Angela Fawcett, co-author of the Dyslexia Screening tests, tells us about her journey from working in the banking industry to vice president of the British Dyslexia Association, and her love of travel.
Where did you study/what did you study/what are your qualifications?
I studied Psychology at Sheffield University as a mature student, graduating in 1986, and received my PhD for research into the cognitive basis of dyslexia in 1990, supervised by Professor Rod Nicolson.
Tell us about your professional experience
I continued to work as a researcher at Sheffield University until December 2006 and during this time developed our theoretical and applied work on dyslexia, including our screening tests. We had a number of grants from the Leverhulme Trust, the Nuffield Foundation, the Medical Research council, and the Psychological Corporation (now Pearson Assessment). We discovered that children with dyslexia had problems in becoming expert or automatic in any skill.
Our theoretical research led us to find out about the brain and how it works in dyslexia, and we linked problems in learning to a part of the brain called the cerebellum. In 2007, I moved to Swansea to take up a Chair in Developmental Psychology, as Director of the Centre for Child Research, a multidisciplinary research centre. In developing our tests and intervention studies I have worked with schools across the UK.
From 2001 to 2009, I was editor of Dyslexia; an international journal of research and practice. I chaired the 2004 British Dyslexia Association conference. I am vice president of the British Dyslexia Association, education director of the Dyslexia Project Wales, and chair of the West Wales Dyslexia Association. I have worked with the DfES and the Welsh Assembly government.
What are your current projects?
I am currently directing a Tempus project in the Balkans and Eastern Europe designed to provide screening and support for dyslexic students in Higher Education, using e-books. I am using the Dyslexia Early Screening Test - Second Edition (DEST-2) in schools in Wales, to identify children at risk of failure in reception and have developed and evaluated an intervention linked to this.
As part of this project the DEST-2 has been translated into Welsh. The Dyslexia Screening Test (DST) is in use with children with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and a web-based intervention has been developed for this group. I am advising the Welsh assembly on dyslexia, working on a literature review and a benchmarking study of provision for dyslexia in Wales. In Sheffield, I am developing tests of learning for use with children with dyslexia.
Who have you worked with?
Professor Rod Nicolson at Sheffield University supervised my PhD and has been my collaborator for over 20 years in both theoretical and applied research. We have also worked with Professor Paul Dean in Sheffield, an expert on the cerebellum.
What inspired you to get into this field?
My interest in dyslexia was inspired by my son Matthew who was diagnosed as dyslexic 30 years ago, at the unusually early age of 5. This led me to go to university as a mature student. At that stage there seemed to be little understanding of dyslexia within the education sector, and this is what I wanted to change. I wanted to find out what the underlying causes of dyslexia were, and I also wanted to make sure that teachers had tests to help them to identify dyslexia.
I later found that my husband David was also dyslexic. Living with dyslexia has helped me to understand how difficult it can be, and how much potential is wasted if children are not given the support they need. It has also made it very clear to me that dyslexia is much more than a reading deficit, but something that impacts on people’s lives across the age range. This motivated me to ensure there were tests available for all age groups, from nursery to pensioner.
If you weren’t a Psychologist what would you be?
I worked in a number of different careers before I went to university, banking, advertising, market research, I even spent some time as a temporary teacher in Sheffield. I would have been a medical doctor working with children.
What do you do away from work? Favourite bands/sports teams/hobbies/holiday destinations?
I love to travel, and I have been very fortunate to be invited to present keynote talks around the world, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, and Brazil, as well as in Europe.
What’s your favourite book?
I’m an avid reader and have many favourites, including Shadow of the Wind.
Who’s your favourite musician/composer/singer, and why?
Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen because I prefer sad and meaningful music.
Whom do you most admire?
Angela is co-author of the Dyslexia Screening Test - Junior (DST-J), Dyslexia Screening Test - Secondary (DST-S),Dyslexia Early Screening Test - Second Edition (DEST-2), Dyslexia Adult Screening Test (DAST) and the Pre-School Screening Test (PREST).