Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – February 2017

In the headlines

Iansyst strategic partnership launch

We are delighted to announce that CPD Bytes has joined forces with Iansyst as a supplier of our online courses. They will be available through their website

31 January 2017

Psychologist and Director of the Driver Youth Trust, Christopher Rossiter has written a piece for the TES trying to put to rest once and for all the old argument that dyslexia does not exist.

4 February 2017

Ela Lourenco’s daughter, Larissa has a form of dyslexia called auditory processing disorder. Together mother and daughter have developed strategies to help promote a love of reading despite Larissa’s difficulties and they share them in this article.

13 February 2017

In a research trial sponsored by Microsoft, their product OneNote has been reported to be a useful tool to help children with dyslexia. The British Dyslexia Association ran an 11 week trial in Knowl Hill School, Surrey involving 20 pupils. The children were given Surface tablets running Immersive Reader which is part of Microsoft’s OneNote software. The researchers claim that the majority of the children taking part improved their reading skills during the trial and gained improved self-confidence and self-esteem too. The software reads out the pupil’s typing without a teacher or TA’s help. Hearing rather than reading makes it easier to spot mistakes and correct them.

14 February 2017

Fascinating research undertaken in Spain using an oscillopathic approach to developmental dyslexia: from genes to speech processing has been preprinted on BioRxiv the preprint server for Biology.




Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – January 2017

In the headlines

28 December 2016

Caitlin Glover, 12, from Chelmsford has designed a virtual reality system to help spot the early signs of dyslexia. She herself was only diagnosed with the condition when she got to secondary school. She drew on her own experience and invented a system that she believes could help primary school children not ‘fall through the gaps’ and feel defeated early on in their education. She developed a working prototype of her invention at an Acorn Accelerator course run by Acorn Aspirations, a social impact company that trains 12-19 year olds to code and develop aps.

See Caitlin’s pitch at Wayra Demo Day 2016 on youtube here

See her website


23 January 2017

Plans for a new combined primary and secondary school in the Sevenoaks, Kent district with a dyslexia specialism have suffered a setback after county chiefs have expressed doubts over the suitability of one of the proposed sites.

They plan to call it the Da Vinci School after the Italian artist and mathematician who is believed to have been dyslexic. Entry would be open to children of all academic backgrounds and ability. It would be non-fee paying because the teachers behind the scheme, Fiona Gruneberg and Abby Lloyd say that schools are struggling to find the money to supplement special educational needs departments and there is less funding for dyslexic children leaving dyslexic children left behind or having to pay privately for dyslexic support.


24 January 2017

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have uncovered new insight into the brain mechanisms that may underlie dyslexia. Their tests demonstrate that an important feature of human memory ability “implicit memory” decays faster among dyslexics making them less able to make reliable predictions for both simple and complex stimuli. One of the report’s authors noted that “The formation of adequate predictions is crucial for becoming an expert in general, and an expert reader in particular. Achieving this depends on matching printed words with predictions based on previous encounters with related words, but such predictions are less accurate in dyslexics.”


Capturing the dyslexic’s experience

 Attempts to help people to experience dyslexia themselves

In the ongoing quest to raise awareness of dyslexia a number of people have come up with some ingenious methods of allowing people to ‘experience’ dyslexia themselves. The dyslexic graphic designer, Sam Barclay, has created the book “I wonder what it’s like to be dyslexic” using innovative typography to help people try to understand the impact of dyslexia on people’s ability to read.

He raised £55,000 for the project on Kickstarter back in November 2013.   He hopes that the book is also reassuring to fellow dyslexics as it shows that someone else understands what they experience.

He himself is a successful graphic designer who has worked for Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, Wiggle Bikes, Rosie and Twine, Dyspla and Portsmouth University amongst others.

He has his own website showcasing his work and clients at

And his book has its own website at where you can order the book

Another dyslexic designer, Daniel Britton, has used a different strategy by designing a typeface that slows down non-dyslexic readers to the speed of a dyslexic reader to help them understand and experience the frustration and difficulties dyslexics have when reading.

He wants to produce Dyslexia Educational Packs for Primary and Secondary school pupils and has raised the necessary money through the website CrowdFunder.

He himself was only diagnosed at 18 years old. He has his own website at

And Victor Widell, a software developer has created a stir online by developing a website that he says allows people to experience dyslexia. He created it after talking to a friend with dyslexia who described what the process of reading was like to her. See the website for yourself at this link

Reactions to his site are wide and varied with seemingly every media outlet with the vaguest interest in dyslexia and many with no obvious interest picking up on the story. Some say it gives a fair impression of what their experience of dyslexia is like, while others say it does not capture their experience at all. It certainly provided a talking point and provoked interesting discussions around the topic either way which all contributes to raising awareness and understanding.




Dyslexia Infographic

CPD Bytes provides cost effective online dyslexia training courses in easy-to-access format.  They are a specialised dyslexia training company for teachers and teaching assistants alike as well as for parents. CPD Bytes has an experienced team behind them with Moira Thomson MBE, a respected authority in the SEND field who has created their dyslexia training courses.

click to enlarge infographic


Where have all the support for learning teachers gone?

In 2009, the year the 2004 Additional Support for Learning (ASL) Act was amended, there were 3,402 support for learning teachers in Scottish schools whose main teaching subject was Additional Support Needs (ASN).

In 2014 this figure fell to 2,963 teachers in Scotland with ASN as their main subject and fell further in 2015 to 2,936.  A total of 22 out of 32 local authority areas experienced falls in ASN teachers since the national peak in 2009.  Of the few areas that now employ more ASN teachers, the increase in the numbers of ASN teachers is relatively small and there is no indication if these reflect an actual increase in ASN teacher time; or whether more part-time teachers are being employed.

In many areas, especially in primary schools, there has been a reduction in the number of ASN teacher hours provided in schools; so a report of the number of ASN teachers in an authority may be concealing an even greater reduction of the number of ASN teaching time available in schools.

Why is this happening in a country that has been praised worldwide for ASN legislation; whose Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice is the model now being adopted in other countries?

The short answer: austerity measures – education departments have been required to make substantial cuts – so school funding has been reduced.  The main expenditure in most schools is staffing, so cuts mean fewer teachers.  In order to meet the demands of the curriculum for excellence, class sizes must be kept down and a full range of subjects offered, so cuts are made first in the ‘extra’ services that do not affect these areas.  First to go is ASN teaching staff – often cut to a part-time teacher or dispensed with altogether and ASN duties reassigned to other staff.

The longer answer may also be rooted in funding – such as drastic cuts to in-service training and professional development budgets – making it impossible for authorities to fund teacher’s further study towards gaining ASN qualifications – and the Curriculum for Excellence – which appears to indicate that every child will be given the additional learning support they need by receiving extra attention from the class or subject teacher.

While this may be possible in primary schools for many children, learners whose ability to benefit from the education being provided is limited by underpinning issues – such as dyslexia or autism – will require provision that is additional to and different from that made for most children of the same age and stage.  This is the definition of ASN – so the ASN teacher should be trained to deliver the ‘different’ and ‘additional’ provision, whether it is different teaching methods or interventions designed to address specific issues – which are not part of the skill-set of most classroom teachers.

Some primary schools cope with austerity measures by cutting down on ‘extras’ like ASN support, music, drama and art –employing only part-time specialists or reallocating these areas to existing staff members whose classes may be ‘covered’ by senior staff.

Many primary class teachers now spend part of their week taking literacy and numeracy groups as designated by school leaders – and some may find themselves having to choose between taking on the role of an ASN teacher alongside classroom duties or moving to another school.

It has become practice in some education departments to fill vacant ASN posts in secondary schools with teachers who are ‘surplus’ to requirements in their original field.  The use of teachers who lack ASN qualifications has been of particular concern when Support for Learning leader (or manager) posts fall vacant.  A job description that formerly required additional qualifications in ASN – such as a level 3 diploma or a certificate in – e.g. Specific Learning Difficulties – was quietly dropped – allowing authorities to transfer ‘surplus’ guidance or subject leaders into these posts.

This cannot happen in other areas of the secondary curriculum – the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) requires teachers to hold subject qualifications before they can be registered to teach that subject in a Scottish school – but – apparently – any registered teacher can deliver support to meet individual additional needs.  While this is true – all teachers are expected to be able to identify and meet the needs of every child/young person they teach – but only in the context of their subject specialism and, in some cases, with help from ASN teachers and external specialists.   PE teachers are not expected to be able to identify and support an individual student’s literacy difficulties in the context of a PE lesson – but apparently, they gain the ability to do this if transferred into a vacant ASN post!

An ASN teacher is usually required to pick up from where the classroom teacher’s skills are not enough; to identify and – in some cases – assess – the underpinning issues causing difficulties in the curriculum – and to design and deliver interventions to resolve the issues identified.  In order to do this, training is essential – not only to learn about issues that may result in learners experiencing additional support needs in schools – but also about teaching approaches and interventions available to help meet these needs as they arise in the mainstream curriculum.

For pupils who require this additional support, the lack of access to qualified support is likely to impact on their studies and will risk them not reaching their potential – especially when formal exams are required.  It is all very well to point to the – apparent – success of the new National qualifications – but when assessment of these is through formal examinations rather than carried out internally, learners who have ASN may need reasonable adjustments to the arrangements for these in order to demonstrate their subject learning.  SQA offers a wide range of adjustments to exam arrangements – e.g. extra time allowances for those with slow reading, writing or processing skills – but they do require evidence of individual needs – and of a student’s usual way of working before permitting these adjustments.

When a school’s ASN team lacks training and expertise in identifying and gathering evidence of individual needs – and there is no apparent support being provided for subject work – then adjustments to exam arrangements (not to exam papers which remain the same for all) will be denied.  This not only discriminates against individuals who have unresolved ASN, it places them at an additional disadvantage when compared to other exam candidates.

The latest report to Parliament showed that pupils identified as having additional support needs have been gaining better qualifications at school and have been going into more positive destinations after leaving school.  How much better would these qualifications and positive destinations be if the 2009 levels of trained ASN teachers had been maintained?

We offer a range of free courses covering dyslexia awareness and SEND issues as well as a subscription which provides access to our full range of 30+ courses for all your organisations staff.

Current cash shortage for SEND needs

The BBC has highlighted a survey undertaken by the Key for School Leaders that reveals that schools in England are struggling to support the 1.1 million pupils with special needs or disabilities (SEND) in mainstream classes.  The survey of 1,100 school leaders reveals that delays to assessments, insufficient budgets and local authority cuts to services are hampering the ability for schools to cope.

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Dyslexia in Dance

The choreographer and dancer Aakash Odedra has captured his feelings about his dyslexia in a dance piece called “Murmur” which he performed at the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House in London in January 2015.  As Judith Mackrell wrote in her review of the dance work in “The Guardian” on January 26 he collaborated with Lewis Major to portray the experience of being dyslexic., “the outstanding moments of this solo come when his dancing combines with digital imagery to portray the alienation his dyslexia caused.  Meaning flies in pixelated clouds from a book, his body is shadowed by an aura of light.”


To watch footage of ‘Murmur” go to

Barriers to Learning Webinar – now available to watch

We have launched a series of webinars on the graduated approach to SEND support which have been created and presented by Moira Thomson MBE, Education Director of CPD Bytes. These webinars provide flexible training which is ideal for SENCOs, Teachers, Teaching Assistants, Mentors, Study Support Tutors, The Senior Leadership Team and Disability Officers.

Watch the first in the series of three webinars.

Dyslexia and Music

Dyslexic learners constantly meet barriers to learning across the curriculum and may become discouraged very quickly due to lack of initial success in some subject classes.  This can result in subject teachers assuming that these individuals are inattentive or lazy, when they are actually working much harder than their classmates, though with little apparent effect.

Success in musical activity can boost a dyslexic student’s self-esteem and may even encourage re-visiting other learning where performance was previously poor.   Difficulties experienced by people who have dyslexia in music will not be the same in each case, and general characteristics of dyslexia – such as problems affecting reading, writing will impact on learning generally.  Dyslexia may adversely affect specific aspects of music such as:

  • Interpreting musical notation
  • Visual processing of written music
  • Manual dexterity

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