Thursday, November 29, 2012

Getting Your ADHD Kids Off The Refrigerator and Onto Learning

Homeschooling a child with ADHD is a challenge. These children are easy to love, but hard to raise.  However, there are many blessing along the way for both you and your child, in more ways than you can imagine.

A good “rule of thumb”:  don’t try to apply typical educational strategies to your atypical child.  Stop thinking in terms of “what works for most children”; instead, through experimentation, find out what works best for your child.

Here are some teaching tips to try out:

·        Keep your child moving as much as possible.  If you require this child to sit perfectly still and look at you intently, chances are they will not be able to listen.  In fact, they may implode!  They NEED to be moving while listening.

·        Have them do two things at once, i.e. play with silly putty, turn screws into wood, sweep or mop the kitchen floor while listening.

·         Play games such as:
  • Toss-It: Use an object for a throw-and-catch game to obtain answers, i.e. I say “A”, and then throw a beanbag to the child.  He says “B” and throws it back.  You can learn the books of the Bible, multiplication tables, provinces and capitals using this game.
  • Hop-On-It: Put cards on the floor with words on them, i.e. noun, verb, adjective, adverb.  Call out a word and the child has to jump on the correct word.
  • Jumping Jacks: Spell words or recite math facts while doing jumping jacks.
·      Allow the child to respond orally.  These children usually are “writing-haters”. Keep in mind that the object is to learn the lesson material.  Writing does not HAVE to be incorporated into each learning activity.

·        Set up a study carrel.  Use a big tri-fold cardboard stand (these are often used for science fair projects and can be purchased at Staples) that blocks out distractions. 

·      To enhance focus, try allowing earphones with instrumental music, i.e. calming classical music, guitar pieces, and orchestral selections.

·       Don’t do every problem in the book.  If the child has mastered the concept after completing half the page, circle several more and let this suffice for the lesson.  Move on from what they know, and concentrate on what they have yet to master.  The child will think he has been given a “break” because he doesn’t have to do them all.

·       Provide a checklist of the day’s assignments. Children like to know what’s coming.  They like to check off each assignment as it’s completed.

·       Adjust your speaking volume and intensity.  A very animated and upbeat style may be overly stimulating. Having a low-key teaching style may prove to be more effective.

·     Use a timer and make a game of it.  Ask how long they think it will take them to complete a task and then set the timer.

·     Squeeze more information into shorter blocks of time.

·     Let them stand while studying, and use an exercise ball for a chair. (Note: try the Hokki stool for dynamic seating - 

·     Give rewards generously for on-task behaviour. Children with ADHD love praise and rewards.  Set goals. Start with short periods of time and work up to a longer duration before giving a reward.

    Although these children may be exhausting, take time to see their God-given gifts and talents.  Remember that they are special and are destined for something wonderful, often that which is impossible for those calmer, non- refrigerator-climbing, regular-energy level children.  Delight in their boundless energy and tireless enthusiasm for life. Who knows, they might become rock-climbing enthusiasts or world famous mountaineers!

Resource suggestion: an “outside-the-box” approach

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Dyslexia: Hunters and Gatherers of the Oral World

Children with dyslexia often have trouble pulling out the right sounds when they are speaking.  It’s not that they’re not smart and don’t know the meaning of words, it’s a problem of getting out the word with the right sound combination.  They may say, “It’s on the tip of my tongue,” and what comes out will be a different word than intended.  For example: A little boy was crossing the street with his dad and saw several people jaywalking.  He looked up at his dad and said, “Those Presbyterians should be more careful.”  Of course he meant pedestrians, but the wrong word came out.

Context Matters
If there is an overall theme to building word power for children with dyslexia, it is this: context matters.
They will more likely understand and remember information by relating facts to larger ideas.  In order for information to be understood and remembered, it needs to be attached to an idea.

Picture Thinkers
Many children with dyslexia are kinesthetic learners; they are ‘picture thinkers’. Therefore, learning a new word might involve having the child make a three-dimensional modeling-clay or play-dough representation, either symbolic or realistic, of the word.  The process of creating the image, stores the word’s meaning in a different part of the brain, generating a visual association. For example: the word ‘through’ might be represented with play-dough by creating a train track with a train passing through a tunnel.

Acting out Words
Children with dyslexia also benefit from acting out words.  Having to bring a word to life is a little like a game of charades.  It requires an understanding of the word in a deep way, and involves grasping the meaning of the context of the word.

Include in Adult Conversations
Another way to build vocabulary is to bring children into the conversational world of adults.  Being included in adult conversations at the dinner table, in the car, or while the family is discussing an important issue benefits all children.  Conversational inclusion is particularly valuable, however, to children with dyslexia. They are the hunters and gatherers of the oral world.  Because it is harder for them to access knowledge by reading written information, they typically develop strong listening skills.   Engaging in sophisticated discussions helps them build their knowledge and word banks while developing transferrable conversational skills.  Talking with adults challenges children to use higher-level critical thinking skills and vocabulary.  Children with dyslexia crave context.  Conversations with adults offer them a context for ideas and words, two currencies that they will trade in throughout the remainder of their lives.

Intentional Lines of Questioning
Lines of questioning are likely to lead to rich conversations.  If you ask for a retelling of events or for a summary of the day, you challenge them in two important ways: word retrieval (remembering the best word to describe things) and sequencing (ordering events).  Ask how they feel about an issue, why they thought a problem occurred, or why they did or did not like something.  This line of questing helps children to think critically.  They are required to make connections between their life experience and the experience of others, make predictions, and organize their thoughts.  Plan to include new vocabulary words that you can easily introduce into conversations with your child.  Talking with adults offers children an opportunity to practice their oral expression, clarify application of new words, and ask questions in a safe environment. 

Rich Environments
Hunter-gatherers need fields and forests teaming with life. They need opportunities to hunt down a new word, expression, or idea; an exciting new conquest. When your hunter-gatherer brings home a new conquest, celebrate!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Let's Talk about Dyslexia: Providing Emotional Support

Children who have dyslexia may need emotional support for the many challenges they face.  Offer your child encouragement.   How?

Teach through and focus on your child’s areas of strength.  If your child understands more when listening, let him or her learn new information by listening to an audio book or watching a DVD.  If possible, follow up with the same story in written form. 

Respect and challenge your child’s natural intelligence. Most children with dyslexia have average or above-average intelligence that can be challenged by parents who encourage their intellectual growth.  

Be honest with your child about his or her learning differences.  Explain it in understandable and age-appropriate examples and terms while offering unconditional love and support.

Teach your child to persevere. You can model, through good-humored acceptance of your own mistakes, that mistakes can help you find solutions.

Recognize your child’s unique challenges. There may be some things your child will always struggle with more than others do.  Help your child understand that this does not mean he or she is a failure.

Don’t expect perfection.  Squabbling with your child over schoolwork will create an unhealthy relationship and emphasize your child’s failures.


Let's Talk about Dyslexia - How to Help your Child

You can be a positive force in your child’s education.  How?
Read to your child.  Find time to read to your child every day.  Point to the words as you read.  Draw attention to words that you run across in daily life, such as traffic signs, billboards, notices, and labels. 

Be a good role model.  Show your child how important reading is to daily life.   Make books, magazines, and other reading materials available for your child to explore and enjoy independently.

Focus on the sounds within words (phonemes). Play rhyming games, sing songs that emphasize rhyme and alliteration, sound out letters, play word games, and point out similarities in words.

Encourage reading fluency.  Have your child read a short passage several time while you record the time it takes.  Children often enjoy seeing if they can improve their time, and the repetition helps establish fluency.

Work on spelling.  Point out new words, play spelling games, and encourage your child to write.

Help with time and planning.  Hand up simple charts, clocks, and calendars, so that your child can visualize time and plan for the future.

Share in the joy of reading.  Find books that your child can read but that you will also enjoy.  Sit together, take turns reading, and encourage discussion.  Revisiting words that cause trouble for your child and rereading stories are powerful tools to reinforce learning.

Read, read, read.  Read to and with your child.  This can make a positive difference in learning basic reading skills.


Let’s Talk About Dyslexia - Symptoms

Dyslexia is a learning challenge that makes it hard to read, write, and spell.  Experts don’t know for sure what causes dyslexia, but it often runs in families. 

What are the symptoms?

Signs of dyslexia in children who are too young for school include:
  • Talking later than expected
  • Being slow to learn new words.
  •   Problems rhyming
  •  Problems following directions that have many steps.

After a child begins school, the signs of dyslexia include:
  • Problems reading single words, such as a word on a flash card.
  • Problems linking letters with sounds.
  • Confusing small words, such as “at” and “to”.
  • Reversing the shapes of written letters such as “d” for “b”.  For example, the child may write “dat” for “bat”.
  • Writing words backwards, such as “tip” for “pit”.

If your child has one of these signs, it does not mean that he or she has dyslexia.  Many children reverse letters before age 7.  But if your child has several signs, and reading problems, or if there is a family history of dyslexia, you may want to have your
child checked.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reminder to have Vision Checked!

Just a reminder today from Aneta Coulter (thanks Aneta!) about the importance of checking children's vision. This is something that we like to bring up each Autumn, as those who learn at home don't get their vision checked automatically - something that happens in kindergarten in a campus school. Vision is something that can have a major impact on learning.  A good developmental optometrist is the first stop for any child who is struggling with reading.  Talk to your LS consultant to find one near your families. 

Aneta found this story as an added inspiration.

Building a Brain House

Ruth’s Reflections #2 - Building a Brain House
The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.
Richard C. Anderson, “Becoming a Nation of Readers”

It is a very rare child who becomes a reader, who wasn’t read to by someone special in early life.  How can something so simple as reading aloud to a child be so effective?

Let’s start with the brain. 

As cement and lumber are the primary supports for building a house, words are the primary structure for learning.  There are only two effective ways to get words into a person’s brain: either through the eye or through the ear.  What we send into the ear becomes the “sound” foundation for the rest of the child’s “brain house”. 

Reading aloud:
  • Conditions the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure.
  • Creates background knowledge.
  • Builds vocabulary.
  • Provides a reading role model.

Cushla’s Story
In Cushla and Her Books author Dorothy Butler described how Cushla Yeoman’s parents began reading aloud to her when she was four months old.  By nine months, she was able to respond to the sight of certain books and convey to her parents that these were her favorites.  By age five, she had taught herself to read.

What makes Cushla’s story so dramatic is that she was born with chromosome damage that caused deformities of the spleen, kidney, and mouth cavity.  It also produced muscle spasm which prevented her from sleeping more than two hours a night or from holding anything in her hand until she was three years old.  She also had lazy vision beyond her fingertips.

Until she was three, the doctors diagnosed Cushla as “mentally and physically retarded” and recommended that she be institutionalized.  Her parents, after seeing her early responses to books, refused; instead, they put her on a dose of fourteen read-aloud books a day.  By age five, Cushla was found to be well above average in intelligence, and a socially well-adjusted child.
It’s not the toys in the house that make the difference in children’s lives; it’s the words in their heads.

The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words.

Keep up the fantastic job you are doing in building children’s “brain houses”.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Importance of Reading to Your Child

We are going to have a new voice on the blog over the next few months.  Ruth is an experience SE teacher and leader and she will be brining us some thoughts and tips on how to work with your exceptional child at home. Thanks Ruth!

Ruth's Reflections:

Few children learn to read books by themselves.  Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way.
Orville Prescott, A Father Reads to His Children

Did you know...

  • ·      Reading to children is important.
  • ·      Reading a bedtime story teaches a child something.
  • ·      Reading to a child is important, even after the child is beyond kindergarten.


·      Because the problems a child experiences when learning to read are often not related to the child’s ability to learn, but to his/her phonological awareness; the ability to “hear” the English language and an exposure to the English alphabet.

·      Because children who have not been read to before they are of school age may not have experienced listening to rhythms and sounds.  Once their ears “hear” those sounds, children are prepared to learn to read.

·      Because a failure to notice that spoken words can be broken into phonemes is a major cause of a profound reading disability.

·      Phonological awareness is the ability to hear individual sounds that make up words in spoken language.  It is the bridge that allows us to “see” spoken language as a collection of words and sounds.  For example

Ø  Hearing the sounds that make up words (the sounds d-o-g in dog)
Ø  Recognizing words that rhyme (ball, fall, call)
Ø  Deciding whether words begin with the same sounds (bat, bell, boy)

I encourage you to continue to “lure” your children into the magnificent world of literature.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How can a Parent or Teacher Identify Learning Disabilities in their Students?

The following information is from the DISCOVERY EDUCATION web site.  Discovery is a Special Needs school located in Victoria, B.C.  Here is their site:

I'm copying their information here for our readers because many parents and teachers wonder about what a learning disability is and what the flags are that indicate a child may struggle with a learning disability. 

With Thanks, Carmen

Learning Disabilities are not intelligence problems – often people with learning disabilities have an IQ within the normal range, and sometimes they may be intellectually gifted. Learning disabilities are disorders that can affect someone’s ability to process, retain and use verbal or nonverbal information.
Learning disabilities are impairments in one or more of the processes we use to perceive, think, remember or learn, including; phonological or visual spatial processing; processing speed; memory and attention; and planning and decision-making. Learning disabilities range in severity and may interfere with:
  • Listening, speaking, understanding;
  • Reading (recognizing words, decoding, being able to sound words out, and understanding what words and sentences mean);
  • Writing (spelling and expressing thoughts); and
  • Mathematics (computing, problem solving).
They may also affect organizational skills, social perception, social interaction and perspective.
Learning disabilities are life-long. Caused by problems in the nervous system or injuries that change the way the brain works, they may co-exist with other conditions such as attentional, behavioural and emotional disorders, sensory impairments or other medical conditions. 

Learning disabilities can make a child’s daily life very difficult – days may be filled with frustration, stress, and low self-esteem. Children cannot overcome learning disabilities just by paying more attention, trying harder, or being more motivated. An early diagnosis and timely, specialized assessments and interventions give children the best chance of success in school and in life. Interventions must be appropriate for each individual's learning disability, but may include:
  • Instruction about specific skills;
  • Strategies to accommodate specific disabilities;
  • Strategies to compensate for missing skills; and
  • Self-advocacy skills.
Learning disability symptoms that appear in preschool:
  • Delayed understanding or use of spoken language
  • Difficulty understanding simple instructions
  • Long pauses when naming objects or colours
  • Little awareness of or interest in books
  • Difficulty colouring or drawing
  • Short attention span
Learning disability symptoms that appear in school-age children.
  • Difficulty understanding and following instructions
  • Trouble remembering what someone has just said
  • Failure to succeed at reading, spelling, writing and/or math
  • Difficulty distinguishing ‘right’ and ‘left’
  • Difficulty identifying words, or a tendency to reverse letters, numbers or words (confusing ‘b’ with ‘d’, ‘18’ with ‘81’ or ‘on’ with ‘no’)
  • Lack of motor coordination (walking, sports, drawing, etc.)
  • Frequently losing or misplacing homework, schoolbooks or other items
  • Difficulty understanding the concept of time.
Below are some specific things to look for if your school-aged child is having difficulties and you think they may have a learning disability. A formal diagnosis of a learning disability involves testing, history taking and observation by a trained specialist. The first step is to talk with your child’s classroom teacher.

Auditory Disabilities
  • Doesn't listen in class
  • Doesn't remember what he is told, has trouble following instructions.
  • Has a limited speaking and/or listening vocabulary
  • Can't discriminate between similar sounds
  • Mispronounces words or has trouble sounding words out
  • Mistakes one word for another because they mean the same thing; e.g. puppy - dog
  • Mistakes one word for another because it is visually similar
  • Remembers better what he sees
Visual Disabilities
  • Reverses letters when reading or writing
  • Reads slowly and sounds out words that ought to be sight words
  • Substitutes words that are visually similar but disrupt the meaning; e.g. horse - house
  • Loses his or her place, or omits words when reading
  • Has difficulty copying from the board
  • Makes spelling errors that sound the same as the right word
  • Can't remember what he has seen
  • Remembers better what he has heard
Oral Language Disabilities
  • Doesn’t speak in complete sentences
  • Has an immature vocabulary
  • Can't find the right words to express a thought
  • Dislikes taking part in class discussions
  • Doesn’t understand what he has read
  • Uses incorrect verb tenses
  • Mispronounces words
  • Sentences seem "mixed up"
  • Uses gestures rather than words
Written Language Disabilities
  • Has poor writing posture
  • Written work is untidy
  • The sequence of movements used to form letters is incorrect
  • Beyond grade three, is still reversing letters
  • Letters vary in size and wander off the lines
  • Has trouble copying from the board
  • Is slow to complete written work
  • Can't seem to express ideas in writing in a logical or intelligible manner
Motor Coordination
  • Doesn’t do well in sports
  • Seems clumsy
  • Often drops things
  • Has poor balance
  • Has poor eye-hand coordination for small tasks like cutting or writing
  • Art work is immature
  • Can't tell time
  • Has trouble judging time spans such as bedtime, birthday 
  • Does badly on timed tests or assignments
  • Can't plan ahead
  • Gets lost
  • Confuses directions; north, south, left, right
  • Has difficulty comparing sizes and/or distances
Some learning disabilities have more to do with a child’s ability to pay attention than they do with learning.
  • Acts impulsively - acts first, thinks later
  • Is always on the move
  • Behavior is different from day to day
  • Is disruptive in class
  • Has a short attention span
  • Attention often seems to wander
  • Daydreams
  • Makes comments that are off topic
  • Starts to do a task before listening to directions

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fixing My Gaze

Vision Therapy has been something the Learning Services Team has been exploring more this year, along with Irlen Syndrome, and I wanted to share with you the following link to a Ted Talk about how vision therapy could help someone with double vision see in 3-D.   I've had a number of students this year that discovered that they had significant tracking and vision challenges, including double vision, and just want to encourage everyone to consider that the learning challenges your child might be facing are the result of visual input and how the brain is interacting with that information. As Susan points out, it is not even always about the physical eye, but about the brain, and the brain can be changed.  Which is amazing! 

The following is taken from the Ted Talk web site:

Susan R. Barry, Professor of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts talks about "Fixing My Gaze."

"For most of my life, the last place I wanted to be was an eye doctor's office. I had been cross-eyed since infancy, and despite three surgeries, remained cross-eyed and stereoblind. Scientific dogma indicated that my visual deficits resulted from changes in brain circuitry that occurred in infancy and could not be reversed in adulthood. So, when I finally consulted a developmental optometrist and began optometric vision therapy at age 48, I took a significant risk. I had to think beyond the conventional wisdom, abandon old visual habits, and master skills that most children acquire within the first six months of life. As I began to straighten my eyes and see in 3D, I learned that the adult brain is indeed capable of significant plasticity. Rewiring in the adult brain requires the presence of novel and behaviorally relevant stimuli, the conscious abandonment of entrenched habits, and the establishment, through intense practice, of new ones.