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Which exercises can help with regaining speech after a stroke
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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
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3 Common handwriting problems in children

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.

What to do when you can't spell
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Help! I can’t spell.

Help! I can’t spell.

Everyone has difficulty with spelling from time to time. You might make a mistake when you use a word infrequently, or have trouble reporting a word’s spelling verbally when you’re put on the spot. These are common issues for a few reasons. One is that spelling is something we usually do in writing - delivering this information in another modality can be awkward. Two, spelling is information that we store in the brain as procedural knowledge.

This means it becomes automatic only after a person builds up extensive contact through repeat exposure to a word in reading and writing. You might have certain words you always mix up because you never learned the correct spelling, or because you wrote them incorrectly and now can’t tell the right from the wrong version. But some people struggle with spelling in a very different way.

For example, dyslexic individuals may put a word’s letters in the wrong order, miss out on a letter, or even add one that doesn’t belong. They often have difficulty spelling consistently, and can get a word right one day and not the next. This doesn’t mean they are “stupid” or “lazy,” it just means there’s something interrupting the encoding process by which words are split into their component sounds and those sounds are then mapped onto English letters.

how to help reluctant readers
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Why are some kids reluctant readers?

Why are some kids 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.

Understanding dyspraxia in adults
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5 Things to know about dyspraxia in adults

5 Things to know about dyspraxia in adults

Dyspraxia is a motor learning disability that can impact on gross and fine motor skills, coordination and planning ability. In certain cases processing speed, attention and memory may also be affected. Because no two people will present with the same set or severity of symptoms, every dyspraxic individual has different needs. For example, it can be helpful for some students to have task instructions broken down into individual steps and lesson material chunked into more manageable sets.

Folders, agendas and calendar tools may help a working adult stay organized and meet deadlines, and in cases in which writing by hand is painful, it might be recommended that someone with dyspraxia learn how to touch-type. Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition, but with a strategy program in place and access to the right accommodations, most adults can overcome the challenges they face and achieve their full potential at work or at school.

Test for dyslexia
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How do they test for dyslexia?

How do they test for dyslexia?

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.

What is developmental language disorder
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Developmental language disorder

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.

Learning disabilities and self-esteem
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Learning disabilities and self-esteem

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.

Difficulty writing
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Difficulty writing

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.

Dysgraphia symptoms in children
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7 Dysgraphia symptoms in children

7 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.

Are dyspraxia and autism related
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Dyspraxia and autism

Dyspraxia and autism

Dyspraxia, which in the past was referred to as “Clumsy Child Syndrome,” is a motor learning difficulty that can cause issues with fine and gross motor skills, social interaction, planning skills and coordination. While it is distinct from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) many parents notice similar symptoms, including sensory processing issues. In some cases the two conditions can co-occur.

Research studies have found that dyspraxia is more likely to be reported amongst people with autism than in control groups; however, that does not necessarily imply a causal relationship. For parents struggling to understand their child’s diagnosis, it can help to take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two.