Category Archives: Dyslexia

Some of the most severe challenges to beginning reading and writing come from various types of dyslexia and from dysgraphia. It is critical to realize that two children may read below grade level for totally different reasons. For that reason, suggestions for prevention and remediation of problems related to dyslexia target specific strengths and needs. One size does not fit all.

Finding Brilliance in Learning Differences

This week, I got an up close and personal reminder of why I remain interested in children with dyslexia. One of our grandsons, a quirky third grader, came home with a diagnosis of mild dyslexia in reading and mild dysgraphia in handwriting. I did not feel surprised or dismayed. Through the years, some of the most fascinating children I have met faced similar labels.

His mother sent the school report to me earlier in the week. Sunday evening, walking out of a restaurant, Elliott looked up and said, “Grandma, do you know I have dyslexia?” “Yes, Elliott. Do you know that to even get that label means you have a smart brain?” He nodded. I have great faith in this tall, lanky kid. His brain works in wonderful ways. From the time Elliott was tiny, he amazed me with his interest in most things science. Today, he glibly whizzes through technology, and, with the exception of word problems, he handles numbers well.

Elliott has an older cousin who received a similar diagnosis in grade four. At that time, one of our older grandsons called after school and said, “Grandma, I cried all the way home from school. The teacher said my writing looks like the work of a first grader.” Stories and ideas explode in the brains of both of these grandsons. They have questions exploding and numerous thoughts to express. Creative, insightful, and funny, both boys struggle to put pen to paper. Elliott also works hard to read orally. As a former educator and a forever grandmother, I relish the thinking patterns of these young men.

Continue reading

Helping Parents Understand Learning Disabilities

A funny, curious little guy I love very much has a learning disability. Although I remind myself that each challenge in life brings its own blessings, my heart aches for him. My heart also suffers for his parents who care deeply and have already taken many steps to help him succeed.

I write this message for all parents who have been told their child has a learning disability. Although either gender can be affected, I will use the masculine pronoun. Most of all, I want parents to understand that a learning disability does not relate to lack of intelligence, laziness, or attitude. You might prefer to think that your child does not work hard, plays too much, or doesn’t care. Your child may even pretend not to care. He cares. As a former special education teacher, I do not believe young children do not care about learning. Only if your child gives up will he stop caring.

So, what is a learning disability? When one or more of the central nervous system processes do not work properly, we apply the term learning disability. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the disorder manifests in one of the following areas: attention, reasoning, processing, memory, communication, reading, writing, spelling, calculation, coordination, social competence, and emotional maturity.

Your child with learning disabilities does not lack the ability to learn and must be taught concepts at his thinking ability instead of his reading level. Although conventional teaching methods often do not work, with accommodations, your child can succeed — even through college. Without appropriate adaptations, your child may face a very painful educational experience. Continue reading

Promoting Writing Success with Tools for Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia, the disability that creates barriers to writing letters and numbers, does not need to destroy a child’s ability to succeed in school. When teachers and parents make adjustments, children with dysgraphia can begin to succeed. Accommodating tools provide alternative ways to produce work.

As a teacher or parent, do you want to experience pleasure? Imagine the excitement of a child who suddenly succeeds after a long, painful struggle. You can’t help but be thrilled at a child’s increased motivation. No accommodation or teaching tool offers a sure “fix”. However, providing help promotes enthusiasm for teachers, parents and for children. Continue reading

Provide Support for Homework: Avoid a Battle

Homework can be an activity to build trust or it can create a battlefield. Amy Campbell, the counselor at the Rawson Saunders School for Dyslexia shares ideas with parents. I am grateful to Amy for sharing her important ideas on my blog.

 Provide Support for Homework: Avoid a Homework Battle

Many parents inquire about the best way to support children with their homework (Thank you, parents!). Here are some general points to consider on how to make the most of homework time and facilitate a beneficial and hassle-free homework routine:

Create family learning time– Children develop attitudes about learning from their family. Show children that you value learning! Set aside a time each day to model the value of learning by enjoying a book, article, or webinar while your children do their homework. Continue reading

Do We Weaken Learning With Accommodations?

When do accommodations enhance education? When do they water down learning experiences? As a former special education teacher, I believe our goal should be to make learning as fluid as possible while maintaining high standards. Accommodations change how a student learns the material. Accommodations do not change the final outcome or difficulty of material. I share the following examples, which students in my classes taught me.

  • Instead of reading a text, a child can listen to an audiobook or oral presentation. Many years ago, a third grade boy taught me the importance of teaching content, such as science, at the child’s thinking ability instead of his reading level. This little guy loved technology (before technology could be found everywhere). He succeeded in math and he adored science lessons. He could not read orally. At that time, I was young and operating from the idea that if I could find books with an easy enough vocabulary, he would succeed. This intelligent little boy felt insulted by the “baby” books I asked him to read. Finally, I realized that no matter how simple the words and sentences, this child continued to omit phrases, hesitate, reread, and twist known words. I had to find a way to get the science information from the written text into his brain. I decided to find or create an audiobook or read the words aloud to him. While listening and following along, he began to succeed

Continue reading

Apple vs. Google: The Real Winners Are Students with Dyslexia

by Jamie Martin

You may have noticed a little friendly competition between Apple and Google, the technology giants who are in constant battle to be King of the Hill. During his keynote presentations, Apple’s Tim Cook often jabs at the adoption rate of new versions of Android compared to those of iOS. Google’s inexpensive and versatile Chromebooks are steadily taking over the school market, which once seemed ripe for widespread iPad adoption. Currently, the Apple Watch has slipped past Google Glass as the most intriguing device in the wearables category. The back-and-forth of tech dominance can be dizzying and difficult to follow.

While the debate over which company holds the crown continues, one thing iTechnology Educations for certain: The rivalry has been a boon for students with dyslexia. During the past decade, assistive technology (AT) has increasingly become the great academic equalizer for students with language difficulties, and Apple and Google are currently leading the charge. Their strong desire to outdo each other has led each to produce great technology with enough available AT to make them invaluable resources for the dyslexic community. The truth is that if you are a student who has difficulty reading and writing, you can look to either company for helpful accommodations. Better yet, you can study the vast menu of AT options on Mac desktop computers, Chromebooks, iOS devices, and Android devices, and select the combination of tools that will work best for you. Continue reading

Feel the Grief from Dysgraphia & Dyslexia

“I do not want any child to cry the hours I did as a young person or hear the harsh words I did. I never quit trying to improve; even at 75, I keep keeping on.” One of my cousins recently wrote those words. She continued, “In college my third semester I made an A. Oh man, was I excited. I got to give a 20-minute presentation on my research paper. Talking was my best test to take.”

Every parent and every teacher needs to “get” the grief behind those words. Dyslexia, a widely accepted disability, continues to create feelings of inadequacy. All too often, adults accuse children with this disability as being lazy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

In 2013, I retired from the teaching profession. Through the years, I sometimes had the opportunity to work with very intelligent children who struggled to read or write. From personal experience, I share two important facts. Continue reading

How to Promote Reading Comprehension

Ana BookImagine my surprise years ago when a child who read a passage beautifully, could not paraphrase the meaning or answer a single question. Not only did I question myself, I wondered if some kind of distraction hampered understanding. Years later, I learned that a few children suffer from a condition that some call Direct Dyslexia. Regardless of the name used, the child fails to gain meaning. 

Direct Dyslexia

A child with Direct Dyslexia easily decodes any word that fits the rules of the English language, identifies irregular words, and sounds fluent and comfortable when reading orally. All of the reading skills work well except understanding and recall. What can be done about lack of comprehension?

Comprehension always involves thinking and means the same as understanding. True reading requires the brain to decode the squiggles we call letters and to also bring meaning to the task. Both skills must be in place for true reading to occur. When a child struggles to understand reading, try the steps listed below. Continue reading

What Is Surface Dyslexia? How Can We Help?

In an earlier blog, I wrote about Deep Dyslexia. Today, I share ideas about Surface Dyslexia. Both types have challenges with oral fluency. (Fluency includes rate, accuracy, and intonation.)

 Surface Dyslexia and Fluency

Children with Surface Dyslexia demonstrate such proficient use of phonics that they use this skill for all areas of decoding. When confronted with irregular words that do not follow phonemic rules, the efforts to sound out words fail to be useful. As a result, fluency falls apart.

Helping With Fluency

Ideas that help children with Surface Dyslexia also aid those with Deep Dyslexia. Consider suggestions below.

  • Set up Buddy Reading with peers. Reading in pairs protects the child with poor oral reading. Asking a child with weak fluency to read orally in front of a small group or the whole class usually creates embarrassment. (Note: If you are a parent reading this, please request that your child’s teacher avoid asking your child to read orally in front of peers.)reading_tip
  • You may want to purchase commercial recordings for the child to listen to and follow along with eyes and fingers. When a child hears the text while seeing the print and sliding a finger under the words, three senses provide input.
  • Enlarge the print. For a child struggling with oral reading, larger print often makes a significant difference. Consider using a size that would be appropriate for a child with poor vision. (Larger print has been the most successful modification I have used.)
  • According to Marianne Wolf in “New Research on an Old Problem,” repeated reading of short passages is currently considered the best way to improve fluency.

Continue reading

Innovative Ways to Solve the Mystery of Dyslexia

PHONOLOGICAL DYSLEXIA

Phonics instruction provides a tool that helps readers decode (break the code) created by combining written symbols and letter sounds. Two types of children struggle with phonics. Both types lack the ability to discriminate between similar sounds. Children with Deep Dyslexia also have trouble with sight words.

Children with Phonological Dyslexia benefit from flash cards but fail to hear subtle differences in sound-to-symbol combinations. (The sounds are not logical.) Elephant /e/ and igloo /i/ require auditory discrimination, which is the ability to hear small differences in sounds.

Phonics from Project Read® offers excellent methods for teaching letter sounds because movements and pictures serve as reminders of sound differences. Consider the steps below. Continue reading