Developmental disabilities; impact on everyday life across the lifespan

The overarching theme of my Emeritus Fellowship is the impact of development disabilities on everyday life across the lifespan from education to employment. The major focus of the first eight months has been on the series of studies investigating educational aspects, and I am delighted to report that progress has been exceptional.

I have set up screening and support for children in Wales who are at risk for dyslexia at age five, using my screening test, the Dyslexia Early Screening Test (DEST), and ‘Hands on Literacy’ which was designed by Bridgend Inclusion services. The results show improvement in risk levels for the intervention group compared with controls. I am particularly proud that over thirty local schools are now taking part in this scheme, which uses local teachers to provide targeted support. We are following up the children’s progress and I have devised a reporting system that will maintain records for the children up to age ten. Teachers who have enjoyed taking part will meet up with new schools to explain the project and bring more schools on board.

DEST has been translated, and a number of Welsh schools will work with children in Year 1 from September this year. This approach has considerable potential for changing the long-term outcomes for children at risk of failure.

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Developing auditory memory. Children from PennyBont school were leaning the names of the objects that were on sale in the garden centre. To do this they bounced a little puppet over the items to tell the puppet what was for sale.

     

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Developing rhyme. Children had to match rhyming pairs of objects e.g. block, clock, mug, bug, fish, dish. To create an element of fun the children used tongs to collect the objects to match them.

There has been a shortage of educational testing materials available in Welsh, making it difficult to evaluate the progress of Welsh-speaking children. Funds were raised by Dyslexia Wales to modify the Dyslexia Screening Test –J, for use in Welsh, and we have now collected data on over 500 children who are being educated with Welsh as a first language. We plan to launch the DST-W in Wales in the next school year, and it will be a great pleasure to contribute one of the first published standardised tests, with the generous support of the publishers Pearsons Education.

I am working with Action Duchenne investigating the impact of a computerised remediation program on the baseline functioning of children with Duchenne Muscular dystrophy. Duchenne children show a cognitive profile similar to dyslexia, but these difficulties tend to be overlooked in school because of their debilitating physical symptoms. This program, Decipha, was designed to increase the literacy skills of these children while improving their self esteem and behaviour. Janet Hoskin, my postgraduate student, was awarded the National Lottery education prize in November 2011 for this project. The first academic publications on this research are now in preparation, following a series of conference presentations. In the same month, I was awarded the British Dyslexia Association Outstanding Lifetime Academic Achievement award for my work in the field of dyslexia.

Professor Angela Fawcett

Angela was awarded an Emeritus Fellowship grant in 2011.