Today I was fortunate enough to attend the "Learning Differences Workshop" at the The University of Auckland Centre for Brain Research department. Hosted by Bronwen Connor, Kate de Groot, Marie Kelly and Emma Ratcliffe.
Bronwen Connor spoke and stated that approximately 6-10% of children have some form or a form of: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dycalculia, Dysgraphia, ADD or Auditory Process Disorder. The question was asked, 'Are teachers trained and prepared to assist these children? Bronwen continued that children have learning differences not learning difficulties and that all children learn differently and as educators, how do we tap into that?
Kate de Groot from Grow my mind spoke from 'The Parents Perspective'. She asked the question, how can we change our practices to help support our learners? Kate had five main points. The following is what I took from her main points.
1. What drives our communication and surfacing beliefs?
As educators we should be working alongside parents of children with learning differences, the learner themselves and any other agency that will help the child. Kate summarised this as the "Shared Need" that helps our kids realise their potential. She continued to talk about beliefs above and below the line. Examples of Above the line are: every child has potential, behaviours are for a reason and Below the line: it's the parent/s fault, some kids are naughty, the kids just need to do as they're told. This point made me think about learners that I teach and realise that for some, there could be more to why they behave the way that they behave.
2. Communication opportunities
Children with learning differences need more time. Liaise with parents, email and send them photos, their writing and videos of their child is doing at school. Kate pointed out that 'the small stuff' matters.
Our next speaker was Marie Kelly who focused on 'Strategies for the Classroom'. The main focus of her presentation was around Dyslexia. Marie stated that Dyslexia is inherited and 1:4 in males. There was a genetic factor also that 40% of those with Dyslexia have glue ear. 'What does Dyslexia look like?' in which Marie described as a Disorder of Processing. Some things that help to help identify children with Dyslexia is: early intervention - trying to catch it early in a child, a 6 year net, an Education Psychiatrist report of similar help and instruction in good language models and Phonological awareness Pseudoword which is a decoding test. Up until today, I did not know much about Dyslexia only that some people saw and read words as jumbled or scrambled letters.
Some resources and sites that were useful that Marie suggested to us was: Call Scotland for iPads, Reading Rulers, iWordQ, Keeble, Clickerdocs, DocsPlus and others. Websites included: www.redrosesschool.co.uk, www.dyslexicfoundation.org.nz and other sites.
Our final speaker was Emma Ratcliffe who is an Occupational Therapist. She spoke about Dyspraxia, a Developmental
Co-ordination disorder that affects planning and organising. The point was made that children with this disorder can be good at sports and have Dyspraxia. Emma stated and showed us using a picture of the brain and where the connections were not being made. Hence why children with Dyspraxia may have learned something really well one day but then it is forgotten the next day. It is the planning and organising that is the difference ie. Dyspraxia.
The causes Emma states can occur at an early age and that there are no real obvious causes for Dyspraxia. It could be a number of reasons known or unknown. She used the illustration of the brain and the connections of neurons in the brain and how each is different. Emma stated that 'Dyspraxia is a hidden disability disorder'.
What can we do as teachers and educators? Adjust expectations, allow more time, adjust quantity of work (each speaker pointed out the irrelevance of homework for these children), listen to parents, breaking all instructions down clearly, encourage and develop the strengths of these children and acknowledge the effort of work these children have put into their tasks.
I found this workshop beneficial to my teaching practices as an Educator. It has helped me to be more aware of children with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia and how best I can help them. These speakers had such a vast knowledge between them that I hope they will run more of these workshops in future.