It’s here! It’s clear! U Can Connect works!

kids on computers

 Reading Study at The Boys and Girls Club in Murray, Utah

 U CAN LEARN in conjunction with The Murray City Boys and Girls Club of South Valley conducted a reading study during after-school hours to access the effectiveness of the online reading program, U CAN CONNECT, (www.ucanconnect.org) and the feasibility of putting it in their club as a permanent training program. Sixteen children were tested using standardized measures, focusing on auditory and visual processing skills, rapid word naming, visual tracking and reading and spelling skills.

The children were divided into 2 groups: “trainees” and “control.” Ten trainees finished 28 days of the program, a half hour a day, in the computer lab with one to two teacher aides present to monitor the children. No other instruction was provided outside of playing the 12 U CAN CONNECT games.

Fourteen of the children were tested again. (2 children moved from the area) The control group now has begun their training.

The results for the before and after testing are described below.

Testing and Results:

TAPS-3 The Test of Auditory Processing Skills-3 was administered in part to assess a student’s auditory processing ability in 3 areas. Auditory processing is the brain’s ability to decipher and catalogue information sent to it by the ear and is very important in reading and spelling since children need to ‘hear’ what sounds constitute a word and then remember what order they heard them in. It is also important in listening to auditory instructions, and in tracking details of a conversation.

U CAN CONNECT has 3 auditory training games but none that specifically training recalling sentences.

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Although the control group also made some improvement on recalling numbers and words, they made no improvement on repeating sentences. When we view the overall standard scores (85-115 is the average range) we see that the trainee group moved into the average range overall while the control group stayed in the poor to low average range.

The Test of Visual-Perceptual Skills-R was given in part to assess Visual Perceptual skills.  Visual Perception, according to the literature, does not measure eyesight but measures instead what the subject does with what he sees.  In a broad sense, it is the brain’s ability to understand and make sense of what the eyes ‘send it’.

Visual processing is a very important factor in reading and spelling since words need to be quickly recognized as being same or different, words need to be visually recalled so that they do not need to be sounded out each time and words need to be quickly processed in order to be read fluently.

6 games on U CAN CONNECT focus on increasing visual processing skills.

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Pre and post testing, change in points from the first standard score to the second score

Visual Discrimination:   Trainees increased 30 points, control increased 1 point

Visual Memory:   Trainees increased 12 points, control increased 0

Visual Spatial Relations:   Trainees increased 24 points, control increased 3 points

This test showed a very significant gap between the children who trained and those that did not. The trainees moved form their pretesting scores of the poor and below average ranges to the average to above average ranges, while the control group, either made little improvement or went backward on the post testing.

The Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement II was administered to ascertain academic success in three areas, 2 in reading and 1 in spelling. Decoding real words, decoding nonsense words and spelling are all important variables in being a proficient reader. Form A was administered in pretesting and Form B was used on reassessment so the children were not reading or spelling the same words during the test.

One game in U CAN CONNECT focuses on spelling and one game focuses on decoding real words. None of the games addresses reading nonsense words.

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Pre and post testing, change in points from the first standard score to the second score

Decoding real words:   Trainees increased 19 SS  points, control decreased 11 SS point

Spelling:   Trainees increased 23 SS points, control decreased 15 SS points

Decoding nonsense words:   Trainees increased 56 SS points, control decreased 20 SS points

 Once again, this testing showed a very big difference in the children who trained for 28 days and those that got no specific training. It should be noted that nonsense word decoding, although not trained in any of the 12 games on U CAN CONNECT, made the biggest jump in post testing. We believe it is due to better attention to task, better visual processing skills and better auditory phonemic awareness.

The Test of Verbal Conceptualization and Fluency was given in part to assess quick visual sequencing abilities. On the Trails C, a child needs to quickly connect numbers 1-21, to demonstrate visual processing and visual sequencing speed.  Slow visual tracking means that a student would have a difficult time in looking at visual material and trying to do things quickly, affecting all school work but in particular reading and test taking.

On this testing, the lower the score the better, meaning the student connected the 21 numbers in a faster time.

Two games in U CAN CONNECT work on this skill.

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Pre and post testing, change in seconds from the first score to the second score

 

Trails C:   Trainees decreased 44 seconds, control increased 4 seconds

Trainees moved in to the average to high average range while control students remained in the below average range.

The RAN/RAS Tests (Rapid Automatic Naming/Rapid Alternating Stimulus Tests) was administered to assess the student’s ability to name letters, numbers, objects and colors as fast as possible. Problems in Rapid Automatic Naming have a direct correlation to reading fluency and children with slow rapid naming skills are often slow readers affecting reading comprehension, fluency and interest in focusing on a story.

No games in U CAN CONNECT work on this task but many of the games require quick visual identification of words or chunks of words.

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Pre and post testing, change in standard scores from the first score to the second score

 

Averaged SS on all subtests:  Trainees decreased 50 points, control increased 6 points

The trainees moved into the average range for rapid automatic naming while the control group stayed in the below average range overall.

The GORT-5 (Gray Oral Reading Test-fifth edition) was used to assess reading fluency, accuracy and comprehension. The student was asked to read increasing harder paragraphs while they were timed on speed, marked on word accuracy and then asked 5 questions for comprehension. Form A was used in pretesting and Form B was used in post testing so the students were not familiar with the paragraphs.

No games in U CAN CONNECT have the student practicing this skill.

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Pre and post testing, change in overall standard scores from the first to the second score

 

Averaged SS on all subtests:  Trainees increased 34 SS points, control increased 4 SS points

When the areas of rate, accuracy and comprehension were assigned standard scores, and then the overall test standard score was found, we see that the trainee group made a big jump in their scores vs. the control group that showed very little change in their overall standard scores.

We feel the exciting aspect of this score in particular, is that although the games do not specifically practice the skill of reading paragraphs and answering questions, because of the other auditory and visual processing skills trained in the U CAN CONNECT program, the results prove that overall reading skills improve as well.

Only 28 days of training (approximately two months) demonstrated these positive results, therefore what would more training do for each child?

For more information, go to  www.ucanconnect.org and play the free trials!

 

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iTouch = I touch everything

finger

We all make decisions in different ways. Some people act on impulse and buy the blender that can chop up a rake handle while others think, “why in the heck do I need something that blends gardening tools?” Online shopping is huge but more often than not, when I shop for clothes, I have to actually touch each item, something I get picked on for. “No, I’m not petting the shirt.  I just need to make sure that it will feel like PJ’s in the middle of the afternoon and not annoy me.”

The same goes for learning new things – we all have a learning style. Finally, in education there is a strong emphasis on individualized learning! No more “one book fits all.”  With online programs, mobile equipment and newer and better learning products, I for one am celebrating.

And this personalized learning does not represent a new way of thinking, because we have always known this was the right thing to do for students. It does represent a new way of teaching. With today’s technology and quality digital content, the personalization of student learning is at the touch of a finger – my favorite way to shop.

You can find great programs by “Googling” key words or phrases. Try these:

“reading programs for kids, reading strategies, educational games, online games for kids, kids reading games, ucanconnect, or visual learning games.”

Learning is just one touch away.

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Increasing vocabulary; leading the “blind” to sight words

Words

At age 7, Helen Keller, completely shut off from her world through the tyrant twins of deafness and blindness, recognized the word, “water” being finger-spelled in one hand while cool water flowed over the other hand. She made astounding progress, a mere 5 years later publishing her first magazine article and then in another 5 years, entering Radcliffe College. In her lifetime, she wrote 14 books and hundreds of magazine articles.

The children we teach in no way start out as sensory deprived as Helen Keller, but we do know that a child’s mind is only limited by the concepts he has names for.

Research has proven over and over again – vocabulary acquisition is one of the most important tools in expanding a child’s interaction with the world.

We know these things:

Vocabulary knowledge in kindergarten and first grade is a significant predictor of reading comprehension in middle and high school

Vocabulary strongly influences a teacher’s judgment of a student’s competency

Lack of sound vocabulary skills is a critical factor in school failure

It is estimated that a first grader needs to have 1,000 words in their reading vocabulary, which then soars to 10,000 for a third grader and 40,000 by the time a student is in twelfth grade.  That is an increase of 3,000 words per grade.  Studies show that disadvantaged children and poor readers acquire less than half of the vocabulary of their successful peers.

So many words, so little time!  hourglassWhat to do?

Have your child involved in learning programs that teach the sight words and the most frequently occurring words in print. The child should receive multiple exposures to the word by both seeing it and hearing it. Choose engaging reading games that not only build on sight word vocabulary but that also teach spelling, visual processing skills and other learning tools centered around good reading techniques.

U CAN CONNECT was designed with those ideas in mind. Each level has 3000 sight words and hundreds of the most-frequently used words in written text. Highly engaging, these online games are fun reading games that that were specially engineered so that parents do not have to monitor their child during play. The KidsSafe Seal says this is a website a parent can trust.

Check out www.ucanconnect.org.

For a list of the first 4000 words that a child needs to learn, visit www.thefirst4000words.com.

Your child has 40,000 words to learn – if Helen Keller can do it, so can your child! Just get going.

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But WHY is my child not learning?

 

thinking kid

Turning our attention to processing disorders

So often the focus on finding the blockages to learning is to keep testing the child’s output system: look at their academics, asses their IQ, rate them on behavior/ADHD checklists, or by tracking the child’s performance in a group. When a child struggles with learning, these output scores don’t often change and we are left with out answers as to why a child is not moving forward.

If you throw a penny into a room without watching were it lands, it will take some time to find it again. If you close the book you are reading without noting the page, you will have to search a little while to refresh your memory about what you have just read and where you left off. When someone gives you explicit driving instructions but you only recall the first part, you will be lost.

Have to search for something or reviewing information already seen is frustrating and gets in the way of other activities you could be doing. Missing information we heard always causes confusion or anxiety. And so it goes with processing disorders. Having to try to find your homework so you don’t get a bad grade. Forgetting what you just read, or what you heard the teacher say, will leave you behind in the classroom. It also leaves you open to ridicule and the label of lazy.

boy listening
  Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

“The brain’s inability to process what the ear delivers to it” 

Children with an auditory processing disorder have a hard time separating out which sounds are important to process (speech) and what noise is irrelevant background sound. (wind)

Characteristics of a person with CAPD:

  • A child of 2 who is not speaking at all
  • Someone who does not follow conversation
  • Reluctant to engage in conversations
  • Watches others perform actions first, then joins in
  • Difficult time remembering directions or information told to him
  • Pays poor attention when he just has to listen , say “huh” often

How does this affect your child?

85 % of the school day is taught auditorily

Might struggle in social interactions

Reading and spelling and phonological awareness activities can be delayed

Safety is impaired in situations that require fast processing

Speech and language proficiency are not up to age level

Distractible in noisy environments

Magnifying glass icon  Visual Processing Disorders:   

Visual Perception is the brain’s ability to understand and make sense of what the eyes ‘send it.’

Characteristics of a person with visual processing problems:

  • Has good eyesight but complains of not being able to see the words
  • Skips small words while reading. Misreads simple words or guesses at words.
  • Reading is choppy
  • Complains of eyes hurting
  • Is easily distracted while studying and can be labeled ADD.
  • Takes a long time to finish tests
  • Reading comprehension is below age

How does this affect your child?

They may have a general tiredness or anxiety due to the effort needed

They might have lower depth perception skills and seem clumsy

Complains of headaches

Math difficulty comes about due to speed tests and column alignment

Copying correctly from the board is hard

Poor handwriting, caused by sloppy letters or strange spacing

confused boy

Slow Processing Speed:

Characteristics of a person with slow processing speed are:

  • Clumsy or poor motor coordination
  • Good intellect but struggles in academics; has poor working memory
  • Lack of sustained focus for more than 10 minutes
  • Behavior disordered or disruptive
  • Trouble with organizational skills
  • Difficulty with sequencing skills such as those required in reading and math

How does this affect your child:

They don’t perform up to their intellectual ability

Usually left out of sports

Often can be irritable or uncooperative

They daydream in class and have academic delays or failure

When we look to the processing areas, the input areas to the brain, we often can discover the blockage that prevents your child from excelling. Once identified, treatment begins.

 

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Low reading skills are a crime!

teen in handcuffs

2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade, will end up in jail or on welfare.

 

We’ve recently put our reading program U CAN CONNECT in a local Boys and Girls Club and it has been so rewarding.  I discovered a whole new group of kids to admire – those who functionally cannot read but they’re so willing to try.  One third grade boy with a bright smile and dark tousled hair looked me in the eye and said, “You gotta to teach me to read or I’m going to be junk.”

Sadly, he’s right.

Year after year we hear these sad statistics but if we don’t know a low reader, we don’t think much about them. When a child is unable to read on grade level by the 4th grade, it affects ALL of us.

These statistics are not made-up statistics by publishers of children’s books or by tutoring companies – they are the yearly national facts pulled from court documents and employment records.

Here are the most-recent facts:

85 % of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

prison doors

    More than 60 % of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

Many of the USA ills are directly related to illiteracy. Just a few statistics:

Literacy is learned. Illiteracy is passed along by parents who cannot read or write.

One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

43% of adults with low literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those    with good reading skills

3 out of 4 food stamp recipients perform in the lowest 2 literacy levels

90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

Low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs. A recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher.

These are staggering costs for our society and they do affect each and every one of us.

lightbulb guy

Want to help?

Look around in your community for opportunities to work with these low readers. Some ideas are the Boys and Girls Clubs, residential drug programs that house families, afterschool programs, Big Brother/Big Sister program and homeless family shelters.

This one simple solution will help children learn to read:

Choose a book that is on his/her reading level, not grade level. Read it together in this way: You read the first sentence while the child follows along. Then, both of you read the same sentence together. Then the child reads the sentence all by himself. This teaches the sounds of the words, the feel of fluent reading and the sight recognition of the words.

We all can change the sad face of illiteracy in this country, one child at a time.

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / gajdamak

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When is autism not autism?

confused child

Does my child have autism, or is it something else?

Annie was a cute 4 year old that I was asked to work with. She had just been diagnosed with autism, had virtually no speech, ran around grabbing things and had tantrums throughout the day when activities were changed.

Flailing limbs, biting, kicking just to get her from an activity on the floor she was engrossed in, to the dinner table. Once there, she would calm down and eat. There were no trips to the stores because of grabbing items and screaming, no birthday parties due to the inability to play well with others and virtually no communication skills. I’ve been a speech therapist for twenty-five years, been involved with learning disabilities for the last 14 years, have seen thousands of kids, but I’ll never forget Annie.

Mainly because she wasn’t autistic.

Annie had great eye contact and would watch what a person’s hands were doing. She was quite social when engaged in an activity. She recognized people and knew who they were in relationship to her. But she really didn’t get what people were saying to her.

I quickly figured out she had a severe auditory processing problem.

Of course she would get upset when an activity changed. She’d be playing along, the usual murmuring of ‘blah, blah, blah” going on in the background, something she had learned to tune out since it didn’t make sense, and then, wham! She was being picked up and someone was forcing shoes on her feet or she was being led to the bathtub or made to do things without knowing what was going to happen next.

Along with working on listening skills, I taught the family to speak in only one- and two- word sentences. “ Eat now. Done play. Get bath.” Annie started processing those very short phrases and started imitating them. She stopped grabbing things and learned to say, “More cookie. Want bear.”

Within 6 months, Annie was using 3-4 word sentences and her behavior had improved immensely. She was allowed back in the shopping cart and could start a preschool program.

The point here is that sometimes we jump too fast to label a child with autism when in fact there may be other reasons for that classic identifier of a  “disconnect’ with the world.

  • Hearing impairment can cause a child to not understand speech and can go undiagnosed for years
  • Visual processing delays might cause a child to not have good eye contact and not focus on visual information put in front of them
  • Delayed speech may come about because of Apraxia, a delay in the motor regions of the brain that prevents words from being formed. Some children with apraxia, like children with autism, never learn to say more than a few words.
  • Poor word finding or low vocabulary can come about because of Dyslexia or an expressive language disorder.
  • Severe ear infections can cause a central auditory processing disorder, like in Annie’s case. Children do not attend to speech, won’t watch TV or movies and they often have limited speech in return.
  • Like with autism, a language-delayed child may not understand that someone is using humor. They may interpret the communication word for word and fail to catch the implied meaning.

Getting the right diagnosis is so important. If you are worried that your child is exhibiting symptoms of autism, visit the ear doctor, the eye doctor, or a speech therapist. If all of the processing areas check out, then a neuro-pediatrician or a behavioral specialist visit is warranted.

Remember, it may look like your child is exhibiting symptoms of autism, but other processing disorders can mimic many of that disorder’s signs and characteristics.

 

 

Photo credit: Canstock photo

 

 

Does you child have good Core Strength?

girls working out

It’s January and we are all working out, regaining what the holidays took away, well actually what the holidays added, I should say.  But what about our children and this second half of the year?  As in any workout program these days we always hear about “strengthening our core” so our programs at the gym focus on that.

Now that 47 states have adopted the Common Core Standards, (CCS) it’s time to ask ourselves if our child has good core skills.

It took only a minute to get online and look up the CCS of Utah. However, the documents themselves would take about a half an hour to print. If we think back to the size of a phonebook, the Common Core Standards end up being about that thick when stacked on top of each other.

With these new standards come high expectations, so it’s important that parents are aware of where their child should be. This article will outline just a few of the Kindergarten and First Grade expectations.

Kindergarten Math benchmarks-

  • Count to 100 by ones and by tens.
  • Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence
  • Write numbers from 0 to 20. Represent a number of objects with a written numeral 0-20
  • Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight. Describe several measurable attributes of a single object.
  • Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/“less of” the attribute, like taller/shorter.
  • Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count.
  • Add and subtract small numbers.
  • Recognize and name 10 shapes

Kindergarten Language Arts benchmarks

  • Writing the letters and knowing all of the letter sounds
  • Reading and spelling 100 sight words
  • Recognize and produce rhyming words.
  • Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.
  • Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme words.
  • Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one-syllable words to make new words.

First Grade Math benchmarks-

  • Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number.
  • Understand that in adding two-digit numbers, one adds tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose a ten.
  •  Given a two-digit number, mentally find 10 more or 10 less than the number, without having to count; explain the reasoning used.
  • Subtract multiples of 10 in the range 10-90 from multiples of 10 in the range 10-90.
  • Understanding word problems that involve adding and subtracting

First Grade Language Arts benchmarks-

  • Recognize the distinguishing features of a sentence (e.g., first word, capitalization, ending punctuation).
  • Use phonic skills to read and write unfamiliar words
  • Identify the main idea and recall details in a story
  • Write about a topic with a good opening and closing thought
  • Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  •  Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.

If you suspect your child may not be up to par on any of these standards, it’s time to put a “workout plan” in place in order to get your child into great Core shape!

Take the processing and reading test on our website, www.ucanconnect.org. See how your child stacks up!

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