Belief in own abilities produces results

Having faith in their own abilities produces positive results for pupils with severe dyslexia. This is the conclusion of a qualitative study carried out at the Reading Centre. Two thirds of the pupils reported progress in an 8 month period.

Pupils with dyslexia and reading and writing difficulties have problems putting the right sound with the right letter. They find it difficult to read words, and to remember how to spell words. These pupils are not generally struggling to learn. They can be creative and gifted in other areas, but they struggle with reading and writing.

Dyslexia can run in families. Children can inherit a predisposition for dyslexia, but so far we know little about who in a family will struggle with these difficulties. About five percent of the population has dyslexia. Most of them will over time learn to read well enough to get by.

Failure destroys motivation

– A small group of children have extensive and lasting difficulties. These pupils show little progress despite systematic training and follow-up from their school and local Educational Psychological Service (EPS) offices.

Pupils with these kinds of difficulties come to us for evaluation, says assistant professor Anne-Brit Andreassen. With Professor Ann-Mari Knivsberg, she has carried out a study of how these pupils have fared eight months after having been to the Reading Centre for evaluation. 65 pupils from twelve counties have taken part in the study.

Teachers say about the pupils’ development:

  • They have faith in themselves
  • They have more go-ahead spirit
  • They have better endurance
  • They are no longer reluctant
  • They are motivated to work

– One of the clearest finds is that the belief in their ability to succeed is crucial in determining whether these students make any further progress. They have often met failure after failure in terms of their own development, says Andreassen.

– Understandably, they have often become very little motivated to read. Our program for these pupils is based on finding other ways of moving forwards, which they themselves want to try.

– If you can’t run, cycling may be a good alternative. You get where you’re going, but in a different way. Every time pupils with severe dyslexia find that they are able to master something, their belief that they can actually learn to read and write is strengthened. However, it requires repeated experiences of mastering and support from parents, school and the EPS.

Understanding why 

– Pupils reported having a greater understanding of what dyslexia is, and that the motivation to practise reading and writing had gone up. We believe this is because we focus on what the pupils master when we guide them. Additionally we encourage them to believe that they will succeed, Andreassen says.

Through our quality assurance system, we ensure that measures we implement are discussed and understood, by the EPS, the school, the parents, and not least, the pupils themselves.

– It is crucial that the pupils know why they are practising in this particular way, what’s the purpose of the different tasks and the reward for trying them out. We find that pupils come to us and have practised for years, without knowing why. That makes the practise meaningless, and motivation drops. We always recommend that the results of systematic training is visualised, through diagrams for instance, so that they can see the progress they’ve made.

Parents about a pupil’s progress:

"I was surprised at how well he read. He has refused to read to me for a long time, but I got him to read to me the other day, and I think his reading is much better than before." 

New approaches

– It is also important to keep in mind that the problems can be worked on in different ways. We recommend new approaches, says Knivsberg, and adds: – It is however, also important to emphasise that we can suggest measures, but it is up to the pupil to do the work. – If the pupils don’t put in the effort, it is impossible to get a positive trend, and we tell them this.

 – It is not just the pupils who report progress. Parents and schools also evaluate their experiences in the follow-up work. This material also points to a positive trend, and there is an opportunity for further research here, Andreassen says.

Few studies have been made of pupils with severe dyslexia. We need more intervention studies for this group. Anne-Brit Andreassen has written an article which has been accepted by Dyslexia, a recognized periodical for reading and writing difficulties and dyslexia. Ann-Mari Knivsberg and Pekka Niemi are co-writers of the article.