The write stuff;Cross-phase;Special needs;Books

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
DYSLEXIA IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: Assessments into Action. Published by the British Dyslexia Association, 98 London Rd, Reading, RG1 5AU. pound;6 including postage.

DEALING WITH DYSLEXIA AT SECONDARY SCHOOL. Video and booklet pound;12.95. Running time: 2O minutes. Available from Partnership with Parents, Shepway Centre, Oxford Road, Maidstone, Kent MElS 8AW. Tel 01622 755515, fax 01622 671198.

There's a dyslexic child in my class this year - what should I do?" Anyone who has worked with dyslexic children knows there are no easy answers. These two resources, packed with information and suggestions, are therefore very welcome.

In its short booklet, the BDA has assembled advice from a number of sources. Primary headteacher Elizabeth Henderson gives a host of useful ideas for classroom organisation and overall approaches to teaching and learning. Violet Brand, a well-known teacher of dyslexics, covers structured one-to-one support in literacy development. Sue Giles, head of a specific learning difficulties centre, looks at the CoPs computer-assisted profiling system, and how to move from a child's profile towards useful teaching strategies. Anita Keates, of the BDA computer committee, writes about supporting dyslexic learners through IT, and the association's Carol Orton looks at how the special needs Code of Practice affects dyslexic pupils. An appendix describes the early intervention tests currently available.

The five essays contain much useful information, but it is not easily accessed - you have to sit and read, make notes, re-read, digest. It is worth the effort; many ideas for multi-sensory teaching contained herein could benefit not just dyslexics but every child in your class.

The video and booklet, Dealing with Dyslexia at Secondary School, focus on the excellent provision for dyslexic students in two Kent technology colleges, making it clear that a whole-school approach is vital. The video shows how subject teachers can help by being aware of dyslexic students' problems and finding ways around them.

Practical suggestions include using a dictaphone to record homework (instead of expecting a student to copy assignments down in limited time at the end of a lesson) and using highly visual "mind maps" to record essential information on a topic. There are also hints on helping dyslexics learn to spell subject-specific vocabulary and a demonstration of a marking system that allows the recognition of dyslexic students' strengths rather than merely focusing on their weaknesses.

Unfortunately much of this comes towards the end of the video, after a fairly long look at what the SENCO should be doing and the individualised learning potential of new technologies. Some teachers will turn off, thinking it irrelevant to their needs, but structured teaching is essential and handy hints must be seen within a properly balanced context.

The video will be of use to many groups: senior managers planning whole-school special needs provision; special needs staff planning assessment and organisation; IT departments supporting individualised learning; parents who want to help, and - if they watch to the end - teachers struggling daily to cope with dyslexic students in a mainstream classroom.

Sue Palmer

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