The Dyslexia Teaching Centre has an interesting beginning. It was founded in 1978 by Sister Mary John, who had retired from her position as Headmistress of the Sisters’ School in Sidmouth. As anyone who knew Sister Mary John realised, retirement from education was unlikely. She trained at Barts in the then new discipline of dyslexia therapy and set about establishing a teaching centre for children with dyslexia. Her energy and skill meant that the Centre grew rapidly and by 1985, under the direction of Adrian Stokes, the Centre became a registered charity with a Board of Trustees and a Bursary Fund, supporting those who needed help but were unable to fund assessment or tuition themselves. Since those days, the Centre has continued to grow and flourish. A move in 2004 to larger premises on the same site enabled the centre to expand the multi-disciplinary team of specialists to cover the full range of learning difficulties.
Who works at the centre?
The DTC’s specialist tutors are all fully trained to teach children and adults with specific learning difficulties. Teaching starts after an initial assessment, and with reference to any existing educational psychologist reports. Lessons are individually planned and employ a range of multi-sensory methods, to suit the specific learning style. Targets are set at the beginning of each term; and lessons carefully recorded and adjusted to the level of progress. At the end of each term reports are written to assess achievement and identify future targets.
The DTC has several tutors who specialise in supporting students with specific learning difficulties who are at university. We have strong links with the Royal College of Art, the Royal College of Music, The Royal Academy of Music and Heythrop College, University of London.
Speech & language difficulties, including poor receptive or expressive vocabulary, are often experienced by children with dyslexia and dyspraxia. The DTC has close links with experienced speech & language therapists and can coordinate a programme to incorporate an element of speech & language.
Sally Wright, a leading paediatric physiotherapist, works at the DTC, together with colleagues who specialise in occupational therapy. Sally Wright offers assessments for children with motor or sensory difficulties, often associated with dyspraxia. An assessment would be followed by a detailed plan of therapy and accompanying exercises to strengthen and develop any underlying weaknesses. Sally Wright also offers specialist hand-writing therapy and intensive courses.
Four different child and educational psychologists work at the DTC, each specialising in a slightly different age group. A full assessment includes a battery of tests – tests of cognitive ability, diagnostic tests and attainment tests, documentation of the individual’s relevant background and a diagnosis of any specific learning difficulty. A written report would be submitted to include detailed recommendations for therapy and support.
Fully qualified teacher assessments for children are available at the DTC. These assessments are diagnostic. They include performance scores and any indications of underlying specific learning difficulties, together with full specialist teaching recommendations and ways in which the child can be supported at home. Lessons following assessment are tailor-made to meet the specific needs of each individual.
The DTC has tutors who specialise in maths and the implications of dyslexia and dyspraxia in the learning and performance of maths. Specialist maths assessments are offered, pin-pointing the specific areas of difficulty and recommending relevant support and specialist teaching.
Many artistic children or adults also show signs of dyslexia or dyspraxia. The DTC has tutors who specialise in teaching musical or artistic children and adults with dyslexia or dyspraxia. Therapy includes assistance in learning an instrument, mastering sight-reading music, or completing a thesis at art school.
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