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At our last meeting, Dyslexia Positive members discussed what helped and hindered us in our role as specialist dyslexia support tutors in colleges and universities. We agreed that the role course tutors play is vital to the success and well-being of our students. Here are a few of our favourite positives and negatives. Please comment with more things to add to the list:
Positive – we like it when:
- Tutors allow the use of a dictaphone in lectures and seminars. This is getting more and more common, but there are still a few reluctant teachers. Students need to be aware of issues of confidentiality.
- Tutors make good use of video clips to demonstrate a point. One of the most common frustrations is when in a practical session a student’s notes do not capture a practical skill demonstrated. We suggest tutors should also allow students to use their phone to video-record those demonstrations (with permission).
- Tutors build in stages towards the submission of an assignment or project, with interim feedback (including peer feedback) to help a student get started.
- Tutors provie a “writing frame” particularly in the early stages of a course module, to assist students to know how to structure their work and get the right balance between sections.
- Tutors provide models of what a finished product might look like, without at all spoon-feeding a standard response.
- Tutors provide constructive developmental feedback on what a student needs to do to improve.
Negative – we get frustrated on behalf of our students when:
- A tutor issuing problem papers says in advance that s/he will only mark some of the questions, but the student still has to put an effort into working on all of them. This encourages an illogical attempt to try and second guess which ones will be marked, and can lessen motivation.
- when the same tutor does not provide feedback or sample solutions to the ones s/he did not mark, as this can leave a gap in knowledge and confusion.
- when project supervisors limit the amount of contact with students (we have seen guidance saying, e.g. maximum of 3 emails or 2 meetings). We send our students straight to student support to request extra contact as a reasonable adjustment, but why should they have to do this?
- there is still patchy practice on providing assessment criteria or marking guidelines for assignments.
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It has come to our attention that there are errors in Table 3.2 of the TOWRE 2 test manual. This relates to the level of discrepancy between scores on the two subtests that is statistically significant. This in turn decides whether it is safe to calculate an overall reading efficiency score.
This is what the amended table should look like:
Level of Confidence Differences Between SWE
and PDE Scaled Scores is Not Due to Measurement Error
SWE to PDE Scaled Score
Level of confidence Incorrect Correct
95% > 8 > 11
90% 8 10 – 11
85% 7 9
80% 6 8
70% 5 6 – 7
60% 4 5
Not confident < 4 < 5Leave a comment or ask a question »
Students leaving HE, facing the horrors of graduate recruitment programmes often have to complete psychometric tests.
We advocate that practising overcomes many of the hurdles of dyslexia, so this book may be worth a try.
Too many of the companies don’t include these tests within their equalities policies… so the dyslexic candidates may not actually ever get considered on the merits of their CV and overall potential. We also recommend that you tell them to talk to HR about being given extra time for online application tests in advance of starting the process. Once they’ve failed and been rejected it’s often too late.Leave a comment or ask a question »
I have been pondering the impact of music, musical training and memory on dyslexia recently, for three reasons. One is that I recently toook a music exam (singing) myself, and although not dyslexic wanted to analyse what I needed to achieve this memory feat (I guess I was more interested in the impact of aging than dyslexia in my case). Secondly I noticed a particular memory trait in some members of the choir I sing in preparing for a recent concert. And finally I completed a dyslexia assessment this month for a young person who has amazing musical talents.
Let’s take the dyslexia assessment first. Having learned to play musical instruments from an early age, this person had undergone the regular discipline of practice and listening and improvising to attain a very high standard of manual dexterity, a musical ear and the ability to memorise music. How would this fit in with dyslexia as a phonological processing difficulty, possible aspects of motor integration needed for writing and spelling and working memory for facets of language acuisition and study?
In the case of this young person (and indeed a professional musician I assessed a couple of years ago) many of the features of dyslexia were masked by by the very high level skills they had achieved along the way. I am convinced that musical ability and practice conveys a big advantage when it comes to studying other subjects. There were anomalies, however, to do with being better at sight reading than playing from memory, having to work harder than other people at some aspects of memory training and occasional lapses in an otherwise outstanding educational career.
Sight reading music is an amazing gift (one that I do not possess to any great degree). Some people only have to look at a page of music to be able to hear how it goes and sing (or play) along. When I approach music I need a number of other “hooks” to help me along. I need reminders (which I attach as postit notes on my score) linking the style of the music with tricky tempo changes and words. I am not alone in this in my choir. In our recent repertoire which had several linked pieces our conductor was grumpy in rehearsal when we couldn’t start a new movement just from a chord and a beat of his baton. I needed to hear more to recall what it was going to be like before I warmed up to the task.
When it came to the singing exam and faced with singing five songs from memory I was fine with the melody but was worried I would lose track of the lyrics, which sometimes had subtle switches between verses. Also I was singing in English, French and Russian (yes, my choice!). Over the year of preparation I used various memory techniques…
- alphabetical order (“and fear, and grief and pain…” Dowland),
- word painting (hearing what the pattern of the notes said about the words),
- narrative with visuals – designing a story board of images telling the story of my French song (Faure)
- acting technique (thanks to my teacher for this great suggestion) where you work out a verb that conveys the feeling behind each line (of a Gershwin song) and convey that in your face as you sing,
- and of course good old repetition and testing.
My dyslexic student has good memory techniques when it comes to music, but may need help in applyng some of this when studying at university.
And yes, since you ask, I passed my Grade 8 singing exam, the first music I exam I had taken since a teenager many, many years ago!
One Comment »
Stein, J. and Kapoula, Z. (2012) Visual Aspects of Dyslexia, Oxford, OUP.
This book, published last autumn is a hard but very rewarding read. I remember struggling to understand the magnocellular theory of dyslexia, as presented in the work of Professor John Stein, when doing my diploma qualification and later endeavouring to put the information across when teaching on the same diploma programme.
The book illustrates well how the theory behind visual facets of dysexia has developed, been debated furiously, drawn antagonists as well as advocates, widened in its applicability and still draws passionate and well-reasoned responses from its supporters.
John Stein and his co-editor Zoi Kapoula (based in Paris) have brought together a range of neuroscientists and researchers with a specialism in ophthalmology, each writing a chapter, which stands alone but together forms a story of the ramifications of this subject. Stein provides a summary chapter of his own, bringing us up to date on his current stance.
Some highlights for me are as follows: Continue reading this article… »
This book was revolutionary in helping me to start to develop new ideas for supporting and assessing people with dyslexia. It talks about the advantages of having dyslexia (as per the title), something that we ignore far too much.
This book was recommended to me firstly by a student who has dyslexia and then by a colleague. I recommend it to you if you have dyslexia, or support or assess people for dyslexia.Leave a comment or ask a question »
I recently spent time with a dyslexic student who was looking for revision tips and ideas for exams in preparation for A level resits with a view to studying medicine. She was not entitled to a reader/scribe.
I thought I would share our ideas, in case they are useful to others. Hopefully people will be able to add additional tips in readiness for the summer exam season!One Comment »
On Monday, 7th January 2013, there was a programme on Channel 5 at 10pm about how Shane Lynch (previously of Boyzone fame) copes with dyslexia.One Comment »
Recently I was asked what a parent of a primary age child should look for in a specialist dyslexia tutor, specifically whether the specialist should have any training. This was my answer and I wondered what other people think:
Colleagues within Dyslexia Positive have been debating the right wording to use in our dyslexia assessment reports, for 2 reasons. One is that the CPD events we have attended recently have encouraged us to be bolder in coming to conclusions about dyspraxia, dysgraphia etc. rather than expecting our clients to refer themselves to other agencies or their GP for clarity on this. Secondly, recent guidance about the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) seems to indicate that they want reports to refer directly to which specific learning difficulty (SpLD) the student is seeking funding for. It also arose that some of us were no longer happy with the term “diagnosis,” because of possible connotations of the medical model for dyslexia, which we reject.
We closed our email debate today with the following conclusions.
1. We actually agreed to differ about using the term diagnosis. Those of us holding the qualification pg Diploma: Adult Dyslexia Diagnosis and Support, and who were brought up to use Cynthia Klein’s Diagnosing Dyslexia as our bible, remain moderately comfortable about it. Diagnosis can be viewed as a form of detailed scrutiny, not exclusively medical. However some of our reports will use the term and some will not.
2. We agreed that DSA and other funding sources will need clear signposting, so we will refer to SpLD, even though in our feedback to students and clients we will want to stress that sometimes strengths will outweigh difficulties.
3. We agreed we will each have personal boundaries over which SpLDs we will comment on. We are all slightly more confident about referring to dyspraxia, though we prefer it when it comes in conjunction with dyslexia. Some specialists will refer to to dyscalculia, even though there is no workable assessment tool that can give a definitive answer about dyscalculia. We are all reluctant to refer formally to autistic spectrum disorders or ADHD in our conclusions, though we might mention attentional difficulties and look for strategies to enhance focus and concentration.
We would be really interested for other practitioners to have their say here, so please join the debate.