The aim of my proposed study is to find out how children who have been diagnosed with the learning difficulty, dyslexia, benefit from the support of parents and practitioners. This studies approach is qualitative as it will consist of interviews and structured observations. The objectives of this study are: firstly, to interview six teachers each from different schools in different areas who work with dyslexic children. This is to find out if there is different or more support available in the different geographical areas. I also plan to interview, with permission, six children who have dyslexia in order to find out if the support they are receiving is beneficial to them. I also plan to give out questionnaires to find out if the children are progressing from support. The main theme of this literature review are the support systems that are in place for the children in order for them to progress.
The focus of my research is to define dyslexia, early identification, the effects dyslexia has on a child and how parents and practitioners support the child most effectively.
I have chosen to research about dyslexia and how parents and practitioners support the children as I am interested in how the both support the children and how the children benefit from the support. This particular interest arose when I was studying a module in education called 'Education Placement'. I undertook two placements, one in a school, Oasis Academy and one in a family centre. My first placement at the school had an inclusive classroom for children who had been recognised with a learning difficulty. I enjoyed understanding how each child learns and how they differ from one another. I spent many sessions with these children, helping them in the areas they struggled in most and introducing different ways in order to overcome these difficulties. As my second placement was in a family centre setting, the parents were allowed to stay with their children. One child who attended the centre was not as capable of reading and writing, and he was diagnosed with dyslexia. The mother of this child was working alongside the room leader in order to help the child to try and progress. In both placements I noticed the children had different needs. I am keen to gain more of an understanding on how dyslexic children can benefit from help. I have carried out previous research on dyslexia and have become passionate about the topic. This research about dyslexia has developed my knowledge and will be shown throughout my research proposal.
In order for the children to get the support they need when they have been diagnosed with dyslexia, research has been carried out and relevant literature has been written in order for people to understand more on the topic and how parents and practitioners should support such children suffering today. In order to carry out my research proposal question, both research and literature relevant to the topic has been revised in order to continue my investigation.
The most common learning difficulty is dyslexia (Handler and Fierson, 2011). Dyslexia is a neurological condition that occurs in approximately 4% of the population (National Working Party, 1995). In Paveys (2007) statement on dyslexia, Svensson (2003) states that it is not uncommon for a primary school to consist of up to 30 children having literacy based difficulties associated with dyslexia but it is seen that more boys are likely to get the learning difficulty than girls (Snowling, 2012).The most common features that are embedded within the learning difficulty are; that the person who has been diagnosed with dyslexia has difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. According to Hammond and Hercules (2003) other characteristics include: poor handwriting and poor composition. The following definition as described by Rose (2009) which the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families uses defines dyslexia as a 'learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling'. Another definition for dyslexia, which is stated in a guide to the early recognition of dyslexia, is defined as 'particularly related to mastering and using the written language' (Augur, 2010). Dyslexia sufferers also experience memory, coordination, organisational difficulties (Peer & Reid, 2003) and phonological awareness, spoken memory and spoken processing speed (Rose, 2009). However, what some people fail to notice is that despite their lack of skills, dyslexic people are stronger in areas such as: visualisation, creativity and lateral thinking (West, 1997: Turner and Wooden, 2003).
For many years the early identification for children with dyslexia has been stressed (snowling, 2012). The importance of recognizing the learning difficulty early is vital. Each year thousands of children experience difficulties and are diagnosed as having a learning or reading disability, this diagnoses is made during a child's primary years at school (Butler and Catts, 1991). From early stages in a child's life (3-5 years), children start to develop reading and writing skills which needs monitoring by teachers or parents in order to make any adjustments if any difficulty arises ( The Education of Children and Young People with Specific Learning Difficulties, 2001). Dennis et al (2009) advocates that children as young as 3 years start to show signs of being dyslexic, however intervention for dyslexia usually occur much later in a child's life, but support is available even for children at Key Stage 1 (Wickenden, 2014). If such signs go unidentified, a child will struggle for years with reading and writing and this struggle will lead to poor motivation and a negative attitude towards reading (Johnston and Winograd, 1985). Learning problems arise if dyslexia is not recognised. This means it is important for class teachers to have previous knowledge or experience about the learning difficulty, not forgetting that such children will not all portray the same symptoms (Peer and Reid, 2003). If a child does display signs of difficulty and a practitioner does not notice, this can result in the child feeling isolated. A way to identify children who could be at risk is to observe their responses in comparison to their typically developing peers (Rose, 2009). When early recognition is bought to attention, a child can undergo an assessment in order to allow the child to show the areas s/he is weak in and is able to get the support needed. According to the British Dyslexia Association (2014) the two assessments children can undergo are: computerised tests or paper based tests. Once early recognition of dyslexia is brought to light, a child will benefit from this as they are given a better chance of learning and support and this enables them to progress in order to be successful (Rose, 2009).
Each child has their own ways of learning which is personal to them. Children are placed into classroom environments where they are given the opportunity to learn, but some children still find it hard to complete tasks due to the features dyslexia carries. Children who are diagnosed with dyslexia have difficulty in reading. Reading is the most common difficulty a child with dyslexia faces. A child could face difficulty whilst reading due to the fluency of words (Peer and Reid, 2003). It could also be due to the speed of reading which will then result in the child to hesitate over the words, or even guess the words. If the child is reading in a group this child then can feel agitated or even feel like they are not as clever as their peers. In dyslexia, many children also experience difficulties distinguishing sounds within words which can be very frustrating for them as it is difficult for them to match letters to sounds ( Wolf, 2011). Other children might not be able to gain the speed in the reading system which results in them to never learn to read fluently enough to grasp an understanding of what they have read. (Wolf, 2011). Research has shown that the learning difficulty occurs due to processing problems especially in the language regions of the brain (Kidshealth.org, 2014).
Writing is another characteristic that dyslexic children are faced against. This results in children having difficulties with their written work. Writing is an important element throughout ones day to day life, and struggling in writing no doubt would not let a dyslexic child reach their full potential. A child can also face difficulties in handwriting which could be a result of poor motor control. According to (Levy,2014) dyslexia can also make it hard for people to express their feelings or thoughts due to the use of vocabulary. This could leave children feeling distressed as they know what they want to say but can not write this on paper. Difficulty of remembering names or shapes of letters are also common for dyslexic children which will leave them feeling confused when asked to name such things. Another difficulty whilst reading and writing is the child reverses the letters in a word they have seen so for example if the saw the word 'saw' they would read it as 'was' (Bindadyslexiacenter.org, 2014). Difficulties in writing can then lead to difficulties in spelling. Dyslexic children who show signs of difficulty in spelling demonstrate this by misspelt words and there is usually an indication of errors which follow a pattern (Peer and Reid, 2003). This could result in a child feeling that they are not as clever as their peers. As the child is dyslexic, they learn at a different pace to their fellow peers and do not at the same stage, therefore this can make it extremely difficult for the child to make friends.
Each child learns at their own pace, and each have a learning style which is personal to them. A child will learn when they are ready to learn, as they find it difficult to attain skills, they cannot be forced. This can be frustraiting for both, the child and the practitioner in a school setting. Children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia will have weaknesses and will not be able to keep up to the same speed as their peers in their class, reason being that practitioners should be able to recognise signs of children displaying signs of the learning difficulty so that they can be supported. Support is more effective when parents and practitioners are able to work together to ensure the child is receiving the help they need and also progressing in their development.
Before an appropriate approach to teaching dyslexic children so that they can learn effectively several things need to be taken into consideration (Buckley, 1999), for example the class and what it consists of, the displays around the class that will benefit all children of that classroom including the dyslexic children, the way the tables are set out, the other pupils who are in the classroom, and the teaching approach needs to be reassessed. The noticed dyslexic children need to undergo a text which is most suitable for them in order to gain information, not only about the child's weaknesses but their strengths also. This is vital in order to support a dyslexic child's progression so that new teaching methods can be introduced so that each child in the classroom will benefit from it.
The effective teaching approaches that can be introduced into the schools in order for the dyslexic children to benefit will enable them to overcome difficulties with their reading, writing and spelling. As reading is an essential element of education and learning, it is important firstly for a parent or practitioner to gain an understanding of how the different dyslexic sufferers learn. In order for a child to be able to overcome reading difficulties a practitioner has to introduce a structured reading scheme which involves repetition and introduces new words slowly which is extremely important so that the child will learn new words and will familiarise themselves with the new learned words (Hodge,2000). This will also allow the child to gain more self-esteem and confidence when reading. However it is important to remember that the child might still feel like they are not good enough to read aloud in a class so the teacher will not ask this student to read aloud but may ask the child to read to them one-on-one.
Children should be included in parts of the planning which practitioners make as it will effect or benefit the dyslexic child. The dyslexic child should be able to explain to the practitioners what subjects they feel they are benefiting from and which subjects they are really struggling in and then it can be taken into consideration so that the dyslexic children have the support in the class when these subjects are being taught. Another way that a child can benefit at school from the support of the practitioner is by having a teaching assistant in the classroom. With a teaching assistant in the classroom the dyslexic children could work closely with the TA and work in small groups to try and over come the struggling tasks, while the teacher who teachers the whole class can carry on teaching so that the other children do not miss out on learning and are not held back.
As parents are the most aware of a childs weaknesses and strengths, it allows the parent to focus on positive learning strategies that will help their child to learn in the best way possible. Firstly, a parent should offer their child consistent ecouragement and on going support, this will help a child to feel more comfortable. As language probles restrict dyslexic children in their speech, it is vital that a parent tries to help the child talk about feelings (Ryan, 2004). Once the childs feelings are portrayed this allows the parent to understand how the child is feeling and is able to help the child in the best possible way, or can even seek help from practitioners or professionals. A parent can read with their child, this can encourage the child to start reading more books and learning new vocabulary. Parents can also seek help in order to benefit their dyslexic child, however it is a key part of a childs success if the parent stays involved in the childs education throughout the school years.
Practitioners provide help and support to those who require it. As a child struggles in writing and could struggle with handwriting, the parent or practitioner can encourage that child to practice their handwriting more often so that within time, the are able to improve their writing skills. This will allow the child to have more confidence in themselves as they will be able to see the progression they have made and the words written are much clearer to a parent or practitioner who will be reading what they have written. But in order for this to be a success the children need to be able to practice words that they are familiar with, or words that present no problems so that the task can be carried out independently (Hodge, 2000). This will also allow for the child to become more confident at writing and will make the motivated. When children are learning, if will be of benefit to them if the writing is a cursive joined style, as this style is the most helpful to child with dyslexia (Hodge, 2000). Children can overcome the difficulty at spelling, this is done by giving the noticed children a different spelling test which has structure based words on, and each week including about three irregular words to the list in order for them to practice (Hodge, 2000). This should result in an improvement of the child's writing skills.
It is important that the practitioner marks the work that the dyslexic child have produced. Practitioners must reward effort to the dyslexic child for their progression rather than the grades achieved. When marking a childs book, the practitioner can see if the child has progressed or still needs help in other areas. If a pupils book is left unmarked this shows the child that the teacher has no interest in what they are learning and how they are progressing. A dyslexic child may be able to express feelings by writing them down as they might not be able to verbally communicate due to their lack of speech (Beadle,2010).
In conclusion this literature review has stated the definition of dyslexia, the importance of identifying dyslexia at an early stage, has expressed the effects that dyslexia has on a child, and how dyslexic children can be supported by their parents and practitioners.
In order for me to investigate the proposed question, I plan to interview six practitioners who work alongside dyslexic pupils, six dyslexic pupils and the parents of these pupils. I also plan to set a questionnaire for the children to complete. The purpose of this study is to find out if a child with dyslexia benefits from the support given by their parent or practitioner. I also would like to find out the support given to these children from their parents or a practitioner. Lastly, I would like to find out if the support these children receive from either a parent or practitioner is beneficial in order for them to progress.
In order for me to carry out my research question, I plan to use semi-structured interviews to interview children to get an accurate perception of that child's view if they are progressing. For my research to be accurate and successful ethical implications need to be considered. Ethical implications is one of the main rules and restrictions when carrying out research. According to Guillemin and Gillam (2004) there are two major dimensions of ethics in qualitative research, these are procedural ethics that consists of seeking approval and ethics in practice which consists of completion of application forms. In order for my research to be successful and by taking ethical implications into consideration, I will obtain signed documentation with the permission that I am able to interview a child.
As my research is based on children I have to take precautions to protect the vulnerability of the young children who are participating in the interviews and questionnaires (Mukherji and Albon, 2010:33). Consent forms will be given to each person participating in the research, by giving out such documentation, this allows the participants to tell me in advance if they do not wish to consent. It is also vital that you ensure the interviewee that all the data collected is remained confidential and that they can withdraw from the interview or questionnaire at any stage they wish to , and the evidence will be destroyed. This is because researchers should respect the rights and dignity of participants. However, if there are concerns that are noticeable throughout the interview or if any information given to me is seen to be endangering to a child I will have to report this to an appropriate professional. It is essential to that listening to a child is central to ethics (Robert-Holmes, 2006). The child has the right to object against participating, and this is role to make sure the child knows their rights. As I will be interviewing the practitioners who teach these children, these children are able to get familiarised with me if they see me in their setting talking to the practitioner. It is also my job that the parents of these children know their rights, and that they, too, are able to withdraw their consent at any stage they desire to.
As my research consists of interviews and questionnaires, this is called a qualitative approach. For this research proposal question using a qualitative approach would be appropriate., therefore I decided to interview and send out questionnaires in order to get responses in the light to find out information that I did not already know. However, there are advantages and disadvantages for using such approach. The advantages of qualitative research is that I , the researcher, already know what I want to find out. By using a qualitative approach it is easier to gain a better understanding of the subject being investigated as the types of questions that are used during the process are directly aimed at the question. The effective word that is used in a qualitative approach is 'why'. Why is a much stronger word than what and how. Another advantage of a qualitative approach is that it attempts to avoid pre-judgements. This means that the evidence needs to be collected first in order to make a judgement. The disadvantages of this approach is that it can be difficult to make systematic comparisons; for example some people could give widely differing responses that are highly subjective. Questionnaires are easy to answer, but do have limitations as it is not obvious why the participant has responded in such way whereby a interview would be able to do this hence why I have chosen to use the two methods to collect data. Robert-Holmes (2005) advocates that questionnaires should be used in conjunction with another research method. This, then allows the participants to not be restricted to writing down their views but are able to talk in greater depth about the issues they feel are more important to talk about and are able to extend on the initial question.
I have chosen to use the qualitative approach as I believe that this method is best for children with dyslexia. In the interview the children will be able to say their answers rather than writing down the answers as children with dyslexia sometimes have difficulties in doing so. The children are also given a questionnaire so that they can answer them in their own time and this could be of benefit to those children who have speech difficulties and who do not wish to have a verbal conversation.
When preparing to interview the interviewees, I must take in account the maturity of each audience: parents, practitioners and the children. There may be subjects that I can mention to the parents and practitioners but not the children as it can be seen as a sensitive topic and I do not wish to upset the child (ESOMAR, 1999).In order for the interview to allow me to collect data I need, the children need to understand the meaning of the words I will be using to ensure that their reply is answering my question (Coady, 2001:68). The words used have to be simple sentences. It is important to assess the child's developmental level to frame the interview so that the appropriate techniques are used. I have to make sure that I do not confuse chronological age with normal developmental stages as not in all cases are they the same ( Vasquez,2000). Before the interview is to take place, I have to make sure that the child is comfortable with me by explaining why they have been chosen to participate and if they wish to do so (Vasquez,2000:2).
The layout of a questionnaire is important. It needs to consist of language that these children will be able to understand and also know the meaning to. According to Lowe (2007:53) in order to carry out an observation firstly you should start of with questions a child does not feel threatened by, then closed and open questions should follow after. As the children who are going to be participating in the questionnaire are dyslexic, the use of language cannot be complex as this will confuse them. The children need to be able to understand the words written down to allow them to respond in a way to answer the question. The questionnaire should also display legible text so the children can clearly read the instructions on how to complete the questionnaire. The parents or practitioners are able to accompany the child but ideally the answers are the child's.
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