Dyslexia: Its time has come

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Creativity, problem solving, resilience: exactly the type of personal characteristics employers are looking for in an information-driven, post-industrial work environment.

When detail and minutia become challenging, we take to the higher ground and see the bigger picture. Story telling becomes a way of life when simple facts and data are difficult to absorb. Abstract thinking becomes natural when learning by rote passes us by.

So what better for the Information Generation, the social media frenzy and a workplace where automation has eliminated the grind of hard-written prose? Thank goodness for 180 characters for short and frequent message passing, and the prominence of visual media.

Does this sound like a disability? Does this sound like slow, stumbling or dim? Is this what we think when we hear ‘dyslexia’ ?

Today we understand the neuroscience, psychology and personal impact of what once was a life-sentence to deselection and under-achievement. We now have a whole suite of coping and learning strategies that allow dyslexic individuals to contribute and flourish in the modern world. The world is catching up with dyslexic strengths.

Dyslexia Scotland has developed a comprehensive programme of awareness, action and support for dyslexic individuals in Scotland.

Dyslexia Scotland is gearing up for its flagship event DyslexiFest for 2019, a launchpad in to the second year of the 2018-21 Strategic Plan which outlines a vision for a dyslexia friendlier Scotland. 

Join us. We’d love to see you there: Saturday 5 October (11am to 5pm) at The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

For more information about DyslexiFest, visit www.dyslexiascotland.org.uk/dyslexifest

By Mike Gordon

Dyslexia Scotland careers mentor volunteer

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Dyslexia Friendly Storytelling

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A couple of weeks ago, the BBC launched this year’s 500 Words competition. 500 Words is a writing competition for children between 5 and 13 years old. Each entrant submits one story of up to 500 words. The three winners in each age category win either their own height in books, the Duchess of Cornwall’s height in books (5’6”), or DJ Chris Evans’ height in books (6’2”).

Entries are judged on

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language

Crucially, entries are not judged on spelling, punctuation or grammar. In fact, the official rules say that entries are judged “without regard” for these potential stumbling blocks for young dyslexic writers.

Entries are also submitted by copying or typing into an online text box. A helpful adult is supposed to do this bit, and to fill out the rest of the online entry form for the child. That removes another potential barrier for children with dyslexia – dodgy handwriting.

Chris Evans started the competition in 2011 while he was a DJ at Radio 2. He had a vision of inspiring a love of reading and writing in all children, regardless of their abilities and challenges. The competition has been a huge success: 800,000 stories have been submitted in the eight years it has been running.

My nieces have provided some of those stories. One of my nieces, Susannah, is dyslexic, like me, and faces the typical struggles with handwriting and spelling. (Her typing skills are very good, though.) This competition gives her a chance to express her creativity without unnecessary barriers.

Many great writers were dyslexic, or are believed to have been. (Dyslexia wasn’t well understood when W B Yeats and F Scott Fitzgerald were around.) There are also successful dyslexic writers today. I’m an author and freelance writer who’s mildly dyslexic. I would love to see more children with dyslexia enjoying writing without feeling intimidated.

If you are between 5 and 13, or you know a budding author who is, here is the link to the 500 Words competition. Entries must be in by 7pm on Friday 8th of March.

Karen Murdarasi

Getting to Know Your Learning Strategies: Part I

 

I was told I was dyslexic when I was around 6 in the early 1990s, and got extra tutoring for it, but it was believed then that dyslexia was merely a shortcoming in being able to read and write in my native language. Once I was able to do that, I was ‘cured’ – no one understood that I’d have the same problems learning to read and write in a new language, as I struggle to sound out words, or that I had working memory problems – making exams very problematic – and no one picked up on my dyscalculia either.

I love learning and reading and writing, so I was lucky that I was very motivated to keep at it. I never thought I’d get a university degree as I didn’t have the grades to get into university in Denmark, where I lived. In 2009, I was helped by a friend and got accepted into Stirling University here in Scotland and I was finally on my way towards my dream degree in psychology. Another friend told me about the university’s dyslexia support and I finally gained a formal identification in 2010 at 27.

I was offered extra exam time, help with essay spell checking and various software packages, and I said to the educational psychologist who diagnosed me: ‘I feel like I’m cheating now – getting all of this, which my peers aren’t’, and he said: ‘You’ve been playing football all your life with your peers, except you’ve been playing uphill. You’re not cheating, you’re getting support to play on a level playing field’.

But I still wasn’t given any leaflets about dyslexia, or any book recommendations, or links to follow, so I wasn’t much wiser. I came to learn that I needed to read a text three times, and recap everything I read in writing myself, to get it stored in my memory – and that this didn’t make me stupid.

I realised, via the software that I needed to read things on paper, to highlight it, rather than on a screen. I learned that being read aloud to was preferential, but while also reading along myself to see the words as they were spoken to me. And I learned that via practise – writing essay after essay – I did improve simply by repeating a task.

I also learned that it was no good to just read (and re-read) and memorise – I needed to apply the knowledge in either practice or, at least, via meaningful, real-life examples. Text books are often poor at offering this, so I needed to pause and come up with real-life examples in my head, where I could apply my new knowledge, and ideally share this example with others to really get it hammered into my own memory. I also needed to go hunting for the right kind of text books for me, and not just accept whatever the tutors suggested, as some books are more dyslexia friendly that others, in layout, font and their form of explanation. I needed non-fiction and text books to apply the rules of storytelling – a passion of mine – to really relate and, thereby, remember.

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I have a whole host of self-taught learning strategies – some weirder than others. For example, I’m no good at head maths, so I tap out small figures with my fingers on my leg, or quickly add up using taps of a pen onto paper, using the number formation of a dice. Though, obviously, this doesn’t work for bigger numbers.

Of course, I wish I’d known these things earlier to help me through life, but better late than never. And of course, these strategies are personalised towards my needs. Yours might be different, but they will be there, you just need to find out what they are and apply them.

What do you love doing? What kind of information do you retain and is that because it’s linked to something you love? Now, try to apply this to things that you struggle with. Maybe you already know your learning strategies? What are they and how did they come about?

Thank you for reading my blog – check out ‘part II’ on the 25th of January 2019.

Terese Kansted

Dyslexia Scotland blogger