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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Does the ‘Dyslexia’ Label Help or Hamper Teachers?

Many parents feel like they get more support for their child if they have an ‘official’ label.  Perhaps they believe they will acquire explicit support, testing accommodations, or that a diagnosis will provide directed attention in classes. They most-likely expect teachers and special education teams can better plan lessons, if they know the diagnosis behind their child's difficulties.
"Knowing what the difficulties are" is exactly the issue: 
Dyslexia - though at times useful for the above reasons - is an umbrella term for reading difficulties unrelated to a child's intelligence. That doesn’t give teachers any explicit reasons for the basis of those difficulties. They could be visual, or phonological, related to memory deficits, or more.  Additionally, a recent study by the British Psychological Association found that the dyslexia label actually hampers teachers in a very profound way:
"[teachers felt] the label ‘dyslexia’...was seen as a fixed disability, and that the teachers believed their ability to help children with ‘dyslexia was unlikely to develop over time. By contrast, [with the label] ‘reading difficulties’, [they] were less likely to see the children’s problems as permanent; were also more likely to believe that they would be able to help them, and that their skills developed with experience."
All teachers want their students to achieve their full potential and more. However, this psychological research seems to show that by removing supposedly fixed labels, teachers feel they can try to change a child’s literacy trajectory.

Should We Shed Labels Altogether?
This is not to say we should scrap the term altogether! But it is valuable food for thought on the question of how helpful it is for teachers from a psychological perspective.  It also raises the question: Are our teachers adequately trained to meet the diverse needs of their students?

Sarah Forrest is a Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System. Easyread is an online intervention for children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, auditory processing problems and more. www.easyreadsystem.com

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Three Steps that Can Change Your Child's Behavior

If you’ve ever looked into setting a goal for a child, you probably have a sense of how much information is out there and how overwhelming it can feel. There are charts, systems, stickers, tokens, and many more options, not to mention the difficulty in determining how to create a goal! This article will help you sift through the information to help you create your own way of changing behavior.

Defining the Behavior:
When you’re setting a goal, one of the first things you want to do is define the behavior in specific terms. This will help you get a sense of what it will look like when the goal is reached. For example, rather than saying, “Johnny will be peaceful,” try to be specific about what that looks like, such as, “Johnny will share toys with his brother or tell him calmly that he doesn’t want to share.” The second example identifies the behavior you want to see so you’ll know what you’re looking for.

Shaping Behavior:
The next step is to consider a principle called shaping. Shaping is the process of using small steps toward a larger goal to reach the desired outcome. It involves rewarding behavior that is not necessarily the target, but is moving in the right direction. The idea is to create some positive momentum. To continue this example, if Johnny currently hits his brother every time he doesn’t want to share, asking him to suddenly stop and use appropriate language might be a far goal that could feel too tough to reach. This type of goal might cause Johnny to feel so frustrated that he would give up. However, we might begin by noticing any time that Johnny doesn’t hit, even if he also yells, and specifically praise his behavior. Once he is able to stop hitting consistently, we can modify what we’re praising to be a bit more close to the end goal, such as rewarding instances in which he doesn’t hit and walks away without yelling. Another step could be to not hit, walk away, and offer his brother a different toy or tell his brother how he feels. Finally, he may arrive at sharing his toys or telling his brother calmly how he feels, our end goal.

Tracking Behavior:
The third point to consider is how you’ll track his behavior. Once you’ve identified what you want to change and how you’ll notice steps in the right direction, you’ll want to create a system that is reinforcing to the child. This is where the charts, tokens, or stickers come in. Choose a system that works for you to show Johnny’s successes. You can create a sticker chart, fill a jar with cotton balls, or give tokens that can be redeemed for a reward. You can then create a system to manage rewards, which can be tangible or non-tangible, such as choosing a story for you to read to him at night. I’ll write more about rewards in my next post to expand on this topic.

Behaviors typically don’t develop overnight and are not likely to be changed overnight. However, if you have a plan, you’re more likely to make a positive impact on your child. 

Emily Herber McLean, LPC is a child and family therapist at The Center for Psychological Services. To learn more about her practice, visit www.centerpsych.com.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Goal Setting 2015! On-Ramp to Success

What would January be with out goals? Most people re-do their goals in January.
 How do you engage in the sticky job of helping your children engage in goals that will be good for them? Looming large in this activity is the knowledge that setting a goal for someone else is a recipe for disaster!

Research comes to the rescue in this case. Taking a look at the latest research could improve the odds of you helping your child set goals that they actively engage in. Carol Dweck, Ph.D. and her approachable book Succeed – How we Can Reach Our Goals, It is written for everyone from an entrepreneur to a stay at home mom. All readers will leave with insights to their goal setting process as well as helping others set attainable goals.

Here are a few choice suggestions to consider when helping your kids set goals.
  • Own the goal: Instead of assigning a goal, give your child several options to choose from. The act of choosing will add to their understanding of the value and rational of the goal itself. This deeper understanding increases ownership of the journey and the results. You structure goals that will be beneficial and let your child engage the goals that speak to them.
  • Make it a “Get Better” goal: Help to frame a goal so it is seen in an “I will Get Better at this” verses “Be Better than others” framework. Your child will focus on self-improvement rather than comparison and that helps with motivation and perseverance among other things.
  • Make it Personal: Use the right triggers to unconsciously or consciously motivate a child to work steadily toward a goal. This can come in the form of an agreed upon reward or a celebration around something intrinsic to the completion of the goal.

Success is a determining factor in Self Confidence and sustained Motivation. Creating success comes from a many little steps, goal setting being one, as it directs the child’s attention to worthy behavior in pursuit of a longer term desire. Thoughtful attention applied to goal setting is an important step in helping our children experience success while they increase their capacity to manage themselves well in the world.

Parents, do you have questions 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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

83 Words of Encouragement

If there is a single little thing a parent might do to improve a child’s behavior, it is positive encouragement.  A nice comment or a pat on the back can go a long way.  So that you never run short of appropriate words for this purpose, use this list.  I’ve highlighted some of my personal favorites:
  1. You’re on the right tract now.                    
  2. Way to go!
  3. You’re doing a good job.
  4. Keep on trying.
  5. You did a lot of work today.           
  6. You’re the best.
  7. Good work.
  8. Nothing can stop you now.
  9. That’s right.  
  10. You’ve about made it.
  11. Now you have the hang of it.                         
  12. You’re very good at that.
  13. That’s the way.                                             
  14. You certainly did well today.
  15. You’re doing fine. 
  16. I’m very proud of you.
  17. Now you have it.                       
  18. You’re learning fast.
  19. That’s great.                                                   
  20. You’ve just about got it.
  21. You did it that time.                                       
  22. That’s good. 
  23. That’s coming along nicely.                           
  24. I’m happy to see you working like that.
  25. Great.                                                                
  26. That’s better than ever.
  27. Fantastic.                                              
  28. That’s quite an improvement.
  29. Terrific.                                                 
  30. Good work.
  31. That kind of work makes me very happy.      
  32. Tremendous.
  33. Now you’ve figured it out.                        
  34. Outstanding.
  35. How did you do that?                                 
  36. Perfect.
  37. That’s better.                                                    
  38. Fine.
  39. Excellent.                                                         
  40. That’s really nice.
  41. That’s well done.              
  42. Wow!
  43. Keep it up                                                        
  44. That’s it.
  45. You figured it out fast.                                    
  46. Keep up the good work.
  47. Much better.               
  48. Good for you.
  49. Good thinking.                                                
  50. Exactly right.
  51. Super.
  52. Nice going.
  53. You make it look easy.  
  54. You’re doing much better today.
  55. I’ve never seen anyone do it better.                
  56. Superb.
  57. Wonderful.                                                    
  58. I knew you could do it.
  59. Keep working on it. You’re getting better.   
  60. That’s a great way to do it.
  61. You’re doing beautifully. 
  62. You’re really working hard today.
  63. You’re getting better every day.                     
  64. You remembered.
  65. You’re really improving.                                
  66. I think you’ve got it now.
  67. Well look at you go. 
  68. You’ve got that down pat.
  69. I like that.
  70. Couldn’t have done it better myself.
  71. Now that’s what I call a fine job.                   
  72. You did that very well.
  73. Congratulations.                                             
  74. That was first class work.
  75. Sensational.   
  76. That’s the best ever.
  77. You haven’t missed a thing.                           
  78. You really make my job fun.
  79. You must have been practicing.                     
  80. You have reason to be proud.
  81. It’s a pleasure to teach you when you work like that.
  82. I enjoyed this time with you.
  83. Thanks.          
Maybe you have some others to add to the list.  Please pass them along. We could all use a well-stocked closet of encouragement!  By the way, you might also take occasion to use some of these empowering and encouraging phrases on yourself when you need a little pick me up on a rough day.

That said, keep up the good work!


Jennifer Jackson Holden, Psy.D. is managing director of the Paoli, Pennsylvania office of the Center for Psychological Services. www.centerpsych.com drjenniferholden@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

5 Ways to Motivate Students to Complete Homework

After a long day at school, enticing students to complete homework can be challenging.  Few young learners look forward to tackling assignments at home.  So what can we done to make this often painful process less taxing, and possibly fun?

Homework Can Be Home Fun:
After-school assignments should never have been called "homework." Clearly, combining the words home and work it not a good marriage.   So what can be done to improve students attitudes and motivation about home assignments?
  1. Shed the name homework altogether and come up with a more appealing and motivating task names.   Imagine you are selling a product, and create fun and enticing names for all your assignments and lessons.  For example, don't assign script or cursive, ask students to practice their roller-coaster letters! Furthermore, generate excitement about upcoming units by showing your own enthusiasm for the content.
  2. Bring the games, music, and art into assignments.  Many students enjoy the arts as well as playing games, so try to weave these into what I call, "home fun." Assigning these creative options also ignites the fun factor and makes academics more memorable too.
  3. Offer assignment options.  Each student possesses their own preferred ways of learning.  As a result, provide choices that allow students to share their knowledge while granting them the power to select an empowering approach.
  4. Limit homework time.  Students are often spent after a long school day, and there is a lot of research that suggests that home assignments are not beneficial.  In fact, a Canadian family took this very issue to the Supreme Court in their country, claiming that there is no evidence that home assignments improved academic performance.  They actually won the ruling, and their children were granted and exemption from all homework. 
  5. Offer your students extra credit for completing home assignments.  Most students are motivated to improve grades.  This will offer them the incentive.
  6. I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have other ideas, please share them below this blogpost.
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