The Speech Difficulty Club

Speech therapist, speech tutor, speech difficulty

When we tuned in to last month’s inauguration ceremonies, we would not have predicted that one of the take-aways would be how many Americans struggle with speech communication. There were no obvious clues that any of the speakers might have overcome significant challenges on their way to a microphone before the nation and the world.

But when Anderson Cooper interviewed inaugural poet and the nation’s first Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman, on CNN the following day, part of their conversation was about difficulties with speech. Admitting that he had “mild dyslexia” as a child, media superstar Cooper asked Gorman about her own issues with spoken language. She replied, “I am proud to be in the ‘speech difficulty club’ with you and President Biden and also Maya Angelou,” referring to President Biden’s acknowledged stutter and Maya Angelou’s five years of selective mutism following a childhood trauma.

Gorman explained that her challenge was “dropping a whole swath of letters in the alphabet,” and in particular, the letter /r/. “Even to this day sometimes I struggle with it,” she told Cooper. But instead of turning away from her problems with language and focusing on the visual world, Gorman demonstrated remarkable persistence and determination by acknowledging the importance of spoken words and pronounced sounds. 

Her approach to language fluency was a fierce and inspiring personal commitment to reading, writing, memorizing, and mindful pronunciation. She spoke her own written poetry aloud again and again, and also, through endless repetitions, learned “Aaron Burr, Sir,” Leslie Odom Jr.’s r-filled rap from the musical Hamilton.

We have long recognized that targeted learning and consistent practice are essential teaching strategies for students with dyslexia and other language learning difficulties. If your child struggles with words, we invite you to learn more about online reading, writing, and spelling therapy. And of course we are happy to answer your questions any time!

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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.

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: Neeta Lind “IMG_3639

What’s that again? Noise and clear speech.


We are surrounded by noise—cars, machines, media, people—and it seems that quiet is more and more elusive. Surely all this noise must make it more difficult for a child to learn, interfering not only with hearing, but also disrupting focus with an abundance of distractions.

A recent article, Noise Hampers Children’s Expressive Word Learning, by Kristine Grohne Riley and Karla K. McGregor, addresses this challenge. “Specifically,” the authors say, “we asked whether noise disrupts word learning and whether the use of a clear speech style ameliorates that disruption.”

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), “By the time they are 5 years old, many children spend most of their waking day in classroom environments that exceed recommended noise levels.” While various studies have examined the effect of excessive noise on “perception, attention, reading, spelling, behavior, and overall academic achievement,” the authors say that “The effect of noise on word learning per se is unknown.”

But, the article points out, “perceptibility is not only a matter of noise, but also of the signal”—in other words, the quality of the spoken word. To be understood, we may turn directly to the listener, enunciate more clearly, speak louder or more slowly, depending upon the circumstances and the individuals involved.

In the study, 31 children (ages 9 to just under 11) attempted to learn two sets of eight new words. The researchers manipulated signal-to-noise ratio (the ratio of the intensity of the signal—in this case, speech—to the intensity of the noise), and speech style (plain speech vs. clear speech—weak speech sounds are spoken with more intensity in clear speech than they are in plain speech).

The results? “Children who were trained in quiet learned to produce the word forms more accurately than those who were trained in noise. Clear speech resulted in more accurate word form productions than plain speech, whether the children had learned in noise or quiet. Learning from clear speech in noise and plain speech in quiet produced comparable results.”

This is gratifying and affirming for all of us at Lexercise. We are glad to have this research supporting clear speech. Clear speech files are a critical component of Lexercise learning and online practice games. 

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