Darius: Hello welcome to dyslexia explored. I’ve got a really interesting podcast ahead of us here. We recognize the importance of Facebook groups and we reached out to an admin of a substantial Facebook group. I want to introduce you to the co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Support. She’s part of the admin team of a Facebook group of 4,000 plus members and it’s also got subgroups. So it’s going to be an interesting podcast to discover the story behind this. I’d like to introduce you to Heidi Gregory. Heidi, thanks for coming on the podcast.
Heidi: Thank You Darius you’re a lovely invitation.
Darius: I’m really looking forward to this because I’m also a Facebook group admin. I know what goes on behind the scenes and how much passion that involves to to connect people like this. So our listeners all know that I ask the same kind of questions and it’s just marvelous to here all the different kinds of answers that come from it. So we’re gonna follow the same pattern, he three main chunks are; what’s the big story, how did you learn in the story, what tools are in your travel bag. So let’s get launched into your big story. Tell us a little bit about what life was like before your story began.
Heidi: My son is now 15. He was a lovely kid. The biggest joke teller. The biggest story teller. His stories at the dinner table were hilarious he was active at kinder. He was just the funniest kid. He did although, have frequent ear infections. When he was about four he had his tonsils and he had grommets in his ears. We didn’t know that he was unable to hear us. He was however able to lip read. So he was hilarious. A hilarious kid. Went into the classroom in prep and he was that class clown. He loves school. He was passionate about school on his first day of school he bought his Teddy. He was so excited. The story then unfolds that when we get to the end of grade one, we began to realize that for him the reading path wasn’t going to be very straightforward. We’d read him Thomas the Tank Engine books as a child and little did we realize that was he was memorizing the books. So when we asked him to read the stories back to us, we kind of got the story but we didn’t really get the story. He had memorized the story and was reading the story. That took a long time before we realized that he was struggling and that he failed to learn how to read when he was at school.
Darius: What was the the wake-up call? Was it a person or an encounter that woke up?
Heidi: There was a number of reasons. A number of signals for us. One of them was his inability to read the stories but my my background is in libraries. Obviously I’ve worked a lot of books and we have a house full of books and we read him frequently. It wasn’t until we have substitute teacher that actually sat us down at the end of probably grade one and said that he was struggling and he needed to get some assistance. So the school we’re going to put him into reading recovery. And at that stage we didn’t know anything about intervention and I certainly didn’t know anything about this dyslexia. I had no idea. I don’t like heard about it. I didn’t know anybody. Certainly not in my family it wasn’t obvious that someone disliked school and they had a reading difficulty. She really did drive us to make some changes. My son was put into the reading recovery class. We didn’t know I just assumed that through all of the friends that we had that it was going to click. It was a boy thing that we just had to wait. So we waited and it became pretty evident that nothing was happening with his reading. So we asked.. I saw a note on the board at school. It said there was an ex-principal and he was really keen to help families maybe with reading. So we asked him to come in every Sunday. We would pay him to come and try and teach our child had a read and it just didn’t work and so we wasted a year. A year went by and we kept asking maybe there’s something else we need to address and nothing happened
Darius: How old was he at this stage?
Heidi: He was probably around seven and a half or eight before we really decided that something was going on. Bit amiss and we still weren’t sure what it was going or what was happening. We clearly could see that he was very bright. He was very inventive and loved telling stories. So a friend suggested that we go for psychologists assessment and that’s what did.
Darius: What was the big challenge? What I mean obviously he was dyslexic and it comes with lots of different challenges but what I’m really fascinated by in these kind of stories is what was the main challenge for you in all of this that you saw in this whole thing?
Heidi: For me it was about grieving. It was about grieving for my child who was not going to be a voracious reader. It was grieving for my child because I didn’t know anything about learning difficulties. I had no idea. I began to realize that his behavior was the thing that was being picked up at school and was nothing was being really remediated in an effective evidence-based way. So we were grieving in effect we we got to the point where we just thought is he ever going to learn how to read properly? How do we do this? No one told us. There was no book that I could find that would actually say ‘this is your child. This is what’s going to happen what you need to do.’ I was profoundly upset, profoundly shocked that I just assumed that he would learn how to read.
Darius: Because everyone does sort of thing eventually sort of thing that’s the assumption.
Heidi: Correct what I didn’t recognize was that oral language for my son was going to come naturally as it does to most people but the idea of learning how to reads was actually about decoding words. I was a child of the 60’s so we learnt how to decode and how to break words up into syllables and I didn’t know that this wasn’t going to be taught to my son. I didn’t know that we couldn’t break the words up into the 44 sounds that you need for the English language. I didn’t know. As I said I’m working libraries I’m not a teacher so I could see though that my teacher didn’t know that my son couldn’t read. And she didn’t know how best to teach my son.
Darius: Okay, so your challenge was finding a way to overcome this grief as it were– how did you do that? What got you over it?
Heidi: It was tough I had to once we got our psychologists report that failed to identify that he had a decoding issue even though it was obvious. I started to get a sense that I needed to do some more research. As a parent, I knew where to go to the root to get the research. I actually ended up writing to Dr. Richard Selznick in the States who had released a book. And it was a very smart evidence-based book and I sent him my son’s 52 page report and I said ‘can you make sense of it?’. He said your child, it’s obvious, he has dyslexia. Go and find a Orton and Gillingham Tutor. I’m profoundly grateful that I made that leap to get in contact with somebody who I could reach out to. And he’s still friends. He’s still one of my very close personal friends to this day and he’s helped us on on our journey
Darius: Great! So actually we did an interview with Lee Doyle in another podcast episodes where she’s in Sydney Australia. She had a similar story where she ended up having to drive two hours to hear a talk about Orton-Gillingham and brought it back to Sydney eventually after she got her child taught. So you used a phonics based system like Orton-Gillingham to help your child’s read basically.
Heidi: We did. In the end, the short story was that we ended up getting a tutor. We had to pay for a tutor because we realized that the school couldn’t help us effectively. We pulled him out of reading recovery and we decided to go along our our own path. We were advised to go and find a tutor and that’s what we did. We had a fantastic tutor. She was so helpful and so loving. She would come to our house and she would look after our child. He began to then build his self-confidence where he could read. So in effect he can read at peer level now. His spelling is very very poor. So he missed out on getting spelling intervention in the foundation years at the core learning period in his life. He’s missed out. So as a 15 year old
Darius: How long..? At what point did Orton-Gillingham come in then? What age?
Heidi: Probably.. It was late. So he would have been eight and a half. So for us it was a lot of guilt associated with not being able to identify. I think as a parent you carry this guilt with you. Had I done something earlier.. Had I had research.. Which is why as a parent you feel immense guilt that you haven’t been able to help your child as much as you possibly can to help them as an adult. Because it comes a point where you should be offering as much support as you can in the primer years. Because as a teenager you can teach but as a teenager they’re not engaged in spelling. They Don’t want to sit down and do this.
Darius: Yeah, so those eight and a half and then the one year’s worth of reading with that compared to the previous year’s worth of tutoring with that other teacher. What difference did one year using the phonics base compared to the other method?
Heidi: Huge difference! After eight months we could see an enormous difference. He’s calm. His level of confidence started to return. He was in.. So by this stage we were probably at the end of grade four where I realized that he was getting bullied at his primary school. So we decided to leave that school and move him across to a school that promised us that they were going to deliver some evidence-based intervention. And they did deliver. They delivered that for two very successful years. It didn’t pick up his spelling because time had passed. But it did cement his ability. He’s always had high comprehension skills in high oral language skills. So he was able to then.. his confidence move into his senior years from his primary school years.
Darius: Brilliant okay and now he’s up to peer level so he’s caught up
Heidi: He is absolutely. So the school that he’s at recognized dyslexia.
Darius: Is it a private school?
Heidi: It is unfortunately for it you know we should accept that all state high schools should offer this intervention but we’ve had to go private.
Darius: That’s an interesting thing I mean how do you feel as a parent? Because there’s this tension as a parent when you send your child to state school, you kind of think well you know, it’s a school for everyone. They’ll do it all won’t they? And then there’s this tension between; should we do start getting tutors, should we start going private. What was that whole scenario like for you when you had to start paying for tutors etc and that realization?
Heidi: It should be. We should an equal opportunity environment for all of our students regardless of whether they have learning difficulties. Evidence-based programs should be available to all students. It was very challenging financially. It was very challenging decision to have to make when we had not really anticipated that our child was going to go there in grade 5. I work full-time. My husband works full-time. We’ve had to work full-time. I also have a another child with dyslexia. I have a daughter with dyslexia who’s now going into high school and she has dyscalculia as well. So that’s a Maths component of the little puzzle that goes on. So now I actually have two children who will be going to private school. I would have preferred that all of our high schools we’re supportive in this way.
Darius: The next question is the reward. What were the rewards gained from facing this challenge? Now what I mean is; these four questions are designed to kind of encapsulate this into sort of a story structure. The end of the story is often the person going through the challenge has a reward both for themselves and for the others round about them. What have you received as a reward from this
Heidi: The recognition. I believe the recognition that my son is still the happy, laughing, storytelling child. But he has the self-confidence that will go with this now. He has moved on from the child who hated tutoring, hated to focus on his dyslexia. The shame associated that he felt was associated with his dyslexia. To move into an environment now where he is a confident 15 year old has a job, who can read at peer level. Not spelling but the reward for me now is knowing that we’ve moved from the primary school journey on to the secondary school journey and he wants to become a geologist. There’s no barrier for him and our family to know that he will be successful. Because there were a number of years whereas I talked about before I was at the grieving process. Where was he ever going to fit into an environment? How is he going to follow his career dream? He went to a gem class where he could learn how to polish gems and that was the thing that started his journey about being wanting to be a geologist. Now it seems as though with all of this intervention, all this and evidence-based intervention it appears that and enthusiastically embraced at a school level that he will go on and do this University and he will have a successful career. That’s the journey. That’s the exciting take away thing that I have from all of this. Because it has been a very long journey and it’s not one that we can hand over to a teacher. From one year to another year, we have to educate and say the same story over and over and over. To the point where I as a parent now I am really confident that I know that he will get to the point where he can meet his dream.
Darius: Wow. That’s wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Now I also know that it’s not stopped there because often the reward is something you give to other people. And I think you mentioned that sometimes some regrets can come with all of this
Heidi: I regret that these information was not available when we started on. I am profoundly grateful for Dr. Selznick. To who have made the diagnosis in America far from Australia. To be able to help me go on my journey. Part of the reward and the giving back from for myself and a bunch of women who were in exactly the same situation in 2014 was that there no Facebook groups that we could find in Victoria that focused on providing support in the same sense that I would have liked to have had support. We could get together and we were talking about how profoundly affected we had been when we discovered that our children were not able to read. So this is part of my community sense is that I’ve always given back to those people. I’ve always spoken loudly about ow the struggles that go on with my son in particular and talking endlessly about dyslexia. Because in some environments it’s a shame and families don’t talk about it. So to be able to share this knowledge I think this comes from my library background is that we need to talk about it. We need to share it. We need to include more people and so we started up a Facebook group in 2014 and it was just originally focused in Melbourne and then we changed its name and now we’re Dyslexia Victoria Support. So we provide evidence support. We provide the research. We provide the latest information coming from the season. We talk about things that affect all parents going on this same journey. But what we do is guide them along the journey a bit further than we were probably initially ourselves.
Darius: Yes so you’re using this group with over 4,000 people in it and encouraging them to get a jump start on all of this so the child doesn’t need to wait until they’re like your son eight and a half years old before they actually get a practical solution.
Heidi: That’s correct. So what we’re trying to do is send out as much.. and where supported by speech pathologist by, psychologists, by teachers, by a whole range of allied health professionals who are also members. They are more than happy to give their time away for free so that we all can go on this journey together. I’m profoundly grateful by the people who have become members of the Dyslexia Victoria Support because they only ever provide the information that helped parents. Not talk about.. We talk about snake-oil, endlessly, obviously, but we also talk about how to help a family get through the primary school years by providing support. But then we now also talk about and we probably always have is that we talk about how to survive the secondary school years. So we formed a group in 2014 there were a number of parents and there were some people who were actually working in the field as well decided to join us on our journey. Now we have 12 affiliated groups. We have parents running groups. We interconnect with international organizations like yourself and we connect with other organizations across the country all talking about how we can make change for our kids. I work in the agriculture industry full-time. I didn’t realize when we started this group that we were all going to move into learning difficulties in supporting our kids full-time. Because in effect that’s what we do. Our journey demands that we do this. Sharing the information demand that we do it. It is exhausting we do have an amazing collection of people who.. when one person isn’t available then other people will step in. They will step in with evidence and authority and that’s what we aim to do. Is it self-perpetuating. So we have people come in. We’ve had a couple of admins step off because it gets quite exhausting and then we have other people who come in. But we all collectively have the same vision that we all provide an evidence-based hub for parents; who are beginning their journey, who are in the middle of their journey, or some who have now begun to realize that when they head off into the senior years and they have to apply for accommodations then they have to apply for special exam conditions. Because in Victoria we have a government body who tend to regulate or you have to prove to them that your child has dyslexia. Again you have to go through that whole process and so it can be exhausting. There’s no doubt that when we get parents who come in on the wave of, I talked about NAPLAN before, who come in on the wave of getting their NAPLAN results that a lot of people will start. It’s trying to be calm, trying to give them the strength to be able to get on. How to arm them to go back into their schools and say ‘this is what we need’. or it might just simply be we have a tutor who’s in your area. If you’re interested this is where you should go.
Darius: What kind of answer would you give to other parents who are kind of like ‘I’m tired with this. Should I just let go a little bit? Where is the balance and all of this etc? You must have answered this question a lot.
Heidi: We get some powerful wins. We have a small group of people who are in a lobby group. This year we were nominated by one of our members for an award. It was the 2018 Victorian Premier Champion award for teamwork. This is our dyslexia group and we were amazed we were accepted. We are Facebook group. We’re a social media group. We don’t have an organization and we’re not a charity. We don’t do any financial transactions. One of the things that were the most proud of is that we were able to provide support that’s free. It’s one of the things that we’ve always maintained. We don’t charge. We have workshops. So we received recognition for this and it was a powerful statement to a lot of people who are in the dyslexia environment that we’re here. And part of that also was that this year we were also able to get a commitment from their shadow education minister for 2.8 million dollars for Decodable Books. That was amazing. We really didn’t think that we.. We had to pinch ourselves. Wow! What did they just say? We could get if they… It’s not just about the statement that they were making. It was that the politicians were beginning to take notice that we could stand up as a social media group. And we could make a real difference. That’s the stuff that we get. That feedback that we’re now on the map. We’ve been quoted in articles, probably not to a favorable level but we’re still out there, we’re still saying stuff and we’re still getting recognition. That’s the powerful message of this social media group of a Facebook group. You can make change even though you’re not an organization. Because they do begin to realize that we have a message and that is; we want evidence based support for our kids.
Darius: Wow. Well done. That’s brilliant!
Heidi: Thank you. Wait we had to pinch ourselves. We couldn’t believe it because we’ve just come up to a state election and unfortunately they didn’t get elected so we didn’t get the 2.8. It wasn’t just that. It was the media coverage that we got. We still haven’t been able to change the the education ministers mind but I think that’s coming. That’s because our lobby group is so effective. We also interact strongly with an Australian-based group and there’s another group called code read. They are changing the landscape. They’re supporting things on a national level. We’re doing things on a state-based level. It’s really powerful and we’re garnering more and more support.
Darius: What I love about your story is that; on the one hand, you realize the school system is not working for your child. So you’re dealing with it on the personal level; we need to get the tutors, we need to sort of supplement the system. But then on the other hand, you’re saying we also need to change the system as well. That’s an interesting balance because sometimes you go one way or the other, ‘no we’re just going to change the system and by the time the system’s changed five or ten years along a little bit, your child’s grown-up and past the point where they need it. Well they still need it but the window is shut.
Heidi: Yes. There’s a small group of us that are like; we’re still trying to deal with the issues that are going on in our family. I don’t go to a meeting with my school without an advocate now. I’ve got to the point now where I’ve worked out the formula that we need for this. We need evidence. We need the Decodable Books. We need an advocate. I need an advocate. I can’t go into a meeting without my without my advocate and my advocate is my peer. We have a peer to peer relationship
Darius: Wow. That’s very interesting. A lot of people listening saying you of all people wouldn’t need an advocate. Why would you need an advocate? State the obvious maybe to you but to the listeners, why would you need an advocate?
Heidi: the one thing that I’ve realized through all of this, I’m quite an emotional person and I do get very anxious at these meetings. I’ve worked in a school but I don’t understand how they work. I don’t understand why they just can’t provide evidence-based intervention from my children. I’ve been at primary schools where I’ve gone into meetings alone as a parent thinking that the evidence information that I’m taking to my primary school teacher would be recognized and acknowledged, and it wasn’t. I would go back and I would say but I can find you someone who can help your school understand and get the intervention and get the support. We’re looking at between one and five and one and ten kids in school would have a learning difficulty. It was completely ignored and I would keep going back to the point where I said to my tutor at the time ‘will you come with me to a meeting?’ She would come with me to the meeting and we would still get ignored. But if we move the kids to a school that recognizes this, then the tutor or the advocate became a very powerful support for me because I don’t have all of the knowledge. I’m still a parent. I don’t have all of the knowledge and I don’t know how to negotiate this. I’m still negotiating on behalf of my child. My support person is negotiating on behalf and trying to make change within the school. Not just behalf of my child but on a lot of children within the school. I have a fantastic support person. I have a amazing advocate and she’s been a friend of mine from the very beginning. She’s been there all the way through. Olivia’s been fantastic love her to death. Shout out for Olivia. Olivia Conley she’s just been amazing.
Darius: Brilliant! So let’s move on to the second section that was a long one but very useful. Thank you much Heidi. Let’s talk about how you learnt on that journey. As listeners, they’re all wondering. It’s great to hear the story. It’s really inspiring. Would you look back and say that was a key moment for me; was it a person, a group, or a course. What were the key learning moments for you? What were the ways of learning about dyslexia that you found useful?
Heidi: The key learnings that I encourage everybody to do is to find that one person who believes in them; whether it be a teacher or an advocate or your partner. Anybody who can go with you to the meeting, who you can bounce these ideas off, who is on the same wavelength, who can help you as a community go forward. Otherwise it can be a very lonely journey, this one.
Darius: So a key learning moment was a person to journey with you in those times. Who was that for you? What was the moment where you discovered that for yourself?
Heidi: There were a number of people that I touched along my journey. One of them obviously was Olivia Conley. There was Alison Clark, who’s an incredible person in the learning difficulties environment in Australia. She has a website called ‘spellphabet‘. She received the Mona Tobias award from learning difficulties Australia Today. She’s been an amazing inspiration to me as has Olivia. Sarah Aisom from Bentley West Primary School has been an amazing role model for me but also for teachers in a primary school setting. Sarah’s received the 2015 Victorian Primary School Teacher of the Year. She’s an amazing person who believes in Orton-Gillingham, who believes in evidence-based intervention. I think the things that I’ve been able to understand as I’ve been going through this journey is who were the movers and shakers? Who can move forward? I’m quite an optimistic person in this environment. Who are the people that can help me along this journey. Carolyn Merritt as a parent has been an inspiring person to me. Her child is older than mine so she’s been able to go through this journey without significant intervention. We’ve got people coming up from behind you have intervention. We’ve got my child and then we’ve got Carolyn Merritt’s child at the end. We have a pathway. We’ve been able to draw all of these people together in our Facebook group to help all of their members go forward. Richard Selznick as I was saying before who’s a pediatric psychologist who keep a hospital in the States was an amazing person who came along this journey with me too. So I think this is where my library background has been able to help me to find the evidence; to go forward, to hang on to these people, and go forward and say, ‘how do I get this information from you? What do I need to do to go forward? Which psychologist should I go and see? Which intervention program is the best?’ And I draw all this information and then take it back to the membership. Take it back to our Facebook group and say ‘this is what we need to do’ and help people who come in on the ground level and then move forward. My son will never have his spelling remediated unless he developed some adult compensatory skills. He probably won’t move beyond the 4% that he is but i can now embrace the things that he know. He lives and breathes in this supportive environment where if he has this need he can go forward.
Darius: Well we’ve got google now, don’t we? So next question. What’s been your experience of mind mapping in that journey? Mind mapping is often referred to as a strategy in assessments and things like that but I’m intrigued by different people’s mind mapping experience.
Heidi: My Mind mapping experience has been a been around.. The one tool that I can take that has been effective for me has been the ILP binder. Which is the Independent Learning Plan. The core group of information that you need. It includes your psychologist report. It’s a book and all of the assessments and the school reports, the NAPLAN results, all of the tests, all the sample work, all the behavioral assessments all goes into this one book. It’s the core reference tool that you have when you take with you when you go and have a meeting. It’s there and it’s in your hand. It’s evidence and you can show it. It has little branches so you can have lots of little pieces coming off the core book. My child got an award over here but look at the deficiencies he’s got with his handwriting.
Darius: What’s it got to do with mind mapping? Is that my map form? I’m just intrigued.
Heidi: You can do this as a mind map form because you can have the core information in the middle and then branching off. All of this will be.. All of the pieces that can fill and feed back into this mind map. So you’re looking at all of the comments. It’s the evidence. It basically points out to be the evidence that you need to go forward. I find it a really powerful tool.
Darius: Is that part of the ILP, some sort of visual tool like that?
Heidi: You could do that.
Darius: Okay. Do you mind map? Have you come across mind mapping? Is it part of the Australia. Is it in your dialogue within the dyslexia world?
Heidi: not that I’m aware of. I know my son has done mind mapping when it comes to doing the work that he’s done in English. They’d certainly touched on mind mapping at the beginning because it was a way of getting their ideas onto the page. They’ve definitely encouraged it in grade five and six when he was working through in the middle school years. They were talking about mind mapping to get your ideas and and how they feed in little pathways and and it was really important to for him to get his ideas because he does struggle with getting his ideas onto the page.
Darius: Okay. Next question what advice would you give your teenage self? Our big focus in dyslexia explored is actually that the teenage years; getting through them, surviving them, thriving in them, and the tween age years; the the ten, eleven, twelve years. What advice would you give a teenager?
Heidi: Wow. This is a really interesting question. From my own perspective, it probably would have..
Darius: The next question is going to be what advice would you give yourself as a parent. So if you were to speak to a teenager, what advice would you give them? It’s different because you’re not dyslexic necessarily.
Heidi: Be and believe in yourself. Believe that you can accomplish your dreams. Sometimes you have to ask for help but you can go out and you can do whatever you feel. In my son’s case, go and be the geologist.
Darius: Brilliant. And as a parent, what advice would you give yourself as a parent? Let’s say you got a card through the mail and it was to remind yourself in a few months time, What would it say on the front and what would I say on inside? What would the message to yourself be?
Heidi: Persevere and it does get better. Persevere and always ask for help. You’re not on this journey by yourself. I think that was the biggest thing that I had.. One after the grieving process, this was definitely one of the things that I needed to do with. To reach out to other people and I guess the evidence in that is starting up the Facebook group with another group of like-minded women. But persevere. Because it can be very lonely and it can be very hard when all you want to do is help other people go through this journey in the shortest possible route. I would have liked that to be available to me when we first went through this. When my child was little. And just keep going. Just keep going and don’t listen to those people who want to sell you stuff because there is no quick fix for dyslexia. There is no quick fix for a learning difficulty. You’re not going to learn this in ten weeks in a 10-week intervention program. Sally Shaywitz says that it has to take up to three times a week for a year to get your child up to peer level. We can’t all afford to do that so don’t feel guilty that you can’t do this for your child. I think that’s the stuff that I would like someone to say to me when I first started working on this. It’s okay. They will get there. It may take longer but don’t give up
Darius: Yes. Thank you. So the third section. Some of the parents are wondering what kind of tools do you use? What tools have you found useful to help dyslexics think, tools for organizing, gadgets or apps. What sort of things have you found really useful?
Heidi: The tools that my son has used that are really useful are color-coordinating his subject files; Red for English, blue for Maths. He has zip files. Prior to this, he had a laptop bag that he would put all of his papers in and he would move from class to class. Obviously he can’t take his bag. Not in my son school. He couldn’t take his school bag from class to class. He could certainly take his textbooks and his papers. He wouldn’t file them. He wouldn’t put them into separate folders. The school are really good at asking to put all of your work in two separate colored folders. He’s not allowed to have his phone in class so he’s not allowed to have reminders on his phone unless we set them on the outside. Microsoft 360 now has some really good tools for kids in terms of reminders and speech-to-text. We’ve always relied on audio books. Audio books are a really big thing in our family. I have an arrangement where my son has a different textbook every year and during the holidays, because our year starts in February and ends in December, he will have his audio books ready for his classes at the beginning of the year. So it’s about being organized my son has ADHD. It’s very difficult for him to stay focused on what he’s meant to do so we spend a lot of time organising his year at the beginning of the year. Then we take a break and then we do it every term. We go back through the routine and make sure that he’s got everything sorted. The really good tip that I have for families or for parents is that make sure you have a really open conversation dialogue with your teacher. If you’re in a school that’s supportive make sure that they notify you if there’s work to be done. Then have a second stage which is if the work is not handed in on the day they, will contact you the day after. Then you can engage in a dialogue about if the works not at a level that they’re expecting or that your son is struggling with them. We’ll sit down and we’ll talk about it. Homework club is another one that I found really good. My son hates doing homework after school. He’s a big gamer. Most of his social interaction comes from his online network that he’s been maintaining for the last four years. But that homework Club has been fantastic because the teachers are available during the day over odd times during the week. Then he can go to their classes or go to the homework club and make sure that his homework is completed. Getting homework done can be quite stressful. That’s one thing that we’ve discovered. It reduces that anxiety where you have an expectation as a parent that his homework is completed, when your child has this expectation that sometimes this work needs to be done at school or they just want to come home and be tired. I don’t want to have conversations at home about homework. That’s been very rewarding for us.
Daruis: So, homework club.. I’m in Scotland so let’s make sure I just and other Americans and so on listening in. Do you mean homework club during the day like in lunch break or after school? Where does it happen?
Heidi: At my son’s school it happens during a lunch time. So he would go to the library. The support teacher will be there. If he has homework on a variety of his subjects, he also does Japanese. He can take his homework to the teacher and they can sit down and work on it. If he’s struggling in Maths that he can take his Maths to his teacher and they can work through that. They exercise together.
Darius: Well I’ve been going through the list of things we wants to talk about. I’m just wondering is there anything. I think we’ve covered everything Heidi. But I want to just give you a space to say anything. Is there anything else you’d love to say to other people who might be listening just that.
Heidi: I would like to touch on the ILP binder again. For those people who are in the States understood.org have this fantastic YouTube clip on arranging an ILP binder. I found that to be profoundly powerful tool when you’re walking into a meeting because you’ve got the psychologists report. You’ve got any reports that happen with the speech pathologists or any reports or rewards or any evidence of sample work in one binder. I actually have a Dropbox file so if I’m at an ILP meeting without advocate, I can instantly produce a document that will say and state clearly that my child, because we have to go through this process every year where I’m still having to talk to the English teacher or the math teacher that my son has dyslexia. They still have handover notes but as we all know some of these things just get missed and we talk about this endlessly every year with the handover teacher. These are his skills and these are his deficiencies. These are the accommodations that he may have received in his previous year. For my son example, he was dysgraphia so he was allowed to have a scribe for his year 9 exams. He was allowed to have extra time because he does find it difficult to read but that he also has ADHD so he was able to get a break. Because as we know it’s difficult to focus and if you’re anxious and you’re you’re in an environment that can be quite stressful, then you can overlook questions. Whereas my son does he likes to answer the questions really quickly so that he reduces his exposure to his exam. So having the accommodations and the evidence for the accommodations in secondary school has been very powerful for us. Without a new psychologists report he would not have received the accommodations that he’s getting now. The school have a have accepted all of the accommodations from the psychologists report. This is a big win for us and it makes me, as a parent and at this school feel as though all of my expectations have been met.
Darius: Right. How do people get in touch with you? There’ll be people who might want to join your Facebook group. There may be people have a question about how do I find a group like that in my area.
Heidi: Dyslexia Victoria Support supports the people who are in the state of Victoria. There is a national group called Dyslexia Support Australia and international people can certainly join that group. We have a website called Dyslexia Victoria support and anybody can go there. We provide evidence-based and intervention information on there. We provide information about who we are. People can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to answer any questions. We have a team of people who are working in that space. so Dyslexia Support Australia is a national group and they have over 10,000 members in there. That’s really where the touchstone is for people who would like to join the international group. The supporting groups that we have regional and Metro, they’re basically set up and anybody can do this. This is one of the things that I wanted to convey in the interview is that anybody can start up a Facebook group with support. You can start up a small group in your village or in your small town or anywhere where you suspect their group of kids who are struggling with learning difficulties and a group of like-minded people get together and have a coffee start up a Facebook group. You will get more member going. You will get a community where you can ask people to come and speak for nothing or you can have a local speech pathologist who will support the assessment of kids or you can talk about how to get the best intervention and where the best school is for dyslexic kids might be. We can clearly see in especially where I am, schools don’t support it and schools do support it. So we have that in our Facebook group where we talk about. What do you think about this school and they’ll say ‘oh we’ve spoken and it’s all an individual family decision but we’ve looked at the individual needs system in the school and they may or may not support.’ So that’s the information that you can share setting up a local Facebook group in your community.
Darius: Right well, Heidi, it has been a real pleasure to have you on and I know we could talk more about that. There’s things that we haven’t talked about that I know would be really interesting but I think our time is up. I just want to say thank you so much for coming on.
Heidi: Thank you for your invitation it’s been an amazing experience and it’s wonderful to speak to somebody who is on the same path that we’re obviously on but also is enlightened about where we’re going to and and how we get support. I thank you so much
Darius: My pleasure. It’s nice to make that connection from the UK to Australia as well. Thank you. Well I’ll see you later bye.