Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Dyslexics often have problems with working memory and this can make learning difficult. Working memory is the part of the memory we use when we are told a phone number and keep it in our heads before writing it down . It is our capacity to store and manipulate information for brief periods of time.Working memory can be auditory and visual.

What can be done?
You can try to improve poor working memory by using various games to develop memory skills Here are some examples of games you could try with your child.

Auditory memory

I went to the shops and bought….”
This is a classic memory game where each person adds a new item to the list in alphabetical order.
For example, : “I went to the shops and I bought an apple”. 2nd person: “I went to the shops and I bought an apple and a bike”. First person: “I went to the shops and I bought an apple, a bike and a coat”. Etc etc…
Dyslexic students may have more trouble remembering which letter comes next rather than the object.

I went on my holidays - and in my suitcase I packed..........."
The child lists an object and the next person has to repeat the previous names and then add his or her own, and so on. You can either go through the alphabet - or objects at random - and you can add adjectives to each object as well.

The digit span game (remembering numbers forwards & backwards.)
Get your child to listen carefully as you say some numbers. Start with two digit numbers and build up slowly.
Eg 786 839/ 4578 9345 / 23451 59431
When you have finished, ask your child to say them.
Digits should be given at the rate of one per second.
Also you can ask your child to repeat some numbers backwards eg 56 98

You could also try this with nonsense words with the same amount of syllables eg za-me, pe-sa,

Instruction game
The purpose of this game is to increase your child's ability to remember instructions that are given to him/her.If you.play this game often it can help to improve your child's short term memory .
The game's object is to see how many commands the child can successfully complete. Start off with say 3 commands – “ bring me your maths book , second, put your t-shirt in the laundry basket, bring me a glass of water
If the child is able to do all commands give him/her lots of praise.
Next, give the child four commands.
Keep playing the game until the child forgets one of the commands.
When the child forgets one of the commands, finish playing the game for that day.Keep a record of the number of commands completed successfully. Next time the goal will be for the child to improve on their score.
Play the game for short periods in order to keep the game fun. You can add incentives to get the children to enjoy playing it. For example, you could say that if they managed to carry out a certain no of instructions, they could get some kind of treat .

Visual Memory
"Kim's Game" where you look at a tray of objects for a minute and then see what you can remember. Increase the number of items to make it harder.

Other ideas include showing a sequence of items and then mix them in with a number of others before asking the child to select the ones they saw and arrange them in the order they were originally shown in.

Another idea is to cut a colour picture out of a magazine,, and ask the child to look at it closely for one minute. Then remove it and ask them questions about the picture.

Make two sets of identical flash cards to make a concentration/memory game. They could be pictures or words etc . Variations : You could use letters of the alphabet eg capital and lower case letters. Fractions – visual representation and written form of fractions. etc

Have your child lay the cards on a table in rows, in a face down position.
Your child turns over a card, then they flip over a second card.
If the two cards are the same, they’ve found a match.They can set aside their pair and go again. However, if the two cards are not a match, your child turns them face down again.
Repeat this process until all of the cards have been matched.
This game can be played with more than one person.

Simple Simon says…. “Touch your toes” .. can be used with visual or auditory instructions.
The child or children must do what “Simon” tells them to do when asked with a phrase beginning with "Simon says". If Simon says "Simon says jump", the player or players must jump (players that do not jump are out).
However, if Simon says simply "jump", without first saying "Simon says", players do not jump; those that do jump are out.

For lots of good memory game ideas - go to Neuroscience for Kids . If you type in "Neuroscience for kids " in google you will find this site.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Jump On It! : Educational Game

I have mentioned before that educational games are a very useful way to get your child to learn , especially if they are dyslexic. Games are a welcome relief from studying from textbooks !! Here below is another example of a game I have played with my own child. He enjoyed it so much he wanted to play it again !!

Copy the syllables or words you want your child to practice on cards.
Make a second set of cards with the same syllables or words etc.
Scatter one set face up on the floor, leaving space between each card.
Place the other set face down.
Turn over the first card in the pile.
Have your child read the syllable /word and then jump on the corresponding card on the floor. Turn over the next card and have your child read it and jump to that word.
Continue until your child has jumped on all of the words. Mix the cards up and play again!

This game is good as it involves a lot of physical activity which makes it more fun !!

You can adapt this game and use it to help your child to learn other things- for example,
Multiplication ( one set of cards with eg 6 x6 written on it , another set with the answers eg 36 ) .
Time – ( 12 and 24 hr clock – e.g. 19.00 ,other card 7pm ).
Synonyms / opposites etc – eg hot / cold etc etc.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Here are some of the common myths about dyslexia:

Myth :Dyslexic children are mentally retarded.
Dyslexic children usually have a normal IQ /or above IQ, however they have a difficulty in learning to read, write and spell, despite traditional teaching.Dyslexia can range from mild to moderate to severe.

Myth:Dyslexia is an illness
Dyslexia is not an illness it is a different way of thinking and using the brain.There is no cure for dyslexia.Most students however can learn to overcome their dyslexic difficulties if they are properly taught and shown to develop coping strategies.

Myth:Dyslexia only affects children who speak English.
In fact, dyslexia has been shown to affect native Chinese, Italian, Turkish and other language speakers. Dyslexia primarily affects the processing of speech sounds, otherwise known as phonological awareness.

Myth:Dyslexia is rare in Turkey.
The incidence of dyslexia in Turkey is within the range of 8% to 10% of the population.(according to Umran Korkmazlar) .An average of 3 to 4 students could have a learning disabilty, such as dyslexia, in a class of 40/50. It is one of the most common disabilities a teacher will encounter in his/her classroom.

Myth:Repeating a school grade can remove dyslexia.
Dyslexics learn in a different way. Specialist teaching is necessary to learn to overcome dyslexia and cope in a ordinary school.

Myth : You can outgrow dyslexia.
Dyslexic children become dyslexic adults. If they are identified and given the right kind of help early, poor readers can learn to compensate for their disability and read accurately and can catch up with their peers. If left untreated, dyslexia may cause many emotional problems , which can carry on in adult life. It can lead to low self-esteem, delinquency, aggression,and withdrawal or alienation from friends and parents.

Myth: Children who write letters backward or reverse them may be dyslexic.
Backward writing is common among children learning to write, whether or not they are dyslexic. In general, letter-reversals become an area of concern if it persists beyond 8 years of age.

Myth: Dyslexia can be treated with drugs.
Dyslexia can not be treated with medication but dyslexic children need to be given appropiate teaching and training along with providing them with compensatory coping strategies.

Myth:Dyslexic children are just lazy and don't try hard enough !
In fact it has been discovered that dyslexic children brains have to work 5 times harder then other children brains to do the same task. As a result they often get tired more quickly.They also may also be reluctant to start work or seem to mess around in order to avoid a task.Often they do this because they have become de-motivated due to constant failure.

Myth:Accommodations provided to students dyslexia, particularly during tests, gives them an unfair advantage over students without disabilities.
An accommodation does not give a student an advantage over other pupils ; it merely gives the pupil an even chance to succeed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Link Between Dyslexia and Creativity

Photo 1 : Richard Branson

Photo 2 : Superbike ( John Britten)

I recently watched an interesting video which was part of the promotional material for the 2008 Dyslexia Awareness Week organised by The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand .In this video they explain that :

often dyslexics do much better later in life due to the fact that dyslexia offers special gifts and talents.
They have the ability to perceive the world from different perspectives; to think outside of the square.
They often excel in art,music,sport,storytelling,leadership,design and engineering.
Their creative talent often goes unnoticed at school ,which becomes a challenge for them; in a world full of words”

There are many examples of famous and successful dyslexic people world-wide who do seem to possess special talents and gifts but who failed at school. You may wish to talk to your child about these people. In Turkish schools, since the emphasis tends to be on academic success alone , it is up to us as parents to endeavour to try to develop our childs individual and unique talents.

Here are just some people that I found out about who possess special gifts and talents and who are dyslexic :

Richard Branson – business man and entrepreneur Founder of the Virgin Group enterprises , with a personal wealth estimated at nearly $3 billion.

From Richard Branson's Autobiography :
I was trouble - and always in trouble. Aged eight I still couldn't read. In fact, I was dyslexic and short-sighted. Despite sitting at the front of the class, I couldn't read the blackboard… … the letters and numbers made no sense at all. Dyslexia wasn't deemed a problem in those days, or, put more accurately, it was only a problem if you were dyslexic yourself. Since nobody had ever heard of dyslexia, being unable to read, write or spell just meant to the rest of the class and the teachers that you were either stupid or lazy. And at prep school you were beaten for both……

My dyslexia was a problem throughout my school life. Now, although my spelling is still sometimes poor, I have managed to overcome the worst of my difficulties through training myself to concentrate. Perhaps my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read."

The dyslexic Jamie Oliver left school with no qualifications, and studied at Westminster Catering College before working as a pastry chef at Antonio Carluccio's restaurant in London. It was while he was a sous-chef at another top London restaurant that Jamie Oliver, was 'discovered' by a BBC documentary team. This led to his own BBC Food cookery tv series. Later he went on to write several books and appears on tv regularly.

It was with great regret that I didn't do better at school. People just thought I was thick, it was a struggle, I never really had anyone to help that understood dyslexia and who could bring out my strengths..”

Richard Taylor has won many awards, including five Academy Awards ( Oscars ). He is the Director and co-founder of Weta Workshop, one of the best known creative arts studios in the world. Weta Workshop has made special effects for many well-known films including The Lord of the Rings and Prince Caspian..

In a interview he said :
The kids that find success at Weta are the ones that day-dreamed in their Maths exam and drew monsters on the backs of their pencil cases,” said Richard Taylor.These are young people who might not fit the traditional academic school model or be great on the sports field, but they can still have an important impact on the world through the celebration of their unique creative minds.” It seems to me that the crisis that dyslexia first appears to be is simply an opportunity in disguise.”

John Britten
When he was a young boy he began making go-karts out of old packing cases. By the time he was twelve years old he built his first motor-powered go-kart. .Despite suffering from dyslexia he completed a mechanical engineering course at night school Britten first started working a draughtsman . In his spare time Britten worked on motorcycle designs. In 1992 he set up the Britten Motorcycle Company. The V100 superbike designed by Britten ,was internationally acclaimed for its design.It went on to win many races and also set world speed and acceleration records . In a poll compiled by the world’s leading motorcycle writers to rank the Motorcyclist of the Millennium, John Britten was placed equal with the four founders of Harley Davidson.

His wife said that :
John struggled at school with his reading and writing because of his dyslexia. But the unique picture thinking ability and creative gifts of dyslexia enabled his design genius to shine as he got older.”

Arik Levi
He struggled at school because of dyslexia, so he learned to work with his hands, with the help of his grandfather who sold electronics, “When everyone else was playing in the sand , I was taking apart my mother’s iron “ he recalls . By his early twenties he was running his own graphic-design studio and surf shops, and designing surfboards and wetsuits on the side.He studied industrial design in Switzerland. Dyslexia and losing a finger made Arik the designer what he is today." Loss gave me the tools to look at what’s not there.To make the best of a situation.I don’t see flaws.I only see advantages” (from an interview for the Frame magazine.)He has now become a renowed international designer.

In earlier blog articles I have already talked about Sally Gardner , another dyslexic , who do poorly at school but went on to be a successful costume designer and childrens book writer.Also Luke Concannon from the music group Nizlopi . As you will see I have not listed any Turkish people. There must be some out there I think !!!!


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


What is Fluency?

Fluent readers are able to read words accurately and effortlessly, with appropriate expression. The can recognize words automatically. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Their oral reading is very choppy.

Why is fluency important?

Fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words,so they can focus their attention on understanding the meaning of the text. Less fluent readers, however, need to concentrate more on figuring out what the words say, leaving them little time and mental energy for understanding the text. Thus, the lack of fluency often results in poor comprehension.

First of all, children at primary school learn to read – later they read to learn. If a child’s fluency is poor and they can’t understand fully what they are reading in class this will affect their progress and academic achievement. For example if they are taking a test, it will take longer for them to complete and answer the questions. They may make mistakes due to misreading or misunderstanding what they have read.

Fluency and dyslexic children

Most dyslexic children will have poor fluency as they will have difficulty with decoding words and also they often find it hard to recognize words automatically.
Reitsma (1983 ) – states that :

“Some children need only a few exposures to making a letter or letter pattern automatic. Children with reading disabilities sometimes need as many as 40 to 100 exposures before the letter patterns becomes automatic. The average child needs between 4 and 14 exposures to a new word to recognize it automatically. Children with reading difficulties may need 40 or more exposures”

This really brought it home to me that as a parent it is imperative that I make sure my child undertakes reading practise everyday .The trouble is that often dyslexic kids read less due to the fact they don’t like reading because they struggle with it. !!This has a spiral effect as the less the child reads the worse the situation gets

Fluency Techniques

In Turkey most teachers rely primarily on round-robin reading to develop fluency. In round-robin reading, students take turns reading parts of a text aloud .Round-robin reading however is not very effective in increasing children’s fluency.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Students only read small amounts of text for a short time.
It invites inattention and disruption in the class – other students get bored waiting for their turn.
It consumes valuable classroom time.
It causes anxiety and embarrassment for students struggling with
reading ,such as dyslexic children.

If possible talk to your child’s teacher and explain the problems your child has with reading outloud ( round robin reading ).It is preferable for dyslexic children not to be forced to read outloud. If they do have to do it they should be given the text before to pre-read it.

Here are some fluency activities to try with your child at home :

With all of these techniques at the beginning select easy materials and progress as their reading improves. Ask your child to follow the story with their finger to be sure he/she is looking at the words.Make sure your son or daughter reads every day.This is especially important in the long summer holiday.

Partner Reading involves sharing reading. You read a sentence or half the page, and ask your child to read one sentence or half the page

Echo Reading involves you reading one line of story and your child repeating the same line after you have read. Increase the number of lines read at one time as the child's reading improves.

Choral Reading involves reading a story together. Lead the reading by using expression and appropriate pacing.

Taped Stories provide good samples for listening to fluent reading. There are a lot of these available in the UK but here in Turkey not so many.As a result parents could make their own tapes by recording themselves as they read a book to their child.

Paired Reading - A parent will read aloud together with the child. The child is allowed to decide when they wish to read aloud alone by making a signal. If a child makes a mistake while reading solo, the parent indicates the word, waits for four seconds, and then provides the correct word. The parent and the child then return to reading together, until the child signals that he wishes to read alone again.For more information on this technique look at an earlier article labelled paired reading.

Reader's Theatre .In this you read as if you were in a play.Each person is alloted a role from the book and then they only read when his/her character speaks.You will need to find books or stories which include a lot of conversation.

Repeated Reading involves your child reading the same book or story more than once in the same week. Preferably choose a short passage or story ( about 50-200 words) .You could also tape record your child reading orally, before and after you begin this activity – to demonstrate progress made You could time them and see how many words they can read per minute . You could then record the amount of errors and words read per min and use this to illustrate progress.

Reader's Theatre .In this you read as if you were in a play.Each person is alloted a role from the book and then they only read when his/her character speaks.You will need to find books or stories which include a lot of conversation.

If you persevere with some of these techniques you will see an improvement in your child's reading - but remember it takes time and patience !!!

A useful article from Reading Rockets about fluency with other links:


Friday, March 6, 2009



Dyslexic children can benefit highly by playing educational games to help them to learn.Children ,after spending all day at school learning from textbooks and completing worksheets, don’t want to do more of the same thing when they get home at night. !! As a result, school subjects need to be presented in a different format and in a more fun way; in order to stop the child from being bored.They are more likely to learn as a result of a different approach.In this blog we will try to give parents some ideas they can try with their child.

Formulator Tarsia, from the Hermitech Laboratory is a free programme that can be downloaded. It a really great programme and I recommend parents and teachers try it. It is designed to create maths problems, but it can also be used for other subjects as well.I have used to test maths eg addition , subtraction, time etc as well as for Turkish eg opposites, synonyms. It doesn't have some of the Turkish letters - like Ç, Ö, Ü etc but I still think you can use it effectively.

Once downloaded and installed, it is relatively simple to use, you can choose from different types of puzzle, jigsaw, dominoes and card.

When you have chosen your puzzle type, you can type in the contents for your puzzle, this is in the input screen, when you have completed one field, click on the next number in the sidebar and a new input field will appear.

You can check your puzzle contents by clicking the table tab at the bottom of the screen.

Clicking on the output tab will reveal the puzzle that students will be given,of course, you could cut these up before you give it to your child but the puzzle will already be unsorted.

Clicking on the solution tab will reveal the solution to your puzzle

You can save your puzzle by pressing the disc icon, ,

You can insert images: to insert images, in the input screen, click on the image icon at the top of the screen..

If you would like to download the free Tarsia software so you can make your own puzzles, visit
http://www.mmlsoft.com/ go to downloads ( Tarsia Formulator )

For examples of puzzles see :


This site has a lot of ready prepared puzzles but they are for secondary level ( orta okul ) :

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dyslexia Website for Parents (dysTalk)


A new UK website on dyslexia was started in September 2008 called dysTalk.
It is a website for parents of children who are not achieving their potential because of learning difficulties but who are unsure of the issues and do not know where to go or who to see next. The site is also aimed at anyone interested in learning about learning.
The site has a forum for parents to chat, online talks, and articles on dyslexia. dysTalk's aim is to explore learning difficulties openly.
They have online lecture videos, plus shorter talks and tutorials which are shown for free. These videos and other articles then provide the focal point for a discussion forum.

To visit dysTalk and find out more go to

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Many parents find that they have problems with their children over homework at one time or another. For parents of children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, homework can become a nightmare, as I know full well from personal experience!! As a parent of a dyslexic child you will have to spend a lot more time helping them to complete homework.

Compared to countries such as the UK, children seem to be given an awful lot of homework in Turkey. I think, if a child has already spent 7+ hours at school they need to be allowed to rest and unwind in the evenings rather than spend the whole evening on homework!!

In the US recommendations concerning the amount of homework are as follows:
For kindergarten through 2nd grade 10 to 20 minutes of homework in a school day.
In 3rd through 6th grade 30 to 60 minutes in a school day.
In 7th through 9th grades, students can benefit from spending more time on homework and the amount may vary.
The general "rule" is ten minutes for each grade the child is in)

Quality rather than quantity is important – for example if the child has to answer 50 math questions and doesn’t understand them then this is a fruitless exercise. All it does is put stress on the child and parent too fulfill an impossible task .It is better to answer half the questions and make sure your child has fully grasped the concepts involved. In this case THE CHILD WILL HAVE LEARNT SOMETHING AND THE HOMEWORK WILL BE WORTHWHILE!!


For a child who is dyslexic,they will take a lot longer time to do the same homework as a non-dyslexic pupil !! Remember their brain has to work five times harder!!

They are often easily distracted and don’t focus on the task in hand.

They may experience organizational problems – forgetting the right books which they need for the homework.

They may have problems recording the homework tasks in the first place.

Some Hints for Parents :

If you child forgets his books you may wish to purchase extra copies of the important ones so you can keep spare copies at home.

If your child has a problem taking down the homework assignments see if you can arrange for another child, who is quicker at writing, to copy it down for him/ her . The other child could use carbon paper when they made a note of the homework and give the extra copy to your child.Of course, this requires the co-operation of the teacher!!

Make a photocopied table of the list of all the books your child uses and leave a column for your child to just write in the page nos they have to do. This will help them record the homework more quickly.

Make sure you have the telephone of a friend in the class – so you can check on homework – if all else fails !!

Establishing a Routine :Your child may be very tired after school - they have had to work harder than their friends because of their dyslexia. They will need a break before starting homework.
Make an agreement with your child over a regular time when homework will be started.
Decide on a place to carry out homework.It should be a quiet place with few distractions – no tv etc.

In addition to homework allocated by the teacher ,daily reading is essential, as lots of practice is required for dyslexic children to develop their literacy skills.They should spend at least about 10 minutes on both silent reading and reading out-loud. You also need to try to go over any new concepts learnt at school , (if not already covered in the homework given by school.)

Break homework tasks into manageable parts.

Prioritize: some students perform better doing the harder tasks first; other students perform better starting with simpler tasks.

First of all check your child understands what to do.You could help by reading the instructions aloud. If necessary, practise the first example or two with them.Help your child to think of ideas for writing tasks and projects before they start work. If necessary, go over vocabulary that they may need.

When necessary and appropriate, act as a scribe ( writer ) for your child so that they can get their ideas on paper more accurately. Alternatively you could get them to record their thoughts/ ideas electronically ie on an ıpod or mobile telephone and then afterwards they can listen again to the recording and write down their ideas more easily.

They could use a computer to type their assignment rather than handwriting homework – if you can get the teachers agreement!!

Give constant breaks between tasks. Some children experience tiredness when they are writing. One idea would be to get your child to exercise and stretch their fingers for a few minutes before and during the task.

Teach your child to do their work on the computer. Show them how to use a spell checker and encourage them to learn touch typing skills .This will be of great use to them as they get older.

Help your child to learn to check and monitor their own work .
For example, a simple checklist like COPS can be helpful when editing work:

COPS stands for :
C = Capitals.
O = overall appearance.
P = punctuation.
S = spelling.

Dyslexic children often get demoralized correcting lots of mistakes – so you may wish to just concentrate on correcting one type of mistake eg capital letters , rather than looking at everything.Another day you can target something else.Try to get the child to identify errors themselves rather than you telling them straightaway and don't forget to praise them if they find them !!

If they are slow to complete work, encourage them to use a timer and see how much work they can complete in an alloted time. Some children may benefit from a reward system .For example ,if they manage to achieve a certain goal when doing their homework they will be given a reward, such as being able to stay up later in the evening,being able to go to the park etc. This may help to keep children focused.

Monitor how much time they spend on homework.You will need to set a time limit on how much time they do each night . If all the homework isn’t completed then you could write a note for the teacher ( or write a note in the margin of their book) explaining how much time your child has spent on a particular task. Remember your child does need to rest !!

Give your child lots of praise and encouragement while he or she is working.
If you get into fights with your son / daughter over homework talk to your child and explain your feelings and frustrations.Often a hug or a kiss goes a long way to resolve tensions.

If you are finding you are having a lot of battles over homework one option to consider is hiring a private teacher to assist your child with their homework. Sometimes children work better with someone else.Of course you will have to think of the financial aspect.Also make sure they know something about working with dyslexic children!!

In countries like the UK, accommodations are made by schools for dyslexic children concerning homework :

such as:
Reducing homework amount.
Allowing the use of assistive technology such as a calculator, spell checker, etc.
Homework is determined by time not quantity.

Unfortunately many teachers in Turkey will not make any changes for dyslexic children and still expect them to do the same homework as their classmates !!

See this useful article from Learning Disabilites online ' Being an efficient homework helper '


For a 15 minute video about helping with homework ( from dystalk )