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:
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I’ve been reminded of the BUG method for reading assignment questions (Price & Maier, 2007):
Box the action word
Underline the key (important) words
Glance back (check that you have read it correctly).
Discuss what you understand by the term dyslexia by reference to a critical review of research literature.
Box the word ‘discuss’ – that’s what you have to do.
Underline ‘dyslexia’ – that’s what you are talking about.
Glance back over question to make sure that you know what other information you need. Which of it is also important?
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Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) provides help for higher education students who have to meet extra costs while studying because of their disability or ‘specific learning difficulty’. Many of the students who claim DSA funding have been identified as dyslexic. A significant number of these students appear to be assessed for dyslexia for the first time after they start their higher education studies. I am interested in why this occurs and therefore decided to undertake a small-scale piece of ‘action research.’
I felt it would be interesting to examine in more detail approximately how many students were identified for dyslexia after starting their Higher Education studies. From the DSA ‘needs assessments’ completed at one assessment centre, I selected all of those that were related to dyslexia in one academic year. I then selected a random 100 students and noted when they had first been assessed for dyslexia.
• 24 had been assessed at primary school
• 10 at secondary school (between age 11-16)
• 10 during their level 3 studies (A levels or BTEC courses) – of these 8 had changed their place of study at age 16.
• 52 were assessed for the first time at University during their undergraduate studies
• 4 were assessed after completing their undergraduate studies and had just started postgraduate courses or a PHD programme. Continue reading this article… »
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!
Mind’s Eye Spelling
Mind’s Eye spelling is a visual spelling strategy. I first used Mind’s Eye Spelling with a mature dyslexic learner with auditory processing difficulties. For years he had tried to spell words, unsuccessfully, by sounding them out. Using Mind’s Eye Spelling he was able to learn how to spell specific words and more importantly could remember how to spell the words.
Write the word the learner wants to spell.
Ask the learner to split the word into chunks. Do not worry about syllables.
dyslexia dy sle xia
With the learner looking at the word, get the learner to say the whole word and then say the letters in each chunk. Ask the learner to do this several times, getting them to say the chunks in different orders, for example:
- say the letters in the last chunk (x,i,a)
- say the letters in the first chunk (d,y)
- say the letters in the middle chunk (s,l,e)
With the learner still looking at the word ask the learner questions about the letters in the different chunks, for example:
- What is the first letter of the middle chunk?
- What is the last letter of the first chunk?
- What letter comes after x?
Ask the learner if they can see the word in their head. If they can’t, continue with steps 3 and 4 until they can. When they can, ask them to close their eyes and visualise the word. Ask them to say the letters in the different chunks and ask them the same type of questions in step 4.
With their eyes still closed ask the learner to spell the word out loud. If they get it correct, ask them to spell the word backwards. When the learner can do this ask them to open their eyes and write the word down.
- It is important to allow the learner time to absorb each chunk.
- Provide prompts where necessary.
- Do not try and get the learner to learn too many words at once. For some learners one word per week may be enough.
For learners, parents and educational professionals
Improving Working Memory
Tracy Packiam Alloway www.tracyalloway.com
Working Memory- Our brain’s Post-it note: this, the title for Chapter 1, so clearly encapsulates the meaning of working memory. From this, ‘light bulb’ moment, the structure of the book continues to illuminate the reader’s way through the chapters. Each chapter has subtitles throughout, a summary of numbered points and a list of further reading at the end. Writing is visually punctuated with ‘Try It’ boxes, an opportunity to have hands-on understanding of the material; ‘Science Flash’ boxes, giving a snapshot of related current research; ‘Current debate’ boxes, which discuss relevant controversial issues; diagrams and data presented in visual form. Additionally, stories shared by teachers and parents with the author have been added to describe the challenges that learners face and inspire readers.
It is hard to put down this fascinating book which begins by exploring what working memory is, why it is important and how it relates to academic success. We are reminded of the many studies that demonstrate that working memory is a more reliable predictor of academic achievement than IQ, as a working memory test measures our potential to learn.
Chapter 2- Diagnosing working memory: looks at ways to test working memory; detailing the benefits and drawbacks of available tests and signposting the way forward.
The following chapters then describe a range of learning differences that impact on the way that people learn; the relationship between each one and working memory. In short, how poor working memory affects people with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and those on the Autistic Spectrum. It is disappointing that this range of differences is described as disorders but that should not deter the reader from becoming engaged with the findings.
The final chapter outlines a range of strategies to encourage students of all ages to become more independent in their learning. It also discusses whether it is possible to train the brain, improve working memory and improve learning outcomes.
The book is the culmination of many years of research undertaken by Tracy Packham Alloway, in conjunction with others, regarding working memory and related issues. Professionals will find much that they recognise as well as new information; it is always reassuring to see ones hunches proved and ideas progressed.
A copy can be purchased on the internet for a little over £15.00, which makes this book easy to obtain by parents, learners and educational professionals.Leave a comment or ask a question »