Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

This fall, my friend Sara and I taught a community education class on Dyslexia and received many positive comments from those that attended, so we decided to do it again.

 

Here are the details:

Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

Dyslexia is a learning challenge facing many children.  Come learn about dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  The main objective of the class is to discover tools and attitudes that will empower students with learning struggles.  This is a great survey course for parents and instructors.

Classes are Monday evenings at Ordean East Community School on Feb 22th, 29th and March 7th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

 

Click here to sign up.

 

 

I will also be hosting a community education session:

 

Struggling Learners – What a Parent Should Consider

 

Is this year hard for your child? How can you help your child be more successful at
school? Homework takes hours and we’re still in elementary school, should it be this
hard? We’ll talk about reasons why kids struggle, how to help and how work with his/her
teacher.

 

This class is Tuesday, Feb 9th at Lincoln Park Middle School from 6:30-8:30pm.

 

Register here.

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) Survey

If your child has been diagnosed with Developmental Coordination
Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) please consider sending SKastner@princeton.edu
an email requesting that you be added to the next round of individuals
that will be sent the survey.  We have very little information that is
being shared in the field of education. 859982_10208631322569974_2534831610474259

IDA Conference

After returning from the International Dyslexia Association Conference, I’m again struck by the importance of understanding the individual child’s needs and responding with solutions that are customized to the individual student. This can’t be done with packaged programmed, no matter how good it is. Packaged programs ask the student to fit into the curriculum, versus identifying a student’s needs and designing lessons to meet the their specific needs.  Thank you, Virginia Berninger, Ph.D., and others for these reminders.

The latest research at MIT suggests that the movement of water through the myelin sheath might be related to dyslexia and it will require more study on my behalf – I love learning!  The fact that the right side of the brain is responding to the interventions we are delivering to change the left side of the brain reminds us that for each action is an equal and opposite reaction.  And that the right side of the brain might hold a link to how a child will respond to various inventions.  Current research shows that the brains of dyslexics are in fact built differently, not that the brain develops differently because of lack of reading. Thank you, John Gabrieli, Ph.D., and those that spoke on twice-exceptional children. (Meet John at http://video.mit.edu/watch/meet-john-gabrieli-4984/ )

Over the course of the conference I reflected on a comment from Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., that excellence is the new average. No wonder our children are feeling more stress. I’m looking forward to reading his book “Nowhere to Hide” and integrate some of his thought on ‘Save FASE’ and DE-STRESS.  Students need tools that will help them understand their stress and ready their mind for learning.  Students that shut down due to stress are unable learn, yet they are so often mislabeled so that the correct instruction isn’t even delivered.

“Start of the School Year: The Pit in the Stomach Comes Back”

From Dr. Richard Selznick’s (www.drselz.com) most recent blog….

“So with the start of the school year, here are a five guidelines to get you through:

1.      Breathe deep a lot – meditate – calm it down.  Look, homework is going to make you crazy.  Try not to bite on the hook.  For the child who has boring homework, seeing you go off is entertaining.  Don’t give it to him.

2.      Ask yourself, is the work in the kid’s zone of competence?  If it is not, if it is simply too hard for the child even with some parental  support, then send it back to the teacher with a polite note saying that the work is above the child’s head.

3.      If the answer to #2 is yes, then it’s the child’s problem.    Repeat after me the following mantra to say to your child, “You’re a big boy (or girl).  You can manage your homework.  If you choose not to, that’s your choice, but I will have to write a note to your teacher telling her what you chose.”

4.      Pecking doesn’t work.  Pecking, badgering, cajoling, nagging, yelling generally do not work.  Focus on the mantra in #3.  If the child chooses not to do the work, don’t  get caught up in it.  Put the problem where it belongs – on the child.

5.      Link “give and you get” messages.   Do you think like I do that modern kids are living pretty comfy lives?  It strikes me that the arrangement we have with our kids is pretty one-directional (in the kid’s benefit).  Start changing the direction by stating,  “This year I am tracking you each night on the calendar.  It’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in terms of effort and taking care of yourself.  Good things come to people who have a lot of “yes” showing up on the calendar – we do fun things. When there is a lot of ‘no,’ it’s going to be very boring around here.  Which do you prefer?”

So, pour yourself a glass of wine, put your feet up and remember…summer’s not all that far off”

http://www.drselz.com/blog/2015/08/start-of-the-school-year-the-pit-in-the-stomach-comes-back

Handwriting Fluency

Many students struggle with handwriting – you can see the labor in each
letter they write or the illegibility of letters. Non-fluent readers
often struggle with comprehensions.  Non-fluent hand-writers often
struggle with the writing process. If handwriting is difficult it will
impact the writing process.  Just like reading has fluency benchmarks so
does writing.  Below is a chart from a 2008 article – What to Improve
Children’s Writing? – Don’t Neglect Their Handwriting, by Steve Graham.

 

Handwriting Fluency

Thoughts from Fernette Eide MD at Dyslexic Advantage……..

From the University of Washington: “Structural brain differences between children with dyslexia and dysgraphia and children who are typical language learners have been observed…Researchers say the findings prove that using a single category of learning disability to qualify for special education services is not scientifically supported.”

In a recent misplaced effort by the American Psychiatric Association, the latest update of the DSMV proposed lumping dyslexia under the general category of SLD or Specific Learning Disability. The problems are multiple, but the practical dilemma faced by students and teachers is that if differences aren’t named or recognized, chances are the solutions aren’t either.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 8.41.22 AMWhat Berninger and her colleagues have found are different neural signatures for dyslexia and dysgraphia: “contrasting patterns of white matter integrity between dyslexia and dysgraphia was the greater perpendicular radial diffusivity in seven brain regions on the right in dyslexia but left in the dysgraphic group.” Discussing this research, Berninger added: “the two specific learning disabilities are not the same because the white matter connections and patterns and number of gray matter functional connections were not the same in the children with dyslexia and dysgraphia — on either the writing or cognitive thinking tasks.

Federal law guarantees a free and appropriate public education to children with learning disabilities, but does not require that specific types of learning disabilities are diagnosed, or that schools provide evidence-based instruction for dyslexia or dysgraphia. Consequently, the two conditions are lumped together under a general category for learning disabilities, Berninger said, and many schools do not recognize them or offer specialized instruction for either one.

“There’s just this umbrella category of learning disability,” said Berninger. “That’s like saying if you’re sick you qualify to see a doctor, but without specifying what kind of illness you have, can the doctor prescribe appropriate treatment?”

“Many children struggle in school because their specific learning disabilities are not identified and they are not provided appropriate instruction.”

Read the Berninger group’s  original research paper HERE.

Read The Problem with Schools Not Identifying Dyslexia.

There are other interesting tidbits in the paper, for example the observation of “the dyslexia group’s strong functional connectivity than the control group during resting state (default network)”. The authors interpreted this observation only in a negative or deficit-focused framework, but of course, the default network has a strong role in creative problem solving and mental simulation.

 

http://blog.dyslexicadvantage.org/2015/05/20/got-science-dyslexia-and-dysgraphia-are-different-and-why-sld-should-rip/

“Differentiating Summer: Why You Should Rethink the “Just Play” Movement”

Kyle Redford is now a teacher. He is also a young man with dyslexia that
was one of the individuals featured in The Big Picture: Rethinking
Dyslexia.   I’m all about balance so his thoughts really hit home for me.

—————————————

As school draws to a close and summer launches, the cries for unfettered playtime are proliferating everywhere, from the mouths of children to the postings of adults.

It’s hard today to ignore the profusion of articles, blog posts, and tweets calling on parents to forget school and let children “just play” over the summer months. Impassioned articles, written by leading educators and parenting experts, argue that play is the best teacher. Infused with moral undertones, they warn against the overscheduled child, making a determined case for giving children downtime and a chance to grapple with unscheduled hours.

There is a lot to be said about the value of this advice. And let’s face it, total-play summers sound so appealing, attractive, and humane — but …

The False Promise of One-Size-Fits-All

“One-size-fits-all” approaches are just as problematic for children in the summertime as they are in the school year. For many families, charging every parent with simply abandoning all structure in order to give children unlimited time to just relax and play is naïve.

Let’s face it, parents of struggling students dream of taking a break from the frustrations and duties that accompany a child with learning disabilities and differences. Play? Yes! A break? Please! But as much as parents want to give their depleted and stressed child a breather from the negatives associated with school, they intuitively know that ignoring the opportunity to strengthen and consolidate skills over the summer will only reinforce the cycle of frustration and stress in the fall.

Why Learning Needs to Continue in Summertime

Many types of intensive, immersive, and individualized support feel impossible to arrange during the school year. Most children are exhausted at the end of a school day, particularly if they have been struggling to keep up. Children need to rest and recharge during the school week, and often there is no time to put supports in place that would allow them to catch up or strengthen weak skills. Summer can offer the space to pursue support for a struggling child at her own pace.

Summer offers time.

If your dyslexic child has not learned to read yet, or if her skills are so fragile that they make attending school miserable, summer offers an ideal opportunity to pursue evidence-based remediation that will help her achieve success and enjoy school more when it resumes in the fall. Likewise, if your child is failing math and starting to hate it, some math work to memorize facts and algorithms or to spend time with a mentor who can explain difficult concepts will do wonders to help her confidence, interest, and engagement with numbers in the fall.

Many students who struggle academically benefit from previewing certain classes before school resumes (for instance, reading assigned books in advance so that they can keep up with their class, or practicing math concepts in a one-on-one setting so they can hit the ground running). This kind of work is rarely fun. Later, though, children usually appreciate the preparation that makes the school year move along more easily.

The truth is that it benefits every child, regardless of her individual learning profile, to read over the summer. And remember that audiobooks count! Done at the right pace, this activity can — and should — be an enjoyable pursuit rather than a corrective chore.

Balance is key.

Clearly, kids need to get outside to play — whether that’s out in nature or in an urban playground. Exploring, observing, pretending, making … summer offers powerful learning opportunities and potential healing for kids who feel beaten up by expectations at school. And, in truth, children who struggle in school crave a brain break more than anyone. They dream of free play and relaxation. And, of course, they look forward to spending time pursuing their own interests, which may come more easily than traditional academic skills.

But we need to recognize that, in addition to the formal learning that struggling children benefit from in the summer months, many of the opportunities to pursue their individual interests occur in structured settings, as well (think of sports teams, themed camps, or drama and music groups).

To avoid anything structured in the summer would mean that a child could potentially miss out on important opportunities to develop a sense of competence and confidence beyond the classroom. Time spent exploring interests outside of school can help children discover areas of expertise and passion that offset academic struggles during the school year.

A Closing Thought

Every child has a different learning profile — and that is why every child needs a different summer plan. Don’t let the experts make you feel bad if your child is working at something in a structured way this summer. You can be sure that the person advising you to ditch all summer work has never had to help shepherd a struggling child through school — but you know what it takes, and forgoing structure isn’t the solution for everyone.”

 

An update from Understood.org about an important court case for those with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Settlement in Dyslexia Discrimination Case Shows the System at Work

ByAndrew M.I. Lee
<https://www.understood.org/en/community-events/blogs/author/andrew-m-i-lee?BlogId=7>
Jun 26, 2015

By law, employers can’t discriminate against workers with disabilities. That includes learning disabilities. This May, two companies in Connecticut got the message—in the form of a lawsuit.

Kevin Lebowitz has worked as a carpenter for 15 years. He has a clean safety record. And he has many safety certifications.

Lebowitz also has dyslexia, which makes it very difficult for him to read printed text.

In 2012, Lebowitz reported for a new construction job, he says. McPhee Electric, Ltd. was the general contractor for the job. Bond Bros., Inc. was the subcontractor. When Lebowitz arrived, he was given a packet of safety information.

A safety officer from McPhee asked Lebowitz to review and sign the packet. Lebowitz told the officer he had dyslexia. He said he would need help reviewing the packet. And he offered to take it home to review.

That’s when a Bond Bros. superintendent told Lebowitz that he couldn’t be hired. Why? He was told he’d be a safety hazard since he couldn’t read the safety packet. (Neither company offered him any reading accommodations.)

Soon after, Lebowitz filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. That includes the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC looked into Lebowitz’s claim. And it decided he had been discriminated against. So the agency filed a lawsuit against the companies in federal court.

“By all accounts, Mr. Leibowitz is a skilled carpenter,” says Catherine Wan, the EEOC attorney on the case. “Dyslexia had no impact on his ability to work safely. So this was really a misconception about people with disabilities.”

Lebowitz is not alone in his experience. “Complaints of workplace discrimination based on learning disabilities like dyslexia are not uncommon,” adds Justine S. Lisser, an EEOC spokesperson.

According to EEOC records, there were 408 of these complaints in 2014. Lisser points to cases against companies that demoted or fired employees because of their dyslexia.

In Lebowitz’s case, the result was a settlement. This May, the two companies agreed to pay him $120,000 in damages. They also promised to make changes at the companies.

One major change: Providing training about discrimination and reasonable accommodations for new and current employees. The companies also agreed to post related information at worksites. And they’ll change their employee handbooks.

The two companies declined to comment to Understood about the settlement.

“We are pleased that McPhee and Bond worked with us to resolve this lawsuit,” says Wan. “Trainings, notices and other measures—we think these will be effective in raising awareness. Disability discrimination violates the law.”

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