Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Turkey celebrates Library Week this week – an event that will go by unnoticed by most people .

First let me relate a conversation I recently overheard when I was in a stationary shop buying something .A parent and her son came and asked a shop assistant for some help to choose a book. The parent said that her son needed a novel for school. She said they wanted an adventure book about 300 pages long .The shop assistant offered the parent an Agatha Christie book . (The parent mentioned that the child’s teacher had recommended Agatha Christie ) .The parent flicked through the book for a second and then asked if there was any other alternatives.The shop assistant said there wasn’t anything, after which the parent went off to pay for the Agatha Christie book….

The child himself didn’t get the opportunity to browse through the other books, or at least the chance to read the back cover or the first page of the Agatha Christie book.
No thought was given whether the book would interest the student .
No mention of whether Agatha Christie would appeal to a young boy.( I have my doubts).
Of whether the book was suitable for his reading level ??..
I just wonder if that child will exactly read the book from cover to cover … ???

The majority of parents and teachers in Turkey unfortunately don’t usually know how to select an appropriate book for a child .The teachers generally suggest pupils should read book titles from the Ministry of Education's recommended "100 Classic booklist" . This list takes no account that children may have different reading levels. Most of the books on the list are long and quite hard books . The majority are completely unsuitable for a child with dyslexia or learning disabilities.

It must be remembered that the majority of parents do not know about the importance of reading to their child at an early age since most have had no experience of it themselves.As a result children sometimes have very little if no contact with books at an early age.

In addition for many people buying a book is a luxury item , especially for those more concerned with how they will feed their family !!!! If they do purchase a book generally it will be a cheap reprint of a classic book. Dyslexic children of course, if they are given an unappealing and boring book will be even more de-motivated to try to read it !!

This is why the Turkish Government needs to invest money into funding proper libraries with well- trained librarians so that they can :

encourage children to love and enjoy reading.
To help students and parents alike to guide them how to select the right book.
To assist pupils with learning proper research skills - which they are sadly lacking.
To give all people rich or poor the opportunity to read good literature.

My son recently went with his class from school to visit the neighbourhood library . My son who has seen libraries in the UK said that the library he visited was crying "Please paint me !!! Please fill my shelves with some modern books !!
Please blow my cobwebs away “

Happy Library week to all in Turkey !!!
NB Agatha Christie - Is reputed to have been dyslexic....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Willard Wigan : World Famous Dyslexic Micro-sculptor

Willard Wigan is the creator of the world's smallest sculptures. Most of the pieces he makes can't even be seen with the naked eye but must be seen through a microscope.The pieces he makes are framed in the eye of a needle, or on the head of a pin.

Wigan the artist decided to go small when he was a little boy growing up in Birmingham, England in the 1960’s. As a schoolboy struggling with dyslexia, he said he was continually belittled by one particular teacher.

To help escape his problems at school he started making minatures

It began when I was five years old, I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to where my dyslexia didn’t hold me back and my teachers couldn’t criticise me. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”

When his mother saw the ant houses, she told him to make small things and encouraged him to continue because she totally believed that one day the world would know his name. She told Willard that "If you keep making smaller things, your name will get bigger !”

Willard is now one of the world's most well known micro-miniaturists, with some of his pieces selling for upwards of £15,000. He has exhibitions all over the world. He received an MBE in 2007 .Prince Charles said that his art work and talents “defy description”. Willard when talking about receiving the MBE said “When you grow up with everyone telling you you’re a failure, a moment like that means everything”.

I’m very open about my Dyslexia because, now, I hope to be an inspiration to others who have similar learning problems. My spelling is still terrible and you could say something and I might forget it quite quickly, but its like God has thrown me a ball and I’ve caught it, held onto it and run with it. Anybody can do anything if they are prepared to try hard enough. I’m proof of that.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dyslexia and science learning

Last week in Turkey was Science and Technology Week – so I thought I would write about dyslexia and science learning in this dyslexia blog article.

First of all it must be remembered that many famous scientists and inventors are reputed to have been
dyslexic, such as Alexander Graham Bell, Faraday, Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci… to name but a few .In a previous article I talked about Carol Greider who was awarded a Nobel Prize for medicine.

Are People with Dyslexia Good at Science?

"Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have been funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate the impact of dyslexia on scientists working in astronomy and astrophysics. A recently proposed neurological theory predicts that dyslexia may be associated with enhanced capacity for certain types of visual processing.This study investigates this hypothesis in the context of astronomy and astrophysics. This NSF study marks the first time the effects of dyslexia on science professionals will be systematically investigated.It is hoped that the work will uncover and document the challenges faced by scientists with dyslexia, but perhaps more importantly, lead to an understanding of the strengths these scientists bring to research. "

Dyslexic children often do well in science and technology as they tend to be very curious and are interested to find out out why and how things work .Science is a practical subject with concrete examples. Dyslexic children will generally enjoy the opportunity of being “hands on” and carrying out scientific experiments. Literacy skills are not as important in science subjects. Students are usually required to give single word answers and calculations rather than write long essays.

Strengths of dyslexic pupils in the Sciences may include:

• Lateral thinking
• Ability to design interesting experiments
• Contribution of creative, innovative ideas
• Asking insightful questions

In Turkish primary schools science and technology is taught from the 4th grade.Unfortunately the quality of science education Turkey is well behind other countries. In most cases , science is taught solely from text-books. Most students do not have the opportunity to undertake any experiments or use computers in school.

Common problems children who have dyslexia etc may have with science:

Those children who are dyslexic and find maths difficult and those who have dyscalculia may have problems with the mathematical formula required for science subjects.

Dyslexic students may have difficulty with the specialised vocabulary used in science subjects.

They may have problem remembering facts and formula.

They may encounter problems with sequencing information or actions in the right order.

Strategies to help students in Science

Teach dyslexic students mnemonics to help them learn facts and formula.
I talked about mnemonics in a previous dyslexia blog article.

Make flash cards with key words plus definitions to help students when revising for tests and exams.

Quizlet contains online flash cards. You can make your own flash cards on a topic of your choice or you use the sets already created and available from the site .İt is free to sign up to the Quizlet site.

Make up puzzles and games to learn scientific terms.A useful site for ready made crosswords puzzles ,word search and other games etc is :

Make word mats for specific topics. Word mats are designed to help pupils remember key words.In addition they help students with writing and also encourage correct spelling. Word mats contain a selection of key words plus illustrations organised in categories.

Sheffield and Staffordshire Education Departments have some helpful word mats in science subjects.
(Key stage 1 and 2 )
Staffordshire Learning Net : Literacy in Science

Powerpoint presentations are useful to to use to help pupils go over topics learnt in class or as a revision exercise for a test or exam.Powerpoint presentations usually contain short clear sentences and also often have illustrations and pictures to help clarify information.Dyslexic children may be more willing to read powerpoints as they are generally short and too the point.
Here are some useful sites for ppts :

Jefferson County Schools : science ppt presentations:

Pete’s Power Point station :

Sadly in Turkey as I pointed out very often children don’t get the chance carry out scientific experiments at school. If your child likes experiments you could try to get them to do some at home .The Turkish science magazine for children called Bilim Çocuk ( Science Child ) every month includes some simple science experiments children can carry out .There are also some books for children on this subject which you could buy. If your children is curious about science this is a good way to encourage them to read.In order to carry out the experiment they want to do they will have to initially read the instructions given .

Make use of visual materials such as diagrams , illustrations ,flow charts to re- inforce learning.

Take children to science museums to help bring the subject alive.

For a useful dictionary of Turkish – English science terms see :

(Turkish Science Dictionary)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I find that often in Turkey topics covered on the school syllabus are often rushed through and not gone over in enough detail in order for all pupils to grasp the subject.

Children especially who have learning disabilities; such as dyslexia will generally take longer to learn new concepts. They need to be more given time to “over- learn “ subjects studied.In other words ,they need plenty of opportunities to practice skills which they have learnt until they are fully compenent .

Skillwise is a useful site for parents to use with their children to help them go over topics already learnt at school and to practice skills.

Skillswise is a BBC website designed to help adults who want to improve their basic skills in reading, writing and maths. The site is aimed at learners as well as tutors.

The site is geared for adults however it is also useful for children as well.

It contains different modules on a variety of topics such as spelling,grammar,writing, measures,shapes and space,fractions, decimals and percentages etc.

It includes very clear factsheets which explain the topic fully, also there are ready made worksheets with answers which can be printed out. In addition quizzes and games are available to test information learnt.

There are also some useful articles about teaching dyslexia and dyscalculia learners for tutors . They explain some of the problems they have with learning and how tutors can help them.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Dyscalculia Day

This day has been established by the Dyscalculia Forum to help raise awareness of dyscalculia worldwide.

This International forum was formed for dyscalculics, teachers, parents and others interested in dyscalculia .

For more information go to Facebook – Dyscalculia Day 2010


Very little is known about dyscalculia, for example how many people it affects,its causes or treatment.

People with dyscalculia experience great difficulty with the most basic aspects of numbers and arithmetic.

Estimates indicates that it affects somewhere between 3% to 6% of the population. These statistics refer to children who are ‘purely’ dyscalculic – i.e. they only have difficulties with maths but are ok in other areas.

In Turkey the level of mathematics studied in schools is high .The style of mathematics teaching is very traditional with an emphasis on multiple choice questions. Manipulatives are rarely used in Turkish classrooms to assist mathematical learning. Teachers generally have no understanding and no appreciation of the problems faced by students who have dyscalculia. There is non- existent remedial help for those struggling with mathematics. The only option for parents is to hire a private tutor to help their child.

In UK high school students can drop mathematics at high school and still progress to university, as long as they have obtain a GCSE grade in mathematics at c grade. In contrast, Turkish students must carry on studying mathematics throughout high school.

Mathematics Support Centres are to be found in the majority of UK higher education institutions. Also in many further education colleges there are numeracy tutors to help students with mathematics. In contrast in Turkey students have no such help or support.

What is Dyscalculia?

There is no accepted worldwide definition of dyscalculia at the present .

The UK government defines it like this:

Dyscalculia is a condition that affects the ability to acquire arithmetical skills. Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, and have problems learning number facts and procedures. Even if they produce a correct answer or use a correct method, they may do so mechanically and without confidence."

(DfES, Guidance to support pupils with dyslexia and dyscalculia, 0512/2001)

Respected experts in this field such as Butterworth, Sharma, Miles and Chinn suggest that the nature of dyscalculia rests with the inability to see, handle and understand numbers. The inability occurs at the concrete level but especially at the abstract level.

Dyscalculic children have problems in the following areas : :

Counting: Dyscalculic children can usually learn the sequence of counting words, but may have difficulty going back and forth, especially in twos and threes.

Calculations: Dyscalculic children find learning and recalling number facts difficult. They often lack confidence even when they produce the correct answer. They also fail to use rules and procedures to build on known facts. For example, they may know that 5+3=8, but not realise that, therefore, 3+5=8 or that 5+4=9.

Numbers with zeros: Dyscalculic children may find it difficult to grasp that the words ten, hundred and thousand have the same relationship to each other as the numerals 10, 100 and 1000.

Measures: Dyscalculic children often have difficulty with operations such as handling money or telling the time. They may also have problems with concepts such as speed (miles per hour) or temperature.

Direction/orientation: Dyscalculic children may have difficulty understanding spatial orientation (including left and right) causing difficulties in following directions or with map reading.

Does dyscalculia also affect people with dyslexia?

Research suggests that 40-50% of dyslexics show no signs of dyscalculia. They perform at least as well in maths as other children, with about 10% achieving at a higher level.

The remaining 50-60% do have difficulties with maths. Not surprisingly, difficulty in decoding written words can transfer across into a difficulty in decoding mathematical notation and symbols.

For some dyslexic pupils, however, difficulty with maths may in fact stem from problems with the language surrounding mathematical questions rather than with number concepts – e.g. their dyslexia may cause them to misunderstand the wording of a question.

In summary, dyscalculia and dyslexia occur both independently of each other and together.

(From : BDA website )

prepared by Gill Cawse – Specialist tutor for maths difficulties, Winchester College

If the answer to most of these questions is ‘yes’ then there is a likelihood that the pupil has dyscalculia

Has difficulty with the direct retrieval of number facts.

Makes counting errors

Reliance on immature strategies such as finger counting and makes errors with these

Slow speed of processing of numerical information

Inability to estimate

Has poor knowledge of the worth or value of a number

Has poor grasp of procedures and concepts

Poor sequential memory for numbers and operations

Cannot see patterns in numbers e.g. if 10,20,30,40 then 12, 22,32,42

Poor grasp of the 10s base of the number system

Has trouble moving up and down the numberline or number square