Listing all posts with label blog for struggling readers. Show all posts.
  1. 13 Tips to Enhance e-Learning with Low-tech, High-tech & Sensory Resources
    (Article originally published via the ReadSpeaker.com blog on February 9, 2016)

    Educators know that getting and keeping students engaged in a lesson is challenging, but it is also key to learning success. Incorporating different kinds of strategies into a lesson plan will go a long way to ensure a higher level of student engagement, especially when these methods appeal to one or more of the students’ five senses. The more senses involved, the better the engagement, mastery level of the content and the retention thereof.

    In our world of education today where technology has become an integral part of learning, one might ask, how can I develop “sensory” units of study when so much of what we do in the classroom involves computers and tablets?

    Here is a list of 13 ways to incorporate low-tech, high-tech and sensory strategies into a unit of study:
     
    1.     Allow for the recording of oral notes from an online lesson with a micro-cassette recorder or other inexpensive recording device. When a main idea is presented in the digital text, it can then be recorded for future reference. The essential points that support each main idea should also be recorded as they are discovered in the text. Play back the oral notes for a variety of further study activities: to help create more accurate written notes, to facilitate in writing an essay, to review content at test time or to share with a study group. This is a good strategy for auditory learners.
     
    2.     Arrange for all course and book content to be made available via audiotape or CD. This will be another very helpful strategy for students who learn best by listening.
     
    3.     Use sensory-appealing tools to help isolate 1 or 2 lines of text for individuals with focusing challenges. These types of tools can help visual as well as tactile learners with their use of color, soft materials and other features. Many students can easily be overwhelmed by too much text on a computer, e-reader or tablet screen. For such an issue, a student might use these physical tools to help focus on each line of text and block out a large amount of surrounding text on a screen. This approach can make reading assignments much more manageable, breaking down the content into chunks or small sections.
     
    4.     Allow for access to a copy of prepared notes, especially after an online lesson or presentation. This will give students the benefit of knowing which ideas and points are important in a unit of study for an online lesson. This can be most helpful to students with attention and focus issues, writing challenges such as dysgraphia or other difficulties.
     
    5.     Provide stick-on notes for writing down main ideas from a lesson or study unit. Then allow for them to be placed on a wall at eye level. This is an effective strategy for visual learners and/or individuals with executive function challenges (memory, etc.)
     
    6.     Allow for the use of colored paper for handwritten and printed materials including worksheets, outlines, notes, etc. Experiment with pastels as well as bright shades. One particular color may produce significant results for each individual reader. White page backgrounds with black text in particular can cause “visual stress” for more than a few readers.
     
    7.     Along the same lines, consider the use of anti-glare computer screen filters and/or colored screen overlays when reading online content. These can decrease visually-offensive glare often caused by overhead florescent lighting, increase focus, diminish “visual stress” and help lengthen online reading and working periods. It is also recommended that appropriate colored overlays or films for smartboards and dry erase boards also be used for these purposes.
     
    8.     Allow for some kind of movement when reading online content. Also, permit kneeling or standing at a computer desk (if needed), as long as it does not cause problems or distractions for others. A standing computer desk can be a huge benefit to a kinesthetic learner or to an individual with ADHD. For an even lower-tech idea, consider attaching a “soundless” elastic band or bungee cord across the 2 front legs of a non-rolling computer chair. While seated and reading online, this will allow for feet to move within a small space and can be helpful for children who must “fidget” to focus. Stress balls can provide another option or additional support for some learners.
     
    9.     Consider adding 1 or more therapy balls as another seating option for students, as they work with computers or other tech devices. These types of balls strengthen core muscles and can be very therapeutic for kids who need to wiggle. These also can help develop proper posture, improved sitting habits and are good for children with sensory needs.
     
    10.   Permit the use of very low-volume music (instrumental) or environmental sounds (seashore, birds, etc.) while doing independent work online. Be sure to provide headphones in a classroom setting for this strategy, of course.
     
    11.   Allow students to work cooperatively with others at times as part of a “buddy” system of support. This can be an excellent strategy for interpersonal learning styles. Some students simply need to talk and interact in order to learn and retain information successfully.
     
    12.   Utilize text-to-speech technology, especially for students with reading challenges and for individuals who are auditory learners. Listening while reading to a text at the same time can greatly increase reading comprehension. This can be a particularly good strategy for students with dyslexia or those with low vision.
     
    13.   Seek out and implement the use of effective software applications to better enable individuals to focus and read digital media with more success (whether online or offline).
     
    With these tips in mind, you can begin to incorporate and discover the right match between tech tools and a student’s needs. It may take some time and effort, but the appropriate combination of assistive technology tools and tips can be instrumental in helping a student become a much more successful and independent learner.
     
    Sources:
     
    1.   ReadSpeaker: Use the power of ReadSpeaker text-to-speech to give a voice to your websites, mobile apps, digital books, e-learning materials, documents, and more!
    2.   ReadSpeaker Blog: Original article published February 9, 2016, 13 Tips to Enhance e-Learning with Low-tech, High-tech & Sensory Resources
    3.   Brennan Innovators, LLC: Strategies & Accommodations for Challenged Readers
     
     
  2. 10 Tips to Help Children with Dysgraphia

    Does your child struggle to write on the appropriate lines provided? Do you know or teach a child who is challenged and/or frustrated with simply forming basic letters and words? A child or student with these issues just might be challenged with dysgraphia.

    Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough and apporpriate instruction.

    Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. Dysgraphia in adults generally occurs after some trauma. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using "boy" for "child"). The cause of the disorder is unknown, but in adults, it is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the brain.

    1. First, CHANGE the paper used for writing.
    A person with dysgraphia experiences significant challenges in the writing process. These challenges involve the inability to organize information that is stored in memory AND getting words on to paper by handwriting or typing them.

    These 2 challenges prevent dysgraphic persons from understanding the spacing between letters, words, and sentences. In order to help your child visualize the space and to minimize frustration, first consider replacing your child’s lined paper with graph paper or turn the lined paper sideways, with each letter getting its own block/space and leaving an empty block/space between words.

    You might also try using various kinds of highlighted printing papers. There are a few online sources for such supplies. (Please see FREE downloadable templates available via the link provided below here, too.)

    Also, consider changing the color of the writing paper. A particular pastel color for paper may help alleviate some of the visual stress caused by white papers. Just the "right" colored paper for your child could make a positive difference, if only in the way he approaches the writing task.

    2. CHANGE the writing tool or instrument your child uses.
    Dysgraphia affects fine motor control. Because of this, gripping a pencil or pen lightly isn’t natural. Encourage your child to write as if she were holding a feather, or take it a bit further and give her an actual quill and ink. Feathers are delicate and children tend to handle them much more gently than they do a solid object like a pencil. If a quill is not readily available,consider using chalk, as it will crumble when pressed too hard.

    As for writing surfaces, the bigger, the better! Use an easel or a large sheet of white poster board. Another option is to use sliding glass doors on which to write (with washable markers or transparency pens) as they are huge and the glass surface naturally encourages my children to write much more softly than they would on other surfaces. An added benefit is that these large glass doors can easily and quickly be washed.

    In addition, adding a soft and comfortable pencil grip or holder to the writing tool currently used can provide much support for a struggling writer. These types of pencil grips can be found online from various special needs sources.

    3. TEACH your child to type and effectively use a computer keyboard.
    To help eliminate much of the stress of repeated writing difficulties, allow your child to express his ideas and thoughts with a word processor or computer keyboard. Providing this option can relax and enable your child to make more progress in learning in all content areas. Another option for this purpose is a portable keyboard/word processor called AlphaSmart. Although an older type of assistive technology, the AlphaSmart keyboards can provide the needed typing tool for a challenged writer and is available online either new or used.

    4. INTRODUCE your child to gross motor skill exercises.
    Show your child a few gross motor skill exercises to strengthen the arm and hand. Then incorporate these exercises into your child's daily routine. Make them fun, combining them with rhymes or your child's favorite kind of music. A good resource for these types of exercises is OT Mom Learning Activities (please see "gross motor" link below here).

    5. INTRODUCE fine motor control exercises.
    Introduce fine motor control exercises to strengthen the fingers and wrist. Add these to your child's daily activities as well. By combining these exercises with some relaxing instrumental music selections, your child may relax a bit more and be able to concentrate on the exercises more successfully. A variety of fine motor exercises can also be accessed via many special needs or OT websites such as OT Mom Learning Activities, too (please see "fine motor" link below here).

    6. CONSIDER by-passing printing & proceed directly to cursive writing.
    The move to cursive, too, can significantly reduce the levels of frustration experienced by many with dysgraphia, allowing them to relax and become better able to write. This might be a temporary by-pass of printing, or it could become more permanent, depending upon the results observed with the cursive writing.

    7. DEVELOP & UTILIZE narration or speaking skills whenever possible.
    Dysgraphia causes some individuals to experience a block between thinking something and writing it. Narration is an excellent tool for helping your child record her thoughts. Saying letters and words aloud as they are recorded on a small tech device (mp3 player or the like) or with a text-to-speech program will also be a benefit when it is time to write down those words. A handy list will have already been created.

    8. WORK TOGETHER to evaluate & change your writing goals as needed.
    Discuss at least once per week about how the accommodations are working to help your child. Even if your child is young, he can provide valuable input as to what is working and what is not. He may even have additional ideas to add or request, especially after you have begun to show him just a few helpful strategies or accommodations.

    9. DEMONSTRATE and USE large "air writing" techniques.
    Demonstrate and use large "air writing" of letters to develop a more efficient motor memory for the sequence of steps necessary in making each letter. You might also introduce "sand writing" which involves using the finder to write out letters in a sided tray of sand. These multi-sensory approaches often yield very positive results.

    10.MAKE USE of a other multi-sensory techniques.
    Make use of a variety of multi-sensory techniques to further develop handwriting skills. Visit Dysgraphia Resources to access more than 200 multi-sensory activities, tools and other resources to help your child with the challenges of dysgraphia (many of the resources there are FREE, too!)

    Sources & Resources:

    8 Strategies to Beat Dysgraphia from Homeschool Gameschool blog
    http://homeschoolgameschool.com/8-strategies-to-beat-dysgraphia/

    Strategies for Dealing with Dysgraphia by Regina G. Richards, LD Online
    http://www.ldonline.org/article/5890

    BEST Websites for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia from Help for Struggling Readers blog
    http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2013/10/best-websites-for-dyslexia-dysgraphia.html

    Pencil Grips and Holders from Fun and Function
    https://funandfunction.com/more/write-and-more/grips.html

    AlphaSmart Keyboards
    Portable assistive technology for keyboarding and word processing.
    https://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aalphasmart%20keyboards

    Fine Motor Activities from OT Mom Learning Activities
    www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/hand-exercises-for-kids.html

    Gross Motor Skill Activities-from OT Mom Learning Activities
    http://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/gross-motor-activities.html

    Able Apps for Dysgraphia from Help for Struggling Readers blog
    http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2012/08/able-apps-for-dysgraphia.html

    200+ Dysgraphia Resources---ALL in 1 Place from Brennan Innovators, LLC
    More than 200 multi-sensory resources to help someone you know with dysgraphia.
    https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dysgraphia-resources/?etslf=6371&eq=Dysgraphia
  3. 50+ Patriotic Activities & Resources for Kids---All in 1 Place!

    We are fast approaching the 4th of July Weekend and with it the unofficial milestone of mid-summer, too. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were enjoying the season's first barbecue over the Memorial Day Weekend? Time marches on, as they say! Before we know it, Labor Day will be looming, and children will be returning to school. For now, though, let's enjoy the summer, right?

    While we are enjoying time with our families, it is also a very good idea to help prevent what is often called the summer slide or summer slowdown, terms used to describe the loss of reading and math skills that children have learned. This loss can occur when there is a decrease or lack in stimulation of young brains during extended school vacations or other academic break times.

    Though it may seem challenging to do so, it is very possible to avoid this loss of skills by working with children, using stimulating activities during those long vacation times. The Fourth of July Weekend is a perfect time to introduce these kinds of activities to help your child or grandchild avoid this learning loss, especially when we have reached the mid-point of the summer, and children just might be looking for a variety of new things to do.

    Should you choose to utilize some or all of the many resources in the link provided below here, your child or grandchild will be ahead when the new school year begins. So, keep the link handy for your use during the coming holiday weekend. You might also want to refer to it again over the Labor Day break, too.  At any rate, you will help your child enjoy our Independence Day holiday as well as help keep his mind sharp over the summer vacation period.

    Yes, we can still have fun in the sun this 4th of July, but at the same time, avoid the summer slide with an array of enjoyable reading activities, games and other related resources having a patriotic flare. That way, long after the holiday weekend is history, your children (or grandchildren) will be skipping around the summer slide and well on their way to gearing up for the coming school year while still having fun this July 4th.

    Remember to KEEP them reading and learning ALL summer long! Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July with your family!

    Link to 50+ Patriotic Reading Activities & Resources (Most are FREE!)
    https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/patriotic-games-activities-resources-for-kids/?etslf=5719&eq=Patriotic
  4. MORE Helpful Resources for the Autism Community

    In June 2015, we had the pleasure of publishing an article for the autism community that was written by one of its members, Ms. Kathleen Carter.  She is challenged with Asperger’s Syndrome and authored the article in this blog entitled Empowering Resources for Persons of ALL Ages with Autism.

    Once again, we are pleased to publish here Ms, Carter's latest collection of resources for the autism community.  As our readers may know, there is  a wide range of ways and levels in which people are affected by autism.  Because of this, nearly every autism resource has the potential to significantly impact the quality of life for many on the spectrum. 

    Many of our readers may have witnessed firsthand the very helpful benefits of service dogs, but did you know that these very special dogs can be profoundly beneficial for autistic persons?  Ms. Carter has told us that she herself will soon begin working with an autism service dog, and she wants to spread the good word about the positive impact these animals can have for those on the autism spectrum.  In addition to the service-dog links included in her list below, Ms. Carter and we have also included other resources that may help the individuals who need them.  We, too, hope our readers who work hard to serve persons on the autism spectrum will find them to be helpful in their good efforts.

    Thank you, Ms. Kathleen Carter, for providing this great list of resources!

    4 Paws For Ability
    http://4pawsforability.org/autism-assistance-dog/

    The Life-Changing Impact of Autism Service Dogs
    https://www.rover.com/blog/autism-service-dogs

    Stress & Anxiety Reduction | Autism Research Institute
    http://www.autism.com/treating_grodin

    How to Handle the 4 Most Challenging Autism Behaviors
    https://www.care.com/a/how-to-handle-the-4-most-challenging-autism-behaviors-1204050236

    The Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759)Low-tech Reading Tools for Challenged Readers 
    From Brennan Innovators, LLC
    Sensory-appealing and customizable reading tools and solutions for challenged readers of all ages. Made in the U.S.A. 
    www.FocusandRead.com/products

    19 User-Friendly Apps for Individuals with Disabilities and Special Needs Children
    http://www.cellphonecity.com/blog/features/19-user-friendly-apps-for-seniors-alzheimers-patients-and-caregivers-individuals-with-disabilities-and-special-needs-children

    Reading Focus Cards Digital Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)---for Macs & Windows PCs (Price: $5.99)
    From Brennan Innovators, LLC
    This desktop app for Windows PCs and Macs is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. The app provides practical support for children and adults with autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other conditions that can affect reading success. It promotes more focused reading of digital media---whether online or offline. The application floats on top AND stays on top of any other underlying application.
    1. Macs (desktops & notebooks): Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to 
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12
    2. Windows PCs (desktops & laptops): Visit Gumroad at 
    https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

    A Parent’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder
    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/a-parents-guide-to-autism-spectrum-disorder/index.shtml  

    National Center for Autism Resources & Education
    https://www.disability.gov/resource/national-center-for-autism-resources-education-ncare/

    Source for image: http://rlv.zcache.com/autism_puzzle_ribbon_awareness_poster-r447c6ac7647142f0ae07364edc5fe352_xzptb_8byvr_512.jpg
  5. Dyslexia Awareness, Tools, Resources & Support

    Some of our readers may know that the month of October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Although we provide dyslexia tools and resources to our many customers and clients throughout the year, we make it a point to emphasize awareness of and share even more resources for dyslexia with everyone during this month of October. With the incidence of dyslexia estimated to be 1 in 5, it is essential that parents, teachers and other adults become aware of these statistics so that they can better address the needs of the many individuals with this specific learning challenge. 

    Dyslexia is a brain-based learning difference that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. Individuals challenged with dyslexia typically read at levels significantly lower than expected even with normal or average intelligence. Although the symptoms and experiences of dyslexia can vary from one person to another, the common characteristics of the condition are:

    1. Difficulty with phonological processing
        -Phonics understanding
        -Phonemic awareness and/or
        -Manipulation of sounds

    2. Challenges with spelling and/or

    3. Difficulty with rapid visual-verbal responding

    In persons with the adult onset of dyslexia, it usually occurs as a result of brain injury or in association with dementia. However, dyslexia may have been present in childhood or adolescence but was never identified until adulthood. Children who experience the symptoms listed above here should be considered candidates for dyslexia testing and evaluation by an appropriate medical professional (a behavioral or developmental optometrist, a developmental pediatrician, or other certified dyslexia specialist). Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to develop dyslexia.

    In honor of this Dyslexia Awareness Month, we wanted to provide our readers with current and helpful resources to assist parents, teachers and other adults as they work with individuals challenged with dyslexia.  We hope you will find these resources of benefit to you or someone you know.

    Dyslexia Resources & Support Organizations

    The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
    The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity serves as a nexus for research on dyslexia, and is as well a leading source of advocacy and information to better the lives of people with dyslexia. 
    http://dyslexia.yale.edu/

    DyslexiaHelp---University of Michigan
    This website offers much information about dyslexia together with research, success stories and other related resources for parents, teachers and students.
    http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/

    The International Dyslexia Association
    This well-known organization provides general information and support for persons with dyslexia. The following link presents an online Dyslexia Self-Assessment for Adults
    http://www.interdys.org/AreYouDyslexic_AdultTest.htm
    FAQ page: http://www.interdys.org/FAQ.htm

    Decoding Dyslexia
    Decoding Dyslexia is a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia. For more information and to learn if your state has an affiliate branch of this organization (currently all 50 states do), please visit the link provided here.
    http://www.decodingdyslexia.net/

    National Center for Learning Disabilities (Section on Dyslexia)
    The National Center for Learning Disabilities improves the lives of all people with learning difficulties and disabilities by empowering parents, enabling young adults, transforming schools, and creating policy and advocacy impact. The link to follow here provides general information, dyslexia symptoms/warning signs categorized by grade level and resources to help parents and teachers.
    http://ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia

    Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy 
    Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities. - See more at: http://wrightslaw.com/#sthash.ajmQK87L.dpuf
    http://wrightslaw.com/

    Dyslegia: A Legislative Information Site
    This website is maintained by Davis Dyslexia Association International to report and track pending legislation in the United States. This blog-based web site is a resource for sharing information about legislative initiatives, as a forum for discussion and exploration of policy issues, and as a communications tool to encourage citizen participation and involvement with their representatives in government.
    http://www.dyslegia.com/

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
    This website provides basic information about dyslexia as well as supportive resource links.
    http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dyslexia/dyslexia.htm

    College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)
    Organization of developmental (behavioral) optometrists, medical professionals who can test and evaluate as well as diagnose and treat dyslexia and other vision-related reading challenges.  A "locator tool" for such diagnosticians in your area is available on the website.
    http://www.covd.org

    Helpful Dyslexia Tools & Apps

    OpenDyslexic Font (FREE)
    Created by Abelardo Gonzalez
    OpenDyslexic is a new, open-sourced font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. It is being updated continually and improved based on input from dyslexic users. There are no restrictions on using OpenDyslexic outside of attribution. FREE download via this link.
    http://opendyslexic.org/

    The Reading Focus Cards (Low-tech Reading Tools)
    (Patent 7,565,759)
    From Brennan Innovators, LLC
    Sensory-appealing and customizable reading tools and solutions for challenged readers of all ages. Made in the U.S.A. 
    www.FocusandRead.com/products

    APP---Overlays! (for OS X 10.8 or later---Price: $6.99)
    Created by Abbie Gonzalez
    Use to help with reading or sometimes to help following large tables and lists of data. Battle the wall of text, eyestrain and distractions with this on screen overlay to help you keep your place!
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/overlays!/id868499627?mt=12

    APP---Reading Focus Cards (Macs & Windows PCs---Price: $5.99)
    (Patent 8,360,779)
    From Brennan Innovators, LLC
    This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This app for Windows PCs and Macs provides practical READING SUPPORT for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. It promotes more FOCUSED online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the Reading Focus Card app is compatible with and supports touch-screen technology. The application can be moved on the screen over text by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed. 
    1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks): 
    Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to 
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12
    2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
    Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards.(No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

    Best Books for Dyslexia

    Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level
    by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.; Vintage (2005)

    Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide
    by Pam Wright and Pete Wright; Harbor House Law Press (2006)

    The Gift of Dyslexia
    by Ronald D. Davis, Eldon M. Braun; Penguin Group-USA (1997)
    (first published May 1, 1993) 

    The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain
    by Brock and Fernette Eide M.D.; Plume (2012) 

    Dyslexic AND UN-Stoppable - How Dyslexia Helps Us Create The Life Of Our Dreams And How YOU Can Do It Too
    by Lucie M. Curtiss, R.N. and Douglas C. Curtiss, M.D., FAAP 
  6. Empowering Resources for Persons of ALL Ages with Autism
     
    We believe that the right tools, strategies and resources can significantly improve one’s reading and learning success, especially when reading and learning can be difficult for someone with ADHD, dyslexia and other issues.
     
    If you or someone you know is challenged with autism, however, the importance of those tools, strategies and resources may be even more important in efforts to improve the quality of life.  You may already know about the low-tech and digital Reading Focus Cards, effective tools that help challenged, unfocused readers with autism and sensory issues.  We also provide a free list of reading and learning strategies and accommodations to help persons of any age with autism.  The list can be found on this website.
     
    For this article, we wanted to address the third component---resources that can actually help to EMPOWER persons with autism to become more confident, more socially interactive and better able to overcome their obstacles.  In our efforts to write this article, we have received the assistance of Ms. Kathleen Carter, a high-school student with Asperger's (autism) and volunteer-intern-extraordinaire at EducatorLabs.  She assists the organization with its research and outreach activities. 
     
    Ms. Carter has kindly provided the first six empowering resources in our list included here.  We want to thank her for these good resources for autism.  We have added a few more links to the list and hope that because of our combined efforts, these resources may help you or others you know in the autism community to feel empowered to become more confident, more comfortable in social situations and more independent in overcoming the challenges of autism---each and every day!

    Empowering Resources for Persons with Autism

    1.   Autism Speaks Resource Guide
    http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-guide

    2.   Career Assistance for People with Autism
    http://www.hloom.com/career-assistance-for-people-with-autism/

    3.   National Center for Autism Resources & Education
    https://www.disability.gov/resource/national-center-for-autism-resources-education-ncare/

    4.   AutismNOW Transition Planning
    http://autismnow.org/in-the-classroom/transition-planning-for-students/

    5.   Aquatic Therapy for Children with Autism
    http://www.saveonpoolsupplies.com/landing/aquatic-therapy-for-children-with-autism.aspx

    6.   Autism
    http://healthfinder.gov/FindServices/SearchContext.aspx?topic=81

    7.   Equine Therapy Programs for Children with Asperger's and Autism
    http://www.equine-therapy-programs.com/aspergers.html

    8.   Autism Resources from Easter Seals
    http://www.easterseals.com/explore-resources/living-with-autism/autism-resources.html

    9.   Family Grant Opportunities (for Therapy, Assistive Technology, etc.)
    https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/family-grant-opportunities

    10. Resources - Solutions to Problems in the Autism Community---US Autism & Asperger Association
    http://www.usautism.org/resources.html

    11. BEST Apps for Sensory Processing Issues (iPad, Android and Desktop Apps)
    http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2015/04/best-apps-for-sensory-processing-issues.html

    12. BEST Apps for Autism-2015 (iPad, Android and Desktop Apps)
    http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2015/01/best-apps-for-autism-2015.html

  7. Better Reading & Writing with the World’s BEST Grammar Checker

    We all know that the ability to read well is an all-important keystone for success in the classroom and in life.  The right strategies and tools can significantly improve one’s reading skills, particularly when learning to read is a challenge (i.e., ADHD, dyslexia and other issues).

    Writing skills, on the other hand, have traditionally relied more on one’s ability to apply what has been learned through reading.  This includes a host of important skills, especially in the area of proofreading: knowledge of mechanics, proper spelling, appropriate grammar usage and more.  Yes, there are strategies for learning the rules and methods of proofreading a body of text, but having a reliable tool at-the-ready for a writer can provide needed support and reinforcement of such rules and methods.  Unfortunately, it has been more than a little challenging to find a worthy tool that provides both accurate and comprehensive proofreading assistance for writers---until very recently.

    Although we have very competent writers on our staff here at Brennan Innovators, we have been less than impressed with the traditional spell checkers and poor grammar checking tools found online.  However, just a few months ago, we discovered Grammarly.com, a great site that we believe offers reliable tools for proofreading letters, papers and other documents with a surprising amount of accuracy.  Although its resources may not be a direct replacement for a professional proofreader, Grammarly.com does offer writers a second set of eyes for their proofreading needs. 

    The Grammarly software actually scans text for more than 250 types of grammar mistakes in six distinct writing genres. Grammarly also provides informative flash cards to help a writer transform weak areas into strengths.  In fact, Top Ten Reviews, an independent provider of reliable information for consumers, says, “Everything about Grammarly centers on not only improving written texts, but also developing the writers themselves.” This is one of the reasons it has earned the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for 2015.  

    We think using the award-winning Grammarly tools now gives individuals the proofreading support they have been needing and wanting for a long time in order to help them significantly improve their writing.  They only need to visit Grammarly.com to make it happen!

    Resources

    Grammarly.com
    Grammarly improves your emails, social media posts, and documents by checking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. FREE and various paid account options are available.
    https://www.grammarly.com/grammar-check

    Top Ten Reviews
    Here is the link to the online review of Grammarly.com provided by Top Ten Reviews.
    http://online-grammar-check-review.toptenreviews.com  
  8. The Reading Focus Cards: Helpful Focusing Tools for Books, Technology & More! 

    As we come to the end of the month of October, LD Awareness Month is also drawing to a close.  We all know, however, that the awareness raised for special needs and learning challenges this past month cannot remain static.  We need to continue to be advocates for those who are unable to advocate for themselves and help teach those who are able the strategies that can enable their voices and needs to be heard---and addressed effectively.

    At the same time, we want to ensure that the helpful resources, techniques and tools already available can be utilized in the most effective ways.  That is the reason for this article.  We want to demonstrate that the Reading Focus Cards you may already have can be used in variety of other ways as well.  Since diagrams and photos are important means of teaching visual learners, we have decided to present most of this information in that format.  We hope you will find a few more options here for using BOTH sizes of your Reading Focus Cards.

    Other Options for Using the Reading Focus Cards
    (Patent 7,565,759)


      Use with e-Readers (i.e., Kindles, Nooks, etc.)

    Use the SHORTER size of the Reading Focus Card (Model #001),
    moving it straight down the the screen of the device.  

    Special Note:  Please use a protective film for all tech device screens with this application.     

    Use with e-Tablets (i.e., iPads, Androids, etc.)

    Use the LONGER size of the Reading Focus Card (Model #002),
    moving it straight down the the screen of the device.  

    Special Note:  Please use a protective film for all tech device screens with this application.      

    Choose the BEST Option for YOUR Focus & Reading Success!


    For larger font sizes, one line of text can be read through the Reading Window.








    When font sizes are smaller, it can be possible to view more than one
    line of text in the Readng Window.





    If a reader prefers NO colored Reading Filter, the area of the
    Reading Focus Card that precedes the Reading Notch can be
    another option for reading text lines from left to right.

    This application is also quite helpful for breaking down words into phonemes or syllables.  Just uncover (from left to right) the letters, phonemes or syllables needed at a time.  This application can be especially helpful for readers with dyslexiaELL/ESL students or new, young readers in word-attack skill building activities.

    Another Option for More Focus & Reading Comfort

    For readers who prefer NO colored Reading Filter but desire text already read to be visible and text not yet read to be covered, simply turn the Reading Focus Card 180 degrees from its horizontal position to access a LONG, unframed section of text.

    Use the Reading Focus Cards with Math Applications, too!

    For long addition, multiplication and division, the SHORTER Reading Focus Card can help increase focus on the needed place holder column and improve accuracy with problem solving.

    Some readers may choose to use both sizes of the Reading Focus Card when working with math and science equations (tool size determined by equation length).

    The Reading Focus Cards Are IDEAL Tools for Tests & Exams

    For bubble-type test answer sheets (such as Scantron, etc. and where permitted), the Reading Focus Cards allow the reader to locate AND retain the appropriate line of bubbles for a specific test question.  Using the tools in this application can actually help increase the participant's focus, rate and test accuracy

    Special Note:  Many states in the U.S. currently allow the use of tools such as these on annual state achievement tests (usually for students with IEPs or 504 Plans only).  However, there may be conditions required for this permission.  Please check with DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) in your particular state.

    Craft & Household Uses for the Reading Focus Cards

    Special Note:
     For the following use options, simply turn the Reading Focus Card over or upside-down so that the gripping side of the tool faces the page of text.  This will keep the reading tool in place until the reader is ready to move it to other text.

    It's easy to lose one's place when working with a crochet, knitting and other craft or hobby patterns.  However, with the Reading Focus Cards, your favorite activities become so much easier AND more enjoyable, too!



    The Reading Focus Cards can also help in the kitchen.  When reading recipes, you won't add an ingredient more than once if you retain your place in the ingredient list with this tool (usually the SHORTER tool).
  9. BEST Websites for LD

    It is October and LD Awareness Month!  We're commemorating the month by honoring parents and teachers of children with special learning needs as well as challenged adults.  In this blog article, we have decided to provide what many of these individuals often request of us---information and resources for learning disabilities and differences (LD).  We believe that the best way to do that is by presenting a GOOD list of online resources and websites in various LD categories.  In this way, parents, teachers and adults challenged with specific reading or learning issues will have a go-to page to help give them direction and a place to start for the assistance they need.

    We hope you will find the following categorized list of LD websites helpful for you or for someone you care about each day!

    Categorized Website List for LD

    AD/HD (ADHD or ADD)

    AD/HD is the notation for ADD (no hyperactivity) or ADHD (with the hyperactivity component).  Both children and adults can be affected by the condition, and it can occur in varying degrees of severity from one individual to another.  There really is no cure for ADHD, but it is very possible to effectively manage the symptoms of the disorder, which may include assistive tools, strategies, coaching and other helpful resources.

    1. CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a national non-profit organization working to improve the lives of affected people through education, advocacy and support. From lobbying to local support groups, CHADD is a leader in the field of ADHD.
    http://www.chadd.org/

    2. National Resource Center on AD/HD (Sponsored by CHADD) is the center funded by the CDC.  It has much science-based information about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
    http://www.help4adhd.org
     
    3. ADD Resources is another non-profit serving the ADHD community. It has an extensive directory of workshops, conferences, publications, and articles for parents, teachers, adults, and medical professionals. The organization supports itself through memberships.  (A fee may be charged to access some content.)
    http://w3.addresources.org/

    Dyslexia

    1. National Center for Learning Disabilities---Dyslexia
    http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia
     
    2. The International Dyslexia Association
    http://www.interdys.org/index.htm
     
    3. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
    http://www.dyslexia.yale.edu/
     
    4. DyslexiaHelp at the University of Michigan
    http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/

    Dysgraphia

    1. National Center for Learning Disabilities---Dysgraphia
    http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/what-is-dysgraphia
     
    2. LD Online--- Dysgraphia
    http://www.ldonline.org/article/5890/
     
    3. LDA---Learning Disabilities Association of America--- Dysgraphia
    http://www.ldanatl.org/aboutld/parents/ld_basics/dysgraphia.asp
     
    4. Handwriting Problem Solutions, LLC
    http://www.handwriting-solutions.com/dysgraphia.asp

    Dyscalculia

    1. National Center for Learning Disabilities---Dyscalculia
    http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/what-is-dyscalculia
     
    2. Dyscalculia.org-Math Tools
    http://www.dyscalculia.org/math-tools

    Dyspraxia

    1. Dyspraxia Foundation USA
    http://www.dyspraxiausa.org/

    2. Six Helpful Dyspraxia Resources---from the National Center for Learning Disabilities
    http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyspraxia/helpful-motor-skills-development-resources
     
    3. Blog: occupationaltherapyforchildren.over-blog.com
    http://occupationaltherapyforchildren.over-blog.com/article-dyspraxia-87698021.html
     
    Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
    Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals do not get organized into appropriate responses.  The condition prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving information needed to interpret sensory input correctly.  A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks.  Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively (from The Sensory Processing Foundation at http://www.spdfoundation.net/about-sensory-processing-disorder.html).

    1. The Sensory Processing Foundation
        http://www.spdfoundation.net/

    2. Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
        http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

    3. Physician Fact Sheet Sensory Processing Disorder Signs and Symptoms
        http://www.thespiralfoundation.org/pdfs/Fact%20Sheet%20for%20MDs%20PDF.pdf

    Executive Function Disorder (EFD)
    Many individuals struggle with executive function, which governs a person’s ability to plan, organize and manage details in everyday life.
    (Source: National Center for Learning Disabilities---Executive Functioning: Please see website link to follow.)

    1. National Center for Learning Disabilities---Executive Functioning
        http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/executive-function-disorders
     
    2. Executive Function 101---FREE e-Book from the National Center for Learning Disabilities
        http://ncld.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=21301.0&dlv_id=32771
     
    3. Is It Executive Function Disorder (EFD) or ADD/ADHD?---from ADDitude Magazine
        http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/7051.html

    4. What Is Executive Function?---from WebMD
        http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/executive-function

    Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs)
    The most recent data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, 2012) indicates that in the U.S., about 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Autism spectrum disorders are almost five times more common among boys than girls – with 1 in 54 boys identified.  

    1. Autism Spectrum Disorders---from the National Center for Learning Disabilities
        http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/adhd-related-issues/autism-spectrum-disorders?gclid=CI-okIvJr7oCFUkV7AodSj4AUw

    2. Websites for Families---from Autism Speaks
        http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/websites-families

    3. National Autism Association
        http://nationalautismassociation.org/
     
    4. TeachersFirst Resources on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger’s
        http://www.teachersfirst.com/spectopics/autism-asperger.cfm

    5. Statistics for the Prevalence of Autism and Other Related Data---from the Centers for Disease Control
        From the CDC's Autism and Devlopmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, 2012
        http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/p0329_autism_disorder.html
  10. Reading with COLOR---What a Difference It Can Make!

    It is an unfortunate statistic that as many as 80% of U.S. students with learning disabilities (LD) have problems with reading.  A number of these children experience such reading problems because of dyslexia, convergence insufficiency, or other vision-related reading issues.  Others are challenged with attention deficits (AD/HD), autism, low vision, stroke recovery issues or TBI issues that many times will negatively impact reading success.
     
    If you notice your child or your student is struggling to read, there are a few strategies that can be implemented to help to improve reading success.  Interestingly enough, the strategies to follow here involve the use of COLOR, which can improve the connections made in the brain when one is attempting to read.  Consider one or more of these tips:

    COLOR Strategies for More Reading Success
     

        1.  Colored Paper:  When reading printed media such as worksheets, etc., consider copying the documents on colored paper instead of on traditional white copy paper.  A ream of several different colors can be purchased at your local office supply store.  Each week, try a different color of paper until the “optimum” color is discovered; that is, the color that provides the most eye comfort and focus, allowing the reader to better attend to the text and more successfully comprehend the printed material.
             REASON:   White page backgrounds can cause “visual stress” for some readers.  As a result, these readers often struggle with focusing which affects attention and comprehension.  These visually- stressed readers can also experience fatigue much sooner, and their retention of what is read is often significantly impacted.
     
        2.  Colored Overlays:  Place a colored yet transparent plastic sheet over a page of text to be read.  These can be purchased at some office or art supply stores.  Consider trying a variety of different colored sheets, one color at a time with a resting interval between each color trial.  There is a good possibility that one particular color may promote more focus and comfort for the reader than other colors. Try pastels as well as dark and brighter colors.  Introducing the best or “right” color can positively affect the appearance of printed text for a reader with symptoms of dyslexia or other reading challenge.  The reader may report that the letters stopped “moving out”, “waving out” or “shadowing” on the page. (Please see REASON above here.)
     
        3.  Reading Focus Cards: These sensory-appealing tools combine the features of the 2 options above AND also focus the eye in one directed area.  The Reading Focus Cards are able to isolate 1 or 2 lines of text on a page and block more surrounding text than any other tool available.  In addition, these tools allow the reader to change white page backgrounds with a selected colored filter (included with each tool). 

    If you try the strategies described above here, and the reading problems persist, consider visiting a developmental optometrist.  This medical professional can evaluate, diagnose and treat children and adults with vision-related reading challenges.  To locate this specialized optometrist, please visit the website for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (Please see Resources to follow here).  There you will find a “Locate a Doctor” tool in the upper right hand corner of each of the web pages on the site.  This will enable you to locate a developmental optometrist in your area.

    Resources:     
     
    Facts and Statistics on Learning Disabilities and Literacy---Publication with statistics and other information related to LD and literacy issues.
    http://www.floridatechnet.org/bridges/factsandstats.pdf
     
    College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) Website---Information about vision-related reading challenges from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.  Site includes an online 
    tool to “Locate a Doctor” in a specific geographical area.
    http://covd.org/

  11. ADHD Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Adults

    ADHD is not just a challenge that affects children and teens.  Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder can affect adults as well.  In fact, current statistics indicate that approximately 8.1% of the U.S. adult population is challenged with some form of ADHD (Source: National Institute of Mental Health).  However, this is certainly a condition whose symptoms can be managed with success. It just might take the right strategies and resources to help make it happen.  It might also mean learning to “channel” that ever-present energy in the right direction.
     
    We have gathered together here a short list of just the right resources to help adults who are truly MOTIVATED to manage these symptoms so that they can have more control over their daily lives.  Not only will these offerings help improve daily life at home and at work, but they will also improve the self-esteem and level of confidence for an adult challenged with ADHD.  We hope you find them helpful!

     
    Tips, Strategies & Resources for Adults with ADHD
     
    Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults---Statistics for U.S. adults with ADHD from National Institute of Mental Health--- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.  Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).
    http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ADHD_ADULT.shtml

     
    12 Tips for Getting Organized for Adults with ADHD---article by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
    There are small steps you can take to organize your space and your life.  Attention and ADHD coach Laura Rolands and clinical psychologist and ADHD expert Ari Tuckman share their strategies for getting a handle on clutter and creating a clean space.
    http://psychcentral.com/lib/2011/12-tips-for-getting-organized-for-adults-with-adhd/

     
    How I Got My Groove Back ---by Gina Pera
    Top 10 tips for putting the brakes on the ADD/ADHD roller coaster

    http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/7218.html

    VIDEO: Tools for Managing Adult ADHD---by Dr. Abigail Levrini (Length: approx. 24 minutes)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE2nakvjNes

    Adult ADHD: 50 Tips of Management---by Edward M Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D.
    Excellent article with practical strategies and written by the physician team, Hallowell and Ratey, renowned ADHD specialists
    http://www.addresources.org/?q=node/253

     
    Have a GREAT week with these new ADHD strategies and tips!
  12. ADHD?  Success Begins with Good Support         
                                                                          
    Happy New Year to you!  We want to wish all our readers here much success in the new year, especially in the area of reading success.
     
    If you are a challenged adult reader, a teacher or the parent of a struggling reader, you have just discovered a blog that should offer both help and support.  The articles in this blog will provide you with effective strategies, tools and resources for readers of all ages who are challenged.  These challenges may be ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision issues or other conditions that can affect one's reading ability.
     
    Our first article in this blog is dedicated to the many children and adults who struggle daily with ADHD (attention deficit disorder---both hyperactive and/or inattentive types).  The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD.  However, studies have estimated higher rates in community samples

    It is important to note that the most recent data (for the U.S.) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that:


    1. The percentage of children with a parent-reported ADHD diagnosis increased by 22% between 2003 and 2007
    2. The rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007
    3. Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

    Source:  Article---Increasing Prevalence of Parent-Reported Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Children --- United States, 2003 and 2007 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5944a3.htm?s_cid=mm5944a3_w 
     
    Because of the focus and concentration challenges associated with attention deficit disorder, we wanted to provide you with some resources that might benefit readers with ADHD whom you know and wish to help.
     
    ADHD Resources

    Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder---Current data and statistics for ADHD in the U.S.
    http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
     
    Diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Learning Disability---Article from Vital and Health Statistics published July 2008---Series 10, Number 237 (from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-CDC-National Center for Health Statistics)
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/Sr10_237.pdf
     
    CHADD--- CHADD (Children & Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is the nation’s leading non-profit organization serving individuals with ADHD and their families. CHADD has over 16,000 members in 200 local chapters throughout the U.S. Chapters offer support for individuals, parents, teachers, professionals, and others.  The website offers many resources to help individuals and families challenged with ADHD.
    http://www.chadd.org/


    Help for Struggling Readers---Excellent blog for challenged readers, their parents and teachers!  Contains 85+ articles to help children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, convergence insufficiency and other issues who struggle with reading.
    http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/
     
    FREE Printables from ADDitude Magazine---Complimentary, downloadable resources from the premier publication for individuals and families challenged with ADHD (includes such printables as 40 School Accommodations That Work, Strengthen Your IEP, 6 Steps to Success at School and more!)
    http://www.additudemag.com/resources/free-downloads/9206.html/accommodations-for-adhd-children 
     
    Here’s to MORE reading SUCCESS in the New Year!

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