One in five children struggle to learn to read in our schools every day. Dyslexia Mid North Coast aims to support children, parents and teachers, increase awareness and share information on issues involving dyslexia.
Local school teacher Debbie Muir is a Dyslexia Specialist who received a scholarship via Dyslexia Mid North Coast in 2017 to attend the Institute for Multisensory Structured Language Education. Having recently graduated from her training, Debbie now shares her knowledge through the MSL programme with children, parents and teachers in our community.
You have recently graduated as a Dyslexia Specialist through the Institute for Multisensory Structured Language Education. What made you want to complete this programme?
Having grown up with a disabled brother, I was always trying to teach him to spell and read as a child. Through teaching, I discovered a major need for the implementation of phonics in our classrooms. Students were entering high school with limited skills in decoding unknown words and poor knowledge of the spelling of commonly used words. I had wanted to do this course for a while, but couldn’t afford it as a busy mum of four children. The opportunity arose to apply for the scholarship, so I went for it and got it!
How has your career changed since graduating from the programme?
Completing this course has changed my world! I have been fortunate enough to have been employed at St Columba Anglican School, where my skills and knowledge are valued and used on a daily basis. I have been able to implement the MSL course into our school across Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2. The results have been amazing! Our young students are reading and spelling well beyond their age due to the structured approach that MSL offers.
I am also working with older students before school, who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, teaching them the skills they need to read and write at grade level. It’s wonderful to watch their confidence and self-esteem grow from learning something so simple and easy to apply to the classroom learning environment.
Specialising in the education for people with dyslexia, can you share some of the ways you implement this into a daily school regime?
I’m currently teaching Year 2. We have spelling groups every day at the same time. During this time, we revise the sound pack that MSL offers. This involves using several senses to recall the sounds – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. We then use a technique of finger spelling words that relate to the spelling rule we are learning for the week.
I have created slide shows for all the rules that any class within the school can use. The student’s finger spell the words and clap the syllables. After this process, we then “encode”. This involves hearing the word in a sentence, saying the word, finger spelling the sounds they hear, and then writing what they hear. It’s a structured approach to learning spelling rules, and the students respond incredibly well to the routine and process.
I also use the MSL approach in small groups during our literacy groups and one-on-one for an intensive session with a struggling reader.
What are the benefits for children, parents and teachers in having a specialised programme for dyslexia run through our schools?
The benefits are incredible. I’ve had staff at St Columba’s comment on how quickly their students’ reading levels have improved since using the MSL approach.
It’s not just an approach for Dyslexic students; this approach benefits EVERY student! I thought I knew a lot about spelling until I did this course. It doesn’t just teach spelling patterns; it teaches the reasons why we spell words the way we do. People think the English language is the most challenging, but it’s actually incredibly simple once you know the reasons why certain sounds go together and when to use them.
The whole language approach that is currently used in schools teaches our children to guess unfamiliar words. It is now proven that it doesn’t work. Our young adults are leaving school as poor readers and spellers. To offer an approach that is the complete opposite to whole language and witness it working … makes me very proud to be a part of the MSL team.
Can you share some advice on how best to help children at home who may have dyslexia?
If you have a child that you are concerned about – maybe they aren’t remembering the sounds of the alphabet, maybe they struggle to read – get them assessed as early as possible. Early intervention is the key! Don’t wait until they are in Year 3 when their self-esteem is destroyed and they hate going to school. Children can be assessed as early as Kindergarten and Year 1.
If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, it is not the end of the world – they can still learn to read. And once they begin reading, they will just require more time than a typical reader. With the help of MSL, every child can learn to read and become successful in life.
What’s next for you as a Dyslexia
Great question! My dream would be to see MSL introduced in all schools across Australia and taught to all our pre-teachers at universities. Many schools around the country have taken off with it, and I’d love to be the person that leads the way to seeing the Mid North Coast on the map for MSL.
Join us at these locations to support the one in five children who struggle to learn to read, write and spell.
15th Oct – The Glasshouse from 7 pm;
15th-19th Oct – Port Macquarie Town Square;
25th Oct – Tacking Point Lighthouse from 7 pm;
25th – 27th Oct – The Westport Club.