One of Clinical Psychologist Dr Tom Smiley's areas of interest is Character Education, being particularly interested in how character strengths can grow, and even be directly taught, whilst teaching children with all types of learning needs.
At the February Dyslexia Support Group, he will talk about the relationship between learning challenges such as dyslexia and character strengths such as confidence, courage, perseverance, curiosity, creativity. The relationship is complex because it is two way:
• On the one hand, learning challenges (that are not managed well) can lead to a lack of things like confidence, perseverance, curiosity, courage, etc, and eventually a child can almost 'shut down' to conventional learning.
• But on the other hand, in a well-managed or forward thinking or highly caring situation, learning challenges can be the platform on which one has otherwise unavailable opportunities to actually grow in some of these characteristics.
Dr Smiley is aware of university tutors saying they can tell which of their students have faced challenges like dyslexia during their school years because they are the ones who know how to handle the ups and downs, deal with failure, keep pushing on. You can be more ready to face adult life than someone who has only ever experienced success and never had to dig deep to make it through tough situations.
''This 'upside' of dyslexia is an important part of the overall picture. It needs dealing with quite sensitively because there are so many children in our current assessment-obsessed culture who experience nothing but anxiety and lack of understanding in the academic setting, and they don't get the chance to develop character strengths in the way I have described. Many can't actually believe that it's possible for growth to come directly out of learning struggles. But it can, if the child's school and home environment supports it, and I will try to explain how!''
If you would like to attend the Support Group on Wednesday 26th February, 7-8.30pm please email [email protected]
Dr Tom Smiley
Dr Tom Smiley is a clinical psychologist who now spends most of his time working in education. He works one day per week at Amesbury School in Hindhead, and consults to other schools with the aim of helping them build learning environments which are psychologically healthy and able to maximise growth for all parts of the community - children, teachers, parents, and wider society.
He has a particular interest in character education, outdoor learning, and the impact of technology on children's development. He is also a high ropes course instructor, a specialist in Critical Incident Stress Management within the NHS, and the father of three children under 13.