Sydney Dyslexia

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Is my child dyslexic?

rumi you will understand w reading but you'll learn with loveIs my child dyslexic?

That is the most common question I get asked, especially after assessing a child…not surprising, really. I used to ask the same question about my son before I knew anything about dyslexia. Like most concerned parents I had the impression that there is something wrong with my son and I was determined to get a label in order to find a solution.

Now, ten years later, I have a different view:

Before my training and working for ten years with dyslexic individuals of all ages, I just saw that my son was struggling, thinking differently, obviously not stupid – yet having really poor marks in English and any subject where reading and comprehension was required. His spelling was appalling – I am not sure if he would have been diagnosed with ‘phonological dyslexia’ or ‘visual/surface dyslexia’. Somehow I think he would have fit into both boxes.

The term “phonological dyslexia” refers to a symptom pattern of difficulty with decoding and connecting sounds to symbols. Individuals with that form of dyslexia typically have difficulty sounding out unfamiliar words and do poorly on tests of non-word reading. The term “surface dyslexia” refers to a pattern of difficulty with whole word recognition. Individuals with that form of dyslexia often spell phonetically and are able to figure out new words, but will not be able to remember or recognize frequently encountered words. Their reading may be slow and laborious. (Abigail Marshall, Webmaster DDAI)

The Primary School my son went to never saw a reason for concern, he never had any IQ/Wechsler/psychometric assessment/dyslexia testing/psychological assessments or tests …  and in hindsight I believe that was rather fortunate. Who knows – it might have sent me on a long merry-go round of fixing symptoms and phonic training which is similar to torture for dyslexics – and with questionable results.

Now, I don’t believe that Dyslexia is a learning disability, just a learning difference. Dyslexics are mostly visual learners and although they do struggle in school, they are very bright and creative. Nothing needs to be ‘cured’ or ‘fixed’, but it will help them to receive tools to increase their focus and help them understand words that don’t have a picture. ‘Sight words’ which are meant to be the easiest little words that children are learning to read first, are usually culprits for dyslexics – often they have no obvious meaning. So eventually the child will read ‘to, for, from, so, by’, but without the necessary picture or meaning, or the correct one. Instead of simply telling them what a word means, they will learn to truly master it, creatively and deeply. We need to empower the child to enable it to recognize and correct the state of ‘disorientation’ that they experiences out of confusion, frustration or resulting from the mistakes they make. A child in an oriented state is very focused and able to receive information, especially when it comes in a way they understand.

If you are uncertain, if your child may or may not qualify, here is a link to a free dyslexia test:


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Becoming a teacher in Finland

Special Training for Teachers in Finland

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Interestingly, I have just blogged about psychometric assessments in schools last week and it was intriguing to see this article by Gene Glass, who states among other things that he is “no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.”

I believe that he has a very good point, that maybe the measuring in itself isn’t as much a problem as the use of the results – as a political weapon. Measuring in our school systems seems to serve less as a tool to affect change in the way we teach our children as to appear ‘scientific-looking’ without spending much money.

By Gene Glass:

I was introduced to psychometrics in 1959. I thought it was really neat. By 1960, I was programming a computer on a psychometrics research project funded by the Office of Naval Research. In 1962, I entered graduate school to study educational measurement under the top scholars in the field.My mentors – both those I spoke with daily and those whose works I read – had served in WWII. Many did research on human factors — measuring aptitudes and talents and matching them to jobs. Assessments showed who were the best candidates to be pilots or navigators or marksmen. We were told that psychometrics had won the war; and of course, we believed it.

The next wars that psychometrics promised it could win were the wars on poverty and ignorance. The man who led the Army Air Corps effort in psychometrics started a private research center. (It exists today, and is a beneficiary of the millions of dollars spent on Common Core testing.) My dissertation won the 1966 prize in Psychometrics awarded by that man’s organization. And I was hired to fill the slot recently vacated by the world’s leading psychometrician at the University of Illinois. Psychometrics was flying high, and so was I.

Psychologists of the 1960s and 1970s were saying that just measuring talent wasn’t enough. Talents had to be matched with the demands of tasks to optimize performance. Measure a learning style, say, and match it to the way a child is taught. If Jimmy is a visual learner, then teach Jimmy in a visual way. Psychometrics promised to help build a better world. But 20 years later, the promises were still unfulfilled. Both talent and tasks were too complex to yield to this simple plan. Instead, psychometricians grew enthralled with mathematical niceties. Testing in schools became a ritual without any real purpose other than picking a few children for special attention.

Around 1980, I served for a time on the committee that made most of the important decisions about the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The project was under increasing pressure to “grade” the NAEP results: Pass/Fail; A/B/C/D/F; Advanced/Proficient/Basic. Our committee held firm: such grading was purely arbitrary, and worse, would only be used politically.The contract was eventually taken from our organization and given to another that promised it could give the nation a grade, free of politics. It couldn’t.

Measurement has changed along with the nation. In the last three decades, the public has largely withdrawn its commitment to public education. The reasons are multiple: those who pay for public schools have less money, and those served by the public schools look less and less like those paying taxes.

The degrading of public education has involved impugning its effectiveness, cutting its budget, and busting its unions. Educational measurement has been the perfect tool for accomplishing all three: cheap and scientific looking.

International tests have purported to prove that America’s schools are inefficient or run by lazy incompetents. Paper-and-pencil tests seemingly show that kids in private schools — funded by parents — are smarter than kids in public schools. We’ll get to the top, so the story goes, if we test a teacher’s students in September and June and fire that teacher if the gains aren’t great enough.

There has been resistance, of course. Teachers and many parents understand that children’s development is far too complex to capture with an hour or two taking a standardized test. So resistance has been met with legislated mandates. The test company lobbyists convince politicians that grading teachers and schools is as easy as grading cuts of meat. A huge publishing company from the United Kingdom has spent $8 million in the past decade lobbying Congress. Politicians believe that testing must be the cornerstone of any education policy.

The results of this cronyism between corporations and politicians have been chaotic. Parents see the stress placed on their children and report them sick on test day. Educators, under pressure they see as illegitimate, break the rules imposed on them by governments. Many teachers put their best judgment and best lessons aside and drill children on how to score high on multiple-choice tests. And too many of the best teachers exit the profession.

When measurement became the instrument of accountability, testing companies prospered and schools suffered. I have watched this happen for several years now. I have slowly withdrawn my intellectual commitment to the field of measurement. Recently I asked my dean to switch my affiliation from the measurement program to the policy program. I am no longer comfortable being associated with the discipline of educational measurement.

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Is testing for Dyslexia necessary?

We do assess children to see if our way of correcting dyslexia will suit their learning style, their level of motivation, giftedness – to look at their weaknesses and strengths and especially to confirm to them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Their strengths can be used to correct their challenges and there is no reason to ‘fix’ anything, because there is nothing broken.

Anyway, some people still love to have a professional test done to get their child’s IQ (if that is relevant?) and mainly to compare them to the average child.

That is what an educational psychologist will be able to do (which we are not) – psychometric assessments:

Psychometric assessments, usually educational and cognitive assessments, investigate factors such as your child’s attention, learning style, motivation, focus, impulsivity, social skills etc are observed during the assessment and add a lot of valuable information.

A full Educational Assessment or Psychometric Assessment usually includes:

  •  IQ/Cognitive Test (investigating your child’s cognitive potential and strengths and weaknesses). Some examples of the assessment tools used include:
    • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV)
    • Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-III)
    • Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales (WAIS-III & IV); Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale (SB-IV & V)
  •  Achievement Testing (tests of reading, phonological awareness, spelling and arithmetic). Some examples of tests used include:
    • Neale Analysis of Reading Ability
    • WIAT-II
    • South Australian Spelling Test
    • Woodcock Reading Mastery Test
    • Wide Range Achievement test (WRAT3 & 4)
  •  Rating Questionnaires and Behaviour rating scales – investigating issues such as concentration and inattention (ADD/ADHD); motor hyperactivity/impulsiveness; reading problems; cognitive deficits/linguistic comprehension, behaviour, anxiety, social skills, linguistic comprehension; and social skills and competence.
  • Interveiw with parent(s) / caregivers (discussing your child’s and family’s background and history, previous assessments, etc)

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Adult Dyslexia Correction Week at the Entrance

IMG_7884Can I ‘cure’ my dyslexia as an adult?

I have been asked that so many times, that I decided to blog about it – or rather let an adult ‘talk’ who has just been through a week of a Dyslexia Correction Program for adults at the Beach Retreat.

Although adult programs as such aren’t that different to children’s programs, they do require other aspects to be considered:

  • Often there is a level of anxiety, depression or other emotional barriers that need to be cleared for something new, like an upgrade of the way we can learn and retain information with more ease, to enter into our lives.
  • Emotional or mental blocks, traumas from school and feelings of insecurity have to be addressed to achieve real and lasting success
  • The program usually takes a more holistic approach, incorporating healthy food, exercise and relaxation, which is made easier by being in the pristine ocean-side environment
  • The methods to learn to focus, read, spell, write or understand Maths are the same, but the material used is tailored to the personal need of the adult client
  • P.S. Of course there is ‘no cure’ for your dyslexia, as dyslexia is not an illness and therefore doesn’t require a cure. Instead it helps to recover and polish the diamond that is already present and use the beautiful visual mind inherent in most dyslexic individuals to learn to do anything they set their mind to.

Two weeks ago I had the privilege to spend five days at the Entrance Retreat with a very special lady, Catherine, who came all the way from Dubai. We had an amazing time together. I let her tell you the story:

“My five days attending the Davis Program with Barbara have been life-changing. This is a big statement to make, and it is true. There have been many benefits in doing this program; some small, some big.

Barbara is an amazing lady who is passionate about her work, her life and healthy cooking. She is so knowledgeable and full of creative ideas. It has made the time spent here an easy place to soak in all the information. She is accepting and warm; qualities that have been necessary and a great relief to someone who isn’t feeling the greatest about herself and her situation.

The location is amazing – peaceful and beautiful. Looking out to the ocean every day brings a sense of calmness to the day and an ability to relax into the surroundings and focus on the program. It is a piece of Heaven on Earth.

The program itself is life-changing. Learning to be able to focus and orientate oneself to then learn has been wonderful. Understanding how the dyslexic person learns has been the most important aspect of the program – to then be able to go on and use the techniques provided by the program.

This has led me to be able to feel my confidence returning in not just a learning perspective, but also a life perspective. 

The best and most exciting aspect of the time spent doing the program is to realize that dyslexia is something to be celebrated and worked with, to accept and believe that life with dyslexia doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself. You just need to be creative. Thank you, Barbara!”

Thank you, Catherine!!!