Dyslexia…and what it is not.

Dyslexia is not just a male problem

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Dyslexia does not just affect males

However, boys with dyslexia are more frequently identified in school because girls will tend to muddle through according to Bob Cunningham, EdM (Understood.org) But dyslexia affects both genders in nearly equal numbers.

So what explains the difference in schools? In general boy’s behaviour tends to draw attention to any problems they are having.

Dyslexia is not hereditary
However, both genetics and differences in the brain play a role in dyslexia.

Dyslexia can have familial element and research suggests that 40 percent of siblings, children, or parents of a person with dyslexia will also have dyslexia.

Brain imaging studies have shown differences in brain structure and function in people with dyslexia compared to those who don’t have it. For instance reversing letters is quite common in children who do not have dyslexia, especially in young children who are learning to form their letters.

As with any potential learning difficulty you will be looking for several different issues to reach a suspected conclusion.

Dyslexia is not just a reading problem
It really doesn’t. It does make reading very challenging. Children with dyslexia will struggle to break down words.

Symptoms (and this is not exhaustive) can include flipping letter, reversing letters (this isn’t always a sign of dyslexia), reading well below the expected level for age, problems processing and understanding what he or she hears, difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions, problems remembering the sequence of things, difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words (phonics), problems rhyming, inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word, difficulty spelling. Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing and sometimes avoiding activities that involve reading.

Dyslexia is not a simple identifiable condition
Dyslexia affects different children in different ways. It can affect writing, spelling, speaking, and even social skills. It is important to understand that dyslexia is a complex, brain-based condition; it really can affect different children in many, many different ways.

Dyslexia is not solved by children trying harder
As a teaching assistant we need to understand that brain functions differently in people with dyslexia and you will find that some traditional reading and language instruction just will not work for them.

Strategies such as precision teaching or colourful semantics may well help but you would discuss this with your SENCo and Teacher.

Dyslexia is not a sign of a low intelligence
Dyslexia occurs in children of all backgrounds and intelligence levels. Having dyslexia certainly doesn’t mean your child isn’t intelligent and we need to make that clear to the children we are with.

Most children respond well to praise and this is especially true when you are helping to build the confidence of a child, I have seen it happen with some of the children I have worked with.

Dyslexia is not a barrier to success
It is not and many different notable people have enjoyed success in their field.

For instance: Artists Pablo Picasso, Actor Tom Cruise, Entrepreneur Richard Branson, Scientist Albert Einstein, Olympic Rower Steve Redgrave, Actor Henry Winkler and Director Steven Spielberg and there are more.

Dyslexia is not curable
It is certainly not curable at present but who knows with genetics and all that has to discover about the brain in the future.

Dyslexia is a brain-based condition and a lifelong challenge. But early intervention and helpful classroom accommodations can have a significant, positive impact on reading ability and academic achievement.

This is really important and parents (who are their child’s number-one source of dyslexia support) need to be onside with the school, listening to the school and working with the school, the SENCo, the teacher and us, the teaching assistant.

More than 500,000 primary school children are taught in super-sized classes of over 30 pupils.

Shockingly (or maybe not) more than half a million primary school children in England are being taught in “super-sized” classes, new figures show.

Youngsters in the South East and North West are the worst affected, with more than 90,000 primary age children in each area in classes of over 30 pupils, according to Labour.

Shadow Schools Minister Mike Kane said the numbers of youngsters in large classes was “sky-rocketing”.

He said: “These figures expose seven years of Tory failure in our schools. The number of pupils being taught in super-sized classes is skyrocketing while schools face the first real terms cuts to their budgets in a generation.

“This situation is unsustainable. If the Tories wanted to give every child the education they deserve they would ensure that children were not crammed into super-sized classes.”

The analysis of Government figures shows as of January there were 503,591 state primary school pupils aged five to 11 – in classes of 31 to 35 children.

That’s up from 498,152 the year before.

class-size-300x240In addition, 39,088 primary youngsters were in classes of 36 or more pupils, down slightly from 40,102 in 2016.

Of these, 16,571 children were in classes with 40 or more pupils, compared to 16,655 the year before.

A regional breakdown shows that 96,471 primary pupils in the South East were being taught in classes of 31 or more children, along with 92,049 in the North West.

At the other end of the scale, 20,512 children in the North East were in large classes.

What is a reasonable amount of children teachers can teacher?

What size of class should we really have in our primary schools?

 

The silent tragedy affecting today’s children (and what to do with it)

This article originally appeared on YourOT.Com

download (1)There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children. Through my work with hundreds of children and families as an occupational therapist, I have witnessed this tragedy unfolding right in front of my eyes. Our children are in a devastating emotional state! Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. You will hear concerns similar to mine. Moreover, in the past 15 years, researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:

How much more evidence do we need before we wake up?

No, “increased diagnostics alone” is not the answer!

No, “they all are just born like this” is not the answer!

No, “it is all the school system’s fault” is not the answer!

Yes, as painful as it can be to admit, in many cases, WE, parents, are the answer to many of our kids’ struggles!

It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment. Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.

Yes, there are and always have been children who are born with disabilities and despite their parents’ best efforts to provide them with a well-balanced environment and parenting, their children continue to struggle. These are NOT the children I am talking about here.

I am talking about many others whose challenges are greatly shaped by the environmental factors that parents, with their greatest intentions, provide to their children. As I have seen in my practice, the moment parents change their perspective on parenting, these children change.

What is wrong?

Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom

Instead, children are being served with:

  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments

Could anyone imagine that it is possible to raise a healthy generation in such an unhealthy environment? Of course not! There are no shortcuts to parenting, and we can’t trick human nature. As we see, the outcomes are devastating. Our children pay for the loss of well-balanced childhood with their emotional well-being.

How to fix it?

If we want our children to grow into happy and healthy individuals, we have to wake up and go back to the basics. It is still possible! I know this because hundreds of my clients see positive changes in their kids’ emotional state within weeks (and in some cases, even days) of implementing these recommendations:

Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend

Offer kids well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “No!” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.

 

  • Provide nutritious food and limits snacks.
  • Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects
  • Have a daily technology-free family dinner.
  • Play one board game a day. (List of family games)
  • Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table etc)
  • Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom

Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It trains them the skills needed to overcome greater life’s challenges:

  • Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.

Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens:

  • Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom.
  • Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”
  • Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.

Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills:

  • Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger.
  • Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills,
  • Connect emotionally – Smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.

We must make changes in our kids’ lives before this entire generation of children will be medicated! It is not too late yet, but soon it will be…

Insect days!

dragon‘Daddy’ asked my youngest ‘why do you have to go to school on insect days?’.

Ah…Insect Days or rather INSET Days.

Well INSET was originally an acronym for IN-SErvice Training day and is one of a series of five days in most English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish schools on which school sessions are not run and the pupils do not attend school and staff have training of sorts.

They are a real pain for parents, I know…I am one. You need to find child care which is costly but we need to train on many, many issues such as safeguarding, behaviour, special needs, changes to the curriculum (which is frequent with it seems any government) to name but a few.

 

It also gives us (the teaching assistants) time to rearrange the school, tidy, move clean and it can be quite hard work.

In most schools each Teaching Assistant will be given an area to look after.

For instance, I look after IT. That means making sure all the computing and IT equipment in the school is working, the programs are functioning, finding new software for the ever changing IT curriculum, repairing broken hardware, coordinating with external suppliers, keeping everyone informed and hopefully happy.

 

 

 

Finally…the end of Term!

The end of term today…that’s 195 working days at school plus whatever we have given in our own time which we choose to freely give, the children have had 190 days at school this academic year.

scaled_256 (1)The last day of Summer 2, that is the second part of the Summer Term has been nearly 7 weeks long.

It has been a hot, tiring but fun time in year 4.

There is an anticipation by both staff and students about the coming break. The teachers are worn out having worked 50 – 60 hours per week. I have watched my lovely talented teacher mark hundreds of pieces of work, plan numerous lessons plus lead in a specific subject (this involves much work on the curriculum) co-ordinate various school events and serve as a school governor.

Of course, we don’t do as many hours as our class teacher and in general don’t mark (although I occasionally have) do lesson planning (although I occasionally have) but we may need to do some intervention or precision teaching planning, we have our gate, playground and lunch duties, classroom work and help at the School Production or Nativity, Class Assemblies and other events.

On top of this all staff have the physical, social, mental and emotional welfare of the children to take into account. This can be physically and emotionally exhausting at times.

So the end of the academic year comes as a welcome break for all.

It is a time for the children in the class to relax, bring in some games, watch a movie (it was Minions today – an excellent film – which made me laugh!) and tidy up and get all their work that they want/need to take home in the carrier bags that they have hopefully remembered to bring in.

 

It’s a little chaotic, the children get a little excitable but it is fun.

It is traditional in schools in the UK for parents to give gifts to the teachers and teaching assistants at the end of term. So a bottle wine, a box of chocolates or home fudge is great but for me a card or note from a parent or a child thanking you is the best.

I still have one from parents whose daughter was in my class last year thanking me ‘for all the time and effort I had put in to helping her’, it makes you realise that just maybe I have made a difference to someones life.

So end of the day comes, we wave goodbye to our year 6, sign their shirts, shake their hands and wish them the best on the next part of their journey, for some it will be hard work and fun, for others I am concerned for their future and I can’t help wonder what will become of them.

My class get all their work to take home and we wish everyone a good break and then they are gone.

I sit in the classroom, in the silence reflecting on the last year, good times and bad times, some of the children I will miss. I will miss helping them learn, making them laugh…

back-to-school.jpg

…but a new year starts in September and with a new class comes a new teacher and it all starts again!

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Extra cash in school budgets in funding shake-up

Any thoughts on the funding of our schools?

_96977171_040630160Schools in England are being promised an extra £1.3bn over two years in their budgets, alongside a shake-up of how funding is allocated.

But the cash for schools will be taken from elsewhere in the education budget, such as spending on free schools.

Education Secretary Justine Greening told MPs she recognised there was public concern over school funding during the general election.

Labour’s Angela Rayner said there “wasn’t a penny of new money”.

Ms Greening told the House of Commons this “significant investment” would help to “raise standards, promote social mobility and to give every child the best possible education”.

  • More front-line cash for schools – with £280m being cut from the free schools budget and £315m from “healthy pupils” projects.
  • The DFE is promising £416m extra for schools from savings in 2018-19 and a further £884m in 2019-20
  • A new minimum per pupil funding limit will be set at £4,800
  • The Institute for Fiscal studies says the extra money is more generous than promised in the Conservative manifesto – and will effectively freeze average school budgets at current levels over the next two years.
  • But in the years between 2015 and 2020, the IFS says school budgets will have declined in real terms by 4.6%.

‘Finally listening’

Shadow education secretary, Ms Rayner, said: “They are not committing any new money and have not been clear about exactly what programmes they will be cutting to plug the funding back hole.”

But Jules White, a West Sussex head teacher who co-ordinated a campaign over funding shortages, said: “The government finally appears to be listening.”

Continue reading “Extra cash in school budgets in funding shake-up”

Some of what we do…

What is our role?
The role can be wide and varied however it really is down to the school, your manager and the teacher (who is also your manager) you are working with and these may well include:

  • Interventions 
    These are times set aside to help pupils with differing needs. They take place before that start of school or at lunchtime and may include: Handwriting, Phonics, Spellings, Time, Mathematics, Grammar, Semantics, Colorful Semantics, ToebyToe, Times Tables and more besides.
  • Classroom  Support
    You will be expected to help any child that needs it in your classroom. You may well be directed by your teacher as too the who and the type of help they need but this should be worked out on your planning time early in the week.
  • Boards
    You will be expected to populate boards around your classroom and possibly. These are likely to be any subject the children are follow. You will need to be quick and imaginative, a little eye catching to provide a good place to display your children’s work.
  • Sports
    You will be probably be expected to help at the sports day. It is important to be appropriate with your dress sense as parents will be there and watching. So I would suggest you follow the school dress code, cover any tattoos, shorts and the school sports polo shirt or plain t-shirt.
  • Emotional Support
    Children go through both good times and bad times and supporting a child emotionally can be very difficult. Your school will have a safeguarding policy in place, make sure you read it and understand it. Please refer to my safeguarding page.
  • Physical Support
    You may have children in your class the require some form of physical support. If this is the case, you may need some training. A qualification in Paediatric Training Level 3 is is usually required and most schools will train you.
  • Break/Lunchtime Support
    You will spend a portion of your day in the playground keeping an eye on the children as they play. This will include sorting out occasional fights, squabbles, tears, cuts, bumps, bruises and recording them correctly. Bullying and physical violence are not tolerated in any school and when this has taken place a senior member of staff would need to be notified. You will need write down everything that has happened at the time as you are a witness and may be required to come forward if parents become involved. This is also a good chance to talk to the children ask them what they do, clubs they are in and get to know them.

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