Who Are These Kids?
Lisa often calls dyslexic students our "throw away kids". It makes her sad to do so, but the proof is in the astounding number of kids who aren't getting help simply because they are bright, articulate, hard- working but don't qualify for special services. They are normal by appearances, but they suffer worse than a child with an open handicap, primarily because of frustration. They are smart enough to know that something isn't right, and they will cope with this information in two ways. They will act out or they will retreat. Lisa has found those that act out are easier to reach than those who retreat. Either, way, something must be done in order for the child to reach academic and life success. Turning a blind eye can result in a terrible outcome. After all, 48% of our prison population is dyslexic. Sadly, if you were to talk to a dyslexic child and ask her choice in the matter, she would most likely tell you that she would prefer a physical handicap to bearing the guilt of dyslexia. The bottom line? She thinks that she is dumb when, in fact, she isn't.
Why is it So Frustrating?
The thing about dyslexia that's so frustrating is that many of the symptoms mirror other disabilities. For instance, if a student who has visual and auditory processing issues wiggles, squirms, squints his eyes, acts out, has nervous energy, or avoids work, he is often diagnosed as having ADD/ADHD. After all, there is no blood test for ADD/ADHD or dyslexia as far as that goes. At least dyslexia tests are available that are specific to what the student is actually doing in real time, not a subjective checklist of behaviors. Many students are medicated when, in fact, they only need their processing issues dealt with.
Just Try Harder...
These kids are "thrown away" at a massive rate, left to deal with their problems on their own. Dads usually tell their kids to work harder, that they're just being lazy. Moms become so entangled with these kids that the walls become blurred. Nobody knows what to do or how to move forth. Here's the truth. 99% of kids want to do well in school. They aren't just looking to disappoint their parents, to be on the receiving end of failed tests. To stay after school for hours at intervention programs that taught reading and spelling the same way it was taught all day. They don't want to see words swimming on the text, have the world move crazily, feel the sting of headaches, or feel dumb. Even worse, three hours of homework each night often lead to hysterics, and it isn't just the child who suffers. An entire family feels the pain of one dyslexic child. Often, since there is a genetic component to this issue, more than one child suffers from dyslexia.
You can get going right away at helping your child overcome dyslexia for as little as $24.95 a month. Your child can learn to read without struggling, spell words, not just for a test, but transfer this skill over to writing. Report cards will creep up to acceptable ranges, and tests will be passed with ease.
But, I've Tried Everything!
Most of the time, students with dyslexia are not identified and end up failing at school. Involved parents end up reading the internet at night, often taking advice from "quacks" who just want to line their pockets. They purchase reading programs that are confusing, don't work, and the child ends up throwing a tantrum over extra work. No wonder! The actual dyslexia isn't being dealt with. A popular "reading" program for the dyslexic student has the child memorize difficult spelling rules. Although a tactile, auditory, and visual approach is provided along with an Orton-Gillingham based program, the bottom line is this: a child with dyslexia suffers from visual and auditory deficiencies, which makes memorizing these rules almost impossible.
Others promise a "team of experts", a bogus test, long videos that you must watch, and a host of other snake and oil promises. Here's the truth. You must find the weaknesses in the dyslexic child's learning foundation and step-by-step fill in those gaps.
I Know My Child Isn't Dumb!
Often, kids with dyslexia are bullied or made to feel dumb. This is tragic, and won't stop until you find the help for your child to function in the classroom effectively. All too often, people who mean well only contribute to these feelings of being dumb or stupid. First, you must start with the community involved with helping your child. You need to be sure that anybody who is involved with your child's academic success has 1.) a college degree, 2.) credentials in teaching, 3.) experience working with dyslexic students in an academic setting.
Lisa hasn't forgotten the suffering her son endured. He was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and severe auditory and visual processing problems. Her first goal was simply to help him. He felt dumb. He wasn't reading, writing, spelling, or doing math as well as his peers. This was back in the 1990's before the internet had even jumped on the scene. Even though she was a credentialed teacher with over ten years of teaching experience at the time, she had no way to help her son. More flash cards didn't work. Extra reading only frustrated both of them. After school intervention programs left Nathan tired, cranky, and feeling even dumber. Finally, Lisa went on a "mother mission" to save her child. The good news? After a year he was an honor student!
Shouldn't the Schools Help my Child?
By the very nature of what they are, schools are not equipped to help students with dyslexia. Legislature demands that certain academic skills are learned at certain points in time. To make matters worse, class sizes are being cut, extra-curricular activities are done away with, and every student must pay the price. Teachers over-worked and underpaid, often having to follow scripts to teach. Differentiated education gets lost in the mix. So does the dyslexic child.
Since dyslexic students usually score high on intelligence tests, they are tossed into the sea of education, left to sink or swim. Too many sink. Often, dyslexic children present themselves early on at the top of classes, shining above their peers. But by the time that they reach third or fourth grade, where the print becomes smaller and multi-syllabic words are introduced, they fall behind. Each year compounds until they are lost, failing, and losing self-esteem. Teachers are stymied. Parents are frustrated. “Try harder,” these students are told on a regular basis when indeed they are working at capacity.
Lisa reminds parents that "You have the right to a free education. That doesn't mean it's a good or even great education. "
Parents must take their children's education seriously and provide the missing components. The wait and see approach is ludicrous, like waiting for a child to outgrow cancer.
My Child Has ADD
Phew! This is a controversial subject. Some parents swear by medicating their children. Others say that their children were "lost" while medicated. There's no need to go over personal choices. It's important that you know that the symptoms of ADD/ADHD mirror those of dyslexia. It's no wonder. If you viewed images upside down or diagonally, if numbers and letters shook and shimmied, if sounds were so loud they mimicked a jet engine, then you might have a difficult time concentrating. The question remains...is it ADD/ADHD or dyslexia causing the problem?
We may never know. But at the very least, it makes sense to at least treat dyslexia first to see if the symptoms go away or lessen. If that's the case, then everybody wins.
The Definition of Insanity
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
It's amazing how people will continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. If teaching students to read and spell in a traditional manner, then why would anyone think that teaching in the same way that didn't work all day will help the child? How can reading longer, reading independently, reading with the same strategies presented, help a student learn to read?
Learning needs to take place using a different and unique approach. We use the TouchTile Reading System, developed by Lisa Harp. This program has students out of their seats, crossing the midline of the body, moving, saying sounds, blending letters and sounds, and is based on the outstanding research of Orton-Gillingham.
Coupled with other exercises that strengthen the student's learning foundation, dyslexic students can soar. They learn to read and spell because they aren't memorizing rules or just spouting off words that have no meaning. By using this method, students naturally quit guessing at words and learn to decode them. Fluency speeds up. Comprehension improves.
Learning to read and spell is difficult for a dyslexic child. Navigating life can be harder. Parents expect more, and so
do teachers. These very people who love the child the most have become experts at putting band aids on their disorders and never really delving into the why or the how to fix them.
Dyslexia is not just a disorder where students transpose letters and words and struggle to read and spell. It is indeed a neurological disorder. In essence, these students’ brains are not wired correctly. By its very definition, dyslexia is a disorder that involves the inability to understand or learn phonemes, the smallest meaningful units of sound in our language. In addition, the cognitive deficit responsible for the disorder is related to the language system. These students struggle with decoding phonemes into words that have meaning and then in turn, hold those sounds in short-term memory long enough so that they can blend a word together and remember its meaning. Phonemes are not just seen, they are heard as well.
Most programs don't deal with the brain at all, but this is where the crux of the problem lies. It's not about intelligence, it's about processing information correctly. The good news? The brain has plasticity at any age.
The nervous system also plays an intrinsic part to processing this information. The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves and specialized cells known as neurons that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It is essentially the body’s electrical wiring.
Structurally, the nervous system has two components: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. According to the National Institutes of Health, the central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The peripheral nervous system consists of sensory neurons, ganglia (clusters of neurons) and nerves that connect to one another and to the central nervous system. (Kim Zimmerman)
All too often educators fail to consider that the brain is directly involved in the learning process and that the body and the brain are connected by this nervous system. We know more about the brain now than we ever have, but classrooms are still modeled in the exact same way as they were over a hundred years ago. The teacher stands before the classroom and presents a lecture, sometimes modeling a skill. Students sit at desks and write on paper. The papers are turned in and graded. Because of this, the dyslexic student is at an extreme disadvantage. His brain is not taking in the information as it should, and even worse, he can’t manipulate that information and spit it out to pass a test or complete homework independently.
Lisa is credentialed in brain integration therapy and uses this knowledge to help students build new neural pathways in the brain through easy, precisely controlled activities. This information is usually held in the hands of professionals who charge around $100.00 per hour. It doesn't have to be that way. You can use these very exercises easily at home as people have been doing since 2004 when Lisa's first learning program, The Universal Learning System, was launched.
Parents and professionals, even those at Stanford, rejoiced in the ability to have a program spelled out for them. During these past years, Lisa has perfected this program and made it specific to the most common learning disabilities; Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia.
If you find a program that isn't specific to your child or student's needs, then it most likely won't work. There is no one-size-fits-all system that will cure all learning disabilities. And, remember that any program you use must address the brain or it will only take your child so far.
The Visual Component
We've always known that there was a visual component to dyslexia. Many people come to our centers who have had vision therapy, which can be expensive but usually helps.
But not enough.
Lisa has vast training and knowledge of vision therapy and came to a conclusion after touring the facility of a reputable behavioral optometrist. She asked if their activities were specific to academics. When she was told an emphatic, "No," she knew what the problem was. She used her extensive knowledge of academics and tied it into simple exercises that help the eyes track across a page, enhance visual memory, refine visual discrimination and closure, and teach the brain to process information correctly.
We take in light with our eyes but process visual information in the brain. Through years of field research, intense training and research, Lisa put together a sequential system that fills in not only academic gaps but enhances the eye's ability to move with smooth saccades, the rapid movement of the eye between fixation points and pursuits, which is the skill that allows our eyes to smoothly follow moving targets.
Perceptual and spatial skills are also strengthened. This is important not only for reading and spelling but for writing as well. Furner, Frostig, and Laszlo, researchers from the 1970's to 1990's, advocated a perceptual approach to academics, specifically for handwriting. Although the Dysgraphia Learning Success System addresses writing needs in-depth, it's important to know that students must be able to not only recognize letters but to write them as well. Writing letters transfers to reading as a second modality of recognition.
The Auditory Component
Years ago, it was thought that dyslexia was primarily visual in nature. Recently, new research has proven that there is an auditory component to dyslexia. Lisa has seen this time and again. Students struggling with dyslexia might see a word such as "fast". They sound it out aloud, reading the word as "fats". They transpose letters that are commonly grouped together. If you remind the student to read the letters that are there, most likely she will read it as "fats" again and perhaps argue about it. Dying on a hill over something insignificant is another trait of dyslexic students!
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia. If a student has a difficult time recognizing voices, then, of course, recognizing small units of sound (phonemes) will be difficult as well.
Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, commented in her book that the study demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia – that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in understanding the sounds of speech.
“In dyslexia, the seemingly invariant relation between intelligence and reading breaks down,” she adds. This breakdown reflects a deficiency in the processing of distinctive linguistic units, the phonemes that are so crucial to reading efficiently.
Lisa addresses this in every auditory activity in the Dyslexia Learning Success System.
Memory building is crucial to helping students with dyslexia overcome this disorder. Have you ever taught a student with dyslexia something and rejoiced when he mastered the skill? The next day, when you go to review the skill, he looks at you with a confused expression. It's like he never learned the skill at all, and you have to start over at square one.
That's because visual and auditory memory is weak, which adversely affects the ability of the student to place information in working memory. Often, these kids will tell you the plot of long movies in great detail, even memorizing chunks of dialogue. You're convinced she has a strong memory, but when it comes to memorizing multiplication facts, it's as if there's no "Velcro" in her brain. The numbers slip through her ears like air.
This is because a movie will offer exciting, colorful graphics (visual) and interesting conversation (auditory) along with an enchanting story. This combination is one of the only ways that a student with weak visual and auditory memory skills can remember and catalog information. It's almost impossible to present teaching in this manner, and even if you could, the high-interest might not be there.
Visual and auditory memory must be built up step-by-step if the non-interesting information is to be recalled and placed in working or long-term memory banks. The Dyslexia Learning Success System takes students back to basic levels of recalling one and two pieces of information and then slowly builds it back up. Too often, professionals will either 1.) only diagnose the problem, or 2.) Offer solutions by presenting the information at a grade-level state instead of taking the student back to where the break down occurred.
Whether you're a professional or a parent working with your child at home, you'll need to address phonemic awareness, or you won't get very far. Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness in which listeners are able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning. In addition, the best results are found by using an Orton-Gillingham approach.
The Orton-Gillingham approach has been in use since the 1930's. It is an intensive, phonics-based system that instructs the basics of words and small units of sound before teaching whole meanings. Three learning modalities are practiced: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. This program isn't scripted, which is how Lisa was able to take the basic information (the phonemes) from this approach and create her own methodology which allows students more freedom of movement as they learn to assimilate phonemes. The use of color, clumping and moving, sliding dot dabbers across tiles, use of the cloze procedure, and added benefits of sight words, students are soon reading and spelling without fuss, tears, meltdowns, or three hours of homework. The average jump in reading through using the Dyslexia Learning Success System is five grade levels. Better yet? It's fun!
The Dyslexic Student
Lisa firmly believes, from the thousands of students she has tested and worked with, that we need to take a comprehensive approach to helping the dyslexic student, and as mentioned before, the first thing to consider is the brain.
Babies are not wired for every skill at birth, therefore, we can go back, even at older ages, and re-wire the student’s brain for a particular skill. Just like when a baby crawls and looks up and to the left, he is “plugging” in visual memory, we can recreate the wiring of that skill by simulating the baby’s experience.
But Lisa found that wasn’t enough. Like the early pioneers who tried to fix dyslexia, she discovered that treating visual skills was imperative. It was paramount that the student learned to “see” correctly in his brain. Students at the Harp Learning Institute centers spend months refining such skills as tracking across a page, visual memory, visual closure, visual discrimination, eye/hand coordination, visual figure-ground, perceptual skills, directionality, visual motor integration, and perceptual skills. The Dyslexia Learning Success System provides the same comprehensive assortment of skills.
Auditory skills are equally important. We take in sounds with our ears and perform the act of “hearing” in our brains. Just like the ever important visual skills, we set to work early on with auditory skills such as auditory memory, auditory discrimination, auditory closure, auditory synthesis, auditory figure ground, and sequential auditory memory.
Dyslexic students are generally weak in visual and auditory memory skills. This, in turn, leads to a weak working memory is vitally important for reading efficiently and successfully. Visual and auditory memory are stepping stones to the more important working memory, but I have found that it is difficult for a student to excel at working memory, dyslexic or not, without strong visual and auditory skills.
Dyslexic students don’t read like the rest of us. They read by guessing and memorizing. Sight words are torture for these kids because they can’t place an actual image with the word. A dyslexic student might easily read the word “dinosaur”, which in itself is a difficult, multi-syllable word, but ask him to read the word “for”, and it may come out “or”, “fun”, “fur”, or a multitude of other combinations. At some point, the dyslexic student taps out and can no longer memorize every word. That is usually when she just gives up, maybe copying off of a neighbor’s homework, getting “sick” on test days, or a host of other coping mechanisms that help her through the exceedingly long school day and the grueling homework session afterward.
According to a recent study at Cambridge University, the human mind doesn’t need to read every letter by itself in order read, only that the first and last letters are in the correct place. The brain will fill in the missing pieces and use context clues so that reading makes sense. This is especially difficult for a dyslexic student, who may transpose the first or last letters of a word, something I have seen over and over again. In addition, they are often unable to add the correct letters or make sense of the letters in the middle of multi-syllable words. The word “delivery” is read as “discovery”, or any other combination of legitimate letters that would start with “d”, end in “y” and fit in the overall shape of the word. It could even end up as “bakery”, which isn’t even close to the original word and will change the meaning of the reading passage.
In addition, a dyslexic student has a difficult time “chunking” groups of letters together into sensible phonemic units. This leaves him guessing and flogging along, hating to read and spell. There enters the emotional brain.
Fight or Flight
People do not learn when they are in fight-or-flight. They are in survival mode. Think about it. Have you ever lost a toddler and the security guard at the mall asks you what she was wearing? You can’t even remember the color of her hair, much less her outfit.
That is because we are acting out of fear in order to save our lives. Too many children and teens spend the entire day in fight-or-flight, sitting on the edge of their seats just waiting for the teacher to call on them, dreading to be chosen to read out loud, knowing they are dumb and trying to keep it from the rest of the world.
There's no reason for a student with dyslexia to suffer. It's time to take the bull by the horns and take charge of your child's education. Or, if you're a professional, there's no better time than now to make the necessary changes that will alter the life of a child for the better.
Essential Skills for Overcoming Dyslexia
The list of skills necessary for helping a student overcome dyslexia is so vast that it would take too long to write them all down. (Be leery of anyone claiming that there are a limited amount of skills necessary to do this.) Following is a list of crucial skills that are addressed and strengthened in the Dyslexia Learning Success System.
How Do I Know if My Child or Student Has Dyslexia?
If you aren't sure if your child has dyslexia, you can download a free screening evaluation that will give you an indication of whether or not your child has dyslexia. To help you out a bit more, I've provided a quick checklist for you.
Your child might have dyslexia if he:
But, I Can't Work With My Child!
We hear this all the time. Here's the good news. Your dyslexic child or student fusses when she is asked to do something difficult or even painful. The Dyslexia Learning Success System starts off with easy, primarily non-academic exercises that are easy and fun to do. Who wouldn't love crossing a dot dabber or circle funny pictures without lifting her marker? Because these activities are scripted, come to you via email so you will always have them, and are easy to do, you won't have to worry about battles. Students are eager to do their exercises because they are different. Remember the definition of insanity? Well, we're doing something more different than your child or student has ever done. If you can read and understand a recipe, you can help your child overcome dyslexia.
Be sure that any program for learning disabilities that you purchase contains these ingredients. If the program is lacking any of these components, it won't be a true fit for overcoming dyslexia.
So, what do you get with the Dyslexia Learning Success System?
Your Key to Lasting Learning Success!