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Research that makes a difference

The Dyscovery Centre, part of the University of Wales, Newport, is a unique interdisciplinary centre for children and adults with specific learning difficulties. The Centre has provided a range of services both nationally and internationally since it opened in 1997. In the past 15 years The Centre team has helped thousands of children and adults with a range of specific learning difficulties and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Dyspraxia (also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder), ADHD, Dyslexia and Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as other difficulties, such as behavioural problems. The Centre has an international reputation for its work and members of the professional team have seen children and adults from as far as the Isle of Wight to The Orkney Islands, Abu Dhabi, Singapore to Tanzania and Moscow. The team has worked in partnership with teachers, health professionals and parents to support children within their home and school setting.

In the past 15 years The Centre team has helped thousands of children and adults with a range of specific learning difficulties and neurodevelopmental disorders. 

The Centre started out providing assessments and support for children with Dyspraxia. This is a condition affecting 6% of children and adults who have co-ordination difficulties. The Centre soon developed services to support not only children, but adolescents and adults, as it became clear that these difficulties did not ‘disappear’ as the individuals grew up, but their needs changed.

The assessment and supportive approach developed by The Centre has arisen from the need to provide a one-stop shop, where parents, young people and adults have a ‘holistic’ but evidence-based approach to support. This functional and practical approach is provided to reduce the stress on the individual and the families concerned and take a longer term view to intervention, preparing not only for school days but for life and employment.

The rationale for this approach came from my own personal experience. At the time of opening, my son had been diagnosed with Dyspraxia, and later with Dyslexia as well. I had gone with him to different health and educational professionals telling his ‘story’ again and again in order to understand how to help him at school and at home. In the late 90s there was little communication between services and it seemed every visit meant having to repeat the same things over and over again. Additionally, there was little knowledge or research regarding Dyspraxia.

The ethos of The Centre is to ensure information to assist families, and those working with them, gets out to as many people as possible.

This led me to the idea of a centre to support other parents who were going through similar experiences, and where health and education could work together, in addition to providing resources and training as well as research.

The Centre works integrally with school and home and has a functional, practical and pragmatic outlook at all times – helping the child, adolescent or adult and supporting them in the context of their home, school or workplace.

During the time the centre has been open it has developed and delivered training courses for thousands of parents and professionals across the UK and internationally. The postgraduate certificate course in Dyspraxia (DCD) is now in its eleventh year. This distance course, a forerunner of its kind, is still one of the few running internationally and attracts students worldwide. In September 2010 a new course was launched with great success, the MSc course in developmental disorders. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds including music teachers, psychologists, paediatricians, teachers, and those working with students in colleges and universities.

As time has passed The Centre has also developed a reputation for high level research particularly in the field of Dyspraxia, but also in other specific learning difficulties. The team has recently completed a benchmarking exercise with regard to Dyslexia provision across Wales, which is soon to be published. The research team last year undertook the first large scale study in the UK looking at the relationship between Omega 3 fatty acids and learning and behaviour in schoolchildren in Wales.

The Centre has increased expertise in supporting adults with specific learning difficulties including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome as a consequence of both the research and clinical activity it has undertaken. It is now working with a range of partners including JobCentrePlus and Remploy to look at better ways to support individuals towards, and once in, employment.

The ethos of The Centre is to ensure information to assist families, and those working with them, gets out to as many people as possible, and with this in mind the team has recently launched two free websites with a huge amount of free materials. The first of these is www.boxoifideas.org  which has videos, free downloads and links to hundreds of helpful factsheets from pre -school to employment. The second website is www.move627.org. This is an innovative site with interactive games and activities to help children with additional difficulties through the big move from primary to secondary school and has loads of free materials for home and school.

The Dyscovery Centre has come a long way from its inception 15 years ago and its recent move to a brand new state-of-the-art centre on the University’s Caerleon campus has heralded new opportunities for the team to expand further their work and look forward to increasing their collaborations locally, nationally and internationally.

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