learning disability Archives - Lexercise

A Season of Gratitude

Here at Lexercise, we make a special effort to express gratitude. It takes just a moment to say Thank you, but the benefits can be long-lasting. As we move toward Thanksgiving, we want to extend our special thanks to the students, families, teachers, and Lexercise therapists and staff who have gone above and beyond in this year of less-than-ideal conditions.

For public school struggling readers who qualify, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is supposed to define the specialized instruction and services they need to thrive academically. Unfortunately, many struggling readers don’t qualify or are never identified and never get the help that could be life-changing. Recent research indicates that even for those who are identified, it takes more than a year, on average, for a student just to be provided with an IEP so they can begin to get services. Schools may be under-resourced, and teachers and even school psychologists unprepared to provide the full evaluation necessary to confirm a diagnosis. 

As parents see their children falling behind their peers and contending with issues of anxiety, anger, frustration, and low self-esteem, they search desperately for answers. Happily—for parents and students—that search often leads them to Lexercise. Whether or not their child has an IEP, others find their way to Lexercise through referrals from psychologists, pediatricians, teachers, reading interventionists, and other consultants. 

We know, and any Lexercise family will tell you, that success requires commitment on the part of the student, the parent, and the therapist. It requires time and patience. It means showing up again and again, even when you’re not certain of the outcome.

So THANK YOU: to all those who refer struggling readers to Lexercise, to the students who commit themselves to daily practice, to the parents who encourage and support them, to more than a hundred qualified Lexercise dyslexia therapists who help parents and under-resourced schools identify and treat their struggling readers, and to the small but mighty Lexercise staff, who continue to support the Lexercise vision and our science-backed methods.

We are not alone in our gratitude. Read (and watch) some of the heartwarming stories we have received from Lexercise families

We are grateful to each and every one of you and look forward to continuing our work together.

Stress Management 101

stress management 101

In a recent “Best of NPR” newsletter, Christopher Dean Hopkins writes about helping young students cope with unusual conditions as they return to school. He talks about mask use and alternate settings to closed classrooms, but also, very importantly, emphasizes the presence of stress “for kids as well as grownups.”

At Lexercise we often discuss stress and anxiety, as they are among the most common features of dyslexia. In The Vortex of Dyslexia, we share why these emotions are so prevalent among children with dyslexia and other language-processing disorders. October is Dyslexia Awareness Month so this is a good time to re-examine how struggling students can manage stress and anxiety, which are typically a result of feeling out of control.

At Lexercise, our priority is helping students get the effective intervention and treatment they need to succeed and to feel in control in school and in life. In our Lexercise blog posts, and in the daily work Lexercise therapists do with students, we frequently address the importance of combining comprehensive testing and evaluation, skilled professionals, and research-based treatment—in other words, best practices—to develop the level of reading proficiency required for academic success.

Long experience has demonstrated that fun can inspire students to practice, so Lexercise designed a set of practice games that offer valuable feedback as kids learn essential skills. Enlivened by the graphics of Lexercise Lead Artist Isabel Hennes (Iszzy), our games help to produce the “mental muscle memory” needed for proficient reading. 

But we know it’s not all fun and games. As Hopkins writes, when stress is “amped up” it can easily interfere with health, learning, and social interactions. So, among the colorful Lexercise games, we’ve added one called Calming Breath. A cuddly purple creature with wiggly ears demonstrates how to use the calming breath procedure to manage stress as the instructions guide the student (or parent!) through the exercise. Give it a try!

If you are stressed about your child’s skills with written or spoken words, we invite you to learn more about Lexercise therapy on our website or contact us today.

Homeschooling’s Surge and Lessons Learned

Homeschooling’s Surge and Lessons Learned

As we move into another school year, parents everywhere are scrambling for resources and examining the “lessons” of last year’s experience. Whether the local school district implemented virtual learning or parents elected to homeschool their children, 2020 pushed families into new educational territory.

Given increased concerns for health and safety, homeschooling is surging. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that while homeschooling rates had remained steady at about 3.3 percent for nearly a decade, they showed a sharp increase during the pandemic, from 5.4 percent of households in spring 2020 to more than 11 percent by October 2020 and about 19.5 percent in May 2021.

Prior to the pandemic, parents cited bullying and other forms of aggression as well as discontent with the curriculum as their primary reasons for homeschooling. Many parents who recognize their children’s learning challenges, including dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities, have witnessed the value of the one-on-one learning environment that homeschooling offers. (In a July NPR segment, one parent expressed concern that mandated classroom masks might pose a greater difficulty for her speech-delayed child.)

Of course, homeschooling is a significant commitment that must consider the standard curriculum, teaching materials and how to acquire them, and the particular learning abilities of each child. According to School Library Journal, personalization has become a key element, with parents tailoring both subject matter and teaching techniques to meet the individual educational and cultural needs of their children.

Homeschooling has also boosted the importance of libraries and social media. Parents “gather” in like-minded online groups to share resources and increasingly turn to libraries and librarians before purchasing new materials.

Whether families will choose to continue homeschooling remains to be seen. School Library Journal suggests that pandemic restrictions and economic resources will certainly influence that decision, but the success of a family’s recent homeschooling experience may be just as important.

When it comes to success, Lexercise online reading and writing therapy offers consistent, measurable language improvements to students with dyslexia and other learning differences. In fact, we guarantee it.

 

During this unusual time, we are particularly excited to extend our curriculum to meet the needs of families with Pre-K students. Our research-based, one-on-one, individualized approach includes on- and offline practice, and generous guidance for parents as they support their child’s successful, early start with literacy.

Lexercise provides young students with the foundational skills they need to move easily into the classroom—wherever that classroom may be.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Making a Case for Practice

Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you decide to learn a new skill. Let’s use bread-baking as an example, but it could easily be a foreign language, golf, piano, etc. You sign up for a class and after the first session you can practically smell the loaves of fresh bread coming out of the oven. But then you discover some of your loaves are hard as rocks; others are still raw in the middle; yet others taste like salt. Yuck. It’s then you realize what’s missing: practice. And sure enough, as you practice you become more comfortable and fluent in the language of bread.

We know that practice is absolutely essential for developing skills of all sorts, yet we may forget this principle when it comes to learning to read. We think if a child just shows up in the classroom, they will learn the necessary skills “automatically.” Indeed, that may be true for some children, but for those who struggle with reading, consistent, structured practice is essential to produce the “muscle memory” of language fluency.

For decades, research has provided strong evidence for the benefits of structured literacy.

Explicit, systematic, and diagnostic, structured literacy includes all the components needed for struggling readers with decoding and spelling difficulties: phonology, phonics, syllables, word parts, vocabulary, and sentences.

But wait. This list is missing an essential piece: practice. Struggling readers need structured practice to improve outcomes and make skills automatic. In fact, struggling readers may need 10 times more practice than typical readers; what a typical reader may achieve in two practice opportunities is likely to take a struggling reader 20 practice opportunities.

Neuroscientist Stan Dahaene (2020) lists daily rehearsal as one of his 4 Pillars of Learning, along with focused attention, active engagement, and error feedback. But this is not new science. This principle of frequent practice has been established for more than a century. In 1880, Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered landmark research in the field of retention and learning, measuring how much we forget over time. He discovered that without any reinforcement or connections to prior knowledge, information is quickly forgotten – roughly 66 percent after just one day!

So if we accept that frequent practice is essential to reading success, how do we achieve it? Compliance is certainly a challenge. Almost every struggling reader can – at least initially – think of many things they’d rather be doing than practicing their literacy skills!

Here are some ways to encourage daily practice:

  • Keep it focused and brief
  • Make it engaging
  • Report practice compliance to the parent and teacher 
  • Provide error reports to parents and teachers for focused coaching and progress monitoring 
  • Incentivize practice compliance
  • Incentivize correct responses
  • Provide special privileges, prizes, certificates, and awards

At Lexercise, we have found that drawing in the student with engaging graphics, offering meaningful feedback, and tracking progress add up to eager participants. For example, have a look at one of our practice games, Pickatron.

Designed to provide daily practice with concepts taught in regular lessons, these review and  practice games integrate Dehaene’s 4 Pillars of Learning. We stress to parents and teachers the importance of completing the 15 minutes a day of practice at least four days a week. Students who practice four or more days a week get two-and-a-half times more practice opportunities than students who practice one or two days a week; the two additional days of practice each week improved spelling accuracy an average of 6%. This could mean covering the curriculum twice as fast since students with 80% accuracy would likely be moved to the next lesson rather than repeating the same lesson the following week.

Practice makes a lot of sense, whatever the skill. We’d be happy to talk with you about your child’s learning needs and practice habits. We can almost smell the fresh bread!

———

Dehaene, S. (2020). How We Learn: Why Brains Learn Better Than Any Machine…for Now. Viking.

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.

Reading Togetherness

image of book with a heart shaped bow and a christmas tree behind

The holidays are upon us. The days and nights are chilly. It’s family time. And what better way to share these winter hours than reading aloud together?

As you probably know, I am a big advocate of reading aloud and have written about it on numerous occasions. I’ve praised the work of Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (now in its eighth edition!), who has done so much to encourage young readers.  More recently, Natalie Wexler, author of The Knowledge Gap, has written about the impact that building vocabulary and knowledge has on academic success.

Now a study out of The Ohio State University pegs the value of reading aloud down with a dazzling number: “Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to.”  

Reading aloud to a child and continuing to read aloud even after they can read instills knowledge, expands vocabulary, and supports critical thinking. It’s hard to imagine a better gift!

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you will take these words to heart and spend some time together each day reading aloud.

Happy Holidays!

Sandie Barrie Blackley

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 is Accredited by IDA

 

Take our Online, Professional Courses and Earn a Certification in Structured Literacy

As you probably know, Lexercise has long been committed to the use of research-backed evaluation and intervention methods for language processing difficulties like dyslexia. In everything we do, we strive to use best practices so that we can efficiently help struggling readers and writers achieve high levels of literacy. 

But saying we’re committed is one thing; proving it is another.

For that reason, we are especially proud to announce that Lexercise has earned International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Accredited ProgramPLUS.

badge earned as IDA accredits LexerciseLexercise pursued this important certification to provide assurance to our clients and their families that Lexercise therapists are trained to provide effective, research-based care. As IDA notes, “….teaching reading effectively, especially to students who are struggling, requires considerable knowledge and skill. Regrettably, current licensing and professional development practices endorsed by many states are insufficient for the preparation and support of teachers and specialists who are responsible for enabling all students to read and write. Researchers are finding that those with reading specialist and special education licenses often know no more about research-based, effective practices than those with a general education teaching license.”

 

What does it mean to be an Accredited ProgramPLUS?

First, it means that Lexercise’s three-course professional education series has undergone the rigorous IDA accreditation process and achieved the IDA’s highest level of accreditation.

Second, it means that professionals who complete Lexercise training have mastered the structured literacy methodology and so are equipped to offer the highest quality, most research-based treatment to their clients.

Third, it means that Lexercise graduates are eligible to apply for Center for Effective Reading Instruction (CERI) certificationceri badge earned as a structured literacy dyslexia specialist. “CERI seeks to further evidence-based approaches to reading and learning so that all students acquire the highest levels of literacy and thrive. CERI fulfills its mission by offering certification to teachers and reading interventionists that affirm their knowledge and skills in teaching literacy using a structured approach to language.”

To achieve the Accredited ProgramPLUS designation, the Lexercise curriculum was submitted for review, along with extensive documentation of faculty/instructor credentials, knowledge, and skills. Every aspect of the training program was reviewed through the application process and virtual site visits to assure that Lexercise training is consistent with the CERI Knowledge and Practice Standards (KPS) for Teachers of Reading and IDA’s standards-based Educator Training Initiatives.

We are very proud to display the IDA Accredited ProgramPLUS  logo alongside the name of each Lexercise professional education course.

Please let us know if you have questions about our education programs or about testing and treatment for dyslexia or other language-processing disorders. Or click here if you’d like to review our Professional Courses.

Lastly, you might be interested in our partnership UNC greensboro logo in partnership with lexercisewith UNC Greensboro’s Communication Sciences and Disorders program to train speech-language pathology masters students in the structure of written English. You can read more about it in this blog article.

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!

An Overview of our Mississippi Dyslexia Screener

children in front of a school bus

In 2013, the State of Mississippi enacted a law requiring local school districts to implement State Board of Education-approved screening for dyslexia. The law (Mississippi Code § 37-173-15) specified that kindergarten and first-grade students in Mississippi would be tested for phonological awareness and phonemic awareness; sound-symbol recognition; alphabet knowledge; decoding skills; encoding skills; and rapid naming. The law also specified what steps would be taken if a child failed the test and who would be qualified to administer follow-up testing and evaluation.

At that time, there was no readily available comprehensive test that would cover all of the required skills. Since Lexercise had already introduced a free dyslexia screener for parents, the Lexercise team realized it could apply that knowledge and experience to build a screener to comply specifically with the new Mississippi legislation. Based on research-backed, open-source content, the resulting screener is automated for easy administration, scoring, and reporting.

 

Mississippi Dyslexia Screener: An Overview

Since 2013, the Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener has been used by thousands of teachers in Mississippi and other states where laws require screening of kindergarten and first-grade students. While it is designed to meet Mississippi code requirements, the screener can be used by any teacher or literacy professional. It is free, easy to use, and can be used for testing an unlimited number of students.

Our Mississippi Dyslexia Screener has built-in instructions, but here is a brief overview:

    • A simple log-in is required.
    • It is for use with Kindergarten and 1st Grade students only.
    • Lexercise recommends that the person administering the test review all instructions, materials, and test pages before conducting the first test.
    • Some pages require printing.
    • Each of the five tests screens for a specific skill and the student’s performance is marked by the administrator as the test proceeds. Some of the tests are timed and some are not.
    • The test pages provide instructions on how to proceed if the student is unable to complete a task.
    • When the tests have been completed, the screener automatically summarizes the student’s skills. This information can be used to recommend (if needed) a comprehensive dyslexia evaluation leading to a diagnosis.
    • Compiling a file or notebook for each student tested can be very helpful for discussions with parents and teachers.

apple, books, and blocks on teachers deskThe Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener has proven to be a fast, easy way for teachers to identify students at risk for dyslexia or other literacy struggles. It has also given the Lexercise team a great opportunity to engage with teachers and literacy professionals, get feedback, and start refining the screening process so that it is faster and even more efficient.

We invite teachers to try the free Lexercise Mississippi Dyslexia Screener for yourselves and let us know what you think. (If you are a parent, the right tool for you to screen your child is here.)

If you want to stay in touch and not miss any of our resources, make sure you sign up for our blog below. You can also contact us with any further questions. We are always happy to connect.

Drawing Parallels: Literacy and Music

literacy and music

Learning to read and write – what we call literacy – is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument.

When we hear a musical performance, we often say that people are talented, as if they just woke up one day ready for their first recital. But in fact, neither playing nor reading comes “naturally” to humans, the way breathing and talking do. 

Both require exposure, instruction, and practice.

The musician first listens to songs and simple tunes; the reader first listens to conversations, stories, and poems. Connecting the sounds of speech to letters and meaning is the most basic building block of reading and an essential step in structured literacy.

If these basic sounds, phonemes, can be compared to musical notes, then we can see that a growing understanding enables the student to comprehend and enjoy more complex music and stories and see how the elements join together in a tapestry-like whole.

For the reader and the musician, instruction and practice highlight the many, many sub-skills involved in fluent proficiency. Daily practice (eventually) makes them automatic. How much practice is required will vary from student to student.

Do you have a struggling reader? Browse the Lexercise library of online learning disability tests to learn more and to take a free test.