learning disabilities Archives - Lexercise

Systems vs. Goals: Is it time to toss out the resolutions?

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, many of us put the same things on our list year after year: lose weight, exercise more, travel, and so on. You probably have your own familiar favorites.

New Year’s resolutions are goals. Putting them on our list makes us feel like we’ve taken the first important step toward achievement. But the fact that they show up year after year suggests that having a goal is not enough. What’s more, having a goal may not be as important as we think.

A goal doesn’t explain how we do what we hope to accomplish. That’s the role of systems. Systems spell out the steps and track our progress.

Let’s look at this in terms of education and, specifically, teaching students to read, spell and write.


Teachers often set learning goals for students. Passing a standardized test is a goal. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is a list of goals. IEPs are the backbone of special education programs.

IEPs offer some systems guidance, such as the number of lessons per week and how progress will be measured. But they rarely track what matters most: the direct instruction of specific concepts and the frequency and number of practice challenges provided to the student. What is tracked, if anything, is seat-time. And, alas, seat-time is not practice.

Over many decades, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has shown that students who read at a below-basic level in 4th grade rarely become proficient readers by 8th grade. Even if they show up for classroom seat-time, the system doesn’t provide the necessary steps to move them toward literacy.

Could a tighter system approach change that? At Lexercise, we think it could.


Lexercise’s System Approach: Structured Literacy

Lexercise is a systems approach: one structured literacy lesson a week followed by at least 15 minutes a day of structured practice, four days a week. Our data over the last 10 years shows that students who actually use this system (not just aspire to it) make at least a year of reading gain in the first eight weeks!

Note the absence of a goal in the Lexercise approach. We don’t say that the student will be able to read a certain book, or will be able to read or write at a certain grade level. Those are goals. What we say is that if the student actually does the lesson and the practice, they will make significant progress.

James Clear writes about habits and human potential. In Chapter 1 of his book Atomic Habits, he writes about goals and systems. Again and again, he emphasizes the importance of process and actions over goals. “Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing workouts.” “Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process.”

Clear also emphasizes the importance of feedback as a way of tracking progress. At Lexercise, feedback is built into our ongoing testing system, so that the student sees and hears their progress as they move through the practice.

Can the systems approach work for your student? We think so. We’d also be very interested to see how the systems approach might change your New Year’s resolutions!

Whatever approach you take, we wish you the very best for 2019 and look forward to sharing our understanding of learning and to answering any questions you may have about dyslexia and other language-processing disorders.


If you’d like to learn more about our services, click here.

Creativity and Dyslexia

creativity-and-dyslexia-blogDyslexics struggle with reading, writing, and spelling but they often excel in other areas. Many dyslexics gravitate towards to arts and prove to be very creative. There is currently no research proving the direct relationship between learning difficulties and creativity. However, this doesn’t mean that those with a learning disability don’t have high creative potential.

dyslexic child coloring with crayonsIt’s believed that artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso were dyslexics. It’s only natural to direct one’s attention and effort to an area that is gratifying and comes naturally, like artistic ability, rather than one that doesn’t, like reading. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity reports high creativity in children and adults with dyslexia is merely a result of the dedication and time dyslexics spend exploring new methods of learning.

As we have seen with many famous dyslexics, their success comes from turning their “disadvantages” into their strengths and finding different and creative ways to problem solve and overcome difficulties. The same reason a dyslexic’s brain processes a <b> as a <d> by looking at the shape from all angles allows amazing artistic abilities to imagine and create an object from all angles as well. Furthermore, “most dyslexics tend to think in images as opposed to words, this is in part due to the activation of the portions of the brain” (Jones, 2016) that most adults often don’t use.  dyslexic child using their creativity with artAs a result, what others see as innovative or creative is second nature to a dyslexic.

People with dyslexia often have amazing language and communication talents that go way deeper than their word-reading and spelling disruptions.

Along these lines, I was excited to read about Voices of Dyslexia, a new online journal featuring creative work by people with dyslexia. The editors, Dana Guthrie Martin and Kristen McHenry, “are interested in publishing pieces that exemplify the creativity, artistry, and vision of dyslexics. The site accepts poetry, essays, interviews, academic work, audio recordings (of poetry, prose, interviews, conversations, and the like), musical compositions, images, and videos.”

To build a positive growth mindset around your child’s dyslexia you should encourage whatever interest they gravitate towards whether that be a creative expression or something else. Furthermore, you can increase your child’s future success by addressing their dyslexia now. Schedule a free consultation with one of our dyslexia therapist to learn more about our research-backed reading, writing, and spelling therapy.


Jones, Rod. “Art and Dyslexia: The Picture-Perfect Combination?” Senior Artist. Senior Artist, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. https://www.seniorartist.com/articles/art-and-dyslexia-the-picture-perfect-combination/





Special Education Categories in School

Special Education Categories in School - LexerciseIf your child has dyslexia, the school system may throw some words at you that have different meanings in different contexts. We want to make sure you are equipped with the best information before you make decisions that affect your child’s education. Let’s review the different categories of Special Education.


What is Special Education?

Special education is the practice of educating students with special educational needs in a way that is designed to address their individual differences and needs. A federal law, The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), requires that public schools provide special education (with an Individual Education Plan or IEP) to eligible students, but not every struggling student is eligible.  Eligibility requires that the student’s school performance be “adversely affected” by a disability in one of 13 specified categories:

  1. specific learning disability – includes reading and writing disorders like dyslexia
  2. other health impairment –  includes attention and executive function disorders
  3. autism spectrum disorder
  4. emotional disturbance
  5. speech or language impairment
  6. visual impairment
  7. deafness
  8. hearing impairment
  9. deaf-blindness
  10. orthopedic impairment – includes cerebral palsy
  11. intellectual disability
  12. traumatic brain injury
  13. multiple disabilities 


Specific Learning Disability 

Special Education Statistics

Specific learning disability (SLD) is the category that dyslexia and dysgraphia fall under for purposes of public school special education services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines a specific learning disability as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.”  SLD is the largest special education category, and an estimated 80% of students with SLD have a reading impairment.

Many struggling readers are not eligible for public school special education services. While about 14% of students are eligible for special education services, 25-33% of students read at a below basic level.2   

Dyslexia is more common than you may think, with 15-20% of the school population showing symptoms. If your child has not been diagnosed but is showing symptoms, take our dyslexia screener here for free.


1 What Is Specific Learning Disorder? American Psychiatric Association, Retrieved March 28,2022. 

2 White, T. G., Sabatini, J. P., & White, S. (2021). What Does “Below Basic” Mean on NAEP Reading? Educational Researcher, 50(8), 570–573.

Teachers Aren’t Taught Learning Disabilities

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (8)
Fifteen percent of Mississippi children didn’t pass the state’s reading test by third grade.
 Though, Mississippi is not the only state with reading scores lower than the national average. In 2013, thirteen other states scored below the national average in their 4th and 8th graders.

Teachers are just not adequately trained, a new report from the Barksdale Reading Institute says. Teachers are more than capable to help these children, but they aren’t taught to teach children with learning disabilities let alone identify them. 

The group from BRI reviewed 15 traditional teacher preparation programs at 23 different sites in Mississippi and found inconsistencies throughout the programs. Many of the new teachers are taught strategies to teach literacy that are not even research-based. The programs varied on the hours required to spend on instruction and in the classroom.

For one early literacy course that is offered by all programs, the hours spent in class ranged from 14 to 40 among the prep programs, and the hours of fieldwork required ranged from zero to 20. These are huge discrepancies!

Even though the amount of time spent on teacher preparation programs since 2003 increased as a whole, this is not the case for most individual situations. The five components of early literacy are phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The study found that 11 teacher prep programs do not teach letter formation, and 4 programs spend less than an hour teaching candidates about vocabulary.

Some teacher prep students said they were graded on the organization of their notebooks and were given tasks like reading 100 children’s books.Syrian_refugee_children_in_a_Lebanese_school_classroom_(15101234827)

According to the BRI study, in 2015, only 31 percent of the state’s fourth-grade students scored proficient or advanced on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, compared to the national average of 35 percent. Only 21 percent of the state’s eighth-grade students were proficient or advanced.

Dyslexic students have trouble with content even if it is taught by someone trained to fit their needs. Since 1 in 5 children have a learning disability, this makes the lack of teacher education particularly concerning. 

Martha Youman, who came out of college as a New York City Teaching Fellow with a Master’s degree, felt she did not know how to teach the “bottom third” of the class. She ended up giving them low-level busy work, to keep them from acting out. She did not have the proper training to help these kids, even with a master’s degree.

It wasn’t until she went back to school to get her Ph.D. that she truly learned about dyslexia. She was alarmed to find out that five to twenty percent of school-aged children have dyslexia.

Lexercise knows that teachers want to learn and help their students. We created the Mississippi dyslexia screener to help teachers identify children with dyslexia in their classroom. Additionally, Lexercise offers professional educational courses to learn the Structure of English and the Orton-Gillingham method to teach children with Learning Disabilities.


Is Your Child 2e : Twice Exceptional?

2e Infographic Draft 5

How Can I Help My Struggling Reader?

summer deals!If you’re reading this post, chances are good that you are concerned about your child’s reading.   Maybe in a recent parent-teacher conference you learned that your child is not “on level.”  You might have noticed your child is a reluctant reader, or that his or her reading is not as strong as other children his or her age. You want to know: how can I help my child get better at reading?  

Searching for an answer to that question, many parents go through a lengthy and often expensive diagnostic process. This process can provide valuable information about how your child learns. However, for the majority of struggling readers, this is not necessary. There are only a handful of reasons that can cause a child to struggle with reading. Thankfully, there are solutions for all of these problems.


Problem: Instructional failure

Some students struggle with “Dysteachia”.  No, this is not a technical diagnosis.  What it boils down to is instructional failure.  This can happen for a variety of reasons.  Some schools teach “guessing approaches” which are not effective instructional practice for many students.   Your child’s teacher may struggle with classroom behavior, resulting in wasted instructional time and reduced learning.  Especially in the upper grades, lack of progress may be due to interventions designed to treat the symptom (slow reading or poor understanding) instead of the root cause (the student doesn’t know how to sound out words.)


One to one Structured Literacy therapy.  A therapist can work with your student one on one and, in a matter of months, get him or her caught up on reading!  For students who have not received proper reading instruction and struggle as a result will benefit from Structured Literacy therapy. This type of therapy doesn’t just help those with dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Structured Literacy has been proven to help anyone struggling with reading, writing and spelling!


Problem: Inattention or behavioral concerns

Other students struggle due to inattention in the classroom.  The teacher may deliver proper, research based instruction, but the student may have anxiety or attention concerns that prevent him or her from taking advantage of that instruction.  Some of these students may be diagnosed with ADHD.  For other students, the anxiety is due to a shame spiral from ongoing reading failure.  


Teletherapy dramatically reduces the risk and shame students associate with reading mistakes by creating a safe, nurturing environment.  By building a trusting relationship with your child, your Lexercise therapist will create a safe space to practice, make mistakes, and improve reading. The one to one environment provided over the internet minimizes distractions and increases engagement in many students.  Children who can’t or don’t pay attention in whole class instruction are often engaged and attentive with the teletherapy approach.


ID-10032278Problem: Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific type of reading disability.  Students with dyslexia typically have deficits in phonological processing, rapid naming, or both.  Even when they are fully attentive in a classroom with excellent instruction, these students struggle with literacy.


Structured Literacy therapy (formerly known as Orton-Gillingham) is the method research has indicated for students with dyslexia.  Our blended learning model allows you to receive this instruction in the comfort of your own home.  


Problem: other learning disabilities

You may have already undergone testing and had a professional explain that your child does not have dyslexia.  Still, he or she is not catching up in reading and there is a definite learning challenge.  


Our Lexercise therapists are trained in a wide variety of therapeutic instructional approaches.  Call us and we will match you with a clinician that will get to the bottom of your child’s learning challenges and create a customized learning plan to help him or her succeed.  Regardless of the reason why your child is struggling to read, Lexercise teletherapy is a pathway to success!  


Photo Credit to: freedigitalphotos.net africa

Do More Boys Than Girls Have Learning Disabilities?

A recently published study examined identification of students with learning picture of boy and girldisabilities 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 a 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 onpicture of library books 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 this 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!

Live Broadcast 28: The Learning Disabilities Mess

In Broadcast #28, Professor Ruth Colker of Ohio State University discussed the use of the term “learning disability” and how it impacts struggling readers and writers in public schools.


Professor Colker is an expert in disability law and is a frequent guest on National Public Radio (NPR). She is the author of nine books, and her forthcoming book is Disabled Education (New York University Press 2012). Professor Colker was awarded the 2009 Distinguished University Professor, the University’s most distinguished award.