Ipads and disability

Ipads will be on many children’s Christmas list this year mainly because of advertised hype and the perceived ‘cool factor’ of possessing the latest Apple product.    It will keep children amused for a certain amount of time but depending on the apps installed, they will likely gravitate back to their laptop.

But for some children – and adults – the iPad could prove invaluable. Read this article which appeared in the New York Times about Owen Cain who has had motor neurone disease from infancy.  His parents say he is a normal boy trapped in a abnormal body.  “We have spent all this time keeping him alive, and now we owe him more than that,” said his mother, Ellen Goldstein, “I see his ability to communicate and to learn as a big part of that challenge — not all of it, but a big part of it.

The iPad has been a tremendous breakthrough and opens up endless possibilities.  So many of it’s features ideally suit those who have limited movements, hearing and sight.  Owen can have his arm hoisted into a position which allows him, with the lightest of touches, to read a book by flicking over the pages.  He even typed up, ” I want to be Han Solo for Hallowe’en” using the onscreen keyboard.

Read the story, watch the video.  It’s made me think, wonder, cry and plan.

Music for all at the Hub

Koby and the Skoog

The Skoog is an exciting new musical instrument with accessibility at its heart.  An instrument designed explicitly for special education to empower those unable to play traditional instruments.  The Skoog is a soft, squeezable object that simply plugs straight into your computer or laptop’s USB port.  Simply touching, pressing, squashing, twisting or tapping the Skoog allows you to play a wide range of instruments, intuitively.  Learn more about it here

You can see Koby Major, age 5, having a brilliant time playing with the Skoog.  Inventor and entrepreneur, Benjaman Schogler, came along to demonstrate how it could be used.  He worked with all three classes and everyone had a go.  Even the very lightest touch can generate a sound.  Some pupils hit the Skoog, some squeezed, some rolled it, Jonathon leaned on it with his shoulder and played the flute.  Using a WOWee one gel speaker, sound vibrations gave another dimension to the musical experience.

Joy, a student in musicology from Greece and on work placement with Benjaman, is going to work with groups of pupils over the next few weeks.  Mark my words, there’s going to be a lot of fun and a lot of music happening down at the Hub!

Free book for all P1 children

Free book for all P1 children – latest Bookbug initiative supported in East Lothian

East Lothian Council reports that during the next few weeks all P1 children will receive a free book with a message from Bookbug, the Scottish Book Trust’s Early Years Gifting Programme. 

This year’s chosen book, “Manfred the Baddie” by John Fardell, won the 0-7 age category of the 2009 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children’s Books.

 John Fardell will be taking part in a live Glow Meet in the Early Year’s Glow Group on Thursday 25th November from 1.45 – 2.45pm.

Additional Support for Learning Act 2009

The Scottish Government announces that the rights of children with additional education support needs will be strengthened on Sunday (November 14) when the Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2009 comes into force.

It will ensure that children and young people with additional support needs and their parents can make out of the area placing requests for specific schools and receive mediation and dispute resolution help following such requests. It will also increase parents’ access to the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland (ASNTS) if a placing request is refused.

Referring a pupil for ICT support

Please note that the old Microtechnology referral form is outdated and was replaced in May 2010 with the ICT Referral Form.  You will find it saved on Education Exchange (Support for Learners / Referral Forms) or you can access it through this link.   Old forms can no longer be accepted and will be returned.

Accurate information supplied on the new form results in a quicker turnaround for the whole review, assessment  and decision process to be carried out.

ICT Referral Form

Books for young people about Dyslexia

The Alphabet War: a Story About Dyslexia – a story book for children about Adam, a young dyslexic boy learning to read. Adam represents the creative, talented and imaginative spirit in all of us and the author expertly describes Adam’s frustration and near defeat as he learns to overcome his shortcomings with the help of his mother and tutor. Its impossible not to cheer him on as he learns to stop pretending and feeling behind and breaks the “code” to win the war against words. The confidence he gains in himself is emphasized by the colourful, life-like illustrations. Recommended for anyone with a child struggling with dyslexia.

 Dyslexia Wonders
Written by 12-year-old Jennifer Smith, Dyslexia Wonders reveals the daily struggles of a child plagued by dyslexia.
Happy-go-lucky until she entered Kindergarten, Jennifer seemed like the other bright children her age. She was energetic, curious and talkative. But when it came time to learn the ABCs, to read or to tie her shoes, Jennifer couldn’t comprehend and her world began to slowly collapse.
As time passed, it became clear to her that she was indeed different from her classmates. She felt alone, afraid and stupid; but most of all, she was ashamed of herself for not being able to learn.

 Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
At first sight, the young hero of this book doesn’t have much going for him. 12-year-old Percy Jackson is dyslexic, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, keeps getting thrown out of schools and hasn’t seen his father for years.
He has a nasty, sneering stepfather. The good news is that he is a Greek demi-god, with supernatural powers…

 ‘My Name is Brain Brian’ – Brian and his fellow members of the Jokers Club hate school. To make it more fun, they create a secret game, winning points for making other people laugh during the day. Brian wins the first point when he writes his name as “Brain” on the blackboard. But it’s no joke. He is dyslexic. The author weaves in a good deal of information on this learning disability, but first and foremost, this is a story. Brian, who narrates, is characterized by more than his problem. Not only must he practice new ways to learn, but he must also deal with his father, also dyslexic; with a childhood friend whose behaviour becomes increasingly disturbing; and with a girl he hates. As readers follow him through the sixth grade and see the changes it makes in his life, he becomes a real person to them. (Grade 4-6)

 ‘So, You Think You’ve Got Problems’‘ – by Rosalind Burkett (Egon Publishers; ISBN 0905858859) – This easy-to-read book is for dyslexic children of all ages. It explains, simply and sympathetically, what is happening to them, and how they can be helped to overcome their problems. It also hopes to show children that they are not alone in their difficulties, and that there are others with the same problems. The aim of this colourful book is to put dyslexia into perspective, particularly for a child, but for parents also

 Thank you, Mr. Falker – by Patricia Polacco. Fans of Polacco’s (Thundercake; Pink and Say) work know well her talent for weaving her colourful family history throughout her picture books. Here Polacco shares her childhood triumph over dyslexia and discovery of reading in an inspiring if slightly formulaic story.
Young Trisha is eager to taste the “sweetness of knowledge” that her grandfather has always revered (here symbolized by drizzling honey onto a book and tasting it, which harkens back to Polacco’s earlier The Bee Tree). But when she looks at words and numbers, everything is a jumble. Trisha endures the cruel taunts of classmates who call her “dumb,” and falls behind in her studies. But finally the encouragement and efforts of a new fifth grade teacher, Mr. Falker, trigger a monumental turning point in Trisha’s life. She begins to blossom and develop all of her talents, including reading. Polacco’s tale is all the more heartfelt because of its personal nature. Young readers struggling with learning difficulties will identify with Trisha’s situation and find reassurance in her success. Polacco’s gouache-and-pencil compositions deftly capture the emotional stages – frustration, pain, elation – of Trisha’s journey. Ages 5 and above.

 How Dyslexic Benny Became a Star – Benny’s story changed my son’s life. It’s the first book he ever read twice. Unfortunately, I was too much like Benny’s father. Seeing myself portrayed changed my attitude. Now I know why it’s important to support my son instead of badgering him.

 Dyslexia (Talking It Through‘ – by Althea – aimed at 7-11 years olds, telling the story of a group of children with dyslexia.
‘I first came across this book four years ago and have since used it constantly as a starting point to explain dyslexia to parents and their child. The book is very short but filled with factual based material that explains the symptoms and effects of a learning difficulty in a very clear way. The text is matched by excellent illustrations and graphics and a dyslexic child will find it easy to follow and comprehend. Would strongly recommend it to parents and teachers as an excellent explanatory resource.’ (A Bohan).

I have by no means checked all these out – let me know if you recommned any of them.


Screening of “Summer”, starring Robert Carlyle – 90 minute showing with panel discussion about dyslexia to follow. Purchase your tickets at the box office on 0131 228 2688. Cost £3.00

Panel includes: Special Guest Hugh Ellis, writer of the film “Summer” who is dyslexic himself, Fiona Dickinson, Chair of Council, Dyslexia Scotland and Robert McCormack, Learning Development Facilitator at Forth Valley College and counsellor specialising in dyslexia

Saturday 6th November Film House Cinema 88 Lothian Road EH3 9BZ 1.00pm – 3pm

See you there?

Dyslexia: What’s it all about?

Dyslexia: What\’s it all about?

Watch the clip and think about Gavin Reid’s Checklist:

  •  Have small steps been used?
  • Are the sentences short?
  • Is the vocabulary easy to understand?
  • Have visuals been used?
  • Has large print been used?
  • Is the font style appropriate?
  • Has enough attention been given to presentation?
  • Are there opportunities for self-monitoring and self-correction?
  • Are the tasks within the child’s comfort zone?

Are we doing enough to ensure that our learners with dyslexia are thinking, doing, learning and being all they can?

Dyslexia Awareness Week: The end to all myths!

Myth: Dyslexia affects four times more boys than girls.

Fact: Although more boys are assessed than girls, research shows that dyslexia affects just as many girls as boys.

So why are more boys sent for testing than girls? It’s often because of their behaviour.

Boys traditionally are more likely to ‘act out’ their frustration when they can’t do classroom assignments or homework. They’d rather be seen to be ‘bad’ than ‘stupid’. ‘Acting out’ behaviour draws attention and teachers begin the assessment process.

Often, when girls can’t do the work, they tend to get quiet, try to become invisible and / or use their friends to support them. So traditionally, they don’t get noticed as early.

Myth: Every child who struggles with reading is a learner with dyslexia.

Fact: Dyslexia is not the only reason a child will struggle with reading. Children may lack experience in early language development for many reasons; they may have emotional issues that prevent them from availing themselves of appropriate learning opportunities; they may have or have had hearing or sight loss that impacts on the acquisition of literacy. They may have other significant difficulties which causes delay in literacy development.

Dyslexia will affect more than just literacy. Associated difficulties can be: auditory and / or visual processing of language based information, phonological awareness, oral language skills, reading fluency, working memory, sequencing, number skills, organisational ability and motor skills and co-ordination.

The more warning signs children and young people have, the more confident you can be that dyslexia may be the cause of their academic struggles. It is by considering children’s responses to the changes we make to meet their learning needs that we know whether they are learners with dyslexia or not, and to what extent dyslexia affects learning.  

Myth: Children with dyslexia are just lazy. If only they tried harder…

I’m not even going to bother with this one!

Dyslexia Awareness Week: Notes from a conference

Dyslexia Scotland has links to presentations from their September conference which are well worth examining. They range from the local to the international stage.

Local approaches:

Jennifer Drysdale – a friend and former colleague – discusses her Workshop for Literacy: a Contextual Approach for successful learning which deploys early identification of core skills development and contextual assessment to enable young learners to read. She uses contexts created around ‘real‘books to create successful learning experiences.

Pam Macdonald talks about a Paired Reading and Phonics programme whose aims are to give basic literacy skills so pupils can become independent in classes; to involve pupils in their own learning and encourage them to be active, analytical learners and to actively involve parents and guardians.

Shirley Illman describes a transition to High School programme.

A presentation from the CALL Centre gives advice on making text accessible. An accessible resource is defined as one that can be used effectively and with ease by a wide range of pupils. The resource can be adapted with the minimum of work for pupils who have a range of additional support needs. Accessible resources could refer to almost anything used in class or at home to support learning.

National approaches:

Dr Laura-Anne Currie links Education for Learners with Dyslexia to How Good is our School and Curriculum for Excellence.

Dr Margaret Crombie talks about the wonderful Assessing Dyslexia resource : ‘Assessment is integral to learning, teaching and the curriculum’. She makes strong links with the HMIE document and CfE too.

International perspective:

Dr Gavin Reid’s presentation focuses on ‘The Decade Ahead; Recent reports and current research’.  He starts with Scotland, and then discusses approaches in the U.S.A., Ireland, England and Wales, New Zealand, Canada and the Czech Republic. All of this is embedded in current theory.

The keynote speaker, Rob Long, talks about behavioural issues connected to learning difficulties.

A very useful set of presentations.