07 March 2014
Yet another succesful delivery to the food bank. Three children from Year 6 met the organiser Sarah Fry who showed them the store and where the goods are kept. There were lots of longing gazes at the biscuits.
The children also interviewed Sarah as part of their literacy work on Journalism.
Thanks again to all the parents who have donated goods for our 'Food Friday'.
Match against Sunningwell - 07/03/14
07 March 2014
Another superb effort by our footballers in the play-off match against Sunningwell. They had amazing attitude and gave it their all in a full blooded (but sporting) encounter - that left them exhausted (see photo).
Sadly we didn't beat them this time (3-0) but we did beat them in our last game.
Thanks to all our amazing supporters who are there rain, sunshine or more rain.
6 a-side tournament coming up 24th March at OLA after school, details to follow
Another load dropped off at the Food Bank
28 February 2014
Today three children delivered generous gifts, donated by the The Unicorn School parents and guardians, to The Abingdon Food bank. The end of the month is the hardest time for many who come to the food bank with many facing choices between food and heating.
We will be doing this every Friday - we like to call it 'Food Friday'. A big thank you to all the parents and guardians supporting this!!
Mike Pickett 28-2-14
Oak and Cedar get evacuated to Hill End Camp, World War II style
28 February 2014
Another well played football match
24 February 2014
Once again the intrepid Unicorn United Footballers went into battle against Sunningwell. On a sunny Friday afternoon, (honest, the sun did shine); they played a full part in an excellent match despite losing 5-3. There were 2 well taken goals by Jayden and a cool finish by Charles. Alex saved a penalty and then produced a save worthy of the Premiership. Captain Sebastian led by example with great tackling and forays into attack. Defenders Lewis and Owen rose to the challenge as Sunningwell attacked during the second half. Thomas, as ever, was immense, man marking their best player, helping defence and attack. A much better start to the match and some dogged determination along with skill kept the result in the balance right up to the end. The other highlights were the biscuits and the mud. You could hardly recognise Seb or Charles. A very enjoyable match; the children were a credit to the school. Mike Pickett
First football match of 2014
31 January 2014
The Unicorn football team travelled to league leaders Buckland for their first match of 2014. Despite a poor first 10 minutes, by which time they were 5-0 down, they showed tremendous character and perseverance over the remaining 40 minutes to keep the score to 5-0. Every player gave their all; they encouraged each other and played in a sporting manner. They were a credit to themselves and the school. Well done Alex, Patrick, Owen, Thomas, Charles, Sebastian and Jayden.
Enhanced ICAN Accreditation
13 December 2013
We are delighted to announce that we are the only school in Oxfordshire, and one of only nine schools in the country, to have earned the prestigious ICAN accreditation at an Enhanced level.
ICAN is a children's communication charity, which help schools develop their skills in identifying and supporting children with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN).
Good communication skills underpin the development of a child's learning, thinking and social skills. Research suggests that children with dyslexia often have further language difficulties, and we feel it is particularly important to address the additional needs some of our children experience. This accreditation has helped us build on the already specialist teaching we provide, creating a communication-supportive environment for all children including those with mild-moderate speech, language and communication needs.
Successful Christmas Fair
28 November 2013
We had a very successful few hours yesterday at our Christmas Fair. Everyone enjoyed spending their pocket money at all the lovely stalls and we managed to raise an amazing £1044.
Our thanks go to the ladies of the Friends of the Unicorn who worked so tirelessly organising and preparing everything and to Mrs Thrower for all her extra hard work and enthusiasm too,
The School Council are keen that this money will go towards the castle/fort the children would like in the playground.
A big thank you and well done to everyone.
07 November 2013
We thoroughly enjoyed our hands on meeting with many rescued exotic animals at school recently.
Emilie from Amate Animalia helped us to learn about topics such as camouflage, habitats, conservation, ecosystems and wildlife tourism, as well as specific animals & their husbandry requirements in a fun way with all her friendly, patient animals.
Unicorn 3- Sunningwell 2
06 November 2013
A superb all round display saw The Unicorn football team beat last year’s finalists in a closely fought game.
With the wind behind them, quality goals from Charles and two from Patrick resulted in a 3-0 half time lead. Against the wind in the second half the team showed great commitment and skill from the defence of Owen, Lewis, and Sebastian with goalkeeper Alex once again in fine form. Midfielders Jayden and Thomas brilliantly linked defence and attack. A tough physical match ended with lots of biscuits, including the favoured Jaffa cakes.
Many thanks to all the parents and grandparents for their support, and for Mrs Purvis for transport, photos and her time.
Congratulations to the football team
04 October 2013
14 June 2013
Congratulations to everyone who took part in our successful sponsored walk yesterday. An amazing 616 laps of Albert Park were walked, that is 265 miles in all.
A superb effort by all. There will be a slide show of photos of all the happy walkers in the foyer next week.
There is still time to get more sponsors to make every lap worthwhile. Remember we are trying to build a new classroom for our sponsored school in Mwalimu so every penny counts.
Can all monies be in school by Monday 1st July please.
Together we are making a difference.
The Giving Machine Fund Raising
19 April 2013
The Unicorn School has signed up to http://www.thegivingmachine.co.uk/ to help raise extra funds for the school.
Over 400 top online shops pay TheGivingMachine a sales commission for directing shoppers to them, including Amazon, M & S, eBay etc. They then convert commissions generated into free cash donations for the school.
It doesn’t cost you anything, but if we can get everyone to search via The Giving Machine whenever shopping online, a small percentage of the purchases will come directly to our school.
Wonderful Result Easter Fair
21 March 2013
A huge thanks to Cait and all our wonderful parents, children and teachers for running stalls at the fair. Everyone had a lot of fun spending their pocket money.
We raised £608 so far which is phenomenal!
Open Morning Tuesday 19th March
19 March 2013
Open Morning Tuesday 19th March.
We were delighted to welcome many enthusiastic and knowledgeable visitors to our school this morning - we hope, in due course, to be able to include their children in our school.
If you were unable to get to our open morning, we do have an 'open door' policy and are always pleased to welcome visitors and show you our unique school.
Semi Final Result
12 March 2013
We are delighted that our football team are playing so well this academic year. Despite losing in the semi final last week Mr Pickett is still really pleased with the sporting attitude and determination to succeed he has seen over the last few months in all of his players.
Our first Unicorn team to make it to a semi final! Maybe it will be the finals next year?
Very well done to all of our players.
Mwalimu School Solar Panels Installed
28 February 2013
We are thrilled to hear that the solar panels have now been installed in the Mwalimu school in Tanzania that we are supporting and raising funds for. The children now have electricity in their classroom.
Thank you to everyone for your contributions to this important cause so far. We will keep you informed of our next fund raising event, a whole school sponsored walk in the Summer term.
To find out more do use the attached link
Arthritis Research Fundraiser
21 February 2013
We are delighted to say that the enthusiastic children of Oak and Willow classes managed to raise £164.80 for Athritis Research UK with their cake sale and non uniform day.
All the children and staff paid to wear orange for the day and happily bought the delicious cakes on sale at playtime to raise money for this important cause.
Well done to Zenor and friends for organising this day and thank you to everyone who donated money.
Happy new year and welcome back!
10 January 2013
We are delighted to welcome you all back to the Unicorn and a particular welcome to our new families, the Sextons and the Balchins.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Christmas fair to raise money for our new minibus. As most of you are aware, thanks to your amazing generosity, coupled with that of a wonderfully generous benefactor, we have now raised enough money to start our search for our new bus.
The weather is about to turn cold so please send your children into school with warm clothes so that we don't have to huddle together like penguins! Please also keep an eye on the website if it turns snowy over the next three weeks in case we need to take action.
Nicola Blackwood MP visits the Unicorn
12 September 2012
We were pleased to welcome our local MP Nicola Blackwood who came to visit us to find out more about life at the Unicorn.
To find out more please use this link
Outstanding OFSTED Report
07 July 2012
We are delighted to share the findings of our latest OFSTED report in which our school is found to be outstanding in all areas.
The report says that "The Unicorn School provides an outstanding quality of education which fully meets its stated aim.
The curriculum is outstanding, as are the quality of teaching and assessment and the pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
As a result, pupils make outstanding progress in their learning and in their personal development.
Their behaviour is outstanding.
Provision for pupils' welfare, health and safety is outstanding."
Click here to read the full report
Upper School French Residential
31 May 2012
Cedar, Lime, Beech and Redwood classes enjoyed an excellent week in Hardelot de Plage, France.
The itinerary included trips to a typical French bakery, a chocolatier and a glass factory. Many happy hours were enjoyed on the beaches in Hardelot and Le Touquet. The children also enjoyed spending their pocket money at the market at Etaples and buying typical French foods in the Auchan supermarket.
Welcome to Ric Egington Olympic Rower
16 May 2012
The Unicorn were delighted to welcome Ric Egington today to our special assembly. Ric, who is even taller than Mr Pickett at 6ft 6ins, is a world champion at rowing and won silver at the Bejing Olympics. He let all the pupils hold his medal and even ty it on!
We wish him the best of luck in 2012 and will all be watching him on August 5th.
Ric was inundated with questions from our children and answered as many as he could and was a great role model by saying that it was really important to find your talent and then really work at it until you succeed.
Ric was then "mugged " for autographs. We are really honoured to have him visit the school and his easy manner talking to the children was very welcome.
Thanks to Mark Hatlee for organising the visit today.
Lower School Residential
14 May 2012
If you missed our open day, you are still welcome
19 March 2012Come and see us at the Unicorn during any normal working morning. We will be delighted to welcome you into our school and talk to you about your child's strengths and requirements
Thank you to all parents for the excellent response rate for the questionnaires from our inspector, Mr Fisher Smith
19 February 2012
Appreciation for The Unicorn's Fundraising Activities
24 January 2012
The Nomad Trust have posted several acknowledgements on their website blog for our excellent fund-raising activities.
With over £3,750 raised for the Mwalimu School it's great to hear about our funds successfully reaching their target.
Next time you are in school look for the scrap book on the reception desk which has lots more information and some excellent pictures.
Keep up the good work Mr Pickett!!
Shop and Drop - at Waitrose in Abingdon!
16 January 2012
Next month (February), The Unicorn School has been chosen by the Waitrose supermarket in Abingdon to be one of the 3 charities to benefit as part of their monthly Community Matters Scheme.
Each time you shop at Waitrose you are given a green token to drop into a box for your chosen charity from the 3 for that month. At the end of the month the £1,000 pot is divided up among the charities according to the proportion of tokens they have in their respective boxes.
So, when you shop at Waitrose next month please don’t forget to drop your token into The Unicorn box and support the school.
Keira Knightley: 'Sometimes I just sit on the bathroom floor and burst into tears' - The Independent
10 January 2012
What's impressive about Knightley soldiering through that reading list is that she was dyslexic and still doesn't find it especially easy to read. She was six at the time her condition was noticed. "I tricked them," Knightley remembers of hoodwinking her teachers and parents when she was growing up in Teddington. "I would memorise when people read books to me and then I'd pretend to read back to them. They didn't figure it out for quite a while."
Through constant tutoring and the intervention of her parents, she was able to overcome the condition. "I am a slow reader. I always loved words, which is a strange thing given that I couldn't actually read them. By the time I was 11, they deemed me to have got over it sufficiently." She still can't sight-read, though. "If you gave me something and said, 'Read it out loud', there is something that happens that I can't really do that."
Who the Dickens is Douglas Booth? - Sun
05 January 2012
Meet TV's latest teen introducing thousands of women to Charles Dickens.
But Douglas Booth, who has just starred as Pip in BBC1's hit version of Great Expectations, only took up acting as he feared his dyslexia would block other careers.
The big-budget version of Great Expectations was the highlight of the BBC's Christmas line-up — and it has won the ratings war hands down. Six million watched the second episode of the three-parter — trouncing ITV's Christmas special, Fast Freddie, The Widow And Me, by nearly two million viewers.
Despite his youth, Douglas is no stranger to top-level acting. He was praised for his portrayal of Boy George in the 2010 TV drama Worried About The Boy, and in March he starred opposite Dr Who's Matt Smith in hit BBC2 drama Christopher And His Kind.
But Douglas was only attracted to the arts after finding school tough. He said: "I'm dyslexic and when I was at school I struggled with academics. "At first, I said to myself that if I can't become an academic then I'll become a musician and took up the trumpet. I became very good at a very young age. But that slipped away as I found acting because I fell in love with it."
Top Role for Chocolate Young Entrepreneur - Wolverhampton Express & Star
04 January 2012
A young entrepreneur who set up his own firm when he was 12 years old has become an ambassador for one of the world’s largest chocolate companies.
Louis Barnett, of Kinver, who suffers from dyslexia and dypraxia started Chokolit, which has five employees, including his parents, Phil and Mary, and makes quality chocolate for specialist food shops, delicatessens and other retail outlets.
The company name Chokolit was borne out of the way in which Louis spelled chocolate due to his dyslexia.
Now the 19-year-old has been chosen as one of only 40 ambassadors across the globe for Swiss chocolate manufacturer Callebaut. The firm has about 6,000 employees in 27 countries with 40 production sites.
Mr Barnett said: “It’s amazing. Callebaut is one of the biggest chocolate companies in the world and becoming one of their ambassadors is like the Nobel Prize for chocolatiers.”
Mr Barnett will appear at trade conventions and help promote the brand across the world. He is also hoping it will boost the profile of his own brand. He recently signed a deal to export thousands of products to 13 states across America.
After dropping out of school at 11, Louis, who suffers from dyslexia and dyspraxia, began by supplying products to supermarket chain Waitrose. But he has seen sales fall in the UK in recent months so has decided to target overseas markets where larger brands are not competing.
He signed a deal earlier this year to supply a US distributor with 37,000 bars of chocolate after exhibiting at the Fancy Fine Food Fair in New York; and now 89 huge department stores in Mexico are stocking the chocolate, with another 20 due to get involved next year.
Viz creator gets serious about dyslexia help - Chroniclelive.co.uk
05 December 2011
STAND-UP comedian and co-founder of Viz, Simon Donald, is getting serious about helping people with dyslexia. Health Reporter Helen Rae explains why it is a condition close to his heart.
At the age of 40, Tyneside funnyman Simon Donald was diagnosed with a learning difficulty that explained why he had always suffered problems with reading and writing.
Former Viz adult comic creator Simon developed problems soon after starting secondary school yet his specific learning difficulties have never stopped him from enjoying a successful and varied career.
Read More http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2011/12/02/viz-creator-gets-serious-about-dyslexia-help-72703-29883273/#ixzz1ffMPnSXv
Dyslexia Action Awards Dinner Is A Great Success!!
30 November 2011
As well as honouring designer Steve Edge, The Saturdays’ Mollie King, It’s ME! Learning Fund beneficiary Kimberley Ward and ex-CEO of Dyslexia Action Shirley Cramer, CBE, tonight’s fundraiser has been a huge success.
Elaine C Smith ordeal over daughter's dyslexia - Scotsman.com
28 November 2011
Actress Elaine C Smith has spoken of her struggle to come to terms with her daughter’s dyslexia after it was first detected when she was just four years old.
Smith, who is a former teacher, said she had first been told her daughter Hannah was dyslexic while she was at nursery school, but had “dismissed” the suggestion.
Robots Arrive At The Unicorn School
28 November 2011
Pupils from The Unicorn School years 4 and 5 classes have teamed up with engineers from Faringdon Community College to build robotic dogs using Lego ‘Mindstorms’ kits to complement this term’s creative curriculum entitled ‘The Rise of the Robots’.
Two teachers and a technician from FCC are delivering the programme which runs for 5 Tuesday afternoons at The Unicorn.
“The aim of these courses is to bring engineering into the classroom in a fun and interesting manner”, commented Denis Scott, FCC course leader, “Within the Lego ‘Mindstorms’ module, the pupils build a robotic dog and learn the programming language necessary to control the robot in the completion of a number challenges.”
This module is linked to the Keystage 2 National Curriculum with other programmes available in podcasting, mechanisms, electronics and animation.
Supporting a child with dyslexia - BBC CBeebies 'Grown-ups' Website
25 November 2011
Dyslexic children are just as capable of learning as everyone else – but some things will be a lot harder. The best way a parent can support their child is by being positive. Encourage their strengths and try not to emphasise their weaknesses.
Link to the complete article here
Rugby star Kenny Logan talks of overcoming dyslexia at Camden centre - Ham & High Website
11 November 2011
Rugby legend Kenny Logan has spoken about his own journey to overcome dyslexia opening a new learning centre in Camden.
The former Scottish international joined charity Dyslexia Action as it moved to its new centre in the Royal National Institute For The Blind offices in Judd Street, King’s Cross, from old premises in Victoria on Wednesday last week (November 2).
The centre has technology to help young people and adults in Camden and across London with a hidden disability such as dyslexia or literacy difficulties.
The rugby player, who kept his dyslexia secret for years, said: “As someone with dyslexia, I understand first hand the challenges that people with the specific learning difficulty can face.
“I was diagnosed with dyslexia aged 16 and it was a relief to know that there was a reason behind why I struggled with reading and writing. Growing up, I would have welcomed support like that Dyslexia Action provides.”
The centre is funded by Capital FM’s Help A Capital Child campaign.
All five of its computers have a new “multi-sensory” technology which helps with reading, spelling and memory.
The centre is also the base for Dyslexia Action’s Catch Up Club, a free after-school club for children aged 12-17, which helps to improve reading and spelling.
Hannah MacLellan, a senior teacher at the centre, is spearheading the club aimed at children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. She said: “Children and young people who struggle with literacy are at a disadvantage at school and throughout life. It is therefore important to provide these learners with help and support so that they are not limited by their reading and spelling ability.”
Sally Gardner: Dyslexia is not a disease - Daily Telegraph online
10 November 2011
Leading author Sally Gardner admits she is still haunted by the jibes she faced as a child because she is dyslexic. In Dyslexia Awareness week, she insists that people need to see what dyslexic has to offer and not look at it as a negative.
It always struck me as strange that as a child I should be saddled with a word that I could neither pronounce or spell. I look back at my education with a sense of bewildered frustration, I had no idea why I should be shown a picture of a boat and when the picture was taken away I was, as if by magic, supposed to know what the picture spelt. It didn't matter how many phonic nutcases shouted at me saying B-O-A-T. Even now I have no idea whether o goes before a or a goes before o. And does it matter?
In those days it was called 'word blindness'. I wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until I was 11. It was of no value in school that I was visually or emotionally intelligent. Still, in 2011, these qualities in a child are often overlooked in favour of academic intelligence. I believe we waste too many children in this country by failing to see the gifts they have. Instead we see dyslexia as a problem.
The word associated with dyslexia in schools, that I absolutely hate, is 'special needs'. Our special needs are that the non-dyslexic world stop telling us how we should be learning or what magic cure they have for us. It's not a disease. People need to see what it has to offer, and not look at it as a negative. It's a misconception that because you are dyslexic you don't like books. In fact, although I couldn't read them, I always thought words beautiful hieroglyphics that I longed to be able to translate.
The first book I ever read, at the ripe old age of 14, was Wuthering Heights. I think it was because everyone had given up on me that I finally broke the code. Up to the age of 21, it seemed to me that everybody had a cinema in their heads and could see a book as you would see a film: playing out in their mind's eye. I was studying theatre design at Central St Martins at the time, and working on The Tempest, when I first realised the director I was working with couldn't see a thing. He was visually blind. I can't tell you how cross that made me. All those years I had been able to see in 3D in my head. I had my own visual landscape and I realised that I was rich in an imagination that has turned out to be invaluable. All those years of only being told I was stupid, thick, a moron, brain like a sieve. Still those negative voices haunt me.
I am often asked how I write. It's a question I doubt non-dyslexic authors are asked. I say I write on a laptop. That never satisfies anyone. Do you use electronic dictation? No I write on my laptop. Do you have a ghostwriter? No, I write on my laptop. The only difference between me and other authors is that I send my work to a wonderful woman who understands my atrocious spelling and corrects it. Apart from that, I am a writer.
That's what I do, write.
Sally Gardner is an award-winning novelist from London. Her books have been translated into 22 languages and she’s sold over 1.5 million copies in the UK. Her fourth novel, The Double Shadow (Orion) is published this week.
Dyslexia training to be mandatory in Initial Teacher Training
08 November 2011
HM Government's Department of Education has issued an approved e-petition in response to the British Dyslexia Association's (BDA) concerns over dyslexia training for all teachers.
The e-petition wording is as follows:
The BDA proposes that Initial Teacher Training course providers should be required to deliver mandatory and consistent dyslexia awareness sessions.
The mandatory minimum should be the existing Department of Education 2005 module (to view this module click here). All teachers should be trained to understand dyslexia, its impact on learning and what constitutes dyslexia friendly practice. Teachers should be aware of when to signpost learners for assessment and when to provide appropriate intervention.
Access the petition by clicking here.
Comic Katy: I owe it all to pioneering grandmother who taught me to read - Evening Standard .co.uk
07 November 2011
Comedian Katy Brand said today she owes her "entire career" to her grandmother, a literacy pioneer who has spent decades helping children to read.
She will tonight accept a lifetime achievement award on behalf of her 82-year-old grandmother Violet, who created a new way of teaching reading and worked tirelessly to improve the literacy skills of prisoners and dyslexic children. Mrs Brand is not well enough to attend the British Dyslexia Association's ceremony in Marble Arch.
The comedian, 32, who is best known her ITV2 production Katy Brand's Big Ass Show, said: "We were very close and she was always playing word games with me. I put my career completely down to her. I am very comfortable with words and was always ahead of my peers in reading, and I feel very grateful."
Mrs Brand, from Canterbury, trained as a primary school teacher. In the Seventies she veered away from the traditional "look and say" way of teaching reading and created a new "phonics" based system - in which children learn the different sounds represented by letters - which was so successful she published a series of books that became international bestsellers.
She developed her own technique for teaching reading by grouping words into families.
Mrs Brand also set up the Watford Dyslexia Unit and went into prisons to teach inmates. Brand said her grandmother was one of the first people to notice the high levels of illiteracy in prisons.
The Brand family also pledged their support to the Evening Standard's literacy campaign by donating 100 of Mrs Brand's best-selling Spelling Made Easy textbooks to the cause.
Brand said: "Primary school teachers do a brilliant job, but it seems like they have a lot of children in their classes.
"You just can't beat the one-to-one attention."
Meet the New Staff Members
07 November 2011
The School is very pleased to welcome Clare, Mary and Vita to the teaching staff this term. They further strengthen the team with their teaching abilities. Let's find out a little more about each of them:
Clare Carlini -
I have been teaching on and off for the last twenty six years. I began my career in Bicester and I went on to teach in Birmingham and Abingdon. Most recently I was teaching at The Manor School, near Abingdon, as a reception teacher.
I live locally and I am married with three children, two of whom are at university and the youngest is at a local school.
I have always been interested in dyslexia as it has affected family members and I know first hand how it can make life more difficult. I recently completed a postgraduate course at Oxford Brookes on literacy difficulties. I feel privileged to be working at such a caring school with such a hardworking and dedicated staff.
Vita Collier -
Kia Ora! (Hello in Maori) I am the new teacher of Cedar class this year. I am all the way from New Zealand, home of the famous 'All Blacks' rugby union team.
I enjoy the outdoors, going for bush walks, bike riding and doing anything outside. I enjoy watching sport and I supported the All Blacks in their recent World Cup success! I also play touch rugby myself to keep fit and have fun.
I went to University in my home town of Wellington straight after I finished Secondary School to study psychology. After I completed my degree I took a year off to spend some time living and working in Western Australia. When I returned from Australia I went back to Victoria University in Wellington to complete a Post-graduate Diploma of Teaching.
After I qualified as a teacher I was lucky enough to get a job at the school I went to as a child in the small sea-side town of Eastbourne in Wellington. Some of the teachers who taught me were still there!
I taught Year 3 for two years at this leading school which was the first school in New Zealand to be recognised by the 4D for Schools programme as being Dyslexia Friendly.
I was very sad to leave such a highly regarded school but in December of last year I moved here (with my boyfriend who is doing a PhD in Geophysics at the University of Oxford) for my first ever White Christmas!
For the past 10 months I have really enjoyed living in Oxford and travelling around the UK and Europe. I am looking forward to many more exciting trips in the future.
I am so pleased to have the opportunity to work at the Unicorn and I am looking forward to learning a lot and getting to know all of the staff, parents and children of this fantastic school during the year ahead.
Mary Pegler -
I specialise in working with children with developmental language difficulties, speech and phonological problems and social communication difficulties. I have worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in London and Oxford with both NHS and private clients. My sessions involve an enjoyable variety of games and group activities, popular with children.
Prior to Speech and Language Therapy, I enjoyed a career as an actress in theatre, film and t.v. as well as research work for the RSC. I 'trod the boards' in West End Theatres as well as a brief trip to Hollywood. My first clinical employment as a Speech and Language Therapist was with Great Ormond Street Hospital in the Community, working in local clinics and outreach centres in north London.
Now settled in Oxford, with three children, aged between 14 and 7, I am able to indulge my love of reading as a member of two local book groups. I am also a contributor to the Good Schools Guide Special Educational Needs section.
I am delighted to be working at The Unicorn School, and have felt warmly welcomed by both staff and children.
A way into books for children with dyslexia - Daily Telegraph Website
02 November 2011
Dyslexia Awareness Week, an annual event celebrated around the world to raise public awareness about dyslexia, begins today and runs until Sunday 6th November.
It seems the perfect time to highlight some of the fantastic books from Barrington Stoke, an Edinburgh-based firm which is now 14 years old and the main British publishing house devoted to books for reluctant and struggling readers.
It's vital that children who are dyslexic have access to attractive, enjoyable reading and Barrington Stoke have top children's authors writing engaging, short books which offer a way for dyslexic children, or those struggling with other learning disabilities or simply reluctant to read, to enjoy the huge pleasures and vital learning experiences of reading.
Among the newer titles available are City Boy, by Alan Combes, a charming football story that is great for football-made teenagers who have a reading age of six to seven. The story is a heartwarming tale of a grandfather helping his young grandson to become a footballer - and a rounded person.
If it's rugby that takes a child's fancy, then there is also a dyslexia friendly version of the lively rugby tale Scrum! by Tom Palmer.
Dyslexia is certainly no indicator of lower intelligence (Picasso, Steven Spielberg and WB Yeats were among those were dyslexic) and children who enjoy good writing will love Anthony McGowan's witty tale of schooldays in Leeds called The Fall.
Barrington Stoke books are often bursting with humour, too. Mr Gum author Andy Stanton's Sterling And The Canary and The Story Of Matthew Buzzington provide plenty of laughs for any kind of reader.
The drawings used in their books make them inviting publications to read. Sonia Leong drew the illustrations for Chris Bradford's Ninja: First Mission and they complement the pacy story well. If you like a bit of scary horror, then Tommy Donbavand's Wolf - about a boy who turns into a werewolf - will have you eagerly turning pages.
But it is not just boys who suffer dyslexia and reading problems, of course. Bernadette McLean, Principal of the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre, said: "It has been known for many years that boys are more likely to be identified as dyslexic than girls but research in the United States indicates that this is because boys are easier to identify. Schools are more likely to pick up boys who are misbehaving for further referral as they tend to resort to bad behaviour more than girls. We find, at Helen Arkell, that by the age of 13 we are assessing as many girls as boys. It seems that girls can compensate for longer and cover over their difficulties, but when the environment becomes more demanding their difficulties become obvious."
So how welcome it is that there are specific girl-friendly titles among the 2011 Barrngton Stoke offerings. For teenage girls, whose reading age is 6-7, there is Jo Cotterill's Take Two, which is about two girls, Carla and Lily, who decide to get their own back on the cheesy, handsome captain of the rugby team who asks them both to go to the same prom.
For struggling teen readers who like history, and who have a reading age of around eight, there is Anne Perry's Tudor Rose, the first in the Timepiece series.
For the pre-teens, there is Candy Girl by Karen McCombie, which is about a girl called Dixie who finds out it's not all sweetness working at her favourite magazine - Candy. Some of the writers even use out-of-date picture bylines from when they were young and slim. Can that sort of thing really go on in publishing?
Books help children reach their full potential and Barrington Stoke, a previous winner of Children's Publisher Of The Year, are finding innovative and entertaining ways, without dumbing down or being patronising, of publishing accessible books for children who may need them most of all. Their books use all the means to be dyslexia-friendly - they are printed on thick, cream-coloured matt paper with good line spacing and concise sentences and the covers are wonderfully vibrant and draw you straight in.
It's also worth noting that these are the books for children. Barrington Stoke also produce books for adults, something rather essential given that their estimates are that around 11 million adults (18-65) have a reading age of 13 or below.
BBC Woman's Hour Feature on Dyslexia - BBC Radio 4 on 26th October 2011
02 November 2011
Click here for a link to this programme - 'Chapter One' on the page is the relevant piece
Dyslexia affects up to 10% of the UK population to varying degrees, which means 2-3 children in every classroom.
Parents of dyslexic children struggling over their child’s homework will be cheered to know there are many highly successful dyslexics: Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and the architect Richard Rogers to name a few.
Now a new book argues their kind of entrepreneurial success could be thanks to dyslexia, not despite of it. The authors, Drs Fernette and Brock Eide, argue that the dyslexic brain offers as many advantages as disadvantages - but is this an overly rosy view of dyslexia?
Jane Garvey is joined by Dr Eide, Dr Valerie Muter, consultant neuro-psychologist at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and Ben Thomson, a highly successful dyslexic who is a corporate financier and Chairman of various organisations including the National Galleries of Scotland.
‘The Dyslexic Advantage – Unlocking the hidden potential of the dyslexic brain’, by Dr Brock Eide and Dr Fernette F Eide published by Hay House. ISBN 978 1 84850 639 8
Dyslexia: a parents' guide to dyslexia, dyspraxia and other learning difficulties by Dr Valerie Muter and Dr Helen Likierman (pub Vermilion) ISBN 978-0-09-192338-9
Dyslexia book released in time for awareness week - STV website 28/10/11
01 November 2011
Published by Edinburgh City Libraries, the book tells more than 100 personal stories.
Dyslexia and Us is a compilation of personal stories by people with dyslexia, or those who have been affected by it. Contributors include Princess Beatrice, Scottish rugby player Kenny Logan and Olympic rower Steve Redgrave, as well as members of the public.
The aim of the book, which features more than 100 sad, shocking and funny stories, as well as a foreword by Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart, is to help people learn more about dyslexia, as well as show what life is like for those with it.
Cathy Magee, chief executive of Dyslexia Scotland, who conceived and compiled the book, said: "Dyslexia Scotland is really excited at the forthcoming launch of Dyslexia and Us - it's a unique insight into what dyslexia means to over 100 people of different ages and backgrounds.
“We have been overwhelmed by the number of people keen to share their story as well as by the quality of the personal accounts. I'm really grateful to every single contributor and to Edinburgh City Libraries for making this book possible. If you want to learn more about dyslexia, this is the book for you."
The book was launched at the Central Library on Monday, October 31, marking the first day of Dyslexia Awareness Week 2011.
Councillor Deidre Brock, Culture and Leisure convener for the council, who has written an introduction for the book, will officially launch it.
She said: "It has been an honour to read these powerful life stories about dyslexia, especially as I know first hand from the experience of family members how debilitating this condition can be at times. Some stories will make you laugh, some will make you cry, but every single one allows you to view dyslexia through the eyes of those the condition affects.
"Reading and Learning is at the heart of Edinburgh City Libraries and this book shows how important it is for everyone to understand the obstacles and challenges that our storytellers have to overcome on a daily basis.”
Dyslexia and Us costs £7.99 and can be purchased from the Central Library’s reference library, Dyslexia Scotland charity shops or can be ordered through Dyslexia Scotland’s website.
Fonz star goes back to school to help make reading cool - London Evening Standard.co.uk 14th October 2011
17 October 2011
Too many children are embarrassed to admit they have problems reading, TV star Henry Winkler said today.
The actor, who played The Fonz in Happy Days, arrived in London to tell pupils of his problems with severe dyslexia.
He is visiting schools across the capital in a bid to boost the confidence of those struggling in class.
The tour follows his pledge to support the Evening Standard's literacy campaign, which aims to get more reading volunteers into schools.
Winkler, 65, revealed that he still fears having to read out loud - and ad-libbed in his latest film as a way of coping with his dyslexia.
He was invited back to London after a trip in July because he was such an inspiration to pupils.
"When I talk to pupils I tell them of my journey through school," he said. "I ask if anybody has trouble in school the way I did - only one or two raise their hands."
He said he then gives them confidence to admit their own problems by revealing he has had a successful career despite being in America's "bottom three per cent academically".
He went on: "When I ask the question at the end, all 300 kids put their hands up. I do this because at that age I wanted someone to say it was going to be OK."
'Klingon' helps Milton Keynes man deal with dyslexia - BBC Website 2nd October
07 October 2011
A Milton Keynes man has revealed how translating "Klingon" has helped him deal with dyslexia.
Jonathan Brown, 50, of Furzton spent 12 years learning the fictional language of the alien race from Star Trek films. Then, after being appointed as the lead "linguist" on a CD for others wanting to learn it, he found a different way of dealing with words.
He said: "It helped me identify my problem and found a way of working with my dyslexia."
Their language was invented by Marc Okrand, for use in some of the films. But rather than just inventing a few words to make them sound alien, he devised a complete language, with its own vocabulary, grammar, and usage.
Mr Brown, who is married with two children, said that he always loved the original TV series and first became interested in the language after discovering there was a Klingon dictionary.
"I had to buy it just to see what was going on. Then reading it and learning it, it was just so much fun. There are no niceties in Klingon, I think that's why a lot of people like it, it's very straightforward."
A member of the Klingon Language Institute, he translated all the scripts for the CD and was then involved in the recordings. He explained how he has always had difficulty with reading and also has what he describes as "name blindness" but while doing this work he realised that he could use a different part of his brain.
"Dyslexia is not something you get over, you live with it. It's not necessarily a hindrance, you just learn different ways to pick things up. Working on the translation has helped me understand where I've been having problems all my life with languages, I realised I'd been trying to remember the words in the name part of my brain and because I can't remember names, I can't remember the words.
"With the Klingon language games used on the CD, I tended to put words into a different place and it went into my long term memory. I've still got a long way to go to speak it fluently, but there are many people who do."
See the Unicorn School in Action!
04 October 2011
The Unicorn School is holding its next Open Morning on Tuesday 18th October between 9.00 and 12.00.
Come and take a look round and see the fantastic progress and achievements that are made by our pupils, our multi-sensory, hands-on and one-to-one teaching methods and the whole school in action.
Head teacher, Jackie Vaux, will be presenting a short talk, 'The Uniqueness of the Unicorn', at 10.30.
Staff will be available for personal discussions and our pupils will be happy to show visitors around until 12.00.
If you would like any further information please do have a look round the website or alternatively give the school a call.
We look forward to welcoming you to The Unicorn.
I couldn't read until I was 10, says CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell - London Evening Standard
27 September 2011
Children's television presenter Cerrie Burnell has revealed she could not read until the age of 10 - and used to memorise passages to read out in class in a bid to hide her dyslexia.
The 32-year-old admitted she asked her father to read her books the night before, which she would commit to memory in preparation for school the next day.
The CBeebies favourite, who was born without a right forearm and hand, spoke out as she backed the Evening Standard's Get London Reading campaign.
Burnell paid tribute to her parents' patience in reading to her night after night for finally combating her dyslexia and called on readers to support the Evening Standard's partner charity, Volunteer Reading Help, which sends mentors into school to help children who are struggling to read.
She said: "My parents were brilliant. They had to deal with the fact that I had a physical disability, one hand, and a mental disability, the dyslexia.
"When I was little, I couldn't really learn anything in an academic sense because I couldn't read. I remember my dad reading to me and I would memorise it and read it back to him but I couldn't actually read the words myself.
"I once pretended I could read a Rainbow Bright book in front of the class. I read out the first page, which dad had read to me and I had memorised, but the words didn't mean anything to me. They looked like a menu in a Japanese restaurant."
As the presenter prepares to move to Salford, Manchester, with the BBC children's department, she said every family should read to their child. "I read a lot to my three-year-old daughter - even when I get in after a 10-hour shift I try to read her three picture books a night."
To help cope with her dyslexia, Burnell's parents funded extra tuition. She learned the system Letterland, a phonic-based approach which teaches children to read by creating stories behind each letter of the alphabet.
She said: "One particularly special teacher, Sylvie Fontain, gave up her lunch breaks to read to me. It was the key to my education. Only through people reading to me, and me learning to read, was I able to understand the world. Stories are fundamentally important to how we interpret the world we live in."
Such is her progress that Burnell is now writing her first children's book, about an adopted girl. It explores the nature of being different and how it can be a positive, rather than negative, experience.
She said: "Dyslexic people are not a lost cause - school and teachers should recognise that. Illiteracy should not be a problem in this country. Parents should understand there are solutions if their children are struggling to read."
School Art Exhibition at the North Wall
26 September 2011
Illustrator Kate Brown officially opened the school art exhibition at the North Wall in Oxford on 20th September. There was a great audience of parents, pupils and staff who all enjoyed seeing the pupils' work beautifully displayed in the theatre's foyer.
Kate spoke about the love and freedom she got from her illustrating work and how privileged and lucky she felt to be able to earn a living from doing what she really loved. Kate urged all the pupils to be involved and to work hard at developing their clear abilities in the artistic world.
The pupils' work is complemented by pieces from dyslexic artists based around the country and it is interesting and inspiring to see the achievements these artists have been able to make.
The exhibition continues until Friday 30th and the school would urge all parents, pupils, staff and friends to go along and take a look; much of the work has already been sold contributing greatly to the school's bursary fund.More Images
Software speaking up for Scottish pupils - Scotsman online
19 September 2011
A NEW voice technology has been unveiled to help young male pupils with communication difficulties.
Known as "Stuart", the technology will allow Scottish pupils with additional support needs to better express themselves.
Stuart joins "Heather", the current Scottish synthetic voice available to pupils, so that boys can, for the first time, have a male synthetic voice to use in their school studies.
Paul Nisbet, senior research fellow at CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh, said: "From today, pupils with visual impairment, dyslexia or reading difficulties will be able to have books, learning materials and exam papers read out by Stuart, and boys with speech difficulties who use communication aids will be able to speak with a Scottish computer voice."
Henry Winkler gets honorary OBE for helping dyslexic children in UK - The Guardian
15 September 2011
Happy Days star Henry Winkler has been made an honorary OBE for his work on dyslexia in the UK.
The actor and director, who played the Fonz in the classic US sitcom, said it was "humbling" to receive the honour, awarded at the British embassy in Washington DC.
Having been diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, Winkler has toured schools in the UK over the last two years to talk about the learning difficulty. He has also written books for children about Hank Zipzer, a boy with dyslexia, whose experiences are based on the actor's own childhood struggles.
In a statement on the embassy's website, Winkler said: "Receiving this honour is a very humbling experience. My goal when I started working with children was never to bring accolades on myself, but instead to change how people think about those around them for whom learning is a struggle. I am flattered to have had my work recognised in this manner, and hope to continue showing kids that their learning difficulty isn't a disability."
The British ambassador to the US, Nigel Sheinwald, presented the OBE during a ceremony at the embassy. Sheinwald said: "Through [Winkler], thousands of young people have seen a role model and an inspiration for overcoming their learning challenges."
The honour was presented in recognition of the star's services to children with dyslexia and special educational needs.
Student with dyslexia wins Brian Travers award - Birmingham Mail
14 September 2011
A UNIVERSITY student whose dyslexia was only diagnosed three years ago has won an award named after UB40 musician Brian Travers for coming top of the class.
Kate Dean, aged 28, of Moseley has picked up the Brian Travers Award for Academic Achievement after gaining the highest marks for her first-class BA Honours degree in Media and Communication specialising in the Music Industry at Birmingham City University.
And Kate, who is a saxophonist like Brian, says receiving the award means the world to her, “I had really struggled with education in school and my dyslexia was not diagnosed until I went to university as a mature student. I had always thought I would never go to university and this award recognised that I had done really well there,” she said.
Kate was no sooner enrolled on the course at BCU than she decided to tackle her suspected dyslexia, “I realised I probably had it but it had never been diagnosed. I asked my tutors and then did lots of tests and then it was diagnosed,’’ she added.
“Having the diagnosis really helped as it meant that, when I was writing, if a sentence was not making sense or words were misspelled I knew why. It was also little things like using coloured sheets to help me read and knowing I needed to give myself more time to read papers.
“But dyslexia did not hold me back at all. It was an obstacle but that was all. What this award shows is that dyslexia does not need to stop you from doing what you want to. There are lots of people who are incredibly successful who have dyslexia.”
Mr Travers, who has worked with BCU’s School of Media on a range of projects including mentoring, said: “The School of Media produces some talented graduates and it is a pleasure to be able to offer them support and encouragement as they embark on their careers within the music industry.”
Prize-Winning Poet: Discovering 'My Dyslexia' At 58
09 September 2011
As a child, Philip Schultz didn't understand why he couldn't learn. He was held back twice and both his classmates and teachers ignored him. When he revealed that he wanted to be a writer, he was ridiculed.
Schultz went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. But it wasn't until his young son was diagnosed with dyslexia that Schultz, then 58, had a name for the disorder that had plagued him his entire life.
The International Dyslexia Association estimates that nearly 1 in 5 people suffer from dyslexia, a learning disability that makes reading difficult. Like Schultz, many people with dyslexia go undiagnosed.
In his book, My Dyslexia, Schultz shares his childhood struggles, how he coped and what he hopes others can learn from his experience.
08 September 2011Congratulations to former pupil James Helm for his success in getting into university to study engineering.
Tom Lewis: 'If golf doesn't turn out to be my life, I'm going to struggle' - Independent Online
07 September 2011
The 20-year-old, who lit up this year's Open, gave up on school a long time ago, so sure is he of succeeding when he turns pro next week. But first for Walker Cup glory!
Tom Lewis has been waiting for this week his entire life. As a young boy with dyslexia in a schoolroom which held no interest, he would sit there dreaming of the time he would beat the Americans for Great Britain and Ireland. And then, how the very next day he would turn pro and beat the rest for himself.
Nigel Edwards will be relieved to hear that, for Lewis, this weekend at Royal Aberdeen will be a case of "all or nothing". But then, the Walker Cup captain will know this has long been the young Englishman's soundtrack. In the run-up to this year's Open Championship, Edwards told anyone who would care to listen to watch out for Lewis. "Tom will make a splash at Sandwich," he promised.
Yet despite his dyslexia and his lack of interest there was the chance to further his education. The majority of those who will line up with and against him at the Walker Cup are on University scholarships and the talent-hunters focus on the scorecards rather than the exam marks. "I was asked if I wanted to go to US college and was told not to worry about my schoolwork – they would do it for me," said Lewis. "But I didn't want to do that. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly. I wasn't going to sit in class and let someone else do my work. What's the point of that?"
"It is exciting that it's so close, but my focus this week will be purely on the Walker Cup," said Lewis. "The Americans are a great team with great players and might have the advantage. But Royal Aberdeen will suit us. If we play well enough we'll win and if we don't we won't. It's a fine line in golf. All or nothing, really."
Harrow student reaches dream of going to Cambridge - Harrow Times 31st August 2011
31 August 2011
A Harrow student has reached his dream of going to Cambridge University after overcoming dyslexia at school.
Alexander-Nicholas Christou Cakkos, 18, from Rooks Heath School, in Eastcote Road, achieved three A-levels with A* for psychology, A* for geography and A for economics.
He will be attending Robinson College, at Cambridge, to study a course in Land Economy.
Alexander said: “I wasn’t too worried on results day but I was so happy when I realised I had got into Cambridge.
“It’s such a massive opportunity both academically and socially. A lot of people supported me through this time including my parents, my teachers and my friends. In school it was mainly spelling and reading I was having some trouble with and I would often get frustrated and sometimes de-motivated.
“Through a lot of discipline and just working through the dyslexia step-by-step I got there and now I am off to Cambridge.
“I want to thank my head of year, Miss Lane, and our headteacher, Dr John Reavley, who have both stood by me offering a lot of support.
“I would say to any student with dyslexia to try your best, work hard and plan out what you need to do. Search for the right role models who will guide you through and most importantly believe in yourself.”
Alexander's father said, “I am very proud of him as it’s his work that has got him here. We as parents can only be there as guides. We want to thank the British Dyslexia Association and also the late Professor Beve Hornsby, from the Hornsby International Dyslexia Centre, who took a particular interest in him. His dyslexia only motivated him to work harder and focus on getting to Cambridge."
Aiden Bishop: Misspelled
31 August 2011
Review of Aiden Bishop's show at the Edinburgh Festival - from the edinburghguide.com
This New York newcomer's show Misspelled is a definite single-topic solo show. His comedy revolves around his dyslexia and how it influenced his 1970s Queens upbringing. His affable performance, helped out by a projector and a computer-created voice delivers fairly consistant yet gentle laughs. Bishop has educated himself very well about the details of his dyslexia and his ultimate message about the condition is extremely positive, however his jokes never really make it to the level of the truly hilarious.
His observational imagery is good throughout as he proceeds to describe with admirable honesty the difficulties he faced in his upbringing as his dyslexia remained undiagnosed. His calm and measured delivery make a fairly tough deal in life seem less harsh, as he clearly uses it to derive humour rather than bitterness.
Dealing with subjects such as self-confidence, phonological slips and the myths surrounding dyslexia, his show is a fascinating insight into the world of the dyslexic mind. He provides examples of his own problems with writing, with an endearing self-deprecation, and he exposes the myths surrounding dyslexia with good humour. When he is in full campaigning mode, his jokes work best.
However, not all the jokes work as well as Bishop would like and though he is a very likable performer, the pace of the show is a little sluggish, there is very little in the show that is unlikeable, but you leave the Gilded Balloon feeling that Bishop's routine was building up to a fiery climax which never comes.
The very admirable aims of the show, to promote awareness about dyslexia, hit home well, and the audience finds itself better educated than when they went in, but as a comedy show "Misspelled" is a bit of a disappointment. It's not awful or unenjoyable by a long stretch, but the laughs it does deliver won't set the heather alight either.
If you are interested in learning more about Dyslexia in a funny and easygoing way, by all means go and see Aiden Bishop's show, you will certainly get something out of it. However if you want a top-notch comedy show, you might be a little disappointed at the pace and energy of this performance.
Kara Tointon: Don't Call Me Stupid
17 August 2011
Actress Kara Tointon presents a documentary about dyslexia and meets other dyslexics whose moving stories reveal the impact it can have on young lives without the right support.
'I want to know where my personality begins and dyslexia ends. I'm fed up with putting things on hold and having this vision that one day I'm going to be something different to who I am now'.
Actress Kara Tointon dreams about reading a novel cover to cover. Standing in her way is her dyslexia. Kara is now wondering whether this neurological condition is affecting her work as an actress and even her day-to-day life.
In this intimate documentary, Kara is tested and undergoes specialist help. She also meets other young dyslexics, many of whom share Kara's experience of feeling 'stupid'.
As Kara faces some difficult truths about herself, will she be able to take control of her condition and transform her life?
A very interesting programme and well worth watching it on the BBC i-player here:
Tiblo Lets Dyslexic Children Snap Words And Sounds Together Like Lego - from Co Design 8th August 2011
09 August 2011
Sumit Pandey's prototype educational toy is part building block, part reading aid.
Tiblo (tangible interactive blocks) is an "open-ended learning aid" developed by Sumit Pandey and Swati Srivastava to help dyslexic children become more facile with words, letters, and phonemes by "connecting" them physically like puzzle pieces.
Each colorful Tiblo is a "modular interactive electronic block" that can record 10 seconds of audio, play it back, and snap with other blocks to form syntactical patterns based on the meaning the child has assigned to the block. (The blocks are also designed with a broad gridlike surface that children or teachers can decorate with pictures, letters, pushpins, or anything else they like.)
If a child is having trouble reading a written word or sentence, its component parts can be assigned to Tiblo blocks and sounded out individually in the teacher's voice or the child's -- and then reconnected in other orientations.
"Children [with] dyslexia, besides having problems with standard written text, are also known to have problems remembering sequences, like in spelling, math problems, and stories," Pandey tells Co.Design. "Also, quite often, children have problems relating to their fine motor skills as well. So by connecting blocks of different colors together and recording voice-based hints into the blocks, the children can build up their own methods of remembering sequences like using color sequences, or using the onboard grid to create visual hints. It also enables the teachers in designing teaching activities which are participatory in nature where children can 'create' personalised solutions to given problems."
Pandey and Srivastava were inspired to create Tiblo while conducting a research project as volunteers at a school for dyslexic children in Ahmedabad, India. They created their prototype out of "circuits from hacked Chinese toys," says Pandey, which has a practical benefit: "Each prototype block costs under $5, [so] they can be given to children permanently and the children can then personalise their look and feel by drawing or papercraft."
Dyslexia makes voices hard to discern, study finds - BBC News 29th July 2011
08 August 2011
People with dyslexia struggle to recognise familiar voices, scientists suggest.
The finding is the first tentative evidence that small sounds in the human voice that vary between people are difficult for dyslexics to hear. Writing in the journal Science, the scientists say that many people could have some degree of "voice blindness". And by studying it, scientists hope to better understand how the human brain has evolved to recognise speech.
Humans rely on small sounds called phonemes to tell one person from another. As we first try to form the word dog, for example, phonemes are the "duh"-"og"-"guh" sounds that our parents prompt us to make. But as we master the ability to read, we become less reliant on recognising these sounds to read, and eventually stop noticing them.
Despite ignoring them, however, phonemes remain important for voice recognition. The tiny inflections in the way people pronounce phonemes gives a listener cues to tell one voice from another. Because people who suffer from dyslexia are known to struggle with phonemes when reading, a US-based team of scientists wondered whether they might also struggle hearing them in people's voices.
To investigate, the team grouped 30 people of similar age, education and IQ into two camps: those with and without a history of dyslexia. The subjects then went through a training period to learn to associate 10 different voices - half speaking English and half speaking Chinese - with 10 computer-generated avatars.
The subjects were then later quizzed on how many of those voices they could match to the avatars. Non-dyslexics outperformed people with a history of dyslexia by 40% when listening to English. However, this advantage disappeared when the groups were listening to Chinese.
Dorothy Bishop from the University of Oxford thinks that this is because "when [they] are listening to Chinese, it is a level playing field, because no one has learned to hear [Chinese] phonemes".
The researchers think that dyslexics don't have as comprehensive a phoneme sound library in their heads, and so they struggle when they hear phonemes spoken by unfamiliar voices because their "reference copy" isn't as well-defined. "It is a very interesting result... the only thing that I would really like to see to convince me... is if they were to repeat the experiment using Jabberwocky."
Using Jabberwocky, the nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, would allow the researchers to determine whether the listeners identify who's who from the meaning of what they are saying, or whether listeners are purely relying on the phonemes. Dr Bishop speculated that non-dyslexics may be worse at extracting the meaning of the words, meaning they under perform in this task.
Understanding the mechanics of voice recognition is important, said the study's lead author Tyler Perrachione from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, US, because it allows a listener to pinpoint a familiar voice above the hubbub of a crowded room. Mr Perrachione explained that very little is known about voice blindness, which is formally called phonagnosia. "In reality, phonagnosia is probably much more common," he explained, "but people who don't recognize that voices sound different may not even realize they lack the ability to tell voices apart."
Reading aloud in class broke my confidence, says chef Marco Pierre White
05 August 2011
Chef Marco Pierre White has told of his battle learning to read - and revealed that he still relies on "giant picture books".
As he backed the Evening Standard's literacy campaign, the restaurateur said he used cooking as a way to cope with his difficulties reading and writing.
Pierre White, the youngest chef to attain three Michelin stars, said that at school he found reading aloud in class "very belittling, very humiliating".
"The teachers knew that I struggled and I could hear the other children laughing so it broke my confidence down. When I left school I was 16 years old. Did I struggle with how to read? Yes I did. Did I struggle with how to spell? Yes I did," he said.
He added: "I was very fortunate that I entered a world where I didn't have to read or write. I entered a world of cooking where I expressed with my fingers and so that built my confidence. Over the years I've taught myself how to read. I've taught myself how to spell.
"I still struggle but I have to read very slowly and because I read slowly and because I struggle to absorb, I tend not to read, even though I have thousands of books at home, they're all giant picture books."
Pierre White said he realised he was dyslexic when his son was diagnosed after his school alerted the family. "They went into great detail about dyslexia and that's when I was able to label myself as being dyslexic. They could have been talking about the same boy, but many years previous when I was a boy they never spoke of dyslexia."
He added: "It's not a stigma to be labelled with dyslexia. Individuals with dyslexia have great talents and great qualities."
Dyspraxia Foundation - Creative Writing Challege
04 August 2011
Team Dyspraxia know that young people with dyspraxia can be very imaginative so they have decided to launch this creative writing challenge. Can you harness your imagination and energy to produce a piece of creative writing for the Dyspraxia Foundation?
We are looking for pieces of non fiction, short stories and poems up to 500 words long on the themes of -
Hopes and Dreams
These will be published in a book which will be available to purchase from the Dyspraxia Foundation in time for Christmas.
This opportunity is open to members of the Dyspraxia Foundation aged up to and including 25 years. We hope to include around 100 entries in the book. If multiple contributions are submitted, the Dyspraxia Foundation reserves the right to select those that are published. If we receive more contributions than we are able to publish, they will be included on the Dyspraxia Foundation website.
Send your entry by email to:email@example.com
or post to: Team Dyspraxia Writing Challenge, Dyspraxia Foundation, 8 West Alley, Hitchin, Herts SG5 1EG
Include your name, address, contact details and age of contributor.
Entries to be received by 12 noon on 15th September 2011
New typeface helps people with dyslexia read - from Global News
27 July 2011
A Dutch designer has come up with an innovative way to help people with dyslexia.
Christian Boer is developing a new typeface, called Dyslexie, which he hopes will make it easier for people suffering from the learning disability to read.
People suffering from dyslexia tend to mix up letters, especially ones that look similar, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’. Boer says font designers have compounded the problem by creating typefaces based on aesthetic appeal rather than readability.
The font Dyslexie combats this problem by making changes to easily rotated or inverted letters. For instance, letters are bolded on the underside, the ascender or descender of a letter is lengthened so the difference between the letter ‘h’ and the letter ‘n’, for example, is exaggerated.
Figuring out a diagnosis for dyscalculia - from The Irish Times 26/7/11
26 July 2011It has been estimated that we encounter more than a thousand numbers an hour. From speed limits to page numbers and the price of bread to the billions transferred to the banks, numbers provide a backdrop to daily life that most people process without effort. But when you have dyscalculia, a condition that impairs the ability to understand numbers, everyday tasks can present a real challenge.
Sabrina Dent, from Cork, was diagnosed with dyscalculia as a child. “I have difficulty with numbers and number order, so things like reading an analogue clock is difficult, as are tasks like reading and dialling phone numbers,” she says. “I am bad with distances, so I have a tape measure and use it much more than most people do. I also can’t count change. I hand the lady a handful of change and take whatever she gives back to me.”
Although many of us profess no love for maths, we routinely perform calculations without really thinking – such as working out if there’s time to press the snooze button again or which coins you need for the parking meter. People with dyscalculia, who lack an intuitive grasp of numbers, can struggle to perform the arithmetic involved in even seemingly simple tasks such as these.
“It’s a deficit,” says Dent. “The question is, how large a deficit is it going to be? It’s always going to be there – you’re just plugging the hole to the best of your ability.”
Dent grew up in New York where her dyscalculia was spotted at an early age. “I was lucky; I went to an extremely progressive school in New York that didn’t have grades. The teachers worked with me at my pace. If I had been in a public school, I can’t imagine what my experience would have been like, even with a support system.”
Despite being first identified in the 1970s, there is still relatively little known about dyscalculia.
Máirín Barry, a lecturer on special education needs at the UCD School of Education, says more research is needed to understand the condition in Ireland. “We’re probably where dyslexia was 30 years ago in terms of our understanding of dyscalculia,” she says. “The priority was literacy – to get everybody literate and able to leave school with the ability to read and write. Now we’ve turned our attention to this area.”
About 6 per cent of people are thought to be affected with dyscalculia and the earlier it is recognised, the better.
“The most specific diagnosis would be through an educational psychologist,” says Barry. “If it’s diagnosed at a younger age, we can help to develop number sense through the use of materials. Parents can help children learn about numbers with activities like pairing socks and setting a table: putting out one knife, one fork and one plate for everyone.”
Without learning support, numeracy problems can be reinforced at school. “Traditional teaching methods, while very effective at developing calculation skills if you have a good rote memory, tend not to develop good understanding of maths,” says Barry. “This continues through the system and you end up with people who in their daily lives agonise over how to pay a tip or how much material to order.”
By the time you’re an adult, dyscalculia can be hard to spot as it is compounded by other factors, such as maths anxiety and poor teaching methods. Research in the UK has shown that adults with numeracy problems – of which people with dyscalculia are one group – are significantly disadvantaged. By the age of 30, those with low numeracy have lower employment prospects, earn less, are more likely to suffer from physical and mental illness and are more likely to get in trouble with law.
Brian Butterworth, professor of cognitive neuropsychology at University College, London, and an expert in dyscalculia, says the biggest challenge for dyscalculia is getting wider recognition for the condition. “Kids who can’t learn arithmetic are regarded as being stupid. But they’re not; they’ve got this rather selective deficit. Recognition would mean that sufferers would have access to specialised help, just as sufferers from dyslexia do. Specialised help would raise their mathematical competence and make them more able to cope with the demands of a numerate society.”
Barry says that without greater awareness of dyscalculia, diagnosis and support is difficult.
“An acknowledgement of its existence is creeping in in Ireland, but there’s no formal approach. It is very frustrating because people have a very strong sense it exists, but it’s hard to approach because each individual’s experience would be compounded in different ways.”
For Dent, dyscalculia has affected every area of her life, from personal finance to her choice of career. “I make straightforward investments and I have a straightforward household budget – I bundle services to suppliers because it’s easier to deal with one set of numbers,” she says. “At college I was really interested in science, but couldn’t take the courses I wanted to because I couldn’t do the maths part. Now I work in visual design. It’s unfortunate for bright people to have opportunities closed off to them without the correct support.”
However, she says technological developments have helped enormously. “I used to spend my life running around going, ‘Does anybody have a calculator?’ and now Google will do maths for me,” she says.
A YOUNG photographer from the Duston Camera Club who has dyslexia and dyscalculia has overcome the odds to achieve a first class honours degree in photography
25 July 2011
Kirsty Skears, aged 21, of Hassocks Hedge, Hunsbury, achieved a first in her degree at the University of Wolverhampton this year.
Miss Skears suffers from dyslexia which affects her reading and writing, and dyscalculia which affects her ability to work out mathematical problems and tell the time.
On her achievement, Miss Skears, who is considering studying for a masters degree in fine art before she starts work as a photographer, said: “I got lots of help at university and it was a lot of hard work but I am so happy that I have achieved this.
“I worked hard and studied constantly but I really enjoyed university and it was worth it.”
The University of Wolverhampton provided Miss Skears with special equipment to help her complete her degree course, including a computer which could type as she talked.
She added: “People at school used to think I was stupid because they didn’t understand, so it’s great to know that I have managed to do this.
“I hope that other people suffering with the same things might be inspired by this and realise that they can achieve in the same way too.”
Apprentice winner thanks his dyslexia
25 July 2011
The Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau has spoken out about how being dyslexic helps him in the world of business.
Tom says his learning difficulties had enabled him to realise his strengths and weaknesses from a young age.
“Because of my dyslexia I was rubbish at some things like languages and English so I was always going to be scientific,” said Tom, 31.
“I discovered I could do things better than other people. If I had an idea, I could visualise it in my brain and spin it around.
“Not everyone can do that. Dyslexia for me has always been a massive positive.”
As The Apprentice winner, Tom gets to go into business with the show’s Lord Alan Sugar with a cash injection of £250,000.
Evidence grows that sport is a productive path for dyslexics
21 July 2011
From The Independent
Oxford University's professor of physiology John Stein, brother of TV chef Rick, is chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust and suggests the idea that dyslexia ...
18 July 2011
Our sponsored walk to raise money for our linked school in Tanzania went ahead on Wednesday, June 29th. It was lovely to have so many parents and friends walking with us as we experienced the long distance the children in Mmalimu school had to walk each morning. We finished tired but happy.
We are delighted that we have raised £2,550 from sponsorship money which will go a long way towards the funds needed to build the Tanzanian children their new classroom. Well done to everybody who walked and supported us in this event.
HORRID HENRY – THE MOVIE !!
16 June 2011
YIPPEE!!! THE UNICORN SCHOOL HAS BEEN DONATED 3 TICKETS TO THE REGIONAL PREMIERE OF ….
HORRID HENRY – THE MOVIE
Starring Anjelica Huston, Parminder Nagra and Richard E. Grant
This exclusive event will take place at The Ultimate Picture Palace on 27th July 2011
Congratulations to Amelia and family who won the adult and two children’s tickets for this event. We hope you enjoy it!
All proceeds from the draw will go to The Unicorn Bursary Fund
What a party we had!!
14 June 2011
The marquee was erected, the scones were baked and the sun shone for The Unicorn Garden Party to celebrate 20 years of the school.
It was a glorious day and over 300 guests arrived. We were delighted to see current pupils and parents and to welcome back many pupils and their families from previous years. We were also delighted to see many former teachers and current and ex governors.
The afternoon was full of fun and games and we released over a 100 balloons in a race to celebrate The Unicorn's 20th Birthday.
We also welcomed to the school the winners of the first National Dyslexic Writing Competition, devised as part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations and prizes were awarded to 17 worthy winners. (The picture shows Unicorn School pupil Edward Woolley with Rebecca Bleasdale Head of Communications at competition sponsor RM plc and Naomi Hargreaves, fund raiser at the school).
We would also like the send a big ‘thank-you’ to all our sponsors:
Ben Burrows at Holywell Press
A&J Catering Limited
Mark and Angela Chambers
The Handmade Cake Company
Pete Seaward – Photographer
Lulu Marquees of Henley
Fabulous Bakin’ Boys
Booker – Oxford
and of course Balloon Time and click4balloons.co.uk - a fast nationwide online service with low prices
The Unicorn School Gains Eco-Schools Accreditation
07 June 2011
The Unicorn School in Abingdon has been accredited with Eco-Schools’ Bronze award.
The Eco-Schools programme is the largest sustainable schools’ programme in the world and in the UK is being run by Keep Britain Tidy. The programme requires schools to work on 9 environmental and sustainable topics:-transport, waste, water, litter, school grounds, healthy living, energy, biodiversity and global perspective.
Having initially registered online, the first job Mike Pickett, the teacher at the Unicorn over-seeing the project, had to do was to form an ‘Eco-Schools action team’; this comprised staff and pupils from the school who wanted to help make a difference.
His team’s first job was to conduct an environmental review and to develop an action plan; from there moving on to start work towards their Bronze Award by focusing on the actions of one of the topics, choosing ‘global perspective’.
Mike says “We decided to focus on a school in Tanzania who were in desperate need of some assistance. Friends had been raising money towards the building of a school for the Maasai villages around Loliando. One classroom is complete, two staff teach about 60 children each day, and a kitchen provides food from The World Health Organisation. Disposable cameras given to some of the school children allowed all our pupils to understand a little more about Maasai life and their schooling; we are learning much from them that we can apply to our own lives. Now we are in the process of raising money to support different projects there and this was a great way to look at the ‘global perspective’ topic for our Bronze Award.”
More information can be found at www.eco-schools.org.uk; in the meantime the Unicorn Action Team are making plans to win their silver award, the next step on the way to an ultimate ‘Green Flag’!
Private Film Viewing Raises School Funds!
23 May 2011
Thanks to all who supported our private viewing of The Wildest Dream on Friday 20th May and who helped us raise OVER £2,500 with more to come!!
It is an excellent result and our thanks again to all who made this possible.
Please support these sort of events at the school - they are absolutely vital!!
Mwalimu School Fundraising
11 March 2011
Thank you to all children, parents, staff and visitors for all your spare coins which we have collected over the last few months to raise money for a school in Tanzania which has virtually no resources. We managed to achieve our aim of going right the way round our school building. We can now use our pocket money to buy basic resources such as paper, pencils and crayons for the Tanzanian children.
Michael Morpurgo's Visit to the Unicorn School
07 October 2010
In honour of our 20th birthday celebrations and in association with Walker Books and RM
came to talk with our children on October 7th 2010