“The 8 Skills Students Must have for the Future”

Michael Sledd writes “The 8 Skills Students Must have for the Future”  on Edudemic.com.  The original article is from Pearson’s 2014, “The Learning Curve”.  These are the strengths of many of the children I work with. As they work so hard on some foundational skills it’s important to remind them that their area of strengths are valued.  —



Upcoming Community Events

Parents Advocating for Student Success in EDucation (PASSED)
Monthly Lunch Gathering

Bixby’s Bagels (Mount Royal Shopping Center)
Wednesday, May 21st
11:45 ish to 1:00 ish

The movie “Journey into Dyslexia” will have two showings:

Monday, May 19th @ 6:30pm @ Cloquet Gospel Tabernacle
Thursday, May 22nd @ 6:30 @ Myers-Wilkins School (old Grant)

Questions call 340-7393 or email dwyers@boreal.org

Essential Reading Skills

Orton-Gillingham methods build strong, confident readers.   If your child is struggling in school, consider working with an Orton-Gillingham tutor over the summer to help them build reading confidence and a lifetime love of learning.  Don’t let them struggle for years.  Signs that a child will struggle with reading are evident in kindergarten.

The sequential part of Orton-Gillingham teaches reading skills in a direct, systematic, orderly way and including: phonemic awareness, letter recognition, concepts of print, sound/symbol relationship, word reading and spelling, syllables, fluency skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.  When a child struggles with fluency, usually one of the more fundamental building blocks, listed above, is weak.   Fluency involves the pace and accuracy of reading and prosody.  Prosody is the expression, volume, phrasing and smoothness.

Minnesota has adopted Read Well by 3rd Grade, but most of us don’t know what that means.  We read to comprehend information, but before we do that reading fluency is key and before that, other building blocks.  Today, in many of our schools children’s fluency is measured by giving them the same three grade level passages multiple times over the year and having a child read each for one minute. A recorder marks the errors a student makes and indicates the number of words the child read.  Sometimes comprehensions is tested by having the student retell the story…. but that is a different conversation.  Most research expect that a third grade child should begin the year reading grade level material at a rate of 70 or more words per minute and end the year reading 100 or more words per minute they are considered meeting their benchmark with 95% – 97% accuracy, respectively.  The numbers for the rate of reading represent the 50th percentile.  If a students falls below the midpoint they should be receiving additional intentional support in the area that they have demonstrated a weakness in that comes before fluency on the continuum of learning to read.  If your child is not meeting the midpoint by the end of third grade, fourth grade will be significantly more challenging than previous years.  I could argue that for some students meeting the middle is even too lower of a threshold.

I’m happy to talk with any family about reading, if I can’t help you, I can often direct you to someone that can.  Please feel free to call me at 218-340-7393.




What Are the Warning Signs of Dysgraphia?

From the National Center for Learning Disabilities

Just having bad handwriting doesn’t mean a person has dysgraphia. Since dysgraphia is a processing disorder, difficulties can change throughout a lifetime. However since writing is a developmental process—children learn the motor skills needed to write, while learning the thinking skills needed to communicate on paper—difficulties can also overlap.

Dysgraphia: Warning Signs By Age

Young Children

Trouble With:

  • Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
  • Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
  • Trouble forming letter shapes
  • Inconsistent spacing between letters or words
  • Poor understanding of uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Inability to write or draw in a line or within margins
  • Tiring quickly while writing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

  • Illegible handwriting
  • Mixture of cursive and print writing
  • Saying words out loud while writing
  • Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what’s written is missed
  • Trouble thinking of words to write
  • Omitting or not finishing words in sentences

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

  • Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
  • Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down
  • Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
  • Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech

Dyslexia: More Than a Score

By Dr. Richard Selznick  (http://www.drselz.com/blog)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

***Note:  (This blog was published some time ago, but due to a problem with the website it needed to be reposted.  It has been revised.)

I had the good fortune to recently take part on a panel during a symposium on dyslexia sponsored by the grassroots parenting group, Decoding Dyslexia: NJ.  Dr. Sally Shaywitz, the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” was the keynote speaker.  While talking about assessing dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz said something that really struck me.  She noted, “Dyslexia is not a score.”

That statement is right on the money.

Scores are certainly involved in the assessment of dyslexia.   Tests such as the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test, the Tests of Word Reading Efficiency and the Comprehensive Tests of Phonological Processing, among other standardized measures yield reliable and valid standard scores, grade equivalents and percentiles.  These scores can be helpful markers.  However, the scores often don’t tell the whole story.

Here’s one example:

Jacob, a fifth grader, is in the 80th%ile of verbal intelligence and his nonverbal score is in the 65% percentile, meaning Jacob’s a pretty bright kid.  Jacob’s word identification standard score on the Woodcock was a 94 placing him solidly in the average range, with similar word attack and passage comprehensions scores.  Effectively, both of the scores (Word Identification and Word Attack), placed Jacob just below the 50th percentile, but solidly in the average range.

Jacob’s scores would not have gotten the school too excited.  Yet, here’s what I told the mom.

“There’s a lot of evidence in Jacob’s assessment that suggests that he is dyslexic.  Even though his scores are fundamentally average, he was observed to be very inefficient in the way that he read.  For example, while Jacob read words like “institute,” and “mechanic” correctly, he did so with a great deal of effort.  It was hard for Jacob to figure out the words.  For those who are not dyslexic, word reading is smooth and effortless.  Those words would be a piece of cake for non-dyslexic fifth graders.  They were not for Jacob.”

“Even more to the point, was the way that Jacob read passages out loud.  Listening to Jacob read was almost painful.  Every time he came upon a large word that was not all that common (such as, hysterical, pedestrian, departure) he hesitated a number of seconds and either stumbled on the right word or substituted a nonsense word.  An example was substituting the word “ostrich” for “orchestra.”  The substitution completely changed the meaning.

“Finally, the two other areas of concern involved the way that Jacob wrote, as well as his spelling.  While Jacob could memorize for the spelling test, his spelling and his open ended-writing were very weak.  The amount of effort that Jacob put into writing a small informal paragraph was considerable.  There also wasn’t one sentence that was complete.”

“Even though Jacob is unlikely to be classified in special education, I think he has a learning disability that matches the definition of dyslexia as it is known clinically (see  International Dyslexia Association website:  www.ida.org ).  The scores simply do not tell the story.”

“Dyslexia is not a score.”

Takeaway Point:

You need to look under the hood to see what’s going on with the engine.  With dyslexia, you can’t just look at the scores and make a conclusion.


Why do I tutor?

My greatest passion is to help children succeed in reading and writing.  I’ve been told I’m very good at it both from my students and their parents.

The Journey!

My daughter went to school and life was good, well at least academically.

My son went to school and I knew something was wrong.  I even asked if they thought I should hold him back a year.  No, he’s fine.  And so the story went.  In second grade, he was one of the teacher’s stronger readers – to my surprise.  But when she told me what they were reading I realized that he had memorized them at home.  They didn’t read one story that he had not had read to him multiple times.  ….. In third grade, we started getting outside evaluations and found out he was dyslexic with a disorder of written expression.  Then in fifth grade I was homeschooling him after little progress in the traditional school.

That was the year he learned to read.  I wasn’t yet trained in Orton-Gillingham, but in hind site I used a lot of what I’ve learned about how to teach dyslexic students.  The piece I was missing was how systematic it should be.  This son is now 24 (2016), he graduated from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina with honors in physics and mathematics.  He is teaching in Louisville, KY with the Teach Kentucky Program.  He received his Masters of Education from the University of Louisville, in May of 2016.

Then along came my baby who read all the time.  His vocabulary was always years ahead of his peers.  In third grade, he still hadn’t chosen a dominate hand.  He couldn’t print his alphabet appropriately, so how would he learn to write cursive (his teacher agreed with me).  Even though he couldn’t put anything on paper his teacher called him “Fantasy Boy” because of the great stories he created orally.  His writing only got worse, yet his reading comprehension remained grades ahead.  Middle school was so difficult for him, he would come home and take multiple baths to relax.  He did some occupational therapy which helped with some things, but not really with the writing process. I decided to homeschool him for eighth grade (a downward spiral was happening at school).  This gave us time for more outside testing and interventions.  Oh! Surprise (sarcasm), he had a disorder of written expression (dysgraphia).  By now, I was noticing that even though his comprehension was so high he was making odd mistakes when he read out loud.  Some fabulous people have helped us along this journey.  As a junior in high school, he enrolled in college through PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) and carried a full load of courses.  He graduated from high school in 2013 with 60 plus college credits.  He is scheduled to graduate from University of MN, Duluth in 2017, with lots of educational experiences along the way.

Both of my boys are twice exceptional, which means they are gifted with a learning disability. So qualifying for services in school seemed to be a completely different process.  They both ended up with a 504 plan.  But this path of the journey was full of disappointments in a system I believed was meant to educate children.  That is a story for some other day.

I was fortunate enough to volunteer in the schools while my children were growing up and still do.  I was always asked to help those that had difficulties.  I knew what students at a given age were capable of doing in school.

My training in Orton-Gillingham has given me the training and tools I wish I’d had when my boys were younger.  My greatest passion is to help children succeed.  References are available.


Struggling students and Response to Intervention (RTI)

Parent Rights in the Era of RTI

describe the imageIf a school is using an RTI approach, what rights do parents have and what strategies can be used to address identification issues? 

  • RTI Use across States—The manner in which states incorporate RTI into SLD identification varies dramatically.
  • Child Find—Your school district’s legal obligation to “find” all children who may have a disability and, because of their disability, need special education services.
  • Rights to Evaluation—Every parent has the right to request an evaluation at any time to determine if their child has a disability and what that child’s educational needs are.
  • Strategies for Addressing Identification Issues—The process of determining whether your child has a disability such as a learning disability and needs special education cannot go on indefinite l

The above is from

The National Center for Learning Disabilities – the leading online resource for parents and educators on learning disabilities and related disorders.

For a free booklet on additional information go to http://info.ncld.org/parent-rights-in-the-era-of-rti


Background Noise when learning

It’s time when students are returning to the classroom and the child that struggles with reading and learning have a difficult time learning with background noise.

More data supporting the range of perceptual difficulties in dyslexia.

In the figure below, researchers found that dyslexic subjects showed delayed responses to sounds (HP stands for Huggins Pitch, TN stands for pure tone)when played with background noise.This background noise can be a big obstacle to efficient classroom learning for dyslexic students. Larger classes sizes, murmurings and rustlings from fellow classmates, and a fuzziness about phonology or weak auditory working memory, can spell failure (or ADD misdiagnosis) for even very smart or determined dyslexic students. This study only looked at tone and Huggins (kind of spectral noise) sounds…a test of similar-sounding phonemes might be even more dramatic.

Many parents and teachers out there might say, “Aha!”. Students with background noise problems often show wide variability in their classroom success, that may be due to teaching style, class size, degree of noise, or seat placement. Be vigilant to the possibility, and help your student advocate for classroom speakers if needed.

Now is this education or neurobiology? Both of course! We do a disservice to children if we can’t find efficient ways to share information between researchers, educators, and parents.

Leveling the Playing Field for Dyslexics

Please join me in signing this petition for Congress to level the playing field for dyslexics in education. The petition was created by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

Dear Deb ,

Thanks for signing our petition, “United States Congress: Legalize Dyslexia: Grant Accommodations to Dyslexic Students..”

Winning this campaign is now in your hands. We need to reach out to as many friends as we can to grow this campaign and win.

Thanks for your support,

Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Take the next step: Ask your friends to sign
Don’t just be a signer — be an organizer. Turn your signature into hundreds more by asking your friends to sign. Then they’ll ask their friends. That’s how we win.