Liz Jensen, Author at Lexercise

How To Help A Child With Dyslexia At Home

Many parents find it difficult to know how to help a child with dyslexia at home. As a result of COVID-19, this challenge has grown as schools transition to distance and blended learning and teaching responsibilities increase for parents. Unfortunately, parents may not get all the support they need from their child’s school. Thankfully, there are many scientifically backed activities and approaches to help a child with dyslexia at home. Here are our top 5: 

1. Provide structure and routine

Schoolwork can be stressful, especially for a child with a learning disability, but it doesn’t have to be. Structure and routine are extremely beneficial when parenting any child, especially one with dyslexia. First, start by creating a set schedule and a dedicated space in your home for schoolwork. Break up their school, homework and practice into parts to provide mental breaks to recharge. If they are able to write legibly, encourage independence by asking them to take notes (using the Cornell method – see right) on reading assignments, recording questions for follow-up discussion. Praise their notes and summaries that capture the important points. Teach organizational habits such as writing down tasks and homework assignments in a planner and filing class notes into folders. Lastly, create a separation of school and home by putting away all school materials at the end of the scheduled school day.

2. Develop your child’s curiosity about words

Team up with your child to investigate a word a week using the Word Inquiry method, an approach to word study that cements connections between meaning and spelling patterns. Work with your child to create a word sum by breaking the word into parts: prefix, suffix and base and discussing the meanings of each. Word Inquiry does not put a heavy burden on working memory or processing speed, so students who might otherwise resist word study often enjoy it and excel at it. See it in action in this tutorial with expert Pete Bowers, PhD.  Word Inquiry is the main vehicle for explicit teaching about word parts (morphology) in the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©

3. Use a structured literacy curriculum

To gain proficiency in reading, spelling and writing dyslexic students need to be taught with a program that is research backed. The structured literacy (AKA, Orton-Gillingham) approach is supported by more than three decades of research from The National Institutes of Health making it “the gold standard” in teaching students to read and spell. It is not only the most effective method for students who are struggling with reading words and spelling them, but it is the most effective method for teaching the foundations of literacy to all students. This multisensory approach makes learning an active process, connecting sounds to letters and making sense of spelling. This is how you teach a dyslexic child to read and spell more automatically and fluently.

The structured literacy methodology is vast and complex but Lexercise makes it easy to help your dyslexic child at home using our online therapy programs.

4. Think outside-of-the-box when it comes to reading practice 

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”, and in life we’ve all seen it’s true. Neuroscience confirms that regular practice is a crucial component in learning a new skill. Encourage additional reading practice outside of school and homework by using other sources like joke books, comic books, graphic novels, and cookbooks. Additionally, sometimes reading using technology will be more enticing if they have been looking at paper books all day. Consider letting them play games on their laptop or tablet for a specified amount of time after completing a reading assignment, so that they want to read in order to play the games. Consider motivating your dyslexic teenager by leveraging their time on social media. They will be reading captions and comments about people and things they are interested in. Talk with them about what they read and what it means. This will also help your child realize that, while information is everywhere,  careful reading and thinking is often necessary for full understanding.

5. Use assistive technology to your advantage!

Assistive technology has greatly improved in quality and quantity over the past few years. One great resource is the text-to-speech functionality found on most computers, tablets and phones that will read text aloud. (Pro tip: this is a built in function to all Google Chromebooks, the same ones that many schools are supplying for at-home learning.) Other great tools include audiobooks, word prediction, spellcheck (especially those that check at a sentence level and catch misspellings of words like “their” and “there”), and electronic graphic organizers. Read more about these resources here

Helping a child with dyslexia at home can feel overwhelming, but we are here to help! Schedule time to speak with a qualified dyslexia expert. 

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 3: Lindsey Blackburn

hands typing on laptop

In this three-part article, we have been sharing the reflections of Lexercise teletherapists about how online structured literacy intervention and online learning work.  Two weeks ago,  Leahann McLaughlin shared her experience, and last week  Josie Moretti gave her perspectives.  In this final segment, Lindsey Blackburn reflects on her journey into working with students online.

Working online is engaging, not isolating.

Lexercise teletherapist Lindsey Blackburn worked for years in the New England public schools as a certified special education teacher and learning disabilities specialist. Aspicture of Lindsey Blackburn, Lexercise Therapist a resource teacher, she says, “I had very bright students in the 7th and 8th grade who did not know how to read.” Realizing that her training had not prepared her to teach these students how to read, she went in search of more training. With the guidance of “the most incredible mentors,” she immersed herself in learning the Orton-Gillingham method and was soon seeing the benefits. “I saw the growth, so quickly,” she says. “I worked with a 3rd-grade nonreader and after two months of structured literacy training he had caught up. It was really exciting.”

As a Lexercise teletherapist, Lindsey works online with students and their families all over the world. “Sometimes people are nervous because working online is new, and that’s normal,” she explains, “but technology today is very intuitive and it’s incredibly easy. If you know how to access your email or click on a link, you will have no problem joining an online learning platform. Any problems can be resolved within minutes, and of course, I’m there to help. It gets easier every time.”

The benefits of working online are huge, Lindsey says. In the classroom, “some students get very anxious when they’re asked to read. When they’re in a private and comfortable setting in their own home – and not distracted by their activities and classmates and devices – they can really focus on their work.” An unanticipated benefit for everyone, including the therapist, is the ability to partner with the child’s parent. “The parent is the first and most important teacher, but in a brick-and-mortar clinic setting, the parents are not in the room. Working together online empowers the whole family and expedites growth and progress for students.” Plus, Lindsey notes, since dyslexia often runs in families, many parents admit that working alongside their child, they’re learning English language concepts they never learned in school!

It’s not unusual for parents to be concerned about whether their child will have rapport with the online therapist. Lindsey answers with an enthusiastic “Yes! Working together online is very interactive and authentic. Working online is engaging, not isolating.

 Leahann, Josie, and Lindsey have compiled some questions that they suggest parents might want to ask of a therapist before they enroll their child in online services.

  • My child has reading problems but no diagnosis. What should I do?
  • What are your qualifications? What is your accreditation? (Look for the International Dyslexia Association, IDA, insignia on the provider’s website.)
  • What practicum have you completed? (Qualified therapists complete hundreds of hours of supervised practice.)
  • What is structured literacy?
  • What type of students, which learning deficits, does your program help?
  • What is your approach? Is your method based on scientific evidence? Can you explain your program’s scope and sequence?
  • What is the frequency of sessions and structured practice?
  • Why should we begin online therapy now rather than waiting to see what accommodations my child’s school will provide?
  • What will be expected of me as a parent and what can I do on my end to maximize my child’s success with the program?
  • Do all children get the same therapy? How do you decide what my child needs?
  • What’s the difference between what you do and what a local tutor can do?
  • How much improvement can I expect if my child completes the work?

If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

For more information on Lexercise’s online therapy, click here.

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 2: Josie Moretti

online therapy at home

Last week we shared the reflections of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin.  This week, Lexercise teletherapist, Josie Moretti shares her thoughts about online structured literacy intervention.

This is high level therapy.”

Lexercise teletherapist Josie Moretti was a guardian ad litem for six years. In that role, she encountered a number of “bright, smart children” who were being held back in school because they could not read. Some of them had a dyslexia diagnosis, and Josie knew she had to learn more.

picture of Lexercise Therapy, Josie MorettiJosie observed: “Before the printing press came along, a person’s physical actions would have been more valued.  In our culture, reading and writing are prized. But we know now that the dyslexic brain doesn’t work the same way as the non-dyslexic brain – and our school system is designed for the non-dyslexic. Roughly one in five children have some form of learning difference.”

Josie earned the Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist certification from the International Dyslexia Association/CERI and completed Special Education Advocacy Training through the Council for Parent, Advocates and Attorneys. 

She admits that, at first, she was a little concerned about working online. “I had always worked face-to-face in people’s homes,” Josie says, “so I was skeptical. But it is extremely easy. Click, and boom it’s there, the same link each time. We do a tech check before the first session. It’s so easy. Lexercise is the real deal. This is high level therapy.

The advantages of working online are enormous, Josie agrees. “Focus issues (ADHD, etc.) may come along with language processing disabilities such as dyslexia. The online platform is so interactive that I can see if the child is having some difficulty and I can switch in an instant to something that’s more appropriate for the child so they get all the advantages of the learning platform.”

“I also love the team approach – the parent learning alongside the child, so the parent can work with and support the child outside of therapy hours. With ‘old school’ therapy, the parent is doing something else. With Lexercise, the parent is a vital part of the team. Plus, of course, with traditional therapy, I have a session with the child, I leave, and nothing happens until I return. With the repeated exposure offered by the practice sessions, you can see the child’s progress.”

“Also, I have more resources online,” Josie adds. “I can’t bring everything with me when I see a child in person. But online everything is here at my fingertips.”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 1: Leahann McLaughlin

image of classroom

As you probably know, Lexercise believes in online learning!  For more than a decade, Lexercise has continually refined our online structured literacy teaching platform.  Now, with schools and workplaces closed down for the coronavirus, and people being encouraged (or required) to work, teach, and learn online we are hearing from more and more parents, teachers and therapists who want to know how online learning works.  

Over the next three weeks, we’ll share some reflections on online learning from three Lexercise teletherapists:  Leahann McLaughlin, Lindsey Blackburn and Josie Moretti.  We’ll start with Leahann’s reflection. 

Reading is a hallmark of every other academic expectation of these kids. 

picture of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlinLexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin previously worked as an elementary school teacher and interventionist in the traditional classroom setting. A passionate lifelong reader, she loved teaching reading. As an interventionist, working with small groups of students with different deficits, she found that the piecemeal curriculum made it “hard to get the desired outcomes” for her students. The work was not one-on-one and there simply were not enough repetitions to help the students learn. As she was trying to learn more, she “happened to meet someone in school who was a Lexercise therapist. I saw her working with a student, doing structured Orton-Gillingham activities.” Leahann was amazed. “Even in my Master’s program I hadn’t learned anything about this.” More research and training followed. “It was exactly what I was looking for.”

 

Can Anyone Succeed with Online Learning?

Leahann agrees that online learning is “extremely user friendly. There’s a learning curve,” she says, “but it’s not especially steep. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it is.” It’s particularly easy for the students: “They know instinctively what to click on, where to find things. They take to it naturally.”

The advantages of working online are significant as well. “I find that student outcomes are better than what I experienced traditionally in school. Kids have ongoing practice every day. Without this frequent practice, they don’t retain what they’ve learned. The structure and design of this program with repetition and reinforcement really lends itself to positive student outcomes.” Leahann also sees the benefit of parental involvement. “Parents are very supportive, very serious, and committed to the program. I didn’t see that in the schools. Many parents had not realized how misunderstood their child was until they saw a new way of responding to their child’s needs.”

 

Kids and Online Learning

“I feel like students are more engaged,” Leahann says. “Kids gravitate to the technology. Students think it’s a neat setting. They like that there is actually somebody on the other side of that screen that they look at all the time. I find there’s a lot less resistance in this sort of setting than in-office therapy. Because we can see each other and are talking in real time, it’s possible to gauge responses and read emotional feedback.”

“Many students have historically not been successful in the classroom and have damaged self-esteem. But in the safe online environment, they learn that getting it wrong is part of the learning process. This setting overshadows their previous experience so they can get past their fear and negative associations with literacy.”

“It’s very exciting when a child starts enjoying reading instead of avoiding it. I’m thrilled when a parent tells me that their child is reading cereal boxes or street signs!”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

For more information on Lexercise’s online therapy, click here.

Flipping Virtual Structured Literacy Intervention

Teachers have been using Lexercise for Schools to provide online lessons for their struggling readers during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these teachers have been offering us valuable feedback and telling us what they need in order to reach more students. These conversations have led to some exciting changes in the teacher dashboard and the flexibility with which teachers can use the Lexercise for Schools platform. 

In the pre-pandemic days, teachers started with a 45-minute lesson. Online student practice followed each lesson. But teachers told us that some students couldn’t be there for the lesson; some had school scheduling difficulties or – especially since the pandemic has closed schools – due to internet connectivity issues. Practice, on the other hand, has been less of a barrier because it can be done at any time or, in a pinch, using a cell phone, connecting with cellular towers rather than cable or fiber internet.

With this valuable feedback in mind, we have re-designed the Lexercise for Schools teacher dashboard. Instead of a lesson-first protocol, the changes make it easy for a teacher to begin with a few days of student practice using Lexercise games. The Lexercise interface reports each student’s accuracy so, after a few days, the teacher can see who is mastering the decoding and spelling patterns and who isn’t. The teacher can get a detailed report on every student’s practice to see exactly which words and which concepts are causing difficulty. Then the teacher can schedule an individual or group  lesson and/or short concept-focused instruction to explain and provide guided practice with the concept(s).

Illustration: Accuracy report showing a student’s practice-game results

We have actually anticipated this model for some time. Over the last few years, our data have indicated that most struggling students can master decoding and spelling concepts with just the implicit and explicit instruction provided by the practice games platform.

Starting with a little practice instead of with a face-to-face lesson is  a “flipped classroom” model.  Direct instruction is provided after, not before, initial engagement and practice. Over the past decade,  research has indicated that a flipped classroom model can be very effective, especially with regard to improving student motivation. (See, for example,  Brame, 2013.)

Every day, we see teachers responding to the unanticipated demands of becoming instant online teaching experts. We are extremely grateful for the work they are doing, and for the time they have taken to offer feedback on the Lexercise platform. We are excited and pleased to be able to roll out this change quickly in response to their observations and suggestions.

 

Reference:
Brame, C., (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/flipping-the-classroom/.

Tips for Online Instruction

parent and child with online therapistWith schools closing and lives disrupted nationwide, Lexercise is getting urgent calls for help from teachers who are suddenly required to teach lessons online. For many of these teachers, it is their first foray into online teaching. But, interestingly, the most frequent question is, “How can I keep students engaged in online sessions?”

As you know, for many years Lexercise has been refining our methods for capturing and holding the attention of young learners. With that experience in mind, we offer here an overview of online basics.

Utilizing Technology to Keep Students Engaged


Both the teacher and the student(s) need:

  • An internet-connected device, such as a computer, laptop, or tablet; smartphone screens are too small to be workable
  • Internet speed that permits multiple video feeds without stalling 
  • An updated browser
  • A video camera, microphone, and speakers (built into all modern devices) 
  • Headsets with microphones are helpful for both teachers and students, but young students joined by a parent will use the computer’s built-in microphone and speaker since both need to hear the audio feed.
  • A web-conferencing platform that is: secure (e.g., NOT Skype or FaceTime; most Lexercise therapists use Zoom); easy, intuitive, and not glitchy; complete with tools that help keep students engaged (e.g., a way to write on the screen using on-screen annotation tools)

 

Task Mastery

Teachers need to master a number of tasks and troubleshooting measures that will arise in almost every session. Most of these are not technologically complex, but you don’t want to be figuring them out on the first day of class. We suggest that two or three teachers (friends and family members will work, too) simulate an online class and work through these steps a few times to make sure the actions are seamless. (Platforms such as Zoom provide very worthwhile training materials and webinars.) The most common tasks are:

  • Send a web-conference invitation to participants
  • Get participants logged in to the web conference and help them adjust their speaker(s), microphone(s) and camera(s)
  • Solve common web-conferencing and connectivity difficulties (e.g., microphone echo, slow internet speed, error messages, browser issues)
  • Locate features in the web-conferencing interface, share and unshare their screen, switch to and from the desktop and the video feed, open a new tab 
  • Know how to prevent displaying private or personal information to participants

 

Safe & Effective Online Teaching

Online teaching is not just web conferencing! The technology and the web-conferencing platform get you in the same “room” as the student(s). Beyond that, you need to think about what and how you will teach, using research-backed protocols and procedures that are adapted specifically for online teaching. These must be practices that are safe and effective. 


Safety

  • In most cases, a responsible adult, such as a parent, needs to be on-site with the student(s). (Suppose your student decides to climb out the window during your web conference. If there is no adult present, there is nothing you can do!) Since an adult must be in the room it can be a teaching opportunity, but that does require using guidelines for where the adult will be seated and what they will (and won’t) do.
  • There are complex federal and state laws that apply, such as COPPA and FERPA, so use a platform and procedures with a Terms of Service that provides for that.


Administrative Procedures and Tools

  • Beyond the safety and legal aspects, the platform needs to provide for the flow of the entire session, including selecting teaching objectives, session planning, teaching materials, session notes, and all necessary, related administrative tools.
  • The platform needs to provide a secure way to send and receive messages from students and parents. This must be internal to the platform.
  • The platform needs to provide a way to connect with its user community to share information, ask questions, and improve teaching practices.


Setting Up Content

  • There should be a curriculum, not just a collection of apps, games, or disconnected activities. A curriculum is a set of measurable, sequential goals, objectives, methods, and resources that allows a teacher and students to work together toward mastery of a set of skills and a body of knowledge. As Natalie Wexler points out in her recent book, The Knowledge Gap, a curriculum is essential. It can be skills-focused or knowledge-focused and students need both. While a discussion of how to select a curriculum is beyond the scope of this article, we should acknowledge that the selection and use of research-backed curriculum is a necessary component for effective teaching. 
  • Teaching materials need to be designed for online teaching, not paper-based materials designed for use in a physical facility.
  • It is a copyright violation to display copyrighted material in a web-conference (even if you own them). So, if the platform does not include curricular materials, the teacher will have to write their own curriculum from scratch and create copyright-free learning objects and materials to go with it – pretty daunting.
  • Most paper-based materials are not optimized for teletherapy so they may be difficult to see and/or interact within the online class.
  • Since attention is an absolute prerequisite for learning, the teacher needs to know how to keep the student(s) active and participating. The screen can be an attention magnet, but without best practices, it can be a distraction. If an image is too complex or too text-heavy the student will not know what to look at; their attention will flag and time will be wasted. 
  • Even the most well-trained practitioner needs a lesson script or reminder notes to help them pace the lesson and stay on track.
  • And, of course, there needs to be a structured plan for how the student(s) will get practice between lessons and a way to track practice completion and accuracy. The power of a little daily practice is now consensus science, and we know that neural circuits lose their optimization over days without structured practice. 


Best Practices for Online Instruction

  • Learning objectives need to drive the teaching methods, not vice versa. Teachers should select resources and apps based on their teaching and learning objectives.
  • Engagement is essential! Learning is social. Conversation is required and needs to be an intentional part of the curriculum.
  • Screen time needs to be balanced with off-screen activities.


The Lexercise online platform includes the
Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©, a speech-to-print curriculum with lessons that start with phonemic awareness and include explicit, direct instruction in letter-sound associations, word reading, spelling, word parts (morphology), vocabulary, sentences, reading comprehension, and writing. There is an interface for daily practice that is coordinated with the objectives the teacher selected for the lesson. It is adjustable, based on the age and needs of the student, and has been used with students from kindergarten to adults. Like all structured literacy methods, this curriculum is most appropriate for use with students whose listening comprehension is stronger than their decoding/spelling skills. For students with weaker listening comprehension and relatively stronger decoding/spelling we recommend the Lexercise Mind’s Eye Curriculum©, which is available only for use by Lexercise Therapists in Professional Therapy subscriptions.

If you are a teacher looking to meet the needs of your struggling readers, you might want to look into our Lexercise for Schools program.

Here at Lexercise, we believe in teachers and we know they can meet the challenge. We welcome your questions and wish you the best during this unusual time.

Our Interactive Online Games Get Even Better!

screenshot of Lexercise online game for children with dyslexia

You may have noticed that we recently made some dramatic improvements to the Lexercise practice platform, with new games that enable students to practice the concepts they learn during each weekly lesson. Of course, the quickest way to see these improvements is to try the online demos. But we thought we would let Rob Morris offer a little background.

What is New in Lexercise’s Games?

Now you might think that the Chief Technology Officer would respond to the “What’s new?” question with a lot of tech-speak. Not Rob. With his combination of techno-wizardry and big-picture understanding, he talks about the Lexercise platform with passion and pride. Here’s what he told us:

“When Sandie Barrie Blackley and Chad Myers started envisioning Lexercise nearly 15 years ago, there was always one guiding principle: the platform would be research-based and science-driven. They recognized that there was inadequate structured, deliberate practice built into most dyslexia treatment programs. The child would see the therapist, practice during the session, and that would be it until the next session.

screenshot of Lexercise game to help children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities“But MRI research and neuroscience was confirming practice a few days a week was not enough for the dyslexic brain. Remediation is a process of re-patterning the brain with very specific input – breaking down words into bits, teaching and practicing patterns, and providing specifically targeted examples and micro-challenges over and over to recruit the parts of the brain that are not currently being used efficiently for reading.

“That’s what our games do, and that helps explain why Lexercise works as well as it does. Language literacy is enormously complex. These games allow us to supplement what’s learned in instructional lessons, taking tiny pieces of language and building them, one on the next, creating fluent, confident readers.

“When I came on board, the games were working, but there were limitations to the technology. For example, they were based on Flash, which wasn’t up to the job for a variety of reasons. So we started to plan changes that would allow Lexercise to have the power and flexibility it requires.

screen shot of word game used on Lexercise's platform to help struggling readers“That’s an ambitious project. The games need to appeal to a broad range of users and cover a broad range of skills, plus they need to offer students, parents, and therapists measurable results. Originally, it seemed like the target audience was beginning readers – first-graders. But over time, we’ve learned that it usually isn’t until grade 4, 5, or even 6, that parents, teachers, and school districts finally agree that a child is struggling to read and that the child needs testing and help.

“In addition to adjusting our graphics and vocabulary to appeal to a slightly older audience, the last decade has seen a revolution in the use of technology. Kids are exposed to very sophisticated graphics from the time they start watching television, playing games, and looking at phones. Our platform had to step up to that level of sophistication, while still meeting the research and science standards.

“What Lexercise is doing now is fairly cutting edge. Each game reinforces a lesson concept or a specific skill and each of our new games keeps track of what the student is working on and how well they’re doing it. That generates useful, actionable data for therapists, parents, and educators.

“The look of the games is new, too. Our fabulous graphic artist, Iszzy, developed the color palette and the graphic design of the games. The games have to be engaging, rich, and animated, but they also have to be attentive to various constraints. Students with dyslexia may also have attention, focus, and sensory issues, so the graphics can’t be overstimulating or overwhelming. They have to strike a balance between exciting, interesting, and of course educational.

 “In the game design, we’ve also incorporated what we’ve learned from Lexercise therapists. For example, therapists told us that breathing exercises in their live sessions help reduce anxiety. So we built an optional breathing-break ‘game’, called Calming Breath, into the practice.

“The games work with the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©, which is a speech-to-print approach to word-study, structured from simple to complex in a series of lessons. The curriculum and the teaching and practice tools are continuously reviewed for scientific accuracy and effectiveness and refined with feedback from kids, parents, and therapists. The beauty of the new Lexercise platform is that the games “know” what concept the child is being challenged on and how they perform, while at the same time providing the child with feedback and a sense of control and mastery.

“We went live with the new games late in 2019 and the demos are now online. You’ll notice that each game has a ‘bot’ who guides the user through the game. That’s Anna. We named her in honor of educator and psychologist Anna Gillingham, co-founder of the Orton-Gillingham Approach. In the actual games (not the demos), Anna personalizes her language and instructions so they are age-appropriate. We have more games in the pipeline. They’ll just keep getting better.”

We’d love to hear from you. Please try out the demos and contact us at any time with questions about dyslexia, language learning, or Lexercise.

Who Puts the Active in Interactive?

screenshot of Lexercise's educational games

There’s a lot going on at Lexercise. So much, in fact, that we will be sharing our news with you over the course of two separate-but-related posts.

We would like to begin by introducing and congratulating Rob Morris, who has recently accepted the title of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Lexercise. Our programmer and primary game developer since 2012, Rob has been involved in much of what goes on behind the scenes that make Lexercise interactive and friendly.

How do you make a CTO? Well, here’s how Rob Morris did it:

He got his first computer, an Apple II Plus, at age 8. Before long – in elementary school! – he was programming and writing games. He later went to Stanford, where he got a degree in computer science, and started a game development company in, you guessed it, his garage.

From there Rob moved into business software and consulting, relocated to North Carolina, and soon found himself working with a young company called Lexercise. He has been involved with every aspect of programming at Lexercise since that time.

As a side note, Rob has benefited personally from what he has learned about dyslexia. When he and his young daughter tried out the public screener together, her results showed mild dyslexia and he was able to enroll her in a helpful therapy program. Rob also now realizes that his father probably had undiagnosed dyslexia. An avid reader and Scrabble player and a successful business person, his father blamed his lifelong inability to spell on having to switch schools so often because of his own father’s career.

Rob’s compassion, vision, intelligence, and energy make him a welcome and valued member of the Lexercise staff. Congratulations, Rob!

In our next post, we’ll let Rob tell you about recent improvements to the Lexercise practice platform.

Thank you!

It’s almost Thanksgiving and so, along with family and turkey and pumpkin pie, our minds turn to gratitude. Here at Lexercise, we have many people and things to be thankful for: the parents and children whose trust and dedication turn struggling students into competent, confident readers; the magnificent team of Lexercise therapists who guide these families through the learning process; and, not least, our dedicated and mighty Lexercise staff.

There are many others, of course, including the educators, research scientists, and organizations working to deepen our understanding of language learning. In particular, we would like to express our deep gratitude to two journalists who have, with consistent and articulate attention, exposed the problems with how reading is taught in most U.S. schools:

  • Emily Hanford (Senior Producer and Correspondent at APM Reports) for her work explaining the science of reading and how reading should be taught.
  • Natalie Wexler (author of The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System – And How to Fix It) for her work explaining how the U.S. education system suffers from a lack of knowledge-based curricula and a misplaced focus on “strategies” instead of knowledge (facts and critical thinking).

For several decades, reading scientists have struggled to get the world of education to hear their message about the consensus that exists around the Simple View of Reading and its implications for how reading should be taught. But in a little over a year, these two journalists have written intelligent and accessible materials that have sparked a national discussion about the Simple View of Reading:

Reading Comprehension (6)Natalie and Emily agree that reading comprehension is a primary goal. Natalie’s work has addressed mainly the listening comprehension side of the formula, whereas Emily has addressed mainly the decoding side of the formula. As the formula implies, both are essential in that each side has a multiplier effect on the goal.

Through their writing, Hanford and Wexler are helping schools find better ways to teach and, so importantly, helping parents to demand the educational methods that will teach their children to read – whatever their abilities.

You can learn more about Emily Hanford’s work by reading or listening to her APM Reports (click on her name, above, for a list of recent reports). Find out more about Natalie Wexler’s work by reading The Knowledge Gap or visiting The Knowledge Gap page on her website, where you’ll find information as well as links to presentations, podcasts, and interviews.

These dedicated writers have earned our deepest regard and they definitely deserve the nation’s thanks!

We wish you the very best for the holidays and are always here to answer your questions about dyslexia, language processing disorders, and the Lexercise approach.

Lexercise for Schools

“While we teach, we learn.” Seneca

Lexercise for Schools is a win-win platform that engages students in structured literacy lessons and practice while also providing professional development for teachers.

The Lexercise for Schools platform provides the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum™  in a classroom-friendly format. Teachers use multimedia, direct-instruction lessons that explain concepts with extreme clarity and stimulate interactive discussion and practice. To supplement group activities, the program generates individualized, self-paced solo practice that reinforces concepts taught in the lessons, responds to individual needs, and provides progress data. As teachers use the program, they learn the neuroscience of literacy, the structure of written English, and how to detect and correct problems. This virtual apprenticeship in structured literacy methods reduces teacher planning time and, over time, builds effective reading coaches who understand reading science and how to apply it. 

The Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum™  is based on consensus reading science and principles of literacy instruction endorsed by the International Literacy Association, the International Dyslexia Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

We are happy we have helped over 200,000 families since we launched in 2008.  Lexercise is proud to be an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Accredited ProgramPLUSTo learn more about structured literacy and how it differs from less effective methods of reading instruction see this introductory guide from the International Dyslexia Association.

To learn more, visit the Lexercise for Schools page and request a free demonstration or contact us at Lexercise and let us know how we can help.

 

UNC Greensboro and Lexercise Partner for Professional Development

When their ideas for Lexercise were taking shape more than a decade ago, Sandie Barrie Blackley and Chad Myers set out to integrate the research-based approach of Orton-Gillingham (structured literacy) therapy with accessible, user-friendly technology. Since that time, every aspect of the Lexercise platform, from testing and basic therapy to professional therapy, has followed the same pattern.

That knowledge and experience placed Lexercise in a strategic position to offer professional training. Using the same approach – research-based knowledge plus user-friendly technology – the Lexercise Professional Development program took shape.    Lexercise has recently been recognized by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) as an Accredited ProgramPLUS.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders UNC GreensboroIn 2018, Lexercise was honored to form a partnership with the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) in which Lexercise provided a course to train their speech-language pathology (SLP) masters students in the structure of written English. Now the program has been renewed for another year.

 

 

Lexercise and UNC’s Relationship Background

Sandie Barrie Blackley is no stranger to UNCG CSD. She joined the graduate faculty in 2002 to coordinate a large grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant provided funding to train SLP graduate students in the science of literacy and to provide them with practicum experience working with reading-impaired, at-risk adolescents in the Guilford County, NC, juvenile justice system. 

After the grant ended, Sandie stayed on for another nine years teaching language-literacy graduate courses, but when she left the university in 2016, those courses were no longer offered as part of the CSD curriculum. Since CSD graduate students needed competencies in language literacy, Lexercise formed a partnership with UNCG CSD to offer an online professional development course: The Structure of Written English.

Picture of Connie Williams UNCG CSD Faculty Coordinator
Connie Williams UNCG CSD Faculty Coordinator

Now part of the regular clinical curriculum at UNCG, the fully self-paced, semester-long course includes units on phonology, orthography, morphology, and syntax and semantics. Participants learn the units of analysis and structures of written English, with mastery exercises included for each unit. UNCG faculty member Connie Williams serves as the faculty coordinator, holding discussion sessions with enrolled graduate students and helping them to apply the information to their practicum clients.

At Lexercise, we see this as a win-win-win. It’s good for Lexercise, it’s good for the SLP graduate students, and most importantly, it’s good for the many hundreds of children who will benefit from the skills that newly minted speech-language pathologists attained through our successful partnership.

To learn more, visit the Lexercise courses page, find out about Lexercise online professional education, read the course objectives and contact us if you have questions.

Just Eight Weeks to Better Reading

If your child is a struggling reader or speller, you’ve probably tried just about everything. You’ve talked to teachers, counselors, and school administrators. You’ve talked to other parents. You’ve spent hours online looking for help.

Here at Lexercise we work directly with families and understand the frustration they encounter in seeking the answers and the care they need for their children. As successful as our Structured Literacy Curriculum is when used in our Basic Therapy program, we recognized that some students need to work directly with a therapist in a more in-depth and customized fashion so we created our Professional Therapy program.

In Lexercise Professional Therapy the principles and practices of structured literacy are applied in a program customized and guided by a Lexercise therapist.  Lexercise Professional Therapy comes with a guarantee that your child will improve one grade level in reading after 8 weeks of Lexercise teletherapy. If your child does not make a grade-level of improvement, Lexercise will give you an additional four weeks of teletherapy for free. You can see the details of our guarantee here.

This kind of significant improvement during the first 8 weeks establishes momentum and lays the foundation for the following months that may be needed to bring the student’s reading and spelling to grade level or above. 

 

Winfographic showing the number of students that succeed in 8 weeks with our dyslexia programhat Statistics Back Up Our Claim?

We make this guarantee because we know that when we do our part and the parent and student do their parts, it is very likely to be successful. Of the last 942 Professional Therapy clients who complied with the terms set out in our guarantee, 97.1%  made at least a grade-level reading improvement in eight weeks. (Actually, the average came out to 1.4 grade levels of reading improvement!

 

Here’s How Lexercise Professional Therapy Works:

  • Once a week, for eight consecutive weeks, your child will engage in a 45-minute one-on-one lesson conducted live via webcam with your Lexercise therapist. You must attend and participate in your child’s eight therapy sessions.
  • Four times a week, in between sessions, your child spends about 15 minutes a day completing customized online games, videos, and other activities to reinforce the weekly lessons.
  • Your Lexercise therapist will establish a baseline reading level in your first session, measure your child’s progress after the eighth session, and guide and support you every step of the way.
  • That’s all that’s required to help your child become the secure, confident student you know they can be.

Our research shows that structured literacy + an expert therapist + customized practice = a more capable, and confident student!

What’s Should I do Next?

We look forward to showing you what Lexercise Professional Therapy can do!