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.

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. 


  • 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.

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.

Unconventional Summer Learning

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (33)The summer is drawing to a close and the school year is going to begin again. You don’t want to burn your child out with new information, but you also want to warm up their brains for a new school year.

So what do you do? This would be a great time to explore topics outside of the conventional classroom instruction.

Educational Screen Time: You can do this at your home with channels like PBS or History, but you can also take your child to see a documentary in an IMAX theatre. This makes learning an exciting experience that you can do together. This brings along positive thoughts to a learning experience for your child that may have had difficulty before with learning prior. Some good documentaries that are circulating at IMAX are “A Beautiful Planet” and “National Park Adventure.”

A day at the museum: Kid’s Museums are a great way to get out of the house for an educationally fun day. Not only will kid’s museums teach topics related to the classroom, it will also encourage your child to use their social skills to meet and play with new friends. These museums can assist you in facilitating productive play with your child, skills you can bring home.

pexels-photo-11523Cook together: Have your child read you the recipe steps and help you get the ingredients together. Recipes are less intimidating to read because there aren’t many words, but they may learn some new vocabulary. This will help your child learn patience and how to follow directions. It will also teach them that hard work leads to rewards.

If you suspect your child may have dyslexia or may need some extra reading practice, visit our website here. Our program is a perfect supplement to the start of the new school year.

Word Games for Children

Word Games for DyslexicsWord games are a fun and useful way to get your child to practice their skills outside of school. Practice is an essential part of the Orton-Gillingham method, so in order to get the most out of your child’s sessions, everyday practice is necessary. After a long day at school, more academic work can become frustrating, but educational games are both fun and valuable. The following games are focused for kids eight and older.


Words with friends

This game resembles Scrabble but your opponent does not have to be in the room with you. Your child will be tasked with making words out of the letters they are given and the letters on the board. Words with friends practices spelling, which is pivotal to a dyslexic’s development.

8720604364_2ebdc6df85_oDraw Something

Draw Something is like electronic Pictionary. Your remote partner draws out a word in a set amount of time for you to guess– and vice versa. Visualization is important for dyslexics to practice so that they can associate an image with a word. This game will help your child with spelling and vocabulary. This game can also be played with pen and paper at home.



This game will most likely be challenging for your dyslexic child, but a challenge can be good! The object of Knoword is to complete as many words as possible by guessing a word based on its definition and first letter. This game requires quick thinking skills and will exercise their vocabulary, spelling, analytical, observational and typing skills.

Boggle Bash

In this game, your child will try and create as many words as they can with their given letter tiles before their time is up. This is great spelling and word processing practice.

Lexercise incorporates daily practice games in our online therapy program. We aim to make practicing vocabulary, imagery, spelling, and morphology fun! To learn more about our Lexercise program, speak to a therapist here.

Identify Dyslexia Early

Parents and teachers alike have often asked “how early dyslexia can be diagnosed?” While diagnosing a reading disability prior to literacy instruction is considered questionable by most school systems, patterns in children’s speech can predict later challenges in reading.

When children are first learning to speak, they often make sound errors.  Young children may eat “pasketti,” not “spaghetti”, carry a “packpack” to preschool, or even love to see the “aminals” at the zoo when still developing.  However, for some children, these differences are more pronounced and indicate poor speech sound development.  This learning difference predicts reading difficulties since children who have trouble processing sounds for speech often carry that difficulty into reading and spelling.

rainbow-1140420_1920In some children, speech develops normally but there is still difficulty with identifying and sequencing the speech sounds in words. For example, at 2nd grade a child with weak speech sound processing may have trouble telling the order of the 4 speech sounds in a word like smash (s-m-a-sh).

These symptoms may indicate an underlying language-literacy processing problem.  Even if these kids appear to be mastering early literacy, their underlying challenges with sounds mean they are far more likely to memorize words and use dysfunctional decoding patterns than to build the skills that prepare them for lifelong literacy. Fortunately, there is an effective treatment!

Designed specifically for students with this type of challenges, Lexercise therapy supports speech sound awareness and processing.

Our clients include children of speech-language pathologists who know that the solid research behind Lexercise is the best thing they can offer their own children.

If your child’s previously “cute” preschool articulations are moving towards concerning reading struggles, we encourage you to administer the free Lexercise dyslexia screener as a first step to identifying an underlying language processing problem.

We Will Pay For You to Move to Hawaii!

Teletherapy has so many perks for families and therapists alike. Here are the top 3 reasons you should be a teletherapist with Lexercise:

  1. HAWAIIYou are your own boss! You can work from anywhere and make your own schedule. If you are a night owl then you can set your schedule to work evenings. If you are going to graduate school then you can do therapy around your class schedule. The combinations of time and places are infinite.
  2. photo_15830_20091217Online therapy means you can reach more children in need. We have clients working with us from all around the world. Families living in rural neighborhoods with limited resources are finally able to get help by using Lexercise. Take advantage of our high demand and unique clientele.
  3. photo_20681_20110612Have you ever wanted to live in paradise? Yes, I thought so. We have such a high demand for after school hours that we are willing to support your move to Hawaii! Living in HST (Hawaii Standard Time) would allow you to schedule after-school appointments with clients on the mainland during your normal business hours!  We will reimburse your flight up to $1,500.*


If you would like to learn more about becoming a Lexercise teletherapist you can read more here. We look forward to you joining our team!

*Serious inquiries only. Must provide proof of residency and see at least 15 clients per year.


Online Orton-Gillingham: Too Good to be True?

girloncomputerParents study many dyslexia intervention options when they realize their child is falling behind in reading and writing, but they may not realize that online Orton-Gillingham therapy is an option. Now, online Orton-Gillingham therapy (the new term for this is Structured Literacy) may sound too good to be true but Lexercise has made it possible! Now you can receive the same level of clinical therapy that you would get in an office in the comfort of your home.

Benefits of Orton-Gillingham Online:

Orton-Gillingham is a complex approach consisting multiple components all of which are included in Lexercise’s online Orton-Gillingham therapy program. By providing Orton-Gillingham therapy online Lexercise gives you added benefits!


Firstly, online therapy is extremely convenient. We have clients and clinicians alike all over the world that are able to connect due to our online nature. What was once a 2-3 hour commitment of traveling to and from an office is now just an hour in your own home! Scheduling conflicts are diminished as well. Let’s say you live in New York and can only participate in therapy after work at 7:00 pm, well we can match you with a clinician in California who is available at that time! You can even keep participating in therapy when you’re traveling, as long as you have an internet connection. It’s our goal to get you and your child the help you need in the most efficient and convenient way possible.

Parent Involvement
The Lexercise program has parents actively participate in their child’s Orton-Gillingham therapy. During your live, weekly online therapy sessions, you will sit behind your child and listen and observe to learn the lessons and techniques yourself. Using what you have learned you will be able to instruct your child throughout the week to help them master each level of therapy and complete their weekly practice activities. The hands-on parent role that Lexercise facilitates is one of our therapy’s key benefits.

file0001759554245Daily Practice
Daily practice is very important to reinforce and master the lessons learned in therapy. Lexercise has created online Orton-Gillingham daily practice games that make this fun and engaging for your child. With only 15 minutes of practice every day at least 4 days a week your child can advance through therapy at a fast pace, automating skills they will retain for a lifetime of use.

Begin Immediately!
A child who falls behind in 1st grade has a 1 in 8 chance of ever catching up. We urge families who are noticing their child falling behind to start Orton-Gillingham therapy immediately and not wait. Luckily, because of our large pool of qualified clinicians and online platform, you can start at your earliest convenience. We don’t require you to have a formal dyslexia diagnosis to participate in therapy. Our goal is the help your child get the help they need as soon as possible and as conveniently as we can.

Lexercise is the most efficient and beneficial form of receiving Orton-Gillingham therapy. But don’t just take our word for it, hear what other parents are saying: