Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 1244 - Dyslexia

Jackpot! When parent and teachers work together for positive forward movement.

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As you know my son's eyes aren't quite as fit as the rest of his body.  We discovered it when he was in year one and we've been working with the school to help him as best as we can.  I've talked about it here, and here, and here.

We don't use the word dyslexia at home because we don't want Darby's challenges to define who he is.  However I do use the term when talking privately with his teachers because it definitely defines how he learns in the classroom.  So every year I make an appointment with his new teacher to discuss how I can work with her to get him through the year.

Yesterday when I had that chat I was absolutely delighted to meet not only with his year four teacher but also the new learning support coordinator who is from Ireland. Both of them had already been working together on creating the best learning environment possible for Darby.  Our Irish teacher and brought with her all the new teaching methods for dyslexia they'd been using over there, with the added bonus that her son has the same form of visual dyslexia that Darby has, so she already understands his needs completely.  Sorry, that sounds terrible. It's not a bonus that her son has challenges, but it is a bonus that Darby and I are not alone. 

What has delighted me is that both teachers have already been working together to get Darby's plan in place, and they're doing it in a way that not only empowers him, but doesn't single him out. The methods they are integrating are being done across the classroom so that Darby isn't being highlighted in front of his mates as a special needs kid.

Let me explain ....

The first thing they have done is to introduce coloured reading rulers to the classroom.  A blue transparent reading ruler helps the child track their words and helps dyslexic kids focus their eye muscles.  For Darby his eyes feel less stress, and for the rest of the classroom it helps the children keep their place in the reading process (if they choose to use it). Win/win.

The second thing they have done is to put Darby down the front of the room so that he can focus a little better. But better than that, they are giving the class sheets that have all the information the teacher is using on the interactive whiteboard. So instead of Darby having to look up and focus across the room, then look down and refocus on his work book (causing added eye strain due to the need to constantly adjust the line of vision) he can focus on the information and work book at the same range.  For the other children in the classroom they can choose whether to focus on the teacher or their piece of paper - whatever feels best to them. Win/win.

Additionally they have hand picked a number of children across year four, all of whom have reading challenges, to work with year two children.  The year four kids don't know they have been chosen because of their special needs.  As far as they are concerned they have been chosen to act as mentors for the younger kids who are having some troubles learning to read. The year two kids feel good for having been given a learning support buddy. What is actually happening is that both sets of kids are learning the same techniques without either feeling like they are being singled out because of their problems.  This exercise is empowering them and encouraging them.  For the year four children, they are growing in confidence and feeling clever because they are helping the younger students. Win/win.

And finally, as with many dyslexic kids Darby is a bit fidgety.  He has attention issues as well. His tendency to swing on his chair, fiddle with his pencils, tap on the table, frequently visit the bin, wander around the classroom and chat is possibly a learned technique he used earlier on in his schooling life to avoid the need to read.  To combat this his teachers have thought up a new plan which involves a wiggly chair and a slanted work station.  This chair (the name of which escapes me right now*) is designed so that the person sitting in it must be sitting at attention, with tight tummy muscles and a straight back, otherwise they will fall off. A bit like those big rubber balls people sit on in the office.  It's ergonomic.  Combine that with a tilted work station, like a draftsman or designer might use, and Darby will have no choice but to sit still.  So that he is not singled out, the teacher has offered to introduce a handful into the classroom.  They will be rotated through the class. Apparently kids LOVE these chairs and they will be fighting over who gets to use them. So I came home last night and asked Darby how he would feel about being one of the first in his class to trial the new chair and slant board. He thought that was a fantastic idea!! How special. Win/win.

His teacher also suggested that instead of having Darby get up and wander off to the toilet, to get a drink, to blow his nose etc, she would actively give him rest breaks to give his eyes a break every fifteen minutes IF he has managed to sit still for that length of time then he would get a diversion designed by her. Possibly a special job or task. She will extend that period of time to thirty minutes and forty five minutes to increase his attention span. I spoke to him about that too. He said he loves getting special jobs and understands it will be a reward for no fidgets.** Win/win.

So there you have it.  We have started off the school year with the promise of positive forward movement.  Two teachers and a parent planning together for the best approach. I have to be honest, I am very relieved. And let's add a whole bunch of gratitude in there too.

Jackpot! When parent and teachers work together for positive forward movement.

* For the life of me I can't remember the name of this chair, nor can I find anything on Professor Google.  When I find out I'll let you know!

** We will keep an eye on this one because we don't want him to be perceived as the teacher's pet. This will be a short term approach to get him to recognise and focus on his attention span. He knows it is a problem as we have been working on it at home as well.  


  1. Congratulations!
    From the other side, there is nothing as effecive as parent support and interaction when you are implementing Individual Learning Plans, Behavioural Plans etc. I hope the year progresses well for you and yor little one X

  2. Sounds fantastic,Darby is very lucky to have such wonderful teachers looking out for him and of course an awesome Mum doing so much to help.

  3. What a wonderful teacher to recognise and provide solutions to meet the special needs in children.

  4. There are some brilliant teachers out there. It's so lucky when you get one, and the positive framework is so much more productive.

  5. Emily @ Have a laugh on meMarch 1, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Isn't it great when things fall in to place, I'm keeping an eye on my daughter for potential learning issues, and so is my teacher. It's so nice when there is someone in your corner! x

  6. Great news! Seat wouldn't be a move n sit would it?

    We looked at them back in Grade 3 but it didn't fit on the class chairs back then,

    Has Darby been tested for low muscle tone? the things you describe fit that to a T. xx

  7. Such great news Leanne!!! Congratulations!!! It is so wonderful to see teachers putting in so much effort for their students and for incorporating the children's needs as well as taking into account discussing with their parents and telling the parents of their plans. All the best and hoping it works really well for Darby!!! I am sure it will!!!!

  8. Thanks for all your lovely comments and well wishes. We are very pleased (and very proud). We are actually very lucky because unlike many dyslexic kids, Darby's depth perception is quite good (as is his muscle tone) and he is super sporty and has excellent hand/eye coordination. That's a big win! David Beckham look out ... there's a new ridiculously good looking soccer star in training (yeah, I'm just a tad biased).

  9. That sounds amazing, I bet it feels wonderful to know he'll be in such attentive hands. My eldest won't start school until next year but he has vision problems and has to wear glasses, this causes him to be incredibly shy. I hope I can take the same proactive approach as you.

  10. WOW! I love her! It makes such a difference, Darby is going to have an incredible year.

    Our Grade 3 teacher is amazing too, and new to the school this year.

  11. Truly inspiring, Leanne! So great to hear a positive story about teachers and parents working together. Darby's going to do just great!


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