I was thoroughly looking forward to 'the 8 causes of reading difficulty' training session that I attended recently.
Unfortunately it didn't add to my knowledgebase much, and will not significantly alter my practice.
That said, the 'Easyread' system, whereby each phoneme in English is represented with a memorable picture, is good and I have little doubt that it would be effective in helping children decode. The other 7 'causes of reading difficulty' were simply a run through of 'ADHD', 'stress', 'visual tracking difficulties' and 'language difficulties', plus a few difficulties and symptoms that I have not encountered before, but could be targeted by such approaches as 'anagram games' and 'finger tracking exercises'.
In my experience, there are other products / approaches which help children to decode words on the page which work well. I attended hoping that difficulties with comprehending what is being read would be covered. Sadly this area was not touched upon.
I did not have the same feeling of disappointment after the Elklan training that I attended this week. I attended for two (very intensive) days in London and thought it was excellent.
Liz Elks, one of the two therapists who set up Elklan carried out the training. She is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about speech and language therapy, and was keen to pass on her experience. I completed the 'Speech and Language Support for 11-16s' course enabling me to train those working with all young people but especially those with speech, language and communication needs.
Areas covered included 'promoting vocabulary development', 'understanding and using sentences' and 'promoting effective communication and social skills', plus several others. The course materials were designed to help speech and language therapists roll out training to TAs, teachers, etc without using technical terminology. Indeed it was emphasised that some of the terminology we use, such as 'receptive language' and 'expressive language', is not easily understood by everyone.
I came away from the training not feeling that I had sat through a sales pitch for a company's product as so many training courses are, but that my skills had been enhanced. I now feel better equipped to help others work with students with language and communication difficulties, not because I learned something that I did not already know, but because it confirmed that my current practice is correct. It also provided me with plenty of examples of activities to use with teachers in order to help them see things from the point of view of a student with communication difficulties. The most effective of these was reading a poem aloud whilst playing a recording of somebody reciting a recipe for a fruit cake and then asking questions about quantities of sugar etc used in the recipe. This really hammered home how difficult it is for students with attention difficulties to listen out for information in a noisy classroom.
If any readers of this blog are wondering whether or not to attend the '8 causes of reading difficulty' course, I would recommend that you ask yourself what you wish to gain from it before signing up, and how much you already know. If you have some prior knowledge of working with children with literacy difficulties, it may be that this course is too basic for you. If you wish to investigate further, the site is www.helpingeverychildtoread.com
However if you are wondering whether or not you should attend an Elklan training course, I would recommend that you do so. Courses catering for all levels of prior knowledge and experience are available. The course materials are very accessible and will provide a useful reference for years to come, and the course I attended was delivered in such a way as to empower those present. The website address is www.elklan.co.uk. I promise that I am not affiliated to the company in any way and that my recommendation is based not on bias but on experience!!
One further thing, I got talking to several speech and language therapists on the Elklan course about the difficulties so many students face when trying to comprehend what they are reading. I summarised some of the approaches that I use with the students I work with and they were impressed: I am now in contact with them so that they can embed these strategies in the schools in which they work.
So my next blog will cover strategies that I use to encourage and enable students to access what they are reading.