The AFS Method
The AFS Method is a pedagogical-didactical training and support method for people with dyslexia and dyscalculia.
For more than a century, science has been occupied with the problem of why some people have difficulty learning writing, reading, or calculating. The circumstances under which doctors first addressed these issues led to the conclusion that problems with writing, reading, or calculating were pathological, i.e., related to illness. Only much later, after the topic had been addressed from both a psychological and a pathological standpoint, did pedagogical research establish a plan to develop effective methods to provide individualized support for these people so that they could learn writing, reading, and calculating. Experience has shown many cases wherein actually no intervention is necessary in terms of physical health, but rather a pedagogical-didactical approach, determined by individual requirements, in which writing, reading, and calculating can be learned sufficiently. In the meantime, although these circumstances had not been properly appreciated, we had already recognized the fact that by far not all people who evince writing, reading, or calculation problems are disabled, impaired, ill, or even impaired, but that essentially the didactic approach customarily used in schools is not sufficient for them to be able to learn writing, reading, or calculating as expected.
The AFS Method was developed beginning with the fact that dyslexic and dyscalculic individuals display a different method of processing information—which is particularly noticeable with regard to learning writing, reading, and calculating—and therefore have a different learning ability. This specialized method designed to provide individualized support for people with writing, reading, or calculating problems was developed with the intention of describing and structuring pedagogical-didactical activity more effectively in order to contribute to its professionalization. The development of the AFS Method also ensued as a result of the ever-growing discrepancy between scientific development, with the associated plethora of empirical research discoveries and newly-discovered problems in practice. It is extremely important and worthwhile to establish a point of reference between science and practice. Scientific research results should be implemented for practical work with affected individuals. The AFS Method establishes a new, modern path for pedagogical assistance with writing, reading, or calculating problems!
Studies conducted in the realm of pedagogical research have established that, for a segment of individuals affected by writing, reading, or calculating problems, solely increased assistance with symptoms, i.e., with errors, produces only a minor or even no effect, and therefore is not successful. Characteristically, if the cause is genetic, if dyslexia and/or dyscalculia exist, increased assistance in writing, reading, and calculating alone in the form of additional exercises will not suffice. Observation of affected individuals and conclusions drawn thereby have measurably led to the discovery that there are three specific areas which require assistance. Therefore, the AFS Method combines specialized elements which provide a comprehensive approach for support. It offers assistance in those areas in which present problems for dyslexic/dyscalculic individuals.
The AFS Method has been designated as comprehensive because it provides targeted, individualized assistance in all areas in which dyslexic/dyscalculic people experience difficulty. The AFS Method also places a strong emphasis on multi-sensory learning. Training using the AFS Method involves three primary priorities referring to assistance measures:
Improvement of attention while writing, reading, and calculating. Focus of attention is an essential priority for assistance. Dyslexic/dyscalculic individuals have difficulty deliberately directing their attention to letters and numbers and keeping it there. This circumstance thus plays an essential role in ensuring that the process of learning to write, read, or calculating does not go smoothly. Focusing attention while engaging in writing, reading, or calculating activities, however, is necessary in order to learn writing, reading, or calculating. Improving attention also contributes to improvement regarding the restlessness associated with periodic inattention during writing, reading, and calculating which many affected individuals display. Because the fact that these individuals only manifest these symptoms while writing, reading, or calculating, and not in other situations, is frequently overlooked, this intermittent inattention and restlessness are often confused with medical diagnoses such as attention or concentration deficit disorders and hyperactivity.
Improvement in sensory perception performances, which are necessary for successful learning of writing, reading, and calculating. The functions of the sensory perceptions—recognized scientifically for more than a century—which one requires for writing, reading, and calculating, is an additional necessity for a problem-free writing, reading, and calculating learning process. Proper functioning of the basic senses is an essential factor for learning writing, reading, and calculating. Targeted individualized training, therefore, is also necessary for improving sensory perception performances—particularly in the visual and acoustic sensory perception areas, inclusive of phonological knowledge and spatial perception. Imaging techniques developed by neurologists have proved that the use of different senses during learning also activates different areas of the brain, thereby indicating that potentially multifaceted activation of individual areas contributes to more efficient storage and recall of information. The application of sharpened senses, therefore, improves the learning effect.
Improvement of writing, reading, and calculation performances, that is, improvement on the symptom level. Total success can only be achieved, however, if satisfactory importance is attached to symptom training in the realms of writing, reading, or calculating. It is important to ensure that the respective needs of the affected person are given proper consideration. Targeted and individualized training must also take place in this area.
The concept of the AFS Method is premised, on the one hand that the areas of support, as described, are defined, and that, on the other hand complete openness exists compared to other proven approaches which help people with writing, reading, or calculation difficulties. Thus, the AFS Method can be enriched by a multiplicity of other methods which have been developed and tested for dyslexic or dyscalculic individuals. Every sensible approach which leads to improvement in one of the three performance areas can be integrated into the method. The structures described above and the available portions make it possible to tailor assistance fully to the requirements of each affected individual. All components can work with each other and enhance each other so as to guarantee optimal assistance.
Long-term study on the effectiveness of the AFS Method
Data and facts gathered during the long-term study conducted between 2001 and 2006, which involved 3,370 test subjects, confirm the effectiveness of this method. 85% of the test subjects improved their writing, reading, and calculating performance continuously over a two-year observation period and thereby were able to fulfill their school requirements.
- Kopp-Duller, Pailer-Duller: Legasthenie – Dyskalkulie!?, 2008
- ADysTrain: Legasthenie bei jungen Erwachsenen. Education and Culture, European Commission, Leonardo da Vinci Project A/06/B/F/PP-158.327. Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Spain, UK 2008.
- Hellwig, Nina: Elemente der Montessori-Pädagogik in der Arbeit mit legasthenen Kindern. Universität Hagen, 2006.
- Hender, Karin: Legasthenie im Geigenunterricht. Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Zürich 2007.
- Karli, Doris: Dyslexia in theorie and practice. Alpen-Adria-Universität, Institut für Erziehnungswissenschaften und Bildungsforschung, Klagenfurt 2006.
- Lanzinger, Isabell Maria: Legasthenie in der Fremdsprache Englisch. Karl-Franzens- Universität, Institut für Anglistik, Graz 2006.
- Lippitsch-Ludwig, Iris: Legasthenie im Kindes und Erwachsenenalter. Alpen-Adria-Universität, Institut für Erziehungswissenschaften und Bildungsforschung, Klagenfurt 2007.
- Mészáros, Szilvia: Dyslexia, as Austrian teachers see it. Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, 2011.
- Rohrmoser, Andrea: Legasthenie pädagogisch betrachtet. Universität Innsbruck, Institut für Erziehungswissenschaften, 2005.
- Trebess, Kerstin: Lerncoaching als Unterstützung bei einem Legasthenietraining. Universität Bielefeld, Fakultät für Erziehungswissenschaften, 2009
- Wagner, Carolin: Legasthenie und Tanz- Chance oder Irrtum? Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Lehrstuhl Pädagogische Psychologie, 2009.
- Wilhelmstötter, Michael: Legasthene Schüler/Schülerinnen im kaufmännischen Unterricht. Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Fakultät für Betriebswirtschaft, Innsbruck 2008.