Hello, I’m Christine Davies.
I am writing here to provide news, interesting items, latest research – anything, indeed that is relevant to dyslexia and related conditions on the spectrum.
Look me up when you can and check me out on my main website. Here you will find out what I do as a professional assessor and how I can help you if you suspect that your child or a member of your family is dyslexic.
Very recently I received an email ‘out of the blue’ from the mother of a young boy I assessed some years ago, here reproduced in full.
“Hi Christine, just thought I’d update you on a little boy you assessed 12 years ago, my son Doug. He had been written off as unteachable at the age of 8 but I knew he was a clever boy. Anyway as a result of your assessing him as dyslexic I knew how to move forward for him. His primary school was pretty ineffectual but I took him to private dyslexia classes and also took out a loan to send him to private school for year 6 and that really helped him. I had been so worried he would start secondary school unable to read or write. Anyhow, to cut a long story short your assessment of him as ‘gifted’ was absolutely right. He’s just finished his second year at Magdalen College, Oxford, doing a Master’s in Maths. He reads fluently, if a little slowly and still can’t spell at all of course. He is so happy and fulfilled. Think how different the outcome for him could have been. Many, many thanks Christine. Carry on the good work. Best wishes Sharon F.”
It was so marvellous to learn of Douglas’s successes and of his mother’s total and selfless devotion to her son’s well-being. Douglas repaid all her sacrifices over the years with hard work and application, culminating in gaining the offer of a Master’s place at Oxford at the age of eighteen – a high academic accolade indeed.
I send them both my very best wishes. I ‘m so pleased to have been an instrumental factor in the early stages. Thank you, Sharon for contacting me after all these years. It is much appreciated.
Dyslexia Fence (Photo credit: The Nikon Guru)
Newly qualified teachers may continue to be untrained in helping children with dyslexia /specific learning difficulties; indeed it is not even certain that all SENCO’s will have been trained in SEN before the latest government bill (Children and Families Bill) is introduced next year. No new clause has been inserted that will ensure that future teachers will know how to teach and support the up to 1.6 million dyslexic children In English schools. There is as yet no mandatory training in dyslexia for teachers.
It seems that if you have a dyslexic child it is ‘the luck of the draw’ that he or she may be taught by a teacher trained to support those with Specific Learning Difficulties (of which dyslexia is one). Indeed, it is not a given that even a sympathetic ear is necessarily provided; from a personal observational perspective though, attitudes generally appear to be moving away from the completely dismissive. There is still a long way to go before this huge group of children is to be helped to realise their potential.
A black and white illustration of a mother and son reading a book on a chair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is no absolute or ‘correct’ method of teaching school-age children to read but there are ways of helping to develop reading by encouraging the essential skills necessary for fluency. These will include:
- Phonic knowledge: This is the ability to understand the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (the symbols that represent these sounds). For younger children this will begin with learning the alphabet and the phonic ‘sounds’ they represent, to include long and short vowel sounds and syllables, both open and closed. As the child develops, the more complex ‘phoneme/grapheme’ relationships will be introduced gradually.
- Phonemic awareness: Many dyslexic children have difficulties in recognising rhyme and may also be unable easily to identify and isolate the beginning, middle and ending of even short words. This awareness and ability to identify and breakdown sounds into small units can be encouraged in younger children by repeating simple rhyming poems and songs and by playing word games – ‘cat-hat-sat-mat’ , ‘hot-pot-lot-dot’ and so on.
- Sequencing: Sequencing skills are essential to all aspects of literacy including reading, spelling and the expression of ideas in writing. Dyslexic individuals can find this difficult. They need lots of practice to encourage orderly sequencing by playing visual picture games, by learning how to plan their ideas, by recognising structure in words, sentences, paragraphs and stories, (beginning, middle and end’).
- Memory: The ability to hold and manipulate multiple ideas in working memory is hard for dyslexic individuals. In reading there is the need to decode words when they have yet to become automatic; there is the need to understand what is being read and to remember what already has been read. Memory skills need therefore to be practised continually, in short ‘spurts’, often using games – ‘I went to the shops and bought two apples….’
- Comprehension: This is the ability to understand what has been read and the ability also (in older children) to ‘read between the lines’, recognising inferential ‘markers’ within the text. Reading should be a pleasure and parents can help by introducing attractive books at a young age and encouraging paired reading on a regular basis, stopping to ask ‘Why did he say that, do you think?’ or ‘What do you think will happen next?”, for example.
- Vocabulary: A wide vocabulary is acquired by the varied use of the spoken word and by the reading of varied, interesting and extended written material over time. Promoting the use of dictionaries is to be encouraged (though if a child is severely dyslexic normal dictionaries are not very helpful as the child cannot begin to spell the word). In this case, a phonetic dictionary is recommended. A developing knowledge of prefixing and suffixing rules is very useful, both for vocabulary extension and for spelling rules.
- Fluency: Reading aloud is helpful here, as is paired reading, the re-telling of stories that have been read, the explanation of difficult parts of a piece of writing -‘What does that mean exactly?’. Fluency and comprehension of course also follow accuracy so an accurate reader is also more likely to be fluent with good comprehension skills.
- Attention: Many dyslexics have poor attention spans. This will inhibit them in a number of ways. They will be easily distracted (though not necessarily if they are extremely interested in what they are doing). They will not be focused on the task at hand. They are likely to loose interest quickly. They should be encouraged to work (at homework for example) in a quiet room with no other distractions. Initially, any work should be split into short ‘bursts’ which are gradually extended over time thereby increasing attention span.
Importantly, a positive attitude to reading within the home or at school is essential to success. Quiet encouragement without stress and an assumption that though reading is a necessity it is also one of life’s (attainable) pleasures – these are important attitudes to promote.
Let me know what you think or what your own experiences have been.