Learning Methods and Note Taking Skills for Dyslexic Students

Neuroplasticity Research on DyslexiaDyslexia has been defined as a neurological disorder that causes difficulties with accurate word reading and spelling.  Listening comprehension is typically a strength, but reading comprehension may be weak due to disruptions when reading words.

Dyslexia can cause significant academic problems because, especially after 3rd grade, teachers expect students to be independent readers. Strategies that help students comprehend and remember what they read can be helpful.

Yale University has provided note-taking and study tips for students. These techniques can be adapted for elementary school students. The Cornell Method of note-taking remains one of the most popular and is outlined below:

Cornell Note-Taking Method

When taking notes on a reading assignment or lecture aim to take down the main points rather than copying everything verbatim. Call out any questions or points you don’t understand. Use diagrams or sketches if that helps. Finally, write a 3-4 sentence summary.

Divide the page of your notebook into three sections:

  1. Notes (main points)
  2. Questions and/or illustrations
  3. Summary

note taking blank exampleClick to expand image

Note-taking strategies can be helpful, but the student must have a basic skill level to use note-taking tips. For example, the student must be able to write legibly enough and with
good enough spelling that they can later read and make sense of what they have written. Students who are not quite at that point may be showing symptoms of dyslexia. You can screen your child for dyslexia in 10-15 minutes here, for free. Dyslexic students benefit from technological accommodations and researched-backed intervention.  Our dyslexia therapists meet and exceed the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. Sign up for a free fifteen-minute consultation here.

Accommodations vs. Modifications

apple, books, and blocks on teachers desk

If your child is having trouble in school, the administration may speak to you about providing them with accommodation or modification services.

Accommodation changes how the student learns, such as changing the setting or the time allowed. Modification changes what the student learns, so they will be held to different expectations than the rest of the students in their class.

You will likely hear these terms if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan.

In the context of classroom instruction, accommodations can help students learn the same material as their peers but just with some extra assistance. Examples include audio recordings of text and sitting in the front of the classroomModifications, on the other hand, are for students who would benefit from changes in the curriculum. They may receive shorter or lower-level reading assignments.

Students who have special plans will students needing accommodations or modifications sitting in classroomhave different test experiences as well. Students with accommodations will likely have more time to take their tests, but they will not be allowed to use the same tools that help them during instruction. Modifications will usually allow students to take a different test entirely. If the test is modified it can also mean that they are only tested on half of the information that the rest of the students are tested on.

Standardized testing essentially follows the same rules as normal classroom testing but may have different implications regarding how much the test is modified. The state can allow students with modifications to take a different test, but the results may be interpreted differently and have certain implications attached to the performance. As in, if the test was some kind of entry exam, the institution may throw their test out because it was modified.

Although accommodations or modifications can be helpful for your child’s education and performance it is not a solution to their problems. To address your child’s learning disability they need to be taught in a way that their brain is wired to learn. Consider Structured Literacy therapy to address your child’s reading, writing, and learning struggles at the root of the cause. Contact us if you have any questions about structured literacy and how it can help your struggling reader.

Dyslexics Need Deep Instruction

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (16)

Deep vs. Surface Instruction

Is your child getting deep or surface reading and spelling instruction?  How can you tell and does it matter?

In the 1970s Marton and Säljö (1976) described two types of learning approaches based on clinical studies of students:

  • a “deep” approach that focused on understanding
  • a “surface” approach that focused on memorization.

A student’s learning approach is not a personality trait; rather, it is produced by the interaction of the student with specific learning tasks.  

  • A “deep learning” approach allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another. It develops procedural knowledge of what, how, why, and when to apply concepts.
  • In contrast, a “surface approach” (also called a “holistic” approach) aims at reproduction and often uses analogies and illustrations rather than procedural instruction. (Pask, 1976).

Reading and Spelling Instruction

Students taught to read and spell with a “deep” approach would be expected to use a specific procedure to sound out and spell novel words, to explain spelling patterns and to correct errors.

Students taught to read and spell with a “shallow” approach would be expected to memorize words as whole units (“by sight” or as strings of letters), to use context to guess at words.Census-reading-hi

Reading and spelling instruction may use both “deep” and “shallow” types of instruction at different times.  Students with dyslexia have difficulty with the “surface” approach and benefit greatly from a “deep” approach. This is the basis for structured literacy intervention, which has been shown to help struggling readers and spellers develop an understanding of how words work.  Of course, teaching with a “deep” approach requires a teacher who has deep knowledge of word structure.

For example, a teacher with deep word structure knowledge will be able to answer these 10 questions:

  1. Why are these words homophones (sound the same)? tax – tacks
  2. Why are there double letters in each of these words?  letter, kiss, tapping
  3. Why does the -i- in this word sound like “uh”?   habit
  4. Why is <in> spelled with one “n” while <inn> is spelled with two?
  5. Why is does the <y> sound different in these words?  gym, cry
  6. How can the spelling of these words be explained?  to – too – two
  7. Why are these words spelled with an -e- at the end? rate, judge, rinse
  8. Why does the -a- not sound the same in these words?  ash – wash 
  9. Why is the /k/ sound spelled <ch> in school but <c> in cool?
  10. Why does <gh> sometimes spell a /f/ sound (laugh) and sometimes a /g/ sound (ghost)?

If you aren’t sure, ask a Lexercise therapist!

Differences in the Dyslexic Brain

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (15)It is important to remember that Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder which means the issues are located inside the brain. Common misconceptions about the cause include poverty, developmental delay, speech, hearing or vision impairments or learning a second language.

According to multiple studies, there are real structural differences in the brains of people with and without reading disabilities.

In these studies, they break down the differences further. The brain is made up of two types of material: gray matter and white matter. Gray matter is mostly composed of nerve cells and it’s primary function is to process information.

brain-147026_960_720The white matter is found in the deeper parts of the brain and acts as the connective fibers that create communication between nerves. The white matter is also responsible for information transfer around the brain.

Researchers Booth and Burman found that people with dyslexia have less gray matter in the left part of the brain than non-dyslexic individuals. These researchers say that this could cause the problems with the sound structure of language.

Interestingly enough, these researchers also found that people with reading disabilities have one area of their left hemisphere larger than the same area on the right.

Laurie Cutting, a human development educator at Vanderbilt University, explains the disadvantages of having decreased white matter. “When you are reading, you are essentially saying things out loud in your head. If you have decreased white matter integrity in this area, the front and back part of your brain are not talking to one another. This would affect reading because you need both to act as a cohesive unit.”

At Lexercise, we work hard to surpass these issues through individualized therapy. Our therapists are trained in the technical side of dyslexia as well as what it takes to navigate the emotional side. If you think your child may have dyslexia, take the free screener here.

Positive Ways to Correct Your Child


How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging themDyslexia is a frustrating and confusing disorder for children to deal with during the formative school years. They may develop some confidence issues, issues that should not be solidified by his or her parent. A parent’s job is
to encourage a child to do their best, not to highlight what they do wrong.

That being said, don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t worry about menial tasks that they do not complete with ease, their job is to focus on their reading and spelling skills, not their coloring skills. Examples of tasks you should leave alone are erasing pencil markings completely, using scissors correctly and coloring inside the lines.

These tasks may seem like they are important in elementary school, but you know that they won’t matter much in the real world– and they will figure it out when they need those skills. Chances are, you will be correcting your child more than you would an average student; so be mindful not to overwhelm them with instruction.12779343884_3fb3122e0a_o

That being said, the way you go about corrections is very important to your child’s educational career. Here are some helpful replacements for phrases you may feel you need to use.

  • “This is easy” —> “I know you can do this”
  • “Get it together and just learn to do it” —-> “Let’s take a brain break and try again in a few minutes”
  • “You are not applying yourself” —-> “Can you explain your process to me?”
  • “Try harder” —-> “Take your time, I’m proud of your effort”
  • “You knew it yesterday” —-> “Let’s think about how we did this yesterday”

Though your intentions may be coming from a place of love, you still have to be careful how you talk to your child when helping them with their homework. You may forget what you say by the next day, but your child will likely carry it with them to their next tasks.

Lexercise therapists are great at partnering with parents to give them tips on how to support your child throughout the week. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our therapists to learn more about our therapy program.

Learning and Memory-What Works? The Method Depends on the Task

What Works- #2Universities have been offering psychology courses for over 140 years, since the 1870s. You may have even taken one of these courses. Do you remember the principles of learning and memory from your college Psych 101 course?

Decades of research can guide us in how to be smart consumers of products and services that claim to improve learning and memory.   

Over the next weeks I’ll be reviewing four principles for improving memory and learning based on this research consensus, and I’ll explain how each principle is used in Lexercise therapy.

The Best Method Depends on the Task.

 

school-1063556_1920There’s no one type of practice that works well for all types of learning and for all conditions. The best method depends on the task to be mastered.   For example, the type of practice that works best for reading may not be the best for spelling. The best type of practice for vocabulary is unlikely to be the most helpful for learning to formulate clear sentences. A curriculum should provide practice using different types of activities and contexts, especially when the learning task is something as complex and multi-faceted as reading and writing.

 

Lexercise interweaves all the elements of skilled reading and writing in each session, from speech-to-print:

speech sounds > letters > spelling patterns > meaningful word parts > vocabulary  >  sentences   >   text


Throughout the week, reading, spelling and writing practice is provided through many different types of activities, including games, review videos, and interactive, table-top activities. Teaching parents along with kids means parents can take advantage of teaching opportunities that come up in the course of everyday life between instructional sessions.

Lexercise understands the variety of reading, spelling and writing tasks demanded in today’s schools, universities and workplaces. That is why we include computer-based practice games and brief, parent-facilitated activities that encourage questioning,  conversation, critical thinking and application.

Finding the best practice method starts with a deep understanding of the material to be learned and the context where it is to be used.  Lexercise therapists can help!

You can screen your child for dyslexia in 10-15 minutes here >>>

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you read part one and three in the series. You can read the first here and the third here.

Photo Credit: Flickr.com- Neeta Lind “IMG_3639

How Does the Lexercise Dyslexia Test Work?

The Lexercise Dyslexia Test combines two separate assessments to pinpoint a child’s ability to read words. One of them is the San Diego Quick Assessment (SDQA); the other is the Z Screener. This post will explain how the two tests help identify dyslexia in children.

There are many factors that contribute to how well a child comprehends and applies what he or she reads. While no single “test” can adequately capture that whole, complex picture, the San Diego Quick Assessment in combination with the Z-Screener has proven successful.

First, the SDQA is a list of words categorized by grade level. The creators, Margaret La Pray and Ramon Ross, explained “The graded word list has two uses:

  1. to determine a reading level
  2. to detect errors in word analysis

One can use the test information to group students for corrective practice or select appropriate reading materials for those students. The list is remarkably accurate when used for these purposes.”

Research has confirmed that the SDQA provides a fairly accurate estimate of a child’s ability to read grade-level material. The SDQA is good for its intended purpose: as a first-step screening procedure. It is not a substitute for a comprehensive reading assessment, which should be done by a qualified professional. While the SDQA can raise a “red flag” and it may hint at what is causing the child’s difficulty, it cannot fully explain what is causing the child’s reading problems.

Second, the Z-Screener portion uses mostly one-syllable nonsense words that all have “short” vowel sounds. The focus is on decoding the vowel and the following consonant or consonants. It is the “rime” (i.e., vowel) segment that is most difficult for most dyslexics. Thus, the Z-Screener can be useful in describing the decoding patterns common in dyslexia but missed in reading assessments that use only real words that bright dyslexics can memorize as whole units.

The Lexercise Screener scoring is extremely conservative. For example, a 2nd grader will pass it even if they miss as many as one out of every ten words. The screener will discontinue once the child misses 5 words in one level. Kindergarteners and 1st graders should be reading at 50% or higher on the Z-screener portion while 2nd graders and above should score a 90% or higher. Anything lower than these benchmarks indicate a need for dyslexia therapy.

With its combination of the extensively-researched results of the SDQA with the results of the Z Screener, The Lexercise Screener is a powerful and tested online tool that allows the parent, teacher, and/or pediatrician to determine if the child needs Structured Literacy therapy. It’s convenient, fast, and free.

Reading Failure versus Reading Disability

reading booksSeveral months ago, in a post called “On Teachers and Teaching,” I talked about some of the challenges faced by classroom teachers whose students might include children with undiagnosed dyslexia. Today’s post takes those ideas a little further by looking at roadblocks to more timely and effective identification of such children within the public schools.

While, through simple observation, teachers may readily identify children who are having difficulty reading, they rarely know with any certainty why the children are having these problems.

The routine psycho-educational battery of tests used to qualify public school students for special education services does not typically include assessments that allow the examiner to diagnose dyslexia. The purpose of those tests is to determine if the student can be classified in one of the 14 disability categories under federal special education law. This qualification process is very complex and states differ in the way they comply. (In a Lexercise Live Broadcast, Professor Ruth Colker talked about the complex challenges parents face in the special education eligibility process. You can view her presentation here.)

There are standardized language processing tests designed to look at underlying problems. They are used as part of the battery of tests to diagnose dyslexia, but they are used inconsistently in the school setting. Although counselors and special education teachers are typically trained to administer individual, standardized tests, the administration and interpretation of psycho-educational tests are rarely part of a general education teacher’s training.

Classroom teachers are trained to look at whether or not a child is learning to read. A teacher looking at a child’s low assessment score may refer the child to the school’s Exceptional Children’s Assessment Team, although the procedures for doing this vary from state to state and even district to district.

The biggest roadblock is the way the federal law is written and the way that law drives the qualification of children for intervention services. In her paper, The Learning Disability Mess (October 14, 2011), Professor Colker examines “the widespread inconsistency among the fifty states in defining ‘learning disability’ under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” You can download and read her paper here.

To close the gap for the thousands of families who lose precious time and money searching for a solution to their child’s reading, writing, or spelling problems, we need more streamlined, consistent laws. There is change afoot. For example, some states have passed laws that require screening and testing for dyslexia.

An online, self-administered screening test such as the Lexercise Screener can raise a red flag and signal the need for further assessment, but a professional evaluation is still the only way to get a confirmed diagnosis of dyslexia.

Lexercise’s online, research-based services help struggling readers, writers, and spellers — no matter where they live! If your child has difficulty with words, Lexercise can help. Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact us directly at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

Thank you to clinical educator Tori Whaley, M.Ed., for her help with this post.

Proving the Dyslexia Diagnosis

girls at the computerThe title of an article by Nirvi Shah in the October 5, 2012, edition of Education Week caught my attention: “Feds Receive Record Number of Complaints About Special Education.”

The article gives a brief overview of the rising tide of complaints received by the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights (OCR). Among them, it cites a case in which “OCR worked with a district that required parents to get medical documentation, at their own expense, supporting the existence of disabilities for their children.”

Nearly every day, Lexercise hears this from parents of struggling readers in all parts of the country. Many of these parents are just beginning to realize that their child’s school may not be able to help their child improve his or her reading, spelling, and writing skills.

Jillian Levy cites her own difficult experience in the article, “Treatment Myths, An Inconclusive Diagnosis, and Dyslexia: My Struggle for Help,” on the website of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Without adequate guidance, her parents did their best to support her, but it was not until she was a junior in high school that Levy was conclusively diagnosed with “dyslexia and other learning disabilities.”

So why don’t parents get professional evaluations for their children who struggle to read, write and spell?

A number of reasons:

  • Many parents rely on their child’s school for guidance. But public schools do not diagnose; they categorize (in 1 of 13 categories).
  • Unfortunately, public school teachers, nurses, and administrators are not trained to recognize the spectrum of symptoms that may signal dyslexia, nor are they given adequate resources for referring affected children. Schools tend to respond in a one-size-fits-all-disabilities approach. A mother who contacted us recently told us that while her son has fallen further and further behind, the boy’s teachers have told her there is “no test for dyslexia.” She finally went online to look for help. (Clearly, there are exceptions: public schools with educators who have stepped outside business-as-usual and created a model program; but that is certainly not the norm.)
  • Dyslexia is still poorly understood by the public. Myths abound and the need for professional evaluation is not intuitively obvious for families who might be told that their child is “lazy,” “isn’t trying,” “needs a tutor,” or has a poorly defined learning disability.
  • Many parents don’t know where to turn for a professional evaluation. Professionals who are qualified to test for and diagnose dyslexia include psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators, but not all individuals with those titles have the specialized training it takes to administer this kind of testing.
  • Like Jillian Levy’s family, parents may take their child to a pediatrician, an optometrist, or for psycho-educational testing. The typical psycho-educational battery is not designed to diagnose anything; rather, it is designed to determine if a student is eligible for federally defined, tax-supported, public school services.
  • The cost of a professional evaluation may be prohibitive for some families.

 
The National Center for Learning Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association and even the National Institutes of Health have crystal-clear, science-based guidance for both how to diagnose dyslexia and how to treat it. Yet for decades, psychologists, educators, speech-language pathologists, and even some physicians have been trained to think about struggling learners using only the vague, poorly defined construct, learning disabilities.

In her forthcoming book, Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Professor Ruth Colker traces the history of the term learning disability and explains how inconsistent, vague, and confusing applications of this term have led to the current “mess.” Read the first chapter here.

Professor Colker points out that, by definition, children categorized as learning disabled may have very different disorders (e.g., dyslexia, specific language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or even autism spectrum disorder). Yet schools call them all by the same label, learning disabled, and may group them together for intervention. Since the evidence-based treatment approaches for these disorders differ greatly (some could be described as polar opposites), it is not surprising that group treatment for learning disabilities leads to “inadequate remedial efforts.” Professor Colker addressed this topic in a Lexercise Live Broadcast: The Learning Disability Mess.

We urge parents not to depend on public school services alone, but to seek research-based help for their child. This must start with a language processing evaluation and a clear diagnosis.

Lexercise provides online help for struggling readers, writers, and spellers — no matter where they live! Take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact us at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

What is the San Diego Quick Assessment?

The new Lexercise Screener combines two separate assessments to pinpoint a child’s ability to read words. One of them is the San Diego Quick Assessment (SDQA); the other is the Z Screener. In this post, I’d like to provide a little background on SDQA.

There are many factors that contribute to how well a child comprehends and applies what he or she reads. While no single “test” can adequately capture that whole, complex picture, the San Diego Quick Assessment is one test that has stood up to examination by numerous researchers.

Originally devised by Margaret La Pray and Ramon Ross and published in the Journal of Reading in 1969, SDQA is a list of words categorized by grade level. The words were drawn at random from the glossaries of basic readers and from the 1931 Teacher’s Word Book of 20,000 Words by E. L. Thorndike.

In their 1969 article, “The Graded Word List: Quick Gauge of Reading Ability,” La Pray and Ross explain, “The graded word list has two uses: 1) to determine a reading level; 2) to detect errors in word analysis. One can use the test information to group students for corrective practice or to select appropriate reading materials for those students. The list is remarkably accurate when used for these purposes.”

Over time, that evaluation has proved true. Research has confirmed that the SDQA provides a fairly accurate estimate of a child’s ability to read grade-level material. In their 2003 book, Assessment for Reading Instruction, Michael C. McKenna and Steven A. Stahl say: “One of the most popular graded word lists in the public domain is the San Diego Quick Assessment (SDQA).” The authors also note that observing how a child reads individual words from a structured word list can be a useful “shortcut” for estimating the child’s overall proficiency as a reader, but they caution that it is not a substitute for a comprehensive evaluation.

In addition, one of the unique and useful features of the SDQA is that it indicates how well the child is reading words at each grade level (for example: independent, instructional or frustration level) and thus it can help guide selection of material for reading practice. SDQA confirms that reading is not “all or none.”

The SDQA is good for its intended purpose: as a first-step screening procedure. It is not a substitute for a comprehensive reading assessment, which should be done by a qualified professional. While the SDQA can raise a “red flag” and it may hint at what is causing the child’s difficulty, it cannot fully explain what is causing the child’s reading problems.

With its combination of the extensively-researched results of the SDQA with the results of the Z Screener (a test made up of simple nonsense syllables), The Lexercise Screener is a powerful and tested online tool that allows the parent, teacher and/or pediatrician to determine if the child needs a comprehensive evaluation. It’s convenient, fast and free.

Click to try The Lexercise Screener now. If you would like a referral to a qualified professional or if you have questions about dyslexia or language-learning disorders, give us a call at 1-919-747-4557 or e-mail info@lexercise.com.

Your Child’s Skills and Interest in Reading: Attitude Counts!

 
This is the last of four newsletters with tips for measuring your child’s skills and interest in reading. Find links to all the previous ones below.
 

When measuring your child’s skills and interest in reading, attitude counts!

This article will look at your child’s attitude or emotional response to reading. You might not think that attitude is important—or certainly not as important as accuracy and vocabulary.

But in fact, people generally avoid things they find difficult or unpleasant and spend more time doing things they find easy and rewarding. We don’t have to force ourselves to do the things we enjoy.

 

Materials you will need for this activity:

  • The calendar or chart you started last week where you keep track of your child’s reading
  • Pen/pencil

What you will do:

  • As with the other exercises, reduce distractions. Turn off electronic media to reduce background noise and create a quiet space so that your child can read uninterrupted.
  • You may wish to set some rules, for instance, no TV, texting, talking on the phone, or games during certain hours that are set aside for studying and reading.
  • Make notes about your child’s attitude and mood when they are reading. Does he or she grumble about having to read? Get up repeatedly? Seem deeply engrossed in the reading material?

 

helping your child read with the right attitudeIf your child seems consistently unhappy, stressed, or inattentive, or if your child creates family fights or arguments that have to do with reading, you might want to seek a professional evaluation to find out what’s causing that attitude. With the help of a licensed clinician, reading disabilities can be corrected; getting help for a child who’s struggling to read is a gift that will yield benefits for the rest of the child’s life. To find a Lexercise clinician in your area, just email us at info@lexercise.com or give us a call at 919-747-4557.

The Importance of Reading Outside School

How much does your child read?

Our last two blog posts have helped you calculate how accurately and how fast your child is reading. (If you missed those issues, click on the links below to read more.)

Today, we’re going to begin looking at how much time your child spends reading outside of school. We know that the more children read, the better readers they are; the stronger their reading skills, the more easily they will be able to handle the increasing demands of school work. How much a child reads every day is related to the child’s vocabulary growth, as well as to the growth of thinking skills.

Materials you will need for this activity:

  • A calendar or chart where you can easily keep track of your child’s reading
  • Pen/pencil

What you will do:

  • Reduce distractions. Your child may be holding a book, but if the TV, computer or music is on, the child may be distracted from reading.
  • Notice and note when your child is reading independently and when the child is being read to—for this exercise, both types of reading count.
  • What qualifies? “Discretionary reading” is just about anything that is not homework and does not have video: bedtime stories, family read-along, library books, text-to-speech readers (if they don’t have video), even comic books!
  • Each evening before bed, jot down your estimate of how many minutes your child spent reading that day (outside of schoolwork).
  • At the end of the month, add up all the minutes for that month. Divide that total by the number of days in the month to get average out-of-school reading minutes per day.
  • Track your child’s reading month to month and year to year.

child reading outside schoolWhat you want to see is that your child’s time spent in discretionary reading is growing. Steady growth indicates that your child’s reading skills and vocabulary are expanding to help the child handle school work—and to help build lifelong enjoyment of reading.

If your child is not reading outside of school, or his or her reading minutes per day stay the same or decrease, your child may be struggling to read and comprehend or may be turned off to reading for some other reason. If that’s the case, a professional assessment can get your child back on track. To find a Lexercise clinician in your area, just email us at info@lexercise.com or give us a call at 1-919-747-4557.