Mentoring and Education Services at Fullarton House
22 Gordon Street Glenelg
For young people who are doing it tough at school, at home or in other aspects of their lives, an adult taking a steady interest in them through a mentoring relationship can make all the difference. Bill offers sessions to young people from 5 years of age to assist them to deal with difficulties such as (but not limited to):
- General schoolwork difficulties - any subject (Maths to year 9)
- Motivational difficulties
- Learning difficulties (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia etc.)
- Social difficulties (making friends and keeping friends)
- Tricky feelings and emotional difficulties (home and /or school)
- Organisational difficulties (poor organisation - often attached to learning issues)
Bill uses knowledge of a range of programs to help students who struggle with the many faces the reading and spelling disability commonly known as dyslexia.
Bill teaches to the Playberry (Playford and Hansberry) structure that uses Direct Instruction to teach phonology, sound - letter associations, spelling rules, syllable types, morphology, syntax and semantics. These key areas are taught in systematic, cumulative multi-sensory way. This way of teaching is recognised by the International Dyslexia Association as best practice in teaching students with dyslexia, and is the gold standard in proven programs for dyslexic learners.
Despite the experts agreeing best practice in teaching students with dyslexia, there is an overwhelming range of so-called 'treatments' or 'cures' for dyslexia that is utterly confusing for parents. Researchers now know more than ever about the functioning of the dyslexic brain, thanks to FMRI and other technologies that allow us to see inside the brain at it reads. Thanks to this, a new generation of treatments have come onto the market, all claiming to re-wire the language pathways of the brain and offer fast results, or even overnight cures for reading disabilities.
Although it's important to keep an open mind to new approaches, it's also important to check that these programs have independent research proving their efficacy. At this point in time, however, there is still general agreement among the experts that the best we have to offer are phonics based, highly structured, cumulative and multi-sensory programs that move at the pace of the student and provide lots and lots of revision and over learning.
Bill's experience in educational counselling and his understanding of the emotional impact of Dyslexia ensures that emotional and academic needs are supported. Effective remediation of dyslexic students requires not only an understanding of what to teach and how to teach it, but also an understanding of the emotional damage that has done to young people from being in educational settings that don't understand their difficulties. By the time young people get the help they need, poor teaching of reading and a poor awareness of dyslexia has done damage to their self-concept as learners and taught them poor reading habits. As a result, they are often well entrenched in blaming themselves for their problems with reading and spelling.Young people with a dyslexic learning style need both skilled intervention and understanding as they come to grips with their learning differences.
When with Bill, students learn in a variety of ways ranging from pencil and paper work in books, to work on individual whiteboards, or make use of a range of programs on PC and IPad.
Bill believes that young people must have fun and laugh to learn best, this is why loud laughter is commonly heard coming from Bill's room!
Bill belongs to (and oversees) the South Australian Literacy Specialists (Dyslexia) (SALS(D)) register, which contains the names of only specially trained, specialist dyslexia teachers who teach using the evidence-based methodology that we promote.
Bill has joined with Alison Playford and Annette Brock (Dyslexia Solutions) and Sally Andrew (By Your Side Tutoring) to provide 'Teaching Students With Dyslexia', (TSD) an intensive three-level suite of training for teachers, teaching support officers and parents who want to learn to use the most effective approaches available to remediate dyslexia.
A fair-go for Dyslexic Learners
Dyslexia remains largely misunderstood by the community, even though it affects roughly between 3 and 9 percent of all learners. Some studies indicate that dyslexic learning styles in the general population may be as high as 20 percent. Sadly, there is no specific support for dyslexic students in South Australian Government schools.
Dyslexic students and their families are mostly left to their own devices.
If the school can manage some extra support for these students, it is usually provided by non-specialist volunteers with little or no training in the area specific learning disabilities. Some schools invest heavily in computer-based programs that claim to re-wire reading circuits in the brain and sit students at computers for a set number of sessions per week. Unfortunately, there is little independent research to prove that these programs work despite the millions of dollars well-meaning schools have spent on them. (see MUSEC Briefings)
Too many dyslexic students in our schools think they are dumb and that they will never learn to read, spell or write. What these kids need to know is that they are intelligent (average to above average for their age), but learn in a that many classroom teachers don't know how to teach.
There's nobody to blame, just the need for our community do better in terms of:
- Early identification of reading problems - testing at year 3 is too late. We have have inexpensive sensitive assessment tests that can be used in schools that identify at risk students as early as preschool. We now know that the earlier reading difficulties are spotted, the earlier intervention can begin and the better the results. Currently, we have to wait for students to start failing before testing for dyslexia. While we wait, and children fail, their hearts break as they watch peers sail past them in reading and spelling.
- Teacher education: about dyslexia pre-service and post-service and the continual improvement of mainstream classroom teaching practices to better accommodate for dyslexic learning styles. Talk to any Australian teacher who trained in the 80s and 90s and they will tell you that explicit training in teaching students to read and spell was missing from their training. Phonics instruction was out of vogue in teacher education establishments and the teaching in phonics in schools was shunned. The whole word method of teaching was hailed as the way to go. See "How Phonics got Framed" . We now need to fill this gap in teacher training as well as coach our wonderful and committed teachers methods to teach literacy in ways that cater for a wider range of learning styles (including dyslexic learning styles). Teachers also need to be empowered to identify and refer children who are not responding to classroom literacy instruction. Too many parents of dyslexic learners have heard the words 'don't worry, their reading will click', only to find themselves a few years later with a child who hasn't clicked, who hates school.
- Improved funding models for students with dyslexia that recognise and fund dyslexia as a learning disability. Currently, no specific funding is available for students diagnosed with Dyslexia. The Minister tells us that funding is available and that how schools dpend this is up to them. Unfortunately, this is passing the buck back to schools and is not a reflection of the real situation. Sadly, Teachers and Principals have to deliver this horrid news to disheartened parents daily. Dyslexia takes away a learner's ability to access the currency in schools - print. It is through print that children show teachers what they have learned. In later primary school and beyond, print becomes the main way information is learned, memorised and shared. A child who cannot process the written word quickly and efficiently must be remediated, using research proven teaching methods. This takes specialised training and allocation of staff hours to offer intensive remediation programs in schools. While the current situation exists, schools are forced to stretch limited funding to meet a huge need. It's little wonder that schools fall victim to flashy, well-marketed programs that promise to remediate dyslexic learners that have no research proving their effectiveness.
- Accommodations for dyslexic learners, especially in test and exam situations. Dr Sally Shaywitz, a leading world authority on dyslexia tells us that slow reading and writing robs dyslexic students of valuable time. The only way we can give that time back is to allow students accommodations, particularly under test conditions where dyslexic difficulties are most pronounced. Thanks to the work of Psychologists Annette Brock, Karen Hodson and Sandra Marshall (President of Dyslexia SA), the SACE board, under the guidance of past CEO, Dr Neil McGorran, have recently reviewed their special accommodations policy in light of the Disability Discrimination Act and have made huge improvements to the process for applying for year 12 special provisions in examinations. This is a very big win for students with dyslexia in SA.
Dyslexia SA is a group of made up parents of dyslexic children, dyslexia specialists, educators, academics and other interested community members who are committed to raising awareness of dyslexic learning styles and increasing support for dyslexic students. The President, Dr Sandra Marshall, a GP in Gawer, this group has been tireless in lobbying Government and Education authorities to take a closer look at the needs of dyslexic learners in South Australia. Dyslexia SA has spread its roots through Australia and has sprouted a number of other groups.
We need parent power. If you have an interest in working with our group, please email Bill or DAGBAGS and we will keep you informed about what we are up to so you can join us!
Parenting Challenging Kids
Bill works with parents who are in need of strategies to better support their children, particularly through more effective discipline and home routines. Helping parents better understand the hidden messages in their children's behaviour is a key part of Bill's approach.
Bill' s poopular parenting book: "Raising Beaut Kids: Recipes for Parents on When to say Yes and how to say No" written with Mark LeMessurier is packed with humorous, in your face' ideas, strategies and thought provoking scenarios to give current thinking on raising happy and well-adjusted kids a well-overdue shake up!
Bill’s office is located at:
22 Gordon Street