Kate Saunders, the CEO of the British Dyslexia Association share her views on the launch of RETA by DAS

Register of Educational Therapists Asia (RETA) – Launch

At the official launch of RETA guest speaker, Dr Kate Saunders, Chief Executive Officer of the British Dyslexia Association with over twenty years of experience in the field of dyslexia and special educational said “This is an exciting development. It is vital that parents and schools can have confidence in the professional skills of practitioners within this field. This initiative will provide a means by which appropriately trained and qualified teachers and other professionals can be registered”.

Indeed the Singapore government has been a staunch support of the work of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. This is one of the best examples globally of governmental support for charitable sector work in this field. I believe that this has sent an important message about the value of assessment and dyslexia specialist teaching.

The financial support by the Singapore government of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore enabled hundreds of children to benefit from specialist assessment and tutoring services. It has been also been crucial in raising awareness of dyslexia.

There is a large body of research evidence that clearly shows that dyslexia specialist teaching works and identifying the challenges as early as possible is crucial in order to provide intervention.

There are clear benefits for society, as international research has shown that there are a disproportionate number of dyslexic individuals among successful entrepreneurs. There is a line of thought within the field that suggests that dyslexic individuals can sometimes show strengths in areas such as problem solving, creativity, “thinking out of the box”, visualisation, 3D thinking, verbal skills and design. There can, therefore be very real advantage for society in ensuring that dyslexic individuals receive the help they need to develop functional literacy skills so that they are able to fulfill their potential and success in their chosen field.

The British Dyslexia Association sets and maintains high standards in training for dyslexia specialist teachers and teaching assistants in the UK and internationally. 10% of the population is believed to experience some degree of dyslexia. About 4% experience severe dyslexia. This can make it difficult to learn reading, writing and spelling.

Dyslexic individuals can also experience difficulty with aspects of “working memory”. For example, they may tend to forget a series of instructions (if given more than about 2 instructions at one time). Learning of time tables, study and revision skills, organisational skills and time management may also be difficult. Children who experience dyslexic difficulties can become very frustrated and anxious.

It is important that teachers and parents are aware of the signs of dyslexia. Typically, a dyslexic child will seem puzzling, as their verbal skills may be good but they show unexpected difficulty learning literacy skills. A diagnostic assessment will identify whether there is a dyslexic difficulty and will also advise on how much specialist dyslexia tuition is required. This can be a real turning point for a family who have been deeply worried about the child’s apparent difficulty learning.

Dyslexia specialist teaching generally involves a well structured, multi-sensory, phonics-based approach. Spelling and reading rules and patterns and common irregular spelling words are taught in ways that help dyslexics to learn.

Robin Mosley, Chief Executive of the Dyslexia Association of Singapore has shown a long-standing commitment to fostering and developing high standards for professionals working within this field. This commitment has been backed by the Singapore government.

Dr Kate Saunders also presented at a DAS event about “Dyslexia friendly education”. This is a whole-school approach, where every teacher in every classroom adopts dyslexia friendly teaching methods. UK Schools that have adopted this approach report that it fosters good teaching practice that benefits not only dyslexic pupils but also other pupils. The challenge for teachers is “if they can’t learn the way you teach, can you teach the way they learn”.

Much is known now about teaching approaches and delivery styles that work well for dyslexic learners. There are also some relatively minor adjustments that can be made within classroom environments and processes which can greatly assist students with dyslexia.

In the second workshop “Coping with Dyslexia” at the DAS Academy in Rex House, Kate explained how dyslexics learn and therefore what parents can do to help and support children with dyslexia. She also illustrated practical examples of strategies that can make a positive difference.

A DAS parent Rachel Gwee remarked “The workshop and talk was so inspiring. When Dr Saunders speaks, she speaks as one who has experienced the struggles and difficulties of learning despite dyslexia first hand. The insights she gives to parents are eye opening! And the most encouraging point that I learnt that night was that dyslexia can actually be a gift that allows our children to view things from a different angle and equip them with the strength and perseverance to overcome their difficulties.”

Dr Kate Saunders is co-author of “How Dyslexics Learn” published by PATOS the Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties, in the UK. She is also co-editor of the new “Dyslexia Friendly Schools Good Practice Guide”, published by the British Dyslexia Association (www.bdadyslexia.org.uk).