‘HOW TO HELP CHILDREN WITH DYSLEXIA’ by Usha Patel of the Raviv Practice London

Parents with children suffering from dyslexia and other learning difficulties are right to be angry with MP Graham Stringer with his unqualified remarks about dyslexia and dismissing it as ‘cruel fiction which leads to crime’. Whilst it may be expedient to blame crime on dyslexia it does nothing to explain how this condition occurs in the first place.

As a Raviv Practitioner, I work with many children with dyslexia and the fact is that these children want to be able to read, and want to be like their peer group in their abilities. This is only natural. When they can’t learn in the same way as other children, their self esteem takes a knock and they lose interest. Alternatively, they may focus on only the things can do with ease. The creative industry is full of dyslexics who can create or design almost anything, but find reading a massive challenge.

So what is dyslexia and how can it be helped?

As humans we do not have an innate ability to read, write, spell or do maths. All of these things have to be learnt . Our linguistic ability has only developed relatively recently, in evolutionary terms, over the last 30-40 thousand years. The ability to read and write has developed even more recently – over the last 5 thousand years. So, it follows that oral and written abilities are at an early stage of development in the evolutionary cycle of brain.

Before we can read, we need to have certain foundation skills in place. These skills utilise three key centres in the brain, the motor, the visual and the auditory centres. These centres need to be in good communication with one another before effective physical co-ordination can exist. They work together with the nervous system in sending messages to rest of the body. For these messages to be transmitted correctly, the brain needs to relay it in the correct sequence and along the fastest circuits. Sometimes the brain message transmission fails to occur correctly due to developmental gap or development delay. This can results in motor related problems such as delayed speech, dyspraxia, or poor coordination during infancy. Often, these symptoms are dismissed as being a ‘late developer’ and the learning difficulties such as dyslexia only become apparent during the school years.

The reasons why these developmental gaps or development delay occur is not yet fully understood. Causes can be numerous and can include trauma at birth, trauma in the womb, missing a stage in development during the early year and genetics. What research has shown is that those with dyslexia process information in a different way from those with normal learning abilities. This information processing method is not as effective as non-dyslexic readers and takes up far more energy and time. If dyslexics are spending a huge amount of energy trying to understand the written word then it is not surprising if they neither look forward to or enjoy reading.

How can dyslexia be helped?

Dyslexia Action and other organisations involved in helping those with Dyslexia all acknowledge that conventional teaching methods do not necessarily work. They recommend a structured, multi-sensory, cumulative, approach.

The Raviv Method is a relatively new therapy. It is a motor sensory therapy which uses multi-sensory techniques. It is done on a one to one basis. As a practitioner I have seen many children go through this therapy with good success. The movement based exercises are completely removed from the academic set up of the classroom. This is a refreshing change for the dyslexic learner who has possibly built up a resistance for formal teaching techniques.

The movement based exercises stimulate the visual, auditory and motor centres simultaneously. This in turn helps create new neural pathways offering better communication between these key centres and laying the foundation for the pre-school skills which were never properly developed before. Once the movement based exercises can be performed with ease, the building blocks are in place to progress to the next stage.

Dyslexic readers often complain of seeing letters and words jumping around. This is because they perceive them as three dimensional objects. Instead of seeing letters as two. dimensional with a top, and bottom and left and right sides and a fixed orientation, they see them as three dimensional objects without any fixed orientation. Hence dyslexics often see and write the letters ‘d’ ‘b’ ‘p’ ‘q’ the wrong way round. The therapy goes through various stages to help establish an understanding about the relationship between phonology and the written language. Once the reading system is in place, the child can then go on develop other skills such as comprehension, logic and numeracy..

Many children who complete The Raviv Method become really enthusiastic about reading. Their reading ability goes up as does general academic abilities. Those with AD(H)D and other similar genetic conditions may need to continue doing the simple movement exercises after the therapy because their brain wiring needs constant renewal . The Raviv Method is not suitable for all kinds of learning difficulties. However, I have seen improvements in the vast majority of the children I see. Like any therapy, for a successful outcome there needs to be good commitment from both the parents and the child over the duration of the programme of around 24 weeks.

Once the child is happy about reading, spelling and writing, all that needs to be put in place is a system which pulls them up to the level of their peers in a drill like fashion.

Children can then start the Fast ForWord series of computer programmes, which can be done at home. This software is a scientifically designed by neurologists for those with special needs and not to confused by the commonly available ‘Brain training’ software. It is successfully used in over 30 countries with further reading gains of 2 years in as little as 7 months. It focuses completely on cognitive skills needed for reading,writing and spelling: memory, attention, processing speeds and sequencing.

This dual approach being offered is a successful partnership and has seen many children on the road achieving much more then their parents had ever thought possible.

THE EXPERT: At University I studied Architecture and from a early stage wanted to work on buildings that would make a difference to peoples lives. I specialised in schools, hospital and clinical buildings both in the UK and abroad. My work as clinical planner meant I had to do a lot of research into how hospitals worked in detail. I was exposed to an assortment of health specialist from psychologists, paediatricians to pre-mature baby care nurses. The research I did was always changing as new and better equipment became available to care for the sick. I worked in my chosen profession until I was expecting my daughter. After my daughter’s birth I was looking into how babies develop and the all important mile stones in terms of physical development. I embarked on the Raviv Method programme to gain a better understanding of what to expect during the early years of my child’s life and how to make sure the essential skills were nurtured. Once finishing the training I decided I should become a practitioner myself. To develop my skills and gain experience I worked on a voluntary basis at a local primary school. My voluntary work lasted over a year working with a wide range of learning difficulties such at dysgraphia, dyselxia AD(H)D and dyslexia. As the confidence grew, it was a natural progression to start my own private practice. Being a Raviv Practitioner is incredibly satisfying in that no two cases are the same. I am constantly having to research on how best to adapt the programme for different types of learning difficulties. The satisfaction of seeing children grow in confidence and develop the all important cognitive skills to start reading for enjoyment can be compared to the excitement and joy of seeing your own child take their first steps. To contact Usha Patel – Raviv Practice London – Telephone: 07766 837 616 http://www.ravivpracticelondon.co.uk

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