New help for teachers in diagnosing dyslexia symptoms

Published: 26 June 2007 at 14:25

One size does not fit all when it comes to the testing and recommendation of interventions for children with reading difficulties.

An exciting new partnership between two local schools and Anglia Ruskin University’s highly rated psychology Department has been formed with the help of a prestigious government funded Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). The two year research programme is designed to help teachers to understand the unique set of challenges that commonly face children with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia.

Anglia Ruskin University has joined forces with Sancton Wood School, in Cambridge and Holme Court School, in Biggleswade, in a project that will see the development of an innovative testing kit for teachers and parents to help identify the individual needs of children with reading difficulties. The £100,000 initiative has received funding from the Dti and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have enjoyed over 30 years of success in helping businesses become more competitive and profitable. The KTP between Anglia Ruskin University and Sancton Wood is, however, one of the first of its kind between a psychology department and a school.

Dr Eamon Strain, Head of Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University explains:

“This is a unique opportunity for us to work together on the production of an easily administered test kit to provide the information that teachers and parents need when they are looking at a child with reading difficulties.”

Recent research has shown that dyslexic symptoms often come with a varying array of other general processing difficulties. These may include attentional, auditory, memory, balance and coordination problems, as well as the more common issues with the processing of speech sounds. 

The specific array of problems experienced can differ greatly from child to child. There is currently some debate about whether or not all of these problems contribute directly to the children’s reading difficulties. 

Dr Strain continues:

“It is essential that teachers working with dyslexic readers are aware of the various problems experienced by each individual child in order to maximise the effectiveness of any remedial interventions.”

“What we are saying is that one size does not fit all in the case of interventions and that the existing assessments available are not really accessible to teachers and parents. They are often highly specialised, too expensive or too time consuming. We believe with an easy to use tool at their disposal, teachers will be able to develop individual treatments based around an understanding of the whole child, resulting in much more effective interventions.”

The KTP scheme works by transferring the expert knowledge from the university into partnership organisation. As a result of the forthcoming KTP, a high-calibre researcher will be appointed to the schools to work with the university over a two year period on the development of an easy to use, validated test kit. 

Commenting on the need for the partnership, Dr Dan Sturdy, from Sancton Wood and Home Court School, said:

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us to have Anglia Ruskin University working with us on this project. The funding will pay for the researcher who will be looking at both schools, but particularly at the work that goes on at Holme Court, which focuses specifically on children with dyslexia.”

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the two schools and the Department of Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University builds on a strong collaborative relationship that has developed between the department and Holme Court School which has spanned the last three years.