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6th Forward Meeting Grundtvig 4 Socrates Programme. Specific Learning Difficulties Service Malta 26th - 28th February, 2004 Christine Firman . Overview of presentation. Language teaching in Malta Early attitudes to dyslexia The role and contribution of the SpLD Service

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6th Forward Meeting Grundtvig 4 Socrates Programme

Specific Learning Difficulties Service


26th - 28th February, 2004

Christine Firman

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Overview of presentation

  • Language teaching in Malta

  • Early attitudes to dyslexia

  • The role and contribution of the SpLD Service

  • Research on dyslexia in Malta

  • Resources and materials

  • The relevance of the Grundtivg 4 FORWARD Project for SpLD Service

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Language issue in Malta

  • Bilingualism is the basis of the educational system - it entails ‘the effective, precise and confident use of the country’s two official languages: Maltese, the national language and English. This goal must be reached by the students by the end of their entire schooling experience.’

  • Students are expected to develop competence in both languages .

  • Further complicates the life of a dyslexic individual

  • Early identification of dyslexia imperative.

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Research on dyslexia

  • No funded research has been carried out on dyslexia.

  • Projects of undergraduates

    • Adults and phonological awareness

    • The SpLD child and Italian as a foreign language

    • Developing literacy skills of children in lower streams

    • Illiteracy in Malta

    • the underlying skills of children in lower streams

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How did awareness start to develop?

  • 4-month Course for Remedial teachers.

  • Core group of 12 teachers.

  • Slowly children, mainly Primary school children, were referred for an assessments.

  • Awareness started to develop in classroom contexts.

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  • No Working Party has ever been commissioned to work on the implications of dyslexia in Malta.

  • Definitions of the BDA, the International Dyslexia Association, BPS

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  • Dyslexia can be identified as distinctive patterns of difficulties, relating to the processing of information, within a continuum from very mild to severe, which results in restrictions to literacy development and discrepancies in performance within the curriculum

    • (Reid, 1998)

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  • Dyslexia is evident when accurate and fluent word reading and /or spelling develops very inaccurately or with great difficulty. This focuses on literacy learning at the ‘word level’ and implies that the problem is severe and persistent despite appropriate learning opportunities. It provides the basis of a staged process of assessment through teaching.

    • Report by a Working Party of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology of the BPS, 1999

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Is dyslexia a disability?

  • Disputes have arisen regarding whether dyslexia should be considered a disability

  • Many Maltese parents are not keen to refer to dyslexia as a disability.

  • No funding is available for dyslexic students

  • SEA were attained with the support of the National Commission for the disabled.

  • The Commission would support those who might be marginalized because of dyslexia.

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What work is carried out by the SpLD Service?

  • Awareness and understanding of condition.

  • Assessments

  • Liaise with schools and colleges

  • Support on an individual basis when possible

  • Courses for parents

  • Seminars for teachers

  • 3-day voluntary in-service training course

  • Policies for Special Exam Arrangements

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Contribution of British High Commission

  • Funding for dyslexia limited

  • British High Commission sponsored some reading materials.

  • Formal presentation of books and C.Ds geared towards dyslexic individuals.

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  • Difficulties with funding partially solved - funding is now available for books, computer programmes, C.Ds and materials which have been recommended by colleagues in the FORWARD Project!

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Awareness RaisingCourses

  • Introductory Courses for parents (what is dyslexia? how to read, spell and study at home).

  • Study skills courses for secondary school students

  • PAIRED READING courses[video on Paired Reading]

  • 3-day In-Service training courses for teachers

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Awareness RaisingSeminars

  • Overseas visitors - Gillam, Hulme & Snowling, Gauntlett, Hales, McKay.

  • I.T. and the dyslexic individual

  • Teachers / parents [video -Jackie Stewart]

  • Paulo Freire [video - LLLU]

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What population does SpLD Service work with?


  • Primary school students

  • Secondary school students

  • Adults

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Who refers students to the SpLD Service?

  • Child Development Assessment Unit

  • School Psychological Service

  • Schools

  • Parents

  • Paulo Freire

  • Adults themselves who begin to identify their problem through their child’s diagnosis.

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Why is an assessment required?

  • Often because of concern with examination - especially 11+ exams and MATSEC exams.

  • Adults come forward because of -

    • problems in being accepted in the post-secondary course selected

    • difficulties passing exams

    • limited chances of promotion

    • difficulties with studying course content (c/f h’dresser, electrician, soldier, cook)

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What happens during an assessment?

  • Interviews - Klein (1995), Sunderland, Klein, Savinson and Partridg,e (1997), McCloughlin, Fitzgibbon and Young (1994)

  • Essay writing (English and Maltese)

  • Spelling tests

    • single word spelling English and Maltese

  • Reading tests

    • single word reading (English and Maltese)

    • prose reading (mostly English)

  • Bangor Test

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    What are the consequences of an assessment?

    • If dyslexic -

      • information given to schools

      • exam provisions

      • school support (when possible)

      • courses for children

      • parents invited to attend courses

      • reports for employers if employee has to sit exam or hindered from a promotion.

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    Difficulties encountered by young adults

    • Fear of openly discussing their problems.

    • Embarrassment that they might be mocked or ridiculed because society still knows too little about the condition.

    • Associate dyslexia with their early school days.

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    How do young adults feel about dyslexia?

    • Grace Camilleri

    • (Teacher SpLD Service)

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    Opportunities for dyslexic adults

    • Still very limited

    • Some years ago - Dyslexia Association, ETC and SpLD worked collaboratively.

    • Lack of continuation due to funding.

    • No course exists at present.

    • Adults helped on an individual basis - when possible!

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    Teacher training and specific learning difficulties

    • University undergraduates have a 14 hr course on SpLD

    • Undergraduates teachers of English - Developing Alternative literacy skills

    • P.E. teachers

    • Undergraduate research

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    Materials and Resources (1)

    • Tapes - literature (English books recorded by local readers)

    • Classical literature C.Ds.

    • Study skills

    • Mind mapping - books and C.Ds

    • ACE dictionaries

    • Reading pen

    • Spell checker

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    Materials and Resources (2)

    • LLLU materials

    • Units of Sound (D.I.)

    • Materials on the development of phonological awareness

    • The Edith Norrie Letter Case

    • Beat Dyslexia

    • Toe by Toe

    • MLS

    • International Book of Dyslexia

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    How has the SpLD Service benefited from the FORWARD project?

    • Discussions with others regarding difficulties with definition, testing, resources.

    • Exploring ways of resolving problems.

    • Acquiring materials and resources appropriate for adult dyslexics.

    • Realization that awareness of dyslexia in adults is still developing and much work has to be done to fully support individuals.