Our Approach to Neurodevelopment for Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that predominantly affects the skills necessary for accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Think of it as a hiccup in the way the brain processes spoken and written words. Dyslexia spans the spectrum of intellectual abilities, often leading to academic struggles and a hit to self-esteem.

However, every challenge presents an opportunity for growth and transformation. We have developed unique approaches to assist children with dyslexia. We acknowledge their innate ability to discern connections that others might overlook and their strength in problem-solving.

Established methods of teaching students with dyslexia represent a significant improvement over expecting them to learn like their peers. Yet, many still grapple with learning. Why?

overlearning for dyslexia

Conventional wisdom posits that dyslexics need to ‘overlearn’, repeating the same concept thousands of times until it becomes second nature. As someone with dyslexia, I’m convinced there’s a more effective method.

Rather than concentrating solely on specific academic subjects, we specialize in teaching students the art of learning. This caters to the unique limitations and abilities associated with dyslexia. Our specialist tutoring methodology draws from our extensive experience with neurodiverse students, including those with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ASD (Autism/Aspergers), and ADD/ADHD. If a student struggles with the organization of their visual systems, focusing on non-visual learning methods or adjusting visual elements like font color or size can be beneficial.

Sometimes, auditory processing issues disrupt the phonological loop (reading and spelling process). In such cases, it’s crucial to adapt our communication with them: breaking down instructions into digestible segments, ensuring the student’s attention before conveying information, and being prepared to repeat or provide visual cues.

Our neurodevelopmental program delves deeper to enhance things like eye coordination, benefiting not only academic skills but also non-verbal communication. Neurodevelopmental activities can also aid in language processing and comprehension.

Our personalized programs transform the challenges of dyslexia into strengths, steering students to not only cope but to thrive – in academics and in life. Our methodology stems from the personal experiences, passion, and expertise of our founder, Margo Fourman. Despite grappling with severe dyslexia and dyspraxia, Margo harnessed these challenges into strengths and is dedicated to assisting students in doing the same.

Our mission is to foster study techniques that resonate with our students and bolster neurodevelopment, making the learning journey more attainable, enjoyable, and rewarding.

Grasping Dyslexia in Context

A pivotal aspect of our support strategy involves continuous dialogues with parents and those living with dyslexia. Recognizing the distinctiveness of each individual is crucial. Continuous interaction with parents and learners provides invaluable insights, offering a firsthand understanding of the challenges.

From these discussions, we discern patterns and hurdles faced by dyslexic individuals. This understanding, combined with our comprehensive research and expertise, shapes our specialist tutoring and Neurodevelopmental Program.

Dyslexia isn’t merely a disability—it represents a unique way of perceiving the world. As dyslexics, we develop innovative strategies to navigate challenges, making us adept problem solvers. Challenges include expressing knowledge in written or verbal form, difficulties with routine tasks, and limited working memory capacity. In adults, these manifest as challenges in written expression, time management, task organization, and planning.

Our Neurodevelopmental Program aims to holistically address these challenges, empowering individuals with dyslexia to achieve their potential.

Drawing from our extensive experience, we treat each individual as unique, adapting tools and strategies to their specific needs. We’re poised to assist those with dyslexia in harnessing their potential and navigating societal expectations.

Study Skills Tutoring

Our tutoring approach is not the typical subject-matter tutoring, but focuses on cultivating study skills. Our tutors not only impart knowledge in specific subjects but teach how to learn effectively, especially for those with neurodiversities. It is primarily geared towards addressing the unique ways these individuals absorb and process information.

In our study skills tutoring, we assist individuals with dyslexia in learning how to learn. This often involves breaking down tasks into smaller components and using techniques to:

  • Understand schoolwork in a way that matches how their brain works
  • Solving the problem in a way that works for them
  • Constructing an answer in a way that matches what teachers and examiners want to see 

As every child is different and all the labels tend to overlap, it is essential that these methods are customized to each child. What works for one student may not work for another, so it’s a matter of detective work, involving trial and error to find what will work best for your child.

An essential aspect of our approach is to leverage the unique thinking styles that people with dyslexia often possess, rather than change them to be ‘normal’. For example, many people with dyslexia have a talent for what we call ‘pattern thinking’ – the ability to make connections others miss and find innovative ways to solve problems and design more effective work flows. Although we may struggle to stick to a structure or pattern, we are good at seeing how it could be improved.

While we’ve found that study skills tutoring can help our students significantly improve their grades and life skills, they may continue to struggle unless the underlying neurological challenges are addressed.

This is where our Neurodevelopmental Program comes in.

Neurodevelopmental Program

When supporting children with dyslexia, we often recommend our Neurodevelopmental Program. 

Simply put, neurodevelopment pertains to the growth and evolution of the brain’s neural networks, which are instrumental in learning and information processing.

In our approach, we provide neurodevelopmental activities, designed to fortify the nervous system to support efficient learning and life skills. 

This involves assessing individual needs and interests and tailoring neurodevelopmental activities accordingly. We firmly uphold the belief that the unique traits and differences of neurodiverse students should be respected and integrated into the design of learning strategies.

While every child is unique, and every neurodevelopmental program is customized for the specific person, here are the systems that are most often relevant to clients with dyslexia:

  • Eye Tracking: A misalignment of how the two eyes track together can create an extra strain on the brain because the visual cortex has to combine the two mis-aligned images it receives. This can significantly increase the difficulty of tasks such as reading, comprehension and concentration. Eye tracking issues can sometimes be very subtle, which makes them hard to detect during a standard exam by an optometrist. This is because optometrists typically focus on checking the focus of the eyes, not necessarily how well the two eyes are working together. Even slight discrepancies in eye tracking can create an extra strain on the brain as it tries to combine two slightly different images from each eye, which can lead to reading and concentration difficulties. Therefore, someone might pass a traditional eye exam, but still have issues related to eye tracking. By enhancing eye tracking, students may experience reduced strain and easier information processing. This can lead to improved reading speed and accuracy, better comprehension, and overall enhanced academic performance.
  • Interhemispheric Integration: This refers to the communication between the two sides of the brain. It’s essential for coordinating activities that involve both hands or sides of the body, like typing or playing sports. For example, while typing, the fingers on both hands need to move in a coordinated way to press the correct keys. This coordination is facilitated by effective interhemispheric integration. Moreover, the concept extends beyond just physical actions. The integration and synergy between the two brain hemispheres enhance cognitive functions such as expressive language, problem-solving and creative thinking.
  • Vestibular System: The vestibular system is important because the organization of the eyes and ears relies on it. The vestibular system is a complex set of structures and neural pathways in the inner ear that helps maintain balance and spatial orientation. The vestibular system helps to coordinate the two eyes and the two ears to work together efficiently. Often we find people with what seems to be excellent balance who run, jump and climb with grace and ease are less confident with very slow movements or standing on one leg. This impacts our visual organization and we tend to be still or slow moving when we are reading or writing.
  • Proprioception: This sense refers to our ability to perceive the location and movement of our body parts, even without visual confirmation or physical contact with external objects. It’s responsible for our awareness of the relative positions of different parts of our body and the level of effort we use in our movements. Essentially, proprioception is about understanding the spatial relationship between our body and the surrounding environment. Interestingly, proprioception seems to influence our perception of the placement of objects and the arrangement of elements within a picture. This impacts on how we perceive letters like band d, p and q. It tends to impact on our sense of direction and our sense of left and right, which are all common challenges for people with dyslexia. While most people can instinctively sense the position of their body parts at all times, certain individuals may exhibit poor proprioception, leading to difficulties in this area. A strong sense of proprioception is important for math, organization of belongings and thoughts, and even the correct use of tenses in language.

Again, each child is unique, so this is intended to provide representative examples. For any given child, we may also find that we need to address other systems to support their development.

The concept of neuroplasticity plays a significant role in neurodevelopment. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s capacity to form and reorganize synaptic connections, including in response to repeated activities. 

This suggests that brain connections can indeed be forged and strengthened through targeted neurodevelopmental activities, forming the bedrock of our neurodevelopmental approach.

We develop a comprehensive program of neurodevelopmental activities for your child. These programs start with an in-depth assessment, and the resulting activities program is entirely customized for your child based on the results of that assessment.

Harnessing neurodevelopment and the remarkable potential of our brains to adapt and grow aids in crafting effective strategies that significantly boost learning capacity, and enjoyment.

A Holistic Approach

We recognize that each learner is unique, and thus we employ a dual approach – combining study skills tutoring and neurodevelopment – that is flexible and tailored to meet each client’s needs.

We generally recommend that a student starts with our neurodevelopmental program. The rationale behind this recommendation stems from our observation that nearly all individuals who first undergo our neurodevelopmental program seldom require additional tutoring.

The neurodevelopmental program is specifically designed to reshape the brain’s learning capacity. We’ve had clients who achieved remarkable results solely from this program, even when their initial academic performance was subpar. They were able to successfully pass their exams without the need for additional tutoring.

However, it’s important to note that the need for tutoring still varies from one individual to another. While the neurodevelopmental program suffices for most, there is still a portion of clients who benefit from further tutoring. This is often the case for clients who are significantly behind in their studies and require extra support to catch up.

Therefore, the role of tutoring in our approach is always flexible; we adjust it according to the specific needs and progress of the individual. Whether it’s additional support after the neurodevelopmental program or an immediate need due to upcoming exams, our goal remains the same: equip our clients with the ability to excel academically and in life.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, conventional approaches often fall short in providing an effective learning pathway for students with dyslexia This is largely due to the failure to acknowledge that their unique learning needs differ significantly from those of typical learners.

Therefore, the two primary considerations when seeking dyslexia support include the need for targeted neurodevelopmental activities, sometimes combined with study skills tutoring rather than subject matter tutoring.

Should you need more assistance or advice in helping your child with dyslexia thrive, we are always here to offer support and expert-led guidance.

Remember, in the face of these learning challenges, the ultimate goal is not just to survive, but to truly thrive. By utilizing our uniquely tailored methods and approaches, we firmly believe that dyslexia can indeed be transformed from a hurdle into a superpower.

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At Oxford Specialist Tutors, we help those with Dyslexia succeed not only in college, but in life.

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