Glue Ear

On 6th March, Hampshire Dyslexia Association held a ‘glue ear’ event in the ‘Intech’ planetarium near Winchester.  A group of delegates, including speech and language therapists, teachers, parents and  health and education students reclined in the plush seats to learn more about glue ear, its possible effects on learning, and how children who have / have had the condition can be supported.

 

Our speaker was Dr Lindsay Peer, an Educational Psychologist and expert on specific learning difficulties. Dr Peer explained that glue ear is a common condition, especially in children under eight. For most children, the sticky fluid preventing clear hearing will drain from the inner ear and leave no further effects. However, when the glue ear is persistent or keeps re-occurring, children may not receive the input necessary for normal development of language and literacy skills. These children can go on to have delayed speech, poor auditory perception and slow language processing speeds which can result in difficulties with learning. For instance it will be hard for them to learn phonics to aid their reading and spelling. Difficulties can remain even after the glue ear has gone, resulting in symptoms consistent with dyslexia. Research (Peer 2003) found that of a thousand dyslexic people interviewed, 703 had been so affected by glue ear that grommets had been inserted.

 

Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs of glue ear in small children. They may have bouts of feeling generally unwell with a cold or fever and may pull at their ears or have ear-ache. They may wake at night and need to breathe through their mouth. Their hearing will fluctuate and at times be relatively poor leading to difficulty following instructions and effectively interacting. This can lead to frustration or withdrawal from social situations and poor attention levels. Be careful not to assume that the child is naughty as it can be seen that glue ear can impact on behaviour as well as learning.

 

Doctors are able to offer a range of treatments to try and help: decongestants, antibiotics, sprays, drops or an ‘Otovent’ device. They can refer children for hearing tests and advise about speech and language therapy. Ultimately grommets may be inserted and / or the adenoids removed. Dr Peer quoted Professor Mark Haggard (2004) former Director of the Medical Research Council’s Institute of Hearing Research: “The correct intervention for established glue ear is surgery, particularly for children over the age of three-and-a-half, who have been clearly shown to benefit from grommets……Many children do not get treatment and so have continuing problems and are disadvantaged by the time they come to school.”

 

Parents and adults working with children with glue ear need to be aware of the condition and its consequences so that they understand the problems that a child with glue ear is experiencing. Dr Peer emphasised that parents should share a medical history of glue ear and their child’s current level of hearing with others – in particular with teachers.

 

How an adult can help a child who has, or has had glue ear:

  • Attract the child’s attention before speaking. The child can then watch the speaker’s mouth and body language in addition to listening. Use gesture to help.
  • Speak loudly and clearly.
  • Respond to communication attempts giving time for the child to process and talk.
  • Reduce or eliminate background noise. Curtains can help absorb sound.
  • Use structured, sequential multisensory teaching. Show the child in a visual or tactile way in addition to talking. Use drama and visual aids.
  • Check that instructions have been understood.
  • Give empathy and support to boost confidence.

 

 

Dr Peer concluded by stating that glue ear is a common problem that should be identified as early as possible. With understanding, help and support children who have, or who have had, this condition can achieve their potential.

 

For further information see: Glue Ear. An Essential guide for teachers, parents and health professionals by Dr Lindsay Peer. David Fulton Publishers.

Jacky Gurney.

Adult Dyslexia Report

In the 40 years that the British Dyslexia Association has been campaigning there has been many changes in the world of dyslexia, some of them good.

In light of this milestone, the British Dyslexia Association has produced a report looking back at the last 40 years and has made recommendations for the future.

In partnership with The Dyslexia Foundation and after consulting 100 organisations, this report is a wide ranging and comprehensive assessment of the current provision for adults with dyslexia.

The link to the full report is here:

http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/news/adult-dyslexia-report.html

‘Square Pegs in Round Holes’ by Jane Gaudie

There is an accepted understanding in schools and with families that dyslexia and dyspraxia can handicap a child’s progress with the academic side of school life. There is the delay in reading development, the difficulty in putting pen to paper, weakness in short term memory and organisational skills. However, many of these children and adults have other associated difficulties which makes fitting into the life of a classroom or into the ups and downs of family life another hurdle to be accommodated.
Often teachers will consider that a young child has hearing difficulties because, “They never seem to be listening!”
Later in their school life they can be accused of being defiant because they are not following instructions. At a very early age the child with a short term memory difficulty will often have developed the strategy of just turning off.
“I could never remember what the teacher was saying to me so I just didn’t bother to listen until my name was yelled out. By this stage I was in trouble. This happened throughout my life at school.”

It appears that many dyslexic and dyspraxic children have heightened sensitivity in many of their senses. They hate the feeling of labels, they dislike wearing shoes, can’t cope with wearing ties and certain fabrics are just a no go area.
“As soon as my son enters a classroom he has to take his shoes off, some teachers just can not accommodate this. They think it is all very odd!”
Many dyslexics do not like the feel of certain food textures. They will not try new foods, which can result in a restrictive diet. This can make meal times at home anxious times, as a mother mindful of a balanced diet, battles with a child who will only eat mash potatoes and cucumber, at every meal!
The heightened sense of smell will often influence their choice of foods as well, not wanting to go to certain places or peoples houses.
“We could never go to the zoo as a family, our son would go into a rage. At the time we thought he was scared of the animals, and he would never come with me to visit an Aunt of mine as he said he didn’t like the smell of her house!”

Possessing a heightened sense of hearing has its advantages but also many disadvantages.  “Long before we knew K. had any differences we had problems at home because he would never go to parties, he was terrified of a balloon popping. A walk to the shops with the possibility of road works and traffic could be an extremely anxious time. When he arrived at school he found the noise of a classroom extremely distracting.”

Many dyslexics also possess a heightened emotional sense. They are very susceptible to any form of negative response. This makes forming friendships difficult as children are naturally quite horribly candid towards one another. Rather than put themselves in the position of being hurt, many children develop their own strategies. They will often spend playtime talking to the adult on duty. Thus missing out on the interaction with their peer group.

Children often misread the interaction of their parents in the home.
“If my husband and I have a heated discussion, whether it is politics or whether the children should be allowed to have a puppy, my daughter will rush up to her bedroom and bury her head in her pillow and cry her eyes out, she cannot cope with any conflict in the home at all.”

In the 21st century we often rush to find a label for a child or adult who just doesn’t appear to fit into the box in which we want to place them. As a country we used to celebrate differences. The British were known for their eccentricities, people who looked at the world from a different perspective. We need to be aware than some children and adults will not fit into the hole we want to put them in.
After all we all know that one size does not fit all!!!!!

Jane Gaudie Headteacher of Chiltern Tutorial School