This is why when I now do Psychological Assessments of young children I am very focused on a fun enjoyable experience - a trauma free zone if you like.
I was 8 when I had my second Psychological Assessment and 16 when I had my third. I have lived with hereditary Profound Dyslexic Spectrum Disorder since birth and it still impacts of every aspect of my daily life - but I developed ways to cope.
I remember there were pages and pages of how I did not measure up to other children my age. There was never help given to my parents and I to assist me in working the way I needed to work. The only focus was on what I could not do.
Hence, this is why I started to develop my own methods of learning from 4. I was also acutely aware at 4 that I was completely incapable of doing what the School and Government Shrinks wanted me to so.
These days, I set children and families up for success no matter how “behind” the rest of the world perceives a child’s cognitive development and behaviors.
Every family I have dealt with personally, and that is thousands of people at this stage, are set up to succeed in the precise ways that their child is capable of learning and developing.
Personality is a massive factor in development. Some people are more independent that others. They may walk faster, they may be quieter. Some people are born chatterboxes and others do not speak until much later on. Some will not play by themselves others are loners. No one can be put on a scale and expected to fit.
Even children who have hearing impairments and a great big long list of conditions I deal with can develop better and learn faster with the right interventions. It does not matter what it is - no two children can rise to their challenges in the same ways.
How can a professional determine if a 4-year is up to task with cognitive development?
Most professionals rely on standardized test. Personally, I do a session with the child using my “toolbox.” This involves a whole series of games with everything from Playdoh to magnets. This allows me and my Team to test abilities across a whole spectrum without the child even being aware of it. All the testing is completed without the child feeling like they are being examined.
What if the 4-year old cannot do all the cognitive skills for his/her age?
Should a parent worry?
I do not deem tasks age appropriate. I strongly believe development is a little bit more complex and I think it is unfortunate that a lot of learning difficulties are determined on an age scale. This ends up making parents feel very bad about their child’s development. During my initial assessments, yes sure it is always very obvious to me what people cannot do, but it is equally obvious if they have fantastic visual pattern recognition or memory association skills. These can be used to develop the areas that are lacking. Just the same ways I achieved a First Class Honors Degree followed by a Doctorate when told as a teenager that University was “beyond my status.”
I think the system sets up parents to worry. But one of my key tasks in taking on any new case is to put everyone’s mind at ease and make everything doable. Families always walk out the door with a way, structure, plan an if necessary Team support to do everything.
How can a parent help a child develop these skills?
I set up programs for parents to use the everyday in their own home to help their children. I think one of the disadvantages of our technological world is that it is very removed from other people and parents. Yes, I do like to use some Apps but I like to develop skills using less remote games. Child cookery, for example, builds time management skills and the use of a radio in the background helps children filter information.
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly Expression Developist™
From my experience helping students across a whole spectrum of dyslexic conditions of all ages - dyslexia boils down to difficulties across 4 areas.
1: Visual Perception
2: Auditory Processing
4: Information filtering
This sounds a lot simpler than the endless technical jargon of psychological reports.
We see differently, we take information into our heads differently, it comes back out of our mouths and on to the page differently, we swap orientations and don't know our left from right and we become overloaded in certain situations and can't filter the information to focus on what is important. Dyslexia Spectrum in a nut shell. All you simply have to do is to work on these core skills and work in the way that suits the learner best - match their learning style to overcome the area or areas that hold them back.
Dr. Naoisé O'Reilly, Expression Developist™.
Understanding the Individual Learning Styles and how they work in different situations. Understanding why People fall apart while under pressure... Which has lead on to another new Theory, The Pressure Cooker Effect™. This has been particularly significant when working with Individual Clients to help them fulfill long terms aspirations.
For approximately 4 years Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly had been telling me that she suspected that members of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom live with dyslexia.
Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York was diagnosed with dyslexia in childhood and last year became a Royal Patron to a Dyslexic Charity based in the U.K.
Dyslexia also affects the speed in which she can process information and her memory skills.
Princess Beatrice speaks very openly about her condition and has described dyslexia as “an opportunity.”
Dr. Naoisé has lived with Profound Dyslexic Spectrum Disorder since birth and it is hereditary.
The 26-year-old Princess is the eldest daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sarah, Duchess of York.
I cannot help wondering if one or both of her parents are dyslexic too or who else in the House of Windsor lives with learning difficulties?
Just like Dr. Naoisé, the Princess who is 6th in line to the throne credits J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of books for helping dyslexics around the world.
Having served on the board of a charity on a voluntary basis in the past, I recognize the importance of having such a high profile ambassador for dyslexia speak out publicly and fearlessly about living with the condition.
I just wish that more high profile people had the courage to do so.
Marie O’Riordan, Success Developist™ & Dr. Naoisé O’Reilly, Expression Developist™
At The Homework Club we worked with many students who can't ever learn to read by phonics. It might as well seem like rocket science. In fact with time and much effort they could learn about rockets long before they will ever develop an understanding for phonics. I know this because I've done it, learnt about rockets that is... In short due to the way dyslexics brain's work this is an impossible task.
However I like many other dyselxics manage to read, write and study successfully. We may be slower, make the odd mistake and be lousy at proof reading but we can read somewhat. How do we do this?
My most common question to students is " do you remember what the words look like?". The answer is always yes and then they guess them in context to what they are trying to read. They look at the pictures to tell them what the story is about and they memorize the patterns of the words.
Big words are easier to learn than small words - they have more parts. We learn the "odd" words easier, these stand out to us.
So here are a few tips to help students rely on their talents to read in a way that suits them.
If a student is struggling block out parts of the words and let them piece the words together like lego - this is reading by visualizing word patterns not letter sounds. It will also help with spelling. Pay special attention to word endings, tion, ed, ment, ness, ion, an, er, ing …. It is like applying a maths formula to read.
Pick out the small words, cat, ad, add, it, is, on, play, gest, gory, let, man, pic, gram, num,com, con, out, cont, tent, in, ark, as….
add/ it/ ion
as/ sort/ ment
Great games to use in word visualization are word searches, hang-man, picture dictionary, Boggle, Scrabble cards. We will go through more examples of these in later blogs and show how they can be developed for all language classes. We will also post up how to create a colour system for reading. This then forms the basis to link reading and expression tasks as sequences and structure are also challenging for dyslexics but as they have supper visual memories we just need them to learn the patterns.
When reading encourage them to trace the words with their fingers or better still use a ruler and go down through the text line by line. There are also reading tools available link x-mark that are simply a slit cut in card that allow us to travel down the text.
When the amount of text increases we still only see we have a line to read not a whole paragraph and it prevents jumping or skipping lines. This reduces the noise element to text and stops it becoming overwhelming for students. We often find students suddenly develop reading problems between the transition of senior infants (aged 5-6) and 1st class (aged 6-7). This is not just because the reading gets a little harder - the text shirks, the sentences suddenly double and it just looks worse than it really is!
Above all else we have to have a reason to read - many of the books in school are plain boring. Aliens, cars, volcanoes, dinosaurs and snakes are so much more interesting. Find a good topic always to base the exercises on. We need to be able to read for a reason - to absorb interesting facts and knowledge about the things we like in "our" world. Follow these topics on for the expression exercises, the word searches, hang-man and the exciting picture books. You need to create the links between reading and writing.