Just finished listening to the repeat of Nicky’s show, really interesting. It was triggered by the publication of “The Dyslexia Debate” Julian G. Elliott (Author), Elena L. Grigorenko (Author)and Prof Elliott was on Nicky’s show. It is only available for 5 more days. I didn’t manage to join the phone-in so I have drawn out some of the points, and the Empowering Learning view on what we heard:
1. “What you do for youngsters struggling to read is the same whether or not you call them Dyslexics. The diagnosis does not add any information for intervention.” Prof Elliott.
EL Comment: This is so true. We teach children and adults skills they did not develop in their first years at school. It matters little whether they have a diagnosis; the only difference is when letters move on the page (a typical dyslexic symptom), they need the skill to take control of their mental images. The problem with a diagnosis is that teachers rarely know how to implement the suggestions.
2. “We must never get into a position where a child comes into school struggling with reading and teachers don’t do anything about it.” Prof Elliott and when talking about a child who phoned in “These children need very early help and the school is failing to meet the needs of this youngster at the right time.”
EL Comment: teachers know the children who are struggling with literacy and numeracy, long before the age of 7. The problem is that teachers are not taught how to help them and giving them a label of learning difficulties makes it the child’s fault. In our opinion it is the teachers who need the freedom and skills to know how to teach these pupils in a way that works for them. They are learning differently, they are highly visual, imaginative, creative with great mental images that they can rotate, turn into 3D etc. This is why they rotate b, d, p, q, saw, was, no, on, etc so easily. In schools where they are teaching phonics and mental imagery together this problem will not arise. George, Schools Inspector for children with special needs said that “most children grow out of this “, but why are we waiting when in a few minutes teachers with the right skills could help children stop this confusing habit? If they are not lucky to grow out of it, it gets worse as they grow older until all the letters on a page are dancing about or even falling on the floor. It is cruelty to let a child struggle like this and all you need is one simple question, no expensive assessment “when looking at words are the letters still or moving”!
3. There was much discussion about visual stress and coloured glasses or overlays.EL Comment: Great when they work but this should be renamed stress, not just visual stress. When a child is stressed it is very difficult to learn anything, there is much research on this. When a child is stressed about reading they are struggling in the front of their brain to make sence of a word. The harder they try the more the letters move. Tinted glasses or overlays relax the person. There are other ways of doing this that take just a few minutes to learn, the most effective of which is to learn how to become grounded, fully in your body. When stressed we can get ungrounded and panicky. Word recognition for reading or spelling is a visual skill in the occipital lobe, at the rear of your brain. This skill can be developed in minutes and until a child gets this skill they will struggle. Only about 50% of the population pick up this skill naturally for words and numbers. The other 50% are not great at literacy and/or numeracy or develop Dyslexia. Dyslexia is the effect of this confusion not the reason.
4. There was little discussion about interventions. Most revolve around more support from others, disabling them and reinforcing the stupid label. The skill these children are missing is the skill to visualise words and numbers as mental imagery in their occipital lobe and keep calm to stabilise them. This is what we teach in about 90 mins at Empowering Learning and our mission is for this to be taught in every primary school.
You will find much more information at http://www.empoweringlearning.co.uk or you are welcome to call me on 07970-854388
Olive HickmottFounder of Empowering learning