CodeBreakers® is a programme written by Georgina Smith B.A.(Hons), M.A, PGC SpLD, TPC.
What jumped started my career in the field of dyslexia and why.
For many of us working in this field, I usually find it’s a personal journey. In some way, our career choice is linked back to family and personal experiences. I say ‘career choice’, in fact, it’s a passion and something I live and breathe 7 days a week.
My journey into the field of Dyslexia was not a direct path. Many years ago, I had a passion for law and still do, I wanted to work in employment law, once I’d completed my law degree. It was that passion for supporting and advocating for others that stays with me today. I moved abroad with the aim to work in the European Parliament. After working in Brussels for over a year, my own health difficulties sadly caused me to return to the UK. I decided to work as a volunteer and chose adult education at my local college.
This volunteer work inspired me to go into teaching. I saw how many adults had left school with poor literacy skills and how it impacted on their life choices. I could see there was little help once they’d left school and entered into work. I knew that the intervention I was delivering just wasn’t working. At this point I discovered, dyslexia. I went on to study dyslexia. My service started off helping families understand what dyslexia is, understand their educational psychologist reports and help them advocate for their children. I then set up my own practice, teaching and supporting children and their families, along with providing tuition for adults.
As I mentioned, the family connection is a strong one and drives me to succeed in my field of work. The main reason; in the 1960’s my own dad left school barely able to read and write. He has been my total inspiration in this journey and his story keeps me passionate about my ‘work’ today. It’s no longer ‘work’, it’s a vocation. After years of working in different areas, I finally found where I fit. Yet all my working experiences and qualifications fit together, to enable me to offer my service.
How I progressed and what’s made my service what it is today
I remain passionate about making a difference. I have an appetite to learn from the professionals I meet and the individuals I work with. Many of the students have helped me form the service I offer today, constantly learning from them, what works and what doesn’t. I pride myself on offering a personable service. It’s not just the child I teach but it’s the relationship built with the family, getting to know them and their child, what’s best for them all. It’s knowing that when working with adults they share their excited thoughts about how they can see themselves changing and what their concerns are because they know I’m listening to what they need and I try my utmost to find a solution. If I’m not teaching, I can usually be found completing training about an overlapping learning difficulty such as ASD, Language Development Delay, Demand Avoidance, Dyscalculia, Auditory Processing and Visual Processing, Sensory Processing and Dyspraxia (DCD) because usually, a child or adult will walk into my office and be experiencing difficulties, which as yet, I haven’t learned about and I need to find a way to help them. Often, it’s about understanding the individual and their needs before I can really start to teach.
I’m also usually researching or asking colleagues about education law or chatting to a family about how to get the best support for their child in school or at home and advising how to get referred to another professional.
The whole picture. Learning never really stops.
I work in a very strictly regulated field of work where we have to constantly update our skills. Over the years I’ve developed great working relationships with some fantastic colleagues, who are professionals in fields, which I often find my students have overlapping learning difficulties in and need extra support. We often work with each other sharing advice and best practice, constantly up skilling ourselves, so we can offer our students (and families) the best support. Once a year we meet in person to present SEN Jigsaw Conference and bring together all our experience and knowledge to share with parents and professionals. We also often provide informal training webinars for professionals and parents.
The impact of dyslexia
As I learn more and more about dyslexia, the overlapping learning difficulties and the impact this can have on individuals, I share this on my blog.
Recently, I’ve reflected on my own experiences in a series of blogs regarding Mindful Dyslexia. The impact of dyslexia, not only on education, is something I’m passionate about. I consider the mental health impact, which dyslexia has on individuals, is something often many are not as aware of and not considered as requiring support, in the same way as dyslexia is a learning difficulty. The anxiety which is displayed by some and interpreted as ‘poor behaviour’ can often be overlooked and is not indicative of the need to consider a learning difficulty. Supporting individuals with anxiety is something very close to my heart.
How CodeBreakers® came about
Over the years of teaching, I gained a huge wealth of resources and experience. Based on best practice, I devised CodeBreakers® sequence of learning. CodeBreakers® incorporates best practice collated from over 15 years of teaching.
I soon identified I’d created a programme with a far-reaching capacity. I demonstrated CodeBreakers® to schools and the response was overwhelming and positive.
Live studies in schools
In 2018-19, CodeBreakers® was piloted in some schools. This was supported by a highly experienced Educational Psychologist, who worked alongside me to analyse the statistics. The results were very well received by the schools. Moreover, the schools saw their students’ confidence increase and their willingness to engage in learning rise. This resulted in a second year of study in 2019-2020.
CodeBreakers® pilot study in schools also demonstrated that T.A.s, who are often at the forefront of supporting individuals in schools, could provide an excellent effective intervention programme, when specifically trained on a dyslexia specific programme.
CodeBreakers® has many more exciting developments in the pipeline to make it more accessible to more schools, children and adults.
Today, CodeBreakers® has become an in-depth screening and teaching practice which is accessible to both schools and individuals. It is primarily a tuition service which can also train organisations/groups on awareness of dyslexia and train school staff to deliver an effective dyslexia programme. As an individual, I endeavour to update my knowledge on dyslexia and overlapping learning difficulties and methods of testing and intervention. I provide emotional and professional support to families and individuals, advising them of the next best step and signposting them. Alongside this, CodeBreakers® programme is constantly evolving to offer the best effective system and accessibility for all.
Our aim is to provide a system which is accessible and effective to ensure early intervention is available for all students, without the process of waiting for assessment. In addition, to remove the anxiety around learning and education, which many students have experienced.
What is CodeBreakers®?
It uses dyslexia specific techniques such as a systematic synthetic phonics programme using multisensory techniques. It’s a programme which can be used for all struggling learners, of all ages, looking to develop reading and spelling. It’s unique as it appeals to primary, secondary and post 16 students. It works based on ability rather than age level requirements and isn’t immature.
The system is simple, working on sounds and identifying patterns in spelling to enable the correct spelling choice to be made. Direct and explicit teaching also develops reading, teaching individuals to sound and blend. Its sequence takes learners step by step through learning. There are few programmes which provide as many opportunities for overlearning to ensure learning sticks.
CodeBreakers® is one of the few dyslexia intervention programmes to receive live, measurable analysis of its effectiveness in schools. It’s been proven to be an effective programme to increase reading and spelling accuracy when delivered effectively by trained staff in schools. It’s a programme which has also be written to support parents choosing to use as an intervention programme at home. Importantly, it’s also a programme which post-16 individuals can confidently access with the support, without feeling immature.