Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dyslexia and Video Games: They can 'help reading in children with dyslexia'

Playing video games may help children with dyslexia improve their reading skills, research suggests.

A study of 10-year-olds who played 12 hours of an "action" video game found it improved their reading speed without any cost to accuracy.

The effects were equivalent to more than a year's worth of reading development, the Italian team reported in Current Biology.

But more research was needed before games could be considered a treatment.

Their work builds on earlier research in which they linked dyslexia with early problems in visual attention rather than language skills.

They selected a fast-moving game requiring a high degree of perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills as well as being unpredictable and involving peripheral processing.

Ten children spent nine 80-minute sessions playing the video game, which consisted of a series of mini-games.

And their reading and attention skills were compared before and after with 10 children not exposed to the game.

Speed and accuracy
The researchers found those who had played the video games had better attention skills than before.

And they were able to read faster without losing any accuracy, the team from the University of Padua reported.

Study leader, Dr Andrea Facoetti, said: "Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment.

"Dyslexic children learned to orient and focus their attention more efficiently to extract the relevant information of a written word more rapidly."

He explained that attention should be thought of as a "spotlight" that can be moved, and adjusted in its size, in the visual field.

When the spotlight is on a portion of the visual field, the details will be enhanced, the contrast improved and so on, while everything that is outside of this spotlight will be inhibited.

The video games may be working to train the part of the brain responsible for attention and motion perception, he added.

"These results are very important in order to understand the brain mechanisms underlying dyslexia, but they don't put us in a position to recommend playing video games without any control or supervision," he said.

The team are now planning to look at the effects of video games on the prevention of dyslexia in children before they learn to read.

Dr Kate Saunders, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said it was a complex condition but for some individuals part of the problem may include difficulty with aspects of visual perceptual skills, and visuo-motor coordination and attention.

She added that more research was needed to establish whether repeated play on some targeted computer games could help build certain visual and attention related skills.

"There are questions, however, as to the extent that skills transfer from one situation to another and would be retained in the longer term."

Too Much Vitamin D During Pregnancy Can Cause Food Allergies

Pregnant women should avoid taking vitamin D supplements. Substitution appears to raise the risk of children developing a food allergy after birth. 

This was the conclusion drawn from a new survey carried out by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. (Credit: André Kuenzelmann/UFZ)

Vitamin D has always had a good reputation: it strengthens bones, protects against infections particularly during the cold winter months and aids the nervous and muscular systems.

Especially in the prevention and treatment of rickets, it has been given to babies and infants around the world for around 50 years.

However, recent scientific investigations are increasingly questioning the positive aspect of the "bone vitamin."

At the end of the 1990's, for the first time people's attention was drawn to a link between high vitamin D levels and the development of allergies.

To pursue the problem, together with Prof. Gabriele Stangl's group from the Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences at the Martin-Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, Dr. Kristin Weiße from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig devoted herself to the following task: can it be proved that there is a correlation between the concentration of vitamin D in the blood of expectant mothers and in cord blood of the babies?

The researchers from the UFZ in Leipzig were furthermore interested in the association between vitamin D levels during pregnancy and at birth, the immune status and allergic diseases of the children later in life. Or, in other words: does the vitamin D level of pregnant women affect the allergy risk of their children?

To investigate the question, Dr. Kristin Weiße's team from Leipzig used samples from the LiNA cohort that the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) had established together with the St. Georg municipal clinic between 2006 and 2008 headed by Dr. Irina Lehmann.

In total, it was possible to include 622 mothers and their 629 children in the long-term study "Lifestyle and environmental factors and their impact on the newborn allergy risk."

The level of vitamin D was tested in the blood of the pregnant mothers and also in the cord blood of the children born. In addition to this, questionnaires were used to assess the occurrence of food allergies during the first two years of the children's lives.

The result was clear: in cases where expectant mothers were found to have a low vitamin D level in the blood, the occurrence of food allergies among their two-year old children was rarer than in cases where expectant mothers had a high vitamin D blood level.

In reverse, this means that a high vitamin D level in pregnant women is associated with a higher risk of their children to develop a food allergy during infancy.

Furthermore, those children were found to have a high level of the specific immunoglobulin E to food allergens such as egg white, milk protein, wheat flour, peanuts or soya beans.

The UFZ scientists also got evidence fot the mechanism that could link vitamin D and food allergies. Dr. Gunda Herberth -- also from the Department of Environmental Immunology at the UFZ -- took a closer look at the immune response of the affected children and analysed regulatory T-cells in cord blood in particular.

The cells are capable of preventing the immune system from overreacting to allergens, with the result that they protect against allergies. The UFZ researchers know from earlier analyses that the allergy risk increases in cases where too few regulatory T-cells are present in cord blood.

The interesting result of the current research project: the higher the level of vitamin D found in the blood of mothers and children, the fewer regulatory T-cells could be detected.

The correlation could mean that vitamin D suppresses the development of regulatory T-cells and thus increases the risk of allergy.

Apart from diet, Dr. Kristin Weiße explained that the level of vitamin D is mainly affected by conditions such as season, exposure to the sun and the amount of time spent outdoors -- these factors were also taken into account in the current risk analyses of vitamin D and food allergy.

Even though the occurrence of food allergies is undoubtedly affected by many other factors than just the vitamin D level, it is still important to take this aspect into consideration.

The UFZ researchers would rather advise pregnant women not to take vitamin D supplements. "Based on our information, an excess of vitamin D can increase the risk of children developing a food allergy in the first two years of their life."

Journal Reference: K. Weisse, S. Winkler, F. Hirche, G. Herberth, D. Hinz, M. Bauer, S. Röder, U. Rolle-Kampczyk, M. von Bergen, S. Olek, U. Sack, T. Richter, U. Diez, M. Borte, G. I. Stangl, I. Lehmann. Maternal and newborn vitamin D status and its impact on food allergy development in the German LINA cohort study. Allergy, 2013; 68 (2): 220 DOI: 10.1111/all.12081

Embracing Dyslexia: Kickstarter Video

What is dyslexia? According to the International Dyslexia Association, it is an inherited condition that makes it extremely hard to learn to read, write, and spell.

It can even affect speech. It is not a sign of low IQ or laziness or the result of impaired hearing or vision.

Embracing Dyslexia, a documentary film currently in production, takes a hard look at dyslexia and the role educators and parents need to take to make sure that children with dyslexia are identified early, given appropriate intervention, and not allowed to fall through the cracks which is so often the case with our current educational system.

The film features parents who speak about the anxiety and frustration they had when they didn't know why their children were having such great difficulties learning to read, write, and spell.

They also speak of the positive impact getting a diagnosis of dyslexia had on their lives and of the struggles they still face when dealing with their child's school.

Dyslexic children and adults courageously open up and speak honestly about their struggles in the classroom and beyond.

Experts and advocates speak to why it is essential that educators screen these struggling learners for dyslexia as early as possible and how support at home, accommodations in the classroom, and the right types of intervention can take a child from feeling stupid, dumb, or broken to believing in themselves and knowing they can be successful.

With this Kickstarter campaign, I am asking for the funds necessary to finish the film and release it by the end of August 2013.

There is one very important piece of information about the film’s release to keep in mind — Embracing Dyslexia will be available for viewing free of charge on the film’s website and on YouTube from the moment it is released in August.

I feel this film will have a powerful impactful and I want everyone to have a chance to see it.

Sleep Reinforces Learning: Children’s Brains Transform Subconsciously

During sleep, our brains store what we have learned during the day a process even more effective in children than in adults. 

Credit: Monkey Business / Fotolia

During sleep, our brains store what we have learned during the day ‒ a process even more effective in children than in adults, new research shows.

It is important for children to get enough sleep. Children's brains transform subconsciously learned material into active knowledge while they sleep -- even more effectively than adult brains do, according to a study by Dr. Ines Wilhelm of the University of Tübingen's Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology. Dr Wilhelm and her Swiss and German colleagues have published their results in Nature Neuroscience.

Studies of adults have shown that sleeping after learning supports the long-term storage of the material learned, says Dr Wilhelm. During sleep, memory is turned into a form that makes future learning easier; implicit knowledge becomes explicit and therefore becomes more easily transferred to other areas.

Children sleep longer and deeper, and they must take on enormous amounts of information every day. In the current study, the researchers examined the ability to form explicit knowledge via an implicitly-learned motor task.

Children between 8 and 11, and young adults, learned to guess the predetermined series of actions -- without being aware of the existence of the series itself. Following a night of sleep or a day awake, the subjects' memories were tested.

The result: after a night's sleep, both age groups could remember a larger number of elements from the row of numbers than those who had remained awake in the interim. And the children were much better at it than the adults.

"In children, much more efficient explicit knowledge is generated during sleep from a previously learned implicit task, says Wilhelm. And the children's extraordinary ability is linked with the large amount of deep sleep they get at night.

"The formation of explicit knowledge appears to be a very specific ability of childhood sleep, since children typically benefit as much or less than adults from sleep when it comes to other types of memory tasks."

Journal Reference: Ines Wilhelm, Michael Rose, Kathrin I Imhof, Bjöern Rasch, Christian Büechel, Jan Born. The sleeping child outplays the adult's capacity to convert implicit into explicit knowledge. Nature Neuroscience, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3343

Monday, February 25, 2013

Far from the Tree: Dyslexia, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, disability, etc.

Far from the Tree (BBC website)

The time-worn adage says that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, meaning that a child resembles his or her parents.

The children described in this book are apples that have fallen elsewhere - some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world.

Yet myriad families learn to tolerate, accept and finally celebrate children who are not what they originally had in mind.

Andrew Solomon introduces us to families coping with deafness, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and disability - as well as families who have children who are prodigies, who are gay, or who become criminals.

Episode 1:
Growing up gay and also struggling with dyslexia led Andrew Solomon to reflect on those situations where a child arrives in a family and is immediately an 'outsider'. 'Parenthood,' he writes, 'abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger'.

Read by Kerry Shale
Abridged and produced by Jill Waters

Read more about the book: Far From the Tree

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dyslexia: Music Ability Helps Reading

Playing a musical instrument from a young age appears to create new pathways in the brain that process written words and letters, reports Ann Lukits in the Wall Street Journal.

The findings, which may help children with reading disorders such as dyslexia, appeared in the journal Neuropsychologia.

“Fifteen professional musicians who had played an instrument since childhood and 15 control subjects who couldn’t read music participated in two experiments in Milan. Subjects were 26 to 31 years old.

In one experiment, subjects pressed a button if they recognized the notes E, F, G, A and B (mi, fa, sol, la and ti on the musical scale) which randomly appeared in 300 short musical scores flashed on a computer screen.

In the other experiment, they pressed the button when they spotted the letters B, G, L, M and S in 300 randomly selected words. An electroencephalogram (EEG) measured brain-wave activity. Musicians recognized notes significantly faster than controls; letters, only slightly faster. Musicians made fewer errors in both experiments.

But EEG results showed striking differences. In musicians, reading musical notes and words activated both the left and right sides of the brain, whereas in controls, only the left side responded to words and the right side to notes.

Language is normally a left-brain function and music a right-brain function. The involvement of the right side in a typically left-sided function probably resulted from reading music, researchers said. Musical training may be quite helpful for children struggling to read, they said.”

Read more here

Dreaming Boldly For the Future of Our Children: Jay Berckley at TED - Video

Do you remember a mentor in your life that always comes to mind when you think of someone who really listened closely, influenced your outlook and performance, and taught you life-long lessons that helped shape who you are today?

Jay Berckley remembers, and is driven to help connect all students to the right mentors and methods that will shape the decision makers of tomorrow.

He will bring his experience and passion to the stage this November as he shares with us his own lessons learned and how multi-disciplinary environments can play a role in truly shaping a better future for us all.

Signaling Pathway Linked to Fetal Alcohol Risk

Fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading preventable cause of developmental disorders in developed countries and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a range of alcohol-related birth defects that includes fetal alcohol syndrome, is thought to affect as many as 1 in 100 children born in the United States.

Any amount of alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy poses a risk of FASD, a condition that can include the distinct pattern of facial features and growth retardation associated with fetal alcohol syndrome as well as intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays, and poor social skills. But drinking can have radically different outcomes for different women and their babies.

While twin studies have suggested a genetic component to susceptibility to FASD, researchers have had little success identifying who is at greatest risk or what genes are at play.

Research from Harvard Medical School and Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System sheds new light on this question, identifying for the first time a signaling pathway that might determine genetic susceptibility for the development of FASD.

The study was published online Feb. 19 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our work points to candidate genes for FASD susceptibility and identifies a path for the rational development of drugs that prevent ethanol neurotoxicity," said Michael Charness, chief of staff at VA Boston Healthcare System and HMS professor of neurology.

"And importantly, identifying those mothers whose fetuses are most at risk could help providers better target intensive efforts at reducing drinking during pregnancy."

Mitogen-activated protein kinase modulates ethanol inhibition of cell adhesion mediated by the L1 neural cell adhesion molecule.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221386110

Biological Marker of Dyslexia Discovered

Dyslexia. Though learning to read proceeds smoothly for most children, as many as one in 10 is estimated to suffer from dyslexia, a constellation of impairments unrelated to intelligence, hearing or vision that make learning to read a struggle. 

(Credit: © Lucian Milasan / Fotolia)

Though learning to read proceeds smoothly for most children, as many as one in 10 is estimated to suffer from dyslexia, a constellation of impairments unrelated to intelligence, hearing or vision that make learning to read a struggle.

Now, Northwestern University researchers report they have found a biological mechanism that appears to play an important role in the reading process.

"We discovered a systematic relationship between reading ability and the consistency with which the brain encodes sounds," says Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication.

"Unstable Representation of Sound: A Biological Marker of Dyslexia," co-authored by Jane Hornickel, will appear in the Feb. 20 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Recording the automatic brain wave responses of 100 school-aged children to speech sounds, the Northwestern researchers found that the very best readers encoded the sound most consistently while the poorest readers encoded it with the greatest inconsistency.

Presumably, the brain's response to sound stabilizes when children learn to successfully connect sounds with their meanings.

Happily biology is not destiny. In prior work in Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Kraus and her colleagues found that the inconsistency with which the poorest readers encode sound could be "fixed" through training.

In that study, children with reading impairments were fitted for a year with assistive listening devices that transmitted their teacher's voice directly into their ears. After a year, the children showed improvement not only in reading but also in the consistency with which their brains encoded speech sounds, particularly consonants.

"Use of the devices focused youngsters' brains on the "meaningful" sounds coming from their teacher, diminishing other, extraneous distractions," said Kraus.

"After a year of use, the students had honed their auditory systems and no longer required the assistive devices to keep their reading and encoding advantage."

People rarely have difficulty encoding vowel sounds, which are relatively simple and long, according to Kraus. It is consonant sounds -- sounds which are shorter and more acoustically complex -- that are most likely to be incorrectly categorized by the brain.

"Understanding the biological mechanisms of reading puts us in a better position to both understand how normal reading works and to ameliorate it where it goes awry," says Kraus.

"Our results suggest that good readers profit from a stable neural representation of sound, and that children with inconsistent neural responses are likely at a disadvantage when learning to read," Kraus adds.

"The good news is that response consistency can be improved with auditory training."

Decades of research from laboratories worldwide have shown that reading ability is associated with auditory skills, including auditory memory and attention, the ability to rhyme sounds and the ability to categorize rapidly occurring sounds.

Unstable Representation of Sound: A Biological Marker of DyslexiaJournal of Neuroscience, 2013 DOI:10.1523/%u200BJNEUROSCI.4205-12.2013

Bullied Children Suffer Lasting Psychological Harm as Adults

Bullied children grow into adults who are at increased risk of developing anxiety disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts, according to a study led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

The findings, based on more than 20 years of data from a large group of participants initially enrolled as adolescents, are the most definitive to date in establishing the long-term psychological effects of bullying.

Published online Feb. 20, 2013, in JAMA Psychiatry, the study belies a common perception that bullying, while hurtful, inflicts a fleeting injury that victims outgrow.

"We were surprised at how profoundly bullying affects a person's long-term functioning," said William E. Copeland, PhD, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University and lead author of the study.

"This psychological damage doesn't just go away because a person grew up and is no longer bullied. This is something that stays with them. If we can address this now, we can prevent a whole host of problems down the road."

A previous longitudinal study of bullied children, conducted in Finland, found mixed results, concluding that boys had few lasting problems, while girls suffered more long-term psychological harm. That study, however, relied on registry data in the health system that didn't fully capture psychiatric records.

Copeland and colleagues had a much richer data set. Using the Great Smoky Mountain Study, the research team tapped a population-based sample of 1,420 children ages 9, 11 and 13 from 11 counties in western North Carolina. Initially enrolled in 1993, the children and their parents or caregivers were interviewed annually until the youngsters turned 16, and then periodically thereafter.

At each assessment until age 16, the child and caregiver were asked, among other things, whether the child had been bullied or teased or had bullied others in the three months immediately prior to the interview.

A total of 421 child or adolescent participants -- 26 percent of the children -- reported being bullied at least once; 887 said they suffered no such abuse. Boys and girls reported incidents at about the same rate. Nearly 200 youngsters, or 9.5 percent, acknowledged bullying others; 112 were bullies only, while 86 were both bullies and victims.

Of the original 1,420 children, more than 1,270 were followed up into adulthood. The subsequent interviews included questions about the participants' psychological health.

As adults, those who said they had been bullied, plus those who were both victims and aggressors, were at higher risk for psychiatric disorders compared with those with no history of being bullied.

The young people who were only victims had higher levels of depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia.

Those who were both bullies and victims had higher levels of all anxiety and depressive disorders, plus the highest levels of suicidal thoughts, depressive disorders, generalized anxiety and panic disorder. Bullies were also at increased risk for antisocial personality disorder.

The researchers were able to sort out confounding factors that might have contributed to psychiatric disorders, including poverty, abuse and an unstable or dysfunctional home life.

"Bullying is potentially a problem for bullies as well as for victims," said senior author E. Jane Costello, PhD, associate director of research at Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy.

"Bullying, which we tend to think of as a normal and not terribly important part of childhood, turns out to have the potential for very serious consequences for children, adolescents and adults."

Costello and Copeland said they would continue their analysis, with future studies exploring the role sexual orientation plays in bullying and victimization.

Adult Psychiatric Outcomes of Bullying and Being Bullied by Peers in Childhood and AdolescenceJAMA Psychiatry, 2013 DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.504

Could a new phonetic alphabet promote Global Understanding?

Backers of a universal alphabet say it will make pronunciation easy and foster international understanding but can phonetic spelling systems really smooth the path to world peace and understanding?

You are in Vietnam and want a bowl of soup. You ask a local where you can get "pho". After momentary confusion you are handed a book.

It's the curse of phonetics. Pho was correct. But you failed to emphasise the vowel and so articulated in Vietnamese "copy" (of a book).

English has more pitfalls than most other languages. "Don't desert me here in the desert" is a classic example of the heteronym, words spelt the same but pronounced differently. Bill Bryson remarked in his book Mother Tongue that there were nine separate pronunciations of hegemony.

The argument over regulating spelling has been raging for more than a century. Charles Dickens and George Bernard Shaw were advocates - the latter leaving much of his will to setting up a new phonetic alphabet.

Today the cause has been taken up by Jaber George Jabbour, a Syrian banker living in the UK. He has set up SaypU, an alphabet with none of the indecipherable squiggles of traditional phonetic alphabets.

It contains 23 letters from the Roman alphabet as well as a back to front e. There is no place for "c", "q", or "x", which merely repeat sounds achievable by using other letters. The "ɘ" represents the soft "a" of "ago" or "about", a sound known as "schwa".

Jabbour was a frustrated traveller. He would see words on billboards, menus and street signs. But he didn't have a clue how to pronounce them.

When he first got to London he said Leicester Square as it is written - Le-ses-ter Square - receiving funny looks. Only later did he realise that it is pronounced "Lester".

These kind of misunderstandings create a barrier, he argues. In countries like India and China where the entire script is different it can be a wall between local and outsider.

A simplified universal alphabet would end not only misunderstanding. It would help foster peace around the world, he believes.

What is SaypU?

  • Phonetic alphabet for writing all languages - name stands for spell as you pronounce universally
  • Uses 24 letters from Latin alphabet
  • Adds a reverse e - ɘ or Ǝ - for the soft "a" in "ago"
  • Leaves out c (replaced with either k or s), q (k) and x (ks or gz)

More about SaypU

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dyslexia and the iPad: Search for Tablet Computer Apps

New apps arrive on the market almost daily. Several websites have good lists and reviews. First, search the websites below. 

Next, do a web search using the name of a specific app. Results may provide additional reviews and movies of the app in action on

Next, go to the developer’s web site for more information and user reviews. Finally, go to the app store. Pay attention to the poor reviews as well as the positive ones!

Use your expertise to critically evaluate the content; many apps described as reinforcing “phonemic awareness” actually dealt with phonics (letter-sound correspondences) or phonological awareness (syllables and rhyming tasks).

Excellent lists and reviews can be found at these sites: (also search KAPi Awards on this site) (search: ipad apps) (apps for children with special needs) (search: educational ipad apps) (search: top book app) (Mobile app category) (unfiltered content) (iPad link) (British list)

Dyslexia: Tablet Computer Apps to Aid Learning

The following apps have been carefully selected to meet most of the criteria outlined above. 

Each is identified by the app name, developer, iTunes URL, intended audience, content, and a brief description. 

All are affordable for the teaching professional or parent.

1. SoundLiteracy Developer: 3D Literacy, LLC
Teacher utility; Phonemic awareness, Phonics (spelling), Morphology
User(s): Teacher with student

Sound Literacy is a large, well-organized collection of electronic “tiles.” It includes blank tiles for phonemic awareness activities; graphemes—individual letters and consonant and vowel clusters such as sh, ng, igh, aw for phonics activities; and morphemes—prefixes, suffixes, Latin roots, and Greek combining forms—for advanced word study activities. It also includes sound charts for consonant and vowel phonemes. Teachers with Apps named it one of the 12 Best Apps for Special Needs of 2012. Disclosure: A portion of all proceeds benefits The International Dyslexia Association.

2. Beginning Sounds Interactive Game
Developer: Lakeshore Learning Materials
Phonological Awareness
User: Student independent

Students match pictures that share the same beginning sound. If the child makes an incorrect choice, the picture re-circulates for another try.

3. Letter Find
Developer: Matthew Thomas
Alphabet (letter naming)
User: Student independent

Letter Find challenges young children to identify a pre-selected lowercase letter when it is among many other letters. Children tap on the letter, which turns green and provides a pleasant sound if correct, and red with a buzzer sound if incorrect. The negative feedback, though, is quite amusing to some children, who persist in responding incorrectly to hear the buzzer.

4. LetterSchool
Developer: Boreaal
Alphabet, Handwriting, phoneme-grapheme correspondences
User: Student independent

This app provides three progressively more challenging ways to practice writing numerals and manuscript letters—both lowercase and capital forms—in three different typefaces (Handwriting Without Tears, D’Nealian, or Zaner-Bloser). Each of the three practice activities includes immediate, explicit, and engaging feedback.

The app is very intuitive; children as young as three learn to use the activities with minimal instruction. However, very small children may not have sufficient finger strength to do the most difficult activities without parental assistance.

The introduction to the letter includes a keyword picture and sound, which present the most common short vowel and consonant sounds with only two exceptions: The keyword for the letter u is “unicorn” and for x, “xylophone.” The benefits of the letter formation practice make this a very worthwhile app!

5. Starfall Learn to Read
Developer: Starfall Education
Phonics (decoding and spelling); interactive book (decodable)
User: Student independent

This app mirrors the decoding and spelling activities in It includes making words from common rimes (e.g., at in cat, ake in cake), sorting one-syllable words by syllable type, games for matching words and pictures, decodable stories, and engaging cartoon videos explain phoneme-grapheme correspondences. The speech is a child’s voice, with excellent and accurate pronunciation.

6. Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic HD
Developer: Learning Touch
Phonics (decoding and spelling); interactive book (decodable)
User: Student independent

This app is an interactive version of the decodable “Bob Books.” Students practice spelling common CVC words within the context of simple stories; the task menu provides four levels of progressively challenging tasks for beginning readers.

7. Word Wizard - Talking Movable Alphabet & Spelling Tests for Kids
Developer: L'Escapadou
Phonics (spelling)
User: Teacher with student; student independent

This app is appropriate for both spelling practice in teacher-directed small groups or for independent practice using pre-set lists of words: CVC words, high frequency words, and common content words (numbers, colors). Settings are easily changed to suit the purpose of the activity; for example, when touching each letter, a human voice speaks either the sound (good for single letter-sounds) or name of the letter (appropriate for digraphs). A unique feature is that “naughty” words are transformed instantly into “oops.”

8. SpellingCityDeveloper: SpellingCity
Phonics (reading and spelling); vocabulary; alphabetizing and handwriting. User: Teacher with student; student independent This app features seven activities to reinforce spelling, vocabulary, and alphabetizing skills.

The sample lists include homophones and content-based words (e.g., colours, beach, space). However, one can easily create custom lists to practice any spelling pattern using a personal account on the free, accompanying website.

Words to spell are dictated using a natural, human voice, and words are all put into the context of a sentence. Personal lists also feature a choice of appropriate sentences to include in the activities! An added bonus is that any word list can be easily printed in manuscript or cursive on “lined” paper, combining spelling and handwriting practice.

9. abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words
Developer: Apps in My Pocket Ltd
Alphabet (letter naming, handwriting), Phonics (spelling)
User: Student independent

This app provides individualized spelling instruction in a carefully sequenced progression of consonant and vowel sounds, starting with single letters and progressing to consonant and vowel digraphs. Players sign in by name, enabling the app to track individual progress.

A human voice pronounces the phonemes (e.g., /kw/) and then prompts the player to trace the grapheme (e.g., qu,) that represents the sound. After reading and writing isolated phoneme-grapheme associations, the player uses known graphemes to spell words, sound-by-sound (e.g., quit).

The correct response rewards the player with a comical illustration of the word’s meaning. The app includes digraph ng, unvoiced th (with) and voiced th (then), a rare and welcome feature in phonics apps! However, the app could be improved with a more animated and less monotone voice.

10. PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Developer: Loud Crow Interactive Inc.
Vocabulary, Comprehension; interactive book (literature)
User: Teacher or parent with student; student independent

This award-winning interactive book is one of several produced by Loud Crow Interactive, a company that converts children’s literature and comic books to an electronic form that truly enhances the text and vocabulary, a rare feature among interactive books.

In The Tale of Peter Rabbit, a pleasant British voice reads the narrative, while the app highlights each spoken word. At the end of the page, one can tap on any word to hear it pronounced again.

Like the other Pop Out books produced by Loud Crow Interactive (The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Night Before Christmas), the interaction mirrors the original pop-out effects as it reinforces rich vocabulary (e.g., the animation and text illustrates how Peter squeezed under the gate.).

Loud Crow also produces Goodnight Moon, several Boynton books (e.g., Barnyard Dance! Moo, Baa, La La La!), Charlie Brown stories (e.g., It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown), and the first-ever, fully interactive comic book app, Marvel’s the Avengers: Iron Man – Mark VII).

11. Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime
Developer: ustwo™
Phonological Awareness, Comprehension; interactive book (literature)
User: Teacher or parent with student; student independent

This interactive book reads familiar nursery rhymes aloud. The exquisite illustrations invite young children to trigger the interactions, which reinforce the content of the nursery rhyme.

12. Word Wit
Ballpoint Inc.
User: Student independent

Designed for English-Language Learners, or native-speaking middle school students and older, Word Wit makes it fun and easy to learn the difference between frequently confused words (e.g., affect/effect).

It presents sequential activities that include explanations, quotes, and quizzes designed to deepen one’s understanding. Wrong answers cycle back for added practice. One can look up words individually, or let the app randomly select word pairs for you.

13. Vocab Rootology HD – Greek and Latin Roots and Etymology
Developer: PrepInteractive
Morphology, Vocabulary
User: Student independent

This is a flash-card tutorial of Latin roots and Greek combining forms for the serious, older student, teacher, or parent. It features flash cards for pre-testing and study, drills, and a report card to track progress. It is one of the few apps to provide feedback on a grading scale (A to F), appropriate for more mature audiences.

14. Inspiration Maps
Developer: Inspiration Software, Inc.
Written Composition
User: Teacher with student; student independent

Inspiration Maps is a portable version of the popular Inspiration composition software; it helps organize topics for writing or studying with graphic organizers.

It includes dozens of pre-made templates in a variety of forms, both expository (e.g., compare and contrast) and narrative.

15. Draw Everything! GLOW Note Free!
Developer: Jae Kwang Lee
Teacher Utility
User: Teacher with student; student independent

This app is a portable drawing/writing surface with day-glow colors. Kids can use it to practice writing letters and numbers; teachers can explain concepts electronically and display it on an overhead projector.

16. Smart White Board HD
Developer: Pad read
Teacher Utility
User: Teacher with student; student independent

This app is a portable, electronic white board for use by students and teachers. Kids can use it to practice writing letters and numbers; teachers can explain concepts electronically with the option of displaying it on an overhead projector. It includes four “pen” colors for detailed explanations.

17. Explain Everything
Developer: MorrisCooke
Teacher Utility
User: Teacher for the student (prepared in advance); student independent

This is an extremely versatile app for teachers in primary grades through university courses. Instructors can import pictures, PDF documents, and Powerpoint files into the app, where one can augment them with annotations, animated arrows and shapes, pictures, even a laser pointer!

There also is the option to record a video of the presentation, including handwriting on the screen, voice, and animated laser pointing. The finished products can be saved as a PDF document or video, which can be shared electronically with students. It is easy to learn and fairly intuitive.

18. Dropbox
Developer: Dropbox
Teacher Utility
User: Teacher, parent and/or student

Dropbox is a free cloud storage system that synchronizes files. Files placed in this folder are accessible through applications and a website, so you are able to access the file anywhere there is an Internet (or telephone) connection worldwide.

One also can create folders accessible by several people. This is the perfect application for teachers and students on the go! You never have to search for the latest version.

Dyslexia: What are the advantages of tablet computers?

Unlike desktop computers, tablet computers, such as the iPad (and iPhones) are lightweight, portable, and kid-sized. 

The long battery life means they can be used at home, in school, in trains, planes, and automobiles—literally any place where one can sit down.

iPads start instantly and can be closed in the middle of an activity at a moment’s notice.

Most apps are reasonably priced, and range from free to about $25, although some specialty apps (e.g., for Speech and Language Pathologists) can be quite expensive.

What should you look for in a good app?
A good app is educationally sound, versatile, and worth the price.

Here are a few other considerations;
  • Intended user: Is the app meant for students to use independently or with a teacher or parent? Teacher-utility apps are meant for teachers to use in planning or delivering instruction.
  • Breadth and depth: Is the content accurate and research-based? Are activities varied, with multiple levels of complexity? Is there scaffolding to support learners of different abilities?
  • User-friendliness: Is it intuitive? Can the user move easily between tasks? How do teacher-utility apps improve teaching quality or save time and effort? Are oral or written instructions readily available? Do web-links enhance the content?
  • Images and sound: Are the illustrations, graphics and sound attractive and engaging? Do they enhance content, or detract from it?
  • Feedback: Is the feedback timely, specific, and motivating? Is feedback delivered at multiple levels?
  • Engaging: Do the activities promote involvement? Are there motivating goals and attractive rewards? Are activities interactive and challenging and do they involve problem solving? Are student apps fun and enjoyable, compelling students to want to use them again and again?
Click Here to see a list of some worthwhile apps to consider

LD: Facing the Challenges of getting a good College Education

With high school guidance counselors, teachers, and even parents focused on college admission rather than how to succeed when they get there, students with LD remain largely uneducated about the dramatically different culture they’re about to enter.

 Even parents who graduated college themselves remain ignorant of the obstacles kids with learning disabilities encounter at the college level.

As a result, students cross the chasm between high school and college filled with misconceptions. They have no clue that their world is about to be turned on its head.

Upon entering college, students are blindsided by a totally different landscape in which the tried-and-true methods that got them through high school no longer work.

Following are the major factors that make college such a difficult proposition for students with learning disabilities:

  • Pressure from parents and/or peers: It is often expected that students enroll in college despite lack of ability, desire, readiness, or significant knowledge of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Besides, with such a tight job market, what else is there to do? Sadly, parents learn the hard way that they can’t legislate motivation. To achieve success, motivation must come from within. In many cases, it comes with maturity.
  • Semester vs. year: Material covered in a year of high school is expected to be learned in a 15-week semester, making the college workload faster, heavier, and more difficult than that of high school. It requires more time, organization, and a greater mental commitment. In addition, because a semester proceeds so quickly, students often don’t recognize they’re in academic trouble until it’s too late.
  • Lack of an IEP: Students with disabilities in high school are covered under IDEA, the law that provides an individualized education plan (IEP) aimed at guaranteeing success. In college, IDEA vanishes and Section 504 takes over. All the support to which students have become accustomed is suddenly pulled out from under them. Now they are only guaranteed non-discrimination through accommodations (assuming they disclose); the onus for success suddenly shifts from the parent and school to the student.

This raises the issue of self-advocacy. Prior to college, parents were charged with looking after their child’s best interests.

In the span of 12 years, how many times did you contact the school, dissatisfied with services your child was receiving?

In college, this burden falls on the student who, up until now, has taken a passive role. This dramatic change is often underestimated and is a frequent cause of college failure.

Read more of this article here

College Degrees Challenge Students with Learning Difficulties

It may surprise you to learn that the U.S. ranks 14th among 37 developed nations when it comes to the percentage of young people holding college degrees. 

According to a study conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2011, only 56% of students in the U.S. that begin four-year colleges are likely to graduate.

If college presents insurmountable obstacles for almost half of all college students, you can imagine what that means for students with learning disabilities who already face challenges.

The postsecondary success rate for students with LD is half that of the general population; it’s estimated that only 28% receive a diploma.

According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the low graduation rate is largely attributable to educational missteps that begin in elementary school and continue through high school.

From kindergarten through 12th grade, students with LD experience “inadequate academic preparation when compared to their peers without disabilities; lower academic expectations; inferior pedagogy and services; and lack of full access to the core curriculum.”

Furthermore, with high school guidance counselors, teachers, and even parents focused on college admission rather than how to succeed when they get there, students with LD remain largely uneducated about the dramatically different culture they’re about to enter.

Even parents who graduated college themselves remain ignorant of the obstacles kids with learning disabilities encounter at the college level.

Read more of this article here

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Overcoming Dyslexia, Finding Passion - Piper Otterbein

Piper Otterbein is a senior at Cape Elizabeth High School. Piper was born in New York, but she has lived in Cape Elizabeth for the past eleven years. When Piper was in first grade, she was diagnosed with a learning disability.

While Piper struggled throughout elementary school, it was not until 7th grade that this disability was identified as dyslexia.

Piper and her family spent a great deal of time and resources trying to fix her dyslexia; during her middle school years, Piper spent countless hours after school in tutoring programs.

Although she was determined to be successful in school, work took a long time to complete, and she frequently found herself frustrated and exhausted.

When Piper entered high school, she had a revelation; rather than focusing all of her energy on the challenges in her life, she decided to alter her outlook and focus instead on her strengths.

While she remained a conscientious student, Piper threw herself into what she loved most: the arts, event organizing, and community involvement. Today, Piper has a strong presence in the CEHS community.

She juggles painting, ceramics, and drawing with her involvement in student council, SEED, the planning of the TEDx youth conference at CEHS, and her part-time jobs working in a furniture store and babysitting.

All of Piper's talent and hard work has paid off, she will be attending the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she will study interior design and accessory design.

Teaching Children With Dyslexia

Unfortunately, the label of 'being dyslexic' is often seen as a negative one. One which can produce upset, limitations and hurdles to the students involved .

However, with the right training, teaching and encouragement it can also produce strengths, talents and creative gifts.

What are the effects of dyslexia?
Research suggests that individuals with dyslexia have great difficulties in fluent and/or accurate word identification, often resulting in a slower reading ability, poor concentration, difficulty with spelling and grammar and in some cases trouble with organisation and planning.

A key concern for people with dyslexia is the lack of confidence and the negative effect it can have on a student's self-esteem.

Low self-esteem leads to other challenges such as a lack of motivation, concentration, and self-belief and in some cases, anxiety.

Tips for teaching students with dyslexia:

1. Be Visual: Dyslexics are predominantly visual thinkers, so try to include diagrams, flow charts and pictures wherever possible.

2. Squash Distractions: Think about the level of distraction around the classroom and how you can reduce disruptions and distractions. Working in a quiet, comfortable room, with little to distract the brain, will allow students to focus and therefore improve their concentration.

3. Play to the Strengths: Really think about the positives - creativity, imagination and a hands-on approach; and integrate them into your teaching techniques.

4. Use Mind maps: Mind maps work the way the brain works, which isn't in nice neat lines. Mind maps are a very visual way of teaching, and because the brain best memorises keywords and images, they are ideal for teaching students with dyslexia.

5. Develop Organisational Skills: These will benefit students for the rest of their lives. Use colour-coded folders to separate different subjects or subject topics and encourage them to implement and stick to a daily routine. Schedules are very useful for individuals with dyslexia as they help them know what to expect and what is coming up next.

6. Use the Tools: Use approved specialist software to diversify teaching techniques and encourage willingness to learn. Software such as word and grammar based games; word processors as well as digital voice recording are useful for teaching dyslexic students. Get creative and make it fun, they will respond to new and exciting teaching techniques.

7. Short Term Memory Loss: Students with dyslexia may struggle with short-term memory and concentrating for long periods of time. Be aware that you may have to repeat yourself often and try to break up the lesson with short breaks such as learning games, chats and active learning techniques.

8. Focus on Verbal Reasoning: Don't just hand out sheets of paper for the student to read, as they may struggle to absorb and understand the information. Discuss the topics with them and engage them in conversation; it's a much more effective way of teaching.

Read more on this approach here

Zannie Danks Davis tutoring method for Dyslexia - Video

Here is a short preview of Zannie Danks Davis outlining, what she believes is an effective tutoring method for dyslexia that can be given by tutors, parents, or teachers to cater for individual needs.

1. An effective multisensory method of tuition for dyslexia to help dyslexic children achieve literacy success. Unlock their potential by using spelling as a doorway.

2. A dyslexia program developed over 7 years by a dyslexic for dyslexics, taking individual needs into account.

3. A practical step-by-step method for weekly 1-hour tutoring sessions that children enjoy. Can be given by tutors, parents, or teachers to cater for their individual needs.

4. An effective method for tutoring children with dyslexia, improving spelling, reading, writing, and comprehension as demonstrated by reassessment results of standardised tests given by registered psychologists. Effective for children and adults with other literacy problems.

Check it out and see if it makes sense to you and fits with your flavour of Dyslexia and let us know what you think.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Does Sight-Words Prevent Reading and Cause Dyslexia? - Video

English letters appear in many confusing variations. Nobody can memorize them all as designs (lower case, UPPER CASE, italic, handwriting, and countless typefaces).

There are actually MANY reasons why Sight-Words are a cruel failure. This video presents the main one--designs must appear in one predictable form. English letters appear in many forms.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Employers: How to Manage Dyslexia in the work place

Dyslexia is a hidden disability that affects 10 per cent of the population. It predominately causes reading and writing difficulties but memory, mathematics, organisation and sequencing skills can also be affected.

If un-addressed, dyslexia can result in underachievement. However, it does not affect intelligence and need not be a barrier to success.

There are many brilliant dyslexic professionals following a wide range of careers. But for those struggling, it is important for an employer to be aware of the ways they can help.

The UK  Equality Act 2010 covers dyslexia so all workplaces need to comply with it if a staff member is dyslexic. This act repeals and replaces the original UK Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

1 Know the signs
Indications of dyslexia in the workplace will reflect the nature of the work and will vary depending on the individual’s difficulties and their severity.

Key indicators might include performance that is not reflective of potential, written documentation that is unexpectedly poor or seems careless, confused memos or messages, deadlines regularly not being met or taking longer to learn new skills.

Have you noticed whether the individual appears forgetful, seems disorganised, has low self-esteem or suffers unduly from stress or anxiety? These are behaviours that may be attributed to dyslexia.

2 Seek confirmation
Many adults do not know that the difficulties they have are the result of dyslexia. If confirmation is required, referral to an occupational psychologist or an expert trained in screening and assessment for dyslexia should be considered.

3 Provide support
Effective support can often be simple and inexpensive. This may include;
  • holding regular one-to-one sessions to reinforce aims and objectives;

    • help with prioritising and organising workloads by using calendars with deadlines clearly marked, diaries or electronic reminders; 
    • allowing regular breaks; 
    • setting realistic objectives and negotiating deadlines; and, if required, 
    • professional training and coaching.

    4 Use technology
    Many products can be incorporated into an office environment,
    • spellcheckers are commonplace, 
    • encourage the use of a dictaphone for note-taking, or 
    • change the set-up of the person’s PC to make it more usable (Consider doing this from both an ergonomic and in terms of operational, as in software default layouts – font size and colour, and the use of a preferred background colour to clarify reading). 
    • Consider investing in Assistive technology such as EasyReader, and /or
    • voice-activated software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and /or 
    • planning software such as Inspiration may also be helpful.
    5 Look at your practices
    Develop dyslexia-friendly practices across the business for recruitment, assessment, training and health and safety.

    Consider how accessible your communications are and provide alternative formats such as large print or audio.

    Plan training sessions and inductions that accommodate extra time or support to ensure retention of information.

    For instance, give the individual training materials in advance or present communications in a more dyslexia-friendly layout. This may include:

    • bullet points;
    • font size of no less than 11pt;
    • sans-serif typefaces such as Arial;
    • left-justified margin;
    • cream or off-white background;
    • increased spacing between lines;
    • important points in bold (not italics).

    6 Consider individual needs
    Do not assume or generalise. Dyslexia is complex and the number, type and severity of difficulties will vary.

    This will also be influenced by the individual’s ability to manage their own dyslexia. Discussions about support strategies should consider fully what the person feels they need. Listen to them. Do not impose on them.

    7 Seek specialist help
    You are not expected to be a dyslexia expert and, given its complexity, it may be wise to discuss specific strategies and adjustments with a specialist.

    If dyslexia is suspected and formal identification is required, contact an occupational psychologist or specialist service provider.

    Avoid New Age alternative therapy 'solutions' and only consider support and assistance from medically or educationally qualified consultants and institutions.

    In the UK, the Citizens Advice Bureaus should be able to point you in the right direction.

    8 Increase awareness
    Encourage better understanding among all staff by including accurate information about dyslexia in internal communications.

    Key Points

    • Dyslexia need not be a barrier to success, and is recognised under the UK Equality Act 2010.
    • Dyslexia is common – an organisation with 50-100 employees could have up to 10 workers who are dyslexic.
    • Adjustments can help to maximise potential.
    • Do not generalise – treat each case individually.

    Dyslexia v Dyscalculia: Maths v Reading

    One of the important areas for understanding learning disorders is learning about the prevalence and specificity of various types of disorders.

    It is estimated that Dyscalculia, the maths disorder or disability, is present in about 7% of school children.

    It is possible that Dyscalculia simply represents a component of a more general learning disability.

    If this is true, there should be a large overlap between Dyscalculia and other learning disorders, such as Dyslexia, the reading disorder.

    A well-designed longitudinal study of cognitive and academic ability from Donald Compton and colleagues at Vanderbilt University is information in addressing this issue.

    They completed a longitudinal study of 684 students from 3rd grade through the 5th grade assessing four academic achievement domains:

    • reading comprehension
    • word reading
    • applied math problems
    • math calculation skills

    Additionally, they examined five student cognitive skills including: non-verbal problem solving, processing speed, concept formation, language and working memory.

    The key finding from their study is that Dyscalculia in general terms, appears to be a specific disorder.

    Although 3.8% of their school children sample had both Dyslexia (reading disorder) and Dyscalculia (math /calculations disorder), 10.1% were estimated to have only Dyscalculia and 6.6% were estimated to have only Dyslexia.

    They noted their "results indicate that, although co-morbidity (the co-existance of Dyslexia and Dyscalculia together in one person) does occur, it is limited to approximately 20% of student with learning disability. This adds credence to the notion that reading and mathematics learning disability may be distinct and separate".

    Differences between Dyscalculia and Dyslexia included the following:

    • Boys had higher rates of Dyslexia, reading comprehension learning disability, while Dyscalculia (math problem and calculation types) were found equally in boy and girl students
    • Both Dyscalculia and Dyslexia rates were linked to student poverty status-students in the lowest socio-economic group had higher rates of both math and reading disorders.
    • Both Dyscalculia and Dyslexia students showed relative strength in the processing speed cognitive domain

    This study lends support to Dyscalculia being a specific type of learning disability that often occurs without Dyslexia as a co-occurring reading disorder.

    Dyscalculia appears to be the most common learning disability in girl students.

    Compton DL, Fuchs LS, Fuchs D, Lambert W, & Hamlett C (2012). The cognitive and academic profiles of reading and mathematics learning disabilities. Journal of learning disabilities, 45 (1), 79-95 PMID: 21444929

    ADD vs APD: When an Attention Issue is Really an Auditory Issue

    When your child is struggling in school, you want to get to the root of the issue as quickly as possible. Nowadays there is more awareness about a wide spectrum of learning problems.

    Most teachers receive some training about the major diagnoses, and educational psychologists have a full toolkit of diagnostic assessments.

    Once you have a name for the symptoms you are seeing, plans can be made to ensure that the education provided is appropriate for a child’s needs.

    But what happens if you suspect that the diagnosis your child receives is the wrong

    ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a familiar term to most parents. ADD diagnoses have been on the rise for the last few decades. However, there is a lesser known disorder, with a similar list of symptoms, which may be overlooked: APD (Auditory Processing Disorder).

    APD may initially present as an attention deficit issue, but in reality it has nothing to do with a child’s ability to sit still. Rather, APD stems from a weakness in the ability of the brain to process the sounds it receives.

    This specific weakness can be either acquired through brain injury or illness, or genetically inherited.

    • ADD and APD share a number of symptoms, such as:
    • Struggling to focus in a noisy environment
    • Fidgety and easily distracted
    • Showing some aggression or even isolation socially
    • Difficulty following directions
    • Lower academic performance
    • Zoning out in a conversation

    Each of these external symptoms has a different internal cause, depending on the diagnosis. Both can in turn cause reading problems, and both appear in the 7 Main Causes of Reading Difficulty (video).

    Children with ADD struggle with the above symptoms because there is insufficient activity in the frontal lobe to regulate the strong neuronal activity in the cerebral cortex.

    Without the necessary control over the cerebral cortex, the activity there is just unregulated ‘brain noise’ of neuronal chaos.

    Children with APD, on the other hand, struggle with these symptoms because the world around them sounds ‘foggy’ or unclear.

    A child with APD will have perfect hearing; the problem lies in the brain’s interpretation of incoming sounds, not the hearing mechanism itself.

    You can imagine how not being able to properly understand what people are saying could lead to all of the above behaviours, and then some!

    You can read the full article here at Easy read System

    Dyslexia: Dr. Sally Shaywitz, Yale University School of Medicine

    “It’s time to call things what they really are,” declares neuroscientist Dr. Sally Shaywitz, the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at Yale University School of Medicine, and co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

    She does just that in her best seller, Overcoming Dyslexia, detailing how to recognize and treat a disorder that now affects one in five children.

    Subtitled “A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level (Knopf, Vintage),” the book lays out not only the latest research about recognizing this brain-based learning difficulty but does so in a compassionate and accessible way that has proven indispensable to parents, teachers, and policy makers.

    Her book provides “tools” on how to identify dyslexic children and adults and empirical data on the kinds of resources that can make a difference at home and in school, including specific methods that can strengthen reading decoding and fluency.

    Dyslexic readers can indeed “overcome” some difficulties and in the process, gain self-esteem, so essential a component in any pedagogy.

    For sure, as Shaywitz notes, there’s confusion, if not downright denial, about dyslexia — but there need not and should not be.

    While learning to read and accessing and retrieving a spoken word are often problematic, the ability to think and reason and have empathy are not affected, in fact, are marked strengths in those who are dyslexic.

    As many role models out there show, dyslexic individuals can achieve because logic and reasoning are not adversely affected by dyslexia.

    The list includes, for example, financial services innovator Charles Schwab, the writer John Irving, the renowned attorney David Boies (he didn’t learn to read until the 3rd grade!) and a host of well-known innovators, scientists, physicians, and even poets.

    She emphasizes that slow reading should not be confused with slow thinking, nor should word retrieval difficulties and lack of glibness be misunderstood as lack of knowledge.

    What is dyslexia? Shaywitz offers this definition: dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading, in relation to an individual’s level of intelligence, age, grade or professional status.

    It emanates from difficulty in accessing the individual sounds of spoken words so that there is a predictable array of symptoms, including [difficulty with] spoken word retrieval, reading ease and speed, spelling and learning a second language.”

    She emphasizes that awareness of the basic difficulty in dyslexia allows educators, evaluators and parents to know what signs to look for to recognize dyslexia.

    Importantly, dyslexia is a clinical diagnosis based on a synthesis of an individual’s history, observation of his or her speaking and reading and test results.

    Shaywitz reminds us that tests are only proxys, it is the reality of an individual’s real life experiences that are of primary importance in diagnosing dyslexia.

    Read the full article here at Education Update

    Dyslexia: Breaking Down the Myths - Video

    Dyslexia: Computer Based Learning - Read Fast not Slow

    “Slow down. Sound it out.”

    This is the mantra for most dyslexic students learning to read, but results from a new computer training program suggest that the opposite may be true for dyslexics once they’ve learned to read—going faster could improve reading skills and comprehension.

    Researchers in Israel compared the reading skills of dyslexic and non-dyslexic university students, before and after using a custom computer training program.

    The program’s premise is this: a sentence appears on the computer screen, which the participant is supposed to read silently.

    One by one, the letters disappear off the screen, from left to right, pushing the reader through the sentence.

    When the entire sentence has been removed from the screen, the user is prompted with a question about the content of the sentence he or she just read.

    This ensures that the participant did not just read the sentence, but actually understood what it meant.

    If the participant gives the correct answer, the computer program raises the stakes a little.

    The next sentence that appears on the screen will be erased at a slightly faster pace—two milliseconds (the equivalent of one eye blink) less time per letter.

    The reading and questions continue to alternate, getting a little faster after every right answer, for a total of twenty minutes per session.

    So how did the program’s prodding impact dyslexic students’ abilities to read? After two months of training three times a week, participants read faster: the average reading rate dropped from about 135 milliseconds per letter to about 75.

    Comprehension went up too, and these improved outcomes lasted over time. Six months after the training sessions ended, participants still enjoyed improved reading skills, according to the results published in Nature Communications.

    Non-dyslexic participants also showed some improvement in reading speed and comprehension, but not as much as dyslexics.

    The researchers aren’t sure exactly why the computer program works, but when they removed the time element, the training proved ineffective. So whatever the mechanism, time is of the essence.

    Does Tracing shapes help writing skills?

    The writers at the American Dyslexia Association (ADA) believe so.

    According to ADA;
     "Tracing is a very good exercise for dyslexic and dyscalculic children. Tracing trains attention, fine motor skills and visual and spatial perception."

    To encourage you to try this they offer you a number of shapes to try.

    "Today’s freebie offers a mini-book with different abstract forms to trace and to draw. First, children have to trace the form, then they have to draw the form into the box."

    You can download the mini-book here.

    This is an example of one of the shapes from the mini-book that you will be tracing. 

    Let us know what you think about this idea. Do you believe it's an aid to help with writing?

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    UK Investment to Reverse falling literacy and maths rates

    Secondary state schools in England will today (Thursday) receive £500 per pupil to help every year 7 pupil who did not reach the expected level in literacy and maths when they finished primary school.

    The ‘catch-up premium’ will provide intensive tuition for almost 110,000 pupils who have failed to reach the expected level of literacy and maths skills by the time they move to secondary school.

    Figures from the Department for Education show that only five per cent of pupils who did not manage to get Level 4 in both English and maths at Key Stage 2 went on to achieve five GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths.

    In order to help these children catch up and strive for better GCSEs, they will receive additional help through either individual tuition or intensive support in small groups.

    The extra support is designed to help bring pupils up to speed so they are more likely to succeed at secondary school, rather than falling further behind. By catching up with their classmates, pupils’ motivation will also be boosted, in turn preventing disruptive behaviour that impedes learning for others.

    The catch-up premium funding for this academic year (2012/13) will be £54.5 million, and schools will hear today how much they are set to receive.

    UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (not known for keeping his promises where Education is involved) said:

    The consequences for a pupil being left behind in the basics when they start secondary school can last for the rest of their education.

    The catch-up premium money being handed out to schools today will help pupils catch up with their peers as quickly as possible. Every child should have the chance to succeed and get off on the right foot when they start their new school.

    UK Schools Minister David Laws (also unreliable on the education front and not known to be able to keep promises) said:

    It is vital that every child has a strong grasp of maths and a good reading ability when starting their secondary education. No pupil should be left behind.

    Our Year 7 catch-up premium for literacy and maths - £500 for every pupil needing extra help - will ensure that support is best targeted to those who most need it.

    Despite a tough economic climate, this Coalition Government is making sure all children get the help they need to succeed.

    The catch-up premium will support every Year 7 pupil who has not achieved at least Level 4 – the expected level – at Key Stage 2 in either or both literacy or maths.

    In 2012, 13 per cent of pupils in all schools failed to gain a Level 4 in reading and 16 per cent failed to achieve this in maths (109,000 in total).

    Schools will have freedom to decide how best to use the catch-up premium, but examples could include:

    • Small-group tuition supported by new classroom materials and resources, which could take place at lunchtimes or after school. 
    • Holiday support to deliver intensive catch-up over a short period. 
    • Additional services and materials to add to those provided by the school, such as tutor services or proven computer-based learning or online support.

    Notes to be aware of

    Payments to local authorities will be made today (Thursday 31 January). Payments to academies and Free Schools will be made on 1 February.

    Funding for the catch-up premium is a maximum of £500 per pupil. Almost half of the pupils who are matched with funding are also eligible for the Pupil Premium, which is focused on disadvantaged pupils.

    Schools are free to determine how best to use the funding, but Ofsted inspectors will consider how schools are using the premium when inspecting schools. They will also monitor how effectively schools report to parents on whether or not students are meeting national expectations.