As a precursor to Dyslexia Awareness Month, we all gathered as a large cohesive group, to learn about the specifics of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia at the Square Pegs conference in Hobart. Exhibiting our books and resources together with learning more about dyslexia and dyscalculia was a terrific experience on many levels. With suitcases full, we fly to Hobart and make our way to the Elizabeth Street Pier Conference Centre. What a pretty place to both learn and take in an amazing view. As the adage goes; ‘someone’s got to do it’- so here are my notes from the weekend to share.
The common theme we hear in all presentations is the necessity for compassion, justice and equity for all students and the importance of evidence-based literacy and numeracy instruction and models of intervention.
Dyslexia has nothing to do with IQ.
James Justice Bond makes an inspiring presentation and pleas to governments and universities to allow for special considerations for dyslexic students because dyslexics can and do learn, but need support to demonstrate their learning and understandings. James’ personal story of tenacity and frustration with ‘systems’ and injustice still resonates in my head.
Empowering and training teachers at Bentleigh West Primary school is a model for all schools. Sarah Asome is a great presenter with a gift for showing, not telling. She shares her story on getting Bentleigh West Primary School to increase teacher knowledge and skills, and how over time this has translated into astounding positive growth in students’ learning – dyslexics included! Sarah’s main message is that we need to allow for assistive technology and accommodations so that all students reach their full potential. Again, evidence-based literacy instruction is key to effective curriculum planning at whole school, down to individual student level.
Bill Hansberry engages us with his knowledge and perspectives on special needs learning. Professor Steve Chinn presents on the challenges of students with dyscalculia and sometimes, both dyslexia and dyscalculia. What a challenge for these students and their teachers. Judy Hornigold delves deeply into dyscalculia in a major way and both Steve and Judy link to Bill’s theme of anxiety, emotions and how we learn differently in emotional states by presenting on maths learning difficulties. Parallels are made between anxiety, working memory and the ‘fight or flight’ instinct we feel when we are believe we are in danger. It is eye opening to hear that the same parts of the brain are active when we feel physical and emotional pain and when an anxious person is trying to learn but feels they can’t so then avoids it- hence the fight or flight comparison. WOW!
Mandy Nayton OAM outlines the extent to which dyslexia support and intervention is accessed and provided. Her depth of knowledge is impressive.
Caring for students is a valid theme as well as caring for teachers and parents. We listen to Rosalie Martin who addresses the need for us to manage hectic lives and to be mindful of our own well-being. Whole school considerations and decisions are presented by both Sarah and Prof Steve Chinn. What movers and shakers- working with such gusto to serve learning needs of all the kids and staff in their care.
Attendees respond really well to our books – great to see that teachers and leadership teams see value in The Reading Mountain’s resources! This means that we arrive back to Melbourne with empty suitcases! Our new books make a great impression! We look forward to teacher and children’s feedback once they are used in schools.