Monthly Archives: January 2014

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

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / txking

photo credit© Can Stock Photo Inc. / julos

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, See how your child stacks up!

photo credit – “” (c)