I Understanding Dyslexia
The concept of dyslexia. Definition
Symptoms of dyslexia
Causes of dyslexia
Introduction Dyslexia is a well known but little understood difficulty related to reading and writing, but with many associated difficulties beyond literacy. This manual has been prepared in Hungary, and modified for the UK context by Angela Fawcett, Viv Ward and Margaret Meehan. This manual aims to clarify the issues of dyslexia and disabilities, and describe how they vary in different cultures, languages and contexts, and show that there are some common characteristics of dyslexics, but also that every dyslexic person has a specific, individual profile of basic abilities. Every dyslexic student or adult has to be understood with respect to their strengths and weaknesses, abilities and disabilities, threats and opportunities. This manual will provide a brief guide to understanding the background and scientific support for the evidence of dyslexia, and demonstrate that it is not an excuse for low ability, nor the product of poor teaching, but a real problem that affects the learning of many individuals. 2
If we ask dyslexic adults what dyslexia is, most of them give us a quick and precise answer. The problem is that when we compare these answers, we find that each one is different. This is because not only does “dyslexia” mean different things to different people, but it also affects individuals in different ways. And this is the area we shall be studying in this module.
2. The concept of dyslexia. Definition.
Dyslexia in European legislation comes under two categories – education and disabilities. It is rarely mentioned specifically, but may be mentioned under terms such as “specific learning difficulties” or “learning disabilities” in education (i.e when dyslexics are at school or university), and in disability discrimination for over 16yearolds. Unfortunately, although disability legislation may cater for physical and sensory deficits, as well as those with moderate or severe learning difficulties, it does not necessarily support those with dyslexia, particularly among the adult population. In different European countries legislation is different concerning dyslexia. In most of them there is general legislation for disabilities. Dyslexia may be in the same category with severe mental disability, or may be just briefly mentioned. In the UK by contrast there is legislation for dyslexia in school and in Higher Education. Even if the concept of dyslexia is used very frequently in everyday language by teachers and parents, a lot of people are influenced by common misconceptions. The most popular myths are: Dyslexia: • • • • • • • •
is an illness is a symptom of general learning disabilities is the result of lack of learning is the result of laziness is the result of lack of attention is characteristic only of children disappears with maturation disappears with increased learning time
If there are so many myths, what is the truth about dyslexia, how can it be defined? 3
When it comes to writing the definition of dyslexia, we need to consider who it is for. There are four main groups with an interest. 1. Researchers – they will often debate what it is, but are mostly concerned with having a consensus to create good research about causes, identification, and how to teach/support the dyslexic individual. 2. Funders – the people who provide resources (human, computer, paper based etc) in education, employment and disability services. Usually they want a definition that is fair, but preferably minimizes the number of people who will require support. 3. Parent groups – they want a definition that ensures that their children will be allocated appropriate resources (human and financial) 4. Dyslexic persons – they want to know that there is a clear reason for their difficulties; that it is not because of poor teaching or they are not clever enough. There are a lot of definitions in the literature, too, but let us consider a specific one, that of the European Dyslexia Association (EDA). This definition is becoming widely accepted as it takes on board many of the difficulties of other definitions, including the need to be relevant in different languages. In order to understand it fully, we shall look at it in parts, starting with the core of the definition.
Dyslexia is a difference in acquiring and using reading, spelling and writing skills, that is neurological in origin. In the above part of the definition “neurological” means that it is internal to the individual, and not an external factor such as poor teaching or lack of schooling. But the most important part is “difference in acquiring”. Some people may prefer the term “difficulty in acquiring” which makes the meaning a little clearer. However, many dyslexics consider that the problem is that of society, and the “problem” should be seen as a difference, not as a difficulty. Unfortunately from a pragmatic perspective, funding only helps those dyslexics who accept they have a difficulty, since everybody is different and the funder cannot give additional support to everybody. Another frequently cited definition is that of the British Dyslexia Association: 4
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. Dyslexics can have difficulties with working memory, phonological processing, rapid naming, processing speed, and the automatic development of language related skills (especially with reading and writing), but this doesn’t affect in most cases the other cognitive abilities of the person. Its effects can be lifelong and usually it is resistant to conventional teaching methods. Specific interventions, specific information technology and supportive counselling can help dyslexic individuals to manage their different approaches to language related skills.
Prevalence of dyslexia The prevalence of dyslexia in the worldwide school population is about 10%, but there are huge differences between different countries, because of the different grammatical structures of the languages, which affect the expression of dyslexia. Dyslexics using one language may have different underlying reasons for their difficulties to those using another language. For example, it is widely reported that phonological awareness deficits are the major problem in English, where there is poor lettertosound correspondence. But in Hungarian, for example, where there is good soundtoletter correspondence, auditory processing is more important. Prevalence is high in Finland, Nigeria, Russia, UK and the USA, and low in Italy, Slovakia, and Norway. Of course, the assessment tools, the terms of definition of dyslexia and the awareness of dyslexia by school, healthcare and other related systems also influence the prevalence declared.
Famous dyslexic persons:
A lot of adult dyslexic people, including students, are living a double life, trying hard to keep their difficulties with written texts secret and using a range of diverse compensatory strategies every day. By showing them a list of famous dyslexics, we can give them hope to deal successfully with their particular way of information processing. The following have been identified as possibly dyslexic Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michael Faraday scientists Walt Disney, Auguste Rodin, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Cher, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Antony Hopkins – artists 5
Hans Christian Andersen, Agatha Christie, writers Winston Churchill, George Washington, politicians Greg Louganis, Magic Johnson, Kenny Logan – sportsman Jamie Oliver, Ed Baines chefs This means that many dyslexic people, despite their difficulties in school, are gifted and can become outstanding adults in very different fields of activities if they have understanding and support from society.
3. Symptoms of Dyslexia
We mentioned in the introduction that every dyslexic person has his “own symptoms profile”. Nevertheless, there are some very characteristic traits, which appear with higher frequency in dyslexic people. We can list possible strengths and weaknesses. Strengths may include: • • • • • • •
strong imaginative capacity originality, creativity good visualising capacity global comprehensive capacity, simultaneous information processing, intuition „artistic” way of thinking
Weaknesses may include: • low literacy skills difficulties in learning to read and write slow reading and writing and/or making a lot of mistakes/errors difficulties in understanding written texts spelling difficulties tiredness in reading/writing situations difficulties in expressing themselves in writing (organizing thoughts on paper) • poor verbal memory • poor analysis of details 6
There are many other cognitive abilities, for example, spatial orientation, sequencing, intermodal transfer capacity, fine motor skills, sensorymotor integration etc. which can be combined in different ways so that no two dyslexic individuals experience or express dyslexia in the same way. To identify the dyslexic student’s particular symptoms we can use checklists.
Checklists should be treated with caution at all times. They can be useful if you understand all the issues, and how to interpret the answers. But a checklist does not equal an assessment, and just because someone has some of the difficulties does not mean he/she is dyslexic. However, checklists can still be very useful for the non specialist as a guide to suggest who may need a closer examination of their difficulties, as well as providing insight into specific difficulties. These checklists are widely published, and can be easily accessed by those who support dyslexics, as well as dyslexics themselves. In order to understand some of the issues, we shall look at a specific checklist, developed by Smythe and Everatt, based on the responses of a large number of dyslexic and nondyslexic adults. Each question has a “weighting” which means that some questions are more important than others. 1. Do you confuse visually similar words such as”cat” and”cot”? _____Rarely (3) _____Occasionally (6) _____Often (9) _____Most of the time (12) 2. Do you lose your place or miss out lines when reading? _____Rarely (2) _____Occasionally (4) _____Often (6) _____Most of the time (8) 7
3. Do you confuse the names of objects, for example table for chair? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2 _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 4. Do you have trouble telling left from right? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 5. Is map reading or finding your way to a strange place confusing? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 6. Do you reread paragraphs to understand them? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4)
7. Do you get confused when given several instructions at once? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 8. Do you make mistakes when taking down telephone messages? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 9. Do you find it difficult to find the right word to say? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4) 10. How often do you think of creative solutions to problems? _____Rarely (1) _____Occasionally (2) _____Often (3) _____Most of the time (4)
11. How easy do you find it to sound out words such as elephant? _____Easy (3) _____Challenging (6) _____Difficult (9) _____Very difficult (12) 12. When writing, do you find it difficult to organize thoughts on paper? _____Easy (2) _____Challenging (4) _____Difficult (6) _____Very difficult (8) 13. Did you learn your multiplication tables easily? _____Easy (2) _____Challenging (4) _____Difficult (6) _____Very difficult (8) 14. How easy do you find it to recite the alphabet? _____Easy (1) _____Challenging (2) _____Difficult (3) _____Very difficult (4) 10
15. How hard do you find it to read aloud? _____Easy (1) _____Challenging (2) _____Difficult (3) _____Very difficult (4) _____Now add up your total. Score less than 45 – consistent with results of somebody who is not dyslexic Note carefully the wording “... is consistent with ...“. This means that those who were part of the research who had been assessed by a psychologist and consider themselves non dyslexic scored less than 45. That does not mean that if you score less than 45 points you are not dyslexic. You may have developed compensatory strategies to overcome the difficulties. 4560 shows signs consistent with mild dyslexia. This means that those who were part of the research, who had been assessed by a psychologist and consider themselves mildly dyslexic, scored between 45 and 60. Greater than 60 – consistent with moderate or severe dyslexia. Research showed consistently that those scoring more than 60 on this questionnaire were severely dyslexic. What are the consequences of these symptoms on the student life of dyslexics? They are mostly negative ones, but a few advantages as well. Possible advantages • • • •
practical, innovative, creative solutions to academic issues new insight into traditional issues, new ideas making innovations teacher’s positive attitude (labelling as “smart”, “creative” etc.)
Possible disadvantages: • academic and exam failure because of: lack of capacity to read through all the syllabus and compulsory bibliography lack of efficient study skills low capacity to remember and use terminology (essential technical terms) difficulty in expressing thoughts on paper • teacher’s negative attitude towards them (labelling as “lazy”, “stupid” etc.) • low selfesteem • destructive compensatory behaviour to self inappropriate use of their strengths in antisocial ways as compensatory behaviour
4. Historical Theories of Dyslexia
There are many theories of dyslexia, and we do not need to understand them in order to know how to help the dyslexic individual. But it is useful to know the different perspectives, and what they mean. Obviously some theories could be represented in more than one category, but this grouping gives an historical overview of the field. It also allows us to understand the many sides of the syndrome, and why not all specialists agree! As we shall see, dyslexia has changed from being considered a mild brain injury to a neurological variation that leads to special ways of thinking. Although many talk of the disadvantages of dyslexia, these differences can also lead to advantages caused by a different way of processing information. Thus, the real problem is often the way society perceives those differences rather than the differences themselves. We are convinced that the success of all approaches to supporting dyslexic individuals depends upon appropriate assessment and intervention. It is important to consider the evidence of the effectiveness of any method before you recommend it or try it, particularly as there is often considerable variation between practitioners using the same theoretical basis. Every dyslexic is different, and what works for one will not work for all. 12
The key theories are: • Early neuropsychological theories
• Perceptual and perceptuomotor theories
• Psychological theories and cognitive processes
• Psycholinguistic theories
• Environmental and behavioural theories
Early neuropsychological theories Over 100 years ago it was realized that injuries to specific areas of the brain could lead to reading difficulties in a good reader (often referred to as acquired dyslexia). The idea that dyslexia (i.e. reading difficulties not caused by a brain injury) comes from minimal neurological damage was based on the similarity between dyslexics and brain injured persons. The difference (or “injury” as it was termed) was slight enough to cause specific problems, but not great enough to cause overall loss of functioning. 13
Perceptual and perceptuomotor theories Some specialists attempt to adjust perceptual deficits, and to devise methods and programmes to improve these weak abilities without reference to other possible background factors. Theories emphasizing the role of visuomotor integration and eye motion consider the reason for the literacy difficulty to be a deficit in the eye movement and balance system. It has been suggested that visual processes cannot provide the wellstructured patterns necessary for motor activity. Some therapies suggest that a continuous interaction must be built between the sensory input and the motor output, with programmes to develop adaptive behaviour with the help of visual, auditory and tacto kinaesthetic stimuli leading to improved abilities in three cognitive areas: • memory • perception attention Psychological theories and cognitive processes In 1887 a monograph was published by Berlin entitled “Dyslexia: eine besondere Art der Wortblindheit”. This was the first reference to the term dyslexia, though it was talking about the loss of reading ability (nowadays referred to as “acquired dyslexia” as opposed to the more common failure to develop reading, or “developmental dyslexia” we are discussing in this manual). Ten years earlier Kussmaul had proposed the term “wordblindness” or “caecitas verbalis” for an acquired loss of words. This and many subsequent similar terms refer to an assumption that the difficulties relate to the visual system. This assumption had an influence on dyslexia research for much of the early and mid20th century. Psycholinguistic theories and abnormal psycholinguistic processes Many researchers and speech and language pathologists have reported that difficulties in articulation can lead to problems arising later. Furthermore, there are many children who do not use language as a symbolic process and go on to develop dyslexia. Based on such theories, developmental programmes have been set up to reduce linguistic disadvantages, and although these therapies may not be 14
effective in all languages due to the nature of the script, dyslexia prevention programmes built on psycholinguistic bases have been found to be very effective in Hungary. Environmental and behavioural theories Modification of the learning environment has a considerable impact on the development of literacy abilities. Dyslexia can be considered as a special way of thinking and learning, which needs a special way of teaching. Consequently dyslexia may be described as a specific teaching difficulty, and treated as a special need for a specific learning environment. Some specialists consider dyslexia a kind of behavioural abnormality, and they refuse to deal with the inner cognitive ability factors. They consider behavioural therapy the most appropriate treatment. Some theories dealt with school achievement and the social behaviour of dyslexic children. They set achievable requirements, and the children were rewarded when they reached the academic and social goals. In this way the correct behaviours were reinforced while the incorrect actions were inhibited. However, the efficiency of a symptom level treatment with total ignorance of the basic causes, is questionable.
Laterality and Hemispheric Dominance
For many years researchers have considered whether laterality and hemispheric dominance are involved in dyslexia. For further details and a self completion questionnaire see the appendices. Not all researchers in the field of dyslexia agree that dyslexia and the degree to which any individual is more dominant in their bodily preferences are related. For instance, it has been shown that although there are more left handed individuals amongst dyslexics than there are amongst the general population, the majority of dyslexics, like others, are right handed. Many of the older studies upon which the evidence for bodily dominance were based had methodological flaws. For further information see the section under Causes of dyslexia
5. Causes of dyslexia
We are now going to consider the main internal and external causes of dyslexia. In every case of dyslexia there is a multifactorial etiology behind the symptoms. 15
Familiarity with these causes and their effect on each other can help us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of dyslexics, and provide opportunities for ensuring full support. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty, which causes problems primarily in the development of literacy skills. The causes invariably consist of a number of factors and include some kind of developmental or hereditary neurological deviation from what may be considered normal. During development, the interaction of external and internal factors gives rise to various forms of the syndrome at different levels and in different areas, while environmental factors play a considerable role in the consequences. Increased awareness and understanding have led to an increase in the numbers identified, though many still struggle through life without appropriate support, with or without diagnosis. Biological factors Dyslexia is the late or unusual development of literacy skills caused by a neurological deviation, and for the most part shows itself as a different way of functioning. The brains of dyslexics are wired differently to those of nondyslexics and appear less ordered. Compared to the average person, information processing is organised differently in dyslexic individuals, and brain scans have shown us that different areas of the brain are activated. Research suggests that there is a high level of hereditary susceptibility to dyslexia, with several chromosomes identified as playing a role in the (unusual) development of information processing. For instance, disorders of phonological processing in the area of language and specific disorders of auditory processing in the area of perceptual processing are said to develop as a consequence of genetic variation. Depending on how the neurological difference developed, one can talk about acquired or developmental dyslexia. Although the distinction is clearly defined here, frequently it is not possible to know the underlying cause of dyslexia and hence the distinction is usually not made for children. The one time the distinction is made is with adults who were able to read and write, but then lose that ability after an injury. This is always referred to as acquired dyslexia. In the case of acquired dyslexia in children, the difference is due to a minor brain trauma sustained before or during childbirth. It can be the effect of an 16
accident or an illness, but the injury is mild enough to cause a specific difficulty rather than a more general dysfunction. This however, is very different from developmental dyslexia where skills have not developed in the normal way. Progress in medical science also plays a role. Physicians can now save more children than before who were born prematurely and with low birth weight, as well as helping more survive traumatic illnesses and accidents. All these have an impact upon brain development, and increase the risk of dyslexia.
Differences in brain dominance The two sides of the brain, the left and the right hemispheres look similar, but they work very differently. The left hemisphere may be seen as specialising in verbal and numerical information processed sequentially in a linear and ordered manner. It is the active, verbal, logical, rational and analytic part of the brain, capable of cataloguing and analysing information. It is most adept at language, maths, logical operations and processing of serial sequences of information. It has a bias for detailed and speed optimised activities that are required for voluntary muscle control and the processing of fine visual details. The right hemisphere should be considered the intuitive, creative, primarily nonverbal part of our brain and it deals in threedimensional forms and images. It sees the forest rather than the trees and is capable of understanding complex configurations and structures. The right hemisphere is stronger at pattern recognition, face recognition, spatial relationships, nonverbal ideation, syllabisation and intonation of language and the parallel processing of diverse information. It has a visceral motor bias and deals with large time domains. The majority of people are left hemisphere dominant, although to different degrees. There are however, many whose thinking and other cognitive processes are based on their right hemisphere. This difference does not in itself mean a deficit; these individuals only differ in their preferred way of handling information. Most dyslexics are characterized by a right, rather than left hemisphere dominance. This is a difference that can be shown even in embryos, and is not related entirely to handedness. The relation between body and brain dominances can be diverse, and determines cognitive performance in many respects. Right hemisphere dominance 17
in itself does not cause dyslexia. If, on the other hand, it is accompanied by other factors increasing the risk, then the probability of the development of a specific learning difficulty is greater than for individuals with a left hemisphere dominance.
Laterality and Hemispheric Dominance: an opposing view Not all researchers in the field of dyslexia agree that dyslexia and the degree to which any individual is more dominant in their bodily preferences are related. There is also debate over what effect such differences might have. It is easy to observe that the dyslexic brain appears to be different in a number of ways to the brains of nondyslexics. But despite recent advances in brain scanning, the cause and effect such differences might have on behaviour has not been proved. Just because we observe that say, the brains of people with dyslexia show more activity in one region and less in another, doesn’t mean this causes dyslexia. That would be like observing that people who ate cheese before going to bed had nightmares and concluding that cheese therefore causes nightmares. Ever since researchers first began to study the physiology of the brain in the nineteenth century, the amount of adaptability and flexibility in the functions of different regions has been a surprise to them. This debate is too complex and detailed for further explanation here. Anyone who would like to find out more about biological causes, including other regions of the brain that have been implicated such as the cerebellum, should consult academic journals and books. We recommend the work of Alan Beaton for a balanced overview and an account of the historical background to this research. For now is it sufficient to say that all work on biological causation has to be treated with caution.
Dyslexia, learning and the brain Some recent research has looked at dyslexia as a problem in learning, rather than simply a problem with literacy. The work of Angela Fawcett and Rod Nicolson has looked at dyslexia as a problem in the development of automaticity in a range of skills. This means that if you are dyslexic you need to put in greater effort than other people of similar abilities. Practitioners often say that this is a good charactiseration of dyslexia, so for example students who are dyslexic 18
have great problems in rote learning for example in learning anatomy. Dyslexic students learn best if they can link material semantically (through the meaning, rather than trying to learn unconnected facts). Nicolson and Fawcett have linked these problems to an area of the brain called the cerebellum, which recent developments in scanning show is involved in a number of cognitive processes below, including learning to read. They have also linked these difficulties to a problem in the procedural learning system at the neural systems level, which involves connections within the brain when learning how to do a task. For more information on this, look for academic articles by these authors. Research in this area is ongoing, and so our knowledge changes and develops as more is revealed about the brain and learning. Cognitive processes Cognitive processes are shaped by biological characteristics. The development and mode of functioning of attention, perception, memory, thinking and language are different from that of the majority in the case of dyslexics. Developing and improving these is most efficient during childhood. If development is enhanced by suitable classes and activities, then any developmental differences will cause far fewer problems in adulthood. Cognitive processes can be improved effectively in adulthood as well, but at the same time, learning to compensate for these differences is also important. Attention In order to learn effectively, it is important to pay attention. It is often typical of dyslexics that their attention is easily diverted. They pay attention to everything, not just to the problem at hand. Therefore, they gather a lot of information, observe a lot of things, but usually not the ones they need to concentrate on at the moment. Dyslexia can be accompanied by an attention deficit (this is called co morbidity), which gives rise to more serious problems. Dyslexics do not necessarily have an attention deficit disorder, even though they are usually more inattentive than the average person. In the case of attention deficit, mistakes in spellings are random, for example. The spelling mistakes of dyslexics usually consist of letter and syllable reversals, writing expressions in one or more words and segmentation in general. 19
The following scale can show you if there are some signs of a possible attention deficit. Rate using the following scale and place the appropriate number next to the item. 0 = never 1 = rarely 2 = occasionally 3 = frequently 4 = very frequently 1. Easily distracted while learning, reading or listening to others 2. Inattentive, unless very interested in something (sometimes even hyperfocused) 3. Listening improves by doing other activities like drawing, tinkering, walking 4. Lack of concentration to details 5. Poor ability to follow a conversation 6. Losing things 7. Skipping lines while reading, trouble staying on track 8. Difficulty in following long series of instructions 9. Tendency to be easily bored To get the result, add the scores. above 15 – poor attention above 25 – attention difficulties above 30 – severe attention difficulties 20
In Europe, balance exercises, swinging, spinning, yoga and stimulation of the balance system in general is seen as an efficient means of developing attention. These are also used in the UK, but it should be noted that their use is controversial and there are few controlled studies to show that such approaches are helpful. Perception Coordination of the channels of perception – sight, hearing, touch – with each other and with motion happens during early childhood. The child needs plenty of experience for precision motion, precision information uptake and secure orientation to develop. Neurolinguistic theories have suggested that the motion development of dyslexic children lacks a crawling phase, and therefore the organisation of the nervous system is not as normal, either. Sensory motor integration, that is, the coordination of perception and motion is not sufficient. Owing to this, body scheme and spatial orientation disorders, as well as weakness in precision motion and auditory perception, may develop. Although there is some evidence on primitive reflexes, much of this is anecdotal, however many European practitioners favour this approach Pereceptual theories with stronger research support include the following: Magnocellular deficits in visual and auditory processing. These theories suggest that there are problems in rapid processing of auditory and visual information, based on differences in the large magnocells in the brain. These theories are proposed by John Stein (Oxford) on vision and Paula Tallal (Rutgers) on auditory processing. Coloured lenses have been proposed to help woth visual deficits, and a program (Fast ForWord) has been devised by Tallal and her colleagues to improve rapid auditory processing. Students with visual problems are likely to tire easily and lose their place when reading. Some students are helped by using coloured overlays, a ruler to keep their place or purchasing coloured lenses. Students with auditory problems are likely to have problems in processing rapid speech and may need to record lectures for note taking later.
Memory Dyslexia is often accompanied by a weakness of shortterm and working memory, or holding items in memory in order to work on them. A model for this has been developed by Alan Baddeley and colleagues. It is more difficult for dyslexics to hold information in short term or working memory, in order to encode it in long term memory. This has implications for learning this will be more successful if dyslexic students can process the information deeply or create semantic links to aid retrieval. This, however, need not involve a general deficit in memory processes. It is primarily remembering the order of successive elements that causes the difficulty. Sequential and simultaneous memory is related to different modes of processing and the two hemispheres. The dyslexic finds it difficult to remember successive elements and sequences. At the same time, they easily remember everything that can be grasped as a whole. They tend to remember visual rather than verbal material. They can remember faces more easily than names. They can remember figures and pictures better than words and texts. These characteristics are worth taking into consideration when learning, as well as at work. Thinking Dyslexics also have a special way of thinking. They are worse at handling relations than the average person. Logicalanalytical thinking is not the terrain of dyslexics. Their thinking is characterised by overview, intuitive approaches, and understanding based on realisation. This may have an impact when they are trying to argue an essay in a logical fashion, and means that they may have difficulty ordering their thoughts. They arrive at correspondences not in a stepbystep logical way, but by having an overview and feeling the important points, and the correspondences simply join up in their heads. For this reason, they are usually unable to explain how they arrived at the result. They just see the solution. There is nothing mystical in this. It is typical of the functioning of the right hemisphere that makes this kind of problem solving possible. While the left hemisphere proceeds in a logical way putting all the 22
details together like a jigsaw, the right hemisphere shows the solution like a picture. Dyslexics work with wholes like this. Skills and behaviour The way cognitive processes work affects the development of skills, and thereby, behaviour. Speech, learning and other school skills – writing, reading and counting – define later performance. Lack of ability in these areas can put the individual at a disadvantage all their lives. Dyslexics are often not able to meet school requirements despite their average or above average intellectual skills, and suffer difficulties later on at work, and in the rest of their lives. This does not have to be so. Using appropriate methods, not only can cognitive processes be influenced, but different skills can be developed, and tools can be found to compensate for the weaknesses of other areas. Speech and language Most dyslexics (mainly adults) do not have speech problems, but they do however, have some language difficulties. One of them is word finding. They recall words that are used less often with more difficulty and they easily mix up similar words, based on interference. Even though this happens to everyone (similar elements interfere with each other), dyslexics are more affected, since attention to detail is rather poor in their system of information processing. Their vocabulary is not poor, but the words and concepts are part of a system that is not clear cut and easily accessible. They are more prone to mix up expressions that are similar in both their sense and their pronunciation and spelling, like the adjectives robust and rustic. Consider this image: something coarse, not so elaborate and refined, peasant like appearance. Robust and rustic are the two words are mixed in this image. Recent research emphasises that language impairment in the preschool and primary school period can put children at serious risk of reading difficulties. Deficits in phonological, semantic and syntactic skills at this age are correlated with later dyslexia. Reading Even dyslexics learn to read. Moreover, if taught using methods that take their characteristics into consideration, they can become positively good readers. By adulthood, it is usually not reading words that is a problem, but even dyslexics who are good readers can be 23
characterised by: • reading more slowly than average • skipping lines • reading another word, often a synonym or an otherwise similar word • reading longer parts and forgetting what they have read making more mistakes when having to read out loud Writing Dyslexia can be accompanied by dysgraphia, but does not necessarily cause writing disorders. The writing of dyslexics is usually disorganised and difficult to read, but acceptable. Moreover, it can be slow and this means that dyslexic students may be at a disadvantage when it comes to timed examinations. When struggling with more severe forms of writing problems, it is definitely beneficial for the individual to use a word processor, but technical tools are helpful for everyone in writing. One of the most common residual symptoms of dyslexia in adulthood is poor spelling. This problem arises owing to phonological processing problems and weaknesses in dealing with relations and details. Even very erudite and wellread dyslexics have spelling problems. Some examples from the past: Anatole France failed the school leaving examination twice because of his poor spelling. William Butler Yeats was an excellent poet, but his editors suffered a lot from the spelling mistakes in his poems. Writing is difficult for dyslexic people, not just because of their spelling problems, but also for the content. Many dyslexic people have difficulty in expressing their thoughts in writing coherently. They can talk very cleverly about a topic, but what they write about it is unintelligible. Counting and Maths Many dyslexics can count very well, having been able to develop methods that are appropriate for their abilities and not being otherwise affected by a counting disorder. However, many are worse at counting because of their poor serial abilities and poor functioning when handling relations and details. They face difficulties especially in the area of basic mathematical operations. Multiplication and division present a problem most often. This kind of problem too, does not prevent outstanding achievement. Several renowned natural scientists, and even mathematicians, have 24
faced this kind of problem. Benoit Mandelbrot, a researcher at IBM and developer of fractal geometry, did not know his multiplication tables. Benjamin Franklin was a good reader, but had difficulties with counting. Werner von Braun, the inventor of the rocket, failed in algebra. There are several studies about the relationship between dyslexia and poor mathematical performance, which emphasise that many dyslexics have problems with the language of mathematics too, not just with basic mathematical operations. They don’t understand or they use mathematical signs, symbols and concepts or terms inappropriately, like “more than/less than”, “prime numbers”, “numerator” etc. Even dyslexic students who have strengths in Maths may have difficulties in showing their workings because they have worked out the correct result intuitively. This can be difficult for students who are working with statistics. Influence of Environment Dyslexia develops from a neurologically based difference. To what extent and in which areas this divergence will appear as a disorder depends on environmental factors. External circumstances will decide whether it will be a deficit or an efficient mode of dealing with things. If people did not have to write, read and count, dyslexia would not exist. Therefore, like many other syndromes, dyslexia too, is culturally dependent. The number of dyslexics has increased partly because in many respects, natural practice is lacking. In today’s very visual world children rarely read stories. Instead they watch them on television or play on the computer. In Europe it is suggested that one consequence of this is that they have fewer and less diverse opportunities for movement and sensory experiences, and as a result the natural development of sensorimotor integration and sequential information processing, fail to develop as well they did in the past. Thus, those who have a natural tendency towards dyslexia due to difficulties with sensorimotor integration, are even more likely to struggle with specific learning difficulties today, than in the past. In the UK theories of learning suggest that people with dyslexia need much more practice to become fluent in their skills, and lack of opportunities to practice these skills means that they will remain slow and effortful. Texting and emailing does not need to be error free, and practice in this does not therefore improve academic work. 25
6. Types of Dyslexia We said before that every dyslexic person has his or her own combination of symptoms, that is to say an individual dyslexia profile. But, based on some common characteristics, they can be categorised into certain types of dyslexia. Researchers have identified different types, but the most cited are the two main categories of Developmental and Aquired Dyslexia. The first means that there are possible genetic bases, and a lifelong effect due to minor brain dysfunctions. The second is caused by later brain injuries. In acquired dyslexia we can distinguish 1. Peripheric dyslexia This is neglect dyslexia (because of brain injury the person can read just one side of the word, usually the right one) 2. Central dyslexia a) Phonological dyslexia. The person has poor graphemephoneme ability, can read without difficulty just well known words, has difficulty in segmenting words into separate sounds. b) Surface dyslexia (orthographic, superficial). Slow, letter by letter reading, difficulty linking letters and recognising irregularly spelled words, especially. c) Deep dyslexia. Semantic system deficiency; for instance often the person is reading bug for ant, or nonwords for known words. Often there is a mixed type, which can be identified by a specialist in dyslexia assessment.
Developmental dyslexia While some researchers continue to use a typology based on the subtypes above, there has been a move in recent research away from subtyping. The major emphasis now in the UK lies on whether there is pure dyslexia (usually seen as a phonological deficit) or cooccurrence with other deficits, which may include visual deficits, dyspraxia, specific language impairment or ADHD. The more deficits a dyslexic student has, the more problems they are likely to experience, and the greater their difficulty in compensating for their deficits.
Current cognitive theories of dyslexia in the UK include the following: Phonological deficit. Based on a problem in phonological awareness, this means that dyslexics have problems in analysis and synthesis in reading and spelling. This is particularly important for students when dealing with new vocabulary, which can only be dealt with by segmenting the word into syllables and recombining them Double deficit. This suggests that as well as phonological deficits there are speed deficits, with the combination of both deficits having the most impact on literacy skills Automaticity. This suggests that dyslexics have problems in becoming automatic in any skill, and subsumes the other theories
7. Case study A 32 year old man was diagnosed in the second year of primary school with dyslexia. He was very good at maths, but when he had to solve text related maths problems, he always had difficulties. He barely learned poems, had serious spelling problems and wrote very poor, short „dry” compositions. He could never read out loud without a lot of mistakes. Physics and IT teachers were excited about his creativity and practical abilities, but the other teachers believed he was a lazy boy who also had an attention deficit disorder. His parents were aware of his dyslexia and worked with him a lot in a specific way, under the supervision of a speech therapist, and they gave him really efficient psychological support. He finished school with average academic results and became a student at the Technical University. He failed the first year’s study twice, but finally, when he passed the theoretical exams of the first two years, he became one of the best students. He had the highest results and finished the Master’s course, too. Now, he is a very highly regarded network engineer, but still has spelling problems.
8. Conclusions In adults environmental factors are crucial, and a dyslexia friendly environment can cultivate the strengths of these special individuals. Dyslexia is a relatively new concept and although we do not know its exact underlying causes, we do know that there are biological, cognitive, behavioural and environmental factors, and the relative importance of each depends upon the individual and varies with age. When it comes to diagnosis, the task is difficult, and nothing can 27
replace a good assessment performed by a competent specialist, as we shall see later. However, a checklist can help identify some of the underlying difficulties, and highlight that the difficulties go well beyond just reading and writing skills. The symptoms responsible for dyslexia can have different origins and appear in different areas. Basic differences in subskills, which develop as a result of the peculiarities of the sensorimotor and information processing systems, can give rise to various kinds of symptoms. These symptoms are characteristic of dyslexics, and becoming familiar with them will enable one to understand how dyslexic individuals can achieve their potential. Visualising, holistic thinking, creativity, intuition and resourcefulness are typical of dyslexics. Poor memory, mixing up details, frequent mistakes in devising lists and sequences, poor logical and analytical thinking, literacy and counting errors are all responsible for failure, even though they are part of the same structure of abilities, but they constitute the negative aspects of dyslexia. Exploiting strengths as much as possible can contribute to the success of the individual, so it is important that they understand their strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, the advantages the differences dyslexics experience, need to be emphasised, so that they can take maximum advantage of their opportunities.
Self Assessment Questions SAQ1
Name 4 myths about dyslexia
Is dyslexia a difference or a difficulty and what is meant by each?
What is the core definition of dyslexia?
What are the main cognitive difficulties that can be affected by dyslexia?
Can dyslexia be cured?
What is the prevalence of dyslexia?
If a person experiences dyslexia in one language will s/he experience dyslexia in other languages?
Name 4 strengths and 4 weaknesses that dyslexics may experience?
What are the key theories about dyslexia?
What are the main causes of dyslexia?
Is dyslexia hereditary?
SAQ12 What are the main cognitive areas that are affected in dyslexia? Give a summary of the difficulties experienced by people with dyslexia.
SAQ13 How does the environment affect the development of dyslexia?
SAQ14 Describe the two types of dyslexia
2. Learner preferences and learning style of the dyslexic student
Learning style and dyslexia
Learning and studying for the dyslexic student
Teaching style and learner preferences
The stages of studying
Unfortunately, many schools do not teach students how to learn. Students have to discover for themselves the most efficient way to acquire the information, first at school then at university, and later on in their professional life. This is not easy, but for the dyslexic students it’s much more difficult, because of poor reading, writing, spelling and learning skills. This applies to preparing for exams and later for self education, which means continuous learning is a real challenge for dyslexic individuals. 31
People differ in many ways, including how they learn most efficiently. Teaching should take into consideration the diversity of learners' needs. The task of the school is to teach learners to learn so that they discover the areas in which they can be efficient. This knowledge serves as a basis for lifetime development. Dyslexic students learn quickly that school learning is not for them, and they are not able to manage their learning problems. But, if they are given the tools to discover what works best for them: specific methods and strategies adapted to their learning styles, they can be as efficient as anyone else. They differ not in the level of their learning skills, but in the characteristics of their learning styles. These special characteristics of dyslexic students have both advantages and disadvantages, and they must take them into consideration in all learning situations throughout life.
Learning style and dyslexia
Learning style is the system of different approaches that help us to take in and process information efficiently. Everyone has a unique, individual combination of information processing methods, which helps her or him to acquire knowledge easily and with least effort. One student will do this mostly by seeing or hearing, another by acting or reflecting, another by analyzing or reasoning intuitively, another by memorising or understanding, or a mix of all these. Most people use many forms of information processing, but at the same time most have a dominant, preferred learning style. It is also possible that a person will use one learning style in a certain situation and another style in different circumstances. The teaching methods and conditions used in school are very diverse. What is optimal for one, can be an obstacle or restraint to another. There are many theoretical models of learning styles. Some researchers emphasise the models which are based on biological differences, like rightleft brain dominance, or individual circadian activity rhythm. (KatonaOakland, 1999). Other authors prefer models based on different cognitive styles of individuals. In this category we find the models which distinguish visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles, as well as holistic or atomistic styles (Svensson, 1988), simultaneous or successive information coding styles (Das and Kirby 1988), and deep or surface information processing styles (Marton, 1983). 32
We present here the Dunn & Dunn (1992) model (source Adystrain), which seems to be quite comprehensive and analyses five components (characteristics) of learning style.
a) Physiological characteristics of learning style Many individuals concentrate better if they can munch, chew and drink while learning. It reduces tension and in the case of attention disorder, it is the kind of activity that engages otherwise diffuse attention. Everyone has periods of increased efficiency during the day and it can help if one is aware of their own special rhythm. Some dyslexics are more of the ”owl” type, who can learn best at night. Before 10 am they find it difficult to do meaningful intellectual work whilst others are the ”larks”, who are more efficient in the early hours. For them work in the evening is not worth attempting. Learning has to be built up according to one‘s individual needs. Less is more. Shorter, more intensive learning periods are more efficient. Physiological characteristics of learning style that help dyslexic students: seeing and motion; shorter periods; eating and drinking
People differ in their preference way of taking in information. Though all the senses are used at the same time, the learning material and the learner define the ratios between the different channels. There are three main sensory modes we have to consider – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. Visual learners Visual learners, the most common type of learners, tend to use their eyes as the most important way to perceive, and their visual processing to understand. They have a preference for visual information, such as charts and diagrams, and enjoy the visual content of books and demonstrations. When reading they prefer to conjure up visual images than think about the dialogue. They will probably remember the visual detail of a room, or a person’s face, but forget conversations. These individuals learn best through the use of visual stimuli. Demonstration and picture led activities work well. Multimedia computer activities with high visual content are more likely to be better learning content than book based learning. Mind maps, brief notes and highlighters work well. Preview and review are important. Efficient and recommended strategies for visual learners: (source: J. MaringerCantu, 2006): • Use visual materials: like pictures, illustrations, mind maps, graphics, charts • Use colour highlights to emphasise the key ideas • Use illustrations of the ideas you want to expound in writing • Ask for handouts and take notes with coloured pencils • Try to see the teacher’s face and body language all the time during the lectures • Illustrate the materials you have to learn • Use IT, films, videos • Visualize information as pictures to help memorisation • Make associations between information and visual material (pictures, objects from the environment, etc.) Read illustrated books 34
Auditory learners Auditory learners use auditory processing as their preferred way of perceiving. They can assimilate language very quickly, whether it is spoken or read. They are often talkative, needing to think aloud. They enjoy music, and easily remember song lyrics and conversations. They are more likely to remember somebody’s name than what they look like. For these individuals, the material is best presented by the auditory system. This can be through listening to lessons or instructions and by participating in discussions. Learning can be facilitated by listening to audio tapes or explaining concepts to others. Teachers should let auditory learners use recording devices during lectures instead of taking notes. Efficient and recommended strategies for auditory learners (source: J. MaringerCantu, 2006): • Use recording instead of taking notes during lectures • Participate in class debates • Read text out aloud • Make speeches and presentations • Create musical jingles to help memorisation • Create mnemonics to help memorisation • Discuss your ideas verbally • Dictate your ideas to someone Use verbal analogies and storytelling to demonstrate your point Kinaesthetic learners The third learning style in this group is the kinaesthetic in which individuals learn best through touch, movement and manipulation. Individuals in this category often enjoy physical activities and crafts, they would rather get something straight out of the box and figure it out than read the instructions and they dislike sitting still in long talks. Offering a physical activity rather than a listening/talking or paper based activity is preferable for dyslexics. Handson activities would help, but also breaks, which allow physical movement, are useful. Rewriting or colouring notes can use the physical component to add to the visual aspect of learning. Thinking and learning may even be aided by walking around or touching/manipulating objects. 35
Efficient and recommended strategies for kinesthetictactile learners (source:J. MaringerCantu, 2006): • Move around to learn new things (e.g. mold a piece of clay to learn a new concept) • Work in a standing position • Take frequent study breaks • Chew gum while studying • Use bright colours to highlight key words in a text • Dress up the workspace with posters • Begin studying with skim reading to have a global vision of the material • Listen to instrumental music during study time (not too loud) It is better for dyslexic students to use more channels of perception. While dyslexics tend to be more visual and learn better using sight, they do not fit neatly into only one category and will often show a mixture of preferences. Activity helps dyslexics to focus attention. Drawing, association with movements, acting out, playing a role (dramatisation), learning during walking, swinging or anything else that helps to increase the efficiency of learning is recommended to dyslexic students. And remember that preferences may change depending on what they are doing. There are a lot of questionnaires, charts and inventories, which can help you to identify your dominant learning style. Here are some examples: • • • •
Learning styles Self Assessment (from LdPride.net) The VARK Questionnaire (Honolulu Community College Intranet) Index of Learning Style (by R. M. Felder & B. A. Soloman) Learning Styles Chart (adapted from Colin Rose – 1987 – Accelerated Learning) • Modality Questionnaire (E. Gyarmathy) We will present here the Learning Chart and the Modality Questionnaire
Learning Styles Chart
(adapted from Colin Rose, 1987): 36
Read the activities from the first column and answer the questions in the following three columns for what is typical for you. In our opinion, if you use points (0: it’s not characteristic at all, 1: sometimes characteristic, and 2: characteristic most of the time), you can collect a score in each column, which will indicate your dominant learning style. (The highest score indicates your primary learning style). When you… Spell
Visual do you try to see the word ?
Auditory Kinesthetic&Tactile Do you sound out Do you write the word the word or use a down to find if it feels phonetic approach ? right? Talk Do you like a little Do you enjoy Do you gesture and but dislike listening listening but you are use expressive for too long? Do you impatient to talk? Do movements? Do you favor words such as you use words such use words such as feel, see, picture, and as hear, tune, and touch, and hold? imagine? think? Concentrate Do you become Do you become Do you become distracted by distracted by sounds distracted by activity untidiness or or noises? around you? movement? Meet Do you forget Do you forget faces Do you remember best someone names but but remember what you did together? again remember faces or names or remember remember where what you talked you met? about? Contact Do you prefer Do you prefer the Do you talk with them people on direct, facetoface, telephone? while walking or business personal meetings? participating in an activity? Read Do you like Do you enjoy Do you prefer action descriptive scenes dialogue and stories or you are not a or pause to imagine conversation or hear keen reader? the actions? the characters talk? Do Do you like to see Do you prefer verbal Do you prefer to jump something demonstrations, instructions or right in and try it? new at diagrams, slides or talking about it with work posters? someone else? Put Do you look at the Do you ignore the something directions and the directions and figure it together picture? out as you go along? Need help Do you seek out Do you call the help Do you keep trying to with a pictures or desk, ask a do it or try it on computer diagrams? neighbor, or growl at another computer? application the computer?
Self assessment questions SAQ15 Why is it important for students to know their learning style? SAQ16 What are the 5 components of the Dunn & Dunn model? SAQ17 What are the characteristics of each component? b) Psychological characteristics of learning style Dyslexics tend to be global thinkers. Therefore, they first need to understand what and why they learn, and then can concentrate on the details. They have to start learning by summarizing the material to be learned in order to have an overview of it. Learning is facilitated by activities that relate to their preferred style. Skills related to other types of processing may be developed with the help of their preferred types. Thus, methods requiring the use of the whole of the brain are the most efficient ones. Dyslexics learn more easily with the help of short stories, illustrations, humour, symbols and any kind of demonstration will help. This is because in contrast to the majority of people, who are characterized, symbolically, by a dominance of the left hemisphere, the symbolism of the right hemisphere functions are typical of most dyslexics who are more active learners. The two ways of thinking can be symbolically connected to the two hemispheres LEFT HEMISPHERE Speech Reading Writing analytical Counting sequential Logic verbal Analysis Relations Parts
RIGHT HEMISPHERE Verbal Spatial abilities Imagination global Musicality parallel Emotions visual Humor Moving Whole 38
There is a questionnaire which helps us to identify our style of information processing (source Adystrain): Divide 5 points between the two statements for every row depending on how true it is for you. E.g. if the Analytic statement is more correct than the Global one, assign four points under “A” and one under “G” (or 3 and 2 as appropriate). Analytic When I am learning . . 1 I can easily ignore distracting factors 2 I prefer to be alone rather than with others 3 I finish a job before passing onto another one
5 6 7 8 9
I start working without waiting to see how someone else does it My desk has to be tidy for me to be able to concentrate I prefer to decide for myself how to do my tasks I find it easier to remember details, rather than the main idea I prefer to compete individually I like trueorfalse and one solution types of tests
It is important that the teacher marks my work
I read through the corrected test so that I can correct my mistakes I prefer to receive a task broken down into steps
I like thinking and making a decision on my own 14 I do not consider it an offence if someone tells me I have made a mistake 15 The circumstances are responsible if I did not achieve highly although I studied for the test Count the number of points you received in columns A and G respectively.
Global When I am learning…. 1 I find it difficult to ignore distracting factors 2 I prefer to be in company rather than alone 3 I take up a new job even if I am not yet finished with the previous one 4 I prefer to wait for someone to start before I do 5 I am able to work even if my desk is in disorder 6 I prefer to have the teacher tell me how to do the task 7 I find it easier to remember the main idea, rather than the details 8 I prefer to compete in a team 9 I like it better if I have to give an explanation for the answers in a test 10 I do not mind if the teacher does not give me a mark, but they should give an assessment of my work 11 I read through the corrected test, but I do not correct my mistakes 12 I have to know the whole task before I start dealing with its parts 13 I like to consult others if I am not sure in my decision 14 I easily take offence if someone tells me I have made a mistake
I blame myself if I could not achieve highly although I studied for the test
The ratio of the two numbers reflects the extent to which you use analytic and global approaches.
Combining the physiological and psychological characteristics we can find different learners: Visual/Verbal Learners Auditory/Verbal Learners
Visual/Nonverbal Learners Tactile/Kinesthetic Learners
c) Environmental characteristics of learning style Some people like to learn in silence and some people need some background noise. Background music is generally beneficial for dyslexics, because it masks distracting noises. Empirically, music without words proves the most advantageous. One would think that there is an optimal light intensity, but in reality, appropriate illumination differs from person to person. Some people find strong light irritating, whereas feeble light makes others sleepy. Fluorescent lighting can be distracting because of the flickering, and can cause headaches. Usually, dyslexics can learn better in less bright lighting, for example, a daylight lamp. Reading is made more difficult by their sensitivity to contrast. It is better for them to use pale yellow or other, nonbleached paper instead of shiny white. In general, those who are able to work, concentrate and think for a long time sitting in a chair can achieve well in school. The majority of dyslexics, however, can only learn attentively for a relatively long period lying on the table, the floor, the armchair or the couch etc, in their own position. d) Social Psychological characteristics of learning style Most dyslexics find it easier to learn with someone else. Be it a fellow student, a teacher or a member of the family they learn with, the fact that they can actively handle the material and discuss it with others makes it more probable that they will remember it. It is worth involving someone in learning so that you have help when you get stuck. e) Emotional characteristics of learning style Dyslexics are not good at persevering with learning; they often cannot solve a task in one go. They need more time, because they have to grasp the whole concept and then deal with the details. They often do several things at a time. 40
While it may seem that they were not persistent, in reality they work in a different rhythm. When something is very interesting, however, they easily become immersed in it. Then the outside world, time and other tasks will cease to exist. This, again, can lead to difficulties, so controls such as time management skills, need to be taken into account.
Self assessment questions SAQ18 Name 6 strategies that are helpful for each of the following: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners. SAQ19 Describe the main features of the analytic and global learning styles as used by Felder and Solomon. SAQ20 Why do dyslexic students find it difficult to learn? Learning and studying for the dyslexic student Learning is a natural activity, a process with long lasting effects that makes you feel good. It is important to understand this statement. Observing an infant, we can see real learning in its clearest form; another good example is when someone is learning to swim, ride a bike or speak. Let us analyze it: • natural – Our brain is an open, experiencedependent system that is activated and charged through learning. Learning is a basic strategy for adaptation and survival. • activity – Real learning stems from curiosity. Young children explore and try everything, observe and learn through activities continuously. • process – Learning is the processing and storage of information. It does not happen in one moment, but rather has its phases, which cannot be skipped. • with long lasting effects – Just as swimming or riding a bike can never be forgotten, everything learnt through real learning can be recalled and renewed even years after. Since knowledge was built in through a natural, active process, this is understandable. 41
• that makes you feel good – Real learning is characterized by the intoxicating feeling of joy and efficiency. This can be observed with little children, when they successfully accomplish an activity. Studying is a different activity. Studying is artificial, elicited by others, and often stems from other people’s interest. It is mostly a oneoff occasion and not a process. Its effect is generally known to be short; students soon forget what they learned in school despite all the revision. Studying leads at best to relief at having endured some part, but it provides no real inner gratification, particularly when it is in school. Of course, one cannot rely wholly on “real life” learning, but artificial learning does not have to be distressing either. The more the circumstances are like that of real life, needs based learning, the more efficient studying will be. LEARNING natural active multisensory mainly auditory inner drive continuous what is learned lasts for a lifetime result is accompanied by joy
STUDYING artificial passive drive from others (external) oneoff occasion most of what is learned will be lost result is accompanied by relief
Characteristics of learning and studying (source Adystrain): Teaching style and learner preferences It is said that Confucius observed his students to understand how each learned, and taught in accordance with their strengths and weaknesses, to ensure that each student was taught in a manner that best suited their learning style. In a whole class of 3040 (or even of 100) students it may seem impossible to take account of everyone’s learning style, but by understanding how the students differ in the way they learn, you may be able to help some special individuals, as well as teach in ways that may help more students, and take advantage of their individual strengths. There are many ways in which learning styles have been analysed. There are also many ways of approaching the material, 42
which may be thought of as reflection on the way we think as we learn, and should be considered in teaching. Everybody has his/her own learning style, and the effectiveness (and enjoyment) of learning will be dependent upon closely matching the teaching and learning resources to the learners’ preferences. Furthermore, it would be true to say that we do not have just one learning style, but many that may be dependent upon circumstances. By using different methods such as auditory/visual as well as tactile/kinaesthetic, we will probably learn better than if just one technique was used. Indeed some educators have suggested that students retain: 10% of what they read 20% of what they hear 30% of what they see 50% of what they see and hear 70% of what they say 90% of what they say and do. Some people learn easily, while others struggle. Some seem to absorb information easily, while others appear to learn inefficiently, inconsistently, and incompletely. It could be because of many reasons including a cognitive deficit, such as an auditory short term memory problem. It could be the lack of motivation which is the cause. And it could be because the student’s learning style is just too different from the teaching method that they are unable to engage within the classroom. But just because a student has a problem in one context does not mean they cannot learn. There is always a way, an alternative strategy that can be used. The role of the teacher is to help the learner explore the possibilities, and develop the means to learn that best suits them. Efficient teaching considers the main learning styles and uses a variety of methods. A significant proportion of dyslexics belong to the minority regarding their learning style. Therefore, methods of traditional education put them at a disadvantage to start with. The teacher can reduce the disadvantage by adapting the teaching style to the students‘ learning style. Everyone has their own style, even the teachers. They usually use this style everywhere, since this is a characteristic of their nervous system, the typical way of information processing used by their brains. 43
One can learn, teach and work in other ways, but it is their own style that best suits everyone. The excellence of the best teachers does not consist in having vast knowledge, but in being able to deliver knowledge in a number of ways and can flexibly adapt to their students‘ learning styles. It helps a lot if the teacher is conscious of their own teaching style, since this awareness can help them change. It is often not at all easy to forsake existing methods and look for new solutions. Teaching style questionnaire (source Adystrain): Please give a score from 05 for each of the statements below 1
I enhance understanding using pictures, diagrams and figures. 2 I bring tangible, touchable materials for the students. 3 I tell the students the material they have to learn. 4 I like debates, discussions in class. 5 I write down the important parts of the material on the chalk/white board or on an overhead. 6 Everything can be taught in a way that it is touchable 7 It is best if I accurately explain the material. 8 Sometimes the students have to explain the material to each other 9 I like explaining things using figures. 10 Students can try out what they learn, they can even learn through motion. 11 The students will learn only what I have said during the lesson. 12 I often use role plays. Kinesthetic, tactile = 2, 6, 10 Visual, imaginative = 1, 5, 9 Auditory = 3, 7, 11 Interpersonal, oral = 4, 8, 12
1 2 3 4 5
0 = not true, 5 = true
Self assessment questions SAQ21 Teachers have their own preferred style of teaching. What is your style of teaching? Teaching style Visual, imaginative: Builds on pictures, graphs, illustrations, films Kinaesthetic, tactile: Builds on movements, actions, demonstrations Auditory: Builds on hearing, listening Interpersonal, oral: Builds on social skills and speech (debates, discussions)
Other types of learners The learner’s preferred way of approaching material is the most effective for studying. But how do we classify an individual’s style? As we have already seen, there are many different ways. Here are a 45
couple more which provide further insight into the alternative approaches that individuals take. Activists Reflectors Theorists – Pragmatists (source Adystrain) • Activists, who are “hands on” learners and prefer to have a go and learn through trial and error • Reflectors, who are ‘tell me’ learners and prefer to be thoroughly briefed before proceeding • Theorists, who are ‘convince me’ learners and want reassurance that a project makes sense • Pragmatists, who are ‘show me’ learners and want a demonstration from an acknowledged expert. Another aspect of this approach is the following: Accommodators Assimilators Convergers – Divergers • Accommodators (concrete experience/active experimenters) enjoy independent discovery, to ask “what if”. They like to enjoy the challenge of self discovery, to explore, and to be able to see the relationship between the parts and the whole. • Assimilators (abstract conceptualization/reflective learners) like ordered sequential knowledge. They like to be led to conclusions through logical structured presentations and demonstrations starting with an overview. • Convergers (abstract conceptualization/active experimenters) enjoy discovering the way the information may be used and applied. Instruction needs to be interactive, possibly with worksheets, or through interactive computer based multimedia. • Divergers (concrete experience/reflective learners) prefer hands on experience and to explore the uses, strengths and weaknesses of the system and approach, explore through unstructured, thoughtful questioning. They like to have concrete details presented in a structured, systematic way on which to base their understanding. The same task can be assigned in a number of ways. Students can approach the material from more than one aspect during the processing: Accommodant – Exploring a phenomenon Assimilant – Analysing different aspects of the phenomenon. A mind map can help process the theme. Convergent – Looking for websites on the Internet that deal with the 46
phenomenon studied. Summaring the information gathered. Divergent – Searching out new points of view to look at the phenomenon studied. Any combination of learning styles can be useful, and it is important to realise that they will change with the task. Of course, in some tasks certain combinations are more advantageous, and so there are students for whom these tasks are more favourable. It is the teacher‘s responsibility to make the material accessible in diverse ways and thereby provide a chance for various ways of processing.
The stages of studying
Studying is like problem solving. Every lecture properly speaking means problem solving (J. E. Twining, 1991). In this context, it has a few well defined stages. STUDYING= INFORMATION COLLECTION (input)+INFORMATION PROCESSING+INFORMATION USING (output)+ORGANIZING INFORMATION TRIAD (INPUTPROCESSOUTPUT) (F.Mezo, 2004) a) Information collection involves: • choosing the topic “What do I want to learn ?” • searching for sources “Where can I find information ?” • using information sources “How must the information sources be used ?” b) Information processing includes: • information processing “How can I understand what I am studying, not just rehearsing in a mechanistic way ?” • memorisation “ How can I use my memory in a practical way? c) Information using means: • applying information “ What can I do with my knowledge? How can I be an efficient source of information?” d) organizing the information triad means: • study organization “ How can I manage the time, the environment, the tools, and the social factors in my study purpose in the input, the processing and the output stages?” In every stage we use specific knowledge, skills and methods in a very 47
individually shaped combination. Anybody can encounter difficulties in any of the enumerated stages, but a dyslexic student is much more likely to have these difficulties because of their specific ways of perceiving and processing the information. Learning and studying means not just the amassing of information, but a complex systematization process which transforms this amount of information into knowledge. For dyslexic students the most important thing is the global overview, the comprehension of what they need to learn. Because of this, it is very useful if they start studying by summarising the material. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle: it is much easier to put it together if you see the whole picture before you begin than if you have to guess what it is like based on the small parts. (Gyarmathy, 2007). It is important for everyone, but especially for dyslexic students, to shape the environment to their own individual learning style, both in the phase of preparation for studying and in the implementation stage. In the preparation stage there are some tasks to do: • Skimming through, collecting the material. Skimming through what we must acquire, we can estimate the quantity and complexity of the material and we can make a study plan. • Timing – time management. It is advisable to plan study time including breaks and the monitoring of progress. • Organising – management of the ideal environment and learning methods in a logical way, adapted to their own learning style. • Elaboration – recalling knowledge linked to the new material which must be studied. It is useful to ask questions about the material and to activate imagination. The implementation stage means the processing and acquiring of the material. The tasks of this stage are: ◦
Overview: concentrating mainly on visually prominent elements in the text. Figures, diagrams, pictures, subtitles, bold face texts and words can help. Based on these, one can form a general picture of the material. Thereby, one knows what the text is about without having read it. In the case of shorter texts without visually prominent elements, one has to rely solely on words. The goal of this kind of reading is finding the essence of texts and written material. If necessary, a frame can be created for the text, since one has an overview and the main points and parts of the text. This is the basis of creating a cmap, the most 48
important part of learning. Frames: choosing the most important issues. The task is to identify and to highlight the essential parts. These define the frame of the material. With mind maps the goal is to draw the main branches. Filling in: in frames we can put in the right information by scanning the text. Not all words have to be read; the point is to find the elements that are relevant for the topic of the search. Knowledge and mental pictures linked to the key words are a real help to the dyslexic student. We now draw now the subbranches on the mind map, which represent the important information.
Trying out: the quality of the acquisition must be checked. In this checking stage there is the opportunity to try out the association of sounds and movements to the material. Now we can test if the keywords are really calling out (or not) the relevant parts of the material. If necessary, the mind map can be modified. The trying out stage is helpful to memorization.
This structure for studying can be used in complex learning situations, such as studying for exams.
SAQ22 How can the tutor help the student with regard to their learning style? SAQ23 What are the 4 stages of studying in the Mezo Model?
Studying for exams Some people have good organisational skills and naturally find ways to make order and remember notes. Organisational skills are important while revising, note taking and essay planning. Dyslexics are frequently poor at these. In adulthood, the most difficult form of studying is studying for exams. Dyslexics can only take exams successfully if they • • • • •
build on continuous, planned study, are able to manage time well, use appropriate learning methods, are able to organize and have an overview of the material, learn to ask for help.
Studying for an exam is an amalgamation of activities that have to be used in all kinds of learning. Therefore, it is vital for dyslexics to master this form of studying thoroughly. If they are able to study for exams, then any other type of learning is also feasible. Studying is intellectual work, but its tool is the body. During studying, especially continuous studying, it is essential for the body to be in a state appropriate for learning. Teachers should encourage students to engage in physical activities during exam periods. Studying can be more effective with appropriate activities and exercises suited to the given learning phase: • Refreshing oneself, warming up for learning, perhaps even after breaks. What helps: stretching, crossing movements, bowing one‘s head • Concentration in the active work phase. What helps: balancing exercises, even moving exercise (e.g. walking)
• Relaxation at the end of phases during deepening one‘s knowledge. What helps: stretching and relaxing the muscles, lying back, lying down. The most difficult part of learning is organization. Learning itself, if carried out using appropriate learning methods, causes no problems. The usual problem is that there is not enough time. Good planning and time management can help. Dyslexics have to learn how to organize their time. They have to prepare thoroughly for exams. The three parts of studying for exams are: 1. Planning 2. Management 3. Studying A detailed guide to learning for exams can help with study time management.
PLANNING means: 1. Collecting all the materials for the subject. They need all their notes, handouts and necessary books. Way to a dead end: unfinished, lost or illegible notes, missing handouts and books. Solution: • must double check the material before starting studying. • must arrange them systematically. • will see if anything is missing. • borrow them, make a photocopy. 2. Planning study They need a year planner and their diaries and the collected material. The way to a dead end: Spending too much time on planning and not starting to act. Solution: must be effective. • They must put down the dates of the exams. They will see in the 51
year planner how many days they have for a given subject. • If possible, they should deal with only one subject at the same time. • They must plan their work backwards from the day of the exam in their diary. • They need to plan study days, but if possible keep a free day after exams. 3. Planning the days They need a timetable and diary. The way to a dead end: Planning too much for a day will lead to leaving studying for subsequent days. Solution: a good routine: • 90 minutes work session in the morning • 90 minutes work session in the afternoon • breaks about every 30 minutes, • work session in the evening for testing the daily material MANAGEMENT means: 4. Decide what is important They need enough paper and pencils to make sketches The way to a dead end: Spending too much time with the first part or with interesting details Solution: • • • •
browse and to be holistic. set up the frame. find the main topics. find the most important details of each part of the frame.
5. Feel well They need all their notes, books and a bowl of vegetables or fruit and something to drink. The way to a dead end: Forcing studying, then losing days doing other activities as reinforcement.
Solution: be realistic, and not to try too much • a comfortable position. • always keep breaks to after finishing a part of the work. • set up goals like: “I will finish three subtopics before the break”. • rewards like: “When I have finished the chapter, I will go for a walk • with the dog.” Don’t forget: many times LESS IS MORE 6. If stuck They need patience The way to a dead end: Giving up, panicking and thinking they are stupid. Solution: • seek help. • get a friend to explain. • make a concept map, a picture or a diagram of the difficult part. • if the topic is too overwhelming make small chunks of it. STUDYING means 7. Keeping active They need colours, sounds and movements. The way to a dead end: Reading several times and rote learning the material. Solution: • • • •
use senses – look, listen, touch. convert long notes into shorter ones. use colours to structure the material. make coloured pictures, diagrams, cartoons, concept maps, mind maps. • listen to instrumental music, make a song or a movement from the materials. • make records of quotations, answers, etc. and listen to them • talk to yourself, sing and dance the material learnt. 53
8. Monitoring progress The way to a dead end: Revising what they know very well and skipping unclear parts. Solution: • • • • • • •
talk aloud as if in the exam. test yourself regularly. answer questions. draw diagrams. solve tasks, exercises. tick off topics from the list when revised. reward yourself with some recreational activities.
9. Revision They needs all the concept maps, flow charts and sketches they have made. The way to a dead end: Confusing facts, dates and other details, feeling they know nothing Solution: • keep clear concept maps and other visual notes on the wall. • make it possible to see visual aids any time. • repeat quotations while doing physical exercises SAQ24 What the tasks for each stage of study when preparing for exams? SAQ25 What are the conditions for dyslexic students to study for examinations successfully? 54
Case study A 25 yearold boy was diagnosed with dyslexia in Year 3. He went to special therapy sessions for two years. He managed to obtain average results until Year 9. Adolescence was a hard time for him and for his parents as well. He became a depressed, isolated boy, with learning difficulties despite his high IQ. He was labelled as a lazy, infantile person. He had no friends, and his self esteem was very low. He started to neglect himself. His room was full of rubbish; he didn’t wash himself for days. He repeated Year 12, and passed the exam the third time. He repeated the first year of university twice. Finally, he met a psychologist, who assessed his learning style and gave him some advice on how to learn more efficiently and to prepare for exams in the right way. He started to use mind maps, graphs and illustrations, and started learning with a colleague twice per week. He even presented a poster at a national conference for students with this colleague. When he studied for exams he managed time and the environment better. His behaviour changed, he became more confident in his capabilities. He succeeded in finishing university, but he is still lonely and has been searching for a job for a year.
• Teach each student to take account of their unique learning style, strengths and weaknesses • Help students understand their learning styles, and how to use them to achieve success • Encourage students to understand the diversity of learning styles and that others may learn differently • Encourage practice to develop weak areas, as well as using strengths • Design lessons which have sufficient flexibility to allow different styles to be used. Design the task so that achievement is possible for every student.
• Cottrell S. (2001): Teaching Study Skills and Supporting Learning, Palgrave Macmillan: Hampshire. • Das J. P. (1988): SimultaneousSuccessive Processing and planning. Implications for School learning. In: Schmeck, R.R.(ed)(1988): Learning strategies and learning styles. NewYork: Plenum Press • Giles J., Ryan D.,Belliveau G.,De Freitas E.,Casey R. (2006) Teaching style and learning in a quantitative classroom. Active Learning in Higher Education: Sage Publications 55
• Griffin E. and Pollak D. (2009): Student Experiences of Neurodiversity in Higher Education: Insights from the BRAINHE Projects, Dyslexia, 15, 2331. • Gyarmathy E. (2008) Diszlexia. Specifikus tanítási zavar. Lélekben Otthon Kiadó, Budapest. • Haugh F. (2009): Teaching how to learn and learning how to teach. Theory and Psychology, Sage Publications • HunterCarsch M. and Herrington M (eds) (2001): Dyslexia and Effective Learning in Secondary and Tertiary Education, London: Whurr. • Kirby J.R., Silvestri R., Allingham B.H., Parrila R., La Fave C.B. (2010): Learning Strategies and Study Approaches of Postsecondary Students With Dyslexia, J. Learn Disabil, 48, 85 96. • Mortimore T. (2008): Dyslexia and Learning Style. A Practioner's Handbook, 2nd edition, WileyBlackwell. • Nicolson R.I., Fawcett A.J., Brookes R.L., Needle J. (2010): Procedural Learning and Dyslexia, Dyslexia, 16, 194 212. • Schmeck, R.R.(ed)(1988): Learning strategies and learning styles. NewYork: Plenum Press • Smith A., Lovatt M., Wise D. (2003): Accelerated Learning: A User's Guide, Cornwall,: MPG Books. • Smythe I, Gyarmathy E. (2007) Adystrain, Leonardo da Vinci Project • Twining, J.E. (1991): Strategies for Active Learning. London:Allyn & Bacon • Valiente C (2008): Are students using the „wrong” style of learning ?; A multicultural scrutiny for helping teachers to appreciate differences. Active Learning in Higher Education, Sage Publications • http://hhh.gavilan.edu/jmaringer/learningstyles.html (Maringer Cantu, J. 2006) • www.chaminade.org/inspire/learnstl.htm http://uncw.edu/cte/learning_styles.htm
3. PREPARING MATERIALS FOR THE DYSLEXIC STUDENTS Overview: Introduction Paper based documents Lectures and tutorials Instructions Computer materials Conclusions
Introduction For every teacher one of the most important issues is the preparation of efficient, well structured, well edited, appropriately presented learning materials, which will make it easier for students to 58
understand, process and acquire the information. This is much more challenging when the teacher also has dyslexic students in the classroom. As we mentioned in Module I, dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty which mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. Dyslexics can have difficulties with working memory, phonological processing, rapid naming, processing speed and the automatic development of language related skills (especially with reading and writing), but this doesn’t affect the other cognitive abilities of the person in most cases. Its effects can be life long, and usually it is resistant to conventional teaching methods. Specific interventions, specific information technology and special adjustments to the teaching (and assessment) materials can help dyslexic students a lot in managing their different styles with language related tasks and their learning capacities. If a teacher can adapt materials for dyslexic students to their specific needs, namely to make them “dyslexia friendly” they are well on the way to contributing to a successful learning process and to becoming a “dyslexia friendly” teacher. These adjustments are usually inexpensive and do not need much extra work, but the relatively small amount of energy invested will be plentifully rewarded by the improvement in learning outcomes of every student, not just the dyslexic ones. We present here some very practical advice on how the teacher should prepare different types of materials for dyslexic students, including paper based documents, presentations, instructions and computer materials.
Generally, paperbased documents represent a real source of anxiety for dyslexics, because most of the time they must deal with long and very complex sentences, written in an inappropriate “design”: disturbing dimensions, colour of the fonts, the sharp contrast between the paper and the letters, small space between columns etc. These apparently insignificant details can seriously magnify reading difficulties for dyslexic individuals. On the other hand, if we take into consideration some very simple rules in editing a paper based document (book, article, handout, test or form), we can make their reading comprehension much easier. 59
A. Size of fonts, lines and sentences: • Shorter lines are easier to follow and understand. This is true for all types of readers. The maximum line length for good understanding should be 80 characters. With a normal text this is about 15cms in width. • The use of two columns of text instead of long lines is recommended. • Short blocks of text help the dyslexic student. • Concerning fonts, the question of size is not particularly essential, but many dyslexics suggest a minimum size of 12pt for paper versions. Unfortunately for economic reasons, smaller fonts tend to be used in books. • Long words and long, grammatically complex sentences are difficult to follow. Dyslexics get lost among the various relationships and references within the sentence. It is therefore better for the text to be simple and clear and concise. That does not mean the text cannot convey complex messages. It just reminds us that communication is about the receiver’s need to understand what the provider is trying to say. B. Colour of paper and of fonts: • Many people are not aware that one of the problems of dyslexia can be a sensitivity to contrast. Letters start to dance around because of the sharp contrast between the brilliant white paper and the black ink. If you can choose the paper you work on, the best to use is cream or pale yellow. Bright white paper can be a major problem for dyslexics as it contains special chemicals that take the ultraviolet light and turn it into visible light, making the paper appear even whiter and more unreadable. Many dyslexia friendly tutors now reproduce their notes on cream paper rather than bright white for all their students and it is appreciated by everybody. Recycled paper can be good too. • Be careful not to choose too thin a paper, because this causes text to show through from the other side, which can decrease the readability. • Shiny (glossy) paper is also a problem, since the reflections break up the text, again making it more difficult to read. However, even simply moving to a less bright reading space will decrease the contrast on the page and make the text more accessible for the dyslexic individual. • Avoid red and green ink, because these are more difficult to read. 60
C. Type of fonts: • It is better to use Arial, ComicSans or Verdana, instead of Times Roman. D. Structure of the text: • Making sufficient space between lines, characters and columns is recommended to ensure the dyslexic does not simply jump from one column to the next as they read (a thin line between the columns can help) and to make the flow of text obvious. Line spacing of 1.5 is recommended. • Left justified text is better than fully justified as it creates fewer visual “rivers” i.e. an apparent linking line between words down the page, which dyslexics find very offputting. • Avoid starting a sentence at the end of the line. • It is very important for dyslexics to use boxes and diagrams in the text. Plenty of bullet points are a real help for dyslexic students. Books Even in the present “electronic age” in primary, secondary and higher education establishments the main sources of information are manuals, books and review articles. Generally they are written for nondyslexic individuals, namely they are not “dyslexiafriendly”. They contain too much continuous text, segmentation is often unclear, and the relationship between randomly linked elements is not shown. A dyslexia friendly book has a simple structure and it is easy to follow. It is well written, well designed and interesting (scientifically and/or emotionally). The content must have accessible information and simple syntax which is a guarantee for comprehension. Unfortunately, some authors try to create the appearance of being scientific through the use of difficult words and over complicated syntax. Each chapter in a well structured book should contain: • an abstract • a table of contents • a summary The texts should be structured and sequential, and comprehension should be assisted by pictures with captions, figures and simple tables. 61
Important pieces of information should be highlighted. It is good to have “callouts” and text boxes, too. Awareness of the prevalence of dyslexia all around the world has led to an increased availability of dyslexia friendly books. There are a lot of websites on the internet which provide lists of dyslexia friendly books for different age groups. Notes and handouts Everything we said before about recommendations for book editing applies to notes and handouts, as well. The function and the use of these written materials are however, different. They usually carry shorter and more concrete pieces of information. Abstracts and notes help dyslexics by providing overviews and abbreviated perspectives. They often provide confirmation of the structure of the main content, whether it is a short overview of the material or a handout. In the opinion of some authors the teacher should endeavour to present one theme per page. Even if this is not possible, it is important to have coherent parts on each page, and preferably to start each new concept on a new page. Information which the teacher must include in handouts: • • • •
outline of key ideas further information or readings illustrations, graphics, charts activity guide that provides directions, steps or worksheet Other tips for a good handout design: (source: www.learningandteaching.info and http://www.llrx.com/columns/guide27.htm ) • wide margins or white spaces are useful since they provide an area for making notes. However, many students need to be encouraged to do this, as they are often reluctant to write on somebody else’s work, whether it is a book or a handout. There is no point being concerned about saving paper, since if the message has not got across, then all the paper is wasted! • text should be in small groups (max. 58 lines) • use gaps between topics • use headings and subheadings • put graphics above the text as the eye is drawn naturally to visuals first 62
• use no more than two fonts in a single handout • if there is more than one handout, distinguish them by using different paper colours • use different fontsizes for different sections (1416 for titles, 1214 for subtitles and 1012 for body). • use strong titles use a logo or a “look” to connect the document with the presentation Tests and examinations Tests and formal written exams are a real problem for dyslexics. This is not just because they do not know the material well enough, but also because the questions have to be read and interpreted very accurately. Since many words, concepts and especially relational words can be vague, the subtle wording of tests can be a great obstacle. Dyslexics are often unable to fathom out what the question is in the first place. They frequently do not see the subtle differences between alternative answers. This is because these constitute verbal phrases and relationships, which require the appropriate use of words. They are anxious when answering questions, because they know they often miss one or two essential words, which changes the meaning of what is asked in the exam paper. Sometimes dyslexic students cannot spell longer words and they re invent those terms in a very individual way, and their answer can be affected by this. If the questions are on a different page and answers have to be given on a separate form, dyslexics are faced with a further visual and memory overload. They will miss and mix rows and columns, and forget what they were supposed to do. Furthermore, the content of what they write rarely reflects their knowledge since they are using so much brainpower in making the work neat and legible for an unseen reader that they have less brain power to answer the question, thereby compromising the content. If there is no choice but to have an examination, particularly if it is a written test, it is worth asking for a waiver for dyslexics, or at least considering the alternatives. These may include allowing extra time (for reading the question and checking what has been written), having somebody write as they dictate it, or allowing the work to be done on a computer. Other alternatives (which are seldom accepted) are: 63
• oral testing/presentation (with or without MS PowerPoint) • assessment of the dyslexic student by coursework only • project/assignment • multimedia presentations (films, photos) • no formal testing at all (source; K. Fehring, www.dyslexiateacher.com) It is important to ensure that whatever accommodations are made, they are seen as allowing the dyslexic to demonstrate their abilities and not to provide an unfair advantage. (Note that research suggests that the scores of nondyslexics who are given extra time in exams actually decreases, as they have doubts and start making changes.) However, tests can be devised that are solvable for all students, dyslexics as well. These tests contain definite questions and definite answers. It should be borne in mind that some dyslexics have great difficulty with multiple choice questions because of the visual effect. It is often easier to devise questions containing negatives. This is a more difficult type of question to interpret and requires greater linguistic appreciation e.g. “Is it easy to get lost in forms?” is better than “Is it difficult not to get lost in forms?” Unfortunately, dyslexics will probably ignore the word “not”, given their holistic reading method. Consequently they will not be able to answer the question (or be answering the opposite question) or will waste a great deal of time trying to understand it. If nevertheless, you use negative wording, it is better to capitalise the negative word. In the next example alternative A is better than alternative B. Alternative A. Which one of the following symptoms is NOT specific to Cannabis use? • • • • •
strong appetite rapid pulse narrow pupils dizziness strong thirst
Alternative B. Which of the following isn’t a specific symptom for Cannabis use? • strong appetite • rapid pulse 64
• narrow pupils • dizziness • strong thirst By taking some simple measures with examinations for dyslexic students we can reduce their exam anxiety and give them the opportunity to show everything they know, without alternative testing (source:www.dyslexiateacher.com) : • make sure that the instructions are clear and read them if necessary • ignore spelling, grammatical and sentence structure errors • accept answers in point form • use short answers and/or multiple choice testing • do not overload the test paper with too much written text • keep the dyslexic student aware of time • allow extra time to answer the questions Reduce test anxiety by using a one on one test situation (studentstaff member) and allow short breaks and moving around. Forms Nobody likes to fill in different types of forms, but for dyslexic individuals this is a real nightmare. Dyslexic people who generally are able to compensate for their dyslexia in all other areas, will often fail when they have to fill in a simple receipt slip at the post office, not to mention tax return forms, college application form, job applications, time sheet or other complicated administrative document. There is nothing more frustrating for dyslexics (not to mention non dyslexics) than filling in a form online and then making a small mistake, which sends you back to the beginning and you have to fill it up for a second time. The difficulty with filling in forms is not just a question of reading problems. These papers usually do not require much reading. There are two major problems with form filling that cause difficulties for dyslexics: Forms that suggest one or two words are required This requires interpretation and for dyslexics these words do not always denote clear concepts.
Here is an example from a simple questionnaire: Name: Mother‘s name: Date of birth:
The dyslexic will write down his/her name, then his/her mother‘s name. So far, so good. But what does “Date of birth” mean? Whose birth and how precise should the date be? And in what format? Naturally, this rather common case will not upset an experienced dyslexic, but this demonstrates the problem of interpreting questions and the need to step back a little when constructing such questions. One trick is to imagine that you are not working in your first language, and ask how else you could interpret the question. It is difficult not to get lost in forms Dyslexics do not know what information should go in which place. The above example is ideally simple: there is the question, and the answer has to be put down alongside it. Sometimes, however, it has to be written under the question or into small squares beside each other, sometimes into the same cell as the question, sometimes into a separate one. Many of the forms seem like crossword puzzles, because the cells are cramped together and are disorganised, and it is impossible to see which one has to be filled in. Here is an illustration from a simple bank cash deposit form: ACCOUNT HOLDER Account No. Currency Amount (in figures)
For dyslexic people it is very difficult to fill in their account No. There are only thirteen boxes and the total account no. consists of twenty four mixed figures and letters. Which ones must be written in these 66
boxes. Where to start to fill it in? On the left or on the right side? The same spatial arrangement problem arises when they write the amount. The Depositor word is starred, which means that it has some extra explanations. They are at the right bottom of the form, written with tiny letters, between other two starred explanations. Even for a non dyslexic it is not too easy to fill in this kind of form, but for dyslexics it is a real nightmare. They rarely observe the stars and the written explanation, and do not understand what they must write. Concepts like value added tax number and tax identification number create different problems. They can be confused, written down wrongly, and if not available, if they look for this information by the time dyslexics have got to the place where they should be found, the reason for going there in the first place has been forgotten! Dyslexics are baffled by the above problems. Forms and tables should only be devised with competence, and approved by the user and not by the form maker, who by definition knows what information needs to go where. Forms that contain clear tables and have a sensible layout, along with comprehensible questions, do not pose a problem for anyone. Dyslexics can be put at severe disadvantage if they are unable to obtain the necessary papers, because they cannot cope with administrative tasks.
Look at the two materials below. Which one would you prefer to use to learn? Both materials contain the same pieces of information. If we added colours and illustrations, comprehension can be even further improved. Alternative A. The Bushmen. The Bushmen, who reach only 10,000 in population and are one of the most ancient nations in Africa, have always lived in Africa. Until the beginning of the 13th century they lived over the whole territory of South Africa. Since then the Bantu tribes and European colonists have forced them into the Kalahari desert. The Kalahari desert seems to be a waterless, dreary wildness. During the 67
day the temperature can reach 40° C., while at night it can drop below freezing point. The clothing of the Bushmen is only a leather apron or a loin cloth, maybe a leather cloak. Their food consists mostly of plants. These are green leaved plants, fruit, different types of nuts and berries, as well as roots. These are gathered by the women and children, while all the healthy men prefer to hunt by running fast and steadily, with stone tipped arrows for gazelles, buffalos, antelopes, ostriches and hares. (Source: Oroszlany P.1998) Alternative B. The Bushmen – The most ancient nation of Africa Place living : in the past: till the XIIIth century the whole South Africa in the present: The Kalahari desert • lacks water • daytime temperature: 40° C • nighttime temperature: below 0° C Clothing: leather apron, loin cloth, leather cloak Food: • plants: • leaves • fruit • berries • nuts • roots • meat: • gazelle • buffalo • antelope • ostrich • hare Occupation: • women and children: gather plants • men: hunt with: stonetipped arrows, steady, fast running chase 68
Self assessment questions SAQ26 How can paper documents be made dyslexiafriendly? SAQ27 How can notes and handouts be made more dyslexia friendly? SAQ28 Why are tests and examinations difficult for students with dyslexia?
Lectures and tutorials Lectures are an often used teaching method, which can be efficient and knowledge enhancing, if well organized. If not well planned, well prepared and adhering to some rules, they can become very boring for all students and really frustrating for the dyslexic ones. In order to hold the attention of the audience, the content should be interesting and comprehensible; the lecturer has to structure the talk as much as (though not necessarily the same as) written material. A lecture that is easy to follow even for dyslexics is: • structured, segmented • interactive • supported by visual aids An interactive lecture is invariably more effective than a one sided communication. To this can be added communication through voice, gesture and by involving the audience. Today, technical tools make it possible to illustrate lectures. Pictures, figures and texts can be attached to presentations. These PowerPoint materials are fairly easy to edit, but still need to conform to the needs of their audience’s preferences. A good starting point is that the presentation should not have too much text (typically a minimum of 18pt), should not have a white background, and should be available later for review. 69
A PowerPoint presentation in itself does not solve all problems. The material has to be structured appropriately. The fact that basically everything that the lecturer says will appear on the projector is not the answer. The speaker has to try to create a balance between what they are saying and what is on the screen, to make a structured, sequential, multisensory presentation. The screen can form the shorthand as a prompt for the speaker, as well as the basis for notes for the listeners. A handout version of the PowerPoint can allow the audience to add their own notes if they wish. This means the audience can concentrate on the talk rather than attempting to write everything down, but also have the option to make additional notes. The audience can choose to listen to every word, to read from the screen, or use a combination of learning styles. In brief, the speaker should use these basic guidelines (source: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/extra330.html ) : • Assure appropriate conditions for good communication (everybody can see and hear the teacher). • Provide an overview of your topic so students know what to expect. • Give summaries before lectures for prereading. • Show appropriate pictures and figures (or/and films, videoclips etc.). • Introduce new ideas and concepts explicitly. Give the spelling of new or difficult vocabulary. • Highlight connections and correspondences (emphasise linkages). • Display short texts, preferably bullet points and explanations of technical terms. • Give handouts and allow the audience to take notes, if they wish. • Give plenty of examples. • Ask for feedback (allow time for questions). • Promote active learning during lectures (assure multisensory learning). • Do not expect dyslexics to answer questions or talk in large groups. • Allow the use of ICT if dyslexic students wish, e.g. tape recorders or laptops. • Allow time for reinforcement and overlearning by frequent revision. • The dyslexic student may be the best person to know what is most helpful. 70
Self assessment questions
SAQ29 What are the alternative assessments to examinations? SAQ30 Describe some strategies that may help people with dyslexia fill in forms. SAQ31 What are the main features of a good lecture?
Instructions Because of their poor sequencing skills, it is a difficult task for dyslexic students to follow instructions, which are texts with a well defined order of items. They seldom remember and carry out written or spoken instructions in the correct sequence. In everyday life instructions usually aren’t written for dyslexic individuals, and they often contain long, complex sentences and words. It is unnecessary to give instructions in a complicated wording. Short and comprehensible assertions are understandable and can be easily executed by everyone, not just by dyslexics. Shortened sentences need not turn into short, impolite commands. In student life there are many instructions to follow, so teachers must follow some guidelines to help dyslexic students to perform at the expected level academically. Written instructions will be more easily interpreted when itemised. If the text is a continuous one and not clear cut, tasks and details will be lost and the whole instruction will lose its meaning. In the case of oral instructions, there is a further problem, namely, that the dyslexic individual may not only forget the message, but due to inattention, might not take in the message in the first place. Dyslexia is often accompanied by attention disorder. If so, the probability of the message not getting through to the recipient increases. To ascertain whether the recipient has received the message, it is worth asking tactfully, “So what exactly are you going to do?” With this repetition memory will sink in and the transfer of the message will be certain. 71
Having the other’s attention can be ensured in advance by establishing eye contact, perhaps by touching them to make them turn towards us. We present now the same information + some other recommendations in dyslexia friendly design: • Avoid continuous text in written instructions (details can be lost) • Cut long instructions into more chunks (itemise!)
Computer materials (Sourced from Adystrain) • Modern teaching technology provides new ways for teachers to present information and it is a very effective tool in education. However, for the dyslexic student computer technology is a real blessing, making their whole life much easier, not just the academic one. Presenting courses through the internet is a new way for dyslexics to employ a helpful medium. • Colour code instructions • Tape record important written instructions (multisensory information giving) • Give short, articulate oral instructions • Obtain attention by establishing eye contact and if necessary by light touch Encourage dyslexic students to repeat oral instructions, to compensate for attention and memory difficulties
With increased elearning widely available, greater attention is being focused on the ability of the end user to be able to learn effectively. The diversity of materials now on the market place ranges from stand alone CDs to online courses where one studies alone, and lecture notes, which are available on the web. Although some elearning developers are aware of the issues involved, many of those who are responsible for developing course materials to be used by dyslexic students, do not appreciate all the components that should be considered. This encompasses multimedia CDs and the internet, but it also includes the use of assistive technology by disabled students. For example, dyslexic students often make use of texttospeech software when reading from the computer, and digital recorders when listening to instructions or wanting to make private memos when working through online materials. 72
The key areas to consider for elearning are: • Accessibility • Usability • Readability • Learnability • Human interface Each of these will be discussed below, with examples. Note that they are treated separately, but are obviously highly interrelated. Accessibility Accessibility should be considered as the ability of the individual to acquire information from the “page”. A learning component that is difficult to access will soon cause frustration and be a disincentive to learning. One important area is the accessibility of texttospeech, a very important consideration for dyslexics. Unfortunately, many sites use Flash in a manner that does not enable the site to be read by textto speech engines. The more recent versions of Flash allow the supporting text to be embedded in the file, and read by some, but not all, screen readers. However, many developers of elearning would find it very time consuming to update the old material and include readable files, thus making much of their content inaccessible. There are a number of principles of good practice that should be remembered when ensuring accessibility. These include the need to ensure that the content can be accessed by all the major assistive technologies and to work with the client group. Usability Usability may be considered the ease of use of the materials, and is affected by parameters such as typeface (Times, Arial or Comic Sans are the most popular), font size, leading (line spacing) and justification. Text and background colour are also important, and most importantly, the content layout and navigation. Font style The most popular, available and used types are the Times, Arial and Comic Sans. If possible, the computer used by a dyslexic student should have at 73
least three choices. If there are too many choices, it can distract the user. In the past it was suggested that Times was best for the dyslexic individual, since the eye is led from one letter to the next. More recently there has been a trend towards more widespread use of a “sans serif” font such as Arial (or Helvetica on the Apple Mac). However, research suggests that whatever you used last will predict what you will prefer next. The recent preference for these sans serif fonts is probably led by the use of computers. On a computer screen, the small detail of a font like Times, with its “curled feet”, may be lost. Font size With paper documents, it is possible to specify exactly the size of the text. Usually the dyslexic will prefer a minimum size of 12pt. However, with the computer screen it is a little more complex, since we can zoom in and out at leisure. Thus, the “size” of the text will depend on other factors, such as screen resolution as well as program settings. Control of the font size can also be accomplished through the web browser. However, some designers override this function, meaning that the user has to suffer the designer’s (often too small) choice of font size. Leading (line spacing) and justification Most designers use the default settings for line spacing (20%, that is, when a 20pt font is used, the line spacing will be 24pt). However, many dyslexics find a greater spacing (e.g. 30%) is preferable as it makes it easier to follow the line. However, if the spacing is too great, the ease of reading will decrease. As with paper based material, text should be left justified with a chance for the dyslexic user to see a jagged pattern down the right side. Variable word spacing caused by text being fully justified can also be very confusing. Text and background colour Increasingly, websites are allowing the user to determine how they see their own learning environment by adjusting the background colour and font in particular. When designing the environment, the chosen default should be dyslexia friendly, such as Arial on a cream background. 74
Content layout and navigation Layout is an important and frequently overlooked component. Consider a scenario where you have on a single screen 62 clickable zones, including the browser itself (which happens with one well known e learning environment). Not only is this very confusing for the individual, but it also leaves little space for the learning area. Clarity and simplicity should be more important than “designer” looks. Navigation should be intuitive and consistent across all parts of the learning environment. Scrolling or paged content Due consideration should be given to providing information on a page bypage basis, as in a book, or through scrolling, which may be more difficult for those with coordination problems. Alternative navigation for scrolling should be considered, such as “dragable” scroll bars, arrows and key depressions. At all times horizontal scrolling should be avoided as this affects text scanning and on the whole it has been found that the ideal line length is around 60–80 characters, although people tend to be able to read faster when there are only 30–50 characters, as in newspaper columns. But columns are not helpful on a web page as they require the user to scroll up and down on one screen, so most good learning content developers have a short section of text that takes up the middle or right side of the screen. Quirks There are a number of quirks and idiosyncrasies that one should be aware of when developing online learning materials for the dyslexic individual. For example, texttospeech readers do not like headers. If there is no full stop at the end of a heading, the software will continue into the next sentence. To overcome this, some designers add a full stop at the end of a bullet point, statement, phrase or header. By making the punctuation mark very small i.e. a lot less than the size of the header font, the visual effect is minimal.
One aspect frequently overlooked is readability. That is, how easily the content can be understood as a function of the vocabulary and grammar used. For example, many websites are aimed at those who did not go to university but still use the vocabulary of those who did go 75
to university. They fail to consider the ease with which the user group can read the content provided. That is, the learner may be denied access to the course because their reading skills, or disability, are being tested rather than the ability to learn the content. And this is before they get to the examinations. It is important that the text is appropriate to age, culture and content. In a facetoface situation it is much easier to choose appropriate texts for the ability of the individual as they may be known personally. Furthermore, the material can be changed when it is realised that the student may not be learning. However, computer based learning tends to assume that all learners progress in a similar way, though at different speeds. To ensure readability, the following guidelines will be useful: • • • • • • • • •
Make the average sentence length 15 to 20 words Be concise Use bullet points wherever possible Use simple, but not patronising, vocabulary Use the active voice rather than the passive Introduce new ideas when others are consolidated Avoid cross references wherever possible Use illustrations to help provide clear meaning Obtain feedback from the user group
The readability of a given text can be evaluated using a number of simple instruments (e.g. the FOG, SMOG and FleschKincaid Indexes for English). There are a number of websites that offer statistics on “readability”. One of the most comprehensive for English is to be found at http://www.readability.info/ Other websites that offer guidance on writing include the following: http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/ http://www.askoxford.com/betterwriting/plainenglish/ http://www.blm.gov/nhp/NPR/pe_toc.html http://www.egineer.com/articles/webwritingformanyinterest levels.phtml http://www.webstyleguide.com/ 76
For plain language guides, you may wish to consult: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/library/smpl1.htm Learnability In the field of dyslexia there is much discussion about learning needing to be structured sequentially and multisensorily, with a logical progression tailored to individual needs, particularly for the dyslexic individual. There should be a framework based on well established pedagogic e learning principles. Some of the traditional routes to learning (e.g. constructivism) may be problematic for dyslexics, and due care and attention should be paid with respect to the dyslexic learner to ensure they are not excluded by the nature of their learning preferences. Human interface The chance to share thoughts with others in a classroom or tutorial situation should never be underestimated. Many dyslexics thrive in a group situation since there is no need to write. However, others will suffer, particularly if they have memory problems that make following complex arguments difficult. Due care and attention should be paid at all times to the needs of the individual, and not to some pedagogic dogma that may be irrelevant in some cases.
Written information is present in everyone’s life, therefore it is very important that it be comprehensible for all. However for students, the clarity of the books, handouts, forms, tests and other written materials is vital to achieving sound academic performance. In many student activities (lectures, seminars, laboratory work) there is spoken and written communication simultaneously and both must follow some basic rules: the material should be well structured, sequential, multisensory and concise. More than 7% of students have reading/writing difficulties. They can become outstanding specialists in their fields only if they can appropriately understand, process and acquire information during their study years at higher education institutes. Consequently, all materials made for others, whether written or not, should be appropriate for dyslexics, as well. This can be achieved with relatively minor modifications, adaptations and 77
transformations of teaching materials into “dyslexia friendly” ones.
Self assessment questions SAQ32 How can text for elearning be made more accessible and useable? SAQ33 What are the main features of readability and learnability?
Further reading 1. Goss Lucas S. Bernstein D. A. (2005); Teaching Psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.Mahwah, Newjersey 2. Gyarmathy E. (2008) Diszlexia. Specifikus tanítási zavar. Lélekben Otthon Kiadó, Budapest. 3. Oroszlany P. (1998): A tanulas tanitasa. (tanari kezikonyv).AKG Kiado, Budapest 4. Pavey B., Meehan M. Waugh A. (2010): DyslexiaFriendly Further and Higher Education, Sage: London 5. Smythe I, Gyarmathy E. (2007) Adystrain, Leonardo da Vinci Project 6. http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/extra330.html 7. www.learningandteaching.info 8. http://www.llrx.com/columns/guide27.htm
4 Assistive Technology for Tutors Overview: Introduction
Remember your body
Using the browser
Introduction Welcome to the section on Assistive Technology. Here we shall guide you through the way computers can help the dyslexic individual to access and record information, from note taking to writing essays, and more. You will also be provided with the details of software that is available. It is strongly recommended that you become familiar with it before you ask the dyslexic student to use it. Please note that there is also a student version of this section, and it is strongly recommended that all your students are given access to this. Note that this is about the technology that is available, and how it may be accessed. However, for the specific software which is available in English please look at the Resources section of the website www.isheds.eu. There are three sections to consider: • • •
The background information Using Office software A guide to specific software
Background information Some people would call this the theory part. But I like to think of it as the information you need so you know how to use the software, and which software to choose. Using Office software Many people forget how many dyslexicfriendly functions there are in Microsoft Office and Open Office. This section guides you through how to make the most of this software A guide to specific software We have selected a suite of software to help your students with their studies. There are many more packages out there, but these will provide you with a good introduction to what can be used. Also, all the recommendations are free. This is not intended to be a course, but provide a concise introduction to some ways in which the dyslexic student may improve their chances to fulfil their potential. But remember that it is not the software that does the course, it is the individual that does the course. No matter how good the software, if they do not have the training, or are not prepared to explore its potential, the usefulness of the software may be very limited. This should not be seen as the definitive guide and if you search the internet or even YouTube, you will probably find some tips that may help.
Many people forget health issues, and while they are important for all, the dyslexic student may have learning preferences that could compromise health. They may also not realise the potential for change, such as cutting glare from the computer screen. Therefore it is always wise to highlight the issues. For a full understanding you should consult a health and safety specialist. However, here are a few areas to consider to ensure they have a comfortable experience. And of course what is good for the dyslexic individual is good for all.
• • • • • • • • •
Check the position of the computer in the room is the best possible, especially with regard to reflections Ensure the position of the body in relationship to the computer is comfortable, and will remain comfortable. Make sure the position of books, papers and necessary tools for work is optimum. Suggest that the student buy a book stand if necessary. Check the space around the computer. It should allow for easy access to files, access to USB sockets and the printer. Use good lighting and minimise reflections The eyes should look slightly down at screen, nose level with the top menu Rest the eyes and look away from the screen at regular intervals Make sure that the back is straight and it is supported The thighs should be higher than the knees. Consider using a foot rest if you feet do not touch the ground. Remind them that they should get up and walk around at regular intervals, and take drinks on a regular basis.
Most students will now require access to a computer. For many people this will mean a laptop, which for a dyslexic student means portability and convenience. The latest small laptops have reduced prices making them a more affordable option. The cheapest use a Linux operating system. This works well in most cases, such as Open Office and online resources. However, if you wish to use specialist software, more of the educational material is designed for a Windows Operating System. If the dyslexic student has a laptop of their own, it means they can move from lecture to lecture, from home to university, and they will always have access to technology support. The one aspect that needs to be remembered is what happens in the examination room. If they have prepared all their coursework on the computer, and suddenly have to produce an essay in an exam without the aid of the computer, they may have problems not only with handwriting, but also spelling, organisation and proofreading. These skills need to be used regularly to ensure they can still be used in exams. That is, they need to practice under exam conditions. 82
Handheld devices There are a number of handheld devices that can help the student, such as spell checkers, translators and thesauruses. However, increasingly these are available on the mobile phone. This means they do not have to carry another device around with them. These devices can be very useful for when they do not have a computer available. USB Memory sticks Nowadays it is easy to find a 32 gig USB memory stick that can be attached to a key ring. This means the dyslexic student will be less likely to lose it. The device has two special roles:
• to be a backup system to the computer, so you can have a second copy of your files with you in case the computer gets broken, lost or stolen. • To carry “portable” versions of software around. This is especially useful if you do not have your own computer, or need to move from one computer to another. Software that comes in this form includes Open Office and Skype. Try www.portableapps.com for more software. There is also more to be found at www.eduapps.org. (NB These websites are all in English, but some of the software can be in different languages.)
Sensory Preferences When referring to “sensory preferences” we are talking about how we like information to appear on the screen. This can be with respect to colours, size and graphic elements (e.g. fonts). Colours Many dyslexic individuals find the computer screen too bright. Even when they turn down the screen lighting, they can still have a headache. However, by changing the background colours, the situation can be greatly improved. Many dyslexic individuals set their Office document and browser background to pale yellow or pale cream. (See later sections on how to do this.) However, research has shown that everybody is different, and you should find what works best for you. Although the background is what covers most of the screen, some people also like to change the colour of the text. Again, this is simply carried out in most of the common programs. 83
Do not forget that when it is necessary to print a document, it may be better to revert to black and white in order to save ink. Size There is an optimum size for reading text. Too small or too large and you will be slow. Spend some time in choosing what is right for you. When preparing a document, it may be easier to make the document larger than to make the typeface bigger. Then it is not necessary to change it again just before printing. Graphic elements This usually means the typefaces, but may also refer to the pictures. Research suggests that on computers, the simple typefaces that do not have little curly pieces are easiest to read. Therefore you may prefer Arial to Times. Others have suggested more rounded typefaces such as Comic Sans can be easier for the dyslexic individual to try. The important part is to experiment and see what works for you. Finding what is right for you To find your preferred colour combination, visit http://www.wdnf.info/colours/en/
Accessing Text This section is about when somebody else is providing the information, in a book, in a lecture or on the web. The diagram below shows the main components.
Scanning If text is not available in an electronic format, scanners may be used with optical character recognition (OCR) software. The quality of the result can be very high, but will be dependent upon the quality of the material scanned. A top copy will produce a better quality than a photocopy of a photocopy. Once it is in electronic format, it may be accessed and manipulated through other software. However, be aware that there are restrictions on the amount of material in a book that can be scanned. Texttospeech (screen readers) Unfortunately, while there are many texttospeech programs in English, there are few in other languages. And where they do exist, they are usually very expensive. There are many in English that are free. However, new languages are always becoming available and it is worth checking the internet to see if there is one suitable.
Texttospeech can be used for many purposes, including • • • • •
Single word pronunciation Reading electronic handouts Accessing the internet Proofreading your own work Reading scanned books
Furthermore, some software saves the sound as an mp3 file so that it can be listened to later on your mp3 player or even your phone. This will allow you to listen to the information away from the computer. English texttospeech Many students need to access information in the English language. Tips when using texttospeech Here are a few tips to try: • Do not assume all software is the same. Some programs are better than others. • If it is necessary to buy software, make sure it works with all types of electronic material, including Office software, the internet and pdfs. • Explore settings for speeds and pitch, particularly if using an English voice. • Try different voices, using a long passage of text. One that sounds good may become tiring very quickly. Summarising Most people think about using texttospeech as the only way to cut down the effort of reading text. However, there is another way. By using automated summarizers, it is possible to reduce the amount of text one has to read. So that 10,000 words can be cut down to 2,500 for example. This is available in the English version of Microsoft Word and many (but not all) language versions. Recording Students will be “receiving” large amount of information through the spoken word such as in lectures and tutorials. Many dyslexic individuals have problems with memory, and in turn, revision. While 86
some people try to use software or specialist systems, a simple voice recorder will often be good enough. This may be a handheld digital device, or even a mobile phone. However, it could also be software on a laptop. The laptop is less convenient, but there are less restrictions in terms of the size of the sound files. However, there are some aspects to consider to make sure one gets the most from the recording. Here are some tips. • Use a directional microphone whenever possible • Make sure there is enough battery power • Make a backup copy as soon as possible • Check the machine works before it is needed to be used • Ask permission to place the microphone at the front • Encourage lecturers to wear a microphone when asked • Make sure there is enough digital space • Transcribe the tape as soon as possible Some people also like to record using video. However many lecturers object to this as they worry that they may appear on YouTube. It is strongly recommended that permission is always obtained before recording, and only use video if there is a need for it. Other methods There are other ways to take notes and record information. One of the most popular is to use concept maps. Many people use paper based concept mapping techniques. Some even use computer versions. However that is covered more extensively in the next section. There are some types of software which bring together the combination of sound recording and note taking, such as One Note from Microsoft, and several small packages that can be found on the internet.
Producing Text There are several components to consider in the writing process. The main ones are: • • • •
Concept mapping Proofreading Speech to text Typing tutors
Other skills There are many other types of assistive software that can help the dyslexic individual. These include memory aids, backup systems, visual aids (e.g. rulers and magnifiers) and translation tools. These will be discussed in the Assistive software section.
Getting the most from Microsoft Word and Open Office Line space Many individuals prefer to modify computer settings to their personal preferences, such as pale cream for the background colour, or Arial for the font. Software is available to set system and software colours and fonts globally. This saves having to set the preferences in each and every piece of software. But it can also be carried out in Microsoft Word.
Background Colours This can be one of the most important aspects for the dyslexic individual, but is easy to fix. To change background colours in MS Word, go to the menu in the top line (the one that starts File – Edit), and click on Format. In the drop down menu you should see Background, to the right of which is a small arrow indicating that the choices are on the right. If you move to the right, you will see the colour pattern shown here. There are also More Colours and Fill Effects if you want patterns on your page! (If you cannot see the word Background, move the cursor over the double down arrows and the extended list will appear.) You may wish to use frame grabs and PowerPoint slides as reference material to show the dyslexic student where to find this in future.
Colours and highlighting As well as changing background colours, many individuals also like to modify the text colour. This can be done using the text colour button shown in the right of the circle above. Just highlight the text and then click on the “A”. You can select other colours by clicking on the down arrow to the right of the “A”. To the left you will find the highlighting tool. Just select the text to highlight, and click on the highlighting tool. Again many colours are available.
Font preferences Careful consideration should be given to the choice of typeface, as choosing the right one may produce considerably less eye strain for you. Not only can you change your documents, but you can also modify other people’s documents, modifying the font to suit your personal preference. Many typefaces can be accessed through the font choices as shown here. While there are many typefaces to choose from, 95% of people will choose one of those shown here. You many also like to try adjusting line spacing which can be accessed through Format/Paragraph/Spacing
Spell Checking There are three sorts of spellcheckers we are going to consider: those which are integral to standard packages, those which are addons, and stand alone devices. MS Word is a standard device which will offer you alternatives. But it does assume you know which is the right alternative. It will not tell you. (Type “thiere” and it will offer both “their” and “there”. You still have to know which to use!) This is why we need to consider alternatives.
Grammar Checking Another function available on MS Word is checking of grammar. This can be very useful. However, beware that the algorithms are set for American language, and sometimes it makes some inappropriate suggestions!
Autocorrect One function that many people forget about in MS Word is the Autocorrect function. As shown above, this allows the user to put in words that they commonly misspell for the program to automatically correct. Using existing lists, it will automatically change “accomodate” to “accommodate”. This may be useful for specialist words or names of places or people. It will be found under the Tools menu. To access this, click the Microsoft Office Button (top left hand corner) and then click Word Options at the very bottom.
Using the Browser Browsers have the ability to allow the user to change preferences, such as background colour, font and size. You can access the colour and font preference using Tools/Options/Content/Colours. Another useful tool is to use Ctrl ++ to increase text size. Foxtabs is an addon for Firefox that allows you to see all the web pages you have open, at once. 95
Try https://addons.mozilla.org/ for other addons. Another useful addon is AnswerTips, which will provide definitions, pronunciations and translations. It is available from http://www.answers.com/main/firefox_plugins.jsp There are also gadgets that can be added to Google through iGoogle (e.g. stickies, translators and quick links to favourite sites such as this one).
Guide to Free Assistive Software
Texttospeech in your language There are few resources available if your first language is not English. However, there are websites coming online regularly. So check the web for the latest. However, imtranslator offers more than most. It can be found at http://imtranslator.com. Another useful addon is AnswerTips, which will provide definitions, pronounciations and translations. It is available from http://www.answers.com/main/firefox_plugins.jsp There are also gadgets that can be added to Google through iGoogle (e.g. stickies, translators and quick links to favourite sites such as this one).
Texttospeech in English
Texttospeech in English is available online from many places. However, one of those with a wide range of languages is http://imtranslator.com. For those wanting an offline version, the website www.readplease.com offers an excellent resource. However, one of the most useful versions of texttospeech interfaces is Balabolka, available free at www.crossplusa.com/balabolka.htm It can be used with any commercial voice or free Microsoft voice. For a list of voices and languages, try www.tiny.cc/ishedstts There are many commercially available versions too. Most of these have the option to save the file as an mp3 or wav file. This means you can listen to it later on your mp3 player, phone or ipod. Translation software There are many sites on the internet that can be used for translation. But many are based on Google resources. Therefore it is best to start at the source http://translate.google.com. Another source of good translations though with a far more limited range is http://imtranslator.com. Onscreen ruler This software has two uses. For some it can be a ruler, but more importantly it can be used as an onscreen place keeper that can be placed under text to help follow lines when reading. It is available from http://www.portablefreeware.com/?id=1250&ts=1258712098
Concept mapping (www.ikonmap.com) Ikon maps is designed for use in many different languages. It is intuitive and has been designed with the dyslexic in mind. It has few menus, is multilingual, and exports to Word.
Screen grab There are many screen grab programs, including PicPick (for still images) and Jing (for recording moving images, such as software demonstrations).
Reminders online The dyslexic individual has many problems with deadlines. This software allows you to be sent a reminder, and it sends it as an email at the appropriate time.
Stickies are little reminders that you can put on your desktop. They come automatically with Windows 7. However they can also be downloaded from many places. With these you can change colour, fonts etc, and add alarms. 99
Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) Audacity is a free recording software that allows you to record anything, and save as mp3. You can also manipulate the sound. It provides most of the facilities found in a commercial package. Typing tutors There are many typing tutors available in many languages. Here is one website that lists many such programs: http://www.typingsoft.com/all_typing_tutors.htm
PicPick (http://picpick.en.softonic.com) This program is a simple image editor. However it also has other assets, such as a magnifier, and a ruler. The ruler can be made semi transparent and used for following text. It can also be a very useful screen capture tool, instantly turning a Print Screen into a jpg. It is available in many different languages and it is possible to add more by entering the languages folder of the software.
5. SUPPORTING THE DYSLEXIC LEARNER Overview: Introduction
Support teams and support staff for dyslexic students
Studying for exams
General guidelines for support officers (summary)
The emotional labour of tutoring
Dyslexic students are as capable as their colleagues, despite their different ways of processing information. Many of them struggle with learning and studying and some of them fail in higher education because the teaching methods and learning materials used are not appropriate for their differently performing brains and differently structured thinking. Students with dyslexia in higher education can be successful if they are given key skills early in their studies and are able to benefit from the use of assistive technology. Study skills can be taught, depending on the needs of the student, when they present the scope of their degree program and how far the term has progressed, but it is usual to start with organisation, reading and research and move on to writing, memory skills, revision and examination techniques. It is always important to bear in mind that each individual is unique and may experience and express dyslexia differently. Thus, tutors are required to be creative in their approach to multisensory teaching. Although the student elearning package is self taught, any contact with students to facilitate their learning and monitor their progress should be student centred and positive, to increase self esteem.
Support teams and support tutors for dyslexic students in Higher Education
Lately, more Higher Education institutes have engaged individual Learning Support Officers, or Disabilities and Dyslexia Support teams, available for students with different kinds of learning difficulties. They help dyslexic students as well, and most of them offer: • counselling and advice on dyslexia related issues for students; • counselling and advice on dyslexia related issues for teachers (teaching methods, teaching style, preparing special materials, developing special resources, assessment conditions); • coordination of dyslexia assessment and assistance; • academic support; • access to special IT support; • support in case of organisational difficulties; • one to one or group tutorial help with: study skills exam preparation time management 104
dissertation writing presentation techniques.
Independent learners Dyslexic students learn efficiently in a totally different way than their nondyslexic peers. They are aware of this, but in most cases their teachers do not understand and underestimate their learning capacities, and sometimes their intellectual capacities as well. This attitude can seriously affect the otherwise low selfesteem of the student with dyslexia. Dyslexic students can achieve academically if they can become independent learners, which means that they can find, understand, process and use the necessary information on their own. For this they need the help and support of teachers and support officers (dyslexia tutors, dyslexia facilitators), if they can be reached at their universities. The teacher can help the individual to become an effective independent learner on three levels. • The first is the teacher using their own subject as material for teaching learning techniques. This is the TEACHING TO LEARN phase. • The second is the teacher coaching the student on learning how to learn. This is the COACHING TO LEARN phase. • The third is the teacher expecting the student to learn how to learn. This is the LEARNING TO LEARN phase of becoming an independent learner. a) At the first level the responsibility is the teacher’s. Students learn more about how they have been taught than what they have been taught. The teacher’s methods and style have a great influence on the students. They learn to learn unconsciously. Thus, it is important to understand and use methods and materials that are suitable and beneficial for dyslexics, and which respect their special needs: • They need to have an overview of the material in order to master it. Therefore teaching should begin with summarising. • They need to see the structure of the material in order to handle the details. • Methods requiring the use of the whole of the brain are helpful: Concept maps 105
• • • • • •
Imagination, visualization Pictures and text together, linking the material to pictures etc. They like to discuss new concepts thoroughly, so that they will not be vague and blurred. They start out from specific examples and proceed to general concepts through them. It is then possible to interpret the concepts using specific examples. They need more time to prepare written material. They find processing longer texts difficult. Explanations should be as short as possible. Long written materials do not help learning. They often find it difficult to maintain attention. Therefore, they study better if they can perform various activities at the same time. Technical tools help a lot in learning.
b) The teacher’s second level task in developing independent learners is to make students aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Like a good coach the teacher directs the students to learning styles and methods that can be effective. This is the phase where learning becomes conscious. c) The student’s task is to learn how to learn. Teachers and others can supply materials and suitable environments for learning, as explained in the first and second levels. However, the student has to make the effort and take responsibility for changing ineffectual methods of learning, and work out his/her own style and course of action. This is the third level of becoming an independent learner.
Self assessment questions
SAQ34 How can a teacher help a dyslexic student to become an effective independent learner? SAQ35 What is the best way for a teacher to approach working with a dyslexic student?
Study Skills Because in most schools students are taught what to learn and not HOW to do it effectively, a lot of young people in higher education don’t have appropriate study skills. They usually try to memorise, and cram in as much material as possible for exams, with only a few of them able to learn well. This puts dyslexic students in a very difficult situation, which often ends with academic failure. The solution is to change traditional learning methods built upon the weak areas of dyslexics with effective, new methods, built on their strengths. Since the main information processing method of many dyslexics is global (simultaneous, visual), effective learning should be based on this. Pictures, figures, diagrams and other visual tools have to have a place in learning. The cmap (or concept map) is a visual representation that charts the material on one page. Knowledge relating to one topic can not only be listed as entries underneath each other in a linear manner, but also distributed in two dimensional space. Visual representation helps in remembering the material. In drawing the main branches, the important aspects of the topic get highlighted and the material will receive visual structure. Cmaps are advantageous in other respects, too. Besides being holistic, they also give an overview of the structure of the topic. They can therefore, be used very well with a global thinking style. As a visual representation, it suits dyslexics fine, as they think in pictures more easily. Less reading and writing is required using the cmap. With regard to selecting and remembering information, it is important that all knowledge is contained on one page.
Advantages of cmaps for dyslexics:
What cannot be written on one page is not worth writing down. When a topic is more complex, then its parts should be represented on separate maps. Thereby, usable bits of the whole will be remembered. There are some rules to making a concept map (Gyarmathy, 2007): • The layout of the paper should be landscape, since this is the position that best fits our visual field. • Big capital letters are used, because they are easier to remember and are stored in a pictorial way. • A proper cmap starts with a central picture of the theme. • From this, the lines of the main topics branch off, which can, in turn, be divided into subtopics. • Write on the lines starting from the centre, because they make the picture ordered and easy to follow. • The 45° rule: Do not write at a greater angle, since text with an inclination of more than 45° does not read well and hinders remembering the material. • Colours help recall and can highlight and emphasize. They also make figures more beautiful, pleasing to the eye and more agreeable to learn. 108
• Pictures and drawings carry a lot of information: one picture can be worth a hundred words. Less writing is needed and it is easier to remember. • Signs and codes help orientation and can interpret information. Rules for building a CMap:
In making the map, three important points should be taken into consideration. These are the most important aids to a dyslexic individual’s learning:
1. Less is more. 2. Transparent structure. 3. Using the whole of the brain. 1. ”Less is more” should be one of the most important concepts for dyslexics and people working with dyslexics to remember. It calls attention to patience. If we want to solve all the difficulties caused by 109
dyslexia quickly, even the best methods will not produce results. If we want to make up for the deficits in one go using one good method, we may cause even more problems. Major advances can be made by wisely amassing small achievements. It is better to learn less, but thoroughly, so that what has been learned will not get confused. Cmaps are based on associative thinking. Related knowledge will be activated through the help of the keywords and pictures. The less information there is on the figure, the more probable it is that one can remember it. This is how less will be more on a mind map. 2. Placed in a transparent structure, the details are incorporated into the whole. Clear rendering of thoughts is essential for dyslexics. Ignoring details leads to vague concepts, which become a hindrance to learning. The global thinking of dyslexics can be made effective by an adequate use of space. Void is part of space. In music silence and pauses have just as much significance as notes. In the same way, emptiness has significance in space. Spatial positioning helps a lot in remembering material. This is one of the reasons why separating the elements is important. 3. Using the whole brain, the picture and the text together form a whole. The two roads – verbal and visual – complement and support each other in the thinking process. They are related to the two hemispheres of the brain. Their joint use involves the whole use of the brain. Dyslexics usually manage pictures better, but speech is one of the bases of human thinking and has a definite role in processing information that is carried by pictures. Cmaps are efficient tools for learning and thinking. Currently, it is mainly executive and management professionals who are taught their use. In everyday life, in learning and in work, cmaps can be used in several ways and fields. They are a perfect tool for organizing thoughts, gathering ideas and summarising knowledge relating to given topics. This method was not developed for dyslexics in particular, but it transpired that visual representation of thoughts is absolutely ideal for dyslexics, and thus, of all people, it helps them most.
Possible uses of cmaps: • organizing and planning • projects • studying creative writing presentations essays • brain storming There are a few special technical tools which are a real help for dyslexics when making concept maps. The iSHEDS project has developed a very useful, easy to handle concept map tool. Visualization, that is, drawing a given concept or piece of knowledge, helps understanding a great deal, and consequently, remembering. Almost everything can be drawn, since our imagination – as the word itself indicates – works with images. Our knowledge is in many respects produced by our imagination on the basis of pictures. Dyslexics are particularly efficient in this. Many of them use images for thinking, being socalled „nonverbal” learners (Davis,1995). That’s why it is so difficult for them to understand and use „sight words” with no visual image. Therefore, it is worth representing knowledge visually on paper, rather than merely in our heads and imagination. Cmaps are really efficient when there are plenty of pictures in them. A drawing made from a concept or a particular part of the material can play an important role in remembering it. One mode of multichannel learning, which involves the use of more sensory modes, is learning through pictures and making drawings. Another possibility is the more differentiated use of the auditory channel, that is, hearing. The material can be associated with various tunes. Poems can be memorised more easily when set to music. Understanding a concept can be facilitated not only by pictures, but by motions, as well. For dyslexics, trying out something in practice makes clarification of concepts possible. Available information will become knowledge during the performance of activities through touch and motions. For example, the often baffling difference between circular and rotational motions will become clear at once and will be remembered forever, if one has the chance to try out what it is like revolving around one's own axis and circulating around another axis, when the latter is the other person's body. 111
Counting Many dyslexics have difficulties with counting, too. In everyday life, this leads to several obstacles, difficulties and failures. A few practical ideas and solutions can help. The most important point is to leave oneself enough time for counting tasks. Weakness in counting can be compensated by visual representation. Any tool is better than getting lost in counting. One can count using: • fingers • the dial of an analogue watch • a ruler or many other physical aids. The difficulty is often caused by the dyslexic’s poor sense of detail and relations. One cannot think with vague concepts. When dealing with mathematical expressions, concepts or performing operations, it is worth drawing it and translating the task into everyday language and real examples. For example: a fraction means that something is fractured, broken into pieces. The denominator at the bottom tells me how many pieces the object was broken into, and I can count up in the numerator the number of pieces I am going to take: 3/5
This means that I have broken something into five identical parts and taken three parts out of the five. Estimation and trial, and the use of good sense and experience, can protect one against greater mistakes. Link amounts to graphical, pictorial material. One can get a lot of experience during shopping, but it is more beneficial if one can link amounts and units to particular events and objects. There are specialists (Davis, 2009) who are seeing improvement in dyslexic students’ math difficulties in helping them control their disorientation. They suggest a special Maths Mastery Program (www.dyslexia.com/math.htm), which includes among others:
• Mastery of basic mathematical symbols, as needed • Mastery of the foundation concepts underlying all mathematics: Change, CauseEffect, BeforeAfter, Consequence, Time, Sequence, and Order vs. Disorder • Symbol Mastery practice on Story Problem Trigger Words: for example, for the word "by" the common meaning in everyday language would be "close to" and for division the meaning would be "into groups of”. Technical approaches, like using a calculator will help even if one can use the above methods. Even using a calculator, one cannot avoid translating the task into everyday language and using common sense and estimation. However, you should remember that many of the maths difficulties of the dyslexic may be accounted for not in the maths itself, but in reading the problem. Thus, you cannot do the maths if you cannot conceptualise the task, and you cannot conceptualise the task if you cannot read the question.
Writing and spelling Dyslexic students often have writing difficulties. They write and copy slowly with a lot of spelling errors and their handwriting is usually illegible. This is a serious obstacle in efficient learning and academic achievement. For the dyslexic student the most difficult tasks are: • • • •
sequencing ideas, spelling, sentence punctuation, handwriting.
These are difficult even if completed one by one. When they take notes during lectures or sit a written exam, all these tasks are required at the same time, which is too much. Because handwriting is a difficult task for the dyslexic students, they tend to concentrate overly on this and miss important information, which leads to poor content and poor spelling. If they concentrate on spelling and content, their writing often becomes illegible even for themselves. This is one reason why computers have been such a bonus for dyslexic individuals. Because of these difficulties with writing, dyslexics tend to write less and can consequently, express themselves less vividly and less accurately.
• They do not write down all they would like to. • They use words and expressions that are shorter and easier to write. • They often make these choices unconsciously. This decline in their level of achievement does not only cause damage because dyslexics are not able to show their full knowledge in writing, but also because regular use of more simple expressions means that richness and variety in their vocabulary will not develop, or, what is more, will wear out. As a consequence, their thinking might approach or reach the level of this crippled diction, and hide their real abilities from all. The goal is a more efficient use of skills, as well as skill development. Highquality writing is possible despite poorer writing and spelling. Here are some methods that help achieve better written performance.
1. Using a cmap
a) Outline the topic on a cmap;
b) Write one or two keywords on every main branch;
c) On each subbranch write one word connected to the relevant thoughts.
2. Protecting vocabulary a. Write down the topic. b. Write down everything you want to write about – characters, buildings, vehicles, tools, animals, etc. c. Find and write down attributes for each word. d. Find and write down verbs connected to them. 115
3. Audio recording devices and dictation If there is an opportunity, a digital recorder or tape can be used to store ideas. The teacher may help students write down the text after dictating. That way it is not the writing but the content that will be evaluated. 4. Word processing If handwriting is difficult, the best aid is the computer. Nowadays it is easy to carry a laptop and use it whenever the dyslexic student has to write an essay, take notes or write anything else. It is always worth checking the correct spelling of words. As far as possible, never write down a word incorrectly, because it will be harder later on to remember the correct form. Although in theory when using a word processor, the problem of spell checking is solved, in practice you still need to be reasonably close to have a chance of finding the right word in a list of alternatives. One way to overcome this is to use a lookup dictionary which also shows the meaning. This will give a greater chance that the right word is used. It may also be useful to find rules and associations that help you eliminate your frequent mistakes. If you manage to learn the correct spelling of one member of a group, this might help you spell the other ones.
All dyslexic students know that writing an essay is the most difficult task when at university. That’s why support tutors must give strong support for dyslexic students to learn an appropriate system to write essays. In most cases, these algorithms also work for a lot of other written materials, like dissertations, theses, reports, business plans, books. Researchers have found that there are some very helpful methods which can be learned by dyslexic students (source: www.dyslexia college.com): • using a computer (Word processor, software” Dragon naturally Speaking”, ”inspiration” program, ”How to write an Essay” program, Visio from Microsoft etc.) 116
• drawing a mindmap (cmap) – topic, main branches, subbranches. It is the basic structure of the essay. • writing the introduction – general overview of what the essay is about. In order to focus the attention of the reader the introduction can contain: • interesting, sensational facts linked to the topic, • an anecdote linked to the topic, • a dialogue between (maybe imaginary) people, • summary information, • at the end of the introduction a statement of the writer’s main argument • writing about main ideas in separate paragraphs (5±2 sentences, separated by spaces before and after), guided by the cmap’s branches and subbranches; • using signpost words (however, nevertheless, therefore, although), to help keep the argument’s logical direction; • writing a conclusion, that means reviewing the main points in a concise way; • checking if: the order of paragraphs is right, it makes sense to the reader editing is correct (margins, lines, presence of necessary dates, for example name, date, running a spelling checker and grammar checker program) • rereading it after a few hours, • asking other persons’ opinions about the essay and making corrections after well argued feedback, if necessary. In Pavey, Meehan and Waugh (2009, Appendix 4: Essay writing template) there are other helpful ideas for dyslexic students about writing an essay. The structure is simple: introduction, exposition and conclusion. For every section the author should give solid steps. Introduction (telling the readers what the author is going to tell them) contains: • • • • • •
what the subject is, why it is important, why it is important to the author, where it starts, how it is structured, where it ends.
Exposition (telling the facts and arguments) is built on three main parts: • background: theories, definitions, histories, literatures, • present position: means closer focus on the topic; research methodology, results report, discussion, • ways forward: is about what the author would do differently at another time, scope for further research and recommendations for good practice. For the conclusion (telling the readers what the author has told them) the recommendations are: • to summarize, • to pull out key points, • to avoid literature, • to avoid new information, • to avoid surprises, to bring the reader safely home.
Dyslexic children learn to read with much more difficultly than their peers, but if they are taught according to their learning style and strengths, they will not have many problems with reading when they become students in higher education. Unfortunately most of them are taught to read using traditional methods and in adulthood they will read slowly, with poor text comprehension and with a lot of mistakes. However, it is possible to find compensatory strategies to help overcome reading difficulties. For example, the disadvantage of dyslexics will decrease significantly with less quantity but more efficient reading. Reading is an important part of human culture. Its goals can be diverse: acquiring information, understanding instructions, learning, entertainment or personal communication. It is not a subject that can be avoided. But carefully planned strategies, based on abilities and preferences, can maximise learning and enjoyment. 118
The aims of reading: • Acquiring information: newspapers timetables signs menus • Learning: • notes • textbooks • handouts • worksheets • tests • • Personal communication: correspondence • Understanding instructions: • recipes • messages • user manuals • exercises • forms • Entertainment: novels magazines poems tales stories crosswords Reading does not solely consist of accurate word by word reading, as taught in school. The method of reading varies depending on the goal of reading. There are very few situations when the traditional way of reading the whole text thoroughly is needed. In everyday life, one usually only gathers information, for which it suffices to find the relevant parts and analyse these more thoroughly. It is worth skimming through the text before reading, as one can get a general picture of the whole. Perhaps the only exception to this is literary work, in which case the author wants to guide the reader. Based on their main characteristics we can distinguish three types of the reading: 119
• Skimming reading – getting a general picture of the material • Scanning reading – looking for information • Word by word reading – reading a text thoroughly Some authors think that paraphrasing, and summarising are also proven ways to facilitate comprehension of expository text. (C. A. Spafford|G.S. Grosser, http://www.education.com/reference/article/strategicreading expository/)
Skimming Skimming is a kind of rapid reading of the text in order to get a general picture of text structure, organisation and essential information. The reader is focusing on visually prominent elements like pictures, graphics, chapter titles, emboldened type, marginal notes, chapter previews, chapter conclusions, questions at the end of the chapter. Thereby, one knows what the text is about without having read it all. In the case of shorter texts without visually prominent elements, one has to rely solely on the words. If necessary, a frame can be created for the text, since one has an overview and the main points and parts of the text. This is the basis of creating a cmap, the most important part of learning. Support tutors can teach students with dyslexia to look for specific text elements, like chapter titles and headings, introduction and conclusion sections, pictures and graphics when they are skimming the written text. At the same time students must be aware that skimming is just a phase of studying and they must continue with scanning reading to gain the necessary information. Otherwise, they stop at a superficial level of knowledge. We use skimming when we are reading newspapers, throwaways such as advertising, letters.
Scanning is the second step in studying a written text. It is the phase in which the reader becomes aware of purpose, like a radar device locates objects, identifying the essential information in a rapid way. Not all words have to be read; the point is to find the elements that are relevant for the topic of the search. The eye scans the text, while the brain selects the relevant parts. Only key words have to be read. If the brain finds a relevant element, it will highlight that particular part and process it more thoroughly. Support officers can guide dyslexic 120
students to search this way for the essential key words and if they find them, to slow down their reading rhythm. Scanning reading is used in case of menus, Internet sites, contents pages, looking for a movie, timetables.
Word by Word Reading Word by word reading is the traditional way of reading through a text. In this case, reading proceeds linearly and information is put together gradually as details. This kind of reading requires the most concentration, an accurate handling of details and efficient sequential thinking. During traditional reading, one has to form whole pictures and ideas based on details and verbal material. Most of the difficulties with text comprehension stem from problems with this process. Word by word reading is necessary in case of instructions, magazines, novels, poems, and important letters.
Paraphrasing Researchers have found that for many poor readers it is very hard to abstract key ideas and to paraphrase or summarise essential ideas before writing about what they have read. That’s why it is recommended for teachers to focus on oral paraphrasing exercises for dyslexic students before written tasks. Another very efficient exercise is summarising student group discussions, following reading assignments. At the beginning, teachers assist dyslexic students, but gradually they let students paraphrase by themselves pages, paragraphs, themes, or the whole text. It is important to give constructive feedback as soon as possible to help dyslexic students in building their own paraphrasing strategy.
Summarizing Summarizing means to generalize and integrate pieces of information found in the text or in some part of it. In some domains, like social studies and science texts the ability to summarise is fundamental for comprehension. As when paraphrasing, as a first step for dyslexic students, teachers can begin by teaching oral procedures for summarising to remember important information, facts and details. When they move to written summarising, it is important NOT to correct every grammatical or spelling error, if the aim is note taking or studying. 121
In the case of text comprehension difficulties, it is better to use all types of reading. Comprehension is helped if by skimming the student gains a general overview, a mental picture about the issue covered in the text. Next, by scanning s/he becomes aware of the essential information. If necessary, one may proceed through the text word by word, but the text should be read in chunks already identified previously. Paraphrasing and summarising helps comprehension and processing written texts, as well as improving traditional reading skills. Regular reading, processing words and sentences will develop a routine for handling written texts. In addition, success with reading will decrease anxiety about written texts, which is responsible for many of the difficulties.
As we said in the Module II, studying means not just reading and memorising the text word by word or idea by idea. Studying effectively involves information collecting, information processing, making associations between previous and new information, building new information networks and structure. For dyslexics, the most important part of learning is getting an overview of the material. Therefore, all learning should begin with summarizing the material. It is much easier to make a picture from its parts when one knows what the picture is like than when one has to guess what it is like based on small parts. In Module 2 we presented some stages of studying which we shall now remind you of with a CMap and a short description:
Skimming through – estimating the amount and complexity of the material, which is fundamental for planning studying. 122
Timing – organising periods of learning, breaks and monitoring progress. Arrangement – organising the study area and methods suited to individual learning styles and strengths. Warming up (mobilisation) – recalling knowledge relating to the material. It can be constructed by asking questions and using associations. Overview – concentrating mainly on visually prominent elements in the text by skimming reading. It helps to make a general picture of the material. A basic phase in creating cmaps. Frames – choosing the most important issues, selecting the main topics. The task is to find and highlight the main points, which define the frames for the material. The phase in which the main branches of cmaps are drawn. Filling in –Putting the right information in the frames by scanning the text. The point is to find the elements that are relevant for the topic of the search. Drawing the subbranches in cmaps building. Trying out – Checking the quality. Verifying whether the selected keywords are appropriate (or not), if they trigger recall of important information, or not. The mind map structure can be changed now if necessary. Trying out also helps recollection.
Exercise Skim through the text below and recount what it is about. Read only the words. Collect some of them from here and there. Environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field focused on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. The field defines the term environment broadly, encompassing natural environments, social settings, built environments, learning environments, and informational environments. When solving problems involving humanenvironment interactions, whether global or local, one must have a model of human nature that predicts the environmental conditions under which humans will behave in a decent and creative manner. With such a model one can design, manage, protect and/or restore environments that enhance reasonable behaviour, predict what the likely outcome will be when these 123
conditions are not met, and diagnose problem situations. The field develops such a model of human nature while retaining a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. It explores such dissimilar issues as common property resource management, wayfinding in complex settings, the effect of environmental stress on human performance, the characteristics of restorative environments, human information processing, and the promotion of durable conservation behaviour. Although "environmental psychology" is arguably the bestknown and most comprehensive description of the field, it is also known as human factors science, cognitive ergonomics, environmental social sciences, architectural psychology, socioarchitecture, ecological psychology, ecopsychology, behavioural geography, environmentbehaviour studies, personenvironment studies, environmental sociology, social ecology, and environmental design research. (Source: Wikipedia) Write five main topics on the main branches of the cmap
Fill in the frames with important details
Studying for Exams
In Module 2 we presented the phases of learning for exams and some special tricks, which make this activity easier and more efficient.
To be successful in exams it is important to:
• • • • •
build on continuous, planned study, be able to manage time well, use appropriate learning methods, be able to organise and have an overview of the material, learn to ask for help.
Tricks to apply:
• Refreshing oneself, warming up for learning, perhaps even after breaks. What helps: stretching, crossing movements, bowing one‘s head • Concentration in the active work phase. What helps: balancing exercises, even movements (e.g. walking) • Relaxation at the end of phases during deepening one‘s knowledge. What helps: straining and relaxing the muscles, lying back, lying down One of the most difficult tasks for dyslexic students is the organising of their learning activity. It includes planning, studying and management. Details are presented in Module 2. Let’s remember the main points of organising study for exams with a cmap:
Specialists in learning think that those students who achieve success in exams, can effectively prepare for exams, manage exam stress and have good exam techniques. Some of these are especially helpful for dyslexic students. (source: Learning Centre North Coast Institute, www.ncistudent.net)
Preparing for Examinations Preparing for examinations means: • revising work – rehearsing material in the first 24 hours after the material was taught. Making connections between facts and writing down points that need to be explained (asking teacher for help) • highlighting – pinpointing the important facts (marking stars, colours lines) • using cram cards – writing short notes with important information on small sized cards, and carrying them in the pocket to revise the material a few times per day. (they can be posted on desk, refrigerator door, etc) 126
• cassettes, mp players, CDs – recording main information of the material and listening to it when: doing automatic activities (eating, dressing, travelling, driving, walking) just before going to sleep and/or during first hour in the morning. summarising – writing words which represent essential information. These are trigger points which help recall of material in an exam situation. (dividing topics into sections and sections in subsections, like in the case of cmaps, drawing main branches and subbranches).
Managing exam stress
Most students are very stressed when exams loom, but for dyslexics exams are even more stressful, especially written ones. They can panic and become totally disorientated or lost. In this situation they can’t remember and present more than a low percentage of their knowledge. Use of relaxation techniques is recommended, like: • closing eyes, breathing slowly and counting from one to ten while exhaling (exhale longer than inhalation, don’t keep air too long in lungs), • auto massage of the nape with light, circle movements, • relaxing the muscles of the shoulder and of the neck, • using NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) to increase self confidence and calmness like: ”I am calm and I know the material”, ”I am relaxed and able to recall the main information”, “I visualise trigger points and I can answer the questions, I can pass this exam” etc Support staff can teach the dyslexic student these simple relaxation techniques or they can ask for help from counsellors, who can teach more complex relaxation techniques (like Schultzs’ autogen training, or Jacobsons’ progressive relaxation).
Exam Techniques The purpose of exam techniques is to put the student in good shape to be able to present all they know. For dyslexic students it is extremely important to be able to follow well defined steps and to use some helpful tricks. Support staff must teach them these steps and tricks. 127
Steps and useful tricks: • • • • •
reading (skimming) all the questions, estimating how much time is needed for each question, reading again (scanning) every question to understand them, starting with the easier questions, answering all questions, even it is not a complete answer (to gain marks), • in the case of multiplechoice questions, first eliminating the evidently wrong alternatives and then guessing from the rest the most plausible one, • using summarising trigger points and visual representations to recall necessary information • trying NOT to spend too much time with one question • in the case of remaining time rereading difficult questions and completing answers verifying if all questions were answered and making corrections if needed
General Guidelines for Support Staff (Summary)
• Organise (and help to organise) dyslexia friendly environment: quiet work area (with possibility to listen to instrumental music, to move while learning, to eat and drink, to have breaks when needed) computer for writing and learning (appropriate software) tinted paper for students accessibility to (free) copy and print materials help dyslexic students to have the possibility to see and hear the lecturer clearly help dyslexic students to have the opportunity to work with their peers create the opportunity to have visual displays create the opportunity to use audio recorders during lectures
• Offer and teach to use appropriate learning help tools and resources: copy machines, printers, computers, appropriate software (like those presented in Module IV.)
• Teach learning methods and help dyslexic students to improve their study skills: help students to identify their own learning style, help students to use multisensory learning, building and using cmaps, 128
writing skills, essay writing skills, reading (skimming, scanning, word by word, summarising, paraphrasing, revising), encouraging students to ask questions. counting skills,
• Give support on organizational problems (lifestyle, time management, study management)
• Prepare and help teachers and dyslexic students to prepare dyslexia friendly materials: font is appropriate (rounded shape, Arial, Comic Sans or Verdana) paper colour is cream (tinted or recycled paper), avoiding too much contrast text is in small groups (paragraphs), in 5±2 lines, well separated from each other there are frequent subheadings, shown in bold, clearly separated from the text use of different font sizes for different sections (1416 for titles, 1214 for subtitles and 1012 for body) plenty of space between lines a lot of illustrations, graphics, diagrams related to the text (near the relevant text) all photocopies are clear and clean
• Offer emotional support for dyslexic students, who have low self esteem, are anxious and are very stressed about their academic performance teach relaxation techniques, teach coping strategies for stress, emphasise strengths of dyslexic students (creativity, practical skills, good visual representation capacity) and make them aware of these, take care of dyslexic learners’ feelings encourage dyslexic students to express their feelings and their difficulties, criticise only in a positive, constructive way (recalling previous results and successes) motivate dyslexic students to move outside their own comfort zone, help dyslexic students to deal with exam stress in a constructive way, help students to be included in support groups 129
• If necessary, mediate communication between dyslexic students and university staff members (teachers, administrative staff, etc);
• Be careful that all staff of the university respect the dyslexia policy of the Higher Education Institute and Education Ministry or Department.
• Facilitate lecturers’ liaison with dyslexia specialists.
• Teach (train) teachers to use dyslexia friendly methods:
• Multisensory methods (visual+auditive+kineasthetic)
• Alternative or/and adapted exam methods (oral, ICT use, practical tasks, extra time etc.)
• Use of diagrams, illustrations, bullet points, colours
• Display key words
• Give input in small chunks
• Use clear, short statements and instructions
• give immediate feedback to acknowledge learners’ success/progress
Help students to find a specialist for professional, analytic dyslexia assessment, and to find support groups if needed.
• comparing dyslexic students to their nondyslexic peers (or to make rankings according to their literacy skills);
• criticising dyslexics for their spelling or grammar mistakes;
• using a loud, raised voice when talking with dyslexics;
• hurrying dyslexics when studying or in exam situations
• forcing dyslexic students to read out in front of other people
• forcing dyslexic students to write on a board in front of colleagues
• labelling dyslexics as handicapped
• being impatient with dyslexic students
• looking surprised if a dyslexic doesn’t know something 130
• interrupting the dyslexic student suddenly, unexpectedly, when he/she makes mistake in reading or writing
• having too high (ambitious) expectancies doubting that dyslexic students can and will graduate successfully from higher education.
The emotional labour of tutoring (by M. Meehan, Swansea University) A factor that you may also need to consider is the ‘Emotional Labour’ of tutoring. This refers to the energy a tutor expends when supporting students who may be going through emotional difficulties. Students with dyslexia usually experience more anxiety and stress at university because the methods by which they are assessed usually involve reading and writing in which they have obvious difficulty. It is often necessary to allow students to express the stress they feel with regard to assignments, workloads or the attitudes they encounter from members of staff or fellow students. However, the main work of the sessions you will give is the delivery of study skills and if the student cannot focus on the work in hand, referral to the university counselling service may be the best way forward. Nonetheless, students you work with may be going through other emotional difficulties, illness or the death of a relative, breaking up with a partner/going through a divorce, a pregnancy, or they may experience multidisabilities which impact on their emotional life. Sometimes a student may not be able to contain their emotional difficulties or they may feel that their Specialist tutor is one of the few people who can understand them and so unburden various aspects of their situation. This can leave the Specialist Tutor feeling drained, particularly if their own personal situation is reflected by the students’ circumstances. Counselling support for Specialist Tutors is a best practice option here either as onetoone sessions or as a group, depending on the Tutors’ wishes and availability of counselling support. Peer group meetings, an internet forum or a ‘buddy’ system are options that could be employed depending on the services that are available. 131
Self assessment questions SAQ36 What are the three main points to remember about constructing a cmap? Describe these. SAQ37 When can cmaps be used? SAQ38 What are the difficulties students with dyslexia experience when using mathematics? SAQ39 What are the most difficult aspects of writing for dyslexic students? SAQ40 Name some helpful strategies to aid dyslexic students with essay writing. SAQ41 What are the aims in reading? SAQ42 Describe the differences between skimming, scanning and wordbyword reading SAQ43 Describe some ways to revise for examinations. SAQ44 Give 8 ways to improve examination performance
References and further reading 1. Du Pre L., Gilroy D., Miles T. (2008): Dyslexia at College, 3rd edition, Routledge, London. 2. Gyarmathy É. (2007) Diszlexia. Specifikus tanítási zavar. Lélekben Otthon Kiadó, Budapest. 3. Pavey B., Meehan M., Waugh A. (2010): Dyslexia–friendly Further and Higher Education. Sage, London. 4. Smythe I.(szerk.)(2005) Diszlexia: Utmutató felnőtteknek, Leonardo da Vinci Project 5. Smythe I, Gyarmathy E. (2007) Adystrain, Leonardo da Vinci Project 6. www.education.com/reference/article/strategicreadingexpository/ 7. www.gtce.org.uk 8. www.ncistudent.net
Appendices Appendix 1Brain Dominance Questionnaire Braindominance questionnaire (based on Brain Dominance Questionnaire. English Teaching Forum, 1994.; revised by Mariani, 1996.)
This questionnaire will give you an indication of your tendency to be a left or right hemisphere dominant or are bilateral (using both about equally). Instructions: Select the answer that most closely represents your attitude or behaviour. When you have finished, refer to the scoring instructions. 1. I prefer to learn a from a general overview of things, and by looking at the whole picture b details and specific facts c both ways about equally 2. I prefer the jobs a in which I work on many things at once b which consist of one task at a time, and I can complete it before beginning the next one c I like both kinds of jobs equally 3. I prefer to solve problems with a my „gut feelings“ b logic c both logic and „gut feelings“ 135
4. I like my work to be a open with opportunities for change as I go along b planned so that I know exactly what to do c both planned and open to change 5. I like to learn a movement in sports or a dance step better by a watching and then trying to do it b hearing a verbal explanation and repeating the action or step mentally c watching and then imitating and talking about it 6. I remember faces easily a Yes a No c Sometimes 7. If I have to decide if an issue is right or correct a I instinctively feel it is right or correct b I decide on the basis of information c I tend to use a combination of both 8. I prefer a essay tests b multiplechoice tests c I like both kinds of tests equally
9. If I had to assemble a bicycle, I would most likely a glance at the diagram and begin with whatever tools were there, sensing how the parts fit b lay out all the parts, count them, gather the necessary tools, and follow the directions c recall past experiences in similar situations 10. At school, I preferred a geometry b algebra c I had no real preference of one over the other 11. It is more exciting to a invent something b improve something c both are exciting to me 12. I generally a have difficulty in pacing personal activities to time limits b use time to organise work and personal activities c am able to pace personal activities to time limits with ease
13. Daydreaming is a a useable tool for planning my future b a waste of time c amusing and relaxing 14. I can tell fairly accurately how much time has passed without looking at a clock a No b Yes c Sometimes 15. When reading or studying, I a prefer music b prefer total quiet c listen to background music only when reading for enjoyment, not while studying Scoring instructions: Add up your answers ‚a‘ and ‚b‘ individually. You can ignore all ‚c‘s. The ratio of ‚a‘s and ‚b‘s shows how much your right (a) or your left (b) hemisphere is dominant. a ______________ b ______________
Scores Depending on the number of either ‚a‘s or ‚b‘s: 15 to 13 = very strongly dominant 12 to 9 = dominant 8 to 5 = moderate preference 4 to 1 = slight preference 0 = wholebrain dominance (bilateral)
Appendix B: Laterality and Hemispheric Dominance: an opposing view
Not all researchers in the field of dyslexia agree that dyslexia and the degree to which any individual is more dominant in their bodily preferences are related. For instance, it has been shown that although there are more left handed individuals amongst dyslexics than there are amongst the general population, the majority of dyslexics, like others, are right handed. Many of the older studies upon which the evidence for bodily dominance were based had methodological flaws. There is also debate over what effect such differences might have. It is easy to observe that the dyslexic brain appears to be different in a number of ways to the brains of nondyslexics. But despite recent advances in brain scanning, the cause and effect such differences might have on behaviour has not been proved. Just because we observe that say, the brains of people with dyslexia show more activity in one region and less in another, doesn’t mean this causes dyslexia. That would be like observing that people who ate cheese before going to bed had nightmares and concluding that cheese therefore causes nightmares. Ever since researchers first began to study the physiology of the brain in the nineteenth century, the amount of adaptability and flexibility in the functions of different regions has been a surprise to them. This debate is too complex and detailed for further explanation here. Anyone who would like to find out more about biological causes should consult academic journals and books. We recommend the work of Alan Beaton for a balanced overview and an account of the historical background to this research. For now is it sufficient to say that all work on biological causation has to be treated with caution. Dyslexia, learning and the brain. Some recent research has looked at dyslexia as a problem in learning, rather than simply a problem with literacy. The work of Angela Fawcett and Rod Nicolson has looked at dyslexia as a problem in the development of automaticity in a range of skills. This means that if you are dyslexic you need to put in greater effort than other people of similar abilities. Practitioners often say that this is a good charactiseration of dyslexia, so for example students who are dyslexic have great problems in rote learning for example in learning anatomy. Dyslexic students learn best of they can link material semantically 140
(through the meaning, rather than trying to learn unconnected facts). Nicolson and Fawcett have linked these problems to an area of the brain called the cerebellum, which recent developments in scanning show is involved in a number of cognitive processes below, including learning to read. For more information on this look for academic articles by these authors. Research in this area is ongoing, and so our knowledge changes and develops as more is revealed about the brain and learning.
Handedness To test handedness, it is worth performing several targeted observational tasks to find out which hand is dominant and to what extent. Testing handedness: hand used for comb hand used for throwing hand used to push down the latch hand extended for objects hand used to pull up a zip A quick test called the knocking test can increase the certainty of the result of the observations. Knocking test: On any keyboard, have the child press the ‚f‘ key as many times as they can with their left hand. The duration of the test is thirty seconds. Then repeat the test with the right hand pressing the key ‚j‘. The character count will show with which hand they could knock faster. The test should be repeated three times and the results average
Leg dominance Leg dominance has little bearing on dyslexia. This is rather just a curiosity and can of course be important in sports. To ascertain leg dominance, the following tests can be made: 141
leg used to step forward leg first lifted when jumping over a fence leg used for kicking
Eye dominance is important when discussing dyslexia. If visual information has to travel longer than necessary, the probability of errors is increased. Reading and writing is a sequential task connected to the left hemisphere. It is from the right eye that information arrives quickest to the relevant regions of the brain. Therefore, left eye dominance can contribute to the development of dyslexia. It does not in itself cause dyslexia, but as an element of disorderliness, it increases its probability. Eye dominance is usually tested by a peeking task. The child has to look into a tube. Everyone uses towards the tube with their dominant eye. Therefore, one can even observe people’s eye dominance standing beside a telescope at a scenic viewpoint. Here is a simple task to do if you want to know which is your dominant eye. 1. Stretch out your arm forward so that your hand is level with your eye. 2. Lift your index finger up vertically. 3. Find a distant vertical straight line (the door post, the edge of the cupboard, etc.) and align your index finger with it. 4. Now close one of your eyes. 5. Open your eye and close your other eye. 6. Repeat closing and opening your eyes a couple of times. When one of your eyes is closed, your finger seemingly jumps sideways. This is your dominant eye, since you used this to align your finger when both of your eyes were open. Closing your other eye does not produce such a sideways jump. 142
Ear dominance Although to a far lesser extent than that of the eye, ear dominance also has a bearing on dyslexia. The processing of auditory information can be weaker, too, in the case of mixed laterality. Ear dominance is usually tested by listening. The subject is shown an object producing a quiet sound and is asked to listen to it at close range to hear what the sound is. Today, it is fairly easy to observe which ear one usually uses when talking on the phone. Body dominance can play a role to different extents in the causality of dyslexia. The more mixed laterality there is, for instance, mixed or mild lefthandedness, left eye and ear dominance, the more probability that there will be some kind of specific learning difficulty.
Self assessment questions Answers SAQ1
Name 4 myths about dyslexia
The most popular myths are: Dyslexia: • • • • • • • •
is an illness is a symptom of mental retardation is the result of lack of learning is the result of laziness is the result of lack of attention is characteristic only of children disappears with maturation disappears with increased learning time
Is dyslexia a difference or a difficulty and what is meant by each?
According to the social model dyslexia can be viewed as a learning difference but in order to obtain funding it has to be described as a difficulty.
What is the core definition of dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a difference in acquiring and using reading, spelling and writing skills, that is neurological in origin.
What are the main cognitive difficulties that can be affected by dyslexia?
Dyslexics can have difficulties with working memory, phonological processing, rapid naming, processing speed, and the automatic development of language related skills (especially with reading and writing)
Can dyslexia be cured?
As dyslexia is neurological it is internal to the individual, and not an external factor such as poor teaching or lack of schooling. Its effects can be lifelong and usually it is resistant to conventional teaching methods. Specific interventions, specific information technology and supportive counselling can help dyslexic people to manage their different approaches to language related skills.
What is the prevalence of dyslexia?
The prevalence of dyslexia in the world wide school population is about 10%, but there are huge differences between different countries.
If a person experiences dyslexia in one language will s/he experience dyslexia in other languages?
Dyslexics using one language may have different underlying reasons for their difficulties to those using another language. For example, it is widely reported that the phonological manipulation skill deficit is the biggest problem in English, where there is poor lettertosound correspondence. But in Hungarian, where there is good soundtoletter correspondence, auditory processing is more important.
Name 4 strengths and 4 weaknesses that dyslexics may experience?
Strengths of dyslexics may be any of the following: • • • • • • •
strong imaginative capacity originality, creativity good visualising capacity global comprehensive capacity, simultaneous information processing, intuition “artistic” way of thinking
Weaknesses may be any of the following: • low literacy skills difficulties in learning to read and write slow reading and writing and/or making a lot of mistakes/errors difficulties in understanding written texts spelling difficulties tiredness in reading/writing situations difficulties in expressing themselves in writing (organizing thoughts on paper) • poor verbal memory • poor analysis of details
What are the key theories about dyslexia?
The main theories are: Early neuropsychological theories; Perceptual and perceptuomotor theories. ; Psychological theories and cognitive processes; Psycholinguistic theories; and Environmental and behavioural theories.
What are the main causes of dyslexia?
The main cause of dyslexia are: biological; cognitive; skills and behaviour; and the environment.
Is dyslexia hereditary?
Research in the area of genetics indicates that certain chromosomes are linked to the expression of dyslexia.
What are the main cognitive areas that are affected in dyslexia? Give a summary of the difficulties experienced by people with dyslexia.
The main cognitive areas are: Attention as some dyslexic individuals find it difficult to maintain focus as they give attention to everything around them ; Perception as the coordination of perception and motion is not sufficient leading to spatial orientation disorders and/or weakness in precision in motion and auditory perception; Memory as dyslexics experience weakness of short term memory and a difficulty in in remembering sequences; and Thinking, were dyslexics arrive at correspondences not in a stepbystep logical way, but by having an overview and feeling the important points, and the correspondences simply join up in their heads. They are usually unable to explain how they arrived at the result. They just see the solution.
How does the environment affect the development of dyslexia?
If people did not have to write, read and count, dyslexia would not exist. So dyslexia is culturally dependent and in today’s society perhaps the natural development of sensorimotor integration and sequential information processing, fails to develop as well they did in the past.
Describe two types of dyslexia.
Two typologies were described in the text: the more cited Developmental (genetic) and Acquired dyslexia (by brain injury). Another typology describes Peripheric dyslexia or neglect dyslexia (because of brain injury the person can read just one side of the word, usually the right one) and Central dyslexia which includes: Phonological dyslexia (The person has poor graphemephoneme ability, can read without difficulty just well known words, has difficulty in segmenting words into separate sounds; Surface dyslexia (orthographic, superficial) (slow, letter by letter reading, difficulty linking letters and recognising irregularly spelled words, especially); and Deep dyslexia (Semantic system deficiency; for instance often the person is reading bug for ant, or nonwords for known words).
Module 2 SAQ15
Why is it important for students to know their learning style?
If a student is aware of her/his own preferred way of learning s/he can become a more efficient learner.
What are the 5 components of the Dunn & Dunn model?
The 5 components are physiological, psychological, environmental, sociological and emotional. SAQ17
What are the characteristics of each component?
Physiological comprises perception, movements, time and consumption; psychological includes information processing; environmental includes lighting, sounds, temperature and arrangement of surroundings; the sociological component is concerned with the student working alone, with an adult, with a peer and a variety; and the emotional component includes responsibility, motivation and perseverance.
Name 6 strategies that are helpful for each of the following: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners.
Visual strategies involve, graphics, colour, use of coloured pencils on handouts, observing the lecturer, drawing to aid learning, IT, videos, films, visualisation to aid memory, books with illustrations. Auditory strategies are recording lectures, use discussion, read aloud, give presentations, use music, mnemonics, verbal analogies and storytelling. Kinaesthetic strategies involve movement whilst learning, study whilst standing, plenty of breaks, eat whilst studying, use of posters and colours, listen to music whilst studying.
Describe the main features of the analytic and global learning styles
as used by Felder and Solomon. Global learners need to get an overview of the material to be understood whereas the analytical style needs to focus on details and build up a picture of the whole topic.
Why do dyslexic students find it difficult to learn?
Dyslexic students may be more likely to have difficulties in learning because they perceive and process information in a different way. Organisation is key in becoming an efficient learner and as this area can also be difficult for dyslexic students, they may have more difficulty than most in gaining and retaining information.
Teachers have their own preferred style of teaching. What is your style of teaching?
Work through the teaching style questionnaire and find out! SAQ22
How can the tutor help the student with regard to their learning style?
The teacher should help the student to explore possibilities and pass on information in a flexible way using multisensory techniques.
What are the 4 stages of studying in the Mezo Model?
Information collection, information processing, use of information and the organisation of information (inputoutputprocess) SAQ24
What the tasks for each stage of study when preparing for exams?
Planning: days, study and collecting the necessary materials; Management: deciding what is important, maintaining a sense of wellbeing; Studying: should be active, monitor progress and revise.
What conditions are necessary for dyslexic students to study for examinations successfully?
Building on continuous planned study, good time management, using appropriate study strategies, can organise the material and have an overview of the topic and an ability to ask for help.
Module 3 SAQ26
How can paper documents be made dyslexiafriendly?
Shorter lines, two columns, short blocks of text, possibly bigger fonts, simple, clear and concise sentences. Cream paper, not too thin, matt paper and preferably not red or green inks using Arial, ComicSans or Verdana font. Space between the lines, not starting a sentence at the end of a line, use boxes, diagrams and bullet points. SAQ27
How can notes and handouts be made more dyslexiafriendly?
Give an outline of the main ideas; suggest further reading; use graphics, table and charts; and clear instructions for practical work. Use wide margins for notes, heading and subheadings with different size fonts, place diagrams about text, use only 2 types of fonts and different coloured paper.
Why are tests and examinations difficult for students with dyslexia?
Dyslexic students may need extra time for reading and analysing the exam questions as it is easy for them to confuse similar words e.g. gastrotomy and gastrostomy, the former a stomach operation, the latter putting a tube in the stomach to drain or feed. The question may be misinterpreted or the student may go ‘off at a tangent’ on a related subject but which does not form part of the question. Spelling and grammar difficulties may result in convoluted sentences and paragraph structure. Thus, the student may not reflect their true potential in the written answer. Separate marking sheets with the use of videos and slides can lead to visual and memory overload.
What are the alternative assessments to examinations?
Alternative assessment includes an oral test/presentation, assessment through coursework only, project/portfolio, multimedia presentations or no formal assessment at all.
Describe some strategies that may help people with dyslexia fill in forms.
Go through the form with a pencil first, if possible highlight confusing headings, use a ruler to make sure answers go in the right sections and to breath calmly and relax so that fewer mistakes may be made.
What are the main features of a good lecture?
Lectures should be structured, interactive and visual.
How can text for elearning be made more accessible and useable?
Text to speech, background colour, content layout and navigation, scrolling or paged content and awareness of any idiosyncrasies of software programmes. Choice of font style and size plus space around the characters helps with usability.
What are the main features of readability and learnability?
Be concise and use short sentences, bullet points, active voice, consolidate ideas before introducing another level, use diagrams etc and ask for feedback from the user group. Learnability implies the material is well structured, sequential, logical, multisensory and tailored to individual needs.
How can a teacher help a dyslexic student to become an effective independent learner?
The teacher can help the student by using the subject that needs to be learned, coaching the student on how to learn and aiding the student to learn how to learn.
What is the best way for a teacher to approach working with a dyslexic student?
Give the student an overview of the material, use concept maps and visuals, check the student understands by discussing what has been learned, start from general and move to the specific, use short explanations, use IT and approach topics in different ways and using different methods so that the student can maintain focus. Make the student aware of their strengths and weaknesses.
What are the three main points to remember about constructing a cmap? Describe these.
Less is more, use a transparent structure and use the whole brain.
When can cmaps be used?
Cmaps can be used for organising and planning, studying: essays and presentations, brainstorming.
What are the difficulties students with dyslexia experience when using mathematics?
Sometimes the use of abstract learning is difficult but if a problem can be made concrete by drawing or making a model this is much easier to work with. The language of maths can be confusing and difficult to spell. Difficulties with symbol recognition and sequencing are also possible.
What are the most difficult aspects of writing for dyslexic students?
The most difficult tasks are sequencing ideas, spelling, sentence punctuation and handwriting.
Name some helpful strategies to aid dyslexic students with essay writing.
Use a computer, make a plan on a cmap and make the introduction interesting. In the main body follow the cmap and use signpost words. In the conclusion review the main points of the essay. Reread after some hours and, if possible ask someone’s opinion of the essay.
What are the aims in reading?
Acquiring information, leaning, personal communication, understanding instructions and entertainment.
Describe the differences between skimming, scanning and wordby word reading
Skimming allows you to get an overview of the material; caning is used to look for specific information; and word by word reading is used to comprehend the text.
Describe some ways to revise for examinations.
Rehearsing material, highlighting key facts, using flash cards, record the information you need to learn, condensing your lecture notes.
Give 8 ways to improve examination performance
Read all the questions, divide up the time available between the 153
questions, reread questions to understand them, start with the easier questions, answer the correct number of questions, for MCQs eliminate the wrong answers and then read the alternative careful highlighting similar words, draw a cmap on as a memory aid, don’t spend too much time on one questions, trying NOT to spend too much time with one question, if you have spare time go over your answers,
Manual for Dyslexia