How students present with a specific learning disability
How students present with a Specific Learning Disability or Dyslexia Children with these difficulties present as being quite bright in tasks and subjects that do not require reading or writing. When asked to read or write they often possess skills that are many years behind their peers, avoid it by using work avoidance strategies which can include bad behaviour or produce a minimal amount of work. Many of these students regards themselves as ‘dumb’ and have low self esteem.
What ishappening forthe child? When asked to read and write many children become overwhelmed. Reading for them is an arduous task. Some have difficulty distinguishing visually between letters, words and sentences. They see them as back the front, upside down, blurred or running all together into one big blob. This has nothing to do with their sight but rather how the brain is processing written information. This is visual dyslexia. Some have Auditory dyslexia which is characterized by problems with integrating and processing what is heard. Auditory dyslexics also have problems with recalling sounds and being able to put a sound with the letter it. They therefore have phonological difficulties. Some have both.
What can bedone?Do not forsake trying to teachsound/letter links. Do this in a waythat caters for all learning styles egvisual, auditory and tactile. Use structured, sequential materialsuch as THRASS, Spalding, SoundWaves. Allow the children to haveindividual charts of sounds andletters to refer to and copy from.When writing or spelling the childshould have an individual chartnearby to refer to.Support tactile learning byproviding lego tiles, graphememagnets, sandpaper letters,drawing letters and sounds in sandtrays etc (depending on the age ofthe child.)Use computer programs such asPhonics Alive 1 and 2 and WordShark to practice phonic skills.
Visual DyslexiaTry visual discrimination exercises such as find and circleall the b’s on a page of b and d’s.Try rhymes and visual cues to help a child rememberthe difference between letters e.g m looks like amountain, w looks like a waterslide, b is bat and ball, d isdrum and drumstick.Try a behavioural optometrist who works with childrenwho have visual discrimination, perception and memorydifficulties.See if the child benefits from having the print sizeincreased - full page magnifers may be helpful as mayincreasing page size on a photocopier – A4 – A3See if increasing the spaces between words helps ortaking one word at a time and blocking all other printon the page.Certain fonts are better than others for dyslexic childrento read – New times Roman, Papyrus and Comic Sans.Some children benefit from coloured overlays in varyingcolours – red, blue or yellow. These can be made fromtransparent plastic folders. Children can then put themover their readers or worksheets before they read them.If coloured overlays help a child tinted glasses may alsohelp. The Irlen Foundation and Dyslexia Australia haveinformation about this.Declutter worksheets to prevent visual overload. Useminimal text. Use space between questions and lines oftext. Enclose sections in distinct boxes Make use ofgraphic organisers.Fold the worksheet into thirds or halves so it is notoverwhelming. Block sections of the sheet with anothersheet of paper.
Auditory Dyslexia Auditory dyslexiaTeach or reteach phonologicalawareness skills – these are the buildingblocks of literacy. It is important the childknows how to rhyme and how rhymingcan help with spelling, how to hearsounds in words and represent thesesounds by using combinations of lettersand how sounds in words can bemanipulated to make other words. Loveand Reilly produce excellent material toteach these skills such as A Sound Way.Computer programs such as Earobics 1and 2 can train children withphonological difficulties. There is even anEarobics for adolescents and adultsavailable which will train older students.Allow these students extra processingtime when you ask a question or whenthey are required to add to a discussionor process a new fact or concept.Sit the student next to a learning buddywho they can check instructions andanswers with.Use pictures to help with learning- visualchecklists, diagrams, step by stepinstructions incorporating some text.These children often have auditorymemory difficulties so limiting the amountof talk in a lesson , only giving them oneor two instructions at a time, gettingthem to repeat information or instructionsback and getting a peer to sum uplearning for the lesson is desirable.
Assistive Software• Dragon Naturally Speaking – converts words into text. The student has to train the program in order for it to recognise his voice. With practice a voice profile is developed so that the program will recognise individual speech patterns. Advanced digital voice recorders can be used with the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking where they can record voice files and then import the file and convert their voice into text.• Dragon Naturally Speaking has a free IPAD application which may be useful and performs a similar function. It is not as sophisticated as the commercial program. It is available on the web• There are also text readers and writers such as Text help Read and Write Gold and Penfriend which will read text for the student which has been scanned into the computer or available from web pages. It will also help the student write by predicting the word he is trying to spell and showing a dictionary of possible choices. It will read the choices to the student if needed. It will also read his own work back to him. Audio files can be stored on Ipods and MP3 players. The programs are available through Spectronics.• Ginger – a grammar and spell checker might also be worth using. Ginger was devised for students with dyslexia and is very good at interpreting and correcting jumbled writing.
Assistive software andsome freebies.• Free software includes a free spell checker called Word Talk – www,wordtalk,org.uk/Home/ A free program for text to speech software is Balabokla Text to Speech software. Website is www.cross-plus-a.com/balabolka.htm• A light scribe pen may also be of use. This pen can record the teacher’s voice and has a special booklet the child writes in. When the student clicks a specific word the pen then plays the corresponding message by the teacher. More information can be found on the web. Just google Light Scribe Pen.• More software resources can be found at http://speldvic.org.au/Software-Resources.html• The Education Department has a teacher resource on the web. The teacher resource is accessible from www.education.vic.gov.au/dyslexia . Advice for parents has also been developed and includes strategies that parents can use to support their child’s learning and development at school. See www.ecucation.vic.gov.au/aboutschool/learning/dyslexia.htm
What can be done – Classroom techniques1. Encourage students to repeat and focus on the components of words, especially for the longer words e.g Can you say? How many syllables does it have in it? Lets count them on your fingers. What sound does it start and finish with? How many sounds in the word. What letters or letter combinations make this sound? All of these prompts will help imbed the word into the student’s memory.2. Allow for frequent practice of new learning and revision of that learning.3. Link new information with something that is already known or something that is of interest to the child.4. The dyslexic student will need additional time to read, write and spell. Decoding is tiring for them. They are working harder than the average student to complete their work. They should not be penalised (e.g kept in, called lazy, given the task for homework )if they do not finish it. Limit the amount of written homework a dyslexic child is required to do too as they will be more exhausted from the school day than other students.5. Use graphic organisers for dyslexic students to cut down and organise the amount of writing they need to do.6. Software such as kidspiration and Inspiration can help students to produce mind maps of learning.7. Think about alternative ways to assess students – can they write an essay in pairs ? Can they draw or make something to show learning. Can they be assessed orally?8. A teacher should be willing to read test questions to a child with dyslexia and even act as scribe.9. Incorporate group work into your program where the dyslexic child can take an active role but someone else can do the reading and writing.10. Discuss ideas for writing with the student and make a word bank together of words the child may need for his writing. Alternatively a word bank could be made on the board for all children to use.11. Talk through writing ideas and scaffold where necessary. Eg child writes introduction today, arguments for the idea next day, arguments against the idea next day etc
Dyslexia, selfesteem anddepressionMany students after several years of struggling to learnhow to read and write, or reading and writing at astandard lower than their peers are disheartened.Some can become depressed or develop low selfesteem.Teachers should be aware of this and not put thedyslexic student into situations that they find particularlystressful e.g reading in front of the whole class.Concentrate on the positives that the students displayand allow time within your classroom to celebrate allstudent’s talents and expertise in a range of fields.Celebrate the successes of famous people withdyslexia.Remember Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and caterfor and assess all intelligences. Use rubrix to provideopportunities for students to display knowledge in stylesthat suit them.There is a text called Success and Dyslexia – Sessions forcoping in the upper primary years by Nola Firth andErica Frydenberg which is a series of lessons teachingresilience and coping skills for the dyslexic child. It isaimed at the upper primary years but strategiesincluded in it would be just as valuable for high schoolyears.
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