Tuesday, April 28, 2009


There are numerous definitions and descriptions of dyslexia which can make it very confusing for parents seeking help for their children. This is because it is still not completely understood how the brain exactly functions and research is ongoing in this field.

Here we have tried to give some short general descriptions:

  • The word 'dyslexia' comes from the Greek language and means 'difficulty with words'.

  • People with dyslexia have very slight differences in the part of the brain that deals with language. They have problems with reading ,writing or spelling. In addition they may well have weaknesses with memory, organisation,concentration and mathematics.

  • Dyslexia is in no way connected to intelligence – in fact dyslexics usually have normal or above normal IQ.

  • Dyslexia is not an illness – its is a life long condition and can be genetic and run in families.

  • Dyslexia varies in its severity from one person to another.

  • It is a hidden disability – you can’t see it when you look at the child.

British Dyslexia Association -

Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be lifelong 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. It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effects can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counselling. ( Nov 2007 )

International Dyslexia Association -

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

All of the above are general descriptions and definitions – remember each child is different and will not necessarily have exactly the same profile or problems.As parents,we need to help our kids with their specific weaknesses and find strategies to help them rather than worrying too much about exact definitions of dyslexia.


"Learning Disability" is not a specific term; it is a category containing many specific disabilities, (such as dyslexia or attention deficit disorder) all of which cause learning to be difficult.

Here is the NJCLD Definition (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities) :

Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical skills.These disorders are intrinsic to the individual,presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction,and may occur across the life span.

A person who has a specific learning disability has average or above average intelligence, has normal ( or corrected ) vision and hearing, has an intact motor capability, is not emotionally disturbed, has had an opportunity to learn and is learning in an environment that is not biased in terms of materials, curriculum, approach and resources.

Attention Deficit Disorder is a completely separate condition from dyslexia.

However, research has shown that at least 40% of people with dyslexia also have AD/HD (Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity).

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Not only is the 23rd of April Childrens Day in Turkey, it is also the World Book and Copyright Day !!

World Book and Copyright Day is a yearly event on 23 April organized by UNESCO to promote reading , publishing and copyright. The Day was first celebrated in 1995.

According to Milagros del Corral from UNESCO “we must make sure that books are accessible to everybody everywhere".

How accessible are books for children who are dyslexic in Turkey I wonder ??

There are NO publishing companies in Turkey who produce books which are especially geared to children who are struggling readers !!!

Whereas in the UK, companies such as the well- known Barrington Stoke publishing company produce books to help children to enjoy reading. They publish accessible, enjoyable and unpatronising short books for children who are dyslexic, struggling to read, or simply reluctant to sit down with a book.
For more information see their site :

Also in the UK, the Quick Reads Initiative produce Quick Reads which are short, exciting books by bestselling writers and celebrities for adults with literacy problems, aimed at improving reading and boosting self-esteem.

Nine out of 10 of the people who have read the compact titles "told researchers their reading has improved and they feel better about themselves.

Quick Reads was developed as a collaboration between leading authors, publishers, government bodies, educationalists and the BBC. The first set of titles were launched on World Book Day 2006 .

Books are generally written in the 20,000-word range (With no more than 128 pages ) and are supposed to consist largely of one- and two-syllable words, short sentences and brief paragraphs.

For more information see the Quick reads site :

Also listen to :


In Turkey children take multiple choice tests and exams on a regular basis.Multiple choice tests and examinations can produce many severe problems for students with dyslexia.

They find it very difficult to transfer information from one source to another ie from the exam or test paper to a computer answer sheet.

Dr John Rack, head of psychology at Dyslexia Action, in an article for the BBC said that mutiple choice questions were hard for dyslexic students because they have to deal with large amount of information, all at once. "Dyslexics often have problems with their working memory, which is the space where we hold on to information. If there are too many options, it is hard to keep track of them and by the last option, they have forgotten the first."

Multiple choice papers involve lots of horizontal and vertical tracking i.e (reading from left to right and up and down) which means that dyslexic students can easily lose their place on the question paper and / or read inaccurately .

Multiple choice questions require a lot of concentration so dyslexic students can tire easily and get under-stress.

Each multiple- choice question typically involves more reading than a true-false, short answer or completion question ,therefore putting on more strain on a dyslexic pupil. Dyslexic students read slower and with more difficulty and they may get lower scores because they do not finish, rather than because they did not know the answers !!


It would be better if students were allowed to tick or circle answers on the question paper rather than darkening circles on an separate computer answer sheet as often dyslexic students can make errors when tranferring information. Ask your child’s teacher if they will allow them to circle answers on the question sheet.

If a computer answer sheet has to be used then see if the teacher will allow the paper to be photocopied and enlarged so it can be read more easily.

Students should be allowed to do workings out on the test paper or should be given some scrap paper for this purpose.

General advice

Encourage your child to practice multiple-choice questions.

Students should pace properly throughout the test. On average, they will have just over one minute per question !

If they are struggling with a question it is best to leave that question and to go onto the next question.If they have some time left at the end they can go back to any questions they were stuck with.

They will want to try to keep some time to review their answers – if possible !!

In addition they will need to allow some time to transfer their answers to the computer answer sheet, (if applicable). Remember extra time is not allowed for transferring answers to a computer answer sheet !.

For matching questions, suggest to your child that he read all of the choices, match the items that he is certain of , cross off the choices that he has used and then look at the remaining items. Some children have difficulty with looking at two lists and keeping track of these answers that they have already chosen. Others, may have trouble remembering the specific vocabulary or connections between items.

Remind your child that multiple-choice questions often have a correct answer, an answer that is obviously wrong and then one or two choices that are close to the right answer. They will need to read each choice carefully and try to eliminate as many of the answers as possible before choosing one.

Multiple choice is the not necessarily the worst exam format !! Essay writing can be very difficult if your child is a slow writer and has difficulty producing fluent writing with the correct spelling, punctuation ,sequencing etc ..

Basically, any test or exam will put a strain on a dyslexic pupil as they generally have poor reading and writing skills, plus they have to exert more energy to do the same tasks as other children and they will get tired more quickly.They also may have memory and concentration problems which will impeed their performance. At the very least teachers should allow them EXTRA TIME to complete tests and examinations !!!! Generally however extra time is not given in Turkey !!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

European Dyslexia Association Questionnaire : The Rights of Dyslexia Children

An interesting survey on rights of dyslexic children in Europe was conducted in co-operation with the European Dyslexia Association in the years 2002-3. Prof Marta Bogdanowicz from the University of Gdansk in Poland prepared a questionnaire which asked about the facilities for children with dyslexia in different countries.

20 European countries took part in the survey :

Austria,Belguim,Brazil,Croatia,Cyprus,Czech Republic,France,Hungary,
Switzerland,UK, and USA.

Here are some of the conclusions concerning special privileges during exams for dyslexic children :

Dyslexic pupils may recieve additional time during written exams in 70% of the surveyed countries

Dyslexic pupils may use a tape recorder to listen to the exam questions instead of reading them in 35% of the surveyed countries.

Dyslexic pupils have exam questions read to them in 50% of the surveyed countries.

It does not always apply to state exams ( in 15- 35% of countries )

See the Dyslexia Association of Ireland website for information on this survey.
after scroll down page – and click on conferences 2004


At this time of year a lot of parents will be thinking about which school they should send their child.Naturally this is quite a hard decision to make, even more so when your child has a learning disability ,such as dyslexia.!!

Unfortunately as a result of the lack of awareness of dyslexia in Turkey it is difficult to talk openly to a prospective school about your child’s problems as you could put your child at a disavantage. It may turn that they may not except your child into the school you are applying to ! ! For this reason it is crucial that we try to do something about raising dyslexia awareness amongst teachers and schools in Turkey !!!!!

From my own experience, all I can recommend is to visit schools and try to find out as much information as possible.

Try to select a school where the class size is not too high. Unfortunately many schools have crowded classrooms of over 40 !!

In addition, find out about the programme they are doing.Some schools are very competitive and expect a high standard from students.It would be advisable to select a school which is not so competitive – if at all possible.Ask about the amount of homework given.

Try to research the school’s counselling service and their activities
as well as trying to find out about the education co-ordinator of the school.

If you can, meet your child’s prospective teacher .Preferably choose a teacher who is approachable and friendly – one that you think you can work with.

Choosing between a private school and a state school is difficult. State school education tends to be of a more traditional approach.Dyslexic children benefit from multisensory education where all the senses are used to aid learning.Unfortuanely however, in Turkey it is not always easy to find a private or state school which offers this type of education !!

Remember that if you select a private school you will need to think about the cost.If your child has a learning disability you may have the extra costs of private teachers and psychologists fees to take into account. In most cases, extra support is needed for children with dyslexia.Unfortunately the majority of schools provide little if no extra help for students with learning disabilities , even if they have an educational report (Kaynastırma rapor) !!!!

In the UK for example some schools are designated “dyslexia friendly schools “ – so choosing a school is a much easier task then here in Turkey!!! There are even some special schools for those with severe dyslexia,however in Turkey they is nothing like this here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Libraries and Dyslexia

Due to the fact that I have worked in a library and that it was library week in Turkey recently , I decided to write something about libraries and dyslexia !!.

If your child is dyslexic they will generally try to avoid reading because it is something they find difficult.This is a normal human reaction as we generally prefer not to do something we are struggling with !! Of course, we as parents must encourage our child to read on a daily basis, in order for them to improve their reading skills.In fact ,this is even more important in the long school holidays.!!

In countries ,like the UK, in every neighbourhood their are well- stocked public libraries where you and your kids can borrow books. In fact many libraries are “dyslexia –friendly with easy to read books and talking books etc available for loan.Childrens librarians read stories to children and many libraries run events to promote childrens reading.Some schools in the UK carry out “Paired Reading Projects” in the school library to help struggling readers. (I have talked about paired reading in an earlier article.)

Unfortunately when we look at Turkey – libraries are few and far between and also poorly stocked. School libraries are non-existent except for some mainly at private schools. My son’s school has a room with “library” written on it but it doesnt function as a library.Its quite sad I think !!!!

Though I am lucky and I can go and buy books which will interest my son , many other people in Turkey can not afford the luxury of purchasing books !! This is why librairies SHOULD be an important priority in Turkey. If there were decent libraries then children could at least borrow books…… !!!

Due to the lack of a well- stocked library near me I resort to spending time with my son looking around book-shops and browsing.This is a helpful exercise to do with your child to encourage a liking for books. Also make sure you read to your child – especially books which are perhaps too hard for them to read by themselves. Yapı Kredi often hold events to promote new childrens books where you can meet the author of a book. These are also useful to take your child to.

Interesting statistics :

In Europe there are 7.500 people for every library but in Turkey there are 51.000 people to every library !!

In Turkey every 6 people read 1 book in a year !!

Only 19 – 25 % of children own books in Turkey

Only one mother/father in 4 shows some effort to encourage their children to have good reading habits .

40 % of the population have never visited a library. Another 31 % have been occasionally.

In 2006 the Childrens Foundation wrote a report about the reading habits in Turkey.This is where a lot of the statistics I quoted have come from . Go to the site to see the report:

Not a very good picture does it paint !!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Students with learning disabilities , including dyslexia, often find it diffcult to tackle mathematical word problems.One useful approach is to teach children how to use diagrams or models to solve word problems.

THINKING BLOCKS is an free interactive math tool on the internet which helps children solve maths word problems including addition,subtraction, multiplication, division etc by building simple math models.

It was developed by classroom teachers to help students learn how to solve multistep word problems. Using brightly colored blocks, students model the relationships among the parts of each word problem. With the help of a virtual teacher, students walk through a simple problem solving process and arrive at a solution. Incorrect answers elicit helpful questions, hints, and suggestions that lead students toward the correct answer.When building the models, students must identify information that is given as well as information that is unknown. Identifying and solving for an unknown quantity is a key concept in algebra.


After click on "try it".

Saturday, April 4, 2009


In this dyslexia blog article I want to share some tips on how children can learn letters and numbers.

Dyslexic children may have problems distinguishing letters and numbers as well having difficulty in remembering the correct sequence of numbers and the alphabet. My own child always forgot 7 when he was counting and we used to make a joke with him to help him remember “you ate seven” ( “yediyi yedin” ) !!

Here are some ideas of ways to help your child to learn letters and numbers :

Buy letters and numbers made of plastic or wood ( lower and upper case if possible) .Magnetic letters can be found in toy shops here.

Put plastic or wooden letters or numbers in a bag and ask your child to feel the shape. Afterwards ask them to say the letter or number.

Get your child to make a alphabet arc.Ask your child to place the letters from a to z in an arc .If they make errors try to get themselves to identify their mistakes.Practice this regularly till they know the alphabet .

Another activity is to get your child to put the letters from A to Z in an arc on a large piece of card. Trace around all these letters for your child and get your child to colour them in.Once it is finished you can ask your child to match the plastic or wooden letters to the template that you have created.

Tactile letters : Make lower case letters out of strong card . You maybe be able to find letter templates on the internet .Choose some textured materials such as fine sandpaper, fabric, rice and pulses, textured wallpaper, carpet offcuts to cover the letters. Stick the covered letters on some card, making sure that there is a good contrast between the colour of the card and the colour of the letter.It may be a good idea to put the vowels and consonants on a different coloured background. You can afterwards use blindfolds and encourage your child to feel the shape and texture of each letter..
The same idea can be done with numbers.

Playdough or clay is useful to use to help your child to learn their letters or numbers. Ask your child to make letters etc from playdough, after they can decorate or paint them.

Print large letters or numbers on a piece of paper and cover them with sticky back plastic.. Now have the child roll out the playdough in a snake and have him trace over your letter, learning how to form the letters with the playdough.

Children also enjoy painting, so get some large sheets of paper and paint letters or numbers.Alternatively you could cut out a large letter or number and decorate it using collage material eg glitter, stickers, fabric etc.

Ask your child to write the letter or number they are practicing on unlined paper with their eyes closed.

Do some cooking with your child and make alphabet biscuits etc !!

Letters and numbers can be finger-traced in the air and on carpet squares.

You can also trace the letter or number with your hand on your childs back in order to reinforce learning.

Fill a tray with wet sand and ask your child to write individual letters or numbers in the sand. Alternatively you could use rice or beans.Another fun thing to do is buy a can of shaving foam and spray it on your kitchen table – after get your child to write in the numbers or letters you wish to practice.

Music is a good way to learn the alphabet
The CD “Okumayı Çok Seviyorum “ – contain an alphabet song ( alfabet sarkısı).You could also get the ABC Müzikli Alfabe CD by Tekin Özertem ( Umut Sanat – Sony )

You could make flash cards of upper and lower case letters and ask your child to match the right cards together.This could also be done as a memory game.Turn all the cards face downwards . After get your child to turn over two cards at a time .They must find the upper and lower case letters which match.
You could also do this with numbers eg 3 /three.

NB : once your child has started to master lower case letters, you can introduce upper case letters. You can also use some of these activities listed to help your child learn cursive letters.

All these activities involve using a multisensory approach to consolidate learning. A multisensory 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. A dyslexic child may experience difficulties with either or both of these areas. The answer is to involve the use of more of the child’s senses when you are teaching them.

Friday, April 3, 2009


In the previous blog article about memory games I mentioned that often dyslexic children have issues concerning memory.Most children, of course, enjoy playing online games .Here are some your child can play to help to them improve their memory skills :

Brain Connection is an online source of information about the brain and learning for educators, parents, students and teachers .

If you look at the left hand column you can click on “games”. There are a number of good games for children including bumper cows. This is a game to test working memory.You have to remember and repeat a sequence of sounds and colours.


Neuroscience For Kids - Has games to test memory eg “Simon says” - memory game.
Really good site for children.

If you type in "Neuroscience for Kids " in google you can find this site.

Memory lights
Memory lights is a sequential memory building game.The computer lights up a sequence of lamps and you need to repeat the sequence in the same order.


or type in “educational games for kids – memory lights – in google.

The Kids Page.com – contains free kids memory games online eg
shapes memory game(click the cards to match pairs of colored shapes) plus various other concentration games.


Eidectic games and puzzles :
Eidetic memory or photographic memory, is the ability to retain a highly detailed mental image of something not in sight.

After click on the link for eidectic memory games

Memory Gym - memory games plus strategies to improve memory skills.
Games incluse : flashing Numbers - random numbers are automatically generated and flashed / spoken numbers / flashing playing cards and shapes etc


Memory – Test your memory
Gives random letters/numbers etc and tests how many you can remember.


Remember to get your child to do these games on a regular basis – maybe for a short time each day.