Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Bigger Picture!

Look - like many other charities- made their way to St Lukes Church, Birmingham on wednesday the 23rd of september to do a very special workshop about a very big issue...
Visually Impaired young people are just like anyone else, trends and styles matter as well as practicality (especially in low vision aids!). That's why the 'bigger picture' workshop took place - so at last VI kids can say goodbye to clunky old magnifiers!

First we all were shown a lot of different magnifiers and were asked to rate them for practical use, packaging and style. We were shown some awful examples of magnifiers and it really got our minds going about our dream low vision aid!
Look also set up a creative area for siblings of VI children or very young visitors. They could let their creativeness flow as they customised their own (otherwise boring!) Look bag. In the main hall were stalls and representatives from:
  • Action for blind people
  • Rnib
  • QAC
  • Guide Dogs 
  • Mobility Training
  • National Blind Children's Society
  • and a range of technology.

Families and visitors popped in throughout the day and it was nice to meet up with old friends and meet new ones! It was serious brain power in the 'bigger picture' room though as the young people came up with increasingly creative designs including, mini televisions camouflaged inside books and a hands free reading magnifier - Alan Sugar would have been impressed!

All the examples of magnifiers were borrowed from birmingham focus for blind people and the 'bigger picture' was a joint effort between LOOK, playtrain and vision 2020. Playtrain are experts in consultations with children and how to get young people's ideas flowing! They also specialise in collecting product research from children.

Vision 2020 is a collaboration of all different organisations within the UK, which focus on vision impairment and operate on a national, regional or international basis.

The day was thoroughly enjoyed by all and hopefully we might be seeing some stylish LVA's on the shelves soon! ]

it was a tough judging process!

If I was this magnifier I'd be frightened of the judges in the 'bigger picture' room!

Maybe an article on the day will make the audio magazine!

This particular magnifier is a lifesaver for one young participant!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Dyslexia, Dislexea, Dislecseea?

Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 people in the UK. Dyslexia makes it difficult to process words and their meanings and is often linked with dyscalculia (inability to process numbers). Dyslexia is currently incurable - but what is dyslexia and what is the country doing to help sufferers? 

Dyslexia is usually spotted whilst a child is young. long term symptoms may include:

  • Bad short term memory.
  • Impaired maths ability.
  • Poor concentration
  • disorganization 
  • Slower to process information.
  • Trouble with order and routine.
Dyslexia is a problem with the brain that often runs in families and can sometimes be linked to left-handedness. Abnormalities in the brain cause dyslexia, but there are some links to eye sight with dyslexia too. Visual stress and some of the symptoms of dyslexia are quite similar and overlays are useful for both. For people with visual stress and dyslexia words can look like this on a page:

These are overlays, different peoples eyes prefer different colours to make their reading easier. Glasses can also be tinted in overlay colours so reading is even simpler!

I spoke with Lucy - a 14 year old dyslexic to find out more about the condition, and how it really affects young people.

"So Lucy, when were you first diagnosed with dyslexia and how did it happen?"

"I was eight. The Primary school I went to suggested that something was wrong but they didnt take it any further. My Mum was unhappy about the lack of help they were giving me so in the end she paid to have me privetly tested for Dyslexia at the local university."

"Did you know what was happening at the time? Can you remember?"

I can only remember bits but I remember it being quite fun really - I got asked a LOT of questions! The woman asked me lots of questions and she just watched what I said and how I reacted to certain things. I think I did some reading but I'm not sure. Towards the end of the day the person who had tested me told my Mum I had classic dyslexia."

"Was your family upset with the result?"

"I think they were more relieved actually because they knew what was wrong with me and how they could help and that I would get help. They thought that the school would do more about my problems now that I was diagnosed."

"How did the school react and what did they do to help?"

"The school was slightly supportive but they could have done more. I got more help - In year three I got put into a lower reading group which was a lot better. I got more support and they knew I wasnt just bad at reading. Then I moved primary schools and I got a lot more help, I still find using an overlay very useful."

"Whats the worst part of being dyslexic?"
"Seeing people reading and being embarrassed about how long you take to read. It makes me feel annoyed angry and upset."

"What do you think the government could do to make it easier for young dyslexics to live with the condition?"
"More tests for dyslexia in primary and secondary schools. They should be free too. They could also give overlays to primary schools to test kids who have trouble reading. "

"What do you think easy read format is?"
"I dont know."

Easy read is a format for people with learning disabilities of any kind. It features pictures that symbolise the simplified sentence opposite it. for example:

Then Bella watched the birds from the top of the cliff. 

This helps people who find it otherwise hard to read normal text and is now being produced by many transcription companies. 

From talking to Lucy and finding out more about 'Easy Read' format, I have started to understand how dyslexia affects people. Though there is no cure for dyslexics, there are lots of things to help, for example: extra time and readers are available in exams, and computer programmes such as 'Lexia' teach spellings, phonics and vocabulary simply and effectively. With 1 in 10 people in the UK diagnosed with dyslexia it is becoming a priority for medical research, meaning new treatments are on their way. So there is certainly hope for dyslexics of the future (and present too!)!