Thursday, December 28, 2006

UK news story: Bright pupils to receive vouchers for extra lessons

On today's Guardian newspaper:

A voucher system to provide extra lessons for the brightest 10% of children in England is being introduced in schools, the Department for Education and Skills said today.
The initiative will help an estimated 800,000 pupils who will be able to spend their vouchers on additional courses, "master classes" at university-run summer schools or online evening classes.

The scheme, an extension of the government's National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth, which has run into passive resistance from a sizeable minority of schools, is being promoted by Lord Adonis, the schools minister and former No 10 adviser

To read article click here

This is an interesting proposal, except how would it be administered and are national curriculum tests any real indicator of the gifted population? I find that an unlikely prospect, as we all know standardised testing is intensely flawed and designed to fill up numbers in tables on charts, rather than accurately identify any individual strengths.

Here's another link to another interesting paper called: Investigating the notion of children with multiple exceptionalities which mentions learning disabilities and ADHD and high ability.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dr. Gabor Maté: Scattered Minds

Here's a book many parents may find interesting and helpful: Scattered Minds by Dr. Gabor Maté

Scattered, written from the inside by a doctor who himself has Attention Deficit Disorder, offers a completely new perspective on ADD and a new approach to helping children and adults living with the problems Attention Deficit Disorder presents.

Several chapters are available at no charge to peruse on the above website.

Attention issues, not necessarily fully blown ADHD, can manifest with children who have written output struggles. It's not surprising that it may be tough for children to maintain concentration when struggling to get ideas onto the page, as fast as they are formulating in the mind and at the same speed as the child's peers who do not have this challenge. Therefore it is useful to read up on attention issues as a means to helping your child and understanding how you can facilitate them to have a more productive and joyful educational experience.

Updated links to BBC Woman's Hour Radio discussions

Finally here are the direct links to the radio items I previously mentioned.

ADHD in adults

Dyslexia: a discussion about the Dore method

Do schools discriminate against boys?

Empowering women through educating girls.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lots of recent links from Woman's Hour

There have been a spate of relevant discussions on BBC Radio 4's programme Woman's Hour. All the links are available on their website through the listen again links:

Am having some trouble bringing up the website at present, but will add the direct links asap. In the meantime if you google Woman's hour you should easily find it. There were discussions about adult ADHD, dyslexia, and more besides.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Burst of graphia!

I don't know if it was the multi sensory typing lessons or the arrival of the NEO, but strangely and suddenly my child has declared he loves writing (as in the pencil and paper method). I think perhaps knowing he has accessible alternatives at his elbow has slightly lessened his anxiety or liberated him from perceiving "writing" to be a big barrier.

His ideas still come faster than his hand can output, but the last few days he no longer exhibits the previous resistance and physical discomfort. We have ploughed through so many types of pencils, and he has found mechanical pencils work for him at present because it's easier for him to write 'neater'.

I think learning to type (keyboard) has been a huge boon. It was a very satisfying experience that he succeeded easily at and he emerged each week from the one on one typing class with quite the glow to him. I think the teacher is great. She's young and has a great rapport with him. She is also actively interested in children with learning differences and flexible, which really makes a difference. The idea of learning to type one on one makes more sense for children who feel self conscious often in a group setting or who may be prone to sensory overload when there's a whole group of children learning. When it's one on one it's easier to concentrate. Tonight when my child emerged able now to type all the letters of the alphabet and capitals and punctuation including things I cannot even type like "quotation marks" I realized it's well worth the money we invested.

I would recommend getting your child started with the basics on that BBC typing tutor I have a link to on the right. If they can get the home row keys down, they'll get more progress in the class. If however your child doesn't respond well to that online tutor don't push it. Just find a typing class, preferably one to one if you can, preferably multi sensory. You'll be able to find these courses through your local LD advocacy group or through places/organisations that do psycho educational assessments.

I think the typing has boosted his confidence and I think he's discovered he can tell stories and so now when he sees words appearing on the page he's inspired (and we are very flexible about what appears, I don't try to fix anything at this stage. I want him to feel he can write -- nothing beyond that at this point)

To see this progress is immensely hopeful. I do accept as well, that it may change again and we will continue building the additional skills of typing, we will also embrace the keyboard more and more.

Meet the Alphasmart NEO

Say bonjour to the NEO. We welcomed it to our kitchen table this week and so far it's proving compatible with my child's needs.
The most immediate appealing aspects of the NEO are it's very light in weight compared to a laptop, (like carrying a light book) and the keyboard is far more "child friendly". The cost is far more affordable than a regular laptop. For the complete rundown on the cost, dimensions etc go to
I will be documenting our experience with the NEO. So far I've noticed it's very straightforward to use and I like how clean the font is when its printed. It's simple to hook up to the printer, just plug it in. At least that's how it worked here.
I think this keyboard could prove a useful and important aide to any child with output issues. Another advantage is that there is nothing else to distract the child such as internet access or a plethora of colours and logos. The screen displays a paragraph of text at a time and I think this lack of "distraction" means it could be useful for helping children stay on the task. The NEO could remain on the desk and the child can completely interact with peers and the classroom. A laptop screen creates more of a barrier potentially. This feels no different than having a big exercise book on the desk.

ADHD: US and Australian news stories

This is an extract from this Australian news story:
A DRUG used to treat children for attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, has had some serious psychiatric side-effects,
a study shows.
The Federal Government's Therapeutic Goods Administration
(TGA) has been assessing the drug Strattera, which will be available widely
under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Fairfax reports.
Strattera was the
probable cause of one child's explosive mood swings and erratic behaviour,
including an attempt to open the door of a moving car, according to the

You should easily be able to track down the actual study via the government department

Mother Says School Wants Her Son On ADD Meds

MANTECA, Calif. Sabrina Nichols says they've tried half a dozen medications
for her 9-year-old son Jacob's attention deficit disorder. Meds, she says, have
turned him into a zombie. His eyes are barely open in this years' school photo
all because she says his Manteca school has strongly recommended it.

Full story is here:

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


It was suggested to me that written output disorder sometimes might be a focal example of such traditional anxiety disorder categories as specific phobia and that there have been carefully designed programs of ERP (exposure response prevention therapy) have been shown in controlled trials to help greatly.

I have searched for references to read more about this, but I have found nothing yet that specifically links the two. I did find information about graphaphobia (sp? name?) but by all accounts that seems to be some sort of fear of writing in public. (I suppose writing in a school setting could qualify as such an example?) If anyone comes across or knows where to further research this please email suggestions to Possibly I am not looking in the right places.

I post this suggestion here because it may have relevance to people reading this blog and may be something they wish to investigate further. For my own circumstances I can see no evidence that it has much resonance for my child, for whom I've seen the physical act of writing causes difficulties, but I see a desire to write, that is thwarted somewhat by the physical slowness, which frustrates him. I have seen marked improvements with modifications to the expectations and I have also seen that the introduction of the keyboarding/typing facilitates a much more natural and rapid output.

I think anxiety is also a natural by product of being in a classroom setting where you sense a disparity between yourself and other children. I think there's a lot to excavate in this question of anxiety for these children.

More attention on ADHD

This is a link to a Prime Time programme, that looks at the woeful state of psychiatric care for children in Ireland and the epic length of the waiting lists. There’s one particularly moving segment with a mother and her son where he describes how he stayes on the streets, rather than return to the town he’s from.

I'm going to continue uploading these kinds of resources, in an effort to have a variety of informative links about attention issues.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Digital Voice Recorder

Technology is well and truly on the side of this generation of children.

I have just discovered Digital Voice Recorders, primarily for using in my own journalism work, but I have found that they can be a great tool for helping written output disorder too.

Children can in the first place record their stories, say maybe three times, each time the story will improve. Then they can either transcribe what they have written with less frustration because they can get the words out.

Alternately they can type the story out.

There are even some recorders that will synch with Speech recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. (Research this carefully before purchasing a model)

From my reading the most recommended models are Olympus Digital Voice recorders. I have just purchased a cheaper one in the Olympus range VN2100PC. Be sure to buy one with PC in the name, as that means it will download to a PC via a USB lead.

There are a few considerations: parents may be nervous of it getting lost/damaged in the classroom. Some may come with a neck strap. They would fit snugly inside a cell phone holder for added protection. The teacher could agree to store it in their desk.

I should add that a digital voice recorder is not the same as an mp3 player because it has an external mike jack and therefore the sound quality should be better. However I believe there are many mp3 players on the markets which include a voice feature, so there is a viable alternative use also.

The other choice is to keep the Digital Voice Recorder specifically for use in the home with homework assignments. Another purpose to this technique is to counteract the frustration that children with written output problems can experience.