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HWRK Magazine: Issue 3 - Spring 2018

HWRK Magazine

en years ago, the

en years ago, the British Dyslexia Association Management Board approved the following definition: ‘Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. ‘It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual’s other cognitive abilities. The definition is deficit-based and it’s hard to see the individual within it.’ The literal meaning of dyslexia is: ‘dys’: difficulty, ‘lexia’: with words. Most people might think of it as a difficulty with reading. Others still believe letters move around. And some insist dyslexia doesn’t exist at all. Whatever you call it, the difficulty or difference exists. Dyslexic people, unlike most people, can be thought of as processing language in the ‘mind’s eye’, which is where ‘thinking in pictures’ comes in. Dyslexic thinking typically mushrooms outwards instead of focusing in. This is the big picture style so often referred to. They have a tendency to see potential and possibility, not just what is. The connections they make are circuitous and do not serve them well within the environment of formal education. If you can begin to accept this, you might start to understand dyslexic thinking. “With dyslexic children, that lightbulb moment can have a blinding intensity” The first thing I do when teaching is to try to build self-esteem by aligning myself with the child’s perspective. Whilst it’s often said that no two people with dyslexia are the same, I find they have many similarities when it comes to teaching and learning. Moreover, my sessions are a bit like rehabilitation; reconstructing self-esteem, scaffolding until confidence as a learner is regained. The ‘lightbulb moment’ is much referred to in teaching. With dyslexic children, that lightbulb moment can have a blinding intensity. I cannot express their hunger to learn and the powerful impact of an interested, skilled adult that wants to understand their unique perspective. Success breeds success and from small steps significant progress can often be made, self-esteem grows and the child starts to understand how they need to learn and that they can learn. So often at first, they will say, “I can’t remember” and look apologetic. It seems their memory has let them down so often that they have learnt not to rely on it. Why? Under pressure and time constraints, dyslexic children will not be able to remember. Give them thinking time. Teach them how to remember and watch their confidence grow. The process can transform a child from a passive to an active learner. The fact letters have names and sounds generally needs to be taught to dyslexic learners explicitly and this is one of the key components of any structured programme. When practising letter sounds, it is very important learners make ‘pure’ sounds, i.e. that no additional vowel sound is made. I always include games and children enjoy this: mixing up letters, taking them away; close eyes and point to a letter. After this, an hour’s session will typically include memory work, reading and spelling packs, handwriting practice, reading, revision of previous teaching point (a point of grammar or spelling) and discovery learning for the new teaching point. All sessions are multi-sensory and sequential. Whilst overlearning is considered essential for dyslexics, i.e. lots of practice doing the same thing, what interests me is finding creative ways to help the student learn and remember. 34 // HWRK MAGAZINE // Spring 2018 hwrkmagazine @hwrk_magazine

BIG Read “IF WE FOSTER RECOGNITION THAT DIFFERENCE ENRICHES, RATHER THAN DEMANDING CONFORMITY AT ALL COSTS, WE MODEL A MICRO SOCIETY WITHIN SCHOOLS THAT CELEBRATES ALTERNATIVE THINKING” - Dame Alison Peacock hwrkMAGazine.co.uk Spring 2018 // HWRK MAGAZINE // 35