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Section A: What are the telltale signs of dyslexia?
The criteria most commonly used in assessment is the disparity between a pupil's intelligence and their actual achievement. If a pupil you teach appears to speak and listen normally, yet they are unable to read and spell, then there may be more to check out.
Some of the well-known symptoms of dyslexia are:
confusion over the direction letters/numbers face (b/d, p/9, p/q);
A short list of possible symptoms would include some, but not all, of these in a dyslexic child:
(1) a noticeable difference between the pupil's ability and their actual achievement;
Possible Dyslexia Symptoms in More Detail
(1) A discrepancy between the pupil's ability and their actual achievement
(2) A family history of learning difficulties
(3) Difficulties with spelling
Dyslexic children also experience difficulties with 'jumbled spellings'. These are spelling attempts in which all the correct letters are present, but are written in the wrong order. Examples include dose/does, freind/friend, siad/said, bule/blue, becuase/because, and wores/worse. 'Jumbled spellings' show that the child is experiencing difficulty with visual memory. Non-dyslexic children and adults often use their visual memory when trying to remember a difficult spelling: they write down two or three possible versions of the word on a spare piece of paper and see which spelling 'looks right'. They are relying on their visual memory to help them, but the visual memory of a dyslexic child may not be adequate for this task.
(4) Confusion over left and right
(5) Writing letters or numbers backwards
(6) Difficulties with math/s
(7) Difficulties organising themselves
(8) Difficulty following 2- or 3-step instructions
If a Child Presents With a Number of these Symptoms
No two dyslexic children are exactly alike, and the aforementioned symptoms are just the more common ones. The list is not exhaustive, and few children would show all of these signs. However, if a child is having difficulties with spelling and writing, and has some of these signs, it is time to follow the procedures as outlined in Section H: Screening and Assessment.
Section B: Giving Homework
Many teachers are guilty of hastily writing homework on the board in the last minute of a lesson, and dyslexic children often arrive home with an incoherent and incomplete note of what is to be done. Parents try to help, but cannot work out what the homework is supposed to be.
Copying homework from the board is a daily problem for children with dyslexia in school, and a regular nightmare for parents. The following are some teacher guidelines for making it easier for dyslexic children to go home with an accurate note of their homework.
Put daily assignments on the morning board. Some dyslexic students seem to function better in the mornings. They might not have a problem transcribing from the board when school first begins. (There also might be less on the board at the beginning of the day.)
Section C: Teaching Methods
Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development in the US have shown that for children with difficulties learning to read, a multi-sensory teaching method is the most effective approach or treatment. This is especially crucial for a dyslexic child. But what does it mean?
Using a multi-sensory teaching approach means helping a child to learn through more than one of the senses. Most teaching in schools is done using either sight or hearing (auditory sensations). The child's sight is used in reading information, looking at diagrams or pictures, or reading what is on the teacher's board. The sense of hearing is used in listening to what the teacher says. A dyslexic child may experience difficulties with either or both of these senses. The child's vision may be affected by difficulties with tracking, visual processing or seeing the words become fuzzy or move around. The child's hearing may be satisfactory on a hearing test, but auditory memory or auditory processing may be weak.
The answer is to involve the use of more of the child’s senses, especially the use of touch and movement (kinetic). This will give the child’s brain tactile and kinetic memories to hang on to, as well as the visual and auditory ones.
A commonly used ‘trick’ to remember the direction of ‘b’ and ‘d’ is to show the child the word ‘bed’ on a card.
You can also show the child how to hold up their index finger on each hand, with the thumb and second finger touching, making the word ‘bed’, but without the ‘e’. If they learn to do this, they can make this shape discretely with their fingers each time they need a reminder in class.
The net result of these activities will be that a child has a visual memory from seeing the letter, an auditory memory from hearing the sound it makes, a tactile memory from writing the letter in cursive handwriting, in the air, and from touching the sandpaper letter, and a kinetic (body movement) memory from having drawn the letter really large on the carpet. Altogether a multisensory experience!
Section D: The Dyslexic Pupil in Regular Class
A dyslexic child has difficulty scanning along a line of text, and should never be asked to read aloud in class. Being asked to do this can cause children to experience stomach aches, headaches and extreme anxiety, resulting in loss of self-esteem and sometimes in school refusal. However, if you really need to get the student to read, discretely let them know the previous day what section they will be asked to read so they can prepare it.
Copying from the board frequently causes great difficulties, and a dyslexic child should be placed at the front of the class with an unobstructed view of the board. It can make things a lot more manageable if writing on the board is not joined but printed clearly by the teacher.
Homework should be written on the board well before the end of the lesson in very clear printing, as it will take a dyslexic child twice as long to visually scan the words and copy them down. If they miss this vital information, there is nothing the parent can do to help at home, and a child may experience dreadful anxiety about going to school the next day because of fear of punishment.
Dyslexic children experience failure many times each day because their disability is not visible to teachers. Their self-esteem suffers and they come to think of themselves as stupid. It is important to recognise their efforts and praise small points about their work, even though the overall quality may be poor. Saying: "You had a good idea when you answered my question in class, Wayne. I think you deserve a credit" could make a vast difference to a dyslexic child's day - it would probably be the first thing he would tell his mom when he got home. The other pupils would not find this unfair: they know that the child has real problems with writing and reading, and deserves praise for what he is able to do.
Teachers need to be aware of the ability profile of each of their dyslexic students and what different needs each student has. Once you understand how a student learns, you can modify your approach to suit their needs. Be as understanding as possible.
Don't give a dyslexic student a long list of words to learn every week. Give them a short list of words from a word family, e.g. boil, coil, spoil
If giving students sequential information to learn off, be understanding. Some dyslexic students may find the learning of sequential information virtually impossible.
Remember that over-learning is essential. You can never assume that the student will remember a topic covered only once or twice.
Do not correct every error, but instead concentrate on a small number of errors and set manageable targets. Take time to correct the work and focus on content rather than presentation.
Don't ask a dyslexic student to copy out corrections/mis-spellings. This will be of no use.
A cursive handwriting style is often best as it aids spelling, neatness and fluency.
Note-taking can be difficult, so arrange for notes to be photocopied. When photocopying use a buff coloured paper – the contrast of black ink on white paper can present problems for dyslexia students.
Any worksheets given should be carefully presented, with large clear text, bold headings and many diagrams to aid visual learning.
Ask the student to repeat back instructions given. This can be a useful memory aid. Instructions given should be clear and concise.
Careful consideration needs to be given to lesson planning to ensure that the interest level is high, but the literacy levels are adapted to suit the student's needs.
The dyslexic student should sit near the teacher, so that the teacher can monitor progress and be available to provide any necessary assistance.
Never compare the work of a dyslexic student to the rest of the class. The work presented will often not be indicative of the effort put into producing it. Ability should not be judged solely on written answers, but on oral, taped and project work. Encourage the use of word processors, computers, calculators and tape-recorders.
Rewarding effort is as important as rewarding accuracy.
Encourage students to build up their stronger abilities in sports, technology,
drama, science, maths, etc. This is an important way to build self-esteem.
Work closely with parents. They are a valuable source of help and information.
When using a computer allow the dyslexic student to adjust the brightness of the computer monitor to suit their needs.
Section E: The Dyslexic Pupil in Support Class
Learning in a small group or, if at all possible, one-on-one, is essential for a dyslexic pupil to progress.
The dyslexic child’s disability has made it hard for him to hear the individual sounds within a word, for example to hear that 'camp' is different from 'cap'. He needs to learn to hear and deal with the sounds the letters make. The need to develop phoneme awareness is vital.
Dyslexic children need to use structured multi-sensory methods. This means using as many senses as possible at a time to make learning easier - looking, listening, saying and doing. A new sound may be listened to, then spoken. It may be 'drawn' in the air on an imaginary screen. Then the letters representing it are looked at, written down, and possibly wooden or plastic letters are handled.
A word-processor can be a real help to a dyslexic child. Errors can be easily corrected using the spell-checker, and the finished product looks as good as anyone else's. Excellent for raising self-esteem!
The development of cursive/linked or joined handwriting is crucial. The brain finds it much easier to remember spellings if the letters are linked: single letters can jump around like monkeys in a cage for a dyslexic child, but the links from one letter to another help him to remember the sequence.
Dyslexic children experience great difficulties with the initial stages of math/s, especially the sequencing processes. They frequently struggle due to an inability to count up to 100, to count to 100 in steps of ten, two and five, as well as being able to count backwards in all these steps. Once these sequences are mastered, the basic processes of number work can be dealt with.
They just need to learn their multiplication tables: this can be helped by cutting up the tables into small pieces on card (e.g. '2 x 2 ' and '4').
It is essential that the support teacher and class teacher work closely so there is a common approach taken in the school. The issue of homework also needs close co-operation between support teacher and class teacher.
The most important foundational skills addressed by the Support Teacher includes:
The skill of concentration
Section F: Dyslexia and Maths
Many dyslexic children often experience problems with math (maths) because of their difficulties with sequencing. Many have not yet learned the basics - how to count to 100 forwards and backwards, and do not understand any processes beyond addition
Many dyslexic children have problems in some areas of math (maths), especially the multiplication tables, fractions, decimals, percentages, ratio and statistics. A dyslexic student usually needs extra instruction particularly as new concepts are introduced.
Counting to 100
Another exercise that can be done anywhere - in the classroom by the teacher, or at home with a parent - is to call out a number and have the child call out the following one. At first the hardest numbers for the child to remember are usually where there is a change of tens, as in 29 to 30.
This exercise can be repeated with each of the different pairs until she understands what the "2 times" means. Once the child is familiar with the 2 times table, they should begin to work on all the tables in the following order: 2x, 10x, 11x, 5x, 3x, 4x, 9x, 6x, 7x, 8x, then finally 12x, which they should know from the other tables.
When first using worksheets, use pictures of familiar animals or items for students to count. If a student has difficulty with one particular fact show them how to use the facts they do remember to help them. An example of this is if a student knows 6 x 5 well, show them how to use that to figure out 7 x 5 by counting up by five.
Relate mathematical story problems to things they like and their friends or family, this way they have the added dimension of visualisation to work with.
Games work particularly well
Use a calculator
Section G: Screening and Assessment
1. Class teacher talks with the child’s parents outlining his/her concerns and gets permission for the Support Teacher to administer screening tests. Contact will be made by posted letter.
2. The Support Teacher administers the most suitable screening tests. The school has the Dyslexia Early Screening Test (4 – 6 years), the Dyslexia Screening Test (7 years + ) the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) Resources, Quest Starter Pack (6 – 7 years) and the Aston Index Test (5 – 14 years) and the Neale Analysis (3rd Class +) .
3. Following completion of the screening tests the Support Teacher arranges to meet with the parents in conjunction with the class teacher to discuss the results of the screening. Contact will be made by posted letter. Letters/notes will not be given to the child to bring home as often such letters stay in schoolbags for days.
4. A copy of the screening results will be retained in the child’s file in school records. This will be the Support Teacher’s responsibility.
5. Should the screening tests indicate a strong indication of dyslexia the principal will be asked to arrange a formal assessment.
6. The principal will arrange to have a formal assessment done as soon as possible within the limits of the school’s financial resources and within the guidelines for the Scheme for Commissioning Psychological assessments.
7. The Support Teacher will arrange to get parental permission for such assessment at the meeting held to discuss the results of the screening tests.
8. Following assessment the class teacher and Support Teacher will meet with the psychologist to discuss the results of the assessment. They will then arrange to meet with the parents to discuss the implication for the child.
Section H: How Parents Can Help
The most important thing they can do is to build up the damaged confidence and self-esteem of their child. Make sure the child knows he is loved for himself, and that this love is not dependent on how well he does at school. A parent should:
• make it clear that the child's difficulties are not his fault;
• help with homework from school, or from any Support teachers;
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