It may be very frustrating to learn about the importance of early intervention when that window of opportunity has already passed for your middle or high school child with dyslexia. However, acting on behalf of your child will require moving beyond this frustration point and really focusing on what needs to be done in the present. Rest assured that most middle and high school students with dyslexia can be helped and can catch up to grade level. This will take more time, more effort, and more intensity of instruction, but it is never too late to do something about reading and writing difficulties.
Poor readers in middle and high school can be brought up to grade level and kept at grade level with one to two years of instruction using a specialized program intended for students with dyslexia such as the Orton- Gillingham. This approach is multisensory and students use the visual, auditory and kinesthetic channels simultaneously when learning new skills and reading concepts. It is structured, sequential and cumulative.
Students with dyslexia in middle and high school have the same basic problems as younger poor readers and need to learn the same skills. These problems, however, are complicated by years of feeling failure and frustration. Many middle and high school dyslexics no longer believe that they can be helped.
The course of action in helping a child with dyslexia through school may seem like an eternal endeavor to most families, but eventually all the hard work pays off. The dyslexia that caused the child to have difficulties learning to read in the beginning, will also cause troubles later on with spelling, writing, learning a foreign language, and frequently in learning algebra.
Skipping the basic skills of reading is a huge mistake. An older student with dyslexia who lacks basic awareness of speech sounds cannot learn to read unless this problem is addressed. This student will need to begin with phonological awareness, followed by sound-letter correspondences. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to learning how to decode words fluently and accurately, and no way to bypass this stage altogether of learning to read. Although it is tough in the beginning, nothing is more motivating than success, once students experience appropriate Orton-Gillingham instruction.
A middle and high school student with dyslexia will need an Orton-Gillingham program that is intense enough to close the reading gap. Up to two hours daily may be needed to bring a student to grade level. In general, the larger the gap between the student’s skills and the grade level, the more intense the intervention must be to catch up.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland is the Founder of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a Certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Almost every school activity, including listening to teachers, interacting with classmates, singing along in music class, following instructions in physical education, etc, depends on the ability for students to process sounds and have a strong auditory system in learning. But what happens if this auditory system has deficits? Can a child still learn?
Does my child have Auditory Processing Disorder?
Auditory Processing (APD) is a very common learning disability and affects about 5% of school-age children. Auditory Processing can present itself with many different symptoms and behaviors. Often these behaviors resemble those seen with other learning challenges, like language difficulties, attention problems and autism. Most children with auditory processing difficulties show only a few of the following behaviors. No child will show all of them. However, any child who displays several of these symptoms should be carefully evaluated for auditory processing disorder.
- Delayed speech.
- Persistent articulation errors.
- Abnormally soft, loud, flat, formal, or “pedantic” speaking voice.
- Difficulty conducting casual conversations.
- Difficulty reading or spelling due to problems discriminating word sounds.
- Difficulty following oral directions.
- Difficulty organizing behaviors.
- A tendency to appear quiet, distracted, or off topic during group discussions or to interrupt or blurt out answers.
- Long delays before responding to questions or instructions.
- Preferences for nonverbal tasks or a markedly higher performance IQ than verbal IQ.
- Difficulty taking notes.
- Worsening performance in higher grades as oral instruction load and receptive language demands increase.
- Difficulties with inference, abstraction, and figurative language.
- Difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise.
- Difficulty understanding what’s said.
- A tendency to ask for restatement or clarification, or repeatedly saying “what?” or “huh?”
- Marked difficulty understanding speakers with particularly high or low-pitched voices or with prominent accents.
How does Auditory Processing affect my child’s learning?
Children with Auditory Processing Disorders have difficulties distinguishing the sounds or phonemes in spoken words, especially those in complex words and sentences. This is referred to as Auditory Discrimination Deficits. If a child has difficulties discriminating sounds in language, then words will sound unclear or distorted as well as many will sound alike. This in turn will affect a child’s development of language skills. They may have trouble speaking and listening, because of problems learning basic grammar and word meanings. Many vowel and consonant sounds may sound the same to them, especially when spoken quickly. As a result, not only will they have difficulty hearing the differences between words that sound alike (think, thing, sink, thin) they will also have difficulty understanding the connections between those words and the letters used to represent them.
This is why children with Auditory Processing Difficulties often have trouble with reading and spelling. Since they cannot hear the sound distinctions between words, the rules linking sounds to letters and letter groups can be hard for them to master.
Most children with Auditory Processing Disorder have difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise. This is referred to as Auditory Figure-Ground Deficits. Although the children often hear well enough at home or in quiet environments, they may appear hard of hearing or even functionally deaf in noisy environments such as school.
In the classroom, a child with Auditory Processing Deficits will have great difficulties staying focused on a listening task. This is referred to as Auditory Attention Deficits. If a teacher is giving a lecture, for example, the student might listen in for a few minutes but then drift off and daydream missing out on significant amounts of information.
Students with Auditory Processing Challenges have great difficulties remembering information given. This is referred to as Auditory Memory Deficits. If the teacher says, “get a piece of paper and a pencil out of your desk and write down your spelling words,” the student may get confused because there are too many commands at once. Impairments in the auditory memory deficits can severely weaken not only long-term memory but also language development and comprehension.
How can a child with Auditory Processing Disorder get help?
The sooner a child with Auditory Processing Disorder is given proper teaching strategies, particularly in the very early grades, the more likely it is that they will have fewer or milder difficulties later in life. These students will need a very structured, systematic, cumulative, repetitive and multisensory teaching method such as the Orton-Gillingham approach. By using a multisensory approach the student will be able to learn using the visual and kinesthetic modalities while simultaneously strengthening the auditory channels.
The best learning environment for a student with auditory processing is always one-to-one with very minimal distractions and outside noises. Students who have severe auditory processing disorder may need an intensive training program to catch up and stay up with the rest of their class. During this intensive training, students will overcome many reading, writing, spelling and comprehension difficulties and learn strategies that will last a lifetime.
Teachers and parents both need to remember that Auditory Processing Disorder is a real condition. The symptoms and behaviors are not within the child’s control. Children with Auditory Processing Disorder are not being defiant or being lazy. A child with Auditory Processing Disorder can go on in life and become just as successful as other classmates.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can reach her by email at email@example.com or visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Reading is a highly complex, integrated activity that daunts as many as 33 percent of the population. Many children become proficient readers regardless of how they are taught. However, for children who experience difficulty learning to gain meaning from print, reading must be systematically and carefully taught. Mastering the following components of the reading process is essential if students are to become proficient readers.
Appreciation and enthusiasm for reading
It comes as no surprise that children who are passionate about reading are more skillful readers. Reading is more exciting to students when they are:
Read to frequently
Allowed to choose their reading material
Exposed to a wide variety of interesting reading materials
Successful reading depends upon understanding that words are composed of individual sounds. Children need direct teaching in the skills of breaking words into their component sounds and in blending individual sounds together into words. Phonemic awareness is one of the most important skills upon which early reading depends. Children who have poorly developed phonemic awareness skills are at great risk for becoming poor readers.
Phonics and Decoding
Letters of the alphabet are a code representing the sounds in words. Reading involves “decoding” or translating written words into their spoken equivalents. The early stage of decoding instruction emphasizes the correspondence between individual letters or pairs of letters (such as “oa”) and the sounds they represent. Later reading instruction stresses rapid identification of larger units such as syllables. Identifying larger phonetic elements is termed structural analysis. Once a student learns the correspondence between sounds and print, he or she has become a proficient decoder.
Fluent, Automatic Reading of Text
However, in order to become an efficient reader, the decoding process must become fast and accurate. When decoding is efficient, attention and memory processes are available for comprehending what is being read. Reading fluency training is vital for strengthening a student’s comprehension skills. Children should have ample practice reading material that is not difficult for them to decode. This level is referred to as the “independent reading level.” Frequent reading of material at a child’s independent reading level builds automatic word recognition and frees up a child’s mental abilities for comprehension.
Comprehension depends heavily on a student’s knowledge of the world. Therefore, the skill of reading comprehension begins to develop long before children enter school. Children who have more experiences of all types, have more background knowledge upon which to base their understanding of written material. Parents help their child develop reading skills when they visit the museum, the park and even the store. Parents and teachers should also read to students in order to help them create a stockpile of information that will facilitate reading comprehension. The best reading instruction teaches a student to access background knowledge while reading.
Comprehension depends on having a large vocabulary. Children who read widely learn word meanings at a faster rate than children whose reading is more limited either in scope or quantity. During their school years, children should be learning several thousand new words per year. Most of these words are learned by reading.
Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. Effective reading instruction must include training in expressing one’s thoughts in writing. Children should be given daily practice in organizing and expressing their knowledge through writing. This builds their ability to decode and comprehend the thoughts of other writers.
The key to helping students who experience difficulty in learning to read is to identify a student’s specific reading problems and devise programs which capitalize upon a student’s unique learning strengths. A curriculum that focuses on specific, appropriate, and practical learning strategies will best help students become proficient, efficient and independent readers.
An appropriate literacy goal for all students should be that each is fully able to use reading as a springboard for independent, critical thought and expression. Reading fuels the highest levels of the thinking process. Good readers are armed with tools to become strong thinkers.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Dr. Kari Miller is a board certified educational therapist and director of Miller Educational Excellence, a full-service educational therapy facility in west Los Angeles.
You can visit her website at www.MillerEducationalExcellence.com or email her at klmiller555sbcglobal.net
Reading is a skill that needs to be practiced regularly. Without practice, young readers will not develop the vocabulary, the skills, and the fluency necessary to become strong readers. But many children, even those with strong reading skills, do not get enough practice and as a result become disinterested in reading, and can quickly become discouraged. Here are some practical tips for when your chid doesn’t want to read:
- Find books with cartoons or humor — which only a child would find amusing.
When your child doesn’t want to read… don’t make everything a learning lesson. Letting children read books such as Captain Underpants or Diary of a Wimpy Kid will keep them engaged and entertained. Although adults might find the language and humor distasteful, children find it very funny and are therefore more motivated to read.
- Zero in on your child’s passions and choose books and magazines focused on areas of interest.
If your child doesn’t want to read try finding books on specific topics to keep your child’s interest, such as science, baseball, American Girl dolls, etc. Children who already have the background knowledge, language and vocabulary before beginning a book will have an easier time getting through the reading. Order a magazine subscription to Sports Illustrated for Kids or Nickelodeon. Children love receiving mail and reading ‘their’ magazines.
- Get your child an email account and, together, check it regularly.
Using the computer to read and write is a huge advantage for most students. By letting young children write and send email, they practice reading, writing and spelling. Teach your child how to use spell check before sending off messages. Be sure to monitor your child’s ‘pen pals’ – who is your child writing to and receiving mail from? Let your child pick out a few family members, including grandparents and maybe two or three friends. You will find that by using email regularly, your child becomes very strong in typing (keyboarding) and using the computer.
- Find an author that your child likes and stick with it.
If your child loves reading Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler or Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, then you have found a writing style which stimulates your child’s interest. Go through the entire series. Don’t worry if the reading is below grade level: your child is reading for pleasure and for practice. Also remember, just because you loved a certain author or series when you were a kid, this doesn’t mean your child will love the same books you did. Browse the bookstore or library and find the newest, most modern series. Usually these books contain language and themes to motivate the most reluctant reader. Kids need to relate to what they are reading, and modern language usage helps.
- Let your child talk to you about the book they are reading.
When we adults read books we enjoy, we like to talk about them. After reading a book, we don’t necessarily want to write a summary, book report or make a project of it. We just want to discuss it with someone else. Look interested in what your child is reading (yes, even if it is Captain Underpants) and ask questions and have your child tell you about it. Laugh with your child about the funny parts (even at the bathroom jokes) and help your child feel good about reading.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A., E.T. is the Managing Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Learning to read in English would be such a simple task if all similar-sounding phonemes were spelled the same. They aren’t. English is such an unfair language with so many iniquitous rules! For most of us, learning to read means memorizing the symbolic code of letter combinations and then using them in new contexts. Many of us just read naturally, understanding that these letter combinations create words and sounds. Linguists call these sounds ‘phonemes.’ Our brains just register the words and are equipped to read three or four words ahead of time. We are also mentally able to pull words apart, separate them into syllables and apply all of those unfair spelling rules easily and logically.
For a student with a reading disability, this process of reading does NOT come naturally. Students with dyslexia, for example, do not use the process of sounding out phonemes (decoding) while reading and applying spelling rules while writing (encoding). Dyslexics, in general, memorize words in entirety and make mental pictures of each word they learn. The predicament with this strategy is that when they get to a word that they are unfamiliar with, they have no coping mechanisms to attack that particular word.
An example of the difficulty for some of us to learn which combination of letters creates which phoneme is the sound of the letter ‘a’ as in the word ‘cake.’ The long ‘a’ sound is written differently in different words, as in baby, ape, sail, play, steak, vein, eight and they. For students with reading disabilities, something interferes with the acquisition of these written phonemes, and in order to learn, these students must be taught how to read in a different way. One such way is using a multi-sensory method.
Students with a reading disability often struggle with auditory and/or visual processing. They have troubles recalling words and how they are pronounced. This means that they do not comprehend the roles that sounds play in words. These students have difficulties rhyming words as well as blending sounds together to form words. These students do not understand or acquire the alphabetic system expected of them in the early years. If a student with a learning difference is given a task that uses just hearing and vision, without drawing upon other senses, this student will be at a disadvantage. When taught with a multi-sensory approach, students will learn alphabetic patterns, phonemes and words by utilizing all pathways – hearing (auditory), seeing (visual), touching (tactile) and moving (kinesthetic).
When learning the vowel combination ‘oa,’ for example, the student might first look at the letter combination on a picture of a GOAT, then close his/her eyes and listen to the sound, then trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud. This combination of listening, looking, and moving around creates a lasting impression for the student as things will connect to each other and become memorable. Using a multi-sensory approach to reading will benefit ALL learners, not just those with reading disabilities.
The other significant component in helping a struggling reader learn to read and write is utilizing an Orton-Gillingham approach. In Orton-Gillingham, the phonemes are introduced in a systematic, sequential and cumulative process. The Orton-Gillingham teacher begins with the most basic elements of the English language. Using repetition and the sequential building blocks of our language, phonemes are taught one at a time. This includes the consonants and sounds of the consonants. By presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student can apply it with automaticity and fluency, students have no reading gaps in their word-decoding skills. As the students progress to short vowels, they begin reading and writing sounds in isolation. From there they progress to digraphs, blends and diphthongs.
Students are taught how to listen to words or syllables and break them into individual phonemes. They also take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change the sounds in the words, delete sounds, and compare sounds. For example, “…in the word steak, what is the first sound you hear? What is the vowel combination you hear? What is the last sound you hear? Students are also taught to recognize and manipulate these sounds. “…what sound does the ‘ea’ make in the word steak? Say steak. Say steak again but instead of the ‘st’ say ‘br.’- BREAK!
Every lesson the student learns is in a structured and orderly fashion. The student is taught a skill and doesn’t progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the student’s long-term memory. While learning these skills, students focus on phonemic awareness. There are 181 phonemes or rules in Orton-Gillingham for students to learn. Advanced students will study the rules of English language, syllable patterns, and how to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to study words. By teaching how to combine the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form words and how to break longer words into smaller pieces, both synthetic and analytic phonics are taught throughout the entire Orton-Gillingham program.
Students with reading disabilities need more structure, repetition and differentiation in their reading instruction. They need to learn basic language sounds and the letters that make them, starting from the very beginning and moving forward in a gradual step by step process. This needs to be delivered in a systematic, sequential and cumulative approach. For all of this to “stick” the students will need to do this by using their eyes, ears, voices, and hands.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Managing Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist. She speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the website www.pridelearningcenter.com
By Jeanne Peters RD
Research has proven that for the most part, great brains are made, they are not born. From birth to age 5, up to 30 IQ points are up for grabs. Children may be born with the genetic potential to have a higher than average IQ, but if they are not properly nurtured and nourished during the first few years of life, they will not achieve their full potential. So here are a few proven points for nourishing a smart, calm child:
1. Feed your toddler to teen an optimal diet to enhance brain growth. Even a slight deficiency in a key vitamin, minerals like magnesium, or healthy omega fats during the time when the brain is going through its spectacular growth spurt can result in a lower IQ, poor test scores or depression. Any child with ADD or ADHD should be tested for iron/iodine and zinc deficiencies to rule out nutrition as part of the issue.
2. Add healthy fats into the diet, daily! The brain is 60% or more fat by weight. This indicates the great need the brain has to be fed healthy fats — not the kind of fats found in gold fish crackers or cream cheese on your child’s bagel, but fats found in fish or fish oils, whole eggs or flax seed meal that you can easily sneak into oatmeal or a smoothie as a part of your “stealth nutrition” plan.
3. Add in quality protein at every meal, especially breakfast: This is the nutrient that is critical for increasing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which allows the mind to focus. A child cannot learn on cheerios or a pop tart for breakfast. Instead, try a glass of kefir smoothie or egg on toast.
4. Add in one new vegetable and fruit serving per day: Research indicates that one third of children under two years of age eat no fruit or vegetables. More than 60 percent of 1-year-olds eat dessert or candy daily, and 30 to 40 percent of children aged 15 months or older have a sugary fruit drink daily. Empty calories are replacing the nutrient-dense foods children need to feed a healthy brain. Look at your own diet and determine if you are role modeling healthy eating for your children. If you or your children could use a tune-up, consider an appointment with a Registered Dietitian.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Jeanne Peters RD is co-founder and Nutrition Director for the Nourishing Wellness Medical Center in Torrance, CA. She has over 25 years experience of promoting healthy, sustainable food and lifestyle choices as a Registered Dietitian, Certified Wellness Coach and, most importantly, as a mother of three boys & grandmother of three toddlers. Awarded the California Young Dietitian of the Year in 1995, her passion is sharing ways to nourish healthy families through real wholesome foods! Visit her website at www.nourishingwellness.com