As his swansong, Paul Gerber presented the findings of his 2014 study into particularly successful adults with dyslexia. These were defined as leaders in their field and included some top names in American society. These were his findings:
- There were no particular dfferences between successful and very successsful people in the sample
- reading difficulties persisted, often because the people were not accessing technology aids
- reframing to accept dyslexia can be positive
- adulthood gives more chance to take control
- finding the right niche is crucial
- positive critical incentives help
- problem solving abilities were notable; staying cool in dffiicult circumsatances; not being restricted to conventional linear thinking.
He urged us not to generalise about dyslexia, to look for individuality and not to “tell to tidy a tale”. Inspiring stuff!
When in due course the BDA posts all the conference papers online, I will put up a link. I didn’t go to anything about dysgraphia, but that is not to say it was not discussed. There were up to 6 speakers/workshops at any one time!Leave a comment or ask a question »
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Some themes coming through for dyslexia:
- several of the keynote speakers and some workshops I have attended have tried to help us understand co-occurring conditions and whether there are any underlying causes to explain dyslexia.
- there has been a definite buzz around being positive about dyslexia and finding ways to help people see their strengths. This is great, and following a trend we at Dyslexia Positve have been advocating since 2010 and before.
- I have heard a lot about the emotional impact of dyslexia and harnessing inner resilience in the people we work with.
- my two protégés from the days of DipADDS both presented eloquently about their interests; Karisa Krcmar about mindfulness and using a profile to capture aspects of executive function, to help students have greater self-knowledge as they learn; Ian Abbott about visual stress and the possible impact of shifting attention plus speed of processing information as a factor in dyslexia. Ian, as at previous BDA conferences, is a great person to sit next to in presentations, to quietly share thoughts and scepticisms after the experts have spoken.
- In general the keynote speakers have been somewhat disappointing. The best ones got quickly onto the latest findings from their research; others spent far too long on historical studies. When I think how the undergraduates I support beat themselves up if they cannot find sources to cite which are less than 10 years old, I cannot believe the experts think we don’t know about studies from last century. Some speakers still don’t seem to link academic research with real life skills e.g. research on reading that only covers word reading not text. Others present particular recommendations for practice, as if it was something new, when we old hands at teaching and support have been doing it for ever!
- the workshops and short talks have produced some gems: Sally Agoniani presenting some neat findings about the link between ADHD and dyslexia from her masters research; Paul Gerber speaking for the very last time before he retires about what characterises highly successful adults with dyslexia; Bruce Evans, optometrist, telling us succinctly which aspects of poor eyesight may and may not be linked with dyslexia; Chathurika Kannagara giving a brilliant talk about a positive psychology approach in supporting dyslexic university students, so that they move from ‘languishing’ to ‘thriving’.
One more day, or possibly half day tomorrow. It is hard work staying tuned in to this wealth of knowledge. And, thank you for asking, my poster presentation went really well. Lots of good conversations and links made. I will put up a copy of my poster on my unravelling reading website in due course.
2 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
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 »
Rather than discuss my research findings from my newly acquired Doctorate here – I thought I would reflect briefly on what it means to get a qualification.
On a personal note, I feel a certain ambivalence about using the title, Doctor, in my personal and professional life, with its slight air of stuffiness, its connotations of medical expertise, which feels disloyal to the social model of dyslexia, and rather strangely for me its gender ambiguity. In Italy doctors of anything are designated either Dottore (male) or Dottoressa (female) which feels right. Alternatively, being a sometimes insomniac listener to Radio 5 Live’s science phone-in, I like the way Aussie Doctor Karl refers to all callers as Doctor Tim, Doctor Jane, etc. So maybe next time you see me, call me Doctor Sue and it will make me smile (my children call be Doctor Mum, as there are now 3 Doctor Partridges in the family!)
The other important aspect for me is that we should encourage all the people we come into contact with professionally to be ambitious. The shy young lady newly told that she is dyslexic and not ‘thick’ can contemplate going to university. The slightly aggressive middle-aged man starting out in new studies can be told he is no longer the black sheep of the family, looked down on by already qualified siblings.
So – and this is a lesson to me too – be proud of your efforts and your qualifications.Leave a comment or ask a question »
On the final day of this brilliant conference, I heard keynote speeches from Kate Cain and David Saldana,
The format of the conference allows for groups of speakers to present their research or ideas for 20 minutes, clustered into themes. I went to a session like this on learning and memory. Here are some of the insights:
1. Carol Leather (University of Surrey) has found that good organisational planning is a factor for those adults with dyslexia who rate themselves as successful. This confirms the usefulness of intervention she frequently uses in workplace support.
2. Elpis Pavlidou (University of Edinburgh) is interested in why dyslexic children don’t become fluent and automatic in their learning. She thinks it is something to do with them not being good at the implicit abstraction in some tasks. She makes a good case for ensuring that learning is more active and explicit. However, her research results are based on the rather artificial measure of differences in reaction time to the different stimuli she presented. I am always really wary of drawing real-life conclusions from this sort of research, though Elpis’s presentation was very engaging and a good example of active learning!