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.

What is my child’s learning style?

detectiveIdentifying how your child learns!

Everyone has their own unique learning style. Some people learn best by seeing or reading, others by listening, and still others by doing something with their hands. You can help your child by identifying his or her primary learning style: Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner?

Visual Learners:   Learn by seeing or reading

  • Do well when material is presented and tested visually, not verbally
  • Benefit from written notes and directions, diagrams, charts, maps, and pictures
  • Often love to draw, read, and write; are good spellers and organizer

Auditory Learners:    Learn by listening

  • Do well in lecture-based learning environments and on oral reports and tests
  • Benefit from classroom discussions, spoken directions, study groups
  • Often love music, languages, and being on stage

Kinesthetic Learners:   Learn by doing and moving

  • Do well when they can move, touch, explore, and create in order to learn
  • Benefit from hands-on activities, lab classes, props, skits, and field trips
  • Often love sports, drama, dance, martial arts, and arts and crafts

What you will find is that although your child may have attributes in each column, there should be a predominant style that has more checks than the others. Once you have a general idea of what kind of learner your child is, share this knowledge with adults who will interact with your child.  But just realize that even though others are aware, it’s still important to utilize additional ideas to enhance the child’s learning time.

Helpful tips for visual learners:

  • Teach them to take detailed notes. Use highlighters and colored pencils to underline different areas or to organize material into categories. For example, red is for verbs, yellow for articles and blue is for adjectives when learning the parts of grammar.
  • Learn to make outlines, diagrams, and lists. Create a pre-typed document that allows for this type of listing skill so your child just needs to fill in the high points he hears.
  • Use drawings and illustrations, preferably in color and the more detailed the better.

Helpful tips for auditory learners:

  • Use a recording device to tape lectures that can be used later to review notes.
  • Teach him to read his notes or to study the materials aloud
  • Memorize by using verbal repetition.
  • Study with other students, talk things through, have him teach a brother or a sister the material to ensure he has learned it
  • Provide oral testing as an option
  • Follow along with Books on Tape

Learning tips for hands-on learners:

  • Teach by doing experiments, looking things up on the internet, doing activities that teach the same material but where the child can interact with it by doing something.
  • Take field trips, collect items, explore similar topics to help show the correlation with the new material
  • Use activity-based study tools, like role-playing or building models, designing
  • Use memory games, computer activities and materials that can be held and manipulated or used in a shared experience
  • Study with music on in the background or allow TV with a familiar program playing as random backdrop noise.

Other considerations

  • Even though your child may struggle in one area of learning, they may excel in another. Pay attention to your child’s interests and passions. Helping them develop their passions and strengths which can help them with their areas of difficulty.
  • Children can be shown their strengths, weaknesses and special talents which will help with their self-confidence in knowing that they are not “dumb” just because they learn a bit differently than others in the classroom. Appearing dumb is a child’s number one fear in school!
  • The ability to set realistic goals is important. Being flexible in adjusting the goals is also important. Help your child identify a few short- or long-term goals and write down steps and a timeline to achieve the goals. Check in periodically to check progress or to mark off an item.
  • And because children do not want to appear different than their peers, they often have a very hard time asking for help. Talk to them about a few successful people, about how they must have asked for help when they needed it and how they used others for support.
  • Completing homework can be a frustrating time no matter what your child’s learning style. Start by showing an interest in your child’s homework. If they know you are interested, they will take more pride in it. Teach/help your child to organize his homework materials before beginning and establish a regular time with your child to do the work
  • Discovering your child’s learning style will open up the discussion for ways to learn ideas faster and better, without the anxiety that something is wrong with them.

Helping Children Succeed—it does take a village!


Success, which is just another word for triumph and victory, can be elusive for many children. Humans are meant to accomplish things, and with that accomplishment comes a healthy self-esteem. But what can we do for the child who has not been successful yet? The child who is shy or sad?

Childhood success has been a hot topic over the last twenty years and researchers and psychologists have learned many things. Just a few of them are:

  1.       The more love, support, and adult contacts a child has, the more likely it is he will grow up with a good image of himself
  2.       Children need to be valued by their community and have opportunities  to help others in that community
  3.       Children need clear, consistent boundaries and high expectations. When you lower the bar for your child, they will reach that goal every time!
  4.       Young people need constructive, enriching opportunities with caring adults
  5.       Behavior (good or bad) comes from the motivation to fulfill a need, like having attention, feeling loved, or gaining praise

In the huge amount of studies, it’s found that the more resources a child has, the lower the incident of problem behaviors, drug and alcohol use, school problems, depression, and social failure. In other words, lots of assets or resources, create successful children.

Ideas for home—

      Remember that children learn by example, so showing love to a spouse is a lesson in itself. How we talk about our relatives or neighbors is being watched, and will be modeled in the future by our children.

      It’s important to be your child’s biggest fan because the outside world might not be cheering them on yet.

      Take the time to spend a few moments alone each day with each of your children so they have someone to talk to about heir private fears or their triumphs. When your children talk, really listen to them and always thank them for sharing their opinions even though you may not agree with them. Foster the idea that very few subjects are off limits to talk about.

      Eat family meals together and plan one family activity each week. The whole family should have a say in ideas for these events. It could be as simple as having a picnic at the park or camping in the backyard.

      Tell you children what you expect from them and ask them about what they expect from themselves. Look for creative ways to stimulate your child to achieve their goals and remember to admire them for more things than just their grades. There is kindness, manners, talents and ability to have empathy that are worth noting.

Ideas for in the neighborhood—

      Welcome neighbors with a plate of cookies or a liter of soda. Have your children go with you so they get to know them.

      Have your children volunteer to help elderly neighbors with yard work or other tasks that are hard. Have your child make a food item and take it to a neighbor or leave it as a secret admirer.

      Teach your children how to speak to adults and how to include other children who seem shy or who play alone to join in.

      Identify neighborhood areas where children seem to get in trouble and start a community discussion to try to improve the area.

      Have your child write notes of appreciation to positive adults in their day. Maybe the bus driver, teachers, mailman, coaches, clergy, babysitters, and your office co-workers.

Self-esteem is earned! It can’t be thrust on a child without having them work for it. You can help them get started now!



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


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?

ear bigger icon

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!