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International Perspectives

Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Maths Learning Difficulties
Professor Steve Chinn
Educational Consultant, UK

As our knowledge of the theoretical bases of learning difficulties has improved so has awareness in schools. The key to meeting the demands that that awareness brings lies in training teachers. I believe that it would be beneficial to include our knowledge of why some children find learning difficult in all teacher-training so that it is available at that critical interface between learner and teacher.

The concept of the co-occurrence of learning difficulties and their influences on children and adults is now recognised. This was not always so. I was unaware when I started to work in the field of dyslexia (in 1981) that my dyslexic students could also have very significant difficulties with maths as well as with language.

“Dyscalculic learners may have difficulty understanding simple number concepts, lack an intuitive grasp of numbers and have problems learning number facts and procedures.”

Phonological Skills and Dyslexia
Emeritus Professor Angela Fawcett
Academic Director
Dyslexia Association of Singapore

There is unanimous agreement that problems with phonological processing are associated with both dyslexia and problems in reading. The phonological deficit hypothesis has been one of the major hypotheses for over 30 years now, but it is still hotly debated what exactly phonology comprises, and the subsequent implications from theory to practice. This is reflected in differences in the definition of dyslexia. The British Dyslexia Association definition (2007) notes problems in phonological processing, whereas the Rose Dyslexia Review (2009) notes difficulties in phonological awareness. In a recent meta-analysis, Lervag, Lyster and Hulme (2102) examined 235 studies that included phonemic awareness, rime awareness (Goswami and Bryant, 1990) and verbal short-term memory (Gathercole and Baddeley, 1990) in relation to reading. They aimed to resolve the controversy on the comparative role of these components on phonological processing. The findings of the meta-analysis showed that there was a major role theoretically for phonemic awareness as a predictor of reading ability, even taking into account rime and verbal short-term memory.

“In educational circles, the concept of synthetic phonics, that is blending together the phonemes or sounds in a word to create a whole, has impressed the UK government to the extent that it has become standard practice in UK schools.”

Study Skills for Dyslexic Adults in Higher Education
Margaret Meehan

Dr Margaret Meehan has a PhD in chemistry and is the coordinator of specialist tuition for the Academic success programme at Swansea University. Margaret is co-author with Barbara Pavey of Dyslexia Friendly Further and Higher Education and Dyslexia friendly toolkit.

The student with dyslexia faces many challenges when embarking on a university course. Most first year students in Higher Education (HE) are unprepared for the speed at which the modular system is delivered, that is 10-12 weeks of teaching followed by a three or four week vacation and examinations.

Although the modular system may favour dyslexic students because they can focus for a short time on a small number of specific subjects, it also provides less time to assimilate new material and complete coursework before an examination is demanded.

“A student in Higher Education has many demands on their time and she has to deal with academic, administrative, financial, family, social and personal tasks, so organisation is of paramount importance. If a student is organised, this leaves her free to concentrate on her studies.”

Dyslexia in Adolescent Dyslexics and Students
Emeritus Professor Angela Fawcett

Many people think that dyslexia is a problem that is found only in children, and mostly in young children at that. However, dyslexia is a difference in the way the brain processes which therefore persists throughout life. It has been legally acknowledged in the United Kingdom (UK) and elsewhere across the world that dyslexic students in higher education continue to need support (Disability Discrimination Act, 1995; 2005; SENDA, 2002).

“Interestingly, in the UK around 50% of students coming forward for diagnosis have not been identified in school. They have worked so hard that they have managed to achieve well enough to reach university, but it all becomes too difficult when juggling the competing demands of university.”