‘How can we Harness Reading Skills to Promote Vocabulary Learning?’ talk

We recently atended a Helen Arkell talk, presented by Dr Jessie Ricketts. She is passionate about her work , and was recently a speaker in a Westminster event about measuring children’s progress in literacy and how this informs teaching. This presentation, ‘How can we Harness Reading Skills to Promote Vocabulary Learning?’ reflected research  completed by Jessie and her colleagues.  Her studies examined how existing reading and vocabulary skills relate to new word learning. The conclusion, where participants were in the 7-9 age range, was that reading provides opportunities for children to learn new vocabulary and build language, but is dependent on existing reading and language skills. Children are more likely to learn words that have been taught with support from orthography (the visual image of the written word), and whilst this is particularly so for advanced readers the findings have been replicated in typically developing children and others with minimal levels of ability in reading. It jessie-rickettsalso applied to those with a specific language impairment and autism spectrum disorders, who are also more likely to learn words that have been taught with support from orthography.

Jessie’s biggest project – Vocabulary and Reading in Secondary Schools (VaRiSS) finishes in July 2017. She said that there is little data on vocabulary and reading in secondary school and that teachers feel inexperienced in this area. With approximately 16% of pupils in Year 7 having some level of reading difficulty there are implications for accessing the curriculum. Initial results show that, without intervention, pupils are making (some) progress in word reading and whilst they are not falling behind even more, there is also no ‘catch up’. This highlights the need for universal, targeted reading instruction and  teacher training and continuing professional development.

The message for those teaching pupils with dyslexia is that multi-sensory approaches that we use are effective. It also reiterates the need for inclusive, quality first teaching.

Dyslexia Training – OCR Level 5 Diploma


The candidates on this year’s OCR Level 5 Diploma course are now nearly half way through. They are about to start their first teaching practice and are really looking forward to putting the theory into practice. This year’s new venue at Cobham Hall Independent School has proved to be an elegant setting for the sessions, and we are very grateful to the school for hosting the OCR course this year.

This qualification has been developed to recognise candidates’ skills, knowledge and understanding of the Special Educational Needs sector and their ability to deliver effective teaching sessions to learners with dyslexia/specific learning difficulties. Candidates are likely to be practising and experienced teachers, or professionals who hold other professional qualifications, and should have a good level of learning support experience.

Candidates learn how to assess for, plan and deliver a programme of specialist teaching to a child who is experiencing difficulty in his/her learning. They undertake two specialist teaching practices during the course and are observed and supported by our tutors.   Current national and local legislation and policies relevant to Special Educational Needs is studied. Specialist reports from other professionals, such as an educational psychologist, or specialist assessor are explained and each candidate will be expected to show how such a report would inform his/her understanding of the learner’s needs.

2016 Patoss Annual Conference

On 16 April Laure and Julie attended the PATOSS Annual Conference at Imperial College, London. The keynote address was by Professor Al Galaburda, from Harvard University, and was entitled ‘The Mind/Brain of a Dyslexic: From Genes to Behaviour’.

Over two decades the professor has looked at the brains of dyslexics in a multidisciplinary research program that includes genetics, cell and molecular biology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuroimaging and behaviour.

It may sound hard to understand, but he was a very clear and amusing speaker. His work with genes has started to explain what they do when they are active, rather than which ones cause the problems.  This can provide:

  • Molecular and cellular information to help with the development of medicines and testing
  • Circuits and neural pathways affected, which can point to behaviours and behavioural therapies, especially educational approaches

It was interesting to learn that gene changes do not in themselves predict reading ability and the cortex can do most things before we learn to read, but after reading it becomes more specialised. There are also developmental anomalies and changes to the brain asymmetry as neurones migrate into the dyslexic language areas and cause greater brain symmetry.

The neurones migrate at 16-20 weeks of pregnancy, so home and school do not cause a problem. The main issues noted were that phonological and visual information can come into the brain too fast to process accurately. He mentioned ‘noisy’ neurones that cause hyper-excitability and others that affect auditory processes.

T0 quote Galaburda: ‘Taking these genetically induced risk factors and coupling them with a phonologically non -transparent language may conspire to produce dyslexia in vulnerable children’.




Examination Access Arrangements – 4th May

WP Google Maps Error

In order for your map to display, please make sure you insert your Google Maps JavaScript API key in the Maps->Settings->Advanced tab.

Laure and Lyn are running a session titled 'Examination Access Arrangements' on Wednesday 4th May 8.00 - 9.30om at Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School in Rochester. Topics covered will include:

  • What access arrangements are designed to achieve
  • The application process
  • What is available
  • The qualification criteria
  • How to help your child through examinations that have access arrangements

For more details please see the below poster:

Dyslexia House Association Access Arrangements Poster

Learning Support Solutions team with John Stein

Wobbles, Warbles & Fish – The Sensorimotor Basis of Dyslexia

Learning Support Solutions team with Professor John SteinOn Saturday 27th February, as part of our continuing professional development we took a trip to the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, near Farnham, for a brilliant talk by Professor John Stein of Magdalen College Oxford. Entitled 'Wobbles, Warbles & Fish - The Sensorimotor Basis of Dyslexia', the talk covered the difficulties most dyslexics experience with visual and auditory processing and perception, and how this affects their reading and spelling ability.

 The Brain Basis Of Reading ProblemsHe provided research based answers for why these neurological difficulties occur in the magnocellular system and talked about some methods for helping. His take home messages were:

• Suspect dyslexia in any pupil much better at talking than reading or spelling, who makes obvious visual or sound sequencing errors and hates reading out loud.
• Dyslexics who experience visual difficulties with reading, such as transposing letters and losing their place, should try either yellow or blue filters to see if this helps them.
• Blue filters have also been found to help sleep difficulties, car sickness and headaches in individuals
• Dyslexics who experience difficulties with auditory perception, such as muddling the sounds of the letters 'b, d & g' and mispronouncing words, can be helped by musical training and work on rhythm, such as drumming
• Function of the magnocellular system can often be improved by eating oily fish and /or taking fish oil supplements containing omega 3 fatty acid, as neurones in the brain need these for optimal function