Professional Development: Blog

The Science of Learning

November 11, 2020
Auditory Processing: What’s Sound Got to Do, Got to Do with Reading?

Although reading is thought of as a visual mode of communication, it relies heavily on auditory processing skills. Here's what sound has to do with reading and how you can make struggling learners into strong readers.

April 8, 2020
The Science of Reading: The Basics and Beyond

What should educators and parents know about the science of reading? Here is a basic summary, plus two important beyond-basic facts to inform educators’ choices of reading programs.

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 […]

August 4, 2015
New Research Shows How to Minimize Side Effects of Chemo

Key Points: Regardless of age, cancer treatments impair learning, memory and attention The speed of processing information can also be diminished These effects can last for months, or even years, after cancer treatment is finished Research study shows Fast ForWord can help prevent learning problems in cancer survivors when used during cancer treatment The cognitive impact of chemotherapy on children When any of us are told someone we love has a diagnosis of cancer, “The Emperor of all Maladies” so aptly named by Siddhartha Mukherjee, it is very upsetting. But, when it is a parent who learns of a cancer diagnosis in their child, time seems to stand still for months, often years, as treatments are administered.  The good news is that the overall mortality rate from cancer has decreased markedly in the last 20 years. For children diagnosed with cancer, today’s cure rate exceeds 80% for some types of cancer. Earlier diagnosis and more specifically targeted forms of chemotherapy, combined with evidence-based protocols, mean many children are now miraculous survivors of this age-old, but very complex, illness. After cancer – what are the implications on learning? However, the success of targeted chemo and radiation therapy does come with a price. With improved survival rates, oncologists have become more aware of the aftereffects that childhood cancer treatments have on thinking, learning and remembering.  According to Jorg Dietrich at Massachusetts General Hospital and his colleagues at Stanford University and Anderson Cancer Center, conventional cancer therapies like chemotherapy and radiology for brain tumors in patients of any age frequently result in a variety of thinking and memory of problems. These neurocognitive deficits, as they are called, include impaired learning, memory, attention, and negatively impact the speed of information processing. Increased survival rates = increased studies on effects Interested specifically in those effects […]

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