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Positive Dyslexia - Professor Rod Nicolson

Positive Dyslexia - Professor Rod Nicolson



Professor Rod Nicolson from the University of Sheffield, UK and his lecture on Positive Dyslexia to the International Dyslexia Association Parents Conference 2012. ...

Professor Rod Nicolson from the University of Sheffield, UK and his lecture on Positive Dyslexia to the International Dyslexia Association Parents Conference 2012.

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For more on Dr. Nicolson's work: http://www.shef.ac.uk/psychology/staff/academic/rod-nicolson



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  • I had one of those ‘road to Damascus’ conversions when I read this passage in Martin Seligman’s book on Positive PsychologyI’d done lots of good things for diagnosing dyslexia so that early support could be given.But it was always in terms of weaknesses, never strengths.Curing the negatives (reading, phonology) does not produce the positives.He is absolutely right.No-one would ever employ you because you had overcome your reading disability!
  • You will be familiar with this inspirational mantra.This is of course the fore-runner of positive dyslexia – how can we find the learning strengths of dyslexic childrenIt leads to these three issues that I raised back in 2001 in my Keynote address to the BDA International Conference..I think, at last, I have a set of answers!
  • The answer to the first question is, I believe, that dyslexic children learn really well in some ways – especially those relating to factsBut really badly in other ways – especially those relating to skills.Much of my professional career has been involved in teasing out the underlying reasons for this, and Angela and I now have solid answers.Next year, I hope to come again to IDA to present my scientific case linking genes through neurotransmitters to brain circuits to automaticity to reading, but that’s my ‘professional’ hat.This is much more important!It took me literally decades to get the third answer to the firstquestion. I don’t know why. It seems pretty obvious now.The key point is that teachers and parents find it really difficult to understand what’s different about the way that dyslexic children learn.The answer is that they should know a lot about it, because dyslexic children learn not like children but like adults.So if you want to know whether a method of teaching will suit a dyslexic child, then think whether it would suit you!
  • Positive Psychology is not some passing fad.Along with cognitive neuroscience it is one of the breakthrough disciplines in Psychology in this century.It’s got both great academic prestige and profile together with strong uptake in the everyday world
  • The Dyslexia Representative Organisations, including the IDA and the BDA, have made a start on trying to get the positive institutions with initiatives like the BDA’s ‘Dyslexia-Friendly Schools’ but this is just the tip of the iceberg,We’ve made negligible progress on positive experiences for dyslexic children and adults.I’m fortunate to be able to call upon in this symposium two of the researchers who have been very influential – but not influential enough unfortunately – on stressing the positive individual traits associated with dyslexia
  • Values in Action (VIA) Institute created by Mayerson Foundation in 2000 to provide conceptual means of describing positive youth development. What does “good character” mean? Worked on by Peterson & Seligman to produce a classification of character strengths.
  • To be perfectly honest, I do have considerable reservations about positive psychology.It strikes me that it has the kernel of a brilliant idea, but at the moment it’s too fluffy.You seriously can’t get better at reading by just using learned optimism. You need to combine a determined and resilient approach with a good method, that suits your strengths of learningInterestingly, just as dyslexia is a associated with a pattern of difficulties, so that some children show a range of difficulties, and others show just a few, it’s the same with strengths, there’s a characteristic set of strengths
  • I’ve put up this slide to tackle head on one of the questions often posed by academics, and one that has caused considerable grief to researchers such as my co-presenters in this symposiumI can’t stress this strongly enough. This is the WRONG question.It makes two unforgivable assumptions:First that all dyslexics are somehow the same, and therefore it is legitimate to take some group average (or that the control group are all somehow the same) Second that something like creativity is somehow fixed, and it makes sense to take a snapshot at some age of some aspect of creativity. It’s not fixed, and can be substantially improved through training and experience – however creative you are.The positive psychology question is the only one with meaning. However strong or weak my skills are overall, is creativity one of my better ones, and if so, how can I keep improving my personal best on creativity!?
  • For each individual, we need to help them find what their own strengths are, and then give them a helping hand to develop their strengths so that can get into a career that suits those strengthsBoth parents and the IDA can play a major role in this
  • So this is the general plan
  • I think there will be different approaches at different stages in life.For a pre-school child, key activities will involve ‘inoculating’ the child against reading failure. Remember we need to use the situations that are important to each specific child – their own family and home rather than some generic reading text.I’ll sketch out my plan shortlyFor high school we need to inspire the child to find a career in which they will be comfortable and successful – one that suits their strengths
  • This is actually a suite of programs I developed with the help of Hattie’s parents.We wanted to make something that was unique to Hattie, something that she could curl up with, have some quality time looking at herself and her everyday tasks, while at the same time seeing the words, and learning the words in the way that a child learns its first language, just by immersion and without any pressure.So the child doesn’t need to do anything, the words get linked with their sounds automatically via our inbuilt automatic ‘statistical learning’ abilities.You will all have video clips like this, and all you need to do to make them into reading resources is to enter the transcripts, and link the phrases to their times in the video.I’ve made a program to do this, and the idea is the you would send me the video and I’d make you your own app. The rather better idea is that you’d do this all yourselves without bringing me into it, so I’ve made an app that does it all. But this is something that the IDA could do, and indeed this is where we could bring in app professional
  • I don’t want to steal the thunder from my co-presenters, so I’m just showing this summary very briefly.These are some of the strengths that have been associated with dyslexia
  • Imagine that you’re at high school and your strengths finder has identified that you have entrepreneurial skillsThen you might get inspiration from some brief talks (available over the Positive Dyslexia app) by well known and successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin in the UK, or Ingvar Kamprod, founder of IKEA in Sweden, or one of the many well known US dyslexic entrepreneursHaving decided that this is the career for you, you will be able to access specific additional skills and social networking opportunities to enhance your chances of making it as an entrepreneurSimilarly for other classic dyslexia careers. Dean Kamen invented the Segway vehicle, and Richard Rogers was a renowned architect.And so on.Actually, though I think empathy is probably one of the major strengths of dyslexia – one doesn’t become famous for empathy! Except perhaps as an actor, of which of course there are many examples

Positive Dyslexia - Professor Rod Nicolson Positive Dyslexia - Professor Rod Nicolson Presentation Transcript

  • Symposium Positive Dyslexia: Working to our Strengths1. Rod Nicolson: Positive Dyslexia: Follow Your Stars2. Sara Agahi: Strengths of Dyslexia in the workplace: A Positive Psychology approach3. Thomas West: Dyslexia: A Strengths Approach4. Brock Eide: Understanding and Fostering the Cognitive Advantages in Individuals with Dyslexia5. Forum Symposium presented at IDA Parents Conference, Baltimore October 2012 1
  • Positive Dyslexia:Follow Your Stars Professor Rod NicolsonUniversity of Sheffield, UK Acknowledgment: Angela Fawcett 2
  • Dedication: Professor T. R. Miles… It was again a medical man, Dr. Orton, who in the 1920s and 1930s called attention to this group of difficulties. I think it can fairly be claimed that Orton did more than any other early pioneer to put dyslexia ‘on the map’.… For the next two decades, however (that is, in the 1940s and 1950s), it appears that large-scale educational measurements were in fashion rather than the detailed study of individual cases … It may be my personal prejudice, but I have serious doubts as to whether such surveys provide data of any lasting significance, and I certainly wish that researchers had spent more time looking at individual children.Dyslexia: the Pattern of Difficulties (1983 p. 3) That’s my Johnny! 3
  • My Message+ The Dyslexia community has made outstanding progress • Awareness • Legislation • Research- But this has been at the expense of • Disability • Disempowerment • Disengagement • Despair It’s time to ask the right questions 4
  • Dyslexia: The Right Questions• The Worker How can I be respected and valued for my abilities?• The Parent How can little Johnny (or Jenny) have a happy and fulfilled life?• The Researcher How can we give the power back to the people? We now have the tools, the science, the answers 5
  • Plan of TalkPositive Dyslexia: Why and How?1. Background2. Positive Psychology3. Positive Dyslexia4. What we can do… 7
  • IDA Definition:Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in thephonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequencesmay include problems in reading comprehension and reducedreading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Adopted by the Board of Directors: November 12, 2002 9
  • Martin Seligman Positive Psychology Preface to Learned Optimism, 2nd ed… But clinical psychologists also began to find something disconcerting emerging from therapy: even on that rare occasion when therapy goes superbly and unusually well, and you help the client rid herself of depression, anxiety, and anger, happiness is not guaranteed. Emptiness is not an uncommon result.… Curing the negatives does not produce the positives. … The skills of becoming happy turn out to be almost entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, or not being angry.
  • The Key ConundrumIf dyslexic children cannot learn the way we teach, we must teach them the way they learn 1. How do dyslexic children learn? 2. How should we teach them? 3. What should we do as a community?
  • My answers to the three questions [this took me 20 years…]1. How do dyslexic children learn? • Terrific knowledge • Terrible conversion of knowledge to skills • Like adults2. How should we teach them? • Like adults • If it won’t work for you, it won’t work for your child!3. What should we do as a community? • Work together toward ‘Positive Dyslexia’ that allows each individual to learn to learn to their strengths
  • Adult Learning andPositive Psychology 13
  • How do adults learn?1) ‘Pull’ goals rather than ‘push’ goals2) Personal significance3) Immersion4) Anchoring5) Quality Time6) Success Follow your star!
  • Positive Psychology1. In 1998, Martin Seligman (APA President) argued that the focus of Psychology on problems is only one side of the coin2. Initiated the Positive Psychology movement. This focuses on strengths & building the best in life!3. Designed not to replace existing fields but supplementthem4. Strong emphasis on empowering the individual
  • Pillars of Positive Psychology1. Positive experiences happiness, pleasure, & joy2. Positive individual traits character, talents & interests3. Positive institutions families, schools, businesses, communities & societies• Growing literature captured attention of academics & the media• A movement not a profession
  • Positive Concepts Flow Optimism Wellness Hope ZestResilience Flourishing Satisfaction Self- Savouring Gratitude efficacy Strengths Vitality
  • 24 Character Strengths & Virtues1. Wisdom & Knowledge Creativity, Curiosity, Love of learning, Open-mindedness & Perspective2. Courage Authenticity, Bravery, Persistence and Zest3. Humanity Kindness, Love, Social intelligence4. Justice Fairness, Leadership & Teamwork5. Temperance Forgiveness, Modesty, Prudence, Self-regulation6. Transcendence Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Humour, Spirituality
  • Positive Psychology and Dyslexia 19
  • Building and Using Strengths1. Character Strengths2. Cognitive Strengths3. Work Strengths4. Family Strengths5. Interests6. Inspirations
  • Are dyslexic individuals more creative than others? Wrong Question! The answer is, some are, some aren’t, and who are you comparing with? The Right Question is the individual one: Is creativity one of my relative strengths, and if so, what can I do to enhance this strength and craft my life to use it?
  • Positive Approach1. Identify and empowerto work to Signature Strengths • working for one’s own development rather than to someone else’s tune2. Identify and guidetoward careers involving Strengths • Better career advice • Better diagnostic information3. Empower and involve stakeholders • Parents • IDA / BDA
  • Positive Dyslexia Goal-directedStrengths Inspirations activities Positive Positive PositiveDiagnosis Ambitions Acceleration Positive Career Success Job-crafting
  • Positive Dyslexia through life FamilyPre-school Inoculation Friends Interests FamilyEarly school Friends Interests SchoolHigh school Goals Career Success Work Work Family Job-crafting Friends
  • Pre-School and Early School Proactive Grounded Support at home 25
  • Principles of Read At Home ‘Inoculation’1. Learn naturally without pressure or effort in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere2. ‘Ground’ the pre-literacy experience in your own environment – make it a ‘HomeLand’3. Empower parents, grandparents and children to develop their own support materials via a ReadAtHome app4. Give your child a flying start at school5. Make a real ‘community of dyslexia practice’
  • Strengths-Based Career Choice 28
  • What are the signature strengths of dyslexia? Thomas West, Marshall Rasskind, Brock &FernetteEide, Ron Davis • Creativity • Self-awareness • Visual / Spatial skill • Proactivity • Declarative Learning • Perseverance • Social Skills • Goal-setting • Resilience • Effective support • Focus systems • Determination • Emotional stability • Teamwork? • Multi-dimensional • MIND strengths thinking See Rest of Symposium!
  • Positive Dyslexia Career DevelopmentSpecial skills Acceleration Inspiration Business Skills Richard BransonEntrepreneur Enterprise Ingvar Kamprad Science Dean KamenInnovative Creativity Sir Richard Rogers Spatial Networking Steven Spielberg Media Design John Lennon Susan Emotional Intelligence Hampshire Empathy Teamwork Bono
  • Conclusions 31
  • My 2020 Visions• Dyslexia in the Workplace We cannot compete with [Google / BBC / Virgin etc] because they have more dyslexics than us in top positions – opportunity not obligation for the bosses• Parent I know that, if we all work at it, little Johnny (or Jenny) has every chance of a successful and fulfilling career and life – individual planning and empowerment We now have the tools and the science to do this 32
  • Why Now?1. First wave (disability awareness) completed • Awareness • Legislation • Representative bodies2. The Science is right • Positive Psychology • Work Psychology • Individual Psychology3. Tools are there • Social Media • Apps • The knowledge economy
  • Why You!?1. A movement builds from the grass-roots2. Parents have the need and the determination to make a difference for the next generation3. New technologies allow the combination of individual and social developments4. The IDA and BDA are well placed to help co-ordinate and lead this initiative. There is much to be done! Together we can help dyslexics find and follow their stars!
  • End of Talk 35
  • References1. Nicolson, R.I. and Fawcett, A.J. (2007). Procedural Learning Difficulties: Re-uniting the Developmental Disorders!? Trends in Neurosciences, 30(4), 135-141.2. Nicolson, R.I. and Fawcett, A.J. (2008). Dyslexia, Learning and the Brain. MIT Press3. Seligman, M.E.P. (2003). Authentic Happiness. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.4. West, T.G. (2008). In the Mind’s Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the rise of visual technologies (2nded). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Contact Rod Nicolson, Dept. of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TP, UK Email: r.nicolson@shef.ac.uk +44 114 2226546