Read and Spell Blog

When b and d letter reversal becomes an issue …

B and d letter reversal

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.

6 Gifted children problems and how to help

6 Gifted children problems

Gifted children are often precocious learners who can master counting, reading, and writing skills from a very early age. They will generally have a large vocabulary, advanced grammar and adult-like communicative abilities.

But while many do exceptionally well in academic pursuits, there are cases in which how best to support these special children, as they require help in areas in which they are underperforming and stimulation to encourage and nurture their giftedness. Moreover, some gifted children have difficulty making friends with same-age peers.

This can result in feelings of isolation, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in social situations. That’s why it’s important to recognize problems early on, to ensure every child gets the help they need to reach their full potential.

Dysarthria vs. Aphasia

Dysarthria vs. aphasia

While both dysarthria and aphasia can affect an individual’s ability to produce fluent and intelligible speech, they have very different causes. Dysarthria is an umbrella term used for disorders that impact the muscles used in speaking, including the lips, tongue, throat, vocal cords and diaphragm.

It causes a wide range of symptoms including breathy and nasal speech, drooling, uneven starts and stops, irregular volume, intonation and emphasis, and unclear articulation of words. Unlike brain-based conditions, language comprehension skills are typically not affected. On the other hand, aphasia is the result of injury to the brain. It has to do with understanding and producing language and symptoms will depend on the location and severity of the brain damage.

Visual processing disorders

Visual processing disorders

Visual processing disorders occur when the brain has trouble making sense of the visual input it receives. They are distinct from visual impairment in that there is no blindness or issue with the functioning of the eyes. A child may have 20/20 vision and pass a sight test with flying colours but still be unable to distinguish between two objects or make sense of the symbols on a page.

Difficulties can manifest in a number of ways and no two children will face the same challenges. Some may have trouble judging distances, whereas others will struggle with the ability to assess colour, size and orientation.

Spatial processing and coordination can be problematic and a child might easily become lost and disorientated or struggle with fine and gross motor skills. While not classed as learning difficulties, visual processing disorders can be mistaken for dyspraxia, dysgraphia, ADHD and dyslexia.

They can also co-present with a specific learning difficulty and have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem, confidence and performance at school.

What's the difference between aphasia, dysphasia and dysarthria

What’s the difference between aphasia, dysphasia and dysarthria?

It can be difficult to distinguish between conditions with similar sounding names, particularly when they are co-occurring or have closely related symptoms. This is often the case for aphasia, dysphasia and dysarthria, disorders which affect speech and language use.

What makes them different is the nature and amount of disruption to communicative abilities. In aphasia and dysphasia the brain may have experienced some kind of trauma, due to a head injury or stroke, and as a result, there are problems with language use. Disruptions may be on the productive side (speech/writing) or primarily affect receptive abilities (comprehension).

On the other hand, dysarthria is a disruption to the muscles that are used to produce speech. It does not affect a person’s understanding of the meaning behind words or an individual’s ability to manipulate syntax (grammar).

Dyspraxia vs. apraxia of speech

Dyspraxia vs. apraxia of speech

Dyspraxia is a fine and/or gross motor skills difficulty that may also impact on learning. Symptoms range in severity and can make it difficult for a child to dress him or herself, hold a pen or pencil and perform other daily activities. Estimates in the UK suggest that 1 child in every 10 struggles with some form of dyspraxia.

While apraxia is a related neurological condition, it represents a complete loss of motor skills impairing a person in a particular capacity. There are many kinds of apraxia but in the case of apraxia of speech, the muscles of the mouth including the tongue, jaw, cheeks, palate and lips cannot be coordinated to produce intelligible spoken language.

autism and reading comprehension

Autism and reading comprehension

Research on reading has shown that children acquire decoding and reading comprehension skills at the same time, but that each skill develops independently of the other. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically perform at average or above average levels when it comes to decoding written language.

However, they are generally better at sounding out and identifying words than understanding what they have read. This may be because comprehension is a more abstract skill than decoding. It relies on a reader’s sensitivity to story structure, ability to pick up on referents, make inferences and use prior knowledge of the subject to makes sense of the text.

Attention and working memory are also implicated, as metacognitive monitoring strategies ensure the reader is following along.

Strategies for students with autism

Strategies for students with autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term used to describe various forms of autism, a brain-based condition that impacts on behaviour and affects the way individuals communicate.

While many of the challenges children with autism face in the classroom are related to developing social skills and interacting both with their peers and their teachers, some autistic students may struggle when it comes to literacy skills.

More often than not, the issues present as problems with reading comprehension vs. the actual decoding of language. Teachers may observe children reading fluently only to discover they have not understood the text that was processed.

Fortunately there are a number of strategies that parents and teachers can implement to help kids with ASD strengthen reading comprehension, including visualizing the story, integrating multi-sensory learning to bring words and concepts to life and acting out dramatic renditions of a text to enhance understanding of social interactions through the use of gesture and facial expressions.

Typing for the blind and for visually impaired students

Typing for the blind

Because it eliminates the need to look at the keyboard, touch typing is one of the most important and useful skills blind and visually impaired children can learn. But touch typing for the blind is by no means a new phenomenon.

When the typewriter and touch typing method were first introduced in the late 1800s, it was clear that the technology would be of great service in enabling visually impaired children to write. Schools provided instruction so individuals could learn to type and eventually the commercial typewriter became more widely used than the Braille Writer.

It even opened up new career opportunities as blind people began working as typists and transcribers.

Teaching children with Down syndrome to read

Teaching children with Down syndrome to read

In the past, children with Down syndrome were not considered capable of processing language in the same way as everyone else. They often received either no education or limited private tutoring, and were not able to attend regular schools.

Thankfully, things are very different today. We now know that individuals with Down syndrome benefit from a comprehensive approach to education. Many can accomplish great things, learning reading and writing skills from an early age, performing to a high standard in dance or some sports, for example, attending their local schools and sometimes even going on to graduate from college or university!

The right support from teachers and parents is significant in helping these very special children thrive and achieve their potential. 

Down syndrome interesting facts

Down syndrome interesting facts

With the right support, people born with Down syndrome are living fuller lives today. There is an increased understanding of the potential these individuals have to excel in areas that were previously considered beyond their abilities.

In particular, educational research aimed at understanding early developmental milestones has revealed that teaching children with Down syndrome to read can lead to greater spoken language gains at a younger age.

Early literacy skills development can encourage a preference for reading as a leisure activity later on in life, and an enhanced ability to participate in school activities.