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Friday, February 28, 2014

Motivating Discouraged Readers

For many children, playing video games, watching television and participating in other activities is preferred over reading.  In fact, parents and teachers often find themselves coaxing or bribing youngsters to open a book.  So what can be done to make this important activity more appealing?  

Ways to Entice Children to Read:
  • Associate Reading with Positive Experiences:  Try to avoid getting upset when your children do not choose to read.  Instead, ignore this behavior and praise them when they do choose to read.
  • Make reading a pleasant family bonding experience:  Select a time, daily or weekly, when the family reads together.   Make sure to call this activity a fun name, such as Family Fun or Reading Roundup.  Prepare favorite snacks and drinks, and create an inviting environment by pulling out pillows and blankets so children can make a cozy reading nook.  Family members can read as a group or independently.  Young children that can not read yet, can listen to others read aloud, books on tape or they can play games with text.  For example, they can be given a magazine and encouraged to read from left to right over the text and search for the letter "a." Every time they find it, they should circle it.  They can also be enticed to highlight sight words such as “the,” “said,” and “what.”  These pre-reading activities will help to develop letter and word recognition as well as attention to details and tracking skills. As another option, you can encourage young ones to use an I-Pad or similar device and play with interactive reading apps (see below) or pre-reading activities such as BBC's Syllable Factory Game
  • Use audio-books:  Listen to books on tape at home or in the car.  Be sure to stop the recording from time to time and discuss your visualizations.  Can you describe the setting?  What do the characters look like?  You can even play games by seeing who has the most accurate and most detailed mental imagery.  Both Learning Alley and Book Share are two sites that offer almost any book of your choosing. You can even set up your children to listen to free audio books online. Here are a few excellent sites:
    1. National Geographic Young Explorer 
    2. Storynory 
    3. Star Fall 
    4. Read To Me 
  • Share a book: Read the same book that your child is reading.  Encourage your child to highlight any difficult words.  Discuss each chapter to ensure understanding of the vocabulary as well as the content.  You can also discuss predictions and even inferences or hidden meanings.
  • Create a fun activity:  If your child like to draw, encourage them to do a drawing for each chapter.  Have them highlight all the things they want to include in their drawing while they are reading. 
  • Make sure books are enticing and accessible: Let your kids select their own books and make sure that they are easily accessible.
  • Introduce your kids to a series: Read the first book of a series to your child.  Then take turns reading the second book together.  If the book is too hard for them to read, echo read with your child.  When they get hooked, make sure to have the other books in the series on hand. 
I hope you find these ideas helpful!  Do you have any of your own strategies that you would like to share?

 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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When Should Parents Seek Professional Help for Their Children?

As children develop, they will inevitably encounter difficulties. These struggles provide opportunities for growth, learning, and building character. However, when the problems build and intensify, you may start to wonder if it is time to ask for help. It can be hard to know when it’s time to make the call! Below are a few factors to consider if you’re thinking about calling a mental health professional but aren’t sure about the decision.

1. Family Impact: When a child is struggling, it affects the entire family. Occasional ups and downs are a part of life, but if there is a pattern or severity to the problem, it will impact everyone. If you’ve noticed that the family is responding to the severity or frequency of the problems, it may be time to ask for help.

2. Your Child’s Feelings: When problems persist, it takes a toll on the child. Think about the last time you were repeatedly unsuccessful at something. Now imagine it happened daily and you were judged on this skill. This can be similar to how your child feels if they are struggling at school and this can translate to inappropriate expressions of frustration, declining confidence, and negative predictions about future success in school. Intervening early can provide an outlet for these feelings and help to correct inaccurate or negative beliefs.

3. Explore your Expectations: Have you always thought of therapy as a long term process reserved for severe mental illness? It may be time to challenge this attitude. Many mental health professionals offer a variety of services, including parent coaching, assessment, and short or long term therapy. Parent coaching involves helping parents try different parenting strategies, assessment provides feedback about options that will support the family, and therapy can greatly vary in length and intensity to meet your individual needs.

The bottom line is that it’s an incredible strength to be able to ask for help when it is needed. We teach our children to use the supports around them, and we can lead by example if we are brave enough to reach out ourselves. 

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

Teaching Mathematics One Step at a Time


                             2y – 2x = 8

Number sense is the ability to understand and manipulate quantities. A number line provides the spatial representation that is the key to number sense. Using linking cubes on the number line helps students understand the concept of quantity. Use different colored linking cubes when adding and subtracting with the number line, for example: 3 red cubes plus two yellow cubes equals five total cubes.  Have students use language and “say” what they are doing. This will significantly increase their understanding.
When teaching multi-step subjects, like mathematics, the process in every lesson should be broken down for students step by step. Every step should be covered individually, and the students should have sufficient practice with each stage, even when the math problem itself hasn’t been entirely solved. Do NOT proceed to a new step until there is mastery of the current step. When students have mastered the individual steps to a specific type of problem, there is a much greater understanding of the problem as a whole and how to solve variations of it.
Example: One Step at a Time: Algebra
Do the first step of multiple problems involving the same concept. When step one is mastered, add step two. When step two is mastered, add step three and so on.  Do not move on to the next step until there is mastery.

Instructions: Rewrite the equation by changing it to slope-intercept form.

                                                2y – 2x = 8

Steps to solve: (Only show students one step at a time.)

1. Add x variable to both sides of equation: 2y – 2x + 2x = 8 + 2x
                                                                      2y      + 0      = 8 + 2x
                                                                                      2y = 8 + 2x
2. Divide both sides by the y coefficient: 2y = 2x + 8
                                                                                     2      2     2
                                                                                        y =   x + 4
3. Clean up final equation; box your answer: y = x + 4

Practice with multiple variations of individual steps:
Original equations:        Perform Step 1:
a. 5y + 10x = 10
b. 3y – 7x = –15
c. 2x + 6y = 18
d. 9y + x = –27
e. x – 2y = –14
From Step 1:        Perform Step 2:
a. 5y = –10x + 10
b. 3y = 7x – 15
c. 6y = –2x + 18
d. 9y = –x – 27
e. 2y = x + 14
Step 3: Clean up equations; box final answers:
a. y = –2x + 2
b. y = 7/3x – 5
c. y = –1/3x + 3
d. y = –1/9x – 3
e. y = 1/2x + 7

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Take the Guessing Out of Standardized Testing Accommodations

     As many high school juniors gear up for their first experiences with the SAT or ACT this spring, those with a diagnosed learning disability and/or ADHD should be reminded to request the proper testing accommodations well in advance of the test dates.  Many students are either unaware that such an option exists for them, or they are so daunted by the application process that they forego this very important step.  While many colleges have, in recent years, decided to allow students to apply for admission without submitting these test results, the reality is that the vast majority of post-secondary institutions require them and will likely continue to do so.  

Key Requirements When Pursuing Testing Accommodations:
To make this process smoother to navigate, it's important to keep the following in mind:

·       The administrators of both the SATs and ACTs want to see a history of a student using the requested accommodations in school.  It can be very challenging, for example, for students who have never requested and used an accommodation of extended time to suddenly be granted it for their standardized tests.

·       Make sure your documentation is in order.  The College Board (SATs) requires testing in the form of an IEP, 504 Plan or private psycho-education evaluation conducted within five years of the test.  The ACT people require such documentation to be no older than three years from the date of testing. 

·       The documentation should include a clear diagnosis and functional limitations.  In other words, how does the student's disability impact his/her ability to perform academically?

·       The documentation should include specific recommendations for accommodations.  This is especially important in the case of extended time, where the request is made for either time and a half or double time.

·       The testing should describe what tests were used to determine the student's diagnosis.

·       The evaluation must be performed by someone with the appropriate professional credentials.
What Are Some Common Testing Accommodations? 
It is also important to understand what testing accommodations are available.  Students who qualify may be able to obtain the use of a reader, scribe or computer for the tests.  Extra and extended breaks, small group testing, preferential seating and taking the test over two separate days are also commonly requested accommodations by students with the appropriate diagnoses.  

Where Can I Find Further Information?
     Further information regarding standardized testing accommodations may be found at www.collegeboard.org and www.actstudent.org.

            Remember, standardized testing is just one piece of the puzzle when looking for your ideal college.  Above all, students should always seek institutions of higher education that value their interests and talents.
Best of luck,  Kristen
Kristen Tabun
Director of College Guidance
Woodlynde School

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is the Weather Like in Your family?

The weather this winter has been extreme for much of the country. There is a gentle snowfall outside today but last week I watched an ice storm take power lines down and throw families and homes into the dark and cold for days. The weather has a big impact on our lives.   Likewise, there can be “weather” around a learning issue in your life.

What Weather are You Experiencing as a Result of a Learning Disability?
Situations, personalities and characteristics all have a part in creating the “weather” you and your family experience around a learning issue. Learning Disabilities can create climate fluctuations in any family’s life. Let's not forget it can also be a major atmospheric condition for the individual who is experiencing the learning issue.  Moreover, learning disabilities can be a storm that has trouble moving on if it gets entrenched.

When our youngest son was diagnosed with LD, there was a hurricane blowing through our home. It felt like a Category 4 storm! Siblings were furious at the extra time given to the learning issue, my husband was having trouble grappling with the reality and buried himself in work, and I felt guilty and was trying to simply keep our families ship afloat through the storm.  I haven’t even mentioned the child with LD who had “quit school!”  This was a natural disaster for sure.

Don't be Rules by the Storm! 
So here is the deal:  There are ways to "batten down the hatches" with learning issues.  A learning disability doesn't have to be a squall at all! Here is what I have learned and how I now help others with learning disabilities accomplish great things through coaching.
  • Get smart – learn all you can about what you’re dealing with.
  • Talk with all your family members – don’t sweep anything under the rug.  Share knowledge and feelings. This will avoid the building of those hurricane force winds.
  • Learn to be an Advocate.
  • Reach out for help in areas where you are struggling as a parent. Help show you child that asking for help is a sign of strength! Ignoring challenges doesn’t make them easier.
Wouldn’t it be great to feel the warm, calming support of family life instead of disturbances and angst? It really is up to you what climate a learning disability creates in your family.  Reach out today to The Navigators Way to see what options are available to calm the storms your experiencing.

This is important – Lets talk. www.TheNavigatorsWay.com

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dyslexic Font Disproved

A few of you may remember the Internet rage last year when the media picked up on stories about a "new font for dyslexics". 
The font is called Dyslexie and it looks like this:

The idea behind the innovative design was to weight the bottom of the letters with more densely shaded areas. This was meant to help dyslexic readers and spellers who struggle with letter flipping (b/d confusion) or reading words back to front.  
A recent study of the font came to the following conclusions, as transcribed in an excellent and quite funny article by Kat Bauman.“Reading speed isn’t mentionably improved, and comprehension couldn’t be said concretely to improve either. Breaking even in legibility is a basic typographic goal, but it’s probably not enough when you’re trying to give a specifically impaired group a leg up. Personal experience, while useful, isn't all it takes to make a problem-solving product.”
Have you tried Dyslexie font? Is there a font that you prefer for reading? Or fonts you absolutely can't stand? I'd love to hear...
Sarah Forrest is a Reading Specialist for David Morgan's Easyread System, and online course that specializes in helping readers with dyslexia, auditory processing issues, weak decoding skills, and more. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Predicting Reading Problems?

Parents often ask: “How do I identify if my child is at risk for developing a reading disability, such as dyslexia?”
At one time, we had to wait until a child was in school and learning to read to identify reading problems.  Now we know that there are risk factors we can identify much earlier.  This lets us intervene when a child is younger and, generally speaking, earlier intervention has better outcomes. 
The early clues to potential reading problems are easy to spot when you know what they are.  All you have to do is listen to your child speak.  
Listen for subtle sounds that tell you your child’s language skills are not developing as they should.  It’s easier than it sounds because fuzzy phonemes (phonemes are the individual sounds that produce words. For example, the word cat has 3 phonemes /c/+/a/+/t/)  leave a distinct mark on everyday language in highly predictable ways by influencing how a child pronounces certain words, sings nursery rhymes, and learns the names of sounds of the letters of the alphabet.
Here are the things to look for:
Clue #1: Delay in Speaking
As a general rule, children speak their first words around their first birthday, use phrases between 18-24 months of age, and can engage in a conversation, tell a short story, and answer “why” questions between their 3rd and 4th birthdays.
Are there signs that your child's speech is delayed: 
  • First word at 15+ months?
  • Speaking phrases after age 2?
  • Having difficulty with conceptual words at age 3 and later such as over/under, before/after, few/more, give/take, left/right?
Clue #2: Pronunciation
Baby talk is appropriate in the first few years of life. However, by age 5 or 6, children should have little trouble pronouncing most words correctly and when they do make errors their mispronunciations should be easy to correct.
  • Does your child struggle to pronounce new words or articulate long/complicated words?
  • Does he sound like he is tripping over the individual sounds (phonemes) in a word as they come out of his mouth? Or does he leaves sounds out of words?  For example, a child who calls spaghetti “pisgetti” or an elephant “lelephant” long past the age when such words should be spoken correctly.  
Clue #3: Rhyming
What an important skill this is to learn in preschool!  When a child can rhyme, we know that she is able to break words down into the smaller segments of sound that different words can share. This is a strong indicator of getting ready to read and it’s why educational psychologists and educators encourage parents to read nursery rhymes ad nauseam (Oh, so that’s why!).  Children should be able to make rhymes by age 4. 
When a child has early reading problems, he has trouble penetrating the sound structure of words and so is less sensitive to rhyme. Does your child:
  • Confuse sounds that sound alike?
  • Have trouble hearing the rhyme in a poem or song?
If so, she may not be understanding the phonemes that make two words sounds alike, because she is not understanding that a word is made-up from a sequence of individual sounds.
CLUE #4: Word Retrieval
Word retrieval problems occur when a child knows what he wants to say but cannot pull the right words from his memory.  Does your child:
  • Talk around a word so that his speech is punctuated by “umm…” and “uh…”?
  • Describe a word but not name it?
  • Point instead of speaking?
  • Use the wrong phoneme, for example saying “volcano” when he means “tornado”?
  • Does he use imprecise words, such as “things” or “stuff” rather than naming what he wants?
Clue #5: Knowledge of the Alphabet
Learning to read involves “breaking the code”—coming to understand that words are comprised of sounds that correspond to letters and that when these sounds are blended together they produce words that can be represented visually.  Learning letter sounds is critical for reading and is intricately linked to learning the names of the letters.  Fuzzy phonemes interfere with the beginning reader’s ability to learn the names and sounds of the letters in the alphabet.
Here is your developmental chart for knowledge of the alphabet: 
  • Age 3: learns to sing ABC’s.  Your child can now sing this song, though the alphabet is an undifferentiated string from A to Z.  In this stage, LMNOP is often sung as one letter.
  • Age 4: Your child should begin to recognize and name individual letters.
  • Age 5: As your child enters kindergarten she should know the name of most upper and lower case letters.
  • Age 6: By the end of kindergarten he should know all his letters and their corresponding sounds.
Now you know what to look for.  Soon we’ll talk about what to do when you see these warning signs.  Now, go listen to your kids!

Be well,