We’ve had a really busy year this year in Offaly Dyslexia Group, with the highest ever numbers of attendees, a complete rework of workshops and a whole team of Co-Ordinators doing a fantastic job at keeping us all organised.

We’re currently on a well deserved break for Easter, but we’ll be back on Monday 4th April for our final 3 weeks of the term. We can’t believe another year is nearly gone!

Our waiting list is now open for the few remaining places left for September, so make sure to give Frances a ring on 0862309009 if you’re interested in enrolling a child.

We’re also looking at making our new panel of tutors for next term, so any interested qualified teachers (both Primary and Secondary who have completed the DAI course) should send a copy of their CV to us at offalydyslexiagroup@gmail.com.


After a successful Autumn-Winter term parents of workshop members were invited to attend a short talk by psychologist Yvonne Cunningham, who explained some of the jargon on psycho-educational reports. As each child is an individual, it follows that not all psycho-educational reports will be the same. Having a better understanding of these documents will allow us to help our children generally, especially with their literacy needs as best we can.

There was a good attendence and feedback from those present was positive. As a special treat for Christmas the workshop members were each given a selection box and class was dismissed for the Christmas Season!!!

All that remains to be said is Merry Christmas everybody and we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!



People with the learning disability can have exceptional talents, writes Chrissie Russell

Tuesday November 22 2011

Like many parents, Jill Maher’s first reaction when she discovered her daughter had dyslexia was one of panic. “I’d known something wasn’t right and that’s why I’d decided to get Katie tested,” she explains.

“But when the results came back saying ‘your child shows signs of a learning disability‘ I was shocked and scared. I went through a few terrible weeks wondering what it would mean and who could help.”

The Lucan mum’s reaction is one that most parents, and certainly any parent who has a child with a learning disability, will be able to relate to, but new research shows that mums and dads of dyslexic children can take some positives from the diagnosis.

According to a new book, The Dyslexia Advantage written by American neuro-academics, Brock and Fernette Eide, seeing dyslexia as merely a disorder that causes problems with spelling and learning is just one side of the coin.

Brock explains: “Early in life dyslexic children are typically slow to learn to read and spell, they struggle with rote memory and other academic functions.

“But focusing on working on these basic skills often overlooks their strengths — these children are often sponges for facts, expert problem solvers, fantastic builders, inventive story tellers and creative artists.”

The book contends that the special way dyslexic brains work could actually put them at an advantage.

The fact that they have to learn in a different way can in fact result in dyslexics processing information and thinking at a superior level to non-dyslexics.

Research carried out by the Eides revealed common talents displayed by dyslexics, referred to as the MIND strengths: M stands for Material (or spatial) reasoning, the ability to form a 3D understanding of objects; I for Interconnected reasoning, and ability to identify the big picture; N for Narrative reasoning, an ability to store and communicate information; and D for Dynamic reasoning, the ability to use bits of remembered experience to make predictions about processes changing over time.

The traits help explain the prevalence of successful dyslexics working in architecture and engineering where an ability to think outside the box, see things in a fresh way and problem solve carry a premium.

In fact a wealth of information and famous case studies back up the belief that dyslexia can prove a bonus in the workplace when the individual’s strengths are focused on instead of their weaknesses.

Some 33 per cent of American entrepreneurs are dyslexic, the innovative thinking proving an asset rather than impediment.

Architect Richard Rogers, chef Marco Pierre White, actor Johnny Depp, artist Pablo Picasso and writer Agatha Christie have all been diagnosed with dyslexia and excelled in spite, or perhaps because of the unusual way their brains work.

Rather than a disability, Eide believes dyslexia should be seen as an ability.

He says: “The challenges faced by a dyslexic brain are simply trade-offs for more valuable functions.

We need to focus more heavily on educating dyslexic individuals to do the things their brain does well rather than trying to get them to function just like everyone else.”

Unfortunately this is often a worried parent’s first reaction. Rosie Bissett, director at the Dyslexia Association of Ireland, explains: “The reality is most people are anxious and focus on the difficulties when their child is diagnosed with dyslexia.

“Sometimes parents rush to address the child’s problems and forget or overlook their strengths. It’s not uncommon to see children being pulled out of sport or drama, which they might excel at, to focus on coaching for reading.”

For Katie’s sake, Jill forced herself not to focus on the negatives of her daughter’s diagnosis. “It’s hard,” she says.

“Every parent just wants their child to be ‘normal’, but Katie knew what her problems were and didn’t need them pointed out to her all the time.

“Instead we focused on her strengths, she’s very creative and good at practical things.”

She adds: “I also made it my business to do everything I could to get her support, from paying for extra tuition, computer classes and one-on-one workshops.

As a special-needs teacher, I already had some knowledge of books that could help her, but Katie’s school were also fantastic and thanks to all the support she’s had she’s doing really well.

“It wasn’t a diagnosis I wanted to hear, but thanks to finding out early, we were well placed to do all we could to make sure she got the help she needed.”

While Katie is bright, Jill is under no illusions that her dyslexia will place limitations on her career choices given her difficulties with languages.

“We can’t ignore the fact that there can be a lot of downsides to dyslexia,” agrees Bissett.

“I’ve had parents come in to see me saying ‘we’ve spent ages looking for our child’s gift’ when the reality is that not every dyslexic child will be a genius.

“They all have relative strengths and weaknesses and the important thing is to focus on the strengths.”

Continued from p29

Some 50,000 children in Ireland have dyslexia with up to 10 per cent of the population thought to be affected by a learning disability.

A recent poll revealed four out of five people believe dyslexia is associated with mental retardation.

Bissett says: “Attitudes have improved but there is still some way to go.

“The word ‘disability’ is both a help and a hindrance. It allows dyslexia to have a legal footing, but few sufferers would like to think of themselves as disabled.”

Anyone of any intellect can suffer from dyslexia.

Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll was diagnosed with the disability but is also a member of Mensa.

He says: “If I meet a bunch of children in the Dyslexia Association, I’ll produce my gold card from Mensa and say ‘look, only the top 2 per cent in the world get this and I’m dyslexic.’

“I want them to know what they’re capable of.”

Ultimately this is Eide’s hope for the Dyslexia Advantage. He says: “Teachers tend to equate learning challenges like dyslexia with low potential, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“We hope the book will provoke a deeper consideration of what dyslexic individuals can do. After all, we’ll all benefit from their abilities.”

Irish Independent


Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll was diagnosed with the disability but is also a member of Mensa.

He says: “If I meet a bunch of children in the Dyslexia Association, I’ll produce my gold card from Mensa and say ‘look, only the top 2 per cent in the world get this and I’m dyslexic.’


The Offaly Branch of the DAI will be holding a parent’s night on Monday 12th December 2011. Yvonne Cunningham, Educational Psychologist will speak about psycho-educational assessments and what they mean to us as parents. She will be available to answer open questions. Tea & coffee will be available.

As ever the committee of the Offaly Branch of the Dyslexia Association of Ireland are working away on behalf of our workshop members, however with a committee comprising of just 7 parents and one staff member our numbers are small.

Recently the routine administration of each workshop has been organised into a two week rota. Three members of the branch committee will be on hand to take care of signing the children in/out of the workshops, making sure that the tutorial staff also sign in/out and that any visitors are accounted for. In addition to this payment of fees, keeping of payment records and issue of receipts is done by our volunteer staff who are also on hand to deal with any queries or problems that might arise.

Currently there are 8 committee members, who meet formally once a month to discuss the running of the workshops and plan for growth, fundraising campaigns etc. The 3 officers in the branch; the chairperson, the secretary and the branch treasurer deal with the office side of things with the help of our branch administrator who keeps everything running smoothly.

As ever, we welcome offers of help. If you have administrative, secretarial, book keeping, fundraising, tea making or any other type of skills that you might like to share with us, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the volunteer staff. The Offaly Branch of the DAI’s function is to provide practical support to families who are affected by dyslexia, but, we can only do this properly if the families of workshop members support us in doing this…

At a recent committe meeting it became obvious that parents of workshop members might occasionally wish to speak with our programme co-ordinator. Unfortunately ad-hoc meetings of this nature are proving to be somewhat disruptive of the workshops themselves! In the light of this observation we find it necessary to request that parents wishing to speak with our programme co-ordinator make a request to do so towards the end of the workshops, ie 6.45pm onwards.

Volunteer administrators will be on hand to deal with all initial enquiries and to handle payments of workshop fees. They will be located to the right hand side of the upper corridor. This is to reduce the congestion at the top of the stairs at 5.30pm. A rosta has been drawn up from the committee members to allow for three volunteers per workshop, at present this is a week-on/week-off arrangement.

Tutors and volunteer staff are requested to sign in/out of the workshops. Parents/guardians are responsible for signing their child in/out as necessary and are most welcome to wait on site for the duration of the workshops, but are requested to make their intentions known to the volunteer staff, who will ask them to sign in/out. This is for health and safety purposes only.

As usual we are always seeking new ideas and volunteers to help us run the workshops. If you would like to become more involved please don’t hesitate to contact us…



Offaly DAI wish to thank our tireless supporters who turned out last Saturday and helped us raise funds in support of literacy workshops for children with dyslexia. Based in St Mary’s Youth Centre, Tullamore with a current membership of just over 50 adults and children, Saturday’s turnout was poor. In spite of this we were able to get our message out, ie that there are supports for people with dyslexia in the Midlands!

We were thrilled when the final tally was announced late on Saturday night.  Despite having a much smaller army of volunteers than in 2009 (for our last flag day) when we had just 7 children, we were delighted to realised we’d raised enough cash to cover our expenses for this fundraising initiative, and to purchase essential support materials for the workshops.

As a not-for-profit organisation Offaly DAI is entirely dependent upon charitable donations, grant aid and generally the good will of our friends, families, members, etc. We would especially like to thank the people of Tullamore and its environs for their kind support. Without them our work would remain a constant uphill struggle during these cash strapped days, as we’ve said on so many occasions in the past every penny counts. So huge thanks from the committee and the members of Offaly DAI for your generous support!


Following a feasability study conducted by the Offaly DAI it has been established that there is a potential need for Dyslexia Association of Ireland workshops in the Irish Midlands, (eg counties Offaly, Laois, Westmeath) for adults with dyslexia.

Members of the DAI, Career Paths and the VEC have been invited to speak on the topic of dyslexia and literacy difficulties in adults. This will include an introduction to adult dyslexia and possible coping strategies. It will also include an outline of the facilities available to adults with literacy difficulties available through Offaly VEC.

There are many reasons for literacy difficulties in adulthood, however Offaly VEC recognizes that dyslexia is a condition which requires specialized assistance. It is therefore proposed that the Offaly VEC, in conjunction with the Offaly DAI introduce a series of workshops for adults with dyslexia in October 2011.

As such we invite interested parties to attend this meeting. Light refreshments  will be available