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Friday, April 25, 2014

Cross Training Your Brain

“Too often, parents and experts look at behavioral and learning disorders as if they existed separate from sensory impairments; separate from attention difficulties; separate from early childhood deprivation, neurological damage, attachment disorders, post-traumatic stress, and so on.”
Dr. Karyn Purvis “The Connected Child”
What are the right tools and instructional methods to train the brain?  This is a question we address daily at our center.
Many children and adults tried tutoring, medication, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and vision therapy.  However, they typically have done these in isolation and were only seen twice a week for 30-60 minutes. While there has been some improvement, we have seen that the combination of “cross training” the brain in many areas five-seven days a week for an hour a day over three-four months allows the neuropathways to connect.

When cross training the brain, you should:

  1. Begin each day with primitive reflex exercises for 10-15 minutes. An excellent program is Maintaining Brains Everyday at Pyramid of Potential.
  2. Include sound therapy.   Sound Therapy Synergy can be used when doing regular activities and has been used successfully for over 20 years. 
  3. Eye training exercises are often beneficial too.  Eye Q Advantage and Eye Can Learn provide visual processing exercises for all ages.  
  4. Implement cognitive exercises that increase working memory, comprehension, attention, processing, and thinking skills.  As an added benefit you can continue to wear your sound therapy while doing cognitive exercises. 
We know that physical, cognitive, behavioral, and relational skills develop together rather than in isolation. Providing a more holistic approach to build challenge areas and enhance strengths increases confidence, communication skills, memory skills, comprehension, processing skills, and relational skills. Treating the whole person through a multidisciplinary approach will give the best results. Contact us for more details about our approach and cognitive development curriculum for children and adults.
Carol Brown
Equipping Minds

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Using Assistive Technology on the College Campus

For college students with diagnosed learning disabilities, the use of assistive technology both in and out of the classroom can have a profound effect on their opportunities for success.  While not all college disabilities services programs will have all of newest software and programs for students, it is important that students are aware of the options that exist.  Whether the student's area of difficulty is reading, writing, or organization and executive functioning, there are a number of options worth exploring.
            Different assistive technologies can assist students at any level of their education by helping with the following:

  • Allowing for more accurate work to be turned in.
  • Increasing the speed with which students are able to complete work.
  • Providing for increased independence.
  • Serving as a means to help students review materials from class and study sessions.
            Some apps that may prove useful for students who have difficulty keeping their work organized include Dropbox (www.dropbox.com/mobile) and Corkulous (www.corkulous.com). Dropbox allows students to organize and access their files, while Corkulous gives users the chance set goals and organize their ideas.
            For students who are challenged by note-taking in their classes, the Livescribe Smartpen is an option that may help.  Used with special paper for note taking, the Livescribe Smartpen allows students to coordinate their written notes with the words spoken by their professor (www.livescribe.com) so that at a later date they can listen to any part of the class lecture for review or to fill in missed information into their notes.  In addition, handwritten words can automatically appear on a Ipad or Iphone and easily be converted into typed text.
            Finally, a variety of speech-to-text software options are available for students looking for help with producing their written work.  Programs such as Siri or Dragon NaturallySpeaking (http://www.nuance.com/dragon/index.htm) have become so popular with the non-LD population that the stigma that may have existed once for LD students who used such programs has all but vanished.
            The assistive technology options continually develop, and I have only touched on a few of the outstanding resources that are available to the public.  So, for students who understand their challenges and take the time to research their options, they will find a world of assistance at their fingertips.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Changing the Chronic Literacy Issues in American Schools

Here at Easyread we've been honored to take part in creating a new mini documentary exploring chronic literacy issues in American schools and what can be done to change this.

Rather than focusing on the problem alone, the documentary aims to shed light on the solutions that are already out there helping children. So often we can get wrapped up in diagnosing the problems, but then the process seems to halt. In our experience, once you have pinpointed the underlying cause of difficulty, then applying the targeted solution is so much easier - not to mention more effective! We would always advise looking into possible causal issues in the visual, auditory or memory spheres before launching into a remedial program.

Take a look at the video below to see information from developmental optometrists, reading specialists, parents and children -- all of which gives hope for every struggling reader.

We've poured our heart and soul into helping put this together, so please do share it on your social media pages if you feel its message is a good one!

Sarah Forrest and David Morgan work with children through the Easyread System, an online program for struggling readers with dyslexia, auditory processing weakness, highly visual learning styles, and more. www.easyreadsystem.com

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How to Use Praise

Parents often have similar goals for their children, including shaping their behaviors and developing positive self-esteem. Praise can actually be an important tool for influencing both of these areas, if the praise is delivered appropriately. Here are tips for what to do (and what not to do!) when praising:

1. Do be specific: One of the most popular phrases that is used when praising a child is a simple, “Great job!” While it is nice to recognize a job well done, this is a prime example of non-specific praise. When children hear this type of feedback, they have a more difficult time linking the specific behavior with the praise. Children get a much different message when they hear, “I like how you’re keeping your hands to yourself,” or, “Way to keep working even though it was hard!”

2. Don’t reward only results: Think about what you’d like your child to learn from your praise. It’s not important that a picture was colored within the lines; however, it is important that your child exerts effort. “Wow, I like how you’re really concentrating on your work,” puts a value on the work, while, “Your picture looks great!” focuses on the final product.

3. Do ask your child to self-appraise: Ultimately, most parents want their children to feel good about themselves and make their own judgments about their work. Before jumping to praise, ask your child, “What do you like about this picture?” or “What do you think?” This teaches the child to evaluate themselves and find value in their labors.

4. Don’t insult when you praise: When you’ve been working on a skill with a child, it can be tempting to want to point out how present efforts are better than previous attempts. The problem arises because once the comparison is made, the child is likely to focus on the negative. For example, if you’ve been trying to practice putting dishes away after eating and your child (finally!) does this chore, restrain from remarking, “This is great, why can’t you always put your dishes away?” The child ends up feeling badly about himself or herself and will not likely follow through next time. A better comment would be to point out the positives of this choice, such as saying, “Wow, when you put your dishes away, you have much more time to play.” This builds esteem and allows the child to remember for next time why the choice was positive!

Although it may seem like the semantics are unimportant, try paying attention to the way you praise and see if it makes a difference in your child’s response. You may find that using specific praise helps to get the results you want.

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fear is a Lie

Fear. I was reminded today how powerful fear can be. My father had been “invited” to the doctor’s office. No one likes that invitation, especially if you have been healing from cancer surgery. My logical mind said, “They have been discussing his healing, it probably has to do with that…” but my emotional brain was saying “OMG, what if “it” is back! I’m SCARED!!! And so it went…bigger and scarier as my mind ran with the story of what “could be”.

Somewhere during this difficult day, it occurred to me I had the same feeling when our son was diagnosed with a learning issue. At that time my mind was saying, “How was he going to complete high school, get through college, what would he do to feel good about him self, find a career and be a contributing part of society?” The story I was making up was based in fear and getting worse every time I thought about it.


Fear feels like it crashes down on you. The weight can be unbearable. You start shaking (maybe literally), your thinking goes foggy and perhaps you say some things you wish you hadn’t. What is important to know is this is what fear feels like. You have to hang on until it passes. It will. It always does. All those fearful (full of fear!) thoughts are at the heart of the unreal part of the story you are telling yourself.


Instead of making up our story from a place of Fear, why not choose another perspective? We make up stories of how our life is going every day and then live those stories in just that way.  It isn’t as simple as Think Like a Winner, Be a Winner, but starting from a place of fear, your story has a much greater chance of having a less than optimal ending. 

To disable your fear take a couple of simple steps:

   Don't avoid Fear! That's right, don't try to pretend its not happening! Avoidance makes   the fear monster grow! Instead, label it FEAR. Say to yourself I know this is fear. Only by becoming familiar with it can anything be done about it. Familiarity allows you the power to make the choice that it isn’t real!

   Recognize the flight or flight response that is beginning to flow in your body. Turn that response around by saying: “I am safe. I am calming down.”

   Practice a simple technique of 3 Deep Breaths which will focus your attention on something other than the fear. Deep breathing, fully expanding your lungs to bring life giving oxygen, counter balances the stress hormones that run through our bodies during the fight or flight response. 

   Make a choice to review other possibilities for how you could write your story. Right there, in the moment, think to yourself how else may this story play out. Many times we don’t realize we have not given the positive choices an equal amount of time in our thoughts!


As an exercise, develop a daily practice of 5 minutes of quietly watching your breath flow in and out of your body.  This simple practice will make the 3 Deep Breath technique easy to access when needed. Research shows this daily practice helps train the mind to an awareness of our thoughts, physical sensations and emotions allowing us to calm down and refocus when under stress.

Have you felt fear around you or your child’s learning issue? Are your emotions in charge or are you making choices on how to write your story? If you are feeling fear it is likely your child is feeling it too. Try these techniques that will allow you to model behavior that will greatly reduce fear. This will allow your family to write a story with a happy ending!

Parents, do you have doubts raising your child with learning issues? You can raise confident capable kids despite learning issues. Reach out for answers to your most perplexing questions today!

Becky Scott

Friday, April 4, 2014

What it Takes to be a Good Reader

What Does it Take to be a Great Reader?

What a great question for any parent or educator to ask!  We know the answer.  The National Reading Panel (NPR), after looking at all the research, concluded that effective reading instruction addresses five areas of necessary skills.  Every child needs to develop this core foundation to experience reading success. When parents understand what these are they can better assess the quality of their child’s reading curriculum and work collaboratively with the school and teachers to ensure that each element is being addressed.  Here they are:

           1)  Phonemic Awareness

Words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes.  Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words.  These skills are a precursor to print awareness; before a child can identify the sounds of letters (which are presented through print), (s)he must become aware of how the sounds in words work.  An example is the ability to recognize words that begin with the same sound (e.g., bat, bike, and ball all start with /b/).  Another is blending, recognizing that /c/ + /a/ + /t/ = “cat”.  You can make up games pertaining to these skills at home with your child. 

Parents will often hear the term phonological awareness as well.  Broader in nature, phonological awareness includes phonemic awareness, but expands to incorporate the child’s understanding that there are patterns within words that can aid in both reading and writing.  Children use phonological awareness skills to rhyme and manipulate syllables as they learn to play with the sounds of words. 

            2) Phonics

It is very common for parents to confuse Phonics with Phonemic Awareness, but they refer to two different sets of skills.  As you just learned, Phonemic Awareness refers to the child’s understanding of the auditory elements of language, distinct phonemes.  Phonics is the relationship between a specific letter and its sound; it pertains only to written language.  

When a child “sounds out” a word, she is engaging phonics.  For example, for the word desk, the child decodes each individual sound /d/ /e/ /s/ /k/, this is employing phonics.  She then blends those sounds to create the word desk, thereby using Phonemic Awareness as well. 

Phonics is used in reading and writing.  In the first instance the child decodes words: goes from letter to sound.  In the second, he encodes, going from sound to letter representation. 

            3) Fluency

Fluent readers can read text with speed, accuracy, and proper expression.  Fluency depends upon well-developed word recognition skills, but such skills do not inevitably lead to Fluency.  Fluency develops from reading practice.  Classroom practices that encourage repeated oral reading with feedback and guidance leads to meaningful improvements in reading expertise for students—for good readers as well as those who are experiencing difficulties. 

           4)  Vocabulary

Reading comprehension is largely comprised of two skills: vocabulary and reasoning.

Vocabulary is essential to a reader’s understanding of text.  The broader one’s word knowledge, the more readily they comprehend what they read (and what they hear).  

Vocabulary needs be taught both directly and indirectly, while being incorporated into reading instruction.  The more connections that can be made to a specific word, the better it is learned.  Making connections with other reading material or oral language in other contexts has a better effect than learning a word in isolation.  It is also best for a student to encounter vocabulary words often and in various ways, rather than in regards to only one reading passage or lesson.  Students should be given items that will be likely to appear in many contexts, not just reading.  The context in which a word is learned is critical.  It is essential that vocabulary words are useful to the learner in many contexts.  

How can you help to broaden your child’s vocabulary?  Easy, talk to him/her, lots (!), and read to him/her, daily! 

          5) Comprehension

This is the goal!  We teach reading so that the student has access to material, vast and deep, through printed text.  The NRP concluded that these seven comprehension strategies are most effective and promising for classroom instruction:

·         comprehension monitoring
·         cooperative learning
·         summarization
·         graphic and semantic organizers including story maps
·         question answering
·         question generation
·         “multiple strategy,” where readers and teachers interact over texts

For more information on reading development or to see the full report of the National Reading Panel, go to www.nationalreadingpanel.org.

And be sure to take some time to read with your children today!

Be Well,


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cognitive Exercises that Develop Reading, Writing and Math Abilities

Difficulties in tracking, sequencing, and visual discrimination can get in the way of the learning process for reading, writing and math. Furthermore, letter, number and word reversals can make school a chore.  However, these are core skills, and many students need to strengthen these cognitive areas before they can manage language and numbers with success.  To help students strengthen these areas and allow teachers and parents to try activities, Dr. Warren is now offering a sampling of her workbooks, Reversing Reversals Primary, Reversing Reversals and Reversing Reversals 2. Through fun, game-like activities such as coloring and mazes, students quickly master the skills necessary for improved decoding and comprehension.

To learn more about these products,  Click here 

To go to a direct download of this sampling:
Click Here