Parents have become obsessed with labels, not solutions

fragile-label-1-600x573-600x573Parents have become obsessed with labels, not solutions


There is nothing like working on a passion for a decade to give you perspective, mine is literacy. Besides how much I've learnt since those early days, 10 years ago last month, when I got the keys to my own school. I've seen a frightening trend developing over the last five years in particular. I've been trying to chart the reasons as to why I now work with increasingly traumatised souls younger and younger. In the beginning, I felt I was a victim of my own success. I wondered did I attract these situations others had struggled to find solutions for simply as my own reputation grew? Sure, there was an aspect of this as I became known for being an expert in reuniting the world with teens who'd been trapped in their bedrooms for years. But this doesn't explain the 6 and 7-year-olds I am meeting regularly. Why has not being able to read, write or pronounce a few words become such an issue? When did this become the end of the world? Why does this shatter their confidence so much? Why is everything from anxiety to bed wetting or not sleeping now in the mix? Why have they all been for so many assessments or "interventions" before I meet them? Why has so little helped them? They are all in learning support.


The answers? I realised that parents have been sucked into a vortex of feeling that a label, not a solution will give their children the "edge" in life, especially in the education system. The only reason we do assessments is to provide schools with a branded identity for our children to have resource time that very often doesn't help them at all. I know this sounds harsh but it's the truth that I've seen on a repeat loop for a decade. A loop that is becoming increasingly more traumatising for the children involved. Now it has become so skewed that parents feel they must label their children before even entering the system in order to provide a survival net. Yet teachers complain to me their classes are filled with excessively labelled students. But often it is the schools insisting on these assessments or even taking the power to do them without the inclusion of the parents. A label means money for a school. Not a solution to the problem or tailor made help for your child to learn differently. It doesn't provide them with coping strategies for life. As a by-product of the label, I listen to parents every day tell me what their child will never be able to do well. As I've done and succeeded at it all despite these claims, I feel qualified to say this is utter rubbish. In fact, I only went to college to do a degree and later a PhD in order to be a qualified voice on what you can achieve with a severe dyslexia label. It's why I'm now a writer too.


It's time parents took their power back and stopped feeling forced to label their child as a solution to often very insignificant challenges. So what if they take 6 months longer to talk? So what if they are quiet? So what if they fidget? So what if phonics don't teach them to read? So what if they use their fingers to count? Or mix up their b's and d's. Does it matter if they don't ace the spelling tests? Who cares if you get your pen pass first or last? Who invented the pen pass? Your child's happiness is so much more important than these educational milestones. Life doesn't have to be such a competitive race.


In the long run, It's better energy spent If you start to look online for solutions for ways to support rather than brand your child. Your child will not grow up to feel there is something fundamentally wrong with them. We need a change of mindset to readdress the power dynamics currently being played out at younger and younger ages in schools not just across this country but the world. Daily, I deal with the same problems, the same trauma created across 6 countries globally. The same problems in mindset in contrasting cultures with parents all seeking the "edge" for their child. A very important part of being a parent is to be an educator yourself. No one else is going to fix your child's challenges better than you.


Parents seem shocked initially when I set them 6 weeks of work for them to do with their child at home. Yes, you can take the power back. Yes, you can help. And yes, in a very short few weeks they are all reading, writing or speaking better. No therapists. No labels. There is a whole world of internet material on various platforms to help you. I personally record a podcast for this very purpose, Purple Psychology. But there are endless resources out there on Pinterest or Youtube and so on to help you.


The biggest part of my work is not the help or program to learn differently. It's the rebuilding of confidence of little damaged souls and the encouragement of parents to trust their guts. You do know your child better than anyone else. Don't listen to any therapist or psychologist who tells you differently. You know the days to push. You know the days to back off. The times to hug. You have all the encouragement inside in you. Just stop the labels, please. Stop racing to some universal "average" someone else dreamed up for your child. We need to embrace difference again and parents need to be the ones to decide this shift. Years ago, I wrote, "It doesn't matter what you can't do, only what you can."


Naoisé O'Reilly reflections February 2019



What factors affect how well we do in exams?

What factors affect how well we do in exams?


You would think it is all down to how much time you spend swatting in your bedroom.


There are in fact 8 main factors that affect exam performance


Subject Knowledge - Yes how much context you remember. You increase the content you remember by how you effectively you process the information in a way that suits you. In short realistic study blocks. of time


Your Exam History - How you have done in previous exams. If you had a bad exam last time you are inclined to walk into the next exam feeling that this will be the same. Leave the last exam behind you!


Exam Preparation - Have you maintained your health? Do you feel good about yourself? Are you feeling calm, fit, rested and do you have everything you need for the exam from food to pens organised?


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Exam Practice - How well do you know the exam papers? Do you plan on doing the exams from start to finish? Bad idea! You need to do your best questions first when you are freshest and get your best marks for these questions!


Experience of the Subject - Do you bring yourself into your answers? What sets you apart from all the other scripts and answers? Your life experience. Think about where you have travelled too, who you have met, what sports you are good at, what books have you read for inspiration? Who do you admire that you can quote? What work experience have you done? All this is valuable examples you know first hand - you don't have to learn them off - you remember these experiences.


Writing Skills - Do you do out a plan for your essays? Do you make sure to have a beginning, middle and a conclusion? Do you make sure to state if you have been for or against the argument you presented? Do you read over your work as you go along and keep track of what you are saying?


Use of Time - Have you got into the habit of working in blocks of time similar to those that you need to answer the questions in? Have you got time left to read over your work? Do you get stuck on a question and not move on? Do you joint down a plan for the question with the key bullet points to get started?


Attitude and Approach - Do you go in feeling this is going to be about everything you don't know or that it's your chance to shine? Do you know what you are good at? No one is good at everything! You don't need to be - you just need to excel in your strengths! Exams test who you are not what you don't remember.



Mocks and the sky falling in, Chicken Licken Syndrome

Mocks and the sky falling in, Chicken Licken Syndrome


Sometimes I ask why do we do the mocks? In fact, in recent years I have charted that where I have students in schools which don't do the mocks, they perform better in the leaving certificate in a few months time. Why? Because they don't have to recover from what I call "Chicken-Licken-syndrome" where students seem to genuinely feel like the sky is falling in on top of them! The mocks are a test run - you are meant to make mistakes. That's the whole point of doing them.


Often I refer to this time of the year as "crushing season" because I watch the students who we have built up since September lose complete confidence in their abilities. We have to build them up again from the floor. I really question at this stage if the mocks are a good exercise at all? Surely there must be a better way to have a test run?


Ironically, if you did brilliantly you also need to have a little bit of caution at this stage. I often find the students who do exceptionally well in the mocks take it as a given that this is how the papers will look next June. They may be totally different. Did you just get lucky with the topics or do you really have a good exam strategy?


The biggest mistake that is made at this stage is students and parents alike being convinced the mark you get now is the mark you will get next June. This is not true. The course has not even been completed in many cases. The students don't know their best topics yet and they have often had little or no exposure to exam papers at this stage.


Students and parents are often bullied into dropping down a level in the subject. This is also a very bad idea at this stage of the year. The higher you learn a subject too for the longest time possible the better you do in June. For example, if you continue in an honours class and then drop down to ordinary level closer the time you are more likely to get at least a B and often an A at Ordinary level. In a world where points matter this is much better than "passing" an ordinary level paper. In fact, with the new grading system, it may still be better to get a lower grade at a higher level. Do the points math and the worst case scenario before you drop down. But the higher you aim and the more complex the material you cover, the better you will do with an easier paper if you do decide to play safe in June.


The sky really isn't falling in and there is loads of time left to fix the mistakes - but it is very hard to show people your mistakes when you are made to feel so bad for making them.


You need to do a proper evaluation of your exam papers. Where did you do well? What went wrong? Did you waste time? Did you read a question wrong and answer a different question to what was asked? Did you miss a whole section? Did you get stuck on one math problem and not move on? Did you not know any quotes? Are you good at the details or the generic writing?


For some students with learning difficulties, the mocks go badly in a more spectacular fashion than most. I myself did very badly in my mocks as do many students with learning difficulties. As the department of education has not granted who will and will not receive accommodations in their exams, very few if any schools allow these students to sit their exams in a similar environment to how they will in June. We are overwhelmed by the exam hall experience. I've conducted some research into why some students are hyper-sensitive and how this can be helped. We don't have a reader and hence we read the questions wrong. It's common we take the wrong meaning and answer a completely different question to what has been asked. If you are going to use a laptop in the state exams maybe you didn't get to do this in the mocks? It's rare I find for students to get the accommodations they need and will have in June at this stage for the mocks.


Some students haven't got to grasp with the whole course in one "bulk" form. They are struggling to put all the sections together and maybe they haven't covered their best section yet. There are people who need to see the big picture first.


No one tells you how to sit an exam and for some students they really do need to do a visual map of the answer and the question, this is highly discouraged. Often, it is implied to be a waste of time when it's not at all. It's a vital way of thinking for visual students.


There are so many factors as to why students find exams hard. With so much time left to refine the way you work best, the sky is not falling in. It's time to realise that making mistakes is how we learn best. How we evaluate our mistakes is what will determine how much we learn from them and how much better we will do in the next exam. The one that matters. Put the mocks in context, they are a test run.


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Welcome to the Purple Learning Project.

The aim of the Purple Learning Project Foundation is to create a legacy of the methods which Dr Naoisé O’Reilly has developed since 2009.

The methods in learning and personality theory have been developed while working with people of a variety of ages, backgrounds, and cultures. The methods have been applied to the education, business and sporting environments. The ages are in the spectrum of 4 to 70's. The methods include: Purple Profiling, Purple Processing Scales, The Periodic Table of the Development of Results, Forget Phonics Reading Method, Purple Pre-School Success and so on...

There has always been a clear distinction for Dr Naosié in working with people who currently need help within the system and leaving behind something of integrity for the future generations.