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Useful And Fantastic: Memoirs Of A Community Psychologist

Val Yule tells of working with children thought to be dyslexic.

I used to be a Community Psychologist, the only one in Melbourne. I worked as a schools psychologist in eight schools for disadvantaged children, with frequent referrals from other schools, as a clinical child psychologist in the Royal Children's Hospital (where I often saw the same children, and so had case meetings with myself), and as a part-time lecturer in Monash Faculty of Education.

I was able to start many innovations in education, which usually lapsed when I moved on, as there was nobody left to co-ordinate them, or when principals or teachers left. I was also an Innovations Counsellor for many innovations put up by others - the only one that survived was the Collingwood Children's Farm.

It seemed to me that I filled a valuable role in enabling many things that teachers do not have the time to do. For example:

* Secondary-school teacher trainees working as teacher aides in primary school - a win-win situation for the trainees, the children and the teachers

* Day school exchanges of six children and a teacher between very different school, with them reporting back to their schools - e.g Scotch and St Josephs Primary School Collingwood, Preshill and North Fitzroy government school, country and city school, etc. These would be valuable today, especially with all the new schools for immigrants.

* After ten years. Teachers tend to teach how they were taught. There are cycles that go round too. I was in Scotland when the Phonics methods were going out and the Whole Language was coming in! And there is tremendous resistance to innovations in the teaching of reading unless they are supported by the teacher unions, and keep remedial teachers etc in jobs.

* Starting innovations such as school gardens and adventure playgrounds.

* Seeing children, in both hospital, school and home settings, gave a better chance for the children.

* Many students do not learn well in classes; many students miss out on lessons for one reason for another.

* Some students do not learn well from people; give them one-on-one and they are uncomfortable.

I had many of students referred to me as being dyslexic, with learning difficulties. Simply giving them tests for dyslexia was not good enough. I would lead them through why it was useful to know how to read. At some stage they would always say "I didn't know that.'' Teachers would be amazed when these children started to read.

A few children were dyslexic, but most were not.


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