Book Review: Assessment for Dyslexia and Learning Differences – A Concise Guide for Teachers and Parents by Gavin Reid and Jennie Guise

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This highly practical book is well organised, accessible and jargon free. 

Parents who are struggling to understand the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit’s Dyslexia identification Pathway and a school’s Staged intervention and planning paperwork will find this book refreshingly informative and easy to follow.

Drs Reid and Guise are highly qualified professionals both with considerable experience in the identification, assessment and support of dyslexia and other specific learning differences across all age-groups in educational settings, ranging from primary school to University and beyond to the workplace.

In this book, they briefly explore learning differences that are so often part of dyslexia.  They consider the purpose of assessment – what parents expect to find out and how the results will be used. In chapters 4 & 5 they trace the route from identification of ‘difference’ through the process of assessment and explain differences between school-based, screening and independent assessments, explaining the need to consider strengths and cognition as well as specific issues in processing, memory and classroom attainment.

They go on to consider the impact of assessment on learning, then review some key strategies, interventions and resources that may support the learning of those who have dyslexia.  The final chapter considers the different approaches to assessment in the context of local policy and practice across the UK.

Particularly useful are the chapter summaries – without having to read the whole book, busy parents and teachers can dip in and out to find the answers to their queries. The role of parents at each stage of the assessment process is highlighted within each chapter.

Useful appendices include a glossary to explain some of the terminology that is used by professionals in reporting their findings and notes on the interpretation of an assessment report – and explains the SASC-specified[1] format and content of specialist reports.

This book will provide information and support for educational professionals using the online resources in The Dyslexia Assessment by the same authors.

This review was written by Moira Thomson MBE

[1] The UK’s SpLD Assessment Standards Committee has published guidelines that assessors are required to comply with when reporting on assessments.

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Book Review – ‘How Can I Remember All That?’

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Today’s blog is a review of the book ‘How can I remember all that?” by Tracy Packium Alloway (Jessica Kingsley Publishers). It is reviewed by Sonia Edwards. 

Children identify the daily difficulties they can experience with Working Memory but often they do not understand the reason they are having difficulty.  Through Tommy, a funky character whose drawing was inspired by the author’s son, and Dr Packiam-Alloway’s writing, ‘How Can I Remember That?’ offers an easy to access explanation about Working Memory.

Working Memory is a difficulty that many dyslexics experience and being able to understand what it is and how it can be improved from the child’s perspective is inspirational.  A psychologist with over a decade of research on working memory, Dr Alloway has written about Working Memory in a manner that is straightforward and inspires confidence. 

Tommy’s voice reaches out to children, showing them that they are not alone and the difficulties they have with Working Memory are also experienced by others.   An Introduction, four chapters and some notes for Grown-Ups keep the book short.  No one will lose track of what they are reading.  The chatty writing style and Tommy’s voice make sure it is never boring and everyone can understand.  Supported by ideas such as Post-It notes and use of clear images, Dr Alloway takes a complex subject and makes it appear easy.  Importantly, the section on ‘Notes for Grown-Ups’ ensures that they can learn how to help.

Introducing Tommy, along with an explanation about long-term memory and short-term memory versus working memory develops understanding before the later detail.  While the section on ‘Working Memory in my brain’ introduces the idea of a team player.  The idea of team is important for children with working memory difficulties as they are supported by a team – parents, teachers, peers – but in the book they learn that they can also access their own team with appropriate strategies.  Confidence building and reassurance, very important elements for children who can find day to day a struggle.

Explaining why remembering things can be difficult and identifying things can be tricky in the first two chapters provides analogies with which children can identify.  We all struggle with juggling balls on occasion and can get frustrated with others when they think we are not trying when we really are. Dr Alloway and Tommy help the child to see that this is not a bad thing, it is just a part of having a working memory difficulty.

Tips for improving your working memory – Tommy’s teacher Ms Higgins is great in Chapter 3 – are achievable and developing these ideas in Chapter 4 shows you can keep on improving your working memory.  Being told doodling is okay  – who isn’t going to love the idea of telling their teacher it’s helping with concentration and learning?

The final discussion about Keep it Simple will make many teachers review their classroom.  It’s also an important message about working memory: we should all remember that techniques to help overcome aspects of the daily difficulty children experience are simple to introduce and develop. 

Sonia Edwards

Dyslexia Metaphor

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“To be dyslexic…..is to have a mind like an old fashioned champagne coupe: a very wide cup of perception supported by a narrow, fragile pipe of processing capacity.”

This lovely metaphor for explaining dyslexia is from ‘Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me’ by Kate Clancy.

A metaphor uses one thing to describe another. A Greek word, meaning ‘to carry’, it is a figure of speech that compares on thing to another, to help bring a concept to life, to make something easier to understand and relate to. It ‘carries’ an idea. It can also make a difficult concept easy to explain.

Metaphor is used by educators, coaches and storytellers to create deep and powerful shifts in understanding.

Dyslexic people often find creative concepts like metaphor work well for them, and that they can think them up quite easily, as they have a tendency to work in ‘visual modes of thought’.

For lots of neurotypical people, understanding dyslexia is really quite complex, so by using metaphor like the champagne coupe can help by making it vivid and more relatable.

Have a go at forming a metaphor to describe your understanding dyslexia to others. Let us know what you think up.

References:

  • Clanchy, K. Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me (2019)
  • Owen, N. The Magic of Metaphor (2016)
  • West, T. In the Mind’s Eye(1943)

These books are all available to borrow from Dyslexia Scotland’s resource centre.  (Please note: our resource centre is currently closed, due to our imminent office move.)

Katie Carmichael, Dyslexia Scotland’s Career Coach


I shall take off my dyslexic coat

And run away in my poetry dress

From ‘What I taught some kids and what they taught me’: About being out of place.