Currently I teach the CCLD Level 2 and 3 in early years and also the Teaching Assistant courses at level 2 and 3 for schools. These are delivered at The Oldham College. My learners are aged between 16 and 60. I undertake teaching to part time, voluntary and employed learners from a variety of child care settings. My paper will explore the learning needs of dyslexic children in schools and the strategies that can be used by teachers and teaching assistants to support their needs. This is a particular issue that has been identified both with the college’s students and as an area that my student’s want additional support with to help them undertake their role in the workplace in relation to dyslexic children. I will identify examples of good practice and areas to avoid whilst teaching dyslexic learners and children. In my current cohort of learners one in ten has been assessed as having dyslexia. In schools it is said that at least one child in ten is likely to be dyslexic to some degree (Hornsby 1997). Identifying dyslexia in children early would benefit them by being able to put support in place earlier to keep children engaged. In this essay, I will explore how certain behavioural markers can help the teacher more effectively diagnose the needs of any learner in the classroom. Given the high percentage of undiagnosed cases of dyslexia it is especially important that teachers and teaching assistants have the knowledge and understanding to deal with these necessary learning needs.
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Oldham is the fifth largest borough in Greater Manchester with a population of 217,000. It is one of the most deprived local authorities in England. Over half of all learners at the college come from areas categorised as being disadvantaged. The proportion of school leavers with five or more GCSE grades at A* to C in 2010 was 51.9% below the national average of 55.2%. Oldham has some of the highest levels of deprivation and lowest levels of educational attainment in England. Most learners aged 16-18 come from secondary schools where standards in English and mathematics are below the national average the national average in 2010 was 59.4% and the Oldham average was 54.7%. 8 out of the 14 schools were performing below the national average (DFE performance tables 2010). One cause of this can be that professionals are not able to identify Dyslexia as a barrier to learning early to enable support to be put in place. Children can show signs of dyslexia early on and professionals need to be aware of these for example nursery age children can have delays in speech, be slow at learning new words and have difficulty learning nursery rhymes.
Dyslexia – What is it and how does it impact on learning in children.
The Definition of Dyslexia by British Dyslexia Association (BDA) “is a specific learning difficulty which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills.”
It is estimated by the BDA that 10% of the British population are dyslexic and 4% can be classed as being severe sufferers. Dyslexia is identified as a disability as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Many dyslexic people, adults or children, are unable to fulfil their potential as a significant number of the population do not understand what dyslexia is, the difficulties, and how to support them. Dyslexia is not an evident difficulty; it is out of sight. As a consequence, dyslexic people have to rise above many barriers to make a full contribution to society. Early identification of dyslexia is crucial to ensure that children are supported as early as possible this is one of the reasons that I ensure that all nursery nurses, teaching assistants that I teach have a basic knowledge of causes, symptoms and some strategies to help children to overcome these barriers as well as knowing who to contact for specialist advice and diagnosis. Oldham’s under 16 population is estimated to be 47,800 in 2011 (Oldham MBC) if 10% of these are dyslexic this equates approximately 4780. Teachers and assistants need to incorporate different learning styles in order to ensure that they are meeting the needs of these learners.
Dyslexia is sometimes from birth and can remain a constant barrier in life. Some features of dyslexia are 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. Dyslexia can be defiant to traditional teaching methods, but its effect can be tackled by interventions, for example building the confidence of children. One of the things that I teach my learners is the importance of confidence building with the child. The teacher/assistant can do this by asking the child to identify what they are good at and then identify things that they are not so good at. In this way the child will quickly identify that they are good at more things than things that they are not good at. Another way to boost their confidence would be to use the star system of rewarding the child for non academic achievement this will help build the confidence of the young person. This new found confidence can help lay the foundation for the special kind of learning that the child needs to help them with their reading and spelling.
The college has policy for disability awareness and support, including dyslexics. This is published on the college website. The college’s Educational Support Unit has tutors and mentors who support learners Learning Difficulties and/or disabilities. Dyslexia does not prevent students from achieving excellent results, at all levels and “some of the most gifted people who were dyslexic include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Beethoven, Muhammad Ali, Walt Disney and Richard Branson” (page86: Geoff Petty) by using these people as role models we can further boost the confidence of children and my learners by showing them that being dyslexic is not a barrier to achieving success.
Some of the symptoms of dyslexia in children that we need to be aware of are:
Delay in developing reading and writing
Issues with remembering the alphabet in the correct order.
Not relating letter sounds to the visual representation of the letter.
Struggle to read out aloud.
Issues with telling the time especially when completing timed tasks.
Likely to miss out letters or words when reading.
A noticeable difference between capability and the quality of work being produced.
A constant problem with spelling, even when using easy or familiar words.
Problems with understanding as an outcome of slow reading speed.
Difficulty with recalling information
Lack of ability to memorise information.
Unable to sort and classify without support.
Poor handwriting skills.
Lack of confidence in being able to express themselves.
Difficulty in pronouncing certain words.
Some children might have issues with their behaviour due to pressure to perform in class
Issues with certain words being written or not being able to copy words from board correctly
The pressures of studying can lead to a high level of anxiety. Dyslexia can contribute to this and create even more stress. Starting a new course of study may highlight difficulties that have previously gone unnoticed. Dyslexic minds think differently so the formal learning environment can add pressure and create anxiety, especially to students who have had a bad experience of learning previously. The stress and frustration experienced by children can make them appear to be hostile and it is easy to misinterpret any display of anger at the system as a student being difficult or being particularly awkward.
What can Teaching Assistants/Childcare Support Staff and carers do to help?
There are numerous ways to support dyslexic learners. Petty G (2004) states that if students have been identified as having dyslexia, we need to talk to them. Ask them:
What would help you the most?
Am I delivering material too fast?
Do I do anything that you find difficult or makes you uncomfortable?
Is there anything else I can do to help?
Dyslexic people can be excellent problem solvers but need to be given space to do this. They need a sensitive approach; a chance to talk, to know that they are being listened to and understood. Learners can sometimes not reveal their difficulties and understanding their dyslexia is likely to offer them the best way forward. But they may need help to do this. Sign post towards a specialist dyslexia tutor or special educational needs teacher.
Some students will not know they are dyslexic, particularly those returning to education. For example, those on Access courses. Tutors should discuss your concerns with a specialist dyslexia tutor or the learning support unit in your college.
You can support children who are dyslexics in the classroom or in group settings by:
Giving the dyslexic more time than the other children to produce written in class and expect less in terms of quantity. When assessing the quality of work marking should lean towards content as opposed to presentation.
Involve the dyslexic verbally as much as possible to compensate for their lack of literacy skills. This will boost their confidence in front of their peers but be careful not to ask dyslexic children to read aloud in front of the class.
Being aware of your language and varying your speed of delivery to allow children time to digest the information that you are providing.
When introducing new ideas and concepts be clear and obvious, ensuring that there are no doubts to the meaning.
When children with dyslexia are in the class try to ensure that you allow additional time for questions and give examples that they can relate to easily.
Provide handouts which help to show the spelling of new or difficult words. If possible provide handouts and summaries.
Use ICT where possible ensuring that PowerPoint presentations are clear and content is concise to avoid any confusion.
Wherever possible use additional ICT if children need e.g. tape recorders or laptops and this can be provided by the Educational Support Unit (ESU) and the resource centre at the school/college.
Plan all lessons to utilise a multi-sensory learning environment, e.g. videos, pictures, diagrams, practical and experiential activities.
Written work can be a barrier when it comes to children who suffer from dyslexia. Dyslexic children worry about their spelling and presentation. This can lead to the children submitting work late or avoiding undertaking written work as they feel below average. In order to support learners with assignments and written work, ensure that specific instructions are given and use simple, clear language. The assignment outline is precise and obvious leaving little room for misinterpretation. As a general rule all learners are encouraged to utilise ICT when completing assignments. This helps learners with dyslexia to feel more confident as they can produce assignments on computer.
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When setting the criteria for timed writing, ensure that you allow an extended period for dyslexic learners. If a dyslexic child needs additional support and special arrangements in order to complete exams then this should be arranged through the ESU and with the awarding body. Special arrangements can include extra time, a reader, a scribe and use of a word processor and are based on personal assessment.
Dyslexic centres use the structured phonetic/linguistic method as one of the most effective ways to teach. This method concentrates on reading, spelling, handwriting and the ability to string words, sentences and ideas together logically. In structured phonetic/linguistic programme the pupil should be taught logically step by step, beginning with single letter sounds linked to letter names and letter shapes and working in stages through simple one syllable words to complex words. This method utilises the student’s senses of sight and hearing. One example of this is the use of flashcards with the word on one side and the picture on the other to reinforce learning.
In conclusion it is important to stress that dyslexic children can achieve as well as their peers as long as they are provided with the support they need and the learning material and styles are adapted to ensure that they are able to learn and retain knowledge. This will instil confidence and allow them to feel a sense of achievement, enabling them to contribute fully, socially and economically. Hornsby (1996) says that the key to successful dyslexic teaching is neatly summed up in the ancient Chinese proverb:
We hear, we forget.
We see, we remember.
We do, we understand.
I hope that I have been able to identify in this paper what dyslexia is, some symptoms of dyslexia and strategies that can be used to help children affected by it to be able to learn at the same rate as other children. I hope that by presenting my findings on dyslexia and sharing my experiences and interventions that I use to teach learners with dyslexia and the theory that I share with apprentices and teaching assistants to enable them to identify symptoms of dyslexia and interventions that they can use to engage and support children in their workplace.
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