Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

October 24, 2019
What I Wish I Knew about Dyslexia as a Teacher

When I taught writing, I had hard-working students who articulated great ideas in class discussions and didn’t seem to have any learning issues. And then they’d submit papers that were riddled with simple spelling errors or were even downright incomprehensible. Sometimes the essays demonstrated surprisingly low levels of reading comprehension. “What’s going on?” I’d wonder, give feedback, and move on. While puzzled, I figured there wasn’t much more for me to do than help them improve one paper at a time. What I wish I knew then was that these students might have had dyslexia. And if you’re a teacher, you’ve had students with dyslexia too. No, really, you probably have—even if you didn’t know it. One out of five people have dyslexia, and many go undiagnosed until adulthood, if ever. Out of students with learning disabilities, 80-90% of them have dyslexia, making it the most common learning disability that often accompanies other conditions like ADHD and apraxia. Some of your students or children might already be diagnosed and have IEPs to accommodate their learning differences. But many others with dyslexia might be hiding in plain sight. I spoke to Marlene M. Lewis, M.A., a registered speech-language pathologist, who works with children with dyslexia, among other learning disorders. She shared what she wishes everyone—educators, parents, and students—knew about dyslexia. These are the 4 things she said. 1. “Do not wait till grades 2 or 3 or later to see how a student progresses. Dyslexia should be treated as soon as a teacher or parent sees a student not picking up phonological awareness skills, which is typically noticed already in early grade 1.” Waiting to offer targeted support to learners until they begin failing at reading in 2nd or 3rd grade is called the “wait-to-fail” approach, and research has found that this common […]

October 10, 2019
2019 Update on Dyslexia Research

This week, to honor Dyslexia Awareness Month, neuroscientist and Northwestern University professor Dr. Martha Burns presented our 5th annual webinar on updates to dyslexia research. Here are highlights from just two of the 2019 articles that Dr. Burns covered. 1. Interventions are typically not early enough. Too many schools employ the “wait-to-fail” approach to dyslexia diagnosis, meaning they wait until children fail to learn how to read before providing them with targeted support. Sound familiar? This approach causes long-term damage to students’ education, mental health, and future economic success.  Led by Harvard researcher Dr. Nadine Gaab, Sanfilippo et al. (2019) argue for earlier dyslexia interventions. They state, “Currently, children are typically diagnosed at the end of second or beginning of third grade (and many much later), after they have already failed to learn to read over a long period of time and have fallen behind their peers academically” (p. 8). Rather than wait until age eight or nine to diagnose and treat dyslexia, parents, teachers, and clinicians can recognize “key linguistic and pre-literacy measures…in children as young as four years old” (p. 7). The following are predictors of dyslexia to look for in young children: struggles in letter-sound correspondence struggles in pseudoword repetition (the ability to pronounce spoken nonsense words) struggles in identifying rhyming sounds struggles in rapid automatized naming (the ability to automatically retrieve the names of objects, letters, or colors) deficits in oral language comprehension deficits in receptive and expressive vocabulary (p. 7). As she summarized these findings in the webinar, Dr. Burns claimed, “If we can get to them as 3- and 4- and 5-year-olds, and we can build up their cognitive skills—working memory and attention, build up their auditory processing skills, build up the brain’s capacity through multiple repetitions to become more plastic to sensory stimuli, then we […]

June 28, 2018
Our Top Four Webinars: Summer Learning

We compiled our top four webinars of the last year based on your interests!  Approximately 25,000 people registered for these four webinars throughout the last year.  Interest in these webinars came in from all over the world!   Make the most of your summer by watching these webinars on topics such as autism, dyslexia, learning and the brain and the NEW Fast ForWord. See below for our “Best of Webinars”.  Which ones are your favorites?  Let us know by commenting below! # 4 Introducing the New Fast ForWord Curious about the new Fast ForWord and what it can do for you? Join us as we discuss the new features and enhancements of our dynamic language and reading intervention program. During this session you'll see how we're making Fast ForWord more engaging, more motivating, and easier to implement. You'll also get an exclusive look at upcoming exercises enhancements before they are released! View Webinar #3 2017 Dyslexia Research and Remediation October is Dyslexia Awareness Month! Join us to learn about the latest research on the processing weaknesses and early indicators in dyslexia. Most importantly, find out how to use this information to help your students. Hear and see how the Fast ForWord program can help your students/children with dyslexia. View Webinar #2 Teaching with the Brain in Mind Join us for a webinar with Dr. Eric Jensen and learn specific, practical evidence-based strategies you can use in the classroom right away. Discover how the brain works, how teaching changes the brain, and what it takes for students to acquire complex learning and achieve their best. Jensen will be providing new information from his newest best-sellers, Poor Students, Rich Teaching. You won't want to miss this session, so register today and be inspired by one of our all-time most impactful presenters. Yes, you […]

October 11, 2017
Too Many Kids with Dyslexia Are Left Behind: Here's Why

Finding our way through life’s tangles and snares can be tricky.  It’s easier said than done.  But with determination, skills, support and a sense of direction, it’s possible. In the hit Broadway play Hamilton, playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda tells his story about rising above adversity in a song titled, “I Wrote My Way Out.” “I wrote my way out When the world turned its back on me I was up against the wall I had no foundation No friends or family to catch my fall Running on empty With nothing left in me but doubt I picked up the pen And wrote my way out.” How can a person write their way out, if they aren’t able to read, write and spell fluently?  Identifying a problem is a necessary first step to finding a resolution. Knowing where to begin solving a problem can be more elusive. Writing our way out of adverse circumstances is one thing, but writing our way out of learning to read – that requires specialized instruction and support. Without proficient literacy, how do we expect kids to someday align with opportunities, and write their own future?  To answer these driving questions, let’s look at dyslexia in the context of our educational system. October is dyslexia awareness month. Language-based learning disabilities affect age-appropriate reading, spelling, and sometimes writing, too. Effective, research-based practices have been identified and promoted for years. Everything necessary to provide learners with dyslexia with an appropriate education is available now, and has been for decades. Even so, too many kids are being left behind. Dyslexia screening is a hot topic among advocates, especially in California where the CDE recently published new California Dyslexia Guidelines. The desire for screening tools isn’t new. Schools have had access to screening tools for years. Two examples: the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreen […]

July 26, 2017
Our Top 5 Most Popular Webinars: Watch Now!

We compiled our list of the top 5 webinars! Are you looking for opportunities to get professional development credit over the summer? Our webinars might be the perfect way for you to get the credit you need while learning from leading education experts on how to better support your hardest to reach students. You can even watch our webinars on your smartphone—making it easy for you to get PD credit hours even when you’re away from home this summer! Our top 5 webinars are... #5 Underperforming Student Success Strategies In this fast-moving, idea-packed webinar, you will learn from best-selling author, Dr. Eric Jensen, about the best brain-based learning strategies. Discover the emotional, social and cognitive tools that can eliminate 95% of underperformance issues. You have to know where (and how) to invest your time and energy. Learn the single best tool to solve academic and cognitive issues and you’ll start seeing daily academic successes. View Webinar #4 Dyslexia Research and Remediation View this webinar to learn about the latest research on the processing weaknesses and early indicators in dyslexia. Most importantly, find out how to use this information to help your students. See a demonstration of the evidence-based Fast ForWord software. View Webinar #3 Effects of Poverty on School Success Several new studies have shown that students from families below the poverty line are at the greatest risk for academic failure. Research reveals that low family income has a bigger impact on academics than ethnicity or English language proficiency. Join Dr. Martha Burns as she reviews the newest research and provides research on how the Fast ForWord intervention has been found to have a significant impact on academic achievement in children of poverty. View Webinar #2 How to Rewire the Brains of Struggling Readers While home environment, access to books, and social and economic […]

October 25, 2016
Risks of Not Identifying Dyslexia

Think about your favorite stories.  From personal tales, to books and movies, the common catalyst of action and emotion comes from opposing forces.  Storytellers and writers call these opposing forces antagonists.  Opposing forces can take the shape of authority, flawed relationships, ticking clocks, hostile worlds, or an enemy within.  When heroes overcome opposing forces, the typical result is a satisfying outcome, or at least, a good story.    Struggling learners face opposing forces on a regular basis.  While not every struggling learner feels trapped inside a hostile world, many relate to the pressures of trying to uphold respect from teachers and friends while feeling like they’re letting everyone down.  These heroes feel their own disappointment and frustration, along with the disappointment and frustration of people close to them.  That’s a big burden for a child to bear alone. Try as they might, their struggle to learn can grow into anxiety, impatience, fear, humiliation, loneliness, or shame.  Many blame themselves, and develop an inner sense of dislike or distrust.  After repeated attempts to learn in a particular way, they lose confidence and faith in their own abilities to change outcomes.     Understanding dyslexia leads to empowerment Identifying dyslexia can clarify and validate your child’s learning struggles, putting him or her in control of their own story.  Terms such as diagnosis, identification, or labels need not define or limit any person, adult or child.  Instead, the knowledge can be used as a tool for greater understanding, allowing your child access to education through instruction that is appropriate for the way they learn.  Recognizing that dyslexia, also known as a Specific Learning Disability, plays a role in your child’s behavior and learning allows parents and educators to offer appropriate learning support. Dyslexia can affect: Academic performance Behavior Confidence Communication Perception of learning ability […]

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