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Managing Dyslexia: guest blog by Vanessa Goddard
Looking around the group again this morning I am reminded what a good idea this was – to set up a community group for adults with dyslexia and associated mental health difficulties.
This morning we have looked at proofreading and spellings, just two of the many difficulties faced by those with dyslexia.
‘Needs to concentrate more in class’, ‘he’ll never amount to much with that attitude’, ‘too careless’, ‘doesn’t listen to what he’s being asked to do’, ‘refuses to read aloud in class.’
These are just a few of the things they were constantly being told at school and, in the true words of a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ they all truly believed that they were unable to learn and education wasn’t for them.
We have proved them all wrong… It’s true their concentration isn’t brilliant – so we have short bursts of focusing and then take a break. It’s true they don’t remember spellings or facts from one week to the next – so we go over and over and over, as many times as we need to. It’s true that their self-confidence was at rock bottom when I met them but now they are being asked for their opinion, they are being taught the way they learn best and they are no longer ashamed of their disability or too frightened to speak up.
We started the group on 6th September 2016 with the help of library services, who lend us a space in Sandal library free of charge. They also lend us the dyslexia friendly reading books we need so that they can develop reading skills and confidence in their own ability. To make text ‘dyslexia friendly’ all that is needed is a cursive font (like this one – comic sans), preferably a little bigger than the standard 12, evenly spaced with not too much crowding of words or pictures, making it ‘too busy’ for their eyes to focus. Black ink on a white background isn’t good for anyone with dyslexia, and for some it is impossible to manage, so if everything was printed on cream, or even just ‘off-white’ then the difference would be amazing!
There is the misconception that those with dyslexia can’t read and can’t spell….. NOT true!! The written words just needs to be presented in a dyslexia friendly way and the learning of anything needs to be repetitive to accommodate their very poor short term memories.
Developing English skills is certainly not all we do….. There is a lot of focus on coping strategies. Dyslexia is not an easy thing for anyone to manage and it impacts on everyday life. This is a place where they all feel safe – they can talk openly about the difficulties faced – they can help each other – and they can have a good laugh.
I would find it difficult to call this ‘work!’ I’m sure the staff at Sandal library will agree – we are a jovial bunch (though I can assure you this wasn’t the case when I first started working with them)… they are all a joy to teach and I have learnt so much from them…
The funding I have just secured from the Big Lottery will enable me to start another group early in the New Year. I want it to follow straight on from the Tuesday morning group so that there is an opportunity for them all to meet up for a coffee and a chat between classes. There is a real community feel to Sandal library and to the Managing Dyslexia groups….. and this is a big part of what makes it work!
Long may it continue and develop and hopefully our presence in the library will break down barriers and help more people with dyslexia make use of their local library and access the dyslexia friendly books waiting for them inside!
I’ll sign off for now but will hopefully update you of our progress and successes in the near future. Vanessa Goddard