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Monday, December 30, 2013

DIY Color Overlays

Here's a DIY color overlay activity:

Step One: Purchase colorful transparent sheets at your local office supply store. Let each student try a variety different colors as each learner will have their own preference.
  • transparency film
  • transparent report covers 
  • transparent dividers

Step Two: For some students, use whole sheets so they can change the background color of the entire page of text.  Other students like thin strips of color, as it can help with tracking from line to line.  You can cut them to each student's preferred length and width.

Step Three:  For students that get overwhelmed by to many words on a page, place Washi Tape around the edge of the overlay to block out competing lines of text. 

Step Four:  For independent reading time and reading centers, create a larger select of different color overlays and let your students use them as needed. 

If some students don’t find color overlays helpful, they can still make one and use it as a bookmark.

Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4 Steps to Setting Limits

Last time I wrote about how to handle tantrums when there is a discernible pattern to the occurrence of upset feelings and behaviors. Today, we will look at what to do when there seems to be no pattern to the behavior.

If there is no pattern, it’s possible that your child is going through a developmental stage of creating independence and separation. Typically referred to as the “terrible twos,” it is very common for children who are much older to also struggle against limits. Before you give up, know that there is hope!  Below I outline an approach that will help your child know what to expect and will help you reduce your frustration. 

Four-step Approach:

  1. Clearly and concisely state the limit: Provide direction with the fewest amount of words possible. When a child hears, “Could you please turn off the TV because it’s just about time to go and I really think you’ve watched enough today,” they have to work to filter out what you’re asking. “I need you to turn off the TV,” allows your child to easily register what you’re requesting. 
  2. Acknowledge the feeling your child exhibits and hold that emotion: Above all, children want to be heard. If you can recognize and name the emotion, your child will have the feeling that you understand them and you’ll have a connection that makes the limit more powerful. “Timmy, I see that you’re very angry and you really wanted to keep watching TV.” After such an acknowledgement, it can be helpful to allow a silence in which your child can process and work through the feeling.
  3. Re-state the limit and explain what the consequence will be if your child does not follow through: “It’s time to turn off the TV. If I need to ask you again, I will turn it off and you’ll have 15 min. less time tomorrow.” This will give your child the opportunity to consider the request and the alternative to following the request. Typically kids need that extra warning and time to process, disengage from their activity, and comply with the request.
  4. Re-state the limit and follow through with a consequence: This is very important! Follow through is everything. It tells the child you mean what you say and will help him or her remember that consequences will result the next time. “I’ve asked you to turn off the TV. Now I will turn it off and you will lose your time for tomorrow.” No other discussion is needed.
See if this method helps shorten the length and number of the tantrums. I’ve seen it work with many families and find that the more consistently it is employed, the better the results. Consistency is key!

Emily Herber is a child and family therapist at the Center for Psychological Services.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Academic Study Reveals Promising New Approach for Students with Dyslexia

Data collection for an 18-month study by Professor David Messer (The Open University) of Guided Phonetic Reading (GPR) as an intervention for struggling readers has just come to a close in six schools across London. The study used a randomized control trial experimental design to compare children given GPR support for their reading difficulties and children receiving the best form of support normally used in each school. 

The data has yet to be published with detailed analysis, but all initial indications of benefit to the GPR group in the trial are very encouraging. Having been falling behind steadily before the start of the trial, 90% of the GPR Group progressed at a normal pace or better during the first 12 months of intervention, in comparison with just 20% of the control group. 

“These are exciting early indications and suggest Guided Phonetic Reading could be a useful new innovation in the field, but there is a lot of work to be done still on the data”, said Professor Messer. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Questions to Ask a College's Learning Support Staff

             As students with learning differences investigate college options, it is important to take the time to meet with the staff who will be providing the needed accommodations and services. While students and parents may have their own specific questions based on individual needs, below are some general questions that families may wish to pose.
·         How are students with learning differences supported at the college?  While most colleges are able to provide standard accommodations and services such as extended time for testing and note taking services, it is important to have a full picture of what is possible.  Is assistive technology available? Are tutoring services provided by peers or professionals?  Will students receive individualized attention, and if so, how frequently?

·         How are professors notified of the accommodations? While the learning support staff can often be helpful with this, it is typically the student's responsibility to initiate the use of accommodations and take a proactive approach in communicating those needs to professors.

·         How is the learning support center staffed?  Being aware of how many full-time and part-time staff members are available and how they are assigned to students is important information to be aware of from the beginning.  Some colleges have a large staff, and others are very limited.

·         What documentation does the office need in order to consider students for special services? While most colleges will accept testing that has been completed within the past three years, it is best to know this information before applying to the college.  At the minimum, the staff will typically want to see a test of cognitive ability and tests of achievement.  Information from the child's school, such as an IEP may be helpful additional documentation but will rarely suffice as the sole documentation.

·         What role, if any, does the learning support staff play in the admissions process? Colleges with structured support programs will usually have a separate admissions procedure and may be a part of the general admissions process.  In other circumstances, the learning support office does not become involved until after the student has decided to matriculate.

·         How successful are students who receive learning support? Can the office provide information about retention or graduation rates for this population of learners?

·         Are course waivers or substitutions available?  While some colleges may be able to consider substituting or waiving courses in areas such as foreign language or mathematics for students with specific disabilities, they are not required to do so?
            These questions can be a springboard for further questions and discussions that will take place throughout the college search and application process.  As a result, scheduling time with learning support staff when visiting a college is a key step in identifying the right fit.
Thanks, Kristen
Kristen Tabun
Director of College Guidance
Woodlynde School

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Helping Kids with Learning Disabilities Make Great Decisions

Helping Kids Make Great Decisions!

Most parents want to teach their children to make good decisions. Decision-making skills help a child feel confident and act proactively. Without these skills, a child is less confident, and they can be afraid to step out of their comfort zone.  It’s hard to be confident and proactive when you are unsure of how to make decisions!

Use the Assess Options/Decide Responsibly Model for Decision Making:
Here is the good news … Teaching your children decision-making skills is easy! Explain decision making as a process and it becomes much more understandable and straightforward. When introducing the concept of decision making, use the slogan Assess Options/Decide Responsibly to remember the steps.

·     Cultivate the ability to assess  - look as deeply at the situation as possible, thoroughly discussing it to become familiar with all aspects. Build a vision of what you want as an end result.
·     Identify options– With an end result in mind, review what you know about the situation from as many different perspectives as you can come up with. This will give you a list of ways to reach your desired result. Entertain the absurd to the predictable – include as many options as you can dream up!
·     Decide on a course – Choose a course and stick with it until completion, or until a change in course is required. Seek input on your progress along the way from those you trust. This is key to the process – it is a method of checking progress.
·     Take responsibility for self and actions –See your decision through to completion. Include a change of course, if necessary, without abandoning the process or blaming others for how things are going.

Working through this model with young children who are learning about making decisions and young adults who have already made many decisions in their lives, will build confidence with the process. Use a current situation and help them identify which decision-making stage they are in, discuss possible next steps and review steps they have taken.

Many Kids Learn Though Indirect Experiences!
Parents can also promote good decision-making by sharing their own decision-making process. Demonstrating how you use the steps can make this come alive for your children.

·     Share with your children, in an age appropriate way, challenges you are facing and what you did to solve them.
·     Talk about how you created options, deciding how to take action and working on follow through. 
·     Show your children that you are comfortable asking for input before making decisions. This shows that seeking advice is a key way to help with the process.
·     Have your child role-play action-oriented strategies for resolving their decision-making difficulties. Role-playing is a great way to increase confidence with decision-making. 

Kids Learn Best when Enjoying the Experience:
Have fun with this! We all retain information best if we enjoy the process. Teaching this skill is a great way to engage in meaningful conversation with your kids, and you will be creating decision-making that will be more reliable and predictable and having a good time while doing so. And don’t forget, Assess Options/Decide Responsibly gives structure to an important life skill we use every day!

This is important stuff...let’s talk!
Becky Scott, Family Coach at The Navigators Way.com

Becky works with families with learning issues that are looking for answers to perplexing questions so that they may lead productive and successful lives!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Initiating Family Discussions About Learning Disabilities

Some time ago I wrote about a young man named Darren, whom I had first had the opportunity to meet early in his elementary career.  Darren’s story started out like many others: He entered each new grade apprehensive about his ability to succeed and concerned about feeling unprepared for new academic challenges he would face.  The fall was difficult as he struggled to learn new skills, but by spring he had settled into the classroom structure and was attaining some success.  As the year progressed, he expressed relief about his increased learning as well as pride in his performance.  Nonetheless, each September he was again worried about entering a new grade. 

Testing revealed that Darren had learning disabilities that affected his perceptual, perceptual motor, and phonemic awareness skills.  These impacted his performance in numerous academic areas including word identification and reading fluency, mathematics, spelling, and most greatly written expression.  Yet Darren’s verbal skills were advanced for his age and enabled him to learn and express himself very well through language.  This was apparent in his easy conversational style and understanding of mature humor.  In speaking with this young man an adult would not be able to detect any hint of a learning disability.  In fact, talking with him was delightful! 

The vast gap between Darren’s ability to express himself verbally and in writing was creating tremendous frustration not only for him, but the whole family.  Here is where his parents, Becky and Rich, were unusually wise.  They brought both of their sons, Darren and his eleven-year-old brother, Nelson, to a family session to discuss the testing results.  They recognized that everyone in the household was affected.  Darren needed language to understand his challenges and learn to advocate for himself in the classroom, that was a given.  But they knew that Nelson needed this as well, an understanding of why his brother struggled so and why their mother’s time and attention often was diverted to him in the afterschool hours in which homework is completed.  For Becky and Rich, understanding how to support Darren’s learning and Nelson’s feelings about the demands of that support fostered effective co-parenting.  This enabled them to manage the strong emotions that emerged in response to the presence of a learning disability in the household.

Who is Affected by the Learning Disability?
When one member of a family has a learning disability, everyone is affected: parents and siblings alike.  I find that this is one of the easiest factors to overlook, one that families often do not recognize until it is explicitly pointed out.  It’s one that Darren’s parents instinctively knew and worked actively to address.  In my work with students I see time and time again that some of the most impactful experiences are conversations that include the whole family in the office, at the dinner table, or in the car (sometimes not having to look at one another furthers the conversation!)  Don’t overlook anyone; every family member needs a chance to talk about their experience of the learning disability and its effect on themselves as well as the family as a whole.

For Darren’s family this session started a conversation that has been ongoing ever since. Not only did it provide a context for his struggles to his brother and himself, but it offered opportunities for the development of self-reflection, insight, problem solving skills, and connection among family members that has served each member of the family.

How Does a Parent Get the Discussion Started?  
You can always begin with questions.  Here are some possible queries:
  1. How is each of my children handling this diagnosis?
  2. How I am handling this diagnosis?
  3. Are my partner and I able to work together to build our understanding of the learning disability?
  4. How does the learning disability affected each member of the family?
Don't Be Afraid to Start a Discussion:
Many parents are afraid to talk with their children about learning disabilities for fear that the individual will be “labeled” or seen as different by their siblings.  In truth, they and their siblings already know that something is amiss.  They just don’t know what it is. 
  • Tip: In the absence of accurate and factual information we make up explanations for what is occurring.  What we make up is almost invariably worse than the reality.
Give your Children Accurate Information about What is Happening in Their Family:
Make sure you too are informed.
  • Know the name of your child’s learning disability and the ways in which it affects how they operate at home. 
  • Use the vocabulary of that LD (such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing, math disorder) in conversations with your children.
  • Let them ask questions, and tell them the truth in response. If you don’t know the answer, tell them so, and then work with them to find the answer. 
  • Tip: the more informed and comfortable you are in speaking about the learning issue the better your family’s adjustment will be.
Let’s get the conversation started!

Be Well,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Teaching Visualization: A Needed Skill for Learning

Developing a strong capacity to visualize is a skill that will help young learners succeed in schooling as well as life.  Although the ability to see images in ones mind's eye comes easily to some, many struggle with this.  With mindful practice, everyone can improve their visualization skills and those that have what I like to call a "blind mind's eye," can learn to see. 

What Can Cause a "Blind Mind's Eye?"
1. Students with learning disabilities often struggle with visualization because their brains are so taxed with the learning process that they don't have the "cognitive space" to tap into the visual cortex.  This is the area of the brain that helps us to picture images in our mind.
2. Trauma can also result in individuals blocking their capacity to visualize.  In an effort to cope with a devastating event, some people learn to "turn off" the images in their mind.  Although this might help them deal with the trauma in the short term, it can negatively impact their memory for other events as well as the learning of new material.
3. Lack of practice and discussion about visualization can also result in limited abilities in this area.  For some children, visualization does not come naturally and they have to be taught how to develop this skill.

How Can We Help Students Develop a Strong Mind's Eye?  
1. Introduce young learners to the concept of visualization.  Teach them vocabulary such as mind's eye, visualization, ----
2. Participate with children in imaginary play and discuss all the visual details.
3. Help children to develop metacognitive strategies by sharing your own visualizations and think aloud throughout the process.
4. When reading aloud or listening to books on tape, take short breaks and discuss your visualizations.  
5. Teach children about the 10 skills needed to develop visualization.  I developed a free Prezi, illustrated in the image above.  Click here to view the presentation.  

How Can Visualization Help Children in Schooling and Life?
1. Developing ones ability to visualize will greatly enhance and improve one's memory.
2. Practicing positive visualizations can help children relax and can also help them to fight depression and anxiety.
3. Using visualizations when reading novels and textbooks will significantly improve reading comprehension.   
4. Taking the time to visualize a scene before writing will help young learners develop their ideas and include descriptive details in their essays.
Clearly, visualization is a skill that needs to be developed in all young learners.  If children are able to practice and develop their ability to a point of automaticity, then even students with learning disabilities can utilize it for learning.  

If you are interested in learning more about developing student skills with visualization, click here

Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz