Hello and Welcome
I'm very happy to have created this website and share my journey in education, and how I became a Specialist Teacher in Specific Learning Difficulties/ Differences. I hope you enjoy my website and find the information useful.
Please contact me if you would like to discuss any concerns or would like some information to be included for others to read and benefit from.
About Me and My Strategies
My interest in learning difficulties and differences led me to study at Master's level and achieve a Post Graduate Certificate in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability). I specialised in Specific Learning Difficulties/Dyslexia in 2012 which taught me about multisensory methods in teaching and learning, and the existence of co-occurring conditions. There is, however, still much to learn in this field of education.
What have I learned in recent years?
I've had a couple of 'light bulb' moments which were quite eye-opening and important to me, as they helped me understand other challenges people have. One such challenge is called 'aphantasia', described below:
'Aphantasia is the inability to visualize. Otherwise known as image-free thinking. People with aphantasia don't create any pictures of familiar objects, people, or places in their mind's eye. Not for thoughts, memories, or images of the future. We lack this quasi-perceptual “picture-it” system completely.'
Although aphantasia is not considered a specific learning difficulty or difference, it was very important to me to understand that some people lack a visual memory.
I have worked with a few individuals in schools and colleges who do not have the ability to visualise a word in order to spell it, and I have found that they may have had a great result from a phoneme skills test (understanding of the sounds within words) I carried out, but it bears no relation to their inability to spell. I now always ask an individual if they can visualise a word to spell it!
Co-occurring Conditions and Difficulties
Co-occurring conditions and difficulties/differences in learning can include Dyspraxia, ADHD/ADD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and/or Dyscalculia, alongside Dyslexia.
Co-ccurring conditions can vary in severity, which is why people with dyslexia show differences, or variations, in their individual dyslexia. Children and adults with autism can also have co-occurring conditions, which can be quite difficult to diagnose due to the nature of autism and individuality.
Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) affect the way that information is learned and processed, and include:
I have worked in schools, colleges and alternative learning provisions as well as provided remote teaching and support (due to the Covid-19 pandemic) to autistic students with specific learning difficulties and also to students at university.
My teaching career started at North Hertfordshire College (2003) where I taught and supported students with moderate to severe learning difficulties/differences. Since then I have supported students who have the following:
I firmly believe that before any learning can take place, a child or adult has to be emotionally ready to learn. From my perspective, I have to try to get to the route of a child's/adult's barrier to learning (which can be a challenge) and understand their specific learning difficulty or difference, so that I can offer the best and correct support for them (although some times this is difficult to do due to the child's resistence to learning and may be due to experiencing trauma).
Dyslexia and Memory
Memory plays an enormous part in our learning, and in retaining information. Many people with dyslexia appear to have memory difficulties which can affect reading, writing, planning (organising information), spelling and speaking.
We need to be able to hold on to information in our memory in order to think about it before we write and spell. We also need to be able to hold on to a string of information/words, before we speak. Many people with dyslexia find this difficult, because their memories cannot hold onto a string of information and this creates difficulties when speaking, listening, reading, writing and spelling.
Consider the following:
Do you or your child feel the need to speak over people, or interrupt them, because of trying to hold onto that piece of information before it vanishes, and then forgetting what the information was?
Do you or your child forget what you've just read?
Do you or your child find that you can think of information to write down, but by the time the information moves from your memory down to your writing hand it is forgotten?
Does you child struggle in class to remember a series of instructions that a teacher has just given?
If the answer is yes, then it is very likely that there is difficulty with retention (holding onto information while trying to do things with it (manipulate it); this can happen with mathematics, also.
If you'd like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Methods of Teaching
The methods I like to use to support learning and retention rely on multisensory methods which include engaging many senses, simultaneously, to aid learning.
Let us take cooking as an example. Cooking involves using all of our senses to engage us when putting a dish together: sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch. Many dyslexic children and adults struggle with spelling and, by utilising multisensory methods to support the learning and memory processes, spelling can become less of a burden due to a range of senses being used: sight, speech, hearing and touch.
Memory & Learning
Memory plays a fundamental role in learning to read, write, spell and remember information and, if a child or adult has difficulty with their short-term memory, they will often struggle with spelling and other areas of learning, which is why multisensory strategies should be used to develop areas linked to memory. However, with the advance of technology, there are a range of apps to help with spelling which many older children and adults now use.
Important: a child or adult may have good phonemic knowledge yet struggle with spelling. I have come across a number of children who cannot visualise a word to spell. Most of us can visualise a word to help us spell it, and if a child/adult struggles with that then multisensory methods can help.
In relation to reading, I have found Toe by Toe to be a fantastic aid, in conjunction with a multisensory approach, to learn and improve accuracy in reading. I used Toe by Toe with two students aged 11, when teaching at a school for autistic children, and the results were incredible. In two years their reading ages improved by an amazing 5 years, mainly due to daily practise, combined with multisensory methods and linking activities, to provide opportunities for overlearning.
Make Time for Relaxation
During my time at a school for autistic children I wanted to provide time for relaxation in my classroom, so I decided to learn how to make relaxation videos for Youtube. I created a small Youtube channel called CalmCloudz and made a handful of videos relating to sensory sounds and images to include the sea, rain, water, snow and the Aurora Borealis. In fact, staff at the school also really enjoyed them and used them in their classrooms.
If you have any concerns about your child or yourself and would like to talk about them, please contact me.
I am fully qualified and have a portable Enhanced Certificate (DBS) and am on the Update Service for children and adults. I would be more than happy to show you my certificates.
Please note: I am in the process of renewing my Assessment Practising Certificate which means that any reports I produce cannot be used to support an application for Disability Student Allowance.
I am still able to carry out full diagnostic assessments on children and young adults.
Please contact me if you have any concerns about dyslexia or SEND or would like to discuss resources or training opportunities.