I packed a lot into the second day of the conference and also met up with some old friends – Clare Trott the dyscalculia expert from Loughborough and Desi Madelin, an ADDS graduate from Leicester, who is doing a great job managing learning support at the college there, as well as taking an interest in the research side at this conference. I also encountered people who are really interested in what we do at Dyslexia Positive…
Usha Goswami got us off to an excellent start with a really clear presentation of the latest direction her research is taking. For me it made an obvious link with my interest in dyslexia and music. She is reinforcing the importance of seeing that pre school children are exposed to rhyme and rhythm as a precursor to the ability to perceive and distinguish features of speech sounds. The ability to distinguish features of sounds, particularly at low frequencies is a good predictor of future ability in word recognition and also shows up as impaired in dyslexic children.
I then went into a very exciting workshop on collaboration, curiosity and creativity in Maths teaching, given by the Edghill University team. Their delivery style in the workshop illustrated their point brilliantly as we all got immersed in the activities. A real buzz!
Less exciting was the after lunch keynote speech by Michele Mazzocco from the University of Minesota. She badly lost track of time in explaining her thoughts about the difference between dyscalculia and low ability in Maths, so we didn’t really get onto the salient points. She did, however, remind us to recognise the individual differences in learners who take different paths towards competence in Maths.
I spent the afternoon in a double workshop on IT applications for dyslexia. it was a delivered at a cracking pace, with me struggling to capture all of the great ideas on my new iPad… so many great ideas that I will write more fully about this later…and give you the link to the BDAtech web side where you can get the workshop notes yourself…
Sadly I had to miss Day 3 in favour of singing with Birmingham Bach Choir tonight!
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There is far too much good stuff to make a purely rational choice, so today I heard:
Lindsay Peer make a passionate plea for us to take account of the emotional impact of dyslexia.
She told us about ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) and how we might help clients channel these into constructive change. We should aim to help people not to think they can change the past, but change their response to it. We do not have to be Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) experts to use some of the techniques from CBT, to help people be more realistic, more flexible and attentive to their emotional levels. Above all she warned us not to be complacent about the impact a diagnosis of dyslexia can have on a person’s self esteem and emotional well being.
I like the thought of working in this therapeutic way, and certainly, Dyslexia Positive seeks to make its assessments contain good news to balance the difficulties. However, I do, somewhat, worry about maintaining our boundaries, especially when acting as non-medical helpers within the rather proscribed guidelines for DSA.
Margaret Meehan tell us how hard it is being bilingual and dyslexic in Wales, especially when moving from a Welsh medium school to an English speaking university. she also lamented the lack of Welsh language dyslexia assessment material.
Rob Fidler outline research on reading comprehension in adults, that I had not heard about, when I did my doctorate…so there is someone out there after all who has parallel research interests to mine! His is based on work carried out in the UK and New Zealand, exploring the impact of meta cognitive interventions, with some promising results.
A fabulously funny and inspiring workshop on dyslexia and music by the DBA music committee, which gives me lots of stimulation for my other passion relating to music ( see @suepersop on Twitter)
Finally Kate Cain doing her usual immaculate job explaining the subtleties of reading comprehension, and the importance of early intervention to train even preschoolers in higher order language skills, and not just phonics …
Great day. Let’s see what Day 2 brings.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!
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