Dyslexia awareness and training- spot the difference and does it matter?

Advocacy is everything for a learner who experiences Dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty ‘hidden’ from sight. This makes the task of getting the help needed in school, university or the work place a perpetual challenge for a student. Teachers and trainers cannot see the disability and might comment on or even direct discipline towards it, “Did you learn?”, “Try harder!” or, “Watch your spelling!”.

Learners with Dyslexia need someone in their camp, fighting the good fight, batting for them, believing in them, holding hope or being the understanding shoulder to cry on. Be it a parent, sibling, teacher or friend, this ‘advocate’ needs to be aware of what Dyslexia is and how it impacts on the learning experience. Informed ‘champions’ of this learner make themselves aware with knowledge and gather insight from as many avenues as possible. This awareness alone makes things better for the student involved.

Training on how to remediate Dyslexia or how to teach reading to a learner with a brain that sees text differently is an entirely different matter. Education and health professionals invested in how the brain learns to read text will busy themselves with causal theories, neuroscience, pedagogy, assessment and evidence-based practice. Good training takes time and covers aspects of a child’s speech-language, socio-emotional and sensorimotor development. Further, it considers cognitive capacity for memory, planning, association and attention. The training offered and received must push the professional ruthlessly to apply valid assessment for Dyslexia as well as gain mastery over a multisensory, structured, research based methodology. Understanding of theory must stay in tension with skilled practice in order to graduate from such training and move on to reach each learner, young or old effectively.

A trained practitioner is a specialist educator. An informed person is an excellent advocate for the dyslexic learner. Know the difference. Be the difference because the difference matters.

At Bellavista School, the professional staff is sensitized to Dyslexia and many of the teachers and therapists are expert or specialist practitioners in the field. We actively train other professionals through the Award in Literacy and Dyslexia offered at Bellavista S.H.A.R.E. in a bid to extend our reach and make a difference to the lives of learners with barriers to reading. The course is accredited by the British Dyslexia Association (BDA) and takes 18 -14 months to complete, an indication of how deep the training is. Simply put, no one can become an expert in this field in a few hours or days. Beyond the post graduate professional training, Bellavista raises awareness in the form of workshops and evening talks to ensure that the person in a child’s life who is the ‘advocate’ knows enough credible information to be a loud, strong voice for that learner. Currently, Bellavista is working with a steering committee and SAQA to register a professional body called the Institute of Specialist Practitioners in Inclusive Education. This body will accredit specialist practitioners who have invested time and resources into becoming experts in Dyslexia and Literacy so that these professionals are recognised but also so that vulnerable learners and their families are assured of the integrity of the trained interventionist.