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Vast Improvements Possible for Children with Dyslexia

Vast Improvements Possible for Children with Dyslexia

Specialised, early intervention can significantly boost success at school for a child with dyslexia, according to research findings.

One-on-one, personalised tuition resulted in vast and surprising improvements in achievement skills, says Dr Karen Waldie, Associate Professor of the School of Psychology at Auckland University.
SPELD NZ, in collaboration with school RTLBs (Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour), carried out a pilot study involving 42 seven-year-old students struggling in the classroom as a result of dyslexia.
Dr Waldie analysed the resulting data and says she was taken by surprise.

“I knew that I would find that students would increase their reading skills after SPELD lessons. What I didn’t realise, however, was just how successful the pilot programme would be.

“The children increased their predicted reading success by 20-44 percent in areas of sound blending, phonemic awareness, verbal comprehension and reading fluency. However their general cognitive abilities also significantly improved. We saw vast improvements in thinking ability, cognitive fluency and processing speed. I am truly impressed.”

The New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies has just published the research findings, noting the improvement of cognitive efficiency and processing speed was “testament to the ability of the brain to be modified, presumably via strengthened neural connectivity, following even a relatively brief (60 session) exposure to an enriched environment in the form of SPELD intervention.”

The students in the study came from a variety of schools, ranging from decile 1 to decile 10. They received 60 45-minute sessions of one-on-one tuition, twice weekly, from SPELD NZ teachers. Each child had assessments of their academic and cognitive abilities before and after the 60 lessons using the Woodcock-Johnson III (WJIII) test battery.

SPELD NZ’s chairperson, Marion Fairbrass, says although the sample size was small, it was a first step and the findings were very encouraging.

“They indicate that specialised teaching, built on solid foundations, can make a strong contribution to those with dyslexia and to the wider education sector.

“The pilot programme proves that by investing in our under-achieving seven-year-olds, we can help them achieve literacy and success at school. As dyslexia and other specific learning disorders can be hereditary, this could have a flow-on intergenerational effect. Can we afford NOT to help these children?”

The research findings will be used to develop and underpin similar studies planned for the future.

Like Father, Like Son

Eight-year-old Jacob Neary is what you might call a “chip off the old block”. Like his builder dad Darren, he has a natural flair for thinking visually in 3D and is years ahead of his peers with his Lego Technic creations. Both father and son have dyslexia and struggled at school. However unlike his dad, through SPELD NZ Jacob is getting the help he needs to learn differently and succeed in the classroom. As a result, Darren believes the sky is the limit for his son.

“Jacob has the advantage of the literacy support I never had. His future will be endless with having spatial awareness PLUS the literacy I missed out on.

“I was good at maths but terrible at reading and writing. I was put at the back of the classroom. Nobody knew anything about dyslexia. I was always skipping school and left the day I turned 15, barely able to read, and have been self-employed in the building industry ever since.

“I think if I had my time again now, I would study to be an architect. If I had the support Jacob has, I could probably have done that. I think being dyslexic helps. I wouldn’t give it away. Albert Einstein and Leonard Da Vinci were very dyslexic. Without dyslexia we wouldn’t have the wheel. We’re great inventors. We see the end result and work backwards – we ask how do we do that, how do we get there? I see very successful dyslexic guys in the building industry every day with these great visualisation skills.

Darren says Jacob’s SPELD NZ tutoring has done wonders for him.

“Writing used to throw me into a panic. Jacob’s tutor takes the panic away and very calmly says “here’s a way you can do that”. She gives him techniques which I never had. She’s able to push him to the limit of where he can go.”


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