Friday, April 30, 2010

Some Pre-school Indicators of Dyslexia

Speech problems:

Later than most children at learning to speak .

Difficulty to express themselves clearly.

Trouble with pronouncing some words , especially long words.

Using spoonerisms eg par cark instead of car park . Noseman
instead of snowman.
(Spoonerisms are words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped )

Please note :If children show problems with speech production they should be seen by a speech therapist for assessment .

Word Retrieval and Vocabulary problems

Slow to learn new vocabulary.

May have difficulty in recalling the right word when they need to use it. They may tend to use a word with a similar meaning.

Memory problems :

Difficulty in remembering information or instructions (especially multi-step instructions).

Difficulty in remembering things in a sequential order eg the alphabet, re-telling a story in the correct order.

Often have trouble learning numbers , days of the week , colours and shapes.

Phonological and phonemic awareness problems

Phonological awareness is a broad term referring to an understanding that oral language can be divided into smaller components such as words, syllables and phonemes which can be manipulated.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify the individual sounds in spoken words.

Difficulty in rhyming. ( what rhymes with cat ? hat , mat .. )

Difficulty in counting syllables in words
( how many syllables in window ? – win / dow )

Difficulty with identifying the beginning and ending sound of a word.
( r e d , r e d )

Problems separating speech sounds in words.
( Say the little parts in bat b/ a/t )

Problems blending speech sounds in words
( what word is this ? pen – cil - pencil )

Difficulty with learning letters and their sounds ( phonics)

Other problems :

Difficulty with colouring and copying.

May experience difficulty getting dressed – what goes on first , trouble with buttons and laces.

May appear clumsy and have poor co-ordination.

Lack of concentration.

If your child has a number of these problems then it is important to seek professional help from a psychologist to assess your child properly . Especially, if dyslexia runs in your family.

In addition parents should immediately start to carry out educational activities to help their child to improve their performance in the areas they find difficulties with. Particular emphasis should be put on improving phonological and phonemic awareness.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Lightning Thief : Dyslexic and ADHD Hero

Rick Riordan a former teacher in America has written a number of adventure books about a character called Percy Jackson who has dyslexia and ADHD. The books have become bestsellers.

The character Percy Jackson started out as a ­bed-time story for his son Haley when he was young.. At the time Haley refused to read and hated school. But he loved Greek myths, and so his father would tell him stories. In the end his son suggested he write his own stories and so as a result Rick Riordan started to write books about Percy Jackson and his adventures. (The books have some similarity to Harry Potter books …)

Percy is not a typical hero: he has never scored above a grade C in his life, and he thinks he's a failure until he finds out he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon !! Percy has ­dyslexia and attention deficit ­hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), just like Rick Riordan’s son , on whom the character was based.

At the start of his adventures, Percy discovers that his difficulties are not a weakness after all, but a sure sign of greatness: when he sees words jumbled on the page, it's because his mind is hard-wired for ancient Greek, and when the ADHD makes it hard to sit still in the classroom, it's just ­hyper-awareness that will keep him alive on the battlefield.

Rick’s son Haley said "You read a lot of books and none of them have a hero who is ­dyslexic or has ADHD – it's always perfect people in a perfect world ­doing perfect things. Percy is, in fact, very flawed and he has to fight against that and at the same time fight monsters."

Rick Riordan "Making Percy ADHD/dyslexic was my way of honouring the potential of all the kids I’ve known who have those conditions. It’s not a bad thing to be different. Sometimes, it’s the mark of being very, very talented. That’s what Percy discovers about himself in The Lightning Thief."

Recently the book The Lightning Thief has been made into a film which stars Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman.

The Lightning Thief is available in Turkish , plus the other books written by Rick Riordan. Its for 12 + year olds.

( Source : The Guardian )

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Motivating Dyslexic Children

Often dyslexic students are affected by what is termed "learned helplessness." This is when a child who faces failure over and over again begins to feel their not going to succeed and don't see any sense in trying. In fact, as they get older this idea can become permanently fixed in their mind and leads to a loss of motivation , especially if they have already suffered failure previously. Students can become withdrawn and become unwilling to tackle new tasks.

So how can parents and educators help to prevent this from happening ?

Richard Lavoie, who is a popular author and speaker about learning disabilities ,states that although every teacher can’t approach every child differently – they could however come up with a wide variety of motivational techniques so that they catch all of the different kids in the classroom.

Praise should be not solely be given for academic achievements but also for non-academic achievements.These non-academic achievements should be recognised and rewarded by teachers.

Examples include:-
Helping in class ,being organised with own equipment for lessons; showing kindness to others; willingness to take part in discussions; sitting quietly and attentive, showing good effort (regardless of outcome).

In Turkey, very often classes are very large and crowded .In most cases the teacher plans the lesson with about the “best” top 10 pupils of the class in mind. Very little thought is given to the different levels and types of students in the class.

Generally the only feedback students receive is from grades on tests / exams and report cards. Schools however need to give praise for other achievements. Reward for individual effort versus achievement is virtually non-existent in the Turkish education system.

Turkish schools generally foster competition—where the focus is always on who is the “best”. Competition in fact certainly doesn’t work for all children. It can be discouraging to children, especially those who may never be “the best” in school.

Students can sometimes be punished for not being able to complete a task properly . For example, a student who is not able to read or write sufficiently well maybe put in the back row of the classroom as a form of punishment. As Lavoie states , punishment is totally an ineffective way to motivate kids , in fact in most cases it has the opposite effect, it demotivates kids.

Middle and high school teachers tend to come in the classroom ; deliver their lesson and leave; giving little consideration on how to motivate students in their classroom . Older students are expected to motivate themselves In fact ,teachers really need to make it their priority to develop motivating techniques, especially for those students who may well have formed fixed ideas about their abilities .

Lessons taught in Turkey are usually very traditional and text- book based. Teachers need to endeavour to make lessons more interesting for students in order to encourage students to learn. Students especially with learning disabilities will benefit from lessons which are both stimulating and which involve a a multi- sensory approach to learning.

Parents, of course, also have a role in motivating their children .If parents work with children at home they should try to make lessons fun and interesting. The use of games are a good way to stimulate interest . Rewards could also be given for achievable targets.

Parents and teachers can help to motivate their children by looking for "islands of excellence".

Islands of excellence are activities which children enjoy and are good at.Parents and teachers need to praise children for these activities.

Parents should consider What are their child's "island of excellence"?
What are they interested in Art? Model making ? table tennis ? music? Computers? Gardening? .

Parents should give children opportunities out of school to pursue their interests and hobbies. They should provide opportunities where the child can feel good about themselves and feel proud of there achievements.

Parents could record their child’s achievements by taking photos,making a blog , keeping a scrapbook , displaying school work or art work etc at home …

On the Dyslexia Teacher site it suggests that parents could carry out a confidence building exercise with their child in order to help to boost their self confidence.

This exercise involves discussing with the child what things they are good at and not good at .After they make a list of these things. Usuallly the list of things they can do outweighs the list of things they can't do. For more details about this exercise see :

Here are the ways Richard Lavoie lists in his book ,”The Motivational Breakthrough”; of how teachers and parents can motivate young people (The 6 P’s)

Praise – Praise should be sincere and focused on effort and improvement.

Power – Empowering children to make choices gives them a sense of autonomy.

Projects – Projects are wonderful tools for connecting disciplines and is a great way to motivate inquisitive children.

People – Establishing a positive relationship with children is the basis for building an effective motivational process.

Prizes – Prizes can appeal to children motivated by status, recognition, affiliation or power.

Prestige - Consistent encouragement and opportunities to showcase their talents are important.

Phil Beadle , the inspirational teacher from the TV programme The Unteachables has written a book called “Could do better” .It is a a guide for parents whose children are underachieving at school.

The Unteachables invited a number of kids with serious attendance and behavioural problems in school to take part in a project which endeavoured to try to get them to get more out of school.

Here are some suggestions from his book “Could do Better” on how parents can help their child :

Find out the unique way in which he/she is clever.
Have books in the house, and be seen reading them.
Ration television and computer time.
Never criticise their teacher.
Protect them from pressure. “Your best is good enough.” – (very important I think.. ).
Sit down to meals together and use the time to play mind-stretching games.

In summary, both teachers and parents have a role in motivating students. We need more and better co-operation from both parties in Turkey to help students with learning disabilities reach their true potential.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spelling Tips for Dyslexic Students

In this dyslexia blog article here are some tips about learning spellings :

My son this year has started to study English at school. He does find English much harder to learn in comparison to Turkish . Especially,he has difficulty in learning spellings in English.

I am trying to support my son with his learning at home. Here below is some of the activities I have done with him to help him learn spellings.

First of all I ask him to read the words out that need to be learnt.
Later I put the word in a simple sentence for my son to read .
Eg : I went to the market on Tuesday .
(Students need to familiar with the words before they can spell them).

In order to practice spellings you can carry out some of the following activities:

Try to make it as fun as possible and vary tasks from time to time.

Get your child to complete wordsearches and crosswords containing the target words. You can make your own or find some on the internet.

Make up anagrams of the target words – ie reorder the letters and then get your child to to link these to the correct words .

eg mandoy – Monday / udatyes – Tuesday

You could also use scrabble letters or plastic letters to unscramble spellings.

Tracking exercise : Write the words in the letter sequence twice , but between the letters of the word write other letters...
Ask your child to underline the correct letters in the word .After get them to write the word at the end of the line.

Eg : ( Tuesday )

t a h e g y u d e w u s d e a i y d g t i e i u t y p e j s f d w a u y ……

Missing letters :write targeted words but miss out one or two letters. Ask your child to fill in the missing letters.

Eg : mon_ _ _ , _ _ _ day , m _ _ _ _ _

Matching word shapes : Draw a box around each letter and look for patterns ie which letters are tall or hang below the line.

Get you child to close their eyes and imagine the letters of the spelling in their head. Can they say the letters of the word out loud?

Trace the word :
Write the word down in very big writing.Get your child to trace over the word with their finger several times.
Cover the word and after ask your child to write the word.

Look, say, cover, write and check
First ask your child to look at the word carefully. Discuss what stands out in the word / how many syllables etc.
After say the word.
Cover the word . Ask the child to then write the word. After uncover the word and ask your child to check their spelling.
If they make an error – examine where it went wrong, emphasising the letters they have placed in the right place and try again.Do this every day for a few minutes until they are familiar with spellings.

Teach your child to make up spelling mnemonics .Mnenmonics is a memory aid .

Eg T U Eat Sweets DAY / WE Do Not Eat Sweets day

You could adapt a basic board game to practice spellings - so that when they land on certain places they have to spell a word and can move forward or backwards depending if they got the spelling correct.

Play hangman using the spellings you are trying to learn.

Write spellings in cursive handwriting as this helps automatic recall of spellings.

Don’t just use pan and paper -
Use magnetic, plastic or wooden letters ,scrabble tiles ,chalk,coloured felt tip pens,playdough ,sand ,shaving foam etc to learn spellings.

Scrabble letter tiles or plastic letters are good to teach spelling skills as children can easily see how words are built.

Make sure you praise your child for their effort –You could give them stickers or some small reward.