Helping churches to take part in Dyslexia Awareness Week Scotland 2021

This year, Dyslexia Awareness Week (DAW, 1-7 November) in Scotland includes a Sunday (7 Nov.) for the first time ever.  To help churches take part, I’ve put together a prayer guide.  I’ve written it with churches in mind, but some of its content can be adapted for use by other faith communities.    

The prayer guide shares information on dyslexia, Bible verses, prayers, music and a blessing.  It is customisable by local churches and individuals.  For example, churches can add their name to it.  And people can add their own prayers.  It also signposts to some material for children and Young People. 

The guide tells you how to customise it for your church and circulate it. 

If you’re not involved in a church, maybe one of your local churches or other faith communities takes prayer requests or has a prayer diary on its website.  Why not send them the prayer guide and ask them to use it?

You can download the prayer guide here. Scroll down to the Support for other Professionals section; go to Scottish Churches Disabilities Group, then click on ‘prayer guide’ to download the word document.

Written by a member of Dyslexia Scotland

Gems from a Creative Mind: a poetry book by Doreen Kelly


Who could have imagined twenty or thirty years ago, that the teenager who tested at the higher end of average in IQ tests but was struggling to maintain passing test results at school, would become a published poet? I am currently struggling with a bit of imposter syndrome, low self-esteem and confidence. To paraphrase a punishment exercise my whole class were once made to write:- Self-esteem is hard to gain, but easy to lose.

Anyway, back to my creative writing/poem book, I am very grateful to Susie Agnew for suggesting this project and also for finding a publisher. My gratitude also goes to Helen for helping with the pulling together of my submissions to Dyslexia Voice and A Life Less Ordinary and with the editing process. Thank you so much to Nicola Morgan for stepping in to write the introduction; I struggled for weeks, perhaps months, with the idea of writing an intro. Eventually I had to admit defeat. Thank you to Donna from Glasgow Women’s Library for our Adult Literacy sessions, especially during the first lockdown, where I wrote a lot of the smaller pieces not about dyslexia in my poem book. I was very grateful to Donna for the sessions even before the pieces of writing were needed, as the Zoom sessions kept me sane and less anxious during a really difficult time.

I found the actual creation of the book quite a long and drawn out process, as there was a lot of going over the same material before it was sent to the publisher. Then the same process began over again once the publisher had worked on it, and once again when it was passed to the printers. And yet I still found a couple of things to be amended even in the final proof before printing.

But it was all worth it, now that I can see and hold the finished book.

We decided that my craft and other visual creative work should be included too. It was suggested that I should illustrate my creative writing because many of the pieces are quite hard-hitting, whereas my visual creations are often joyful and colourful.

Image of book pages

So, again, who would have thought the girl who was made to rip up her homework in third year (in front of the whole class), make the walk of shame to the bin and back and then got a D in higher Art and Design would publish an illustrated book? Yes, I would call my illustrations naïve, but perhaps I am following in the tradition of L. S. Lowry’s matchstick people.

I had to battle my Imposter Syndrome to write the above, so imagine my confusion and surprise when I showed a fellow volunteer at the Women’s Library and she flipped through it, saying “how beautiful, and I haven’t even started reading it yet”. Then, when she started reading it, I left her to it, as I was working as the paid cleaner at the time. When I came back past she was in tears. I was disturbed and went to a colleague, confused and distressed about having made someone so strong cry. My colleague very calmly and simply stated “That just shows you how powerful it is.”

My book “Gems from a Creative Mind” will shortly be available for pre-order from Dyslexia Scotland. Keep an eye on Dyslexia Scotland’s social media and website for further details.

Doreen Kelly, Resource Centre and Blog volunteer

Who educates the educators about dyslexia?

Like many dyslexia organisations last month, we applauded the punchy report The Dyslexic Dynamic from Made by Dyslexia and Talent Solutions that evidenced how dyslexic talent needs to be recognised, valued and seized if the world is to recover successfully from the pandemic. 

Strengths in creative thinking, problem-solving, ingenuity and communication skills are no doubt what the world needs in spades right now. However, like us, the writers know that something still holds the dyslexic community back from being the innovators and trailblazers the world needs them to be. So what is the barrier? 

difficulties with things like spelling, reading and memorising facts can undermine the self-belief of dyslexic students and often means the abilities they have in other areas are overlooked by their teachers, their classmates and themselves

The Dyslexia Dynamic

School years are the prime window of opportunity to nurture dyslexic talent and foster achievement. So, how do we ensure that dyslexia is identified and supported by teachers? Who educates the educators about dyslexia? 

Educating the educators

Dyslexia Scotland believes passionately in the value of dyslexia education for educators. We’re excited to be just weeks away from our annual education conference (held online for the second year running) which will inspire and motivate teachers to create learning environments that foster the dyslexic talent The Dyslexic Dynamic says is needed. 

The online conference programme includes keynote speakers Dr. Tilly Mortimore of Bath Spa University and Shirley Lawson from CALL Scotland as well as workshops facilitated by educational thought leaders from Glasgow Dyslexia Support Service, City of Edinburgh Council, and Education Scotland, who will share expertise on creating inclusive learning environments that support young dyslexic people to achieve and attain. Conference delegates will explore topics including Adolescents with dyslexia: risk, resilience and opportunity, Technology and dyslexia, Maths and dyscalculia strategies, Spelling and phonics, Recovering from the impact of the pandemic and Co-occurring difficulties/neurodiversity. 

Are you or do you know an educator who can grow dyslexic talent in the classroom? Check out the Destination dyslexia: a routemap conference for educators.

What other dyslexia education is there for educators? 

The Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit  

Information for Teachers leaflet 

Dyslexic Career Journeys career guidance resources 

Dyslexia and Gaming: a perfect match?

I’ve always loved games. Whether it be board games or video games, they are always something that I have tried to make time for. So, you can imagine that when I saw an article the other week talking about the complementary relationship between dyslexia and gaming, I was pretty excited.

Whilst research is still at an early stage in this area, some have suggested that the dyslexic mind  is particularly suited to gaming. But why is this? There are various strengths associated with dyslexia, including our ability to visualise in 3D. With unique imagining abilities and a three-dimensional perspective, dyslexia’s compatibility with games makes a lot of sense. Thinking about board games or other ‘real life’ games, players are often required to imagine themselves within a different place or as a different character – something the dyslexic skill set is particularly attuned to.

Research into the ways dyslexics read and understand individual words is also insightful. Studies have shown that whilst neurotypical readers are able to identify letters in the middle of a row, dyslexics did better at identifying letters located in the outer areas of words. This suggests that dyslexics have strong periphery vision, a skill that is important to videogame play.

Whatever the reason for the match between dyslexia and gaming, the implications for the way we learn is incredibly exciting. From my own perspective, I certainly learned things better and faster at school when things were taught in the context of a game. Whilst I originally thought this was a personal preference, I am now wondering if this is a learning preference shared with other dyslexics. If so, then its easier to understand why traditional education does not work for many dyslexic people.

Whilst these ideas are fairly convincing, I’m no expert in this area and research in this area is ongoing. But I wonder, what do other dyslexics think? Do you find yourself playing games with ease? Do you learn better through game play? Please let me know in the comments, and also if you know of any interesting articles or research in this area, I’d love to hear about them! Until next time 

 By Maddy Shepherd

Guest blogger

 

Football coaching and dyslexia

by Daniel Hiddleston, Youth Football Coach

I am delighted to be sitting here writing another blog. When I was asked, I started to think, what am I going to do this on? – But after really thinking about it, there is so much I can go into, and I really want to enthuse and provide advice to people so I hope you can connect to my experiences. 

Though I have detailed my journey already, this blog is more detailing components of my ongoing development as a youth football coach, and how dyslexia, and learning processes have helped me. Thought process, this is something that springs to mind when I coach. Coaching in general for me is an ongoing thought process. It is known, dyslexia triggers new or strategic thought processes for overcoming issues. I work within technical development, and my thought process methods are constantly called upon.  

‘What do I do to make sure I hinder the correct process, and how does dyslexia come into this?’ 

Well, initially you need to grab the understanding of what you want to get out of your thought process. For me, it is my athletes. Referring to the question: dyslexia has increased my ability to understand people more, and what they may experience – this refers a lot to adaptive expertise. This is something I am really starting to become more familiar with, due to my Master of Science at University of Stirling, this is where one gains and creates opportunities to develop their ‘expertise’ to be adaptive to the learners’ needs. An individual who is magnificent at this is Dr Andy Kirkland of University of Stirling. His adaptive, understanding, and quirky methods are supportive, and the way in which he uses other departments to make his points in reference to sport, trigger understanding and alternative thinking processes. Now the point of using him is, I would say be enthused by someone who provides you with passion and an educational environment to excel within your own domain – the way Andy has applied himself has provided me with questions, reflections on me and in fact eagerness to go into teaching.  

Learning environments are so important, I was mentored by Kit Bremner and Liam Ross, top coaches, with similar views but different methods. Their different methods, equally as excellent as each other, provided me with a base to think innovatively, but within a structured environment, with elements of flexibility and the ability to express your own creative self. Whilst being educated by the two I found myself value coach-athlete relationship a lot more, and this allowed to trigger new understanding/ thought processes of people around me to identify what makes them tick or engage in you or your practise. The essentialness of the coach-athlete relationship, is again, understanding exactly who/what you’re dealing with and using expertise or thought processes to fulfil success.  

‘As one with dyslexia, do I think this is vital?’ 

Absolutely, but you might not, we are all different. But creative expression allows adaptability, YOU as the learner, YOU as the deliverer, needs to understand the value of creating your own though process within whichever environment you are within. And this whole blog is emphasising on this, for me to fulfil my role as a full-time youth football coach I have made mistakes, but my ongoing development of expertise is improving. In my experiences I would encourage you to think about other people’s methods to enhance your own understanding or in my term ‘thought processes’, regardless of what industry or domain you’re within. 

Benefits of a binge watch

By Gemma B

Earlier in the pandemic I was acutely aware that the old saying “too much of a good thing” is true and tried to vary how I spent my time, but being locked down there was only so much we were capable of doing. In reality what I was alternating between – when I wasn’t trying to maintain relationships via video chat – were essentially the same thing through different mediums.  Binging a boxset via a streaming service or sitting down with an interesting book boils down to the same thing in essence: A good story. They’re just told differently. 

It was upon realising this that I started feeling a new level of empathy for neurodiverse people who find reading particularly difficult. It wasn’t simply that some people struggle to get lost in words and the worlds authors create by using them to such great effect, but the fact that those who find that difficult had even fewer ways to escape the stresses and challenges of the pandemic, some of which will have been exacerbated by neurodiversity itself. While I know audio books do a fantastic job of bridging that gap, that may have been of little comfort to those who couldn’t access libraries during lockdown.  Without them being open, access to audio books would have been dependent on having the technological and financial means to procure and use them. How then do you submerge yourself in another world and forget our own for a while? A boxset binge, which I suspect will have become the primary form of escapism for many dyslexics, and why not?  There are many similarities. Characters, setting and plot all feature, while episodes could be chapters. Films could even be seen as short stories by comparison. While I am usually the first to complain about the fact that the book is almost always better than the film or TV adaptation, that’s not the point.  It’s taken me until recently to realise just how valuable escapism is and appreciate just how frustrating I think it would be to have only one way in which to do that.   

While neither format is perfect, I definitely have a new appreciation for the boxset binge. Sometimes you need someone else to physically tell the story to you – which I know is also the beauty of audio books along with hearing the story as the author intended, but sometimes you might not even have the energy to visualise and comprehend the world that is being presented beyond what is being put in front of you. Plus, it’s perfectly okay – whether you have dyslexia or not – to not want to put the work in that reading requires when you just want to relax. It is also perfectly possible to spot new things or interpret something in a new way if an idea is presented differently. Perhaps especially if adaptations remain faithful to the book, value can be gained not just in terms of increased accessibility but also in allowing more people to appreciate stories for what they so often chiefly are: a vehicle for escapism.  Given the world we currently live in we’ve never needed those more, irrespective of the form they take.    

Anxiety About ‘Returning to Normal’

This blog was posted last year as part of a series of six lockdown blogs. We thought this blog might be helpful again, as we start to move towards restrictions easing.

Some of my previous blog posts have been about all the difficult feelings that lockdown might have brought up for people. Today, I’ll address anxiety, but for those who have enjoyed lockdown.

For some people, the lockdown has been a fresh breath of air, the break they needed, a pause from overwhelm, a quiet interlude, a needed respite.

For some people, that has brought guilt for enjoying something that’s causing so many others pain, and it’s brought anxiety about the thought of returning to whatever normal awaits on the other side.

Some people are saying that the world cannot return to the previous normal after this – but who knows?

What I do know is that whatever we return to, you’ll have a say in how you go forward, in how you interact with others, how you decide to spend your leisure time and make use of international travel, how you vote, how you think, what demands you put on your boss, how you choose to go forward as a fellow human, as a friend, partner, parents or otherwise.

But, there’s still not a magic solution if you’re feeling anxious about a post-lockdown world.

When it comes to anxiety – thinking about the future and going over all the ‘what ifs’ scenarios – the solution is simple but it’s not easy! And that’s to stop thinking about all the things that are outwith your control and start looking at what is within your control.

It’s about thinking about ‘what is’ instead of ‘what if’.

A technique used in counselling is to take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle.

Outside the circle your write down all the things that are worrying you and that you cannot control, like Covid-19, and government’s guidelines, and your parent’s health (for example), and inside the circle you write down everything you can control, such as checking in on your parents, deciding how to vote in a way that works for you at the next election, to wash your hands every time you’ve been out, to practise mindfulness and staying in the moment and so on…

Obviously, you can do this with anything that bothers you and it doesn’t have to be Covid-related.

Another exercise I’m using at the moment and which is based on the same principles, but more specific to Covid-19 and lockdown, is to take a piece of paper and make three columns:

  1. In column one, you write down everything you’ve loved about the lockdown. Maybe that’s the slowing down of pace, maybe that’s the fact the planet is getting a bit of healing time itself, maybe it’s that you’ve enjoyed working from home.
  2. In column two, you write about all the things you’ve missed because of lockdown, like maybe going to your local chippy, or driving up the coast, or hugging your friends.
  3. In the third column you write down what changes you’ll be taking forward after lockdown, maybe travel less, maybe talking to your boss about working from home more often, maybe reducing the number of activities your children participate in and encourage more home quality time.

The point of this exercise is to establish gratitude for what it is, above what it isn’t. And it gives you a moment to reflect – what can you control going forward? If you’re anxious about ‘returning to normal’ what can you take control of and try to change to make it a new and better normal for you?

Teri Kansted – Coaching Psychologist and Dyslexia Scotland blogger

High School Transition

We’re republishing this post from 2018, as we thought it might be helpful for parents. Good luck to all the Primary 7s moving up to high school this year.

This year my dyslexic son started high school.  Worried about how he would cope with this new school environment, given that organisation is not his strong point, we ensured he went to as many transition events as possible before starting.  In November last year, he went to a taster day at the school, so he would become familiar with the building layout, staff and pupils.  He enjoyed the day and made some friends which helped him when thinking about changing schools.

Towards the end of primary seven, he did two full transition days, where pupils were given timetables and spent time in each subject classroom.  I discovered that there was a holiday club at the school over the summer which used the school’s sporting facilities, so my son did a week of activities to further help him get used to being in the school environment.  He enjoyed this, and I feel it did help him, if nothing else he knew how to get to the PE department!  His main concern seemed to be that he would get lost and be late for class.  I looked up Dyslexia Scotland’s advice for pupils moving to high school – this leaflet is very helpful.

When he started school, I made several copies of his timetable, as he is very forgetful and often loses things.  I also made some backup copies.  I then typed out his timetable in a word document with the font Open dyslexic, using one page for each day. The font is free and can be downloaded from https://www.opendyslexic.org/.  I stuck these sheets to his wall to help him become familiar with what subject he had each day.  I ordered coloured rolls of plain paper and covered his text books and jotters with one colour for each subject.  I also bought coloured A4 files to match.  I made up a key with the subjects and their corresponding colours and stuck that up next to his timetables.  I had to check each day with him that he had what he needed for each subject against a list supplied by the school.

Initially, it was a lot of work helping my son become organised for school.  However, three months in he knows his timetable, although he always looks at it to double-check.  He still has trouble recording his homework accurately in his diary, but the school are involved in helping him, with teachers checking his diary. I get him to pack his bag for school at night-time, so that he isn’t panicking in the morning or forgetting things. I try not to do everything for my son, but early on I did have to help him sort his work into the correct files and folders and still do, although he is now better at this himself.  The colour coding has helped him tremendously and he can see at a glance which books are in his bag.  I would recommend giving yourself time to help your child make these adjustments.

Lorna Murray, guest blogger

Covid-19: an unexpected ‘trial run’ of accessible digital learning

As I draw to the end of my time at university, I have been reflecting on my experience as a dyslexic student between 2017-2021. Teaching norms and the structure of university education has certainly changed drastically during the Covid-19 pandemic. Just like schools and workplaces, universities have switched to online platforms to deliver education, and like many of my dyslexic peers, this digitalisation has actually been complementary to my dyslexic mind. The recording of lectures has made processing information more straightforward, with the ability to pause lectures and take notes in my own time. Additionally, automated captions allowed me to focus and concentrate on information easily. Exams have also been digitalised, meaning that ‘take home’ exams have become the norm and laptop use is mandatory. It seems that in the shadow of a global pandemic, ideas about accessible arrangements have been reshaped. Now that institutions have been forced to use digital platforms, there is hope that some of these virtual mediums will be around to stay.

Back in 2017, my university, amongst many others, expressed how it would be impossible to record lectures using ‘lecture capture’, which would have made them more accessible to disabled students, including dyslexics. Lecture capture simply means recording lectures as they happen in real life, and then distributing them to students who require the recording. A lot of universities used to argue that recording lectures would lead to fears over ownership and effectively publicise private education. However, given the abundance of recorded lectures during the Coivd-19, there are no reported instances of this occurring, which suggest that this is not as big an issue as previously thought.  

The pandemic seems to have forced institutions to trial digital alternatives that they once argued were impossible. But why has it taken a global pandemic to make university content accessible? There has been an endless stream of student campaigns fighting for more accessible education for disabled students, including dyslexics. The Scottish Government has given permission for students to record lectures if they are eligible under the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), however having tried to do so myself, I can attest that it is very difficult to capture a good quality recording on the equipment provided. Student Unions have argued for years that if universities recorded lectures, the quality of recordings would be better quality under their supervision. Pre-Covid, these campaigns were largely unsuccessful but universities have recently confirmed that they will continue to record lectures and post them online for students after the pandemic. It’s unclear whether this would just be for the benefit of disabled students or for the entire student body, but either way, it’s a massive change.

The way I see it, Covid-19 has forced institutions to adopt countless digital worlds and platforms, many of which we could have never imagined being the norm in our everyday work, school or university life. And luckily for dyslexics, many of these online platforms have been a success and will be around to stay in our everyday lives. However it might have come about, it seems like everyday life is becoming increasingly accessible for dyslexics, and that’s definitely something to be excited about. 

Maddy Shepherd, Dyslexia Scotland blogger

Dyslexia, mental health and wellbeing – new documentary launched

We’ve been talking this week with Glasgow based media agency BlueStar Streaming about their plans for a new documentary about dyslexia that they’ll be filming this summer. We’re delighted to be working with them, providing support and advice and with some of our team featured in the film, along with other participants.

The team at BlueStar Streaming have just launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funding for the new documentary which will focus on dyslexia, mental health and wellbeing. This is a follow up to their 2017 Educate Me documentary that focused on dyslexia and the education system and which has since been widely used as a resource across the education and health sectors in Scotland to support learning and understanding around dyslexia.

Dyslexia – Educate me – YouTube

The new documentary is part two of a multi-part series focusing on dyslexia. Filming will be shot over the summer with the premiere planned for November this year.

It’s a great chance to share more about the experiences, challenges and opportunities of living with dyslexia, to learn about the strategies and approaches some of the participants use to positively support their mental health and wellbeing to enable them to thrive and excel in their lives and careers, how some are changing the narrative around how they live with dyslexia and to hear from experts about the latest thinking, tools and resources available for support. Some high-profile names including sports and music personalities will also be sharing their experiences and strategies of living with dyslexia.

The filming Director is Trevor Thomson for whom the subject is very personal and important. Trevor is dyslexic and has personal experience of the impact of growing up with dyslexia and how it affected his education and working and personal life, both negatively and positively. His young son was also recently identified as dyslexic, as this is an inherited, genetic condition. Trevor has worked with many highly creative people who are dyslexic and he is passionate about supporting Equality and Inclusiveness, through his role as Media Volunteer for Dyslexia Scotland and in his life and work generally.

The film will focus on dyslexia and mental health, exploring the emotional, psychological and economic impact of unidentified and unsupported dyslexia and the human cost to the individual, families and society. It will also investigate wellbeing techniques that high profile dyslexic people have found helpful in their lives and careers.

This has been a couple of years in the planning, with filming delayed last year due to Covid. So it’s an exciting time and we’re looking forward to hear how it develops and to watching it later in the year. The premiere is planned for Glasgow in November, to coincide with Dyslexia Awareness Week in Scotland and we’ll be sharing more information and updates as plans progress.

The team at BlueStar Streaming very much appreciate any support, whether that’s contributing to funding, reposting and sharing social posts to help get the news out or support in other ways.

To help support and be part of this important and exciting documentary and for more information about the documentary visit  Dyslexia and Mental Health | Indiegogo

We’ll share more information over the next few weeks or you can also keep updated and follow the progress via BlueStar Streaming’s social channels BlueStar Streaming (facebook.com), BlueStarStreaming (@BlueStarStream) / Twitter and Trevor Thomson (@bluestarstreaming) • Instagram photos and videos

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