Food, Fashion, Love and Tattoos

While on Bloglovin today I searched the Top Blog topics and was not too surprised they are about Food, Fashion, Love & Tattoos.
I was curious, though, looking at my own profile on Bloglovin,
via PressSync
…as a thought flew through my mind while I gazed at that big fat zero;

“What are people interested in reading out in ‘cyber-world’?”

Food, Fashion, Love and Tattoos. Hmmm…

I will be the first to admit I am a nerd. Brain Research facinates me, Executive Function processes and the Phonlogical Loop amaze me. Dyslexia Awareness, Advocacy, stories, Dyslexia Law are my passion…and I wonder,

“Why are these topics not the ‘Top Blog’ posts on Bloglovin or other blog communities?” “How can I promote this in my own, small world?”

I believe the answer is, simply, one blog post at a time. There is not secret fromula. Passion and Persistence in what we deem important will bring about change & awareness.

And for now, here is my own “Top Blogs” that are promoting, discussing, advocating & teaching about Learning Differences:

https://www.isucceedonline.com (Build Pathways)

http://www.ncld.org

http://www.decodingdyslexia.net

http://benfoss.com/blog/

https://www.facebook.com/Turningaroun…

http://dyslexiamaterials.blogspot.com/

http://www.beatingdyslexia.com/dyslexia-blog.html

You can also connect with most of these blogs on Twitter & Facebook, too!

Are you passionate about Dyslexia Awareness, Advocating, lobbying for Dyslexia Law in your state? I would love to hear from you!

Comment below with a link to your blog, website, etc. I will check it out within the next week!!

~sherri

The Integrity of Literacy & Education – Broken at the Core?

Recently I read an article by Sara Ganim, CNN, entitle “Whistle-blower battles to study literacy” where Ms. Ganim explains how whistle-blower Mary Willingham basically exposes the integrity of literacy among athletes, who had below a 3rd grade reading ability, at the collegiate level, specifically at the University of North Carolina.

I shared the article with my sports-loving husband.  Our views could not have been at more opposite ends of the spectrum!  However wide the chasm of our differences, our discussion allowed me to dig deeper in understanding my well-intended emotions after reading the article.

So, a bit of background about me…Whenever I hear about  an athlete choosing to go play professional ball before earning their college degree, I have always rolled my eyes in disappointment.  Why? Because it is money driven.  I just can’t believe otherwise.  Also, what are the chances that they will go back to finish?  Slim to none. I realize my monetary-driven concern may cause some to say, “Ok, so what’s the big deal?!”…Much like my husband’s response, “By that time, the damage has already been done.”

What?!

That statement alone confirms the skewed mentality toward the importance of quality education in our nation and the greater importance put on the money-making college sports programs.

But, my husband’s statement is true. The ‘damage’ was done before college. Long before college…so, the blame can’t be solely put on the money-making college sports programs or the universities, right?  So, do we go back to elementary or even pre-school education to place the blame?

Well, this is how I look at it:

Learning begins at birth. During years 1-5 we learn how walk, eat, & talk/communicate with others.  However; there are many factors that play into the development of a child before and during their educational career. A child’s genetic make-up, environment, cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development may be related to changes in brain structure or function, including brain development issues relevant to children with disabilities. You can read more about this in the book, “Brain Research and Childhood Education: Implications for Educators” by Bergen, Doris; Coscia, Juliet

There is a lot of information on brain research to read.  Most of the research I have read highly suggests that results of brain research studies should be considered in the development of curriculum and state assessment tests.

I agree with this suggestion 100%.  Why?  I teach in the public school system.  I see first hand the inappropriateness of curriculum expectations beginning in Kindergarten and beyond.  I work with the students who because they are not reading in Kindergarten or not meeting standards,  are made to feel inadequate by having to receive extra help outside their normal classroom environment.  Are there children that come into Kindergarten reading? Yes. I call this group of kiddos, the 1% of the 1%.  These are the students that simply “get it”.  They are going to learn things almost seemingly by osmosis.  I love these students!  However; the other 99.9% of students need to be taught in a systematic, appropriate brain-developing way.   Brain Research should be considered when developing and teaching curriculum. This is something that is ‘broken’ in our educational system.

Gerald Edelman, chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at Scripps Research Institute and 1972 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physiology,offers a view of the brain that could influence the future classroom. Edelman’s vision of the brain as a jungle in which systems interact continuously in a chaotic fashion suggests that learners would thrive in an environment that provides many sensory, cultural, and problem layers. These ideas suggest that students have a natural inclination to learn, understand, and grow. Surround students with a variety of instructional opportunities and they will make the connections for learning.

~excerpt from article by Southwest Education Development Laboratory, Vol 3, Number 2

There are many claims being made for adopting brain-based curricula.  It simply includes exposing students to more of art & music in the early years, developmentally appropriate practices, emotional development as an educational goal, phonics training and the teaching of left/brain-right/brain teaching strategies.

There are some schools that are ‘catching on’ to brain-based teaching strategies.  This is encouraging to read about.

However; the education system in our country is being terribly compromised by the less than effective Common Core State Standards.  45 states are dealing with the inappropriateness of these new standards.

In an Washington Post article about the new Common Core State Standards, Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education in the state of Massachusetts, a state with some of the most rigorous education standards in our country,  said the following:

Mitchell Chester, commissioner of education who came up with the idea to slow down the testing implementation, told Catherine Gewertz of Education Week:

Our system isn’t ready to deliver a college-ready education to all our students off the bat. I don’t want to get there by having students punished by not meeting that bar.

If Massachusetts, which has been known for having the most rigorous education standards of any state, doesn’t feel like it is ready to hold students — and teachers — accountable by Core-aligned test scores,  it raises questions about what other states can reasonably do.

So, in conclusion, the integrity of literacy among some athletes at the college level does relate back to the beginning of their lives and educational career.  There are many factors, stated above, that could have played a part in the lives of those athletes who entered college with a below 3rd grade reading level. To blame one educational institution or another would be futile because our education system in America is chaotic, inappropriate, broken at the core.  Those that are making these educational changes have never been in a classroom or haven’t been in the classroom in many, many years.  Teachers and students should be at the forefront in the decisions & changes being made to educational state standards, which directly affect curriculum and in turn, directly affects teachers & students.

~sherri

 

Embrace Dyslexia instead of Hiding your Diagnosis

In an effort to provide helpful dyslexia information and research, today I am sharing a documentary by Embracing Dyslexia. As you watch this video, you will hear from parents with Dyslexic children, Dyslexia Teachers & Therapists, adults with dyslexia, Maryanne Wolf & others renowned in the Dyslexia community for their expertise and research.

You can find other helpful videos on YouTube
Be sure to visit our Turning Around Dyslexia Facebook page where I have posted a clip from this documentary that impacted me the most.

So, what did you think was the most impactful part of this documentary? I would love to hear from YOU.   Please share your thoughts below in the comment section.

~sherri

Removing struggles for the Dyslexic and LD child

Dyslexics need over 1,500 repetitions of a new concept before it becomes automatic.  As a Dyslexia Therapist, in order for my students to become successful in the learning process, I must give cues in an effort to allow them to ‘find’ and access information stored in their memory.  However; this is helpful with most LD students.

In researching articles, books & podcasts about Executive Functions, I find these phrases  consistently in describing its role in reading and reading comprehension:

“cueing and directing”

“cueing and coordinating”

“cueing and sustaining”

Cognitive flexibility is an executive function process which is the ability of the brain to shift approaches when, for example, reading, comprehending or working a multi-step math problem.  It is the ability of the brain to  – ‘direct’, “coordinate’, “sustain” and “cue”.

So, why is cognitive flexibility important?

Reading comprehension requires a student to go back and forth between major themes, supporting details & to determine, hold onto and sort out information as they read.

During reading, the brain is cueing attention for accurate letter/word perception and discrimination, the use of phonological and orthographic processes for accuracy of word pronunciation and fluency.

Cognitive flexibility is only one of the many EF processes in play during reading. But it is clear that flexibility is important for successful reading and comprehension. If this process or others are not working effectively, a student will struggle when reading and comprehension will suffer.

Executive functions for reading are like what wheels are for a car.  Wheels allow the car to move, but if one wheel is flat or has a brick in front of it, the whole process of moving is inhibited. In both cases there is a solution to get the car moving again.

Putting air in the tire or taking the brick away, relieves the “problems” so that the car can move effectively, again.  When learning differences, such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Language Processing or ADHD are identified or diagnosed, effective accommodations & interventions can be put into place.  This can help remove some of the struggles that were inhibiting the student’s executive functioning, providing the opportunity to use their executive function processes more effectively.

Here are some helpful Reading Comprehension Interventions for students:

  • Directional Questions – ask questions before reading the text instead of at the end.
  • Read Aloud – reading out loud allows student to hear their voice and facilitates working memory.
  • Story Maps – pre-reading activity where graphic organizers are used to outline and organize the information.
  • Retelling – have the student retell the story after reading aloud their own words.
  • Walk-through  – encourage students to skim the material prior to reading with emphasis on chapter and text headings.
  • Active Participation – encourage active, rather than passive reading.  Have student take notes or highlight important information, using several different colors.
  • Reduce Anxiety – anxiety inhibits working memory and leads to ineffective recall. Be sensitive to having a child to read aloud in class.

The Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, says that 80% of children with a learning difference have a reading problem.

Having knowledge about the importance of executive function processes, such as cognitive flexibility, for reading success, not only benefits the child/student, but empowers parents to become more knowledgeable advocates for their LD child.  Executive Function knowledge allows teachers to approach teaching, intervention time and accommodations more effectively for their students.

~sherri

 

 

 

 

Understanding the importance of Executive Function for the Dyslexic & LD Child

One of the websites that I frequent for the most up-to-date and valid research information on Dyslexia and other Learning Differences is the National Center for Learning Disabilities website.  Be sure to check out their website today to see all the valuable resources they provide.
In last week’s post, “What’s Behind Your Dyslexic or LD Child Functioning Successfully in School?” we took a look at one process of Executive Function, working memory.  There are several processes that are collectively termed ‘executive function’ processes.  In the next several weeks, we will take look at these processes and I will share some helpful strategies for each.

In order to provide the opportunity for understanding of the foundation of what we will be exploring in more depth in the weeks to come, today I’m sharing with you another very informative video by  Dr. Sheldon H. Horowitz, a leading expert on learning differences.  In this 5 minute video, Dr. Horowitz explains about Executive Function in a clear and precise manner.

You can follow Dr. Horowitz  @LD_Expert on Twitter & find more of his videos on the NCLD’s website.

Make a difference where you are today, love who you are blessed to spend time with today and find something to be thankful for in a difficult situation today.

~sherri

Dyslexia Explained Visually

Happy New Year!!  I am excited about 2014, how about you?!

In honor of 2013 and to celebrate the New Year, I am re-posting the most viewed post on my blog. It received over 1,300 views in one day! Several thousand views by the end of the year!  I was so thrilled that so many were as fascinated as I was with this video by Kelli Sandman-Hurley! It was so good knowing that people were interested & viewing such great information about Dyslexia.  i am grateful for each of you that have  subscribed to, read posts and are viewing this blog each day.

Here is the post…Enjoy!!

From Oct. 2013: Today I’m sharing a fantastic video by Kelli Sandman-Hurley:

How helpful would this be for teachers who have a dyslexic child in their classroom, parents with a dyslexic child, school districts, and I could go on an on!

Feel free to share this video with your friends and family: http://youtu.be/zafiGBrFkRM

How would you use this video in your school or community? Share your ideas below, I would love to hear from you!

~sherri

 

What’s behind your Dyslexic or LD child Functioning Successfully in School?

As a Dyslexia Therapist in the public school system, I have attended many meetings with parents to discuss their child’s dyslexia testing results. As with any diagnostic or identification testing, results can confirm suspicion about why a child is struggling academically, but results can also confirm what is not impeding their learning. In my case, I test specifically for an identification of dyslexia characteristics and placement in our 2 1/2 year, 45 minutes, 5 days a week intensive dyslexia program. In my school district, Dyslexia Identification testing is not a diagnosis, but using the scores from various testing protocols, a committee of district Dyslexia Therapists come together to make a decision of whether the child shows a deficit in the characteristics & causes of dyslexia. If there aren’t any deficits in these areas, we look to see if there are clues to characteristics of something else being the major impeding factor in their learning. A profile may show dyslexia characteristics, such as a spelling deficit, but with above average scores in phonological processing, which is a cause of dyslexia, would not qualify them for dyslexia intervention. However; there are alternative interventions more suitable for this case scenario. The Scientific Spelling program, by Neuhaus is a great intervention for those students with a spelling deficit only, like the above mentioned profile. In Texas, Dyslexia Intervention is under regular education criteria. There are many important and valued reasons for this, but that is for another post. When a child qualifies with an educational identification of dyslexia in our district, they qualify for Dyslexia Therapy and a 504 accommodations plan. If a child does not qualify, there are several things to consider:

  • Does the profile lead to another deficit?
  • What interventions does the school offer in this area of deficit?
  • What is your school willing to offer as a next step?
  • One important step to consider is diagnostic testing– this is a more in-depth look into your child’s Executive Functions, specifically memory.

What are Executive Functions?

  • The capacities of the mind that gives directives.
  • It is multiple in nature, it I not a single capacity.
  • EF’s cues usage of other mental abilities
  • It directs and controls perceptions thoughts, actions & emotions.
  • EF’s are part of neural circuits which are routed through the frontal lobes.
  • EF’s are not synonymous with the concept of intelligence or “IQ”.

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The struggles that are caused by a Learning Difference, for example: Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD or Language-Processing can impede EF’s.

Let’s look at how Dysgraphia affects a student in three major areas: visual spatial, fine motor, and language processing.  Imagine a bright student who has great ideas for his writing assignment at school, but he struggles with the physical act of writing.  Remembering which letter faces which direction and trying to form sentences, takes up most of his thought process. So, his finished product is only half of what was required and it does not reflect his ideas the way originally planned.  The extra effort it takes to write for a student with Dysgraphia, impedes the Executive Function from working as it should in order for this student to successfully express his ideas within his writing assignment.

Now imagine this student is recognized with Dysgraphia and is given an assistive technology accommodation allowing him to type his writing assignments.  Now, the struggle of writing – forming the letters and sentences correctly – has been taken away, opening up his Executive Functioning to cue the right usage of thoughts & directives in order to express his ideas for his writing assignment.   He will produce more content and express his ideas more clearly because he will be able to hold more information in working memory as he types his assignment.

Success.

Working Memory is a learning facilitator for Executive Functions.  When reading it holds information in conscious awareness. Working Memory allows for strategic manipulation and storage for later recall.

Most ADHD and Learning Different children have Working Memory deficits.

A successfully functioning Working Memory temporarily suspends previously read information in the mind, while, at the same time linking new information being read.  This is necessary for successful comprehension while reading. In Lynn Meltzer’s book, “Promoting Executive Function in the Classroom“, she explains why memory is so important for the process of learning:

The foundational information that young students learn in the early grades becomes the basis for their higher-level thinking and their increasingly sophisticated analysis and problem solving.  Thus memory, in particular, are essential for students to function successfully in school.

Finding the appropriate intervention for children who are struggling in the early grades is of most importance. Take time to listen to the professionals who are testing and working with your child. Come to meetings for your child prepared with knowledge about possible diagnosis’ & interventions  that may be discussed.  Be willing to try other avenues of intervention or testing to gain more information about your child’s struggles.  Sometimes finding the source of their struggles is not obvious right away.  The earlier professionals have parent permission to begin testing, start interventions, or suggest more intense testing, the chances of earlier success for the child are greater.

…And the child’s success is what is most important, right?

~sherri

Merry Christmas!!

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Yesterday, while at our favorite coffee house, my daughter gave me a challenge. She asked me if I had ever thought about what it meant that Jesus came to Earth as a baby.

“Meditate on that.”, she added.

I was immediately challenged to stop and think. In this crazy, busy, time-sucking world I was challenged to stop and really think.

Every new year I decide on a word. My motto for the year.

2013′s word was Ginesthoi, a Greek word meaning: Perspective.

My goal for 2014 is to Be Present.
Be: pray, appeal, say grace, request, implore.
Present: gift, offering, present, here.

So, when given my daughter’s challenge, I knew it was the beginning of my goal for 2014. Why wait until January 1st to begin to stop…slow down. Why wait to ‘see’ life around me? Why wait to appreciate the little things…
a smile
a laugh
a breeze
a touch
a moment
To meditate on those things that are important. To think deeply, more purposefully.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed Holiday season filled with family, friends, love and laughter!

~sherri

Are you pursuing your PASSION?

Today I am featuring an inspiring video by Piper Otterbein at TEDxYouth@CEHs. If you have been following my blog you know I love to share stories by dyslexics. Their voice is powerful in allowing other dyslexics, young and old, to associate with their similar struggles and discover they are not alone.

Piper’s last statement was great, right?! Whether you struggle with dyslexia, dysgraphia or any of the many other learning differences, don’t let that stop you from finding what you are passionate about. Pursue things you never thought you would or could do.
I hated school. It was hard and I didn’t know why. I would have NEVER thought I would become a teacher and then pursue more education to become a Dyslexia Therapist! But, because of my struggles I discovered my passion to want to help those students in my first grade classes that struggled like I had. As my desire to help these students grew, I pursued more things that lead me to what I am doing today.
Start. Start thinking about this today. You may be surprised where your passions lead you!

~sherri

Click here to find other TED-TALK videos.

What is Dysgraphia?

According to a recent article by the National Center for Learning Disabilities or NCLD, Dysgraphia is

a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills.  Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult.  It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper.  Other difficulties are: trouble organizing letters and placing numbers & words on a line or page.

–both of the following difficulties can affect the above mentioned problems:

  • Visual-Spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees.
  • Language processing difficulties: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears.

 

Some characteristics of Dyslexia and Dysgraphia can seem similar.  When testing a child it is important to be aware of the differences because the accommodations are vastly different for each.  Just as taking the wrong medication would not be helpful, so would not be receiving the appropriate accommodations.

As a parent or teacher who may have concerns about their child or student, here are some warning signs to be aware of:

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

 

In the video below, Dr. Sheldon H. Horowitz shares an excellent visual explanation of Dysgraphia:

Be sure to visit our Facebook Page today for 10 helpful Dysgraphia resources.

~sherri