Category Archives: Product Updates

If dyslexia isn’t real, then what does that make me?

frogMarcus hit my office about six-months ago, full of energy and ideas, a nine-year-old who wanted to become a famous scientist. He knew he was meant to cure cancer, to make a cool flying bicycle and when I asked him to develop a furry frog, a much cuddlier pet, he started throwing out ways that that could happen. He was a really bright kid who three hours later, I diagnosed with severe dyslexia. In their excitement, they nearly floated out of the office, as if he had already invented flying tenny-runners.

Three days later, I got a call from his mom. She and Marcus had shared the exciting news with his school about discovering why he was struggling so hard. Now, she needed the name of a good counselor because Marcus was suddenly very down and saying self-deprecating statements that he was too dumb to do anything.  He’d become a baggy balloon, a deflated rubber shell of a kid, the helium that had made up his imagination drained out in only a matter of days.

Or in his case, after a matter of five words. He’d been told by a teacher, that although he though he had dyslexia, everyone knew that “dyslexia wasn’t a real thing.” She explained that he would just have to accept working extra hard to try to keep up with the other kids.

His thought: If Dyslexia isn’t real, then what does that make me?

My answer is this. If dyslexia isn’t real then neither is deafness. Nearly 10,000,000 people in the US report a hearing loss of some severity with 1,000,000 people being completely deaf. The statistics are the same for dyslexic children. The newest statistics reveal that 10 million children have some form of dyslexia, so why do we accept that deafness is real, but not this prevalent reading disorder.

Obviously, deafness is SO VISIBLE. Deaf speech is loud, cumbersome and there is equipment involved with hearing aids. There’s the special sign language, fingers and hands flying everywhere. This disorder gets loads of research and respect, as they should.

Dyslexic kids don’t have obvious signs of a disorder, yet millions of dollars are spent each year at big-name universities and the National Institute of Health to further our understanding of how to help people who are wired differently.  It is real. These children need to know why they struggle. Their challenges are valid.

You join the fight for your child by being educated. Here are some facts:

ü Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.

ü Of people with poor reading skills, 70-80% are likely dyslexic.

ü One in five students, or 15-20% of the population, have this learning disability. Dyslexia is probably the most common of the language-based processing disabilities.

ü Nearly the same percentage of males and females has dyslexia.

ü As children grow older, they may learn to read but dyslexia may still affect spelling, writing, word-finding and math skills

ü It is neurological in nature, (like many deaf people)

ü It is inherited and can range from mild to severe

Loads of facts can be seen at www.ida.org or www.ldonline.org/dyslexia.

Marcus is fine. He’s happily back to planning his future as a scientist, full of hope and some whacky ideas – A cereal that makes us smarter, a book page that turns into a movie when we touch it. Who knows? Maybe he will be the guy who figures out a cure for dyslexia.

15 ideas to enhance early literacy skills

young boy reading a bookEarly Literacy Skills—How important are they?

Joshua is in 4th grade and getting quieter all of the time.  He usually cries everyday after school because he can’t read like his friends or he failed the word problems in math class again.  His mother thinks the quietness means he is accepting his lower reading skills, but she finds out he has just given up. Joshua’s parents work three hours every night on his homework, but they aren’t trained professionals and don’t have specialized programs.  Yet nightly drills are the only way they know how to help.

But is Joshua’s a rare case?

No, he’s actually a part of the majority.  His reading struggles match those of 68% of the children in the United States according to the recent statistics from the US Department of Education. Studies have shown that obtaining reading help by the first grade promises normal reading ability for 90% of these children.  If help is delayed until age nine, 75% will have trouble throughout their school years.

This doesn’t mean if your child is older than this, you might as well give up.  The book, Parenting a Struggling Reader suggests that as a parent you should “exhaust all promising resources when teaching children to read. ”

But by promoting early literacy skills in your home, your child most likely will not need help later on.

Here are 15 fun activities that promote early reading or school readiness in your preschoolers that can be done at home, without expensive programs or that aren’t time consuming.

  • Set up a Reading Hour.  You can go to the library as a family and choose the books for the next reading hour.  This creates a cohesive feeling that “this family believes in reading and enjoys it.”
  • Discuss the books with your child.  “What did the boy say? Or, Why did they do that?”  This promotes language skills, listening ability, and understanding the meaning of the story.
  • Act out a part of the story.  This teaches the love of a good story and creativeness.  Motor movement imbeds the ideas into the brain.
  • Enrich their vocabularies with picture books like, The First Thousand Words or books with pictures arranged by categories.  These books are  colorful or have items hiding on each page to make them fun.
  • Listen to rhyming songs or nursery rhymes since rhyming is important to develop good phonological skills.
  • Practice recognizing the alphabet by matching the ABC’s cut from different materials.  Write out the letters in sand.  Glue beans or beads to letters that are drawn on paper.Use clay to buil the letters.
  • Put puzzles together to teach eye-hand coordination and visual processing skills.
  • Dominoes teach matching.  Whether it’s matching animals, shapes or colors, the concept of what looks the same is important later in reading.
  • Find picture cards with basic sight words.  Cut out or buy individual letters of the alphabet and take turns picking a card and finding the letters to spell that word.
  • Read absurd sentences to your child and have them tell you the word that was wrong in the sentence like, ‘I ate a balloon for lunch’. Then they can fix the word.  This teaches listening for information.
  • Clap along to syllables or count out words in sentences by using a drum.
  • Make up silly stories.  Put picture cards face down on the table and start a story.  For example, ‘Yesterday I was walking down the road when I found a,  (pick up a card),  sock’.  Then have your child make up the next part using a card that they choose.
  • Hide cards with letters on them around the room.  The child goes around and finds the cards, but now he must identify them before putting them in a basket. Older children should tell you a word that starts with that letter.
  • Use pipe cleaners or string to make letters.
  • Draw letters or numbers on each others hands and ask what was drawn.  Younger kids can have a choice of three letters or numbers to choose from that are written out in front of them.

As you see, there are many fun activities to get your young child interested in reading.  The most important thing is to roll up you sleeves and start playing!

 

Technology – the changing face of education

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXV-yaFmQNk

A Magazine is not an iPad!

How fast things change. I bought a used Mercedes Benz in 1993 that came with a phone. This seemed like a bonus since I’d never thought to have what was then called a hand-held, portable cellular phone.  This one was built into the console and was roughly the size of a brick, so it wasn’t the portable variety. It was attached to the huge box by a three-foot cord; just long enough to feel opulent while driving down the road. I never paid for service. $199 for the plan plus an extra 59 cents a minute and 20% taxes was a ridicules fee.  Another caveat – there had to actually be one of the sparsely located cellular service towers in the area or it was nothing more than a box that left no room to hold a Tab.

My, my, my….how far we have come.

Now, often for free, we can talk, Skype, Viber or text people around the world or someone in another room of the house. If we are in danger on the road, instead of having to look for someone to help us, we can run from our burning car, with our credit card phone in our hand and get immediate help.

So what about the changes technology has brought to education? These new ideas can provide an amazing opportunity for a child to reach beyond the experience and knowledge of their teacher. Why limit that? Education as we currently know it in traditional schools will reach a tipping point, according to Stephen Harris of Connect Principals, in his January 2013 article. He believes that the current school model with exhaust itself sometime in the next decade. He asks, “Why would a child attend school in a traditional way if better ways to educate a child emerge?

Our children will interact with technology in ways that are not yet mainstream. Voice activated writing, touch screen technology, spreading from being fixed installations to multi-surfaced & pervasive…this will be their world.”

Just as we cannot envision our world today without our mobile devices to do our banking, travel plans, to entertain us, to gives us pictures of a world we have never seen, our children will not remember a childhood of learning or exploring solely through books or paper delivery.  Our children already seem to be born with innate touch-screen skills.

Mobile learning is the future. We need to embrace it.

Say What?

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Auditory discrimination refers to the brain’s ability to organize and make sense of language sounds. Children who have difficulties with this might have trouble understanding and developing language skills because their brains either misinterpret language sounds, or process them too slowly. Words like “whale,” “wheel” and “while” can sound exactly the same. “Fill,” fell,” and “feel” are not heard as being different. Children then are hampered in reading and spelling these close-sounding words.

Children with auditory discrimination delays often fall behind in school, because they lack the phonological awareness needed to make relationships between sounds and the symbols that represent them.

Imagine writing the sentence, “Jim fill into the hole whale walking home.”

Or sounding out the sentence, “Fill the pail with water from the wheel,” but the child reads out loud, “Feel the pell with water from the whale.”

Several of the games in UCanConnect addresses auditory discrimination improvement. Squared Away is an auditory matching game that forces the child to listen closely to similar sounding words, eg. (‘tile, while, wool, tail, tall, wall,’ or ‘nest, best, mess, less, west, guess,’ and then find the exact match. Below the game board, a jungle picture emerges, encouraging the child to complete the puzzle.

If this skill is delayed, reading 20 minutes a day will not improve it. Auditory discrimination has to be trained. Check out the free trials on www.ucanconnect.org to see all of the processing areas that are improved in just 35 minutes a day!

 

Official Launch of UCanConnect!

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It’s here!

As the summer ends, now is the time to get your child ready for the school year.  Designed to fit into busy schedules, UCanConnect can be played on any mobile device, tablet or desktop computer!

With dynamically alternating games and exciting reward activities, your child won’t even realize that they’re learning. UCanConnect can help your child develop the skills they need to be better readers.

Click here to login and start improving your child’s processing!

Please, Be Patient…

Releasing a good program could happen tomorrow. But, our development team already has three years and thousands of hours into “hatching” the UCANCONNECT Reading program, so we need 5 more days to launch it — not just as good, but as great!

Launching in 12 Days!

Increasing reading ability starts with improving the underlying processing skills!

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For kids who struggle with reading, it’s important to get back to the building blocks: auditory and visual processing.  UCanConnect provides engaging and dynamic games that help kids improve the skills required for reading.

With two achievement stages, learners of all different levels can improve their abilities.  While you watch your kids progress and improve their processing skills, students enjoy earning points and interacting with UCan the Toucan.

Click here to play a free trial and watch for our official launch on August 1!