Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – June 2017

In the headlines

10 June 2017

Illustrator Rebecca Morton has created a children’s book with writer Dean Wilkinson using Christian Boer’s Dyslexie font. The Dyslexie font uses different spacing, boldness and sizes of letters, amongst other things to improve legibility for dyslexic readers.

Behind this headline – Christian Boer developed his Dyslexie font as part of his final thesis project in 2008. He devised a font that dealt with the issues of the dyslexic brain making the 3D movements of switching, rotating and mirroring the letters. Firstly he made the underside of the letters bolder so that they do not flip, he made the ‘twin’ letters like b and d no longer match up by slanting them differently, he made ascenders and descenders longer, he made bigger gaps in c, s and e, he put wider spacing between letters in words and he made capitals and punctuation bigger. His font is widely used and is available to download for free for home use at


15 June 2017

The public services union Unison has developed a course to help members gain a better understanding of what colleagues with dyslexia can and cannot do and show how to help to support them in the workplace.

30 June 2017

Penny Murphy has drawn attention to wrongly receiving a parking ticket fine because she typed in her car registration incorrectly because of her dyslexia. She contacted the firm to expose what she feels is a breach of the Equalities Act as they failed to make reasonable adjustments for her having dyslexia.


Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – May 2017

In the headlines

1 May 2017

Richard Branson wants to change the perception of dyslexia in the world. He feels that the education system fails dyslexic children and leaves them marked as failures when in fact they have many useful life skills that traditional exams do not pick up on. He feels that it was his dyslexia that meant he could think laterally and creatively which helped him to develop his businesses so successfully.

2 May 2017

Richard Branson is supporting the launch of a new charity called Made By Dyslexia. The organisation aims to challenge the stigma around dyslexia and to demonstrate that it is merely a different way of thinking and should not be seen as a disadvantage in life.

3 May 207

The ad agency Y and R came up with a very inventive way of building interest in the launch of Made By Dyslexia by opening a dyslexic sperm bank on the high street. In a provocative move the shop was open for business and people who entered were filmed in discussion with the shop assistant about what they understood about dyslexia and it showed how often their views were incorrect. The overall point of the ad was to say that people think dyslexia is a disadvantage but it need not be.

13 May 2017

Teacher Debbie Abraham, who featured in our April News Digest, has written an article suggesting that SATs tests are harming dyslexic primary school pupils. The tests do not capture their talents and highlight their difficulties with memory and rote learning leaving them anxious and distressed and labelled as failures before they even get to secondary school. She states that only 14% of children with SEN attained the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2016. She feels the process is unfair because it does not capture their creative talents in writing and other areas.

15 May 2017

Nigel Lockett has written about being a Professor with dyslexia in The Times Higher Education. He had previously kept his dyslexia a secret throughout his long career as it is seen by most as a disability. He feels it should be redefined as a learning difference as it allows the dyslexic person to deal well with complexity and have good big picture thinking skills as they have a heightened ability to see patterns, objects and shapes.

He has begun a blog to document and discuss his experiences in the hope that it will break down the stigma and misunderstandings around dyslexia. You can read it here at

Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – April 2017

In the headlines

28 March 2017

Dyslexia Scotland has announced that the free Open University module on dyslexia and inclusive practice is now available online. The further two modules will be available from June. The course is available at

7 April 2017

A specialist dyslexia tutor in Essex, Debbie Abraham, has started her own online courses aimed at parents of dyslexic children because of the gap in school funding for students who have difficulty with reading and writing but do not require specialist one-to-one teaching. She aims to help the parents begin to understand the complex issues involved. Her website is

14 April 2017

Richard Branson has announced that he is going to launch Made By Dyslexia on May 2nd.   He will be working with Kate Griggs of Xtraordinary People who is also a dyslexia advocate. The organisation intends to change attitudes towards dyslexia by showing that dyslexia should be seen as a different way of thinking and not as a disadvantage.   Branson was provoked partly by the fact that many sperm banks refused sperm from dyslexics on the grounds that dyslexia was a ‘neurological disease’.

21 April 2017

The charity Dyslexia Action has gone into administration on April 13 after being in operation for over forty years. In the year 2016 it spent £8,127,000 with an income of only £6,432,000 which means an overspend of £1.7 million. The Training Centre, Dyslexia Guild and Units of Sound are still operating and it is hoped they will be sold. A Facebook page has been set up under the name Dyslexia Action Associates to continue to provide support where possible after the shock closure.



Mental Health and Children with Dyslexia

Dyslexic children do not understand why they cannot learn like their classmates and may blame themselves for failure at school – leading to low self-esteem.

Children’s first awareness of their dyslexia is often the result of a failure in school. They lack understanding of why they are unable to learn at the same rate, in the same way as their classmates. They cannot explain the difficulties they experience and blame themselves for their lack of progress. This often leads to low self-esteem and an expectation of failure.

Many parents have had to deal with the impact of dyslexia at home long before it is recognised by the school – and sometimes they have no idea that their child is struggling in school. Refusing to cooperate may be a ‘coping’ strategy for a dyslexic child who finds homework stressful and difficult – but many parents are unaware of this, so do not. Concerns about changes in attitude and behaviour at home – especially with homework – a frustrating and upsetting experience for dyslexic learners and their parents -should be shared with the school.

Dyslexia and Mental Health

The longer dyslexia goes unrecognised, the greater the problem becomes. Many dyslexic boys become angry and frustrated and some display disruptive or aggressive behaviour. Girls with dyslexia may become quiet, isolated and withdrawn – though many find support with a group of friends, which may be interpreted as ‘chattering’ or easily distracted.

From the earliest years in primary school, both boys and girls, whose dyslexia has not been identified, may be reluctant to go to school – they may complain of headaches or feeling sick on days when a spelling test or a subject they do not like is on the timetable. As they progress into secondary education, they may begin selective truancy to avoid subjects where they are struggling. Because of the fragmented nature of the secondary timetable, this truancy may take teachers – and parents – some time to identify.

An individual learner’s dyslexia may be hidden by apparent behavioural issues in the classroom – and identification of dyslexia may come as a surprise to some teachers who have been working hard to resolve these. However, when underlying dyslexic issues are not addressed, the coping strategies developed by children with dyslexia may become embedded in their approach to all learning and misidentified as ‘attitude’ or ‘behaviour’ issues. By the time they move to secondary school, they may be convinced that they are ‘stupid’ and unable to learn – so they give up trying, turning coping mechanisms into avoidance strategies.

Dyslexia is not only a series of difficulties – it often includes a range of specific abilities. A dyslexic child may be original, creative, artistic or orally very able and knowledgeable and a disparity between cognitive abilities, academic skills and performance is often noted in progress reports. Some high ability children with dyslexia develop individual strategies for coping with any barriers to learning met – though they may consistently underachieve.

Some characteristics of dyslexia may be masked by a learner’s high ability or by distracting behaviour patterns, and may also be deliberately concealed by children and teenagers who are desperate not to be ‘different’ from their peers. Very often barriers to learning – leading to a dyslexic learner experiencing unexpected difficulties – are attributed to inappropriate behaviour or a poor attitude. Asking other learners for help is assumed to be talking inappropriately, or taking a very long time to complete written work is thought to be due to laziness. Behaviours that are characteristic of dyslexia may not be identified as such when an individual is falling behind the rest of the class in an activity.

Dyslexia that has not been recognised and is not supported has a powerful impact on how individual learners cope with the demands of the curriculum – and how the demands of the curriculum may affect individuals. Concentration is easily lost and some may become restless or disruptive in order to draw attention away from their difficulties. Others may seem to avoid set work in class, being unable to concentrate and easily tired. Some appear inattentive and uncooperative. Most teachers deal with these issues using a range of sanctions – varying from mild reprimands to individual behaviour management approaches.

It is unlikely that an investigation for dyslexia might arise from identification of behavioural issues only – but if a lack of progress in the curriculum is attributed to observed behaviour, underachievement caused by underlying learning difficulties may not be considered. When a learner appears to be making satisfactory progress, teachers may look for reasons for behavioural issues elsewhere rather than consider possible dyslexia.

Classroom behaviours and low self-esteem are often attributed to social or emotional issues and dealt with as such. When behaviour – whether increasingly withdrawn or disruptive – escalates beyond a class teacher’s ability to help, specialist teachers or other professionals may become involved. If dyslexia has not been recognised or is discounted, the advice and support offered may be inappropriate and fail to resolve the issues.

Because their dyslexia has not been recognised – or has been discounted by some teachers who assume that learners have somehow ‘grown out of it’ – some learners believe that they really are lazy or incapable of concentrating. They believe that they are stupid or ‘no good’ at some subjects. Low self-esteem and the stress of trying (and failing) to keep up in school – especially when exams are on the horizon – causes some dyslexic learners to become anxious, while others ‘drop out’.

The combination of low self-esteem, stress and anxiety may lead to depression or other mental health issues developing. Some young people with dyslexia do develop eating disorders or find stress release in self-harm – and they require therapeutic input by appropriate professionals. However, therapies – and medication – will not resolve their issues until the underlying dyslexia is identified and appropriately supported.

It is vital that staff at all levels of education undertake dyslexia courses for teachers which would enable them to spot the early warning signs of dyslexia in pupils and prevent them from falling behind and developing low self-esteem and mental health problems.

Monthly Dyslexia News Digest – March 2017

In the headlines

8 March 2017

Holly Willoughby has spoken about her concerns that her three children may be dyslexic like her. She uses coloured scripts and advance checks on the autocue for her role as presenter on ITV’s “This Morning”. She feels that schools are better at spotting the signs of dyslexia now and so her children would be picked up sooner.  She was diagnosed at 15.   She also says that teaching has become more visual since she was at school.

9 March 2017

Dyslexia Scotland has been given double funding of £200,000 for 2017/18 by the Scottish Government. They have developed three online training modules called Introduction to dyslexia and inclusive practice which will be available on Addressing Dyslexia, Open University and Dyslexia Scotland’s websites and through Education Scotland’s digital sites.

18 March 2017

SNP Conference calls for more support for adults in obtaining dyslexia assessment by being able to access assessments in the workplace. The cost for an evaluation can range from £300-£500 when done privately.

23 March 2017

SEND learners are airbrushed from education policy says Chris Rossiter, Director of Driver Youth Trust in his report “Through the Looking Glass: Is universal provision what it seems?” Having reviewed 21 influential reports on achieving higher levels of literacy he feels the agencies involved ignore the 1.2 million children with SEND.

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.

Source: Offline.

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

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

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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?

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