Learning Difficulties Australia


LDA COUNCIL 2008-2009


Professor Max Coltheart
Professor Max Coltheart is the Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science. He is a cognitive scientist with interests in cognitive neuropsychology and cognitive neuropsychiatry, and is a researcher of international renown in the field of reading and reading difficulties. In addition to his role as Professor of Psychology and Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, he also holds the James Packer Chair of Educational Research and is Academic Director of the Children’s Hospital Education Research Institute (CHERI) at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney. He has served as President of both SPELD in NSW and of the national organization, and is one of only two Australians to have been elected a Fellow of both the Academy of Sciences in Australia and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. He was awarded the CSIRO Eureka Prize for leadership in Australian science in 2007. He is the author of 13 books and of over 240 journal articles and book chapters, and was the co-author, with Margot Prior, of the paper Learning to Read in Australia, commissioned and published by the Academy of Social Sciences as the sixth in a series of policy papers designed to encourage public debate on issues of national concern. He has been active in promoting the interests of students with dyslexia and related reading difficulties and has been a long time critic of ineffective teaching methods that fail to take account of the research evidence relating to how children learn to read. He was one of the 26 academics whose open letter to the then Minister of Education, Dr Brendon Nelson, led to the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy. Max Coltheart is the recipient of the LDA Mona Tobias Award for 2007.
Immediate Past President and Journal Associate Editor
Dr Ruth Fielding-Barnsley
Teach BEd (SpecEd), PhD (UNE)
Ruth has had an interest in learning difficulties since embarking on an ARC funded research project into the acquisition of reading with Professor Brain Byrne at the University of New England in 1985. During the following years, Ruth gained her Bachelor of Education in Special Education and in 1998 was awarded her PhD for a thesis entitled A model of beginning reading instruction: Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, alphabet knowledge and encoding/decoding within a framework of shared book reading. During this period, Ruth also worked for The New England Diagnostic Centre in the far north-west of NSW with Aboriginal students and taught in primary schools in Armidale.  Currently Ruth is lecturing in special education at the Queensland University of Technology and is still adding to her research output of over 30 journal articles and book chapters. She is a member of the ARC Network on Developmental Disorders of Language headed by Professor Max Coltheart at Macquarie University and was one of the signatories of the letter to the Minister of Education that led to the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy.

Associate Professor Lyndsey Nickels
BA Reading, PhD Lond.
Lyndsey Nickels moved to academia after several years working as a speech therapist in various London hospitals. Her research career started at Birkbeck College, University of London, where she obtained her PhD in 1992. She moved to Macquarie University in 1996, initially as a visiting Research Fellow on a Wellcome Trust Fellowship, and in 1999 took up an Australian Research Council QEII Fellowship, followed by an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship in 2006. Her research interests are in the area of the cognitive neuropsychology of language, where she investigates language impairments (both developmental and acquired as a result of brain damage) and uses these to test the adequacy of cognitive models of language comprehension and production. These models are used to inform our understanding of language impairments and how best to remediate them. Her interests also encompass the assessment and treatment of acquired language impairment (aphasia) and impaired literacy (dyslexia) in children and adults. Her research has covered the study of acquired sentence processing disorders and their remediation, impairments and remediation of word production disorders, treatment of developmental reading and spelling problems (dyslexia and dysgraphia), as well the experimental investigation of word production in non-impaired speakers. Lyndsey has a commitment to research into the remediation of language disorders, and works in collaboration with speech pathologists in this endeavour.

Dr Craig Wright
B Psych (Hons), PhD, MAPS
Craig Wright is a Psychologist and Clinic Director at Understanding Minds, a multi-disciplinary clinic specialising in the developmental disorders of childhood. He currently serves as Consultant Special Education Adviser to the Catholic Education Office (Lismore Diocese). Prior to this he held positions with Disability Services and Queensland Health. Craig’s clinical interests lie in early identification, assessment and intervention for children with learning difficulties, particularly reading. Craig’s current research interests include neurological factors in reading difficulties, reading intervention and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. He has published papers on dyslexia and ADHD and he is involved in developing a reading intervention program. He has presented a number of papers at conferences, workshops, and seminars on topics relating to dyslexia, reading intervention, and assessment of reading difficulties.

Secretary and Convenor of the Administration Committee
Dr Molly de Lemos
BSc (Hons), MSc (Natal), PhD, ANU, MAPsS, Honorary Fellow, ACER
Molly was a Senior Research Fellow at ACER prior to her retirement in 2001. Her initial training is in psychology, but since joining ACER in 1967 worked on a number of projects relating to assessment of educational achievement, with a focus on children from different language and cultural backgrounds and the early years of schooling. She has also worked on projects relating to educational provisions for students with disabilities and the educational needs of children in care.  She has had an ongoing interest in issues relating to pre-school education, early intervention, and the assessment and identification of children with learning difficulties, and has also worked in the area of psychological assessment, including the adaptation and norming of measures of intelligence, aptitudes and adaptive behaviour. Her publications include the 1994 report Schooling for Students with Disabilities, and the 2002 ACER review paper Closing the Gap between Research and Practice: Foundations for the Acquisition of Literacy. She has served on a number of committees and advisory groups relating to assessment and early childhood education, and is currently a member of the Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy Network Group.

Council Member and Website Editor
Margaret Cameron
BA (NZ), Dip. Teach (Deaf), Dip. Ed. (Excep Children) (Qld).
Margaret is currently Senior Lecturer in Education at Tabor Adelaide, with responsibility for courses in literacy and special needs. She is also a SPELD tutor and instructor in LEM Phonics, and is currently completing an M.Ed at the University of South Australia. Margaret’s initial teaching experience was as a teacher of hearing impaired children and then as a support teacher for students with learning difficulties in Queensland, before moving into teacher education at Tabor Adelaide. Her current interests are in teacher education, and particularly in providing in-service to a large number of teachers who felt the need to be equipped to teach phonics. This has led her into a greater interest in literacy in the broad sense, and a recognition of the value of whole language approaches once skill in decoding and encoding is established. Margaret has a continuing interest in the learning needs of children with a range of ‘diverse abilities’, and has developed a broad knowledge of systems and approaches to educating children with such needs.

Council Member
Joan Cooper
Joan Cooper has been involved with learning disabilities or difficulties in primary education since 1967. She has worked in both the public and private sectors, here and in the UK. She is currently coordinating the provision of support for students with learning disabilities or difficulties at the Malvern campus of Caulfield Grammar School in Melbourne. Joan has been a member of AREA/LDA since 1987 and was previously an AREA Council member, and also served as Joint Treasurer for two years. She is currently a member of the Consultant Policy Committee. Joan believes that in order to promote the welfare of students with learning disabilities there needs to be a balance of academics and teachers contributing different perspectives.

Council Member
Professor Ian Hay
Dip T (NBCAE); BA (Psy Qld); MEdSt (Qld); PhD (Qld); MAPsyS.
Ian Hay has recently taken up the position of Dean of the Faculty of Education at the
University of Tasmania. Prior to this he was Professor of Special Education/Educational Psychology at the School of Education at the University of New England, and before this he was Associate Professor at the University of Queensland. He has published more than 80 book chapters, refereed journal articles, reports, and other articles in a range of international and national peer review publications. As a chief investigator he has been awarded competitive research funds in excess of a million dollars, and has supervised some 20 higher degree research students. His main research interests are in the domain of students with literacy and academic difficulties, the role of motivation in learning, and students' cognitive development.

Council Member, Convenor of the Publications Committee, Executive Editor of LDA and Joint Editor of the Journal
Dr Alison Madelaine
BA, Dip. Ed., Dip. Spec. Ed. PhD
Alison Madelaine is a Lecturer in Special Education at Macquarie University Special Education Centre (MUSEC) in Sydney. Alison teaches postgraduate units in effective literacy instruction and special education research methods. In 2003 she was awarded a PhD for her thesis entitled curriculum-based measurement of reading and teacher judgment of reading performance.  Alison’s current academic interests include literacy in general, reading fluency, book levelling and curriculum-based measurement of reading and writing. During the 2003/04 school year, Alison participated in the Visiting International Faculty Program, and taught disadvantaged students with learning disabilities in South Carolina, USA. At present, she works as a consultant to the Schoolwise Program in Sydney, and the MULTILIT Coen Project in Queensland, and also provides professional development in reading and classroom management.

Council Member
Dr. K. Louise Mercer
BA (U of QLD), BEd (U of Alberta), MA (U of British Columbia), PhD (U of British Columbia)
Louise Mercer is a Lecturer in the School of Learning and Professional Studies at the Queensland University of Technology. Prior to taking up this position in July 2007, she had lived in Canada for 30 years where she was a regular classroom teacher, compensatory language teacher, special education support teacher, and school psychologist (Kindergarten to Year 12) in a number of school districts in Alberta and British Columbia as well as an intern at the Asante Centre for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome at Maple Ridge, BC. She was also a sessional lecturer at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC) and at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC) where she completed her Masters degree in Language Education (specialising in reading difficulties) in 1985 and her doctoral degree in School Psychology on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded fellowship in 2004. Louise’s research interests lie in the areas of assessment, the utilisation of evidence-based inclusive classroom practices that support diverse and struggling learners, the impact of social-emotional factors especially anxiety, depression, and self-efficacy on learning, and learning disabilities/difficulties especially with regard to the development of literacy skills.

Council Member
Dr Barbara Nielsen
DipT, BEd, MEdSt, PhD
Barbara Nielsen is currently a lecturer in the School of Education at Flinders University in Adelaide.  She has has 20 years of classroom teaching and school administration experience and this underpins her research interests and informs her current teaching in the undergraduate programs for junior primary and primary teachers. Her areas of expertise include: literacy, English, inclusive teaching methodologies, the expressive arts and assessment, recording and reporting. She began her research projects with case studies of children who, although clever, were struggling with reading and writing. Her PhD thesis is entitled Researching Learning Difficulties in Literacy and addresses issues about researching learning difficulties as well as establishing possible causes of learning difficulties in literacy and the subsequent implications for teaching from the perspective of the classroom teacher. She has developed an epidemiological perspective for understanding and researching learning difficulties and a case study methodology for teachers to use with individual children. Barbara is interested in all aspects of literacy learning and teaching, including the use of a literacy framework for the teaching of second languages.

Council Member
Janet Roberts
BA (English); GradDip (SpEd), TITC.
Jan Roberts is the Director of Learning Pathways and a specialist in teaching children and adults how to learn. She was a primary, then secondary English and special education teacher, before establishing a training and tutoring consultancy. She helps teachers, aides and parents increase their skills and strategies through practical professional development and ongoing consultancy in schools. She tutors students with learning difficulties in literacy and maths and trains adults in literacy and study skills. She convened the LDA Melbourne conference in 2000. Jan has been trained as an instructor in all of de Bono thinking tools and has conducted workshops in schools and the corporate sector. She also co-edited, with Dr de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats Manual for Education. Jan is the author of various resources, including Spelling Recovery (ACER Press and David Fulton, UK); Now I Can Spell and Read Better, Too (Learning Pathways), a research-based, structured program for primary and secondary levels; and Comprehension Plus and Advanced Comprehension Plus (Learning Pathways).

Council Member
Dr Pye Twaddell
BA (Brown University – education and American Civilization), MA (University of New Hampshire – reading and counselling), PhD (University of Sydney – education)
Before immigrating to Australia in 1980, Pye taught in the American Title 1 Program for 10 years assessing school entry function and reading achievement, programming and individualising K-8 instruction, and writing yearly grant submissions. Her American teaching certifications are Reading Supervisor and Teacher of Perceptually Handicapped and Early Childhood. Her NSW certifications are Teacher Infants, Primary Special Education and Support Teacher Learning Difficulties and Reading. Pye has taught at and assisted with research projects for The Autistic Association NSW and supervised students at the Children’s Centre University of Sydney. She has also worked in schools on the identification and intervention of children’s learning difficulties. For over 20 years Pye has worked in the LD sector primarily in the areas of advocacy, disseminating information (written articles, presentations at conferences, and workshops), and writing Federal and State grant submissions and responses to inquiries. She has run conferences with The Learning Difficulties Coalition NSW and SPELD NSW, and more recently with AUSPELD - including running a national speaking tour – and has represented these organisations at the NSW Department of Education (DET). Her PhD research involved a longitudinal validation of a Kindergarten Screening Instrument with combined samples totalling 776 children screened early in the year and 833 children screened late in the year from15 city, suburban and rural NSW schools.

Council Member
Dr. Gary Woolley
Teach Cert., Dip.Teach., Grad Dip Teach., M.Sp Ed., PhD
Gary Woolley is a Lecturer in Education in the Faculty of Education at Griffith University, at their Mt Gravatt Campus in Brisbane. He took up this position in June this year, having previously been Lecturer in Inclusive Education at the University of Canberra. Qualifying as a teacher in 1975, Gary has been teaching for over 30 years in public and private schools in NSW and Queensland.  He has taught in mainstream classrooms at various grade levels from lower primary to high school, and during the 15 years before becoming a University lecturer he worked as a learning support co-ordinator for students from Prep to Year 12. Over the last four years, Gary has lectured in literacy and learning difficulties in the inclusive education program at the University of Canberra, and in his present position at Griffith University he is continuing to lecture in this area.  His particular professional interests include reading comprehension difficulties, memory, cognition and learning engagement. Gary recently completed his PhD thesis, which focused on the design of training programs for volunteer tutors to assist students with reading comprehension difficulties. Gary has written a number of articles and taken part in several research projects in literacy and inclusive education. He was part of a team of five lecturers that recently won a Carrick Institute Citation for Teaching and Learning.

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