Showing posts with tag learning disabilities Show all posts >
It’s not exactly news that there’s a relationship between auditory processing skills and reading disorders in children. But with research by scientists such as Elise Temple and Nadine Gaab helping to establish and confirm the connection, the mounting evidence points to just how strong the correlation is—especially for children with dyslexia.
In a recent study by Jane Hornickel and Nina Kraus published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the authors set out to determine whether inconsistency in the brain’s response to speech sounds is correlated with poor reading skills. The study evaluated 100 normal-hearing children from 6 to 12 years of age who were divided into 3 groups—good readers, average readers, and poor readers—based on their fluency scores.
The researchers asked the children to listen to the syllables “ba” and “ga” while measuring the children’s auditory brainstem response. They also measured the children’s brainstem response to a simple clicking sound for comparison.
The authors found that the auditory brainstem response was considerably more variable for poor readers than for good readers, but only when listening to the relatively complex speech sounds—not when listening to the simple click sound. They also found that the inconsistencies in brainstem response were more closely associated with the consonant portion of the syllable than the vowel portion.
The variability in brainstem response occurred intermittently throughout the testing rather than building over time, and was primarily seen among the poor readers rather than all three groups, indicating that neural fatigue was likely not a factor. The authors note that the more likely explanation for the intermittent variability is poor encoding of speech sounds in the brains of the struggling readers.
According to Kraus, it’s this inconsistency of brain response that prevents some children from making the crucial connection of sound to meaning that is the foundation of language and reading skills. Strong readers, on the other hand, typically make the connection with ease. The relationship between reading ability and auditory processing skills, she says, is “a highly significant relationship.”
Distinguishing between consonants can be particularly difficult for children with dyslexia, as this study shows, because they are spoken so much more rapidly than vowels. But consonants typically give meaning to words (think “cat” vs. “bat”), so that missing bit of information can make learning to read enormously difficult. The takeaway is that when children with normal hearing experience reading difficulty, auditory processing plays a role.
Fortunately, our students’ brains are highly adaptable and responsive, enabling dramatic improvements with appropriate intervention. When the auditory processing issues are corrected, children are then able to make the critical sound-to-meaning connections that lead to proficient reading and improved learning all around.
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
Dr. Chris Weber is a former teacher and school administrator distinguished by his track record of helping at-risk students achieve. He’s an expert on Response to Intervention (RtI) and has authored several bestselling books on the subject. In his recent webinar for Scientific Learning, he gives a progress report on RtI, including trends in special education statistics to date.
Dr. Weber begins by returning to the question of why we have Response to Intervention at all. In answer, he explains that special ed hasn’t been all that successful in keeping students on track to graduate ready for college or a skilled career. Students with disabilities drop out at twice the rate of their peers, and 80% never learn to read. CLD students (learners who are culturally and linguistically diverse) are over-represented in special ed, for no supportable reason. And, most significant, perhaps, is the fact that very few learners who enter special ed ever exit—only about 3%.
Weber’s criticism is not about how well special ed has performed for students who have profound disabilities, but instead for the very high percentage of students who have a mild to moderate specific learning disability, defined as a disorder in one of the basic processes (reasoning, memory, processing, attention, etc.) underlying a student’s ability to use language, spoken or written, to read, spell, write, or to do mathematical calculations. Often, schools still offer separate courses for special ed learners, an approach that sends a clear message of lower expectations, intentionally or not. He also cites students who are “curriculum casualties”—learners who have not responded to intervention and who are prematurely or wrongly given a disability diagnosis despite the fact that the intervention, or instruction, provided was actually ineffective.
It’s a moral imperative, says Weber, that we correct this state of affairs. Socioeconomic status and home language should not make a difference, nor should ethnicity or gender. The decisions we make for all students, he says, should be made with the same care and commitment as those we make for our own sons and daughters.
Another, sometimes unacknowledged driver of RtI, says Weber, is the urgency of helping all students develop 21st century skills. RtI is not just for students who we’ve traditionally thought of as underperforming. In some districts, students who are currently meeting state proficiency standards—which in many states, he says, have been set too low—are still not making the year-to-year growth they need in order to graduate ready for college or a skilled career. RtI can be the framework that accelerates learners to competency on the path that follows graduation.
Weber goes on to discuss several additional points:
He also discusses the tradeoffs that must be made in prioritizing both academic and behavioral skills, as both are essential for success in school and career. Watch the full webinar to get all the details, including special ed stats and data that you may not see elsewhere.
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
As a parent, are you unsure about how much help to give your children on homework assignments and special projects? Do you sometimes feel "darned if you do and darned if you don't"? If you don't help your child enough, does she get poor grades? If you do help, is the teacher critical?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may feel stuck in "the parent trap." We all want our children to be independent learners, but getting them there can be difficult—especially if you have a struggling learner or a child with a diagnosed learning disability. Here are some suggestions that might help.
Avoid blame. Make it a game.
It’s hard for people to self-motivate to work hard in areas where they struggle, and children are no exception. If you feel you are always badgering your child to get his work done, try turning homework into something fun by scheduling 'game breaks' every half hour or so. Set a timer for a short interval, and as long as he has worked consistently before the timer goes off, do a few minutes of something fun together—a race outside, quick game of "go fish," a short video game, etc. Elementary age children love playing games with a parent, so game breaks can be a great motivator.
Build rewards on assignment boards.
Post a whiteboard in the kitchen or another common area of your home. Each day after school, help your child write a to-do list of assignments for that night as well as for any projects with due dates. Then work with your child to determine a reasonable reward for completion. A reward might be watching a special TV show, calling or texting a friend, or a healthy before bedtime snack.
Rewarding your child for doing homework independently builds important life skills like self-control and stick-to-itiveness. Especially when children struggle with school, rewarding something your child can control (like how long they worked on an assignment by themselves) builds confidence and increases motivation better than punishing bad grades or rewarding good grades.
The 80%-20% rule builds success in school.
Brain scientists have found that when a task is 20% challenging it promotes brain plasticity (positive brain changes). So, to maximize your child’s learning potential, encourage her to do all assignments by herself first, assuring her that you will be there to help once she has completed as much as she can on her own.
You will be the checker: finding mistakes or missing pieces and then helping her with those. If she is accustomed to you providing more help, it may take a few weeks for her to work on her own. If so, set a smaller goal (half of each assignment alone, or a designated number of problems, for example) for a week or so. Try to get to the point where you help with no more than 20% of any assignment.
Strive for drive.
Remember, by making your child's independence in schoolwork your goal—instead of grades or other measures of achievement—you are not only improving your child's motivation and ability to please you, but you also are building self-sufficiency, a trait that will lead to success in many aspects of life.
Not everyone can get top grades in school, but everyone can learn to be a self-starter. Getting out of the parent trap will not only make your life easier it will foster important life skills in your child. In adult life, the ability to self-motivate is where the real dividends of a good education are paid out.
If you have already tried these suggestions or you feel your child cannot realistically reach 80% independence, consider consulting a professional. Your child might have a specific learning issue that can be significantly improved with appropriate neuroscience-based interventions.
Attend one of our popular webinars with thought leaders in learning. Live and pre-recorded webinars are available. Register today!
This May 17th, we will be hosting our annual Visionary Conference for Fast ForWord Providers entirely online for the very first time.
Save on travel expenses, spend less time away, and learn just as much as in years past—maybe even more.
This year’s theme is Growing Together, and we’re thrilled to announce that our esteemed Visionary Conference presenters Dr. Paula Tallal and Dr. Martha Burns will be sharing exciting new research on the brain and learning.
Dr. Tallal will be reporting on the latest research with college students who used the Fast ForWord program and saw improvements in a number of skill areas.
Dr. Burns will present research from the Human Connectome Project (a project studying the connectivity of the human brain) and research on memory and attention disorders and interventions.
Additional sessions will review the latest Fast ForWord product updates, best practices for getting the most from the products, marketing resources, and professional development opportunities to help you thrive as a Fast ForWord Provider and help more children succeed.
Because this year’s conference is online, we’re welcoming any and all attendees, whether you’re a provider or not! There is no charge for any of the sessions, so you can attend one or attend them all. If you’ve been to past conferences then you already know…It’s the highlight of the year!
I remember the early years with my children and the dreams I had for their success. Of course, my dreams and theirs didn’t exactly end up being the same. But what happens when a mother realizes that her dreams for her child may be shattered because that child struggles with auditory processing issues, dyslexia, or other challenges never imagined? That’s exactly what Irene experienced with her daughter, Maria.
Attending school proved difficult for Maria. As she advanced from grade to grade and the work became progressively more difficult, anything presented in auditory form was especially challenging. By sixth grade, Maria had been diagnosed with dyslexia and Auditory Processing Disorder and was labeled with a language impairment.
For obvious reasons, Maria struggled in school. Because of this, she was shy around other students, avoided reading, and required extensive help at home. Her family considered sending her to a private school, but Maria was unable to pass the entrance exams.
By the middle of sixth grade, Maria had attended several different schools and the last was a disaster. It was then that one of her mother’s friends suggested Bridges Academy, a private school that specializes in serving students with learning challenges. Upon enrollment, Maria’s life began to turn in a new direction. When she got into her mother’s car after school she often said, “Mom, they understand me here!”
At Bridges Academy, Maria’s dyslexia and auditory processing issues were analyzed further and the Fast ForWord program was recommended in addition to Maria’s coursework and intervention regimen. Jacky Egli, the Director at Bridges Academy, explained to Maria’s mother that she personally researched every program thoroughly and only used programs that were scientifically based. Irene trusted Jacky and felt it was important to follow her recommendation, so Maria gave Fast ForWord a try.
Maria’s reading level was at least three to four years below grade level when she entered Bridges. She also had struggled in other subjects, because every subject—even math—requires reading. But that soon began to change and, in time, Maria made significant improvements. Maria’s comprehension level increased more than two full grade levels last year. This improvement aligned with her participation in the Fast ForWord Reading and Reading Assistant programs. Over the last 6 years, despite the odds, Maria improved on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test 7.3 grade levels. Because of this significant improvement, she no longer receives remedial instruction.
Irene sought the best for her daughter and found it in the caring attitude of the staff at Bridges Academy and the innovative programs they use to make a difference for struggling students. “Jacky walks the walk and talks the talk of the school’s mission,” says Irene.
Maria has transformed from a shy, struggling child to a vibrant, engaged student who participates in class, reads aloud to her peers and conducts presentations for content area classes in front of her classmates. She is an ambassador for the school who greets and escorts new students and parents through the campus as she participates in open house and school events.
And, most exciting of all, Maria has been accepted into a local college and is thrilled about rising to meet a challenge and a future that once seemed entirely out of reach.
On October 30th, noted neuroscience researcher and co-founder of Scientific Learning, Dr. Paula Tallal, conducted a live webinar titled “What do Neuroscientists Know About Learning That Most Educators Don’t?” In her presentation, Dr. Tallal discussed her original research on auditory processing, its relationship to language development, and the far-reaching effects that deficiencies in those areas can have on learning.
Research continues to support the hypothesis that difficulty discriminating between small changes in sound is at the heart of learning problems both in students who have a diagnosed difficulty and those who do not. Dr. Tallal described how oral language is the foundation for learning and for most successful educational outcomes, adding that oral language itself is dependent on the brain’s ability to discriminate and process auditory information. Children who have difficulty perceiving the many subtleties of language find the deck stacked against them in their educational careers. They can experience a variety of impediments to learning, including:
Students with this subtle level of auditory processing problem need specific differentiation that is not possible in most classrooms. The good news, as Dr. Tallal describes, is that modern technology can be used to address the difficulties these children face and help bridge these skill gaps. In fact, it is this level of research and development that informed the development of Scientific Learning’s software programs, including Fast ForWord.
To close, Dr. Tallal took questions from the educators relating to how these insights can be used to improve educational outcomes in all classrooms. Teachers left this insightful webinar with practical strategies that can be used to help learners of all abilities.
Dyslexia is thought to affect a high percentage of people. The condition can be caused by biological changes during brain development (known as developmental dyslexia) or by environmental effects such as illness or injury (known as acquired dyslexia). In their recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nora Maria Raschle, Jennifer Zuk and Nadine Gaab cite estimates that developmental dyslexia affects between 5 and 17% of all children. (2012) They further outline how it can have detrimental effects on a child’s life both inside the classroom as well as beyond.
For these reasons, educators and researchers have placed intervention strategies for developmental dyslexia very high on their priority list.
While much progress on such interventions has occurred in the area of helping individuals with developmental dyslexia once they have been diagnosed, other research is delving into identifying the neurological and physiological differences between brains that develop the condition and those that do not.
To find out if there are identifiable predictors of developmental dyslexia, Raschle, Zuk and Gaab examined the functional brain networks during phonologic processing in 36 pre-reading children with an average age of 5.5 years. That is they were looking for brain differences even before any of the children had learned to read since previous brain studies of dyslexia have been conducted on individuals after they have begun to read, albeit poorly. All of the subjects were of a similar socioeconomic status; most came from homes with relatively high SES and strong language skills. These are the type of home environments that typically result in the development of good language and reading skills.
The only substantive difference between the groups in this study was that half of the subjects had a family history of developmental dyslexia, while the other half did not.
Interestingly, the 18 children with a family history of dyslexia scored significantly lower than those who had no family history on a number of standardized assessments, including:
Not only did the research team examine the two groups’ performance on these evaluations, but they also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning to identify what was happening in the brains of each learner during the examinations.
Brain activity in the left lingual gyrus as well as the temporoparietal brain areas correlated with phonological processing skills. Interestingly, the team discovered that members of the group with a family history of dyslexia showed a reduced activation in these areas even before learning to read. Their discoveries suggest that the left temporoparietal region of the brain in this group reflect an inability to map phonemes to graphemes. In other words, their brains simply were not adequately developed to match language sounds with their written counterparts. In addition, this same region of the brain – also known as the “visual word form area” – seems to be involved in processing words during reading in both children and adults.
The authors unequivocally state, “Developmental Dyslexia can have severe psychological and social consequences, potentially negatively impacting a child’s life.” All too often, we identify learning disabilities much too late. In the case of dyslexia, we might make such a diagnosis and begin interventions halfway through elementary school, but by then we have much catching up to do. If these students’ vocabulary skills and motivation to read have already been compromised, the climb back may be much more difficult than if had the situation been identified earlier.
Research like that of Raschle, Zuk and Gaab will help us begin to address learning disabilities at the neurological and physiological levels much earlier in life. Through very early diagnosis and intervention, we may one day be able to more effectively ameliorate – and maybe even eliminate – the distressing experience of developmental dyslexia.
Read this study to learn how Fast ForWord helped significantly improve reading skills in children with dyslexia.
Gaab et al., 2007, "Neural correlates of rapid auditory processing are disrupted in children with developmental dyslexia and ameliorated with training: An fMRI study,"; Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience 25, 295-310.
Raschle, N. M., Zuk, J. and Gaab, N., 2012, "Functional characteristics of developmental dyslexia in left-hemispheric posterior brain regions predate reading onset." PNAS, v. 109, p. 2156–2161.
We are unable to detect Flash Player 9 or higher on your system.
(Flash Player 9 or higher is required for this presentation)
Download the most recent version of Flash Player.
Summary: A recent study by Nicole Russo of Northwestern University and her colleagues, published in Behavioral and Brain Functions in 2010, evaluates whether auditory training programs such as Fast ForWord® can alleviate the auditory processing deficits so frequently seen in ASD children.
Russo’s study examines how effectively Fast ForWord could strengthen the auditory processing of speech sounds in similar ASD children. Her team hypothesized that such training would modify the neural processing of sound in children with ASD, and that such children “would show improvement in the neural encoding of speech syllables, including faster response timing, greater fidelity of the response relative to the stimulus, and more accurate pitch encoding over time.” (p. 3)
Results showed that training appeared to have benefited all participants in the experimental group, affecting their neural transcription of speech. According to Russo and her team, “each of the five children who underwent FFW training improved on at least one measure of cortical speech processing relative to the control group, with response timing improving in both quiet and noise for some children.” (p. 13)
Russo and her team were able to conclude that directed auditory training using Fast ForWord shows great promise for improving auditory processing in children with ASD – specifically, those high-functioning children who have hearing in the typical range.
Content: This study was published in Behavioral and Brain Functions in 2010 and was done at Northwestern University by Dr. Nicole Russo and her colleagues. It evaluates whether auditory training programs, such as Fast ForWord, can alleviate the auditory processing deficits so frequently seen in children with autism spectrum disorders. Children with autism spectrum disorders or ASD demonstrate impairments in their use of language for social and communicative purposes. These impairments are typically apparent prior to three years of age.
There is emerging evidence that the neural encoding of speech sounds may be impaired in some children with autism spectrum disorders leading to atypical auditory brainstem responses to speech sounds and difficulties processing speech-specific stimuli such as detecting speech in background noise.
Since the Fast ForWord products provide auditory training including listening and sound-sequencing exercises, as well as exercises on auditory attention, auditory discrimination, phoneme discrimination, and memory, Dr Russo and her colleagues were interested in investigating the impact of the products on children with ASD.
High-functioning children with ASD who had participated in an earlier study were invited to partake in this one. The children all had a formal diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. They had typical peripheral hearing, average mental abilities and average or near-average language scores.
Eleven boys with an average age of 9.2 completed the entire testing protocol and met the criteria. The children were then given the option of taking part in the intensive auditory training. Five children opted for the training and formed the experimental group. The other six children who opted not to take part in the training were willing to take part in the post-test and formed the control group. There was not a significant difference between the two groups in terms of age, IQ, or language ability.
Students in the experimental group used the intense intervention: the Fast ForWord Language Series which entailed the Fast ForWord Language product for an average for 20 days followed by Fast ForWord Language to Reading for an average of 32 days.
Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) and Event-Related Potentials (ERP’s) were recorded from both groups. These tests measure the size and the timing of electrical activity that occurs in the brainstem and brain in response to a sound. In this case, the sounds were synthesized vowels that were heard in the presence of background noise, as well as in quiet. Auditory brainstem responses are subcortical events occurring less than 10 ms after the stimuli is presented while event-related potentials are cortical events occurring a few hundred milliseconds after the stimuli is presented. Both ABR’s and ERP’s measure the aggregate response of neurons and neither requires active involvement by the participant.
Due to the small number of participants, and the variations between them, the analysis involved defining a “typical change” as the average change for students in the control group plus one standard deviation, and defining a “significant change” for one of the participants as a change that was more than the control’s change plus one standard deviation.
The researchers were particularly interested in subjects that had two or more measures with significant change. All five students improved more than one standard deviation on at least two tests. The researchers concluded that there is Initial evidence that directed auditory training may improve auditory processing in a specific population of children with ASD – specifically high-functioning children with ASD who have hearing in the typical range.
They also concluded that computer-based training may benefit some children with ASD by acting on biological processes.
Read the complete report on this research at the link below:
Nicole M Russo, N., Hornickel, J., Nicol, T. Zeckler, S. Kraus, N. Biological changes in auditory function following training in children with autism spectrum disorders. Behavioral and Brain Functions 2010, 6:60.
Note: This post is the 3rd in a series on Scientific Learning Value Added Representatives (VARs)who provide our products around the world.
LearnFast Australia was founded by Devon Barnes, a speech language pathologist and audiologist. Devon has worked with children struggling with language, learning and reading difficulties for over 40 years. Many times during those decades when working with a learning disabled child she would remark to her colleagues, “If only there were some way to get into their brains and reorganize them, perhaps we could fix the problems.”
Devon had read about the work of Dr. Paula Tallal, a renowned neuroscientist. In 1997 she decided to travel to the University of York in England to hear Dr. Tallal present the results of the early trials of a set of exercises which were to become the foundation for the development of Fast ForWord®.
The results were so impressive, Devon realized she had found something that could potentially ‘re-wire’ the brains of learning disabled clients.
The following year Devon completed the Fast ForWord Professional Provider Training in New York and commenced offering the programs at her clinic, Lindfield Speech Pathology Learning Centre, in Sydney.
Today, LearnFast provides Fast ForWord to thousands of students and adults via schools, professional learning practitioners, and in homes.
LearnFast has offices in Sydney, Australia and in Auckland, New Zealand. The company has developed a staff of passionate learning experts who genuinely care about helping as many children and adults as possible overcome their learning and reading struggles, and to help every person achieve his or her potential. This passion is reflected in everything LearnFast does, from the people who work for the business, to the way the Fast ForWord programs are implemented and supported.
As well as providing Fast ForWord, LearnFast is active in supporting the development of innovative ways to improve education for all, and in bringing the latest research and knowledge to parents, educators and learning professionals.
LearnFast’s Facebook page was launched recently and has developed an active community of people who are interested in the science of learning and how the findings from the research can be applied to help all those who want to improve their ability to learn and to read.
There is also a valuable source of video content made available to the public (mostly free of charge) via LearnFast Education’s Video Store which provides information about Fast ForWord and learning and reading difficulties, including auditory processing disorders, attention deficit disorders and dyslexia, as well as adult literacy development, autism and other topics. For more about LearnFast and Fast ForWord, visit www.fastforword.com.au.
Ms. Egli is Executive Director at Bridges Academy in Winter Spring, FL.
Students who maintain average grades, but appear to be expending an excessive amount of time and effort to maintain those grades may have underlying learning deficits. As educators, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that students who require more time for completing assignments seem to show a disparity between what they have learned in class and how they perform on high stakes assessments. They may in fact be struggling with various learning challenges such as weakness in memory function, inability to process large volumes of information, vocabulary deficits and poor abilities in written expression.
Working with University of Central Florida Communications Disorders doctoral candidate Janet Proly, I had the opportunity to collaborate on a single-subject designed study of three promising high school students who appeared to be successful in their classes but also had significant hidden learning deficits.
The three students, twin 10th-grade boys in a general education program and a 12th-grade student who attended a magnet health and science academy, expressed concern over their struggle to keep up with their respective workloads of studying, reading and comprehending assignments, and their performance on tests like the FCAT. All reported that it took them three times the amount of actual time to complete their homework, citing that they had to re-read assignments multiple times in order to master the information. This inefficient learning caused all three boys to receive lower than expected scores on the state assessment, possibly compromising their ability to obtain a standard high school diploma. All three students approached me to inquire about participating in a summer reading program hosted by Bridges Academy, and thus became candidates for our collaborative study on the impact of improving reading fluency using computer technology for intervention.
Proly and I structured a single subject design study to determine the impact of using computer technology formulated to improve processing and working memory, as well as oral reading fluency. We modeled our study after the 2010 study published by Wexler, Vaughn, Roberts, and Denton.[i] The school offered a summer program to the three students. Using the Fast ForWord Literacy and Reading Assistant products for the six-week planned intervention would address recommendations for an alternative fluency intervention with a higher degree of intensity, and the inclusion of interventions that focus on processing.
After an initial assessment, the students participated in the intervention. We conducted a post-intervention assessment, and then assessed the students once again six months after the intervention. All three students demonstrated significant improvement in their reading fluency, and gains of more than two years on average in word attack and comprehension skills. The three students sustained these gains even though all three were no longer receiving any support or intervention.
This study, along with the focus on adolescent literacy, has increased interest in addressing the needs of middle and high school students who report these kinds of challenges in three specific programs: the UCF Communications Disorders Clinic; the UCF Communications Disorders Doctoral Program; and the Bridges Academy private school. As our results indicate, these short term computer interventions, through focusing on working memory, reading fluency and processing speed, have significant potential to help capable students succeed both in classes and on annual assessments.
In 2008 alone, over 20,000 high school students in the state of Florida dropped out of the public high school program. Did they leave because it was simply too hard to keep up? Could we have kept them in school if we had been able to provide a short term intervention that could not only have engaged them, but improved their learning and achievement? My collaborators and I all believe the answer to both of these questions is, absolutely, yes.
So what comes next? Our plan is to work together on an expanded study for the 2011-12 academic year that will take place at the private school and the UCF Communications Disorders Clinic. In reaching more participants, our plan – and our hope – is to continue to demonstrate program effectiveness and change the lives of more students for the better.
[i] Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G. & Denton, C.A. (2010), The efficacy of repeated reading and wide reading practice for high school students with severe reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 25(1), 2-10.