Helping Dyslexics to write within an hour

Even if I don't want to be pigeon-holed as a dyslexic specialist I can't help but attract many dyslexic students to help! I currently work with a range of dyslexic students from the ages of 5 to 55.

It is an absolute joy to see someone effortless write their first page in an hour. I remember only too well how hard it was for me!




Working with students with Asperger’s Syndrome

Video to discuss my work with Asperger's Syndrome prompted after some of the recent appalling media coverage of the condition. I currently work with a spectrum of students from the age of 5 to 18



Who bullied me most in school?

I'm now 36 and I remember school like it was yesterday. Everyone has a school story and for this reason even though I hated school I now work in education passionately to change it for the better. For everyone. 

I spent most of my time between 5 to 7 standing outside the classroom because as a profound dyslexic I could not write or read at all. One day having stood outside the class all day I was sent to the head teacher as I had pointed out that I then couldn't do the homework. As I had not been in class all day whatever hope had I anyway. I had chairs thrown at me ... I was Isolated at a desk on my own with 2 feet all round so I couldn't communicate with anyone to ask for help as my teacher realised I had one friend in the class who would spell for me on the quiet. No one else in the whole class ever spoke to me. 

Then there was the endless humiliation of the spelling tests ... 

At 7 I was told by a teacher in front of the whole class having struggled to read a story aloud that "I was too stupid to be in the school and should be in the school down the road for the mentally retarded".

I was moved to a new school. The whole time I so excelled at maths I could do the 6th class maths in 1st class. In the new school I was motivated to finally do well by an amazing teacher who saved my life. I had him for two wonderful years. Then it took a wobble with the next teacher as I was now on the road to doing everything brilliantly, when I asked what I had done wrong in a test I was mocked in front of the whole class for being an annoying perfectionist. Somehow I had the strength to ignore this blip and keep going. 

In that year of that school I was also accused of doing something I didn't and had my honesty questioned in front of the whole class till I had melt down again and the equally amazing head came in and sorted it all out and I was never picked on again. I left that school to read my first book. 

 On my first day of secondary school I had to defend my right to stay in mainstream English class. There was no way in this world I was going to "veggie" English! I had decided I was going to university and I was aware I needed honours English for my course. I was staying. But it was a humiliating battle that took place in front of the whole class and set the tone for my next six years. 

By my final year in school the same remedial teacher met the department of education official to tell them I didn't deserve support as I didn't have a "real problem", I had done too well in school in all honours subjects including English. She discussed my "case" openly with me in the school corridor for all to hear. 

At the same time when I was desperately looking for someone to read my exam papers to me, my other teachers were openly humiliating me in class for my writing, spelling, reading and most ridiculously not correcting my mock papers because I hadn't spelt their names right. I was stopped in the corridor in front of other students to complain about how hard it was to correct my exams. 

Then there are all the teachers who continually for 6 years made me read out loud in class - what's in paragraph  blah Naoisé? I didn't know what page we were on never mind where we were on the page! I had panic attacks in certain classes for years.  Teachers asked me to read off the board and then spoke to me in pigeon English when I got it wrong.

The gap, transition year was the worst as every day was new and I never knew what was waiting at school for me. I had to read Shakespeare aloud amongst other awfulness and everyone had so much more time on their hands to bully me. 

I'd love to say it's all different now but my students are always surprised I understand them so well - I see the humiliation in them like tattoos and many cry at our meetings as I'm the first person who has been able to understand then. It's overwhelming for them. 

When will adults realise the importance of their behaviour? You set up how everyone else will treat that person, that child. Whatever you say and do in public sets the ground rules for the environment and what can and cannot be done to that person. 

After my first day in English where I needed to defend my right to be in the same class as everyone else I spent years picking my books out of the bin in every class I went into, because I was rubbish. I spent years been used as target practice to have objects thrown at me repeatedly in the locker room. No one wanted to be my friend. Every table I went to sit at was "full" - and worse that I will not talk about. Teachers were often deaf, dumb and blind to what happened to me. 

It's called respect. It's a two way process. You earn it. It's not assumed  and it doesn't correlate with your title or how many letters there are before or after your name. 

The first thing I do with every new student I meet is to shake their hand.  They are my equal. 

What you do in public sets the private behaviour FOREVER, not just that one moment in class. 


Dr. Naoisé  Expression Developist™


What can Profiling do for a Studnet’s Future Career?

This short video I recorded at the Irish Times Higher Options Conference in RDS explains why profiling is so important for Students early in their education life - You can pursue the Career you were born to do!


School bags, School copybook, and Writing lessons

It's that time of year again when everyone has gone off to school with a new bag, new pens, new pencils and new copy books and new books! 

We are always complaining about the weight - but has anyone looked at the contents? 

I wish I could change it every year... My favourite part of going back to school - the only part I enjoyed was the new pens, markers and coloured stationary my Gran Aunt gave me from her shop in Tipperary. I blame her partly for my love of colour stationary but I also know its vital to my learning as a highly visual learner. 

There is not enough colour in our school bags! All I would like to see is colour, colour, colour. Coloured pens, markers, and most importantly coloured paper. 

The worst colour to write with is black and the worst paper to read from is white. Why then are we in 2012 still using these tools? 

The paper is school copybooks is too small. For many a student the paper becomes an obstacle that constrains them not a wonderful blank canvas to create on. The lines are too constraining - it's all about being tidy and neat and ordered... Not about what wonderful concepts, connections or ideas or inspirations you are having in the classroom. 

I would love to see constructive doodling on a minimum of A4 paper and bigger a standard practise. 

We have shown over almost 4 years of work with students including many with severe learning difficulties that making the area larger, removing the lines and adding colour opens up a whole world of written expression for them. 

Similarly if we want there to be a great deal of structure and to make out a plan we use highly organised paper, squared paper! Still it's not a linear exercise - we don't want linear thinking, therefore we NEVER use Lined paper!

I have known many of our students to be given out to from drawing in class - these students need to create visual maps to remember by - its instinctive for them. They all grow up to be notebook lovers - they go everywhere with one and are always drawing ideas, maps, brainstorms and doodles in meetings and on the phone for the test of their lives - so why not at school? 

I have never understood the point of hand writing? It only works for a small percentage of students. The rest are left feeling they can't "write" no they can't form letters in a very limited obsessively structured copybook! Many of these students fail to make the connections on bigger and smaller letters, the order of the alphabet, how the letters are formed, what words start with these letters and of course they stop trying to write creatively because they can't "write" 

If we suddenly have them make the letters from play-dough, make connections to well know words, work on large coloured paper and use stencils to show the formation of the letters - they suddenly become masters! 

Why do we have to do joint writing? We don't type jointed? No one easily can read joint? We don't read books in joint writing? What is the obsession with joint writing? For some students who have finally grown confidence in themselves and finally feel they have a voice and are creative we now move the "goal posts" once more and make them feel this magic art of "writing" is beyond them. 

This reminds me of a very well used example of continuing behaviour through suggestion. It means we never ask why we do something we just follow the order. A woman cooks Sunday roast and cuts the two ends off the meat before she puts it into the pot. Her husband over dinner asks why she cut the ends off - her mother is also at the dinner and the wife says 'because that's what mum did' - so the husband asks her mother who responds because 'that's the way my mother cooked it' - rarely it turns out the great grandmother is alive and so they ring her and ask her why she cut the ends off to cook the roast? The answer - 'because my pot was too small' so three generations of people have cooked the roast the same way never asking why they cut the ends off! 

I feel much of modern education can be attributed to the same suggestive behaviour. I'll continue in the next article why I feel the books shouldn't be in the bag... 

Dr Naoisé O'Reilly (Expression Developist™)

Point of Blog

Our motto is that "we don't do normal". Everyone who comes to The Homework Club is different and is here for a different reason. It's not important if they are dyslexic, have reduced hearing or simply don't "get-it". This Blog is about creative teaching that suits everyone, all of the time! No one needs to be "special". The work is done in groups, so students avoid stigma and don't feel only they need help!






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