Read and Spell Blog

How to make use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for learners with autism

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and autism

Augmentative and alternative communication is a general term used to refer to approaches, strategies, and tools, that enable children and adults with autism and speech and language disorders to communicate their wants, needs, thoughts, and emotions.

Augmentative and alternative communication is not appropriate for everyone with a speech or language disorder, but may be useful for people with apraxia of speech, stroke-related dysphasia and dysarthria, and other conditions that affect written expression and/or control of the muscles of the face, throat and mouth, such as cerebral palsy.

Sign language, pen and paper, and hand gestures are basic forms of augmentative and alternative communication, as is using a chart and pointing to pictures, letters, words or symbols.

Alternatives to speech can be as high-tech as specially fitted devices which allow people to communicate using custom buttons and pressure sensors, or as everyday as children and adults making use of a laptop computer and smartphone to meet their communication needs. On a computer or mobile device, written language can either be typed and displayed on screen or typed and read aloud by an automatized voice facilitated by text-to-speech technology.

Dyscalculia in adults

Dyscalculia in adults

Dyscalculia is a learning difficulty that affects an individual’s ability to do basic arithmetic such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Adults with dyscalculia often take longer when working with numbers and may be more prone to making mistakes in calculations. 

They can also experience higher levels of anxiety and frustration. It may be harder for adults with dyscalculia to learn and recall math facts, such as times tables. 

Estimation skills can also be affected. Dyscalculia is not a reflection of low intelligence, nor does it mean an adult will not be successful working through higher order mathematical reasoning. However, many people with dyscalculia believe they are simply bad at math. 

Because math is involved in various areas of the school curriculum, from chemistry to physics, as children these individuals may have felt they were less capable of achieving success in the classroom. Over time these feelings can develop into low self-confidence and low self-esteem. 

Adults with poor math skills are more likely to suffer in terms of career opportunities and management of personal finances. There’s additionally a greater chance they are struggling with more than one learning difficulty, such as dyslexia or ADHD.

This program is working great. We are using it for our 6 year old and he is enjoying it. He wants to "do my typing" each day. Our 4 year old daughter watches with keen interest. The way it is designed really does include reading and spelling and not just typing. –

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Understanding dysgraphia in adults

Dysgraphia in adults

Dysgraphia is a learning difficulty, also sometimes referred to as a learning disability or a learning difference, that primarily affects writing skills. Adults with dysgraphia have a hard time writing by hand and may struggle with letter formation, letter, word and line spacing, staying inside the margins, neatness, capitalization/punctuation rules, spelling, word choice, and even grammar.

As opposed to agraphia, in which writing loss is acquired, individuals with dysgraphia are typically born with the condition. As children they may have found school particularly challenging, given the importance of literacy skills and the emphasis on having neat handwriting at the elementary/primary level.

Thankfully technology exists that can help both children and adults with dysgraphia overcome the challenges they experience and take positive steps toward achieving their full potential in the classroom or workplace.

5 Types of learning difficulties and how to help

5 Types of learning difficulties

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.

signs of dyslexia in adults

13 Signs of dyslexia in adults

Studies suggest that 1 in 10 adults in the US and UK has dyslexia, a learning difference that can impact on working memory, reading, writing and spelling skills. In 60% of cases the dyslexia may be mild to moderate, but the remaining 40% of people can struggle with a severe form that interrupts literacy skills development when early support is not put in place.

Dyslexia is still called a learning disability in some countries, but in the UK it is increasingly referred to as a specific learning difference. The reason for this is dyslexia does not make you less able than your peers, it is simply a different way of processing language in the brain.

It’s also not related to intelligence, but dyslexia can prevent an individual from being successful due to the central role of reading and writing in mainstream education. Moreover, having earned poor marks at school or losing a job because of literacy skills can limit career options for adults, and may affect an individual’s confidence and self-esteem for years to come.

Fortunately, most problems can be overcome, even in adulthood, with the right literacy intervention, strategies and accommodations.

How to improve spelling skills for learners of all ages

How to improve spelling skills

Spelling is one of those skills that a lot of people find challenging to master. This is particularly true if English isn’t your first language. One of the main reasons spelling is so hard to learn is that English is a highly irregular language. It has borrowed words from many other tongues and anglicized their spelling in an inconsistent way.

Spelling rules such as “i before e except after c” do exist in English, as in the words receive and receipt. But there are also plenty of exceptions to these rules, such as in species and science. Moreover, knowing a rule doesn’t always mean you can operationalize it in an automatic fashion when you need to write words quickly and accurately, for example during interviews, sales-meetings or timed assessments.

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Which modifications can most help students with Down syndrome

Modifications for students with Down syndrome

Some learners with Down syndrome attend special schools where they are taught a specific curriculum and have lesson content and delivery adapted for their needs. Others may learn at home or as part of a co-op.

However, it’s increasingly common for children to enrol in their local education system where they can study alongside non-Down syndrome peers. There are a number of benefits to this, including the ability to enhance a student’s sense of independence, foster stronger ties within the community, and assist a learner in developing social skills. It may also prepare young-adults and teens for volunteer/work opportunities later on, and can generally be more convenient and financially practical for families.

But when a learner with Down syndrome joins a regular class, this also means that certain teaching approaches and exercises may need to be modified in order to ensure the student gets the maximum benefit from his or her studies.

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Apraxia vs. aphasia: What’s the difference?

Apraxia vs. aphasia: What’s the difference?

Both apraxia of speech and aphasia affect an individual’s ability to communicate – they just do so in different ways. Apraxia makes it hard to coordinate muscle movements and put sounds in the right order to produce intelligible speech. It may also impact on speech planning. Individuals can struggle with consonant clusters, rhythm, and stress, and may generally experience difficulties with aspects related to the prosody of language.

On the other hand, aphasia is about language retrieval and recognition. People with aphasia or dysphasia may not be able to find the words they need to express themselves in speech or in writing, or they might use the wrong words and not realize it. Additionally, individuals with receptive aphasia don’t always understand what other people are saying and can finding listening and reading challenging.

If aphasia and apraxia of speech are the result of a stroke, a person may also experience difficulties with enunciation, referred to as dysarthria. This can present as trouble controlling the volume levels of speech, excessive drooling, or problems getting enough air while speaking. Dysarthria is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles of the lips, tongue, throat and face.

helping students in special education

3 Ways to help students in special education

There a number of reasons why a child may need to attend a special education program at school. Special education can help learners who struggle with developmental delays, such as dyspraxia or apraxia of speech, and/or children who experience challenges with literacy and numeracy because of a specific learning difference.

It may also be that a physical impairment is affecting a student’s ability to learn in the same way as his or her peers and specific accommodations and materials are necessary. The basic requirement for a program to be considered special education is that it must address the individual learner’s needs in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a mainstream classroom. But just because a child receives extra support, it doesn't mean they are less intelligent or talented than their peers.

Which exercises can help with regaining speech after a stroke

Regaining speech after a stroke

Communication difficulties following a stroke can take many forms. You may experience trouble finding the right word or have problems processing language that is directed at you – these conditions are commonly referred to as aphasia/dysphasia. When you struggle with speaking it’s referred to as productive aphasia and with understanding it’s receptive aphasia.

Aphasia and dysphasia are almost the same thing, except dysphasia is when you have partial access to language and aphasia is when you have none. Some individuals who have had a stroke find speaking difficult because of challenges with annunciation; this is called dysarthria. Speaking and breathing at the same time, or swallowing, may also be problematic with dysarthria.

It’s possible for paralysis, hemiplegia – one-sided paralysis - or hemiparesis - weakness on one side of the body following a stroke - to interrupt written modes of communication such as writing or typing. But just as every individual is unique, so is their recovery and it can be hard to put an exact estimate on the time it will take to regain communicative ability and/or how fully it will return.

Many people see the greatest gains in the first six weeks, as swelling in the brain goes down, and language processing areas which were temporarily affected come back online. However, it’s possible to see improvements for years after a stroke, particularly if an individual continues to receive speech therapy to strengthen and reinforce communication skills and confidence.

How to know when handwriting problems are caused by dysgraphia or dyspraxia

3 Common handwriting problems in children

Learning how to write is one of the most important things a child will do when he or she begins school. That’s because writing offers a means for self-expression and reflecting on the work of others, but it’s also how knowledge and learning is measured in our society. Writing can be done on a computer or through dictation using speech-to-text technology, but it’s more common for children to learn how to write by hand. This happens between the ages of 4 and 5 and involves becoming familiar with the letters of the alphabet, mastering the pen strokes used to form letters, and practicing with holding the pen or pencil in a tripod grip.

It’s common for new writers to struggle with letter formation, spacing and posture in the beginning, but most are able to produce clear and legible text by the end of the second grade. However, there are some children who continue to struggle with the mechanics of handwriting beyond age 7 or 8. For these learners, writing is often slow and labored, and may cause high levels of stress, frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment at school.