Dyslexia : Helping you to explain it to your child
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- They will have a better understanding of what dyslexia is. They will understand what challenges are faced but also the skills their child could be blessed with.
Parents will have a better understanding of how we learn and how this information canbe used to help their child with homework. They will be better placed to explain what dyslexia is to their child and ultimately help them to boost their confidence.
- None, this course is aimed at those with no or very little prior knowledge
The aim of this course is to present to you an explanation of what dyslexia is so that you are in a better position to explain it to your child and give them support that will help them both in school and at home.
In the first section we will look at what dyslexia is (As presented by the official bodies and dictionaries). I will then explain it as I see it in layman's terms.
We will then move on and explore people who have achieved great success because of or irrespective of their dyslexia.
Time will be spent looking at different learning styles and the importance of using a range of learning techniques.
My interest in dyslexia started 15+ years ago when I realised what an awful speller my daughter was. I approached the school and asked for help but I was told dyslexia was just an excuse for laziness...
I then made it a mission to help her myself. Over the coming years whilst completing my degree in childcare and education, I completed numerous courses on dyslexia, I have read a huge number of books and made it my duty to find out as much as I could to help her. In 2012 I started Starr Tutoring and because of my interest in dyslexia I found that many of the children I worked with had dyslexia. I used their knowledge and experience and that of their parent's to help me grow and understand the subject myself.
My interest is how can I help a dyslexic child. As a parent or educator, what can we do ourselves to help them and make their lives as easy as we can.
I want to take you through this course as an equal, a friend who has had similar issues with her own child and now wants to use the knowledge she has learned to help as many others as possible.
I hope you find the answers to many of your questions in the following course.
- This course is aimed at parents who (possibly) have a dyslexic child and want a better understanding of it so that they can help to support their child
In this section we have a look at what the formal, official definitions are.
We then further into this at the individual types of dyslexia.
Dyslexia, like many other specific learning difficulties can vary from person to person so may be difficult to recognise. Having said that if you want a proper diagnoses, you will need to go to someone who is registered with the correct qualifications.
Once you have this formal diagnoses, schools aren't obliged to offer the support needed, but they find it far harder to deny the child of it.
When I was researching for my book “Essential guide to supporting Parents and Tutors …” I asked a friend who is dyslexic what she felt was important to include and for her, it was the fact that dyslexia impacts on every aspect of your life in so many ways.
Possibly the main effect dyslexia will have on people will be on their self-esteem; the knowledge that they seem to struggle in areas that other people seem to find so easy.
In the first unit, we established that the brain of someone with dyslexia works differently from another person’s brain. Thus, some things that most people take for granted are suddenly much more difficult tasks. For instance, let us consider copying something down from the board in class. Most children will glance up, acknowledge what needs to copied then put pen to paper and write it down. They may need to glance up once or twice more to clarify, but it is a fairly painless task. Yet, for the dyslexic child, the task may seem considerably more complex.
Hopefully, as you read the following few paragraphs you will understand why this could be such a difficult process.
For children with dyslexia, reading is a huge struggle, even just single, simple words such as a the or and. A relatively simple sentence such as: “A black dog ate a bone and a brown dog watched.” The more complex looking words such as black can be visualised and are consequently easier to read unlike words such as the ones mentioned previously.
From early on in a child’s education a child is expected to do a certain amount of comprehension; answering questions about a piece of text that they have read. This skill is then built on and follows them throughout their entire academic life.
There are several skills required in being a fluent reader:
· The alphabet is made up of a series of different symbols called letters. In order to be able to read it is essential that the child needs to recognise that every symbol/letter represents a certain sound. Various letter combinations may cause the letters to make different sounds such as a c and h together now create the sound made by a train or at the beginning of the word chair. These sounds are referred to in schools as phonics. It is recognising these sounds that give the child the ability to sound out a word.
· Once the child is able to “decode” what each individual sound in every word they will then be able to start reading sentences.
· As the child becomes more confident with this, they will be able to recognize words at a glance. They will no longer need to sound out each letter. Most children perhaps need to see a word a dozen times before they recognize it, for a dyslexic child this could take considerably longer, but I shall come to this shortly.
· As a child becomes more fluent they will be able to read an increasing number of words without sounding it out. The rate will pick up speed and the words will flow more smoothly. This fluency will support a child with their comprehension.
· Once you can read the text fluently you can then start to focus on the content which will support their comprehension skills.
Above I have highlighted five skills required in becoming confident enough at reading to develop their comprehension skills. For dyslexics, the art of reading is considerably more challenging.
Recently, whilst researching for this course, I found an explanation, which I love and feel, explains the difficulties perfectly. If you look at a picture of a dog drawn from any angle it will always be recognisable as a dog. However, if you draw a letter or a group of letters from various angles it will no longer represent that letter, for example, a p drawn upside down becomes a d, a u drawn upside down becomes an n. (What is dyslexia; A.M.Hultquist 2010 p .36)
Although not every dyslexic child may see letters differently they may struggle to remember the difference between similar letters. For some people, the letters may move or “vibrate” on the page. But the biggest problem faced is there is no sense of connection between individual letters and sounds. Nouns (doing words), may be easier to remember as a visual image can be associated with the letters helping to secure their meaning.
Another issue is that one sound can be written in several ways. A prime example of this is with the k/c/ck. King, cat and tick all make the same sound yet written in three different ways. Furthermore, letters can have several sounds: snow (the white stuff that falls from the sky on a cold day) or cow (the farm animal that gives us milk). Then the letter order will also affect the meaning of the word: saw has a completely different meaning to was, or angle has a completely different meaning to angel.
So the problems are numerous:
1. If the words are moving about on the page you need to hold them still otherwise keeping your place and deciphering what the letter says will be a near on impossible task.
2. Then, recognizing what each individual sound makes and establishing the sound for this particular occasion.
3. Recognizing that the order of the letters will change the meaning of the word
4. Then whilst holding this word in your memory move on to decode what the next word and what the one after that says so that you can string together this information and give it some meaning.
Another issue faced by dyslexic children is their spelling. Having read the above section it becomes easier to understand why especially when you add to this the fact that in the English language one out of 6 words is spelt irregularly, (it can’t be sounded out phonetically). Learning the rules may not always help either as the rules very often need to be adapted.
The next closely related problem comes from handwriting. Sometimes poor handwriting skills will be used as a cover up for poor spelling or other problems. “The Gift of Dyslexia; RD Davis, 2010” presents the idea that dyslexics use different neuropathways creating “distorted perceptions”. Subsequently, they can’t see the straight lines in the letters resulting in distorted images in their letter / symbol formations and illegible handwriting.
Sequencing is a major issue for most dyslexics because they see things as a whole rather than segmented into a neat, ordered structure. Maths though involves a lot of reliance on both time and sequencing. Without these two skills, maths becomes nearly impossible. Until the concepts of sequencing and order can be conquered even basics like counting will remain challenging tasks. Another issue faced in maths is that the questions are often too wordy. Not only do you need to decipher what the question says, you then have to establish what it is they are asking you before you can even start to think about solving the problem.
A commonly known problem for those with dyslexia is their poor memory skills. I was recently speaking to someone who is dyslexic and he was telling me about his gap year in Australia. I said it must have been an amazing experience and were about had he been. Sadly he didn’t know, he couldn’t remember the names of the places. He knew he had travelled up the east coast but could remember no more detail than that…
Yet some things that those with dyslexia can remember are incredible. The smallest details of things they have personally done or experienced or information that is embedded in a story or humor. This information may be retained far quicker by them than that on a non-dyslexic person. But impersonal, abstract information escapes them.
This can cause problems with exams as educational systems are inclined to treat intellectual information as the only type of information that is relevant. If these abstract facts cannot be memorized then the candidate is seen as not knowing and marked accordingly.
Poor memory skills can also create problems with timekeeping and organization. Organization can be problematic with filing things away. The ability to see something in a more holistic way means that something can be filed under a number of categories. For this reason, it is often easier to not file things but to instead create piles of paperwork where it can be found more easily. Remembering what resources are needed on specific days for specific lessons may also prove to be problematic. With time and time keeping also causing difficulties getting to lessons on time can also be an issue.
Another problem often faced is clumsiness. We will discuss later an ability to see the bigger picture and recognize unusual connections; however, this seems to have a flipside in that it can cause problems with precision, accuracy and cause issues with clumsiness and never getting over the clumsiness that is displayed by toddlers.
Finally, as a person progresses through the educational system they will experience an increasing amount of emphasis on reading and writing and a greater standard of written work will be expected. For any child leaving home to attend higher education, it is a traumatic time but these additional complications will heighten the pressure even further.
I don’t want to dwell on the doom and gloom of being a dyslexic because many people have used their dyslexic traits to their advantage.
We will look at examples of people who have massively succeeded then look at the traits that many dyslexics display that have probably been used to help them achieve:
The number of successful dyslexic people is astonishing. The areas in which they succeed are also greatly varied.
Did you know these people were dyslexic?
Probably the most famous dyslexic of all: Sir Richard Branson the English Businessman and investor. He founded the Virgin Group which now comprises of over 400 companies ranging from record stores to Virgin Atlantic. In 2000, he was knighted for his services to entrepreneurship.
Steve Jobs: Founder of Apple!
Ingvar Kamprad: Founder of Ikea
The list here is endless, so I’ve just highlighted one or two of them
Jennifer Aniston: the actress, producer and business woman who came to worldwide fame for her part as Rachel Green in the American sitcom Friends
Anne Rice: author of “Interview with a vampire”
Agatha Christie: author of many crime novels including “Murder on the Orient Express”
Edgar Allan Poe
Hands Christian Anderson
Lynda La Plante
Patrick Dempsey: Racing car driver
Alexander Graham Bell: Scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone
Leonardo De Vinci:
Erin Brockovich: An American legal clerk and environmental activist. Despite her lack of a formal education in the law, she played a key role in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) of California in 1993. This case was later made into an American blockbuster starring Julia Roberts
Jamie Oliver: celebrity chef
Pete Konrad: Astronaut
Jo Malone: Fragrances
Dyslexia: the Gift
Dyslexia presents itself in many different forms; consequently the gifts that people experience also come in many different forms. Unfortunately dyslexia is often seen as a disability, which concerning certain academic tasks it clearly is, however this is only one part of it and there is a very clear flipside.
During this section we will look at this in more detail. But in summary dyslexics have:
· Fantastic three dimensional spatial reasoning
· The ability to identify metaphors, implications, relationships and other abstract information
· The ability to identify subtle patterns in complex systems.
Spatial reasoning is a huge strength experienced by many dyslexics. This involves the ability to look at shapes, positioning, size and direction and see how they interact. Children displaying strengths such as these may be drawn to construction toys in their younger years such as building bricks. Any art work they produce could demonstrate a multi-dimensional or 3d perspective.
Research suggests that these special talents are inborn rather than achieved through experience and practice.
This childhood past times have, in recent years, proven to influence the type of work that a child with these talents will excel in later in life. Examples of jobs might include: architecture or engineering.
It has been suggested that the celebrated authors mentioned above have been so successful because of their ability to make complicated connections between events, recognising patterns in sequences. Many dyslexics also show an amazing talent at recalling past personal experiences and using them to explain present or future events. Evidence has been provided that implies that although the short term working memory may prove to be problematic for many dyslexics, their long term (which can be subdivided into the declarative memory (which stores facts about the world) and the Episodic memory which stores personal facts and experiences, is incredibly effective.
It is this episodic memory, which is help responsible for understanding the present and creating predictions for the future, which has demonstrated such skill in novel writing
This ability to recognise relationships possibly stems from how a dyslexic person accesses the information in their memory.
One metaphor (The Dyslexic Advantage: Brocke, Eide & Eide, pg 116) describes the memories of an event in a person’s life been stored away after the performance in a warehouse. When these memories are need you just pop back to the warehouse to find them.
This metaphor is then expanded using the idea that when information is needed, you can scroll through these articles (visual images in the brain) to find the necessary information giving access to more creative and complex ideas and proposals.
Previously we mentioned the skills of making creative predictions about the future and how this compliments the art of novel writing and story-telling.
This skill progresses further. They also have the ability to accurately predict what will happen in the real world by using best fit scenarios. By using non-verbal reasoning skills, mathematical and symbolic clues they can piece together events and create a fairly accurate hypothesis as to the direction that future events will occur. By using this range of skills it is far more beneficial than looking at statistical data that would be provided by a preprogramed computer/robot.
Talents such as this are a blessing in the world of entrepreneurial-ship and science where making predictions to the outcome of a set of reactions is invaluable (how will the market respond to an event, the introduction of a new service/ product. How would tweaking something in a scientific experiment have an effect on the final outcome)?
In the world of business where things are constantly changing and unclear, this ability to see the bigger picture and piece together fairly accurate predictions is invaluable. It often stems from a curious personality, why does this happen, what happens if this happens; the young child who always answers a statement with a question and always has to ask why!
Key skills of the dyslexic entrepreneur
A sense of vision for their business
A confident and persistent attitude (if you can survive school and the modern day academic system you can survive anything)!
A willingness and ability to ask for help and to find helpers who are better than yourself at the required skill
They possess excellent communications skills and the ability to inspire your staff.
A strong sense of intuition
One dyslexic was quoted as saying that the problems you ace in school create these characteristics in you in order to survive and succeed in an environment which is so “prejudiced” (my choice of word) against you and the way you think and learn.
I don’t want to dwell on these for too long as the purpose of this course is to assist you when working with children and adults who show dyslexic tendencies. You do need to be aware though that dyslexia is not just a disability; it is also the means of experiencing a many great strengths which are not attainable to the majority.