Live Broadcast 37: Math-U-See for Struggling Readers and Writers

Steve Demme, Author and Founder of Math-U-See joined us to discuss what makes Math-U-See effective for struggling readers and writers.

Steve is a former math teacher who has taught at all levels of math in public and private schools. Steve’s goal with Math-U-See is to help produce confident problem solvers who enjoy the study of math.

Homeschool families considering math curricula for their struggling readers and writers as well as other families interested in helping their children with math will enjoy this engaging webinar.

Broadcast 36: Creating High Quality Instruction in Teaching Reading

picture of Elisabeth LiptakElisabeth (Liz) Liptak is the Professional Services Director for the International Dyslexia Association, and joined us to discuss the IDA’s Knowledge & Practice Standards. She talked about how the IDA Standards can help teachers and parents recognize what to look for in high-quality reading instruction and how parents can get the help they need for their children who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing.

The IDA Standards serve as a guide to teachers and parents for selecting effective programs and methods for teaching children with dyslexia. Liz Liptak discussed how the Standards guide effective instruction, what teachers and clinicians need to know and be able to do to deliver effective intervention. The Standards provide guidance in the use of structured literacy in an intervention program. An effective program provides daily, structured practice in the following areas:

1. Phonology
2. Phonics and Word Study
3. Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text
4. Vocabulary
5. Text Comprehension
6. Handwriting, Spelling, Written Expression

Liz Liptak was formerly the Executive Director of the Washington Literacy Council, a community-based direct service program in Washington DC that served struggling adult readers and younger children. Liz also worked for two years on a reading research project at the Krasnow Institute, which was funded by the Department of Education. Liz has been a reading tutor since 1989, most recently in the DC Public Schools. Liz works closely with the IDA Board’s Standards and Practices Committee.

Click here to download the presentation for this Live Broadcast in pdf format.

FAQ Friday… Diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder. Now what?

child's earThe question I hear most often from parents relates to the term Auditory Processing Disorder. Parents will say something like, “My child has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder, so what treatment program does he need?” …. or what accommodations…. or what should be on her 504 Plan, etc.

Strictly speaking, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a diagnosis that can be made only by an audiologist. That’s because it takes specialized equipment and training to measure “auditory” function. Audiologists may also use the term Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

In an auditory processing disorder, the person’s hearing is fine. The problem may be:

  • awareness of what is heard (sound awareness )
  • remembering what is heard (sound memory )
  • listening when there is interference (e.g., noise, etc.)


Some educators, psychologists, and speech-language pathologists use the term auditory processing for what is more accurately called language processing. This might seem picky, but it is important because there is very little research support for using purely “auditory” or “auditory processing” treatments to help children with reading and writing problems.

When we look at the definition, characteristics and effects of dyslexia, we see a huge overlap with ADP. Dyslexics’ reading and writing problems begin with weak speech sound processing. English is built on a foundation of 44 speech sounds represented by 26 letters and used to spell more than 600,000 words. A person who cannot distinguish speech sounds — whether because of APD, dyslexia or another cause — will experience a cascade of problems related to language.

As dyslexia researcher and educator, Margaret Rawson explained dyslexic children “….need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught slowly and thoroughly the basic elements of their language — the sounds and the letters which represent them — and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have their writing hands, eyes, ears and voices working together in conscious organization and retention of their learning.”

What Rawson describes is sometimes referred to as a structured literacy or Orton-Gillingham approach and research shows that it is the most effective help for struggling readers and writers.

So, returning to our initial question about APD, what we now understand is that a child with APD does not need a hearing aid or auditory treatment, but clinical intervention, accommodations, such as text-to-speech technology, assistive listening devices and/or captioned media; structured literacy therapy; and intensive daily practice tailored to the child’s specific needs.

To learn more about APD, dyslexia, structured literacy therapy, and Lexercise, contact us directly at or 1-919-747-4557.

Myths About Dyslexia

Miriam Sagan, an artist, writer, and college instructor who lives in New Mexico, recently posted an intriguing entry on her blog: “My Dyslexia: Should I Seek A Cure?

Here are a few excerpts from her post (used with permission):

I have dyslexia…. I can’t spell or am apt to go right when told to turn left…. I was diagnosed as a six year old, looking into a machine. Asked how many squares I saw I said three. This was the wrong answer, I quickly ascertained, as the tester asked me over and over in an increasingly irritated tone. I’d have lied, but I had absolutely no idea how many squares there were.

I couldn’t read until the summer of fourth grade, when mysteriously words came together. In elementary school I was often criticized for being lazy and told I wasn’t living up to my potential.

Recently, an alternative health care practitioner I’ve been working with told me she could ‘heal’ the dyslexia….But, if it were even possible, do I want to be cured of my dyslexia?….Dyslexia is seen as a bad thing, but my kind is called ‘mixed dominance.’ It sounds kinky, but just means one hemisphere of the brain doesn’t dominate the other….I think I’ll stay the way I am.”

Somehow Miriam developed a strong and flexible vocabulary even though she didn’t read until she was in 4th grade. My guess was that Miriam’s parents read to her, and, indeed, she confirmed this: “Yes–I was read aloud to as a child and even as a young adult.”

When I read Miriam’s poetry, elsewhere on her blog, it’s apparent that she has an exceptional ability to visualize. She clearly “sees” the world in rich, vivid colors and can hold images in her mind’s eye as she turns them into words. This kind of “whole brain” thinking is actually common in dyslexics.

Miriam or, more accurately, her practitioners, seem to have some beliefs about dyslexia that research does not support. In particular:

  • Dyslexia can be “cured”
  • Dyslexia is a visual problem (with a “mixed dominance” type that can be diagnosed by “looking into a machine” and counting squares)

These are myths.

Dyslexia is caused by weak speech-sound processing in the brain. It cannot be “cured,” although dyslexics can strengthen their language skills with appropriate therapy. While Miriam expresses some concern that treating her dyslexia would somehow undermine her talent for visualization, there is no credible evidence supporting that fear. Strengthening speech-sound processing skills does not cause a weakening of visualization abilities.

It also bears saying, again, emphatically, that dyslexia is not a visual problem. Please read my earlier post on this subject.

Miriam’s post can help us appreciate the value of listening, shared reading aloud, and conversation. It also alerts us to the lingering myths that surround this complex and fascinating condition.

If you have questions about dyslexia or other language-processing disorders, please contact us at or 1-919-747-4557.