A different way of teaching.

A different way of teaching.

So Jasmine goes to a specialist school now that delivers the standard national academic curriculum plus some very focussed teaching to dramatically improve her reading, spelling, writing as well as providing occupational therapy to support some of her dyspraxic challenges.

The approach is holistic, immersive and multi-sensory in its delivery. I recently observed a spelling class where the spelling pattern and sound “ea” used in words like “head” was being taught. They set up tables laid out with slices of bread and pots of jam. The children were asked to make jam sandwiches and hence to spread jam onto the bread. The activity was both visual and kinaesthetic and in turn consolidated their understanding of the particular spelling sound but also had given them a visual cue that could be called upon when they needed to remember the spelling in the future.

Being part of the 90% of the population whose brain works in a “normal” way when it comes to reading, I find the whole notion of teaching children this way odd. But of course, it is different – necessarily so.

The dyslexic brain works very differently (more on this another time), one of the key features is the importance of visual stimuli. Adult dyslexics have been reported to be able to “see” patterns and conceptualise / visualise complex problems much better than the average person. Indeed, many dyslexics go on to become architects, engineers, product designers (think of Johnny Ive, Apple’s legendary designer of the Mac, iPod, iPad) putting this particular skill into practice.

And so it just stands to reason that educating a dyslexic child should involve techniques and methods that enable visual and kinaesthetic learning.

I came across the following quote by Ignacio Estrada on Pinterest which I think just sums this up:

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”

Honestly, the approach is different, it seems odd but alas, I am looking through my lens that has been shaped by a very standard approach to education that I’ve experienced my whole life and that worked for me. Now, I’m learning not to question, but to accept that if this is the right approach and it works, then its all good.

The summer

The summer

Over the summer holidays friends and family remark with horror that we still continue to do homework.
The reality is we do not do much, we practice times tables, read for 15 mins and do some writing ( usually a holiday journal or something similar). As far as I’m concerned, this is the bare minimum to keep the dyslexic brain, so prone to forgetting concepts, ticking over.
I came across this quote by Douglas Merrill, first CIO of Google and the President of EMI Music and the CEO ZestFinance:
“Every summer, my mother was re-teaching me to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, all the way up until I’m in college…”
I notice his use of the word “re-teaching” as this is such an apt description of what I am essentially doing. I’ve mentioned before how quick Jasmine is to understand concepts and indeed how equally quick she is at forgetting it all. With certain maths concepts that depend on memorisation – timetables for instance, we just have to keep practicing them to ensure she does not completely forget them.
I think the key for me is to always remember this is a marathon not a sprint. There is no value in doing 2 hours of work daily over the summer, 30mins of short, sharp practice of a few concepts will suffice as long as these are thought out in advance.
I put a timetable together to ensure topics build on each other, I also try and mix up the reading material: comics, poems, menus, marketing leaflets etc and importantly we have an incentive mechanism, a combination of star charts and marble jars, that seem to encourage and motivate.
I noted also Merrill’s comment above about how this summer re-teaching continued right through till he went to college and remind myself once again, we are in for the long haul.
Social skills – a challenge

Social skills – a challenge

So I’ve written about this once before….
We parents of dyslexic kids don’t talk about this at all, our conversations are dominated by the challenges related to reading, spelling maths and writing. The reality is that for many neuro-diverse kids, social skills is an equally challenging area.
For us, it’s become a real challenge and a major source of worry and frustration.
In the last 8 months suddenly Jasmine’s social skills, or lack of social skills, has become so apparent. When we go out to dinner, she can’t sit still, stands up constantly, fidgets, fusses, teases her sister, talks loudly, laughs equally loudly, lies down, talks over people and the list goes on. It is incredibly frustrating, annoying and embarrassing.
We do everything… conversations before and on the way to the event about expected behaviour, manners charts, punishments, taking away treats etc. We seem to be making no progress and sometimes I just get so fed up with it, I want to scream! I get to the point sometimes that I just need to take a time out and tell myself “tomorrow is another day”.
She is not naughty or disruptive it’s just these subtle behaviours that are odd, strange that cause people to stare and parents to tut tut… I see people shaking their heads in disapproval.
Our counsellor says this is normal, neuro-diverse kids just don’t instinctively understand the way they are meant to behave, they can’t read social cues etc. Social skills need to be taught and like everything else, repeated and repeated and repeated over and over until one day I’m told, it clicks.
I hope this is true.
I worry that people will not invite her to parties because of her behaviour that she will be excluded from activities and events. I worry that she will grow into one of those odd adults that we’ve all come across at work and in the supermarket, you know the ones who are socially awkward and rude that people avoid.
We will persevere with continuing to reinforce good manners (and demonstrating them), the social skills classes, the manners charts and rewards and hope that it sticks.