Over the last month, I've discovered what I presumed to be true. My child has dyslexia. My blog is dedicated to these wonderfully different learners. I marvel at their creativity, out of the box thinking and their infectious need for humor. This is a journey of our discovery process and our journey homeschooling with what works. I hope you will find encouragement along with helpful advice in teaching your right brain learner in this left brain world.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The key ingredient to reading success!

I've been learning so much about dyslexia in the last couple of months, and I have to admit knowledge is power in this case. If you can't understand why your child is struggling, how will you know how to help him.

In the early 1980's, the United States Congress mandated the National Institutes of Health to research learning disabilities and answer seven specific questions.

After conducting longitudinal research plus numerous studies on genetics, interventions, and brain function, we now have a great deal of independent, scientific, replicated, published research on dyslexia.

This page shares the research results released by the National Institutes of Health from 1994 to the present, as well as from dyslexia researchers in several others countries.

NIH coordinated 18 top-notch university research teams throughout the United States to answer the following questions posed by Congress:

* How many children are learning disabled?
* Clearly define each specific type of learning disability.
* What causes each learning disability?
* How can we identify each learning disability?
* How long does each disability last? Map its developmental course.
* What is the best way to teach these children?
* Can we prevent any of these learning disabilities?

NIH investigated dyslexia first because it is the most prevalent learning disabili

These research results have been independently replicated and are now considered to be irrefutable.

* Dyslexia affects at least 1 out of every 5 children in the United States.
* Dyslexia represents the most common and prevalent of all known learning disabilities.
* Dyslexia is the most researched of all learning disabilities.
* Dyslexia affects as many boys as girls.
* Some forms of dyslexia are highly heritable.
* Dyslexia is the leading cause of reading failure and school dropouts in our nation.
* Reading failure is the most commonly shared characteristic of juvenile justice offenders.
* Dyslexia has been shown to be clearly related to neurophysiological differences in brain function. Dyslexic children display difficulty with the sound/symbol correspondences of our written code because of these differences in brain function.
* Early intervention is essential for this population.
* Dyslexia is identifiable, with 92% accuracy, at ages 5 1/2 to 6 1/2.
* Dyslexia is primarily due to linguistic deficits. We now know dyslexia is due to a difficulty processing language. It is not due to visual problems, and people with dyslexia do not see words or letters backwards.
* Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.
* Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia.
* Of children who display reading problems in the first grade, 74% will be poor readers in the ninth grade and into adulthood unless they receive informed and explicit instruction on phonemic awareness. Children do not mature out of their reading difficulties.
* Research evidence does not support the use of "whole language" reading approaches to teach dyslexic children.
* Dyslexia and ADD are two separate and identifiable entities.
* Dyslexia and ADD so frequently coexist within the same child that it is always best to test for both.
* Children with both dyslexia and ADD are at dramatically increased risk for substance abuse and felony convictions if they do not receive appropriate interventions.
* The current "discrepancy model" testing utilized by our nation's public schools to establish eligibility for special education services is not a valid diagnostic marker for dyslexia.

There is so much information right there, so I'll point out some of these that helped us.

1. Dyslexia is identifiable, with 92% accuracy, at ages 5 1/2 to 6 1/2.

2. Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.

3. Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia.

4. Early intervention is essential for this population.

My point here is DON'T wait! Do not believe in the development lag theory. They may learn to read, but they will never catch up to their counterparts. There will always be a gap. Please don't wait. It is identifiable, and there are things you can do to prevent dyslexia.

Now for the best part. Dyslexia is a structural and functional brain difference. People with dyslexia process language differently, so what does that mean to a mom trying to teach their child how to read? Even after you've taught your child all the letters and their sounds, they are still struggling. It doesn't make sense right? The answer is. These children have a phonemic deficit.

Quotes from prominent NIH researchers:

"The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant of the likelihood of failure to learn to read."

"Phonemic awareness is more highly related to learning to read . . . than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension."

"Phonemic awareness is the most important core and causal factor separating normal and disabled readers."

NIH research has repeatedly demonstrated that lack of phonemic awareness is the root cause of reading failure. Phonemes are the smallest unit of SPOKEN language, not written language.

Children who lack phonemic awareness are unable to distinguish or manipulate SOUNDS within SPOKEN words or syllables. They would be unable to do the following tasks:

* Phoneme Segmentation: what sounds do you hear in the word hot? What's the last sound in the word map?
* Phoneme Deletion: what word would be left if the /k/ sound were taken away from cat?
* Phoneme Matching: do pen and pipe start with the same sound?
* Phoneme Counting: how many sounds do you hear in the word cake?
* Phoneme Substitution: what word would you have if you changed the /h/ in hot to /p/?
* Blending: what word would you have if you put these sounds together? /s/ /a/ /t/
* Rhyming: tell me as many words as you can that rhyme with the word eat.

If a child lacks phonemic awareness, they will have difficulty learning the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent in words, as well as applying those letter/sound correspondences to help them "sound out" unknown words.

So children who perform poorly on phonemic awareness tasks via oral language in kindergarten are very likely to experience difficulties acquiring the early word reading skills that provide the foundation for growth of reading ability throughout elementary school.

Phonemic awareness skills can and must be directly and explicitly taught to children who lack this awareness.

How do you teach this necessary skill to your child. We've started using the Barton Reading and Spelling System. I am in no way trying to sell or promote this program. I only want to share what is working for us and many, many, many other parents. Just get on any message board about dyslexia and you will see. Many people are using different techniques, but what you will quickly notice is the people using Barton or any other Orton-Gillingham influenced reading system are getting results. The reason we are using Barton is because it was created for the parent to teach their child and not to be used in a classroom.

Here is a list of other Orton-Gillingham influenced reading programs.

The pure, unchanged, original method.A.C.C., Massachusetts General Hospital

Designed for classroom settings of young children in the first, second, and third grades.The Slingerland Institute

MTA (Multi-sensory Teaching Approach)
Edmar Educational Services
214-321-8656 (Phone/Fax)

Alphabetic Phonics
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children

Wilson Reading System
Wilson Language Training Corporation

Language!Sopris West

Project Read
by Enfield and Greene
Published by The Language Circle

Recipe for Reading

Preventing Academic Failure (PAF)
Published by Educators Publishing Service (EPS)

We are in Level 1 of the Barton system and here is how it works. I say a made up word: IZM and Big Brother has to pick from a pile of color coded tiles one to represent each sound. As we go further on in the lesson, I will start changing one of the sounds, and then he will compare the sounds in two different made up words. Once you start doing this, you can see how it teaches them to read and spell.
Again, we are only in Level 1 and already both Big Brother and I am seeing a difference. He's been running around spelling like crazy. This is NOT normal at this level, because print isn't even introduced yet, but I drilled him so much when he was younger on letters and their letter sounds that he knows them pretty good. When I mentioned that he was spelling a lot, he said, "Mom, this program is helping me. It's helping me to hear the sounds". That is amazing that even a 6 year-old can recognize this.

If you have any questions or comment please leave one for me. My honest goal is to inform and help other families.

All research information and picture is taken from the Bright Solutions Website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

So you think T.V. is bad

In my short 2 years of homeschooling, I've come across several homeschoolers who are anti-television, and honestly, I can't understand why. My children have learned so much from television. Frequently, I catch myself saying to them, "Where did you learn that?" Their response is usually, "on T.V.". Although, I'm usually impressed with some of their knowledge or vocabulary, I'm not immune from the mommy guilt. I've read the articles that state " Watching Television Causes ADHD". So, what do I do with that information? Do I allow my parental perfectionism to get in the way of my critical thinking. I have three research subjects at home, and all have been allowed to watch television, and none of them possess any ADD or ADHD traits.

Maybe you've read the same study or perhaps a respected authority figure has told you of the statistics. Well, I came across this study in the American Journal For Pediatrics.

We found no significant association between hours of watching television and behavioral problems in any of the age groups, although the results do not rule out such an effect, especially not for those who spend the longest time in front of the television (Table 1).

But you say, this study says it doesn't rule out such an effect. That's right. They just can't find a correlation between the two. One thing that they suspect, is that the ADD or ADHD behavior is present, and these children usually calm down watching television, and it gives the parents of these children a much needed break. Further down in the same article from the American Journal of Pediatrics this is what it says,

It is a clinical experience that watching television can engage children with ADHD for some time, probably because of the constant visual and auditory stimuli they receive from these media. The parents of these children may therefore be more likely to allow them to watch television for longer periods of time. The children in our study, who were watching >11/2 hour of television at the age of 31/2 years, were more likely to have ADHD-like behavior already at this age. The direction of causality may very well be the opposite of what is concluded by Christakis et al.

Although they aren't positive, it appears that watching T.V. is not the cause of ADD or ADHD, but that ADD and ADHD can cause children to want to watch more T.V.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't plop them in front of the television so I can get my whole house clean, or to go take a bubble bath and eat Bon Bons. No, instead I use it to send a quick email, talk to friend on the phone, or write out our plans for the week. And, I always, always, always use it to get dinner made. By that time in the evening, I need to cook in peace. I pick the shows that we can agree on. Not all shows are created equal. I look more at the moral content than I do at the education content of a show. And no, they aren't all educational. My children enjoy humor, and so some shows are just pure entertainment. We have designated times that we watch television, and the T.V. isn't on all day. Frankly if it was, my kids would just walk away from it and go play. Building a fort, creating an awesome Lego vehicle, riding their bike and running around outside is always more interesting than watching television.

So why do I meet so many homeschoolers who are against watching television. Many of my friends, myself included, embrace a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. In my opinion, I think we are longing for a time that is slower paced, family oriented, one that just seems more wholesome. I'm sure you have a picture in your mind, you know the one where the whole family is gathered around a fire in the living area. The children are laying on the floor tinkering with blocks or with a toy they made with their own hands. The smell of mom's fresh baked pie is wafting from the kitchen, grandma is snuggled up with little Susie rubbing her back and mom and dad are sitting on the couch holding hands all while Grandpa reads or tells of a great literary story. Wait a minute....isn't that Waltons?

How do we get to Walton's Mountain when we live in the information age? It's hard to find our way when everyone is surfing the net and riding the information super highway. For our family I think I will make it a point to keep the television off when our family is all together. I'm going to hold sacred that precious time when Dad comes home from work and we are able to eat together. I will be committed to keeping sacred the last couple hours of the day before bedtime. Last night I noticed the television was off when my husband came home, and I caught him playing Duck, Duck, Goose and Freeze Tag. Those are the moments I don't want to miss. Plus, it is very entertaining to watch a six-foot man get up from a crossed-leg position and chase a 4 year old around the house.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time 4 Learning

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning is an online educational program that can be used in many ways including as a homeschooling curriculum or afterschool tutorial. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Training Your Brain

Clipart Heaven

Would you like to increase your memory,attention span, processing speed or flexibility. Try some of the games at Luminosity.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The generosity of some people never ceases to amaze me. A mother of 2 special needs children has created a spreadsheet that includes all the free learning and educational websites available with links to each site. Free Educational Websites

Virtual Thanksgiving Field Trip

Myspace Thanksgiving Day ClipartThe First Thanksgiving – Virtual Field Trip

I found this info on the Lesson Pathway Blog. Sign-up for a virtual field trip.
On November 16 at 1 pm EST, take a vitual field trip that will lead you on a journey to meet a Pilgrim and a Wampanoag from Plimoth Plantation. Preregistration is required. Teaching resources are also available at Thanksgiving Central.

Free Thanksgiving Unit Download this free Thanksgiving unit for notebooking or lapbooking. The unit includes basic Thanksgiving history, notebooking/lapbooking pages, word searches, and Thanksgiving vocabulary. In addition, there is a link to a free November coloring book for your little one.

Dysphonetic or Dyseidetic

There are three types of dyslexia; dysphonetic, dyseidetic or a combination of both. Here are some signs of each.

The terms 'dysphonetic' and 'dyseidetic' are words used to describe typical symptoms of dyslexia. The person labeled 'dysphonetic' has difficulty connecting sounds to symbols, and might have a hard time sounding out words, and spelling mistakes would show a very poor grasp of phonics. This is also sometimes called "auditory" dyslexia, because it relates to the way the person processes the sounds of language.

The 'dyseidetic' individual, on the other hand, generally has a good grasp of phonetic concepts, but great difficulty with whole word recognition and spelling. This type of dyslexia is also sometimes called "surface dyslexia" or "visual dyslexia."

This was taken from the www.dyslexia.com site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Free Curriculum

I've been looking for curricula and any educational activities to help with my sons learning. We are using an awesome curriculum, but I still can't get out of the mentality that more is better. I know it's not, but I just can't help myself. I found this awesome website that has free curriculum, and from what I looked at so far, it looks like it has great multi-sensory activities that are proven to work for kids with learning differences. The only downside to this site is that it is a bit labor intensive for the teacher, but from what I could tell, it looks well worth the effort. If you are interested in a free and complete curriculum, check out Lesson Pathways

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dyslexic Like Me - I love this site

I found an awesome website dedicated to dyslexia. It has everything; books on dyslexia, products to teach dyslexics, organizations dedicated to dyslexia, schools for dyslexics, famous dyslexics and some of their quotes. I just love this site. If you get a chance visit it. Dyslexic Like Me

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Learning to write his last name

One thing that I was embarrassed about during testing, was that Big Brother didn't know how to write his last name. He's known how to write his first name since he was about 4. I was going to make sure by the end of the year that he knew how to write his last name, his address (we recently moved, he knew his old address), and his phone number. I guess this gave me a push to do what needed to be done. This is what a visual/spatial does after learning how to write their name. They do what else...turn it into block letters. Sometimes he writes words like Speed like it is moving in the wind. I'll have to find that one. It's pretty cool.

The Visual/Spatial Learner

During our testing, we discovered that Big Brother is a visual/spatial learner. He scored in the superior range for visual/spatial abilities. I found this article by Linda Silverman, and I think it's fascinating.

The Visual-Spatial Learner:
An Introduction
Linda Kreger Silverman. Ph.D.

Many teachers try very hard to accommodate the various learning styles of their students, but this can be an overwhelming task, as some of the learning styles inventories and models are quite complicated. As a former classroom teacher myself, I know that there are a limited number of hours in the day, and even the most dedicated teacher cannot plan for all the different learning styles and intelligences of his or her students. Take heart! There’s an easier solution.
The visual-spatial learner model is based on the newest discoveries in brain research about the different functions of the hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented. The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space. We only have two hemispheres, and we are doing an excellent job teaching one of them. We need only become more aware of how to reach the other, and we will have happier students, learning more effectively.

I’d like to share with you how the visual-spatial learner idea originated. Around 1980, I began to notice that some highly gifted children took the top off the IQ test with their phenomenal abilities to solve items presented to them visually or items requiring excellent abilities to visualize. These children were also adept at spatial tasks, such as orientation problems. Soon I discovered that not only were the highest scorers outperforming others on the visual-spatial tasks, but so were the lowest scorers. The main difference between the two groups was that highly gifted children also excelled at the auditory-sequential items, whereas children who were brighter than their IQ scores had marked auditory and sequential weaknesses. It was from these clinical observations and my attempt to understand both the strengths and weaknesses that the concept of the “visual-spatial learner” was born.

Visual-spatial learners are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners. They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details. They are non-sequential, which means that they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach. They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so “show your work” may be impossible for them. They may have difficulty with easy tasks, but show amazing ability with difficult, complex tasks. They are systems thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details. They tend to be organizationally impaired and unconscious about time. They are often gifted creatively, technologically, mathematically or emotionally.

Parents can tell if they have one of these children by the endless amount of time they spend doing advanced puzzles, constructing with LEGOs, etc., completing mazes, counting everything, playing Tetris on the computer, playing chess, building with any materials at hand, designing scientific experiments, programming your computer, or taking everything in the house apart to see how it operates. They also are very creative, dramatic, artistic and musical.

The Results Are In

Thursday I went in for the results of Big Brother's testing. He is severely dyslexic, but I wasn't so upset about that. I knew his strengths and weaknesses, and the tests captured them accurately. I was upset that they tested him on things that I haven't even taught him yet. I was a little embarrassed, and because I'm his teacher, I felt like a failure. I cried....right there in the office in front of the psychologist. I couldn't hold it in. I explained that I was upset because they tested him on things that I haven't even taught him yet, and that made me feel like a failure. When I said that we were doing 1st grade curriculum at home and some of these things haven't come up yet, the psychologist mentioned that my homeschool curriculum was "too light". (In defense of Heart of Dakota, it is not light. It doesn't follow Florida's FCAT standard, and if you live in Florida, you know that Florida schools are failing miserably and the FCAT is making it worse)I asked what he suggested, and then my mouth hit the ground, he suggested a curriculum that is for the auditory/sequential learner. It is traditional school to the Nth degree, implementing worksheet after worksheet without any multi-sensory input.

I've done a lot of reading on dyslexia lately, and all the scientific research shows that children with dyslexia need to learn with a multi-sensory approach, not more of the same repetition and drill like what he suggested. What help was he? I felt I already knew more than he did and he's the psychologist. So, now I was mad. I sent him an email detailing my thoughts on his curriculum suggestion. I asked if I was missing something he was trying to tell to me, because his suggestions on curriculum were contrary to the current research on how dyslexics should be taught. He did reply that his recommendation was just one of many options I could use.....blah, blah, blah. The psychologist was full of contradictions. He suggested I use the Barton system, but then wondered why my son wasn't writing in sentences. The Barton Reading system doesn't implement sentences at this stage. We are listening to sounds in words at this point. He liked Handwriting without Tears, he thought it was one of the best. When I told him that in Handwriting without Tears they are still forming letters at this level he seemed confused. I think the problem is that he follows a public school model. We don't follow a public school model, don't want to, don't need to, don't ever care to. That is one reason I homeschool. Public school may be able to teach children what a noun or a verb is in first grade, but they don't seem to be doing a great job when it comes to teaching children how to think critically.

Some good did come out of my little tiff with the psychologist. I think I may have been a little lax in some areas, I figured Big Brother was only six. So now, I will step it up a bit, but I will continue to use my current curriculum, because I know it reaches the heart of my child, and we will continue on teaching him to read with the Barton System. It's working and my son is finally enjoying school.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Testing Begins

On Monday this week, I went to speak with a psychologist that specializes in psycho-educational testing. He asked me lots of questions about Big Brother's developmental growth, his social skills and behavior. He looked at Big Brother's art work, school samples and my current curriculum. I was happy to hear that he was impressed with my curriculum choices. He believed we were on the right track with his curriculum. On Tuesday, I was to bring Big Brother in for his testing portion.

On Monday night, I started to prep Big Brother as to where we were going and why. Per the doctor's request, I told him we were going to see someone who would find out how Big Brother learned best, so I could teach him effectively. That seemed to go over alright, so early the next morning we were off to see the doctor. A little apprehensive at first, Big Brother seemed to really open up after just a couple of minutes, and I knew he would be fine. His siblings and I were right around the corner and the door was made of glass.

After 2 hours, Big Brother emerged. Hmmmmmmm, this wasn't the bleary-eyed child that I usually see after 30 minutes of "doing school" He was happy and enjoyed the whole experience. He informed me that he wanted to come back, but on the ride home, he let me know that he didn't need to do anymore school work for the day.

Still needing to be reassured that there IS some learning difference going on, and it wasn't just my poor teaching skills, I asked the doctor if he saw any of the things I was noticing, and he agreed that yes, he was seeing everything that I saw. He didn't say much more. We still have one more session, and I'm sure everything will be noted in an official report.

Naturally, I don't want things to be more difficult for my son, but I relieved to know that I wasn't crazy and it wasn't my overactive imagination. I wasn't happy that something was wrong only that we are finding out what it is and how we can help Big Brother succeed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How do you know if your child is Dyslexic?

This is probably the first question I asked when I started to wonder if there was a problem. The thing that is so hard for me is that technically my son is not behind. I just had a gut sense that something was going on. It was a combination of things, his utter panic when we sat down to do his phonics lesson, the short term memory problem that was becoming more and more apparent, the continual reversals of letters and mirror image writing all coupled with his uncanny ability to see and visuals things beyond even my ability.

So, I did what any other concerned mother would do, I googled Dyslexia, and there before my eyes were some of the early warning signs that described my son. Although not all of the signs fit, because again my son isn't behind, most of them did. The more I read, the more the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together for me. For example, his not talking until he was two years old, his stuttering problem, his ability to draw fairly well, his large vocabulary, his confusion with up/down, in/out, before/after, and his cute mispronunciations were all signs that he might have Dyslexia, and here is the kicker. All children have a 50% chance of having Dyslexia if one of the parents has Dyslexia. So, I guess all my children have a 50% chance of having Dyslexia, because my husband also possesses that wonderfully creative and visual mind. He's very mechanically inclined, and he too struggles with reading and spelling.

Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic. So how do I know if he has Dyslexia? I don't, but a lot of signs cause us to suspect it. Next week, we are having him tested. Hopefully, this will point us in the right direction to help educate him.

If you suspect your child has a problem, I encourage you to click on the Bright Solutions website on the left side of my page.