Learning Difficulties Australia


LDA COUNCIL 2009-2010



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 is committed to ensuring that research into the remediation of disorders of language is translated into more effective practice by clinicians and teachers and benefits for children and adults with impairments of language and literacy.


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 Foetal 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 learning disabilities/difficulties especially with regard to the development of literacy skills, evidence-based inclusive classroom practices that support diverse and struggling learners, the impact of social-emotional factors on learning, as well as service learning and values education within preservice teacher education.

Immediate Past President 

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.  He is currently chairing a working party set up by Mr Bill Shorten, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services, which will make recommendations to Mr Shorten about what actions the Federal government should be taking to assist people with dyslexia.


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). M Ed. (Uni SA)


Margaret is currently Senior Lecturer in Education at Tabor Adelaide, with responsibility for courses in literacy and special needs. 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 to Adelaide. She worked as a SPELD tutor, Literacy Co-ordinator and teacher in SA before moving into teacher education at Tabor Adelaide. Her teaching areas include special needs and literacy teaching, as well as academic support for pre-service teachers. Margaret has served on LDA Council for two years, for the last year working on the website committee and on a joint committee with SPELD and AASE hosting Jim Rose’s visit to Adelaide. She has written several articles and book reviews for the Bulletin.

Council Member

Professor Anne Castles
PhD Macq, BSc ANU.

Anne Castles is Research Professor of Psychology at the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science in Sydney. She completed her PhD on varieties of developmental dyslexia at Macquarie University in 1993 and was a teaching and research academic in the Psychology Department at the University of Melbourne from 1994-2006. She has a strong research interest in variability within the reading-impaired population, and in the causes of different types of dyslexia, including genetic, perceptual and language factors. She is also interested in the process of normal reading development and in particular in the mechanism by which whole-word recognition skills are acquired by children learning to read. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Research in Reading and serves on the Editorial Boards of Scientific Studies of Reading and the European Journal of Cognitive Psychology. She is also committed to translating her research into good educational and clinical practice, and has recently developed the Macquarie Online Test Interface (MOTIf; www.motif.org.au) to provide teachers and clinicians with access to theoretically-based online tests of reading and spelling.

Council Member

Joan Cooper

B.Ed, Grad Dip Special Ed, Grad Dip Mental Health for the teaching Professions, M.Ed Studies, M.A. (TESOL)

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. Until the end of 2008 she coordinated 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

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.  Ruth will be taking up the position of Associate Professor in Literacy Education at the University of Tasmania in January, 2010.

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, curriculum-based measurement of reading and effective reading instruction. 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 also works as a senior consultant to the MULTILIT Cape York Project, a project involving increasing the literacy levels of indigenous students.

Council Member

Elaine McLeish
1988 Graduate Diploma in Special Education (Melbourne); 1973 Diploma of Primary Teaching (Toorak Teachers’ College)
Teaching experience: 1989 – 1998  Teaching and leadership roles in State Special School (Psychiatric Hospital setting); 1974 –1998 Teaching in State Primary Schools.
LDA: Consultant Member since 1998. Operates a small private practice working with students from Prep to Year 8 in Literacy and Numeracy.
Victorian Referral Officer 2002-; Past Council Member 2004-2005;
Active member of The Referral and Consultant Support Sub-Committee (2002 -2008) and the Consultant Policy Committee (2009-  ). 
Elaine is interested in representing Consultants at Council level decision making and in working to maintain a high standard of service to the community into the future.

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 and Convenor of the CPC (Consultants Policy Committee)
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, to study and to do public speaking. She was a primary, then secondary English and special education teacher and a consultant with the Education Department, before establishing a training and tutoring business. She helps teachers, aides and parents increase their skills and strategies through practical professional development and ongoing consultancy in schools. 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, a research-based, structured program for primary and secondary levels; Comprehension Plus and Advanced Comprehension Plus; Step by step text analysis and Literacy cards for learning. Jan wants to increase the number and skills of Consultants (private tutors) with the help of other members of the CPC.

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. 

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