By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 10/10/2018
What are the signs your child is dyslexic

A guest post by John Hicks

As a parent of a daughter with dyslexia looking back over six years since her diagnosis, I can remember my daughter’s difficulty with reading words and spelling and how that got in the way of her being able to enjoy learning at school. Let me tell you about the signs that indicated that our child was dyslexic, how I was able to get her through the school system, and how she learned to thrive.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 09/12/2018
Visual processing disorder and dyslexia

Visual processing disorders can interrupt an individual’s ability to understand and navigate written symbols, which may cause problems with math/maths and learning to read at school. They’re not due to vision problems or any issues with the eyes, but rather with how the brain interprets visual information.

On the other hand, dyslexia is a separate condition that often makes it challenging to break spoken language down into its component parts. This in turn complicates reading and spelling. While the two conditions can look similar, they have different causes and thus children and adults who have one and not the other will require a different set of strategies and accommodations.

You may also encounter the term visual dyslexia, which refers to individuals who have a type of dyslexia that is not related to phonological processing – learn more about the different kinds of dyslexia. In visual dyslexia, a child experiences a type of visual processing disorder. He or she may be prone to reversing or transposing letters, have difficulty locating words on the page, and have a tendency to skip over them. In comparison to phonological dyslexia, rhyming ability and language recall are less likely to be affected.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 06/23/2018
5 Types of learning difficulties and how to help

A learning difficulty is a condition that can cause an individual to experience problems in a traditional classroom learning context. It may interfere with literacy skills development and math/maths and can also affect memory, ability to focus and organizational skills. A child or adult with a learning difficulty may require additional time to complete assignments at school and can often benefit from strategy instruction and classroom accommodations, such as material delivered in special fonts or the ability to use a computer to take notes.

No two individuals with a learning difficulty are exactly alike and many conditions, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, exist on a wide-spectrum. There is also dyspraxia, a motor-skills difficulty that can affect a learner’s ability to write by hand, and may impact on planning skills. It’s not uncommon for learning difficulties and motor-skills difficulties to co-present. For example, dyslexia and dyspraxia, or ADD/ADHD and dyspraxia can occur together.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 02/19/2018
how to help reluctant readers

Teachers and parents may be familiar with the term “reluctant reader.” It refers to a child or young-adult who isn’t engaged when it comes to reading. These are the kids who tend to put a book down as soon as it’s given to them or pass it back and forth between their hands without ever opening to a page.

When forced to read, reluctant readers often appear demotivated and disinterested. You may see them looking out the window or staring blankly down, as though they are unable to focus on the text in front of them. For some children reluctance to read is due to competing interests such as sports, arts, or another extracurricular activity. For others it’s because reading is difficult and they associate it with frustration and strain.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 01/16/2018
What does a test for dyslexia consist of

Dyslexia is a language based specific learning difference that can impact on reading, writing and spelling skills. There are different approaches to testing, including online screening forms – such as the Lexercise or Beating Dyslexia tests – but these measures are only meant to provide guidance as to whether or not a more in-depth assessment is needed. Sometimes a teaching assessment will suffice, but a comprehensive evaluation of dyslexia is typically undertaken by a speech and language/pathologist, educational psychologist or trained expert and is diagnostic in nature to provide a clearer picture of how the dyslexia impacts on an individual’s ability to learn.

Most evaluations test phonemic awareness, ability to rapidly name objects and letters, decoding skills, fluency in reading, comprehension skills, and writing and spelling ability. Testing can sometimes extend to oral language skills, intelligence and checks for visual and hearing impairment, both of which can have a severe impact on language development. In certain cases a child may be referred for more testing, particularly if additional learning difficulties such as dysgraphia or ADHD are suspected.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 12/27/2017
What is developmental language disorder

If you haven’t heard of Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) it may be because as a public facing term the name is a relatively new one. It was chosen by a panel of experts in early 2017 as part of the CATALISE project - a multinational and multidisciplinary Delphi consensus study identifying language impairments in children - and describes what was previously known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI).

Children with Developmental Language Disorder do not have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), apraxia of speech, brain damage or hearing impairment but still experience language based communication difficulties that disrupt their life and do not go away by the age of 5. Every case of DLD is unique and individuals will vary in the severity of the disruption to communicative ability.

Symptoms range from trouble with pronunciation, to challenges with learning vocabulary, problems manipulating syntax (grammar), and/or using the correct language for a particular context (pragmatics). Problems with language retrieval, similar to what is seen in aphasia/dysphasia, may also be observed. And while DLD mainly addresses issues with spoken communication, children tend to struggle with literacy skills as well.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 12/18/2017
Learning disabilities and self-esteem

While any child can suffer from low self-esteem, students with learning disabilities are particularly at risk, especially if they are struggling with an undiagnosed condition. If the problem is related to a learning difference such as dyslexia, a child is not less intelligent than other children, he or she simply learns in a different way. Yet most school-based learning programs are developed with a neuro-typical child in mind.

This mismatch between learning style and task can cause students to doubt themselves and believe poor performance means they are not “smart”, that they are thick or stupid, or are somehow less skilled than their classmates. The stress and frustration a child experiences at school is often accompanied by feelings of shame associated with underperforming. There is also the social stigma of being “different” to deal with.

But with the right strategy training, accommodations and emotional support, many children with specific learning differences can overcome the challenges they face and achieve their full potential in the classroom.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 11/20/2017
When kids experience difficulty writing

Writing is a complex and cognitively demanding task that requires a child to bring together both lower and higher order skills, including manipulating abstract ideas while paying close attention to the spelling and punctuation conventions of written English.

If the physical act of putting letters on a page is problematic or a learning difficulty gets in the way of fluent language production, students may struggle to come up with legible and coherent compositions. This can lead to poor marks on quizzes and exams but can also affect learning when note-taking skills are compromised.

Because writing is central to most subjects across the school curriculum, over time poor performance on written assignments can result in negative associations with classroom learning, low self-esteem and a general lack of confidence at school. A child may believe he or she is a bad writer and begin to avoid writing activities, which in turn results in a less developed skill set.

The tragedy is that with the right strategy training and appropriate accommodations, every child can achieve his or her full potential.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 11/07/2017
The most common dysgraphia symptoms in children

Dysgraphia is a language based specific learning disability or difference that primarily affects writing. It can be difficult to spot in young learners, as not every child develops literacy skills at the same rate. Nonetheless, there are some hallmark signs of trouble which usually show up when a child first learns to write.

For example, these children often have problems holding a pen or pencil and forming letters and numbers, both in print and in cursive writing. They can struggle to express themselves in writing, from organizing ideas, to spelling and using punctuation correctly. Poor handwriting is common. The spacing between words may be uneven, letter size can vary and there will be issues staying inside margins.

Students with dysgraphia can find it hard to show what they have learned when assessment is done via writing assignments. Dysgraphic children also tend to find copying exercises challenging and may avoid coloring and drawing too.

As writing by hand is necessary for everything from putting your name at the top of a page, to making notes, completing worksheets and taking tests, learning can be affected when a child doesn’t get access to the accommodations and strategy training he or she needs.

By Meredith Cicerchia 0 comments 10/09/2017
When b and d letter reversal becomes an issue …

Writing by hand requires a child to correctly identify the sticks, curves and/or circles that make up a letter, then reproduce those shapes in a particular orientation, using a set sequence of pen strokes. Before the skill is automatized, the handwriting process can be quite mentally taxing. New writers are also struggling to develop the fine motor skills needed to grip a pen or pencil and the language encoding skills required for reading and spelling.

Add to this the challenge of writing in a straight line and creating letters of the same height and width and you’ll find that reversing letters is a common mistake for beginners to make. This is particularly the case for symbols built from the same set of shapes, including b/d, p/q, f/t, i/j, m/w and n/u. Nonetheless, most children grow out of letter reversal by age 7 and it only becomes a cause for concern when errors occur beyond first and second grade.

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