Isn’t it beautiful? I arrived last night at my Ladies’ Bible Study and saw this across the street so ran over and started snapping photos!
What are finer things in your life today?
Linked to Finer Things Friday @ Amy’s Finer things:
I’m extremely pleased to welcome Liz Dunoon, Mother of three, Author and Teacher from Australia! Her first book, Helping Children With Dyslexia, came out in Australia at the end of September – with plans to make it readily available in the states soon. (You can purchase it now, however, through her website! I’ll let her tell you her story and her journey to help her children succeed in school.
Without Further Ado, Liz Dunoon!
For the last three years I have been writing a book titled ‘How To Help Children With Dyslexia’. It has just been published. No I’m not a scientist, or a neuro-psychologist or an educational specialist. I am a past teacher, but more importantly, I am a parent, a parent of three, beautiful, happy children who all struggle with dyslexia. Here is the story of how my book came about.
In 2004 my oldest son started school. I held him back a year until he was six-years-old. This was because I knew as a youngster he had been a slow developer. As a past teacher I understood the value of reading, so as he grew I would read to him every night before bed. A routine we both loved. He was so clever, although he could not identify any of the individual words, he could memorize whole stories perfectly and even used the relevant expression. We would laugh and laugh.
Starting school however was daunting for my son, he found reading writing and spelling virtually impossible and when he bought his readers home from school and flash cards of simple sight words, I noticed he could not read any of them. When I taught him a word on one page of his reader he could not transfer that learning to the next. I was as confused as he was. Why couldn’t he remember words? I always assumed even as a teacher that learning to read was a process of ‘osmosis’, the more times you saw a word, the more likely it was to become stored in your working and long term memory. So why wasn’t this happening for my son? To top it off, he found writing difficult and controlling his pencil almost impossible. He became unsure of himself and I began to worry. I was a trained teacher why couldn’t I help him.
A trip into the classroom 3 months later proved frustrating and even more worrying. The teacher at his school had no knowledge of his struggle. I felt completely alone and I remember sitting in my car after this meeting, crying in despair. In response I ramped up my efforts at home to teach my son, but this just resulted in teary anxiousness, which led to defiance and lots of him shouting of, “I just can’t do it”. What was going wrong? I just didn’t understand it.
Eventually we changed schools to a much better one that had a great learning support department and offered lots of extra help. The learning difficulties eased but they did not go away. Completing homework was a nightmare for my son and for me too and his schoolwork was getting harder as each year progressed. He had become anxious and stressed and I didn’t like the path this was taking.
Not one to sit around and wait for things to improve, I felt it was time to take things into my own hands. I got on the internet and used the phone and rang as many so called dyslexia experts as I could find. I found very quickly that many were linked to remedial programs that were very expensive and I immediately disregarded them. Then by chance I found a woman who provided the answers to my prayers. Thankfully she was nearby and we drove for two hours to reach her. She assessed my son and gave me the answers I was seeking. Finally I knew how to help him.
So began my journey as this wonderful woman was ‘switched on’ and she knew what was and was not available to help children with dyslexia. Only with a diagnosis of dyslexia, did my son receive support and guaranteed assistance throughout his schooling. But how come the teachers did not tell me this. I discovered later as I continued my research that nearly all teachers including me are not educated or trained in teaching and assisting children with dyslexia and there is much confusion and misinformation.
Acquiring a diagnostic report of dyslexia from a trained professional can cost up to $1200 and most parents do not know they need one, as very few people know exactly what dyslexia is. Children with dyslexia continue to fall through the cracks as psychologists continue to treat depression, anxiety disorders, delinquency and substance abuse, whilst often leaving the root cause of dyslexia undisclosed.
Now you can see why somebody needed to do something to help children with dyslexia. My second son also has dyslexia and my daughter too, but all of my children exhibit different symptoms. My husband struggled at school as well, but worked hard and went on and did very well. I guess the one common denominator shared by all is an ongoing difficulty to read and spell, slow processing speeds and ongoing mental fatigue.
I wrote my book to address all these issues. I am not an expert, more of a reporter. Really I am just a parent who was once a teacher, trying to make a difference and help others. Every chapter heading in my book comes from parents and addresses a fear worry or concern that had been raised and needs to be addressed. In fact over 120 families read my book to make sure I got it right before it went to print. It is funny when people pick up my book and say, ‘But this book answers all the questions I have ever wanted to know the answers too’.
‘Amazing!’ I say, but it not magic. It was parents who gave these to me in the first place.
I have used many world leading dyslexia experts to help me write this book and include all the latest research on colored lenses, brain science, genetics and why dyslexia even exists. These incredible people gave me access to their research and then proof read my work to make sure I got it right. Then I also used more experts to offer strategies to support children with dyslexia, to rebuild their confidence and get them reading and learning confidently again.
This is just the beginning of my journey. I am determined to change the way the world perceives and deals with dyslexia and will not rest until I have achieved this aim. This book is a great place for parents and teachers to start when they are on a journey to help a child who may have dyslexia. I have also created a website full of free resources to offer even more support. Until Governments step up and put appropriate support systems in place to help our children with dyslexia, parents must support one other.
From one family affected by dyslexia to another, I wish you and your family every success.
On Thursday I went to the Tennessee chapter of the International Dyslexia Association‘s annual forum in Murphressboro, TN. They held a round-table discussion with 7 women, two of which held doctorates and all of which had backgrounds either in education or in Dyslexia testing and assistance.
Here’s a few things I learned about Diagnosis that I didn’t know (0r was reminded of)
1. Any possible case of dyslexia should be diagnosed!
Apparently, the State of Tennessee has a Dyslexia Testing Center in Murphressboro that offers it’s services free of charge (with a $25 processing fee) to residents! Who knew? Also- MTSU has an entire Dyslexia research thing (technical, I know) that is making all kinds of strides in that area. Dr. Aimee Holt, a professor at MTSU who has Dyslexia AND her doctorate, spoke to us very eloquently about getting your student diagnosed and the benefits that can come from that.
Dr. Holt told us about growing up with a cousin of hers. They were good friends growing up and she knew he was very smart- as smart as she was, certainly. But their mothers had different techniques with each of them. Her mom took her to get tested and then fought for interventions in her school. (She didn’t specify what her Aunt did, for the record.) Now she has her Doctorate and is doing active research, as well as teaching psychology. Her cousin dropped out of High School, never went to college and is working in a factory and has just risen to the rank of Manager. Is there anything wrong with working in a factory? Of course not! However, he was limited on his options from an early age because he never received the assistance he required.
Their Diagnosis? Always test a potential Dyslexic. The difference could be huge!
2. The Earlier the Diagnosis, The Better the outcome
Judy Oliff, an educator of several decades, told us about two 5th Grade boys who had only just been diagnosed with Dyslexia. (Up until this point they’d been placed in Special Ed classes.) She told us about the amazing progress they had made in just a few months. While this was good news – I sobered very quickly when she reminded us that yes, the interventions they were using were working great. But the boys were making such slow progress that even by the end of the year they would be at an early elementary level of reading and would still be moved up to sixth grade, out of her ability to help them. (She is currently helping them on the side, in addition to her work.) They may eventually- with dedicated teacher- reach a level of reading fluency that they can use in the world, but it’ll be hard for them as they move into Middle School, then High School. By High School one needs to be making grades good enough for scholarships and college applications- they will have a slim chance of that.
She also told us about a 3rd grade girl who had just been diagnosed. She, too, was at a lower reading level than her peers. But since they caught it in 3rd grade they could make minor adjustments and modifications to her work and with some extra tutoring she would reach and stay within the accepted ability range for her age group.
3. An Official Diagnosis Makes a Difference Later in Educations
Dr. Holt also pointed out that a student who has an official Diagnosis is far more likely to receive Accommodations or Modifications in Middle and High School as well as College. These Accommodations make a HUGE difference to the success or failure of a student. (Ask me- This I know.)
Hope these were helpful- look for more posts on TNIDA coming soon!
Up Next: Guest Post from Liz Dunoon: Mother, Teacher and Author from Australia!
Another incentive to stand up for what you are passionate about. This poor bat was getting poked and prodded by students today. I stopped and made a fool of myself and was late for a class and did everything in my power to keep him from getting messed with. Because I stopped and contacted a faculty member with a friend, this bat has a happy ending. (My friend went to get the faculty member while I went to class.)
I was just sent this:
“Dr.Butterfield came over with a jar and caught it and then took it over to the big field in front of BK and made it fly, it flew to the big tree first and latched on and then was coaxed off and took off and flew all the way towards the front of BK and it looks like got in a tree over there, the bat should be left in peace now. ”
Makes my Day
In other news: I’ll be gone starting tomorrow on a trip that takes me, first, by a Dyslexia forum in Murphressboro, TN. I’m pretty excited and will hopefully be posting my findings later this weekend or Tuesday.
I found, back in my dorm days- that everyone has their own unique, diverse and downright strange methods for dealing with stress. My roommate blows bubbles for about 30 minutes when stressed. Many others ran out for 11pm McDonald’s runs (yes, sometimes yours truly, I’ll confess! $1 Drinks were definitely a bargain!) My preferred method was coloring. Yes, You heard me.
Coloring. Works surprisingly well, too! I’d forgotten all about this method when, cleaning my house, I stumbled across the Princess coloring book and crayons I’d bought myself. I’ve gotten back into the habit of late – keeping my colors and coloring book nearby to work out any stress and/ or allow myself to mull over a project or test coming up.
Want to see some of my latest projects?
Of course you do!
First time I did my favorite hair color- golden-red 🙂
Purple Girl (tonight)
I love this one- She’s just majestic!
Golden-Red Hair again
Aaand Again. (Are you seeing a theme?)
This one’s my favorite to date- I did it just a few minutes before posting this and was the inspiration for this post, in fact!
So, Coloring! That’s what works for me- Coloring during my favorite TV shows (Doctor Who, anyone?) It makes me feel creative, productive and gives the word-parts of my brain a chance to take a break! The color and image side takes over and everything gets a bit of a break. I usually only do one or two at a time- I did three tonight, which is a lot for me, but I was on a role!
What frivilous (keyword here: frivolous!) thing do you or yours do when stressed or you need to just unwind from the day?
Mute Monday? Wordless Wednesday? Something like that… except with words. This time. Will have to start doing them without words because I think that’s supposed to be the point, right?
Been playing with my newest toy- a GE X5 Pro Series Camera that my wonderful husband bought for me a few weeks ago! From all of my vast(ly limited) camera experience I’ve come to understand it operates much like a digital SLR, but is priced like a Point-and-Shoot! LOVE it. It makes me feel talented and professional even though I have absolutely no professional experience and limited amateur experience. In fact- I took some pictures at a little girl’s birthday party on Saturday and gave her mom a CD of my best 100ish (out of 200). THEN the mom turns around and asks me if I’d be willing to take- get this- portraits of their family this fall.
So- this photography thing has been a wonderful confidence-booster for me! Here are of my few favorite shots thus far… and remember, this is with no experience whatsoever, so if you hate them, blame the inexperience. If you love them, praise me! 😀
ALSO- writing a short story featuring dyslexia for my Creative Writing class. Very fun, very cathartic and a nice way of taking people inside the head of a dyslexic! Pretty excited about it… I will be keeping you posted, but it’ll probably never see the light of day (outside of my class and teacher, who all have to see it.) Perhaps it’ll lead to a children’s book someday, though… you never know.
Ah… Dyslexia. My constant companion. Been having the hardest time copying things down today. Just wrote this in my creation writing class.
“Initially, poetry might be definied as a kind of language that says more and says it more inensely than does ordinary langauage.”
And it frustrates me when I have to focus SO hard to type anything. I’ll admit it.
Here’s another confession: There is also some frustration over not being able to submit a typed “writer’s journal” for this class. I find it quite a bit easier to just type out my ideas, if a computer is available to me. However, when I last turned in this writer’s journal it was in typed format and I was told it was the only time I could do so. I have not turned it in yet this week (it is now overdue) because it would mean copying down what little I have… but I honestly didn’t finish my entries because I didn’t feel like writing that much.
It’s not just an elementary school problem… it’s life-long. I know I’ll probably have to talk to the teacher to preserve my grade… but I don’t want to because I’m so very, deeply embarrassed to have work undone. My standards have been violated (through my own inaction.) and now I find it hard to speak up and work something out. I say this even knowing there are measures in place that I might can take advantage of. I think they state that I am allowed to submit work in typed-up format, that I’m allowed to sometimes have extensions… but I don’t know where the line is, when to call in those measures. I’m embarrassed, ashamed. I’ll probably receive a bad grade on this assignment- but the shame outweighs that most of the time.
Parents: this is something your child my struggle with. Because I sure do.
Dyslexics: if this is something you struggle with, too- YOU’RE not alone.
“I’m gonna be somebody, someday. One of these days I’m gonna break these chains. I’m gonna be somebody, someday You can bet your hard-earned dollar I will.”
– Travis Tritt, I’m Gonna Be Somebody
No matter your country, religion, “crunchiness” or political leanings every parent wants to help their child to have a positive self-esteem. And while it’s a concern and a challenge for every parent- it’s especially crucial for the parents of a dyslexic student.
Growing up, a dyslexic student will always feel a separation between themselves and their classmates or siblings. Things that their peers breeze through can be difficult for a dyslexic child. I spoke just today with a sweet lady who related a story about her granddaughter’s difficulties reading a birthday card that was easily read by a cousin of the same age.
I remember clearly being ashamed of forgetting concepts and assignments that my classmates seemed to complete with no effort. Only now, long after I’ve graduated High School, am I getting a good grasp on note-taking and organization. I felt anxious constantly throughout my Elementary, Middle and High School years – afraid that I’d forgotten some assignment, missed some crucial detail or be asked to do something that would expose me. However, my harshest criticism was not from teachers or peers but from myself. I struggled with my schoolwork and self-esteem (and they often fed directly into each other.)
If you have a dyslexic student – these are all probably things they struggle with, or at least are a constant possibility. I’m currently reading Dyslexia: The Facts by Mark Selikowitz (I’ll be reviewing it later this week.) and in it he gives some tips and observations on Self-Esteem and the Dyslexic Student:
– First, you should try to accept your child’s weaknesses. He needs love that is not conditional upon his achievement. You also need to accept his feelings, without criticism.
– When Praising your child, give specifics. Make it clear what you are praising him for.
– Children learn self-esteem from their parents’ example. Let your child hear you praise your own accomplishments (for example, ‘I’m very pleased with the way this cake has turned out’, or ‘That was a job well done’).
– Encourage your child to set realistic goals so that she can experience success. Most importantly, help him to evaluate his achievements realistically, so that he is not overly critical of himself.
– [T]each your child to praise himself. If he achieves something, ask him, ‘How do you think you did?’
– Children also need to feel they belong to something. It may be an idea to arrange for your child to join in a hobby group, a scout pack, or some other such unit.
– Children need to feel they have the power to make some of the choices that affect their lives. Whenever possible, let him select things for himself, such as which clothes he wants, in what order he does things, and which books he takes from the library. Admire his choices and praise his self-sufficiency.
Taken from Dyslexia and Other Learning Difficulties: The Facts by Mark Selkowitz (bold emphasis mine.)
I hope these are helpful! I’ll be reviewing this book in the very near future for you- but in the meantime let me know, do these techniques work for you? What does Work for You?
1. It’s SUPER zippy-fast. I always forget how much zippier it is and then I use a Windows machine and suddenly feel like I’m watching a rock erode. Seriously.
2. No viruses!
3. Easier to work on! I am (randomly, I’ll admit) a computer tech at my college, so I see alot of computers every day. Taking apart and re-assembling a mac is no sweat. They’re easy and they make so much sense- even a dyslexic girl can put it back together!
4. It’s so pretty! Sharp, lovely graphics everywhere and VERY customizable!
5. Easy to navigate! I tend to get lost on Windows machines, even after I grew up on them. (Sorry, Dad!) BUT my Mac is easy to Navigate- almost everything being represented by pictures instead of just words. (Great for Dyslexics, btw!)
6. As jypiddy pointed out on his blog post “Dyslexics need to be on a Mac” – Mac has a built-in text-to-speech program. I set mine up to read to me when I click Command+1 VERY useful for the student who needs help proofreading papers!
7. Simple commands. Command + Letter. Command+S (Save) Command+N (New) … everything is that way. I love how much time it saves me! It’s also a system I can remember very easily. (I know Windows has some such shortcuts, but I don’t think they work in every program.)
8. Spell check 24/7. Maybe your windows does it, but when I was using Windows it wasn’t doing spell check in every application. I love this- it saves me a lot of embarrassment!
9. The computer itself has lots of nifty features- from awesome battery life to the new MBP’s super-trackpad (I can twirl my fingers and spin a picture, enlarge text with a motion…it’s great!)
10. The Tenth Reason I love my mac isn’t because of how pretty it is or all of it’s features…but it makes me feel like I have power to do things. It doesn’t control me, it’s not a mystery to me, it is easy and accessible to me. Part of that may be the whole “Tech” thing, but I don’t think that’s all of it. It’s simply the way the machine is built- to be a confidence booster and to make everything possible.