Research Journal

APJDD Vol 9 No 2 (Jul 2022)

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1. Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

Angela J. Fawcett, Editor-in-Chief

It is a very great pleasure to publish this issue of the Asia Pacific Journal of Developmental Differences, published by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore Limited, which is now in its 9th year of publication. In recognition of the broader manifestations of dyslexia now identified, and modifications in the criteria for diagnosis, das have extended their reach to include a wider range of developmental differences, including a range of co-morbidities and this is now clearly reflected in das revised mission. We continue to be grateful for the support of our scientific board of reviewers and the international editorial board drawn from both academics and professionals, to reflect the aims of the journal. This enables us to resolve any outstanding issues satisfactorily and ensures we continue to maintain the highest international standards of ethics and professionalism.

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2. Developmental Dyslexia - a useful concept?

ohn Stein

1. University of Oxford

Abstract

Until recently Developmental Dyslexia (DD) was diagnosed if a person’s reading and spelling was far behind what would be expected on the basis of their oral and non-verbal skills and they had a family history of similar reading problems; it was thought to be due to a hereditary failure of the reading circuits to develop properly in the brain. However, now it is widely believed that DD is due to failure to grasp the fact that the letters in a word represent the sounds in that word – the so-called phonological theory. Since the basis of all reading is the phonological principle, DD cannot now be distinguished from the many other causes of reading failure, and its very existence is doubted by some. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence in favour of the idea that DD can be specifically identified as due to disordered development of magnocellular neurons in the brain. These cells are specialised for temporal processing. Therefore, magnocellular weakness causes poor timing of visual events, hence inaccurate sequencing of the letters and sounds in words, which impedes learning to read. This means that people with developmental dyslexia do not have a diseased brain, but simply a different brain. Indeed, in many ways this may actually be a superior brain. Impaired growth of magnocellular neurones during development probably leaves room for parvocellular neurones to grow more connections. These may impart a holistic, rather than a linear, sequential, cognitive style to people with DD, and this can confer on them a more fertile imagination, innovation, originality and creativity. These talents may explain why the gene variants promoting dyslexia have been retained in the human genome. Therefore, our educational systems need to nurture, not condemn, dyslexics. Society urgently needs their strengths to help us cope with our increasingly complex world.

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3. Investigating the impact of the das Preschool Programme

Shakthi Sathiasilan, Yiyao Weng and Angela J Fawcett

1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore

Abstract

Previous research has shown that a Preschool Intervention Programme (PELP) designed and delivered in Singapore based on Orton Gillingham small group support led to significant improvements in early literacy with large effect sizes (Sim et al., 2015). However, it was unclear how much of this improvement was the result of maturation over time, because this earlier study did not include controls. Moreover, it was not clear whether or not satisfactory gains could be achieved with a shorter targeted programme. In order to address this, a controlled short-term study with a repeated measures design investigated the impact of this Programme on children who had been identified as struggling in the early year’s environment. Participants (14 control group and 13 intervention group) completed a pre-assessment battery followed by post-assessment 10 weeks later. The intervention group underwent 20 hours of early literacy intervention over 10 weeks focusing on key aspects of early literacy, while the control group did not attend any form of intervention apart from normal kindergarten attendance. The results indicated that the experimental group outperformed the control group in phonogram knowledge, phonemic awareness, high-frequency words, reading and spelling. The control group made significant improvements in spelling and sentence copying only, with all other measures largely unchanged over time. The implications of this study are that we cannot rely on the process of maturation to improve the skills of preschool children who are not keeping pace with their peers, and without explicit intervention, they will continue to fall further behind and struggle with ongoing learning. Directions for policy and practice will be considered.

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4. Dyslexic Strengths in Times of Adversity

Thomas G. West

1. Author

Editor’s Note: In this invited article following his talk for the UNITE SPLD 2021 conference, Thomas West applies his knowledge of dyslexic strengths in times of adversity, following the COVID pandemic. West’s understanding of dyslexia has always, in my view, been influenced by the framework of Seligman (1990) on learned optimism, which later became incorporated into my colleague Rod Nicolson’s Positive dyslexia movement (Nicolson, 2015).

Abstract

Months before the world began to realize the full impact of the strange new illness first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, the author had agreed to give a talk for graduating high school students in June of 2020. As conditions worsened, he was in a quandary, trying to think of what to tell these college-bound students with dyslexia, who had completed their studies at The Siena School near Washington, DC. Eventually, he decided to focus on the creativity and resilience that so many dyslexics have exhibited so often, especially in times of change, uncertainty and sometimes great adversity. In this article, based on the talk, the author recalls how certain neurologists and researchers had pointed out that dyslexics have often been responsible for highly original innovations and advances as scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. Accordingly, he hoped that the dyslexic students would be able to see themselves as well suited to deal with their own unfolding trial and test — displaying the special talents of dyslexics for creative solutions in times of uncertainty and adversity. The following article tells the story of his efforts to make this case — providing arguments and stories that could be helpful to these students and possibly helpful to a larger audience — as the world continues to deal with the long-term ups and downs of COVID-19 in its several variants — while at the same time the world also begins to deal with major changes in the nature of jobs and work in the age of ubiquitous computing, computerized “deep learning” and artificial intelligence (AI).

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5. The effectiveness of reading, spelling and writing support

The effectiveness of reading, spelling and writing support for a large sample of school-aged children with Dyslexia: factors influencing efficacy.

Sharyfah Nur Fitrya

1. Dyslexia Association of Singapore

Abstract

In a follow-up to an earlier study (Fitriya, 2021) on the longitudinal progress of children with dyslexia, this study further examines the specific learning difficulties associated with Dyslexia, and factors influencing success. Dyslexia hampers accuracy and word fluency in reading and spelling, which is addressed by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (das) in their literacy English Main Literacy Programme (MLP). This programme provides support to students diagnosed with Dyslexia in reading, spelling, and writing using the Orton Gillingham instructional approach. This research aims to examine the effectiveness of the English Main Literacy Programme (MLP) in Singapore in remediating the literacy challenges faced by students with Dyslexia. The present study firstly evaluated the progress of a total of 1280 students between seven and 17 years of age who were enrolled in the programme for one year. The Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA) was utilized to evaluate the progress of the students in the study using the following test items: (1) words to spell (2) words to read (3) writing tests. The analysis involved the use of both hypothesis testing and the Central Limit Theorem (CLT) across a one-year timespan (from Term 4 in 2019 to Term 4 in 2020), a particularly challenging time for education. Based on a Z-score to ascertain the statistical significance of the results, study findings revealed a significant increase in the mean scores between Term 4 2019 (M = 92.71) and Term 4 2020 (M = 93.98). This is indicative of a statistically significant improvement in the academic performance of Dyslexic students who participated in the literacy intervention. The validity of this literacy intervention supports the efficacy of the English Main Literacy Programme (MLP) as an evidence-based literacy practice, even during the period of challenge relating to Covid and the switch to online learning. In order to evaluate the impact of individual differences on success or failure, a 2nd phase of the study examined progress within this pattern of improvement, drawing on data from over 1000 children who had participated in the previous study (Fitriya, 2021), during a period of greater normality. These results revealed that home resources, participation in support within the das specialist programmes, the length of time and consistency of attendance at das for support were implicated in those children who progressed, remained static or regressed. Implications for practice are considered, which are likely to be of particular importance during the period of change experienced in education post-Covid.

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6. Parenting during COVID-19: Stress of Fathers

Eugene Lim Wen Jie and Chong Jia Yin Heidi

1. Singapore University of Social Sciences^

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in greater parental stress for parents worldwide. In this study, we focused on examining the parental stress of fathers in Singapore, during COVID-19. Comparing the parental stress of fathers with neurotypical children and fathers with children with special needs in Singapore, this study examined financial stress, work-family balance and resilience and their influence on fathers’ parental stress as measured by the Parental Stress Scale, APR Financial Stress Scale, Perceived Work-Family Balance Survey and Brief Resilience Scale respectively. A total of 171 fathers participated in the survey (42 fathers with children with special needs aged 0 to 18 years old, and 129 fathers with neurotypical children aged 0 to 18 years old). Results revealed that fathers with children with special needs tend to experience greater parental stress than fathers with neurotypical children. Parental stress also has statistically significant correlations with financial stress, perceived work-family balance and resilience. Financial stress, perceived work-family balance and resilience are statistically significant predictors of parental stress for fathers with neurotypical children, while only perceived work-family balance is a statistically significant predictor of parental stress for fathers with children with special needs. Differences exist between the parental stress of fathers with infants/young children (0-6 years old), school-aged children (7-12 years old) and teens with special needs (13-18 years old). Furthermore, the researchers shared these findings with a group of professional practitioners to seek their views and reported several practical recommendations for consideration.

^ This study was originally submitted as a thesis in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science with Honours (Psychology) Singapore University of Social Sciences

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7. Effectiveness of Mobile Assistive Technology

Effectiveness of Mobile Assistive Technology on Improving the Self-Perceptions of Students with Dyslexia in Singapore

Yee Ning Tan, Tharshini Lokananthan and W. Quin Yow

1. Singapore University of Technology and Design

Abstract

Assistive Technology (AT) has become a prevalent form of dyslexia intervention for addressing students’ challenges in reading and learning. Besides improved reading and learning outcomes, AT use can also help to address students’ psycho-social and behavioural needs. Lexicaid is a novel mobile application that was developed collaboratively based on input from various dyslexia stakeholders. To determine the efficacy of Lexicaid, a preliminary user study was conducted with students undergoing formal dyslexia remediation at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. As part of a home-based study, a final number of 31 students (Mage=10.84 years, SD=1.39) participated in a user study involving Lexicaid over a period of six weeks whilst completing daily reading and learning activities. Participants were assessed on their reading motivation, self-perception, and reading and language skills before and after the intervention period. Although no significant effects were found between the experimental (n=18) and control (n=13) groups’ pre and post-scores on measures of reading and language, we found significant improvements in students’ self-perception of writing and overall findings suggest that students saw improvements in their self-perception of writing and reading capabilities as well as a greater value in reading after the intervention using Lexicaid.

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8. Dyslexia with Language weaknesses: Educational Therapists Recommendations

Hani Zohra Muhamad and Hannah bte Shafiq Abdullah

1 Dyslexia Association of Singapore
2 Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore

Abstract

Background: Children with dyslexia often also present with oral language difficulties. If identified, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) remediate these children’s comorbid language difficulties through speech therapy. However, educators are still faced with the additional challenge of helping these children understand academic concepts on top of their language difficulties. Educational therapists (EdTs) are one group of educators who work closely with dyslexic children and teach them literacy.

Research aims & objectives: This study aims to gain an understanding of current and future efforts of das for educational therapists working with learners who have dyslexia and language difficulties. Based on these EdTs’ perspectives, recommendations to guide educators working with children who have dyslexia and language weaknesses will be provided. As such, the central research question is What can the Dyslexia Association of Singapore do in the provision of support for learners with dyslexia and language difficulties based on the perspectives of educational therapists of these students?

Method: This study explores the teaching experiences of 7 EdTs with Primary 2– 6 children (aged 8 – 12 years), who presented with both dyslexia and oral language weaknesses. Recommendations will be provided based on interviews with the EdTs and reflections by them.

Results: From our qualitative analyses of the collected data, we found that all EdTs regardless of their knowledge and background face challenges while teaching students with both dyslexia and oral language weakness. It was also found that strategies used at the das by EdTs can be split into what is used in the classroom and what is done outside the classroom. Lastly, results suggest that not all EdTs are well aware of oral language weakness.

Discussion: Thus, this study serves as a stepping stone towards the creation of a guide for EdTs working with such students. Additionally, this study suggests that more resources should be created to educate EdTs further on oral language weakness and ways in which they can better help these students.

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9. UNITE SPLD 2022 Presentation Abstracts

UNITE SpLD 2022 CONFERENCE

Uniting Ideas in Teaching Excellence: Specific Learning Differences 2022

23 to 24 June 2022 ONLINE CONFERENCE

The UNITE SpLD Conference seeks to bring together parents, teachers and practitioners working with children with specific learning difficulties and special educational needs. This conference will be showcasing research that covers aspects of behavioural, literacy and social-emotional support, intervention and assessment for children with special learning needs. Come and listen to our SpLD experts share their research. Research will be presented in short, engaging and entertaining sessions accompanied by poster presentations and the chance to talk directly with researchers who are making a difference in the Asian region.