage both the deployment and re-training of support staff! This is to be both admired and valued. Don’t let staff take up the role simply because they chose the short straw or they see it as an easy option. This is a vocation and needs to be taught with both heart and humanity. It’s seen by many as costly and of little worth, we have to change this mind set!
I would love to hear from teachers who have qualified having also been there themselves as a learner with a learning need. I indeed qualified to teach off the back of a real struggle with both educators and the system myself, so I could give an opportunity to those who had been let down by the system in the past. Resource needs to be beneficial and measured for success. We need also to consider resourcing at academic age and not chronological ages!
Teaching in an environment where all students feel included is so rewarding and stimulating for the educator. Be mindful of individual students and how vulnerable they can be. For example many with dyspraxia or dyslexia will die a thousand deaths if they are asked to read out loud. On the other hand they don’t want to be smothered. Many children feel resource carries a stigma and yet we support all students in one way or another, be it academics in Art and Crafts or non-academics in English and Maths. We need to embrace those that have varying learning styles and teach the benefits of their individuality and creativity to others. We all need each other to survive this life!
Different styles
It really isn’t horses for courses!
Students learn at a varying pace and style… many excel in some subjects, few excel in all areas of study.
It’s up to teachers to measure learning minute by minute and adjust if needs be. Students don’t just switch off or drift off! Lack of stimulation or being unable to understand is the key to most switching off. Even the workload should and can be varied!
Simple things like time tabling lessons. Why do schools have back to back Maths or English lessons and business or another language? How do children with processing cope with that? Simple… they don’t!
Every student needs to have time to reflect, process and go again, so why not English, Art then Maths? That way we get a chance to clear our mind in the creative subjects and the academics don’t become bored. Win win!
Parents are vulnerable
Don’t forget the parents. There are two issues here. One… they might have had a bad experience in school themselves and are maybe not academic or two… they are academic and cannot see why their child don’t understand all of the subjects they’re being taught.
Many don’t turn up for parent evenings for fear of embarrassment or simply it brings back bad memories! Learning needs can run through families. This should be monitored.
The above should also be taken into consideration when issuing homework. There’s not always someone at home that can understand the work at hand (new mathematical methods).

Nb If your child is starting a new school make sure the provision is there before you register them.

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 in related areas.   Dyslexia Toby  © 2016

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Relating Learning To Known (prior achievement) & Given Situations by by  Dyslexia Toby  © 2016

We often try to learn in the style of others (not our learning style). Meaning we focus on the unknown rather than the known areas within in a subject.
I have written extensively on brain types as many regular visitors to my blog will testify.
Well, here we go again, most like me who are dyslexic, dyscalculic, dysgraphic or dyspraxia will know that we learn better when we relate the subject required to a real time event.
We have an excellent long-term memory and poor short term, most events/happenings are stored in our long-term memory.
Would it not therefore make sense to utilise this strength!
Most like me tend to do better as a returning learner than we do during our initial education, why.
We have had more events, more happenings, and yes we have increased our long-term memory bank, this allows us to relate our learning to our real life events.
We are far from suggesting that all students studying for the first time should skip education or press pause till they reach mid to late twenties.

But it does mean that teachers/educators and parents should look at this and try to devise methods that allow the student to work in a kinaesthetic way. Relating things such as mathematics, and language, the very way we would in technology classes. When I want to see an improvement in my language skill, I take a trip abroad. Eat with the locals, and try to live as they do.
When I am shopping, I use that language in my head to prompt purchases. I am living the lesson and guess what it works.

I so often heard my teachers mention that I was lazy and stupid, yet I could take anything apart and fix it without manuals.
Much to the amazement of others.
Can you teach a football player, chef, mechanic; to play football, cook, or repair cars from a classroom, the answer is a simple no.
Education and its direction for teaching are much more simplistic than the chicken or the egg.
If industry came before education, why wasn't education based on industry!
Experiential learning (learn by doing/experience) is just that, we glean much from what we do in practical, hands-on ways,  opposed to the academic study that is taught in a linear way.  Certainly core subjects;  described in simple terms as the process of acquiring information through the study of a given subject (maths, English) without the necessity for direct hands on experience. We know that both methods aim at instilling knowledge with the students as individuals; however one size doesn’t fit all.
Those that have a strong left hemisphere are more likely to gain from linear structured tuition and the right hemisphere from more creative, practical demonstrations.

David Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model (ELM)

Jacobson and Ruddy, working on developing Kolb's four-stage Experiential Learning Model and Pfeiffer and Jones's with their five stage Experiential Learning Cycle. Taking these theoretical frameworks and created a simple, practical questioning model for educators to use in promoting real life and critical reflection within experiential learning and development.
•    Did you notice...?
•    Why did that happen?
•    Does that happen in life?
•    Why does that happen?
•    How can you use that?
These questions are put forward by the educator after a given experience, and gradually lead the group towards a critical evaluation. Using reflection on the given experience, and an understanding of how they can apply the learning to their life (lateral thinking expanded).
I recently watched far from a madding crowd the other day and being a visual factual learner I took more from the production.
Thomas Hardy worked the plot and created the various twists and turns…indeed, I am more likely to read a book if it’s an autobiography than I would fiction.
We, often quoted as being three-dimensional learners and we thrive on adding value to our life through learning and teaching us through a linear program doesn’t press the right buttons.

Turn your child's homework into a practical experience and yes that can be done in all subjects including Maths.
Cut up boxes to calculate area, or fill a measuring jug. Use foot tapping for tables, add and subtract.
Get them to help you cook and turn that into maths.
Cutting a slab of butter is division and subtraction.
Oven temperature plays a part and timings (lapsed time).
best of all it's non-confrontational

If you can do it and make it stick then so should teachers/educators.

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 Toby  © 2016

Thursday, 11 February 2016

‘Random and Wrong Words Come Out’ by Dyslexia Toby © 2016

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 (due to poor facial muscle tone) 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, whilst 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 number 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. This can also put the word or sentence out of context in a conversation (longer to process what others are saying).
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.
follow us on facebook at