Why This Meme Shouldn’t Bother You:
One day, a bit more than a month after we’d started therapy, I noticed that one of my clients started coming to our sessions very tired. When I asked her mother she explained that the girl was up all night, reading under the covers, with her recorded books. This girl, who previously had wanted nothing to do with books and was falling behind in her vocabulary, now considered herself a reader. This, I thought is what every parent wants (even though my own had complained much about my own late night reading habits, I know they were secretly proud of me!) This is an example of a successful accommodation.
Reading accommodations allow students to access the knowledge and information that is available to their peers, despite their challenges with reading. They allow students to express themselves and share their stories without anxiety about spelling or handwriting. Accommodations are about access. For a student with mobility impairment, it may look like a ramp instead of stairs, allowing access to the same school other students attend. For a student with dyslexia it comes in the form of a dictation software, or speech to text, or recorded text among others. I am so glad that the technology of our present day has made these accommodations not only easy to access, but is constantly improving their quality!
However, accommodations alone are not the best solutions for many children. While this girl was enjoying and benefiting from her accommodations, we were relentless in our pursuit of improving her reading. Research tells us that the optimal age to learn to read is before the age of twelve. So, even though schools in the United States switch from “learning to read” to focusing on “reading to learn” when children are eight to nine years old, students that age who are behind can still make rapid progress!
And improving literacy skills beyond the age of twelve is still very possible! Research based, structured literacy instruction has proven effective with people of all ages and is even used in adult education programs.
I’ve seen this meme on social media so many times:
“A child who reads will be an adult who thinks”
And I understand why parents and educators would have a strong response to it. Reading is not the only way to learn. Students who struggle with eye reading can still do amazing work reading. But I still believe that reading should be the goal. While students are learning to read and write, or if their best efforts at reading and writing still leave them falling short of their potential, accommodations are vital in bridging the gap.
But those accommodations will not teach a child to read or write. Contact us to begin the literacy instruction that will.
Photo Curtesy of EmilysQuotes ©
Annie E. Casey’s Kids Count annual report was released last week. Among other things, the report looks at reading proficiency in fourth graders. This report found “an alarming 66 percent of fourth graders in public school were reading below the proficient level in 2013”, with wide variation in public school students’ reading proficiency from state-to-state.
Americans are swamped with data about education, health and well-being, so it is easy to ignore. Why should parents care that two-thirds of 4th grade public school students in the USA don’t read proficiently? Does this really mean anything for their child’s future? It could because proficient reading is a very big part of the ticket to adult prosperity.
Research released in 2012 by the Brookings Institution suggests a connection between prosperity and reading. Children whose “benchmarks for success”, including reading skills, are “off track” in elementary school have a much lower chance of earning at least middle class income by the time they reach middle age. Slate.com put it this way: “Fourth grade is considered a crucial benchmark for reading, because by that age kids are mostly done with formal reading instruction and have moved on to using their reading skills to master other subjects. But if, like two-thirds of American kids, they are lacking in such skills, they are unlikely ever to catch up. ”
The Brookings Institution suggests there is a role for both public and the private responsibilities in helping children reach middle class prosperity. Parents are used to thinking of reading as the school’s job. But, given the situation described above, parents may want to exercise some “private responsibility” if their child continues to struggle with reading.
According to Planet Money, families in the USA spend about 5% of their income on entertainment and 1.5% on education. Flipping those priorities for just a few months to fund a semester of structured literacy intervention could make all the difference in a child’s chances of prosperity.
Parents study many dyslexia intervention options when they realize their child is falling behind in reading and writing, but they may not realize that online Orton-Gillingham therapy is an option. Now, online Orton-Gillingham therapy (the new term for this is Structured Literacy) may sound too good to be true but Lexercise has made it possible! Now you can receive the same level of clinical therapy that you would get in an office in the comfort of your home.
Benefits of Orton-Gillingham Online:
Orton-Gillingham is a complex approach consisting multiple components all of which are included in Lexercise’s online Orton-Gillingham therapy program. By providing Orton-Gillingham therapy online Lexercise gives you added benefits!
Firstly, online therapy is extremely convenient. We have clients and clinicians alike all over the world that are able to connect due to our online nature. What was once a 2-3 hour commitment of traveling to and from an office is now just an hour in your own home! Scheduling conflicts are diminished as well. Let’s say you live in New York and can only participate in therapy after work at 7:00 pm, well we can match you with a clinician in California who is available at that time! You can even keep participating in therapy when you’re traveling, as long as you have an internet connection. It’s our goal to get you and your child the help you need in the most efficient and convenient way possible.
The Lexercise program has parents actively participate in their child’s Orton-Gillingham therapy. During your live, weekly online therapy sessions, you will sit behind your child and listen and observe to learn the lessons and techniques yourself. Using what you have learned you will be able to instruct your child throughout the week to help them master each level of therapy and complete their weekly practice activities. The hands-on parent role that Lexercise facilitates is one of our therapy’s key benefits.
Daily practice is very important to reinforce and master the lessons learned in therapy. Lexercise has created online Orton-Gillingham daily practice games that make this fun and engaging for your child. With only 15 minutes of practice every day at least 4 days a week your child can advance through therapy at a fast pace, automating skills they will retain for a lifetime of use.
A child who falls behind in 1st grade has a 1 in 8 chance of ever catching up. We urge families who are noticing their child falling behind to start Orton-Gillingham therapy immediately and not wait. Luckily, because of our large pool of qualified clinicians and online platform, you can start at your earliest convenience. We don’t require you to have a formal dyslexia diagnosis to participate in therapy. Our goal is the help your child get the help they need as soon as possible and as conveniently as we can.
Lexercise is the most efficient and beneficial form of receiving Orton-Gillingham therapy. But don’t just take our word for it, hear what other parents are saying:
Latest Research Shows How the Brain Learns Reading
The latest study in brain research gives greater understanding to how the brain responds to reading instruction. Stanford University Professor Bruce McCandliss and other colleagues from Texas and New York, used two different approaches to teach subjects a pretend language, simulating how a beginning reader would encounter novel words. The first instructional approach tried in this study was similar to the Structured Literacy method of instruction based on sound-letter patterns, the second was memorization, similar to the Whole Language approach to reading. The initial findings on how teaching methods impact the brain are:
Optimal activation in the brain occurs when instruction focused on the word’s structure/ reading the word phonetically (similar to Structured Literacy Approach).
Learning to decode through explicit instruction in sound-letter patterns activates areas the left hemisphere of the brain. The left side of the brain, is the center for language which is wired for reading and an area that shows high activity in proficient/skilled readers.
Whole word memorization, showed inefficient/less optimal brain activation, when used as a strategy to learn a new word (similar to Whole Language Approach).
Reading words through memorization, shows more activity in the brain’s right hemisphere. This pattern is consistent with struggling readers. Learning to read words by memorization did not show optimal brain activity.
Learning to read by sound-letter associations, positively impacts future reading of novel words.
Breaking down a word into individual phonemes (sounds), not only helps a child to figure out the word initially, but is shown to impact the future reading success of the word as well. Having tools to decode words is a transferable skill.
The method and delivery of phonics instruction should be intentional.
Not all phonics instruction is equal! The research shows the importance of intentionally directing the learner’s attention to the sound-letter pattern.
The Structured Literacy approach addresses all of the components that research shows is most effective in learning how to read! Working with professionals who have experience and are trained in Structured Literacy approach, can help your child become a proficient reader. Learn how Lexercise uses Structured Literacy to strengthen the brain and give your child a free dyslexia screener HERE!
Higgins, J. (2015, June 5). New brain study sheds light on how best to teach reading. Retrieved July 15, 2015, from http://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/how-students-are-taught-affects-reading-efficiency-new-brain-study-finds/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=article_title
Wong, M. (2015, May 28). Stanford study on brain waves shows how different teaching methods affect reading development. Retrieved July 15, 2015, from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/may/reading-brain-phonics-052815.html
A recently published study examined identification of students with learning disabilities in Florida schools. The authors were exploring why more boys than girls are identified with learning disabilities. They tried to determine whether it is because girls are less likely to be referred for evaluation or because boys are actually more likely to have a learning disability. The study examined over 400,000 students and tested all for reading and vocabulary to determine how many of them were actually reading-impaired. That number was then used to calculate whether more boys than girls were, in reality, reading impaired (they were) and determine whether the schools’ identification of more boys than girls with reading disability was out of line (it wasn’t).
The study’s other findings however included something far more interesting to parents than gender ratio. Approximately 20% of the students tested were identified as reading-impaired by the researchers. The school had identified very few of these students. In fact, only 1 out of 4 boys and 1 out of 7 girls who the researchers identified as reading-impaired had been identified by the schools as being learning disabled. That means the school was catching less than 20% of its impaired readers!
The author suggests that this may be because schools lack a consistent definition of learning disability and still rely heavily on the IQ-achievement discrepancy model for identification. That may well be the case. I sincerely hope that research will continue to explore how and why public schools miss so many of our struggling readers so that these system can be improved.
But I am a therapist, and a teacher. While I long to see improvement in the public system, I firmly believe that the children currently in the system cannot wait. Even if public schools helped reading and writing impaired kids achieve grade-level literacy (which is often not the case), far too many students never qualify to receive those services!
If you suspect your child has dyslexia, don’t wait for your school to meet his or her needs. Chances are, they won’t or can’t. Take our free online dyslexia test and contact us to begin individualized reading instruction for your child!
The Lexercise 4-Week Assessment
Our treatment is unique in its three-way partnership among you, your child, and your clinician.
By working one-on-one with your student as you look on, we are able to focus on your child’s specific needs. Your clinician will begin with an initial assessment to understand your child’s learning profile and placement level. Your child’s progress will be monitored during every weekly session. Additionally, progress is also tracked during your child’s daily practice, which includes customized computer games and table-top activities. After the four weeks of online therapy, your clinician will learn these 10 things about your child:
- Speech sound – letter symbol knowledge — How your child understands the relationship between speech sounds and written symbols, and with what accuracy your child can relate speech sounds to letter symbols.
- Sounding out and spelling words – What your child needs to learn to sound out new words and remember how to spell them. (Very few “reading strategies” used in schools are supported by research and some, like guessing, are bad for your child. We want to teach your child to use only those strategies that are proven to work.)
- Word parts and vocabulary – What your child needs to learn about how parts of words fit together to make meaning (e.g., The base port, meaning “to carry”, is in the words import, export, report, important, portable, transport).
- Memory – How to best support your child’s memory to make reading, spelling, and writing more accurate and effortless. (Word structures are taught explicitly and systematically, with multisensory techniques, to make them more memorable.)
- Handwriting – How your child’s handwriting might be affecting his/her spelling and writing products. If handwriting instruction is needed your clinician will integrate it in to the instructional plan.
- Attention -- How effectively your child’s attention skills support reading, spelling and writing skill development, and what methods work best to support and strengthen his/her attention.
- Practice and errors -- Understanding your child’s beliefs about errors and the role of practice. Your clinician will work to grow your child’s view that errors are opportunities to learn and that practice is the key to achievement.
- Motivation & interest in words – The most effective ways to stimulate your child’s interest in words, what they mean and how they are spelled. How to inspire ambitious goals for reading and writing.
- Anxiety & stress management – For children struggling with excessive stress and anxiety, how your child responds to methods that have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus.
- Immediate academic progress – The most important immediate priorities for your child’s academic progress, and how you can provide support at home.
It is our goal to communicate all of these points over the first 4 weeks, structuring our time so that your child progresses as far and fast as possible.
So you have a passion for linguistics and want to help children with dyslexia? Great! In order to become a Lexercise Clinician you will need to have thorough training in the structured literacy (a.k.a. Orton-Gillingham) approach. You can become a Lexercise Clinician in one of two ways:
1. You can take a qualification test to demonstrate your knowledge and skills in structured literacy.
2. You can take our online professional education courses.
So there are a couple roads you can take to become a Lexercise Clinician. Lets explore them further:
If you are an expert in structured literacy and are well-trained in the Orton Gillingham methodology you may be interested in taking the Qualification Test. This test will determine if you have the knowledge and skills needed to deliver structured literacy therapy. The test questions are in two categories: The structure of written English and principles of multi-sensory, structured literacy therapy.
Now maybe you have mastered the structure of written English, but you’re not too sure about muli-sensory, structured literacy intervention methods. There is an option for you! You can opt to take the Course 1 Test Out to bypass the structure of written English course and move straight to Course 2 to learn more about multi-sensory structured literacy intervention methods.
This course is a detailed tour of the interwoven, micro-structure of written English, from speech to print. Participants will learn how to apply linguistic analysis in five language domains:
(1) phonetics & phonology
(5) semantics & discourse
This course is designed as an introduction to the knowledge and skills needed to apply a structured literacy (a.k.a. Orton-Gillingham) approach to intervention with students who have language processing weaknesses. Participants will learn a variety of structured literacy principles and instructional routines and will have opportunities to practice their application.
- Each course is 30 hours of professional development.
- Courses can be used for ASHA CEU credit
- Courses can be completed at your own pace, from anywhere.
- Learn the structured literacy (Orton-Gillingham) methodology from experts
There are even options for those of you who have not had experience working with individual students and need a practicum! You can take our 2 professional education courses and then take Course 3: clinical practicum.
No matter your current level of expertise in the area of reading and writing disorders you can gain the skills you need and become a structured literacy expert.
Special thanks to Marie Lunney for her writing consultation on this post.
One of the numerous advantages of online therapy is it’s versatility. Lexercise utilizes technology to make it possible for a trained professional to help children from any location, including the Caribbean! Similarly, clients love only therapy because they can take their therapist with them when they travel.
One of our clinicians, Ruth Bevan, lives and works in St. Croix (Virgin Islands). Thanks to online therapy, she didn’t have to sacrifice her career for her personal aspirations. As a result, Ruth is able to help her dyslexic patients from the comfort of her tropical beach cabin. Here is what Ruth has to say about her lifestyle as a clinician in paradise:
That was Then, This is Now:
I grew up in NE Pennsylvania, earned my B.S. in Elementary and Special Education, and taught general and special education in Delaware and Pennsylvania. My husband, daughter and I lived in the northeast until 1990. We then moved to Florida where I taught children with dyslexia and learning disabilities, and earned my M.Ed. in Special Education with a focus on dyslexia and learning disabilities. I took advanced training in the Orton Gillingham Approach and opened a small private practice working individually with children with dyslexia. After early retirement from the school system, I expanded my private practice but wanted to do more traveling. During a vacation in St. Croix, my husband and I realized we wanted to live there, but we also wanted to continue working with children with dyslexia. During that trip, I began to explore the possibility of working with my clients via the internet and found Lexercise. What a fabulous vacation, and a fabulous discovery! Within a month, I had partnered with Lexercise, and within 4 months, I had graduated most of my current clients and moved several to the Lexercise model of therapy through secure weekly webinars and daily internet-based therapeutic games and table-top practice with parents. We purchased a condo on the beach near Christiansted, USVI, and we haven’t looked back!
The transition was a lot quicker and smoother than I expected. I accomplished the transition over a 4 month period, from seeing clients face-to-face over a table 3 hours weekly, to seeing clients face-to-face through a computer 1 hour weekly and providing daily, structured practice through on-line and off-line exercises and activities. The transition was actually very smooth, with great parental support, and all involved were very pleased with the Lexercise program and ability to access a personal service in their own homes. I saw an increase in progress and success for my students as they actually increased their practice time during the week due to the games and work with parents. Not only did the online format allow me to keep many of my existing clients but Lexercise improved the efficiency of therapy overall, saving everyone time and frustration.
Obviously, if this transition was going to work we were going to need a reliable internet connection. We purchased the best internet service available on St. Croix. It is not as powerful or as fast as the service we have in Florida, but it works well for my webinars with clients. On the rare chance that I lose the ability to see my student, or they are unable to see me due to bandwidth problems, we are able to hear each other and see the presentation materials and continue with our work. We are always able to work it out, however, and I believe I will never go back to in-office therapy.
Living in St. Croix is a dream come true. All my life, I have wanted to live on the water, but we were never able to afford the property or the taxes. St. Croix is really very affordable and we were able to purchase a sweet little condo right on the beach. I schedule clients 3 days a week, and I play and relax 4 days a week. We live in a small, gated community with a gorgeous pool, so we have beach and pool options right at our doorstep. We can sit on the patio and watch the sailboats and wind surfers go by, bird-watch, walk the beach, snorkel, fish, and visit with neighbors at the pool. I also love to spend a lot of time with my watercolors—St. Croix light and colors are very inspiring.
Why I Love Online Therapy!:
I really love working with my kids, seeing the light bulb go on, seeing the tremendous progress they make. The weekly contact with parents, having their daily support is a tremendous plus for me as well as for my students. I really like the Lexercise presentation materials and the games are excellent. I am so blessed!!!
Why You Should Try Online Therapy:
I think anyone looking for dyslexia therapy should consider online options like Lexercise as the fees, quality of service and benefits compare favorably to facility-based therapy. The parents I work with are very supportive and appreciative of the opportunity to observe the sessions and truly be involved in their child’s program and progress. I encourage them to try a month to actually see how it all works. I caution my parents that they may not see a lot of progress in just one months and that 3 months is a better gauge for progress monitoring, but they will begin to see change! I have found that the parents who really want to participate and help their child becoming an independent reader love Lexercise. I would recommend Lexercise teletherapy to anyone looking for a convenient and personalized experience.
Special thanks to Ruth Bevan for taking the time to tell us her story!
Does your child have bad handwriting? It could be caused by a larger underlying problem: dysgraphia. Problems with developmental skills are often difficult to identify. A skill like handwriting is second-nature to most adults but new to a child first learning it; so it is not unusual for them to have some troubles when starting out. It is estimated that 10%-30% of school-aged children have handwriting difficulties (Karlsdottir & Stefansson, 2002). That being the case, how can a parent distinguish between bad handwriting and an underlying cause like dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is a brain based condition that causes trouble with writing and spelling. Dysgraphia is often overlooked or attributed to laziness, lack of motivation, carelessness, or delayed visual and motor processing (Berninger and Wolf 2009). According to Berninger and Wolf (2009), a diagnosis of dysgraphia is made when the child exhibits “a cluster”, but not necessarily all, of the following symptoms:
- Cramping of fingers and/or pain while writing short entries
- Odd wrist, arm, body, or paper orientations such as bending an arm into an L shape
- Excessive erasures
- Mixed upper-case and lower-case letters
- Inconsistent form and size of letters, or unfinished letters
- Misuse of lines and margins
- Inefficient speed of copying
- Inattentiveness over details when writing
- Frequent need of verbal cues
- Referring heavily on vision to write (e.g., needing to copy rather than formulate)
- Poor legibility
- Handwriting patterns that interfere with spelling and written composition
- Difficulty translating ideas to writing, possibly including difficulty with word-finding
Handwriting is a complex task involving both central (e.g., cognitive, linguistic and psychosocial) and peripheral (e.g., motor and visual) abilities (Purcell, et al., 2011). Individual assessment should begin with a clear description of the individual’s difficulties, with as much descriptive data as possible and using a sample that, as closely as possible, replicates naturalistic (e.g., classroom) demands, such as a written composition task (i.e., a writing sample). The descriptive analysis should include accuracy (letter formation, spelling, word spacing, sentence formulation and punctuation, paragraph formulation, discourse formulation) and writing efficiency (i.e., accuracy plus speed). This type of focused description may lead to additional assessments, including standardized assessments (e.g., of spelling, copying speed, etc.).
While a number of standardized instruments exist (see Rosenblum, Weiss, & Parush, 2003, for a review), each tends to focus on only a single task, usually copying or sentence composition, so they are typically insufficient to capture the demands of naturalistic handwriting performance (Schneck & Amundson, 2010; Feder & Majnemer, 2003). For example, pediatric occupational therapists tend to use standardized tests to evaluate underlying (mostly motor) components of handwriting as opposed to the cognitive and linguistic demands of handwriting such as spelling and sentence formulation (Crowe, 1989; Feder, Majnemer, & Synnes, 2000; Rodger, 1994). The Lexercise Writing Scale is designed to rate diverse aspects of a child’s writing, based on a 15 minute naturalistic writing sample elicited using a picture or situational prompt.
If you have observed your child displaying a cluster of dysgraphia symptoms you may want to seek clinical help and possibly an official diagnosis. Thankfully, structured literacy therapy is typically very successful in addressing dysgraphia symptoms and in improving overall written communication.
Credits to Marie Lunney for her consultation on this Blog Post.
The vast majority of students learn to read once they start school and parents rightly expect that it will only take a few years until their child develops into a proficient reader. While general reading instruction is targeted at “middle of the road” kids, schools are also expected to adapt their curriculum and instruction to accommodate children who do not succeed in the general classroom.
As we speak with parents all over the country, we find that schools accomplish this with varying degrees of success. The range is very wide with the best schools training their personnel in structured literacy (formerly known as Orton-Gillingham). We applaud these programs and wish more schools would adopt similar approaches. Other schools don’t even acknowledge the existence of dyslexia, treating it as “the D word”.
Obviously, if school personnel won’t even say the word dyslexia, they are not prepared to educate children with that condition!
Here are a few more signs that a school doesn’t get dyslexia and is not prepared to teach children with dyslexia.
- They don’t test for or diagnose dyslexia. Many schools won’t use the term “dyslexia” to diagnose students. They may tell parents that dyslexia is a medical diagnosis or that they only test for learning disability. If your school won’t diagnose dyslexia, they are not likely to treat it effectively.
- They “don’t identify dyslexia or reading disability until third grade.” Despite the reality that children with dyslexia are born with dyslexia, schools often refuse to evaluate students until later in their academic careers. Children as young as 5-6 years old can be tested for and identified with dyslexia. Waiting a diagnosis can be so harmful to students! A school that would delay diagnosis and treatment for years is not likely to treat dyslexia successfully.
- They don’t use appropriate assessments. Schools use various instruments to screen students’ reading and make sure they are “on track.” If assessments do not heavily weigh a student’s phonological awareness and ability to identify unfamiliar words free of context but rather use books with pictures, which allow students to use context to identify words, students with dyslexia may perform in the average range until late second or early third grade. These tests do not screen for dyslexia and if your school doesn’t know that, they probably can’t treat dyslexia either.
- They teach kids how to guess. The research is clear: a “whole language” approach to reading fails many students. Yet, we see students receiving that type of instruction, not only in general education classes, but in their interventions. Students with dyslexia are inclined to use context and guessing strategies to the detriment of their overall reading development. If your school encourages this, they don’t have the right approaches to treat dyslexia.
- They encourage you to retain your struggling reader or attribute reading failure to development. Retention is only an effective intervention for a very small number of students. For kids with dyslexia, it is a terrible idea. Repeating a grade means a second year with instruction that has proven ineffective for the student. Students with dyslexia don’t need more instruction, they need the right instruction and accommodations. If your school doesn’t know this, if they strongly encourage you to retain your child, chances are they don’t know how to treat dyslexia.
- They tell you your child can’t have dyslexia because his or her grades are too high. Some students with dyslexia do great on spelling tests. It requires a lot of work to memorize all those words each week, but they still do quite well at it. Later, they usually don’t retain the spelling patterns for those words. High grades in spelling or reading do not mean a child does not have dyslexia. If your school doesn’t know the difference, they probably can’t treat dyslexia either.
- They won’t commit to a particular approach or program. Schools need flexibility to use whatever approach or program is effective with students. Yet, for students with dyslexia, we know what works: multisensory structured literacy. The simplest way for school personnel to implement this approach is by adopting a particular curriculum, based on that approach. If your school doesn’t name this specific approach, they probably don’t know enough about dyslexia to provide effective treatment.
None of these things happen because of schools’ ill intent. Nobody is conspiring to see kids with dyslexia fail. Yet schools rarely provide successful, effective intervention for these students. If your school is not prepared to provide effective intervention now, waiting for them to get ready wastes valuable time!
Watch this video to see how you can get your child reading successfully today.
(Here is a related article on why schools struggle to to help dyslexic students.)