Busting myths about learning differences

Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism.  The final myth in the series is:

Myth #5: “To improve, all my dyslexic child needs to do is try harder.”

Unknown Because dyslexics rely more on the right ‘visual-spatial’ side of their brain, rather than the left ‘linear-sequential’ side, literacy (and sometimes numeracy) does not always come as naturally to them as it does to more linear-sequential ‘word thinkers.’ Dyslexic learners often have to work a lot harder to get to the same point as their peers in reading and writing. Please believe me when I tell you that they are trying hard. They are trying very hard. Just to keep up. To keep their head above water. Often they are trying so hard, they are utterly exhausted by the end of the school day.help

Instead of telling your child to try harder, you could acknowledge how hard they are already trying, let them know that you understand that reading/writing/spelling (or whatever else) can feel difficult for them, and ask them what you can do to help make it easier for them.

For some tips on reading with your dyslexic child to make it easier for them (and you), you can read my blog post: Reading at Home with your Dyslexic Child – 10 Tips for Parents.

Unknown-1In the Davis Dyslexia Programme, we teach your child how to focus and their brain, to eliminate feelings of stress and anxiety, and to regulate their energy levels, so that they are able to be relaxed and focused (and re-focus when needed) when reading and writing, rather than having to ‘work hard’ or ‘concentrate’.

For more information on dyslexia, autism and other learning differences, head over to my website: http://www.optimumlearning.co.nz or drop me an email at melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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Previous myth-busting posts:

Myth #1 – Dyslexia is a learning disability

Myth #2 – We need to make autistic people learn how to act normally

Myth #3 – My child just needs to concentrate more

Myth #4 – Using technology is cheating

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Busting myths about learning differences

Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism.  This week’s myth:

Myth #4: “Using technology is cheating.”

UnknownTechnology is a wonderful tool for those with learning differences. It can not only put these children on the same playing field as ‘neurotypical’ learners, it takes away unnecessary stress, and empowers them to use and display the true extent of their knowledge and strengths.  Why not embrace the support it can offer?

Speech to text

dictationUsing speech to text software allows a student to share their knowledge and ideas without being hindered by their difficulty with punctuation or spelling. When our students write, it is their ideas, creativity, vocabulary and creativity we should be celebrating. It is so sad – and all too common – to read a piece of writing by a dyslexic learner who is bright
Unknownand articulate, but who has ‘dumbed down’ their ideas and their language to play it safe with spelling. Speech to text technology removes this barrier.

If you are researching speech to text software, here are some great places to start:

Unknown-1Word processing

There are some wonderful word processing programmes for computers and tablets that also offer excellent support when it comes to writing. Word Q and iWordQ offers spelling support, and will read back what you have written. Clicker docs has the added feature of adding word banks for specific topics.

images-1Audio books

Audio books give a child access to text just as a print book does – it is just through their ears rather than their eyes. Is this cheating? No it is not.

Blogging

Unknown-1Is you child writing a classroom blog? Why not give them this app to use? Easyblog.org does what no other platform has managed to do. It has harnessed the true power of visual-spatial learning. It is simple to use and allows students to create photo, video, audio-over-photo posts, as well as adding text if they choose. But typing text is not mandatory.  It is the perfect blogging option for those with learning differences.

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For more information on dyslexia, autism and other learning differences, head over to my website: http://www.optimumlearning.co.nz or drop me an email at melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Previous myth-busting posts:

Myth #1 – Dyslexia is a learning disability

Myth #2 – We need to make autistic people learn how to act normally

Myth #3 – My child just needs to concentrate more

Busting myths about learning differences

Over the past few weeks, I have been sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism.  This week’s myth:

Myth #3: “My child just needs to concentrate more.” 

concentratePeople with dyslexia (and ADD) have brains that will ‘disorientate’ when they strike confusion. This means that they will use their imagination to look at the problem, often from different perspectives, until they have solved it. This works really well when dealing with real life objects. But when they become confused with a word, and try to look at it from different perspectives – all of a sudden the word ‘but’ becomes ‘put’ and ‘was’ becomes ‘saw’. Disorientation is the opposite to being focused. When someone is disoriented, they will not be ‘present’, and will be experiencing inaccurate perception.

concentrate

Can you imagine how difficult it must be to stay focused when your brain is constantly wanting to disorientate because you are confused about a word? So many words cause confusion for dyslexic leaners. Any abstract word has the potential to do so, because they are not able to create a picture for it. It is easy to picture a horse. It is not so easy to picture a ‘the’.

Concentrating doesn’t work. In fact in my experience all it seems to do is cause stress and headaches.

Unknown

If your child is not concentrating, there will be a reason for it. Take a short break if possible, and have them find a way to re-focus – whether it is through something physical such a jumping on the trampoline or running to the end of the driveway and back; or it could simply be taking some deep breaths.

Screenshot 2015-11-11 16.09.23In the Davis Dyslexia Correction Programme, students are taught a simple, effective method that allows them to re-focus when they disorientate, without the need to concentrate or ‘try harder’.

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Previous myth-busting posts:

Myth #1 – Dyslexia is a learning disability

Myth #2 – We need to make autistic people learn how to act normally

For more information on dyslexia, autism and other learning differences, head over to my website: http://www.optimumlearning.co.nz or drop me an email at melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Busting myths about learning differences

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism.

Myth #2: “We need to make autistic people learn how to act normally.”

girl alone

When people think of autism, it can conjure up images of anything from hand-flapping and meltdowns, to socially awkward behaviour, to savant-like talents. There is a reason why it is said that when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. It affects each individual in their own beautifully unique way.

Every person is exquisitiely unique. Autism is just one way of being uniquely human.

hand flapping

When we focus on making an autistic person behave more neuro-typically in order for them to seem ‘normal’, we are perpetuating the myth that somehow that person needs changing. Dr Barry Prizant, the author of Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism states that the problem with interventions trying to make an autistic individual fit in is that they “treat the person as a problem to be solved rather than an individual to be understood.”

hands over ears

Prizant encourages parents, educators and clinicians to consider “autistic” behaviours (such as hand-flapping, rocking, and spinning) as strategies to manage in a world that feels chaotic and overwhelming. He suggests a positive approach would be to find out what may be causing these behaviours. By asking why a child is behaving in a particular way allows us to understand and accommodate to their needs. Dr. Prizant also argues that attempts to eliminate “autistic” behaviors may actually interfere with important developmental processes.

Eye contact is another area in which autistic individuals do not ‘conform’ to the expected normal behjaviour – at least not in the Western world. Should we insist on autistic people making eye contact? My answer is simple. No. I don’t believe we should.

Screenshot 2015-11-11 14.03.43Amythest Schaber presents a wonderful video on eye contact from an autistic person’s perspective. She explains that people with autism tend to avoid eye contact for two reasons:

#1. It can feel overwhelming.

A person’s eyes can convey a lot of emotion, and taking in all of that hands over eyesinformation can feel overwhelming. Some people describe the feeling as being very intense – like looking into a very bright light. Others say eye contact hurts them, makes them feel uncomfortable and confuses them. However it feels, it can contribute to overstimulation and overload of the brain.

personal space#2. It can be difficult to make eye contact and listen to someone at the same time.

Avoiding eye contact allows them to take away the huge amount of rapid info coming at them (from facial expressions and eye contact), which can alleviate the pressure on their brain and allow the person to process and to follow along a lot better than if forced to make eye contact.

So next time the issue of eye contact comes up, consider this question that Ametyst puts to us: ”Would you like me to make sustained eye contact so that you feel more comfortable, or would you like me to hear, understand and remember what you say?”

Untitled design

If you are searching for a positive approach to autism, I would highly recommend the Davis Autism Approach. At the heart of this programme is a deep respect and understanding of autism. That is because it has been created by the autistic genius, Ronald D. Davis, co-author of the book: Autism and the Seeds of Change, with Abigail Marshall. He has dedicated his life to creating this gentle programme that gives autistic individuals the pathway towards creating a true sense of self, gaining an understanding of the neurotypical world (and therefore reducing the overwhelm and chaos) and participating more fully in life, while allowing them to retain their unique gifts.

Ron Davis and myself

Ron Davis and myself

A mother of an autistic boy who I worked with recently commented that:

“The Davis Autism Approach does not convey the message that you need to change who you are. Instead its message is: I get who you are. These are the tools that are going to help you become even more who you want to be.

One of the unique things about the Davis Autism Approach®, the thing that makes it different to any other therapy or programme, is that Ron Davis really understands autism from the within. And his programme truly reaches to the core of an autistic individual.

The Davis Autism Approach® programme bridges the gap between the autistic world and this big world beyond, and embraces both worlds so that they are able to work in harmony.”

Here is what her son had to say about the Davis Autism Approach:

%22It does not try to fix me or make me

For more information on dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, autism and other learning differences, head over to my website: http://www.optimumlearning.co.nz or drop me an email at melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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Last week’s myth was “Dyslexia is a learning disability”.  To read it, click here.

Resources:

Davis Autism International

Uniquely Human:  A Different Way of Seeing Autism

BBC

Ask an Autistic – What about Eye Contact? 

Autism and the Seeds of Change

Busting myths about learning differences

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be sharing – and busting – some common myths regarding learning differences such as dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism.

Myth #1: “Dyslexia is a learning disability.”

left brain right brain from Huffington Post

Image source: Huffington Post

Dyslexia is a different way of thinking, processing and learning. There is nothing ‘broken’ about a dyslexic brain. It certainly does not need curing or fixing. In fact dyslexia brings with it many great strengths and gifts.

Unknown

John Britten, talented dyslexic, designed and built the Britten Superbike

Dyslexic learners rely heavily on their right brain, thinking predominantly in pictures. Because they are highly visual, they usually show strengths in areas such as:

  • creativity
  • the arts
  • design
  • engineering
  • leadership
  • problem solving
  • science
  • building
  • and much more….

People with dyslexia generally learn things easily when they are taught in a way that works for them – which is visual and hands-on. What they do tend to experience is some isolated challenges when it comes to the written word (and sometimes numbers).

So when talking to your child about dyslexia, let them know that their brain learns in a different way, which brings many gifts that other people don’t have. Instead of calling it a learning disability, you could tell them they have a learning difference – or even a learning preference (as let’s face it – they do prefer to learn in a certain way – just not the way a lot of schools want them to!)

You could also spend time looking at some famous, successful people who have succeeded because of their dyslexic thinking style. This often does wonders for a child’s self esteem, to know that they are in the company of some great achievers.

For more information on dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, autism and other learning differences, head over to my website: http://www.optimumlearning.co.nz or drop me an email at melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz.  I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Richard Branson quote

Image source: azquotes.com

Reading at Home with your Dyslexic Child – 10 Tips for Parents

#1 – Read to your child

It is never too early (or late) to start reading to your child. Reading to them every day is one of the greatest gifts you can give to them, whether they are dyslexic or not. It encourages:  reading to child

  • a love of stories,
  • curiosity,
  • vocabulary development
  • Imagination,
  • listening skills,
  • memory and more.

#2 – Teach them how to remove feelings of stress

Stress blocks learning. If your child is stressed, relaxed childthey are going to make mistakes, forget what they have read, and most importantly, will not be enjoying the experience of reading. Find a simple strategy to help them feel relaxed before they start. This could be as simple as a deep breath, or imagining something they love to help them feel at ease. In the Davis® programmes, we use a strategy called “Release” to help induce a calm mental state*.

#3 – Share the load

If your child struggles with reading, don’t force them to read to the point of exhaustion and frustration. Have them read a small chunk, and then you read the next part, swapping backwards and forwards. Be OK
with telling them words they don’t know at times – reading withthey don’t have to figure every single word out themselves.

#4 – Read together

This works really well. Read out loud together with your child. That way, when they get to a word they don’t know, you can keep reading, they hear the word read correctly and they can pick up again at the next word. This technique not only takes the pressure off of the child, but enables the story to flow in an easy way.

#5 – Help their eyes to focus on the correct piece of text

This can be done in different ways:  poitning to words

  • Put a piece of cardboard/paper underneath the line they are reading to help them focus on the correct line.
  • Have them uncover one word at a time, using cardboard or their finger.
  • Allow them to point to each word if they find it helpful.
  • We have specific techniques in the Davis programme to encourage them to see each word in the correct sequence*.

#6 – Encourage understanding

  • Stop after each sentence or block of text and have them picture in their heads what they have just read*.
    cat asleep

    This could be what your child pictures after reading the text: The black and white cat is curled up into a tight ball, asleep.

    Talk about what you are picturing too.

  • Read a short piece of text and have them tell you what they think it means.
  • Stop at different points and ask questions (not too many though!).
  • For older children who are doing novel studies, they can mind-map the main parts of the novel. Encourage them to use picture and images more than words, as your dyslexic child will learn most effectively in this visual spatial way.

#7 – No sounding out!

A dyslexic learner thinks primarily in pictures and images, and finds it very difficult to think with the sounds of words. If your child has not had success with the phonics approach in their first year of school, then it is likely phonics is not the right approach for them.

Some alternatives to sounding out include:

  • Uncovering the word slowly with their thumb*.
  • Reading on to the end of the sentence and figuring out what sounds right or makes sense.
  • If they are still struggling after trying the above options and you are reading with them, just tell them the word.

#8 – Audio Books

Using audio books is not cheating. They are a audio booksgreat way to allow the dyslexic learner to access the story in a less stressful, taxing way.

They can use the audio version in conjunction with a print version if that works for them too. This can be done by:

  • Alternating between the print and the audio version as they choose.
  • Listening to the audio book while reading along with the print version.

#9 – Choose books carefully

Help your child to choose books that interest them. They will be much more likely to feel positive about reading if it is about something they like and enjoy.

Choosing dyslexia friendly books can be really helpful. They will often use a nice clear font, which is easier to read, and will often cater to the interest age of an older child at a less challenging reading level.

Some great websites to check out for dyslexia friendly books include: Love Reading 4 Kids has a wonderful comprehensive list of dyslexia friendly books.

#10 – Make it fun and inviting!    

Make reading as appealing as you can. Carving-Corners-KidsCreate a welcoming, comfortable are where your child will love to be in.
There may be a big beanbag, or comfortable cushions to sit on.

Choose a good time of day when your child is happy and receptive to reading. Seriously consider backing off if they show signs of stress or frustration.

Make reading a fun part of your every day routine.

* All points marked with an asterisk come from the Davis® Programmes. To find out more about these Davis techniques I mentioned in this post and more, check out my website – Optimum Learning.

9 Tips for Teachers – How to help your dyslexic students

Your dyslexic students have to work a lot harder in certain learning tasks.  They are usually highly talented, creative individuals, but because of their struggles in the classroom, their self esteem gets constantly knocked.  This can result in disruptive, uncooperative, evasive behaviours, which can be frustrating when you feel responsible for their learning.

Here are some simple steps you can take to make life easier for you and your dyslexic learners.  If you would like the PDF of these tips, please email me:  melanie@optimumlearning.co.nz

Screenshot 2015-07-01 14.33.43