What is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that has neurological roots. It primarily affects one’s ability to read. People with dyslexia have difficulty with accurate and fluent word recognition. They also tend to have poor spelling and decoding abilities. It is not uncommon for two or more children in a family to have dyslexia. One person might have mild dyslexia while the next person can have a profound case of it.
It is estimated that Dyslexia affects 20-30 percent of our population. Even though people with dyslexia have average to above average intelligence, their dyslexia creates problems with reading, speaking, thinking, and listening. This, in turn, can create emotional problems and self-esteem issues throughout their life. Self-esteem can be a contributing factor for low grades and overall under achievement.
The main difficulty for dyslexic students is poor phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is when the listener is able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning. Separating the spoken word “bat” into three distinct phonemes, /b/, /a/, and /t/, requires phonemic awareness. A dyslexic student’s brain may only hear one or two of those three sounds. Developing phonemic awareness is the first step in learning to read.
The problem in reading doesn’t lie in how the student “sees” the word. For example: A student that sees the word “SAW” doesn’t see it as “WAS”, they have trouble manipulating the word and sounding it out in the correct order. They must look at words in parts, meaning they must break the word into syllables. The student spends so much time decoding that their reading speed tends to be a lot slower than other students in class.
An understanding how the brain functions is helpful in understanding the brain of someone with Dyslexia. The brain is divided into 2 hemispheres. The left hemisphere is in charge of language and ultimately reading. The right side of the brain generally handles spatial activities. Research has found that those with dyslexia rely more on the right side of the brain and frontal lobe than those without it. When a person with dyslexia reads a word, it takes it a longer time to get to the left side of the brain where it is being processed. It can get delayed in the frontal lobe of the brain. Because of this neurobiological glitch, they read with more difficulty.
The good news is those with Dyslexia can physically change the way their brain functions with multi-sensory intervention and cognitive therapy. They can be trained how to effectively use the left side of their brain and thus improve reading.
Learning Enhancement Center offers such training. We have a proven 13 year track record in helping children and adults with Dyslexia.
Call today for an assessment and consultation (903) 597-7500
What is Brain Training?
What is Brain Training? What Happens When We Learn?
Brain training is a simple but powerful way to enhance a student’s core ability to learn faster, easier, and better. The brain processes information through a complex network of nerve cells called neurons. As we learn, groupings of neurons physically work together to accomplish learning or thinking tasks. Research shows that additional, nearby neurons are drawn into this process when the task is new or unfamiliar, or when the intensity of the learning demand is increased. Once the task is mastered, the borrowed neurons are released to go back to other duties; however, the gains in efficiency and processing speed required for that task are retained and make learning-related tasks easier.
What is Brain Training? The Key to Enhanced Learning
Neuroplasticity defines the brain’s ability to change and modify neuron activity and connections in reaction to increased learning demand. Gray matter can actually shrink or thicken, plus neural connections can be forged and refined or (conversely) weakened based on certain environmental activities. Brain training takes advantage of neuroplasticity by engaging a student in specially designed exercises to promote rapid strengthening and growth of these neuronal connections.
Cognitive Abilities such as attention, sensory processing, memory,and reasoning—can be increased with proper training. This increases immediate and future brain function, quicker processing, and easier learning across a wide range of learning challenges.
For the parents of a soon-to-be kindergartener, you might be a bit astounded by the reading goals your school has set for your child. Today’s parents are often shocked when they come to school for orientation and see what’s on the docket when it comes to reading. What happened to a full day of crayons? What happened to unlimited time in the sand box?
Without a doubt, the skills taught in kindergarten today look more like the skills taught in first grade a decade or two ago, especially when it comes to reading. But fret not, because these high reading expectations for young students are accompanied by very strategic teaching methods, and a meticulous progression of skills that build upon one another. Your child can meet the reading goals set by his teacher, especially if he’s on track when he first enters kindergarten. So, is he?
While every teacher and school has their own set of “prerequisites,” there’s a set of general reading expectations that most teachers share, when it comes to kids entering kindergarten. Before entering kindergarten, a student well prepared for reading should be able to:
- Read her name
- Recite the alphabet
- Recognize some or all of the letters in the alphabet
- Correspond some or all letters with their correct sound
- Make rhymes
- Hold a book right side up with the spine on the left, front cover showing
- Recognize that the progression of text is left to right, top to bottom
- Echo simple text that is read to them
- Recognize that text holds meaning
- Re-tell a favorite story
If your child is not quite steady in all of these areas, don’t panic! We offer “JumpStart” programs at Learning Enhancement Center. We teach reading skills in a systematic way that allows skills to build upon one another: The kindergarten year will start out strong with an intense teaching of letter recognition and sounds. This lends itself to beginning phonemic awareness skills, like sounding out words. Once a child can sound out simple words, we move on to showing them how to recognize patterns in words, such as rhyming, vowel/consonant patterns, and word families. If a kindergartener can recognize letters and sounds, use phonetic skills to sound out words, and use word patterns to figure out unknown words, she’s ready to read sentences and simple books.
March 17, 2014
Here are some ways to bridge the gap between sight reading and phonics:
- Be sure the child can retain a visual image. Many visual-spatial children, especially those with ADHD tendencies, perceive in a blink but have a poor visual memory. They never actually look at words for the necessary amount of time to store them in the memory bank. These children need to play visual memory games. One such game is Concentration, where cards are spread face down and children take turns finding matches. Advantage goes to children remembering where the various cards are. To ensure success for children who are initially poor at this, begin with a small set of cards (six or eight pairs) and build up to a full set of cards as the visual memory increases.Another example is “Kim’s Game” from Kipling’s book. Here, assorted objects on a tray are viewed briefly, then, when children turn their backs, one object is removed. The children then turn back and view the tray to see what is missing. This can be expanded to switching objects or to taking turns describing (while their backs are turned) three adjacent objects on the tray. The goal is to sharpen observational skills and that all-important visual memory. There are activities of seeing “What’s Missing in This Picture?” that can be collected from children’s magazines. Also, encourage children to take “memory snap shots” of favorite words. Importantly, these activities benefit all children, not just visual-spatial learners.
- Build a large sight vocabulary. Create books with photographs of their favorite people and pets, with the name written under each picture. Label things around the house or classroom: door, couch, chalkboard. Buy lots of picture dictionaries and let the children browse through them. Create a gorgeous Treasure Box for words each child wants to learn (don’t balk at “barf” or “stegosaurus”). Glue words to magnetized cards and post them on the fridge or file cabinet. These are great fun to play with.
- Play games with Treasure Box words. Draw out 2-3 words and make up silly sentences. Draw out a dozen words and sort into categories, such as “Foods, Toys, Yucky Things” or “Real and Imaginary.” (Labels chosen by the child can be printed to provide still more learn-able words.) This teaches thinking skills as well as providing a review of words. Don’t use Treasure Box words as flash cards; that places a young learner on the spot and takes away the fun of learning. A better way to review a large number of words is spread them out in a wide Word Well, from which the child can proudly fish out all the words she knows.
- Parents should continue to read aloud to their children. Use this wonderful together time to quietly run your finger under the words as you read and invite your young listener to join in whenever she or he recognizes a word or phrase. Especially helpful are books that have rhymes or repeating phrases, where a pattern helps in anticipating what word comes next. After the story is finished, go back and play Word Hunt on 2 or 3 pages. Choose long, exciting words, with lots of “memory hooks” for the child to find. Even though they are new words, if they are interesting, your youngster is likely to find them. Such activities should always be done lightly and for fun. Any sense of pressure will set back the entire process. A teacher can also do this in a one-on-one situation, if feasible.
- Have the children make their own books. They can cut out or draw pictures, then dictate captions. Staple a few pages together into “books.” Have fun reading these books. (Now little words are used in context.)
- Lay out a number of words (10-20) and look for patterns. Anything a child discovers is fine: words that begin the same, words that end the same, words that rhyme, words with an e at the end. Help build word families: art and part and chart and start and even partner. Create a ridiculous “book” about a “mumble, fumble, bumble bee who used to stumble over crumbs.” Play “Stinky Pink,” the rhyming game with silly definitions (“a humongous pet” is a fat cat, “a T-Rex cart” is a dragon wagon). Pattern recognition enables the analysis of the phonetic structure of words. It leads to recognizing enough about the way phonics works to aid the decoding of unfamiliar words.
- Take analysis farther. On the board, play games substituting beginning or ending sounds. Rather than teach short vowel sounds (which are hard for VSLs to learn) teach a rhyming word or the same word “family.” Remember that these children are good at recognizing patterns, love seeing relationships, have a superb sense of rhythm, but are poor at rote memorization.
- Consonant blends are often a stumbling block. Teach blends by constructing memorable tongue twisters: “Please play on Planet Pluto,” “Greedy Greta grabs green grapes,” “Spray the spruce with sprinkles in the spring.” When a child is trying to figure out how the word “thrill” sounds, recite, “Throw three threads at the throne!” Read the Dr. Suess alphabet book to the children, and then have them make up tongue twisters of their own, the sillier the better.
- Next, provide word analysis through teaching Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Work from easy affixes, like “non” and “tion” up through “tele” and “able” to “poly” and “helio.” Recognizing roots helps children see the natural syllables into which words fall. Gifted children like the challenge of taking words like the additives listed on cereal boxes and learning to read them by their parts: “poly-un-saturate-d fats” See if they can find these parts of words in field guides with Latin names of animals and insects, in medical books, at the zoo or botanical garden.
- Accompany reading with visualization techniques to assist children in learning to spell words they want to learn in their creative writing. They are likely to spell well the words they care most about. These words can then serve as anchors to compare new words against. Help them to see whether their spelling of a word “looks right” or not. They should be taught that the way to remember how a word should be is to “look up.” Visualization and imagination are two extremely important tools of visual-spatial learners and should be cultivated early.
Visual-spatial learners love to read books with strong visual images, fantasy, and quirky happenings. They also are attracted to books with significant underlying themes of danger and courage, the struggle of good against evil, and the triumph of ingenuity and pluck. Sometimes they will put great effort into reading a fascinating book someone has begun for them even though it is difficult. Although they may not be reading every word, they are getting enough from the story to stick with it.
On the other hand, don’t feel that the children should always be reading at an ever higher level. Reading fluency is greatly aided by reading and rereading easy, familiar books that are fun. Broader phrasing, anticipating what may come next-as good readers do-and using context are all aided by reading many easy-to-read books.
Visual-spatial learners learn best through teaching to their strengths, and Whole Word reading, with its use of visual memory, pattern recognition, valuing the emotional impact of words, and utilizing playfulness and humor, uses those strengths well. Whether or not the school teaches in this way, parents (and venturesome teachers) have the ability to build a bridge for children into the realm of successful reading by having fun and success with the Whole Word reading approach.
The research is clear that ALL young people who don’t engage in educational activities over the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and 2.6 months of math computation skills. That loss has a cumulative, long-term effect.
Teachers are all too familiar with this loss of knowledge and ability over the summer months when education is put on hold. Most teachers have to spend up to 6 weeks reviewing material and “catching” students back up to where they need to be functioning for the new school year.
The brain functions like a muscle and needs to be exercised so it won’t atrophy.
The following are some suggestions for summer activities.
I encourage parents to build reading and writing into everyday activities. Some ideas are: (1) watching TV with the sound off and closed captioning on, (2) reading directions for how to play a new game, or (3) helping with meals by writing up a grocery list, finding things in the grocery store, and reading the recipe aloud for mom or dad during cooking time.
Encourage writing. Give each of your students a stamped, addressed postcard so they can write to you about their summer adventures. Or recycle school notebooks and paper into summer journals or scrapbooks. Another way to engage young writers is to encourage your students to spend some time researching and writing stories about their community. Not only does it build research and writing skills, but helps kids develop a deeper sense of place.
Watch a garden grow. This builds research, reading, and writing skills. Children are encouraged to write questions and observations in a summer garden journal. Check out the website www.ReadWriteThink.org for some ideas along these lines. .
Looking for more than just a movie? The Kids Off the Couch website takes what kids love — good films, books, music and digital media — and uses it to inspire family adventures.
Plan ahead for fall. Work with the teachers a grade level above to develop a short list of what their new students have to look forward to when they return to school. For example, if rising third graders will be studying ancient cultures, check out educational TV, movies, or local museums that can provide valuable background information on that topic.
** Learning Enhancement Center is also offering their own 3-month, hour a day, summer program for kids of all ages.
|What if you found a program for students that would result in:
- Better articulation
- Improved sleep
- Better ability to follow directions
- Improved auditory comprehension
- Improved vocal quality
- Better organization
- Improved social interaction
- Increased balance and coordination
- Improved language
- Increased attention
- Improved communication
- Reduced sound sensitivity
- Increased frustration tolerance
- Increased learning
|Through the work of dedicated pioneers in the field, a whole new world of listening, communication, and success has been opened to our students.Sound has a profound effect on living systems. Unlike light, which bounces off the body, sound goes directly in. The vagus nerve, which connects the ear to the brain, also connects the ear to nearly every organ in the body.Have you ever gone into a teenager’s room, and felt like the music rattled you from head to toe? It did! Literally, inside and out.Many studies have been done to understand the effect of noise on people and nature. One study found that children on the train track side of a New York public school lagged a year behind in learning to read when compared to their classmates on the other side of the building. Other studies have found the same learning difficulties for children living near airports. The learning environment for the average student today is bursting with distracting, everyday noise. Overhead lights emit low buzzing sounds. Air conditioners, computers, traffic and construction noise, and voices in the cafeteria or gym classes bombard students’ brains and compete for their attention. This seemingly continuous barrage of environmental noise is a constant source of stress in an already stress-filled society. Yet, the brain needs sound. A diet of healthy sound can have amazing effects on our learning, communication, emotions, relationships, sleep, coordination, creativity, organization and general sense of well-being.
|A Look at Auditory Processing (The Technical Process)
In order to think about and understand language, an auditory stimulus (sound) has to be received by the outer ear and channeled through the middle and inner ear to the auditory nerve. The ear’s job at this point is hearing. Once the signal is transferred from the inner ear to the eighth auditory nerve, it goes on a journey through the brain stem and the brain on its way to the cortex where language is processed. The Central Auditory Nervous System (CANS), where this journey takes place, is an intricate system dedicated to dealing with auditory information.When the signal gets to an area of the brain called Heschl’s Gyrus the transition from auditory processing to language processing begins. It is at this point that the brain begins to process speech and language from the auditory signal. The final leg of the journey sends the language signals to the cortex where the information is coded, organized, interpreted, and understood. A central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) occurs when the auditory signal is received accurately by the ear, but becomes distorted, confused, or compromised in some way before it is received by the language area of the brain.
|It’s Hard to Get the Message When You Have A Bad Connection
Perhaps the best way to understand a central auditory processing disorder in our “modern age” is to think about what it is like to be in an important conversation with a bad cell phone connection. You have to listen extremely hard, and any extra noise around you (i.e. kids, traffic, etc.) becomes extremely irritating and hard to block out. Because the signal is not clear, you miss part of what the speaker is saying and you find yourself saying, “What did you say?” and struggling to fill-in the gaps. You’re not exactly sure what the speaker said, but you don’t want to sound stupid or uninterested, so you make what you think is an appropriate response. Oops! That backfired. Now you have to explain about the bad connection and why you misinterpreted what they said and made an “off-the-wall” response. You do not quite understand the speaker, yet when you have a clear connection, you really don’t have a comprehension problem. It’s taking so much energy to keep up with this conversation, that you find your attention drifting. You’re feeling distracted and frustrated, and doggone it, important or not, you just want to get off the phone! Luckily for cell phone users, the way to a better connection is to hang-up and dial again. But for students with CAPD, this is life.
|Leading the Sensory Team
The auditory system is like the quarterback of the “captain” of the sensory team. It is the first system to function in utero and it is the system that allows the sensory team to work efficiently. When the auditory system is weak, it can affect the integration of information being fed to the brain and the nervous system by the other senses.An inefficient auditory system can inhibit the development of strong listening skills. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive. Listening is active and conscious and has a huge impact on learning.Inadequately developed listening skills can cause problems with information processing, attention, memory, concentration, relationships, motor coordination, language learning and communication.The ear is tied-in to the vestibular system (balance and movement), so coordination, posture, and sensorimotor integration can be affected by a weak auditory system.Through improved listening, we see improved spatial awareness which supports organization; better body control for sitting in a chair and posture; improved eye-hand coordination for writing and improved motor coordination and performance in sports.A well-functioning ear is like a battery which changes sound waves into electrical waves. These electrical waves stimulate the cortex (the thinking and learning part of the brain). Healthy sounds are nutrients that can stimulate the middle ear and charge the nervous system.Because the auditory system has strong interconnections on multiple levels across both sides of the brain and throughout the body, it can impact how energized or de-energized we feel, how well we process information for learning, and how alert and organized we are. Just as a healthy diet contributes to the physical and mental health, healthy sound makes healthier, more available learners.
|Music and Sound Therapy
Over the years at the Learning Center, we have found that the use of music has been a tremendous tool for opening the door to learning and communication. For students that were shut-down to learning because of constant failure, music was an avenue to renew hope and interest. Our interest in music therapy as a gateway with emotionally-blocked students gradually led us to the use of music and sound stimulation to strengthen and re-train the auditory system for learning, communication, comprehension, and language.Auditory stimulation and training has been effective in treating a variety of disorders, including auditory processing disorders, speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, autism and spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, and reading and spelling disorders.The focus of auditory stimulation and training is on reeducating the ear and auditory pathways.
The Science behind our training at Learning Enhancement Center
Years ago the science behind brain function and the ability of the brain to change its capacity for learning was a mystery. Through scientific research we now know that the brain and nervous system has to change structurally and functionally as a result of input from the environment. This is what is referred to as Neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is a term to describe the capacity of the brain to change and adapt, – to be plastic- and is also known as brain plasticity. The changes occur in response to stimuli, cognitive demands and new learning, and result in the brain creating new neural pathways and connections. It has now been proven that our brains have the lifelong ability to adapt and change.
Why our training is effective
Whenever you think, learn, or remember, groups of neurons in your brain physically work together to accomplish the task. If what you’re trying to do is difficult or unfamiliar, nearby neurons are drawn into the process to help accomplish the task.
Our programs target specific cognitive functions such as working memory, processing speed and fluid intelligence. Our students perform certain cognitive tasks that are intense, repeatable, adaptive and highly targeted. Well-designed brain training techniques like the ones we have developed at Learning Enhancement Center can achieve positive results for individuals of all ages.