This is a beautiful piece written by my friend and colleague Eileen Miller about how society treats people with dyslexia and/or depression. Take a moment if you can. It’s worth it.
Last week I gave the keynote at the Central Texas Dyslexia Conference in Austin, Texas. It was a vey successful event with well over 1200 attendees!
My topic was Supporting Resilience in Children with Dyslexia but I gave it a bit of a different spin that I wanted to share with you. I actually challenged the parents and educators to consider the true secret to supporting their students and children…
Here it is…:
The question is not just…
How have we, as parents and educators, organized our environment in a way that either impedes or supports resilience for our child or student…
But also how are we supporting and nurturing our own resilience?
When we usually speak of resilience, we are thinking about how a person recovers or “bounces back” from a traumatic event. For our dyslexic kids, it’s quite different.
Far too often, many of our dyslexic kids spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for 9 months out of the year in an environment that is constantly hammering them with messages that they are broken, something is wrong with them, they’re stupid…etc. So with dyslexic kids the issue of maintaining resilience is a chronic issue, not just a single event. And that makes supporting them more of a triathlon than a sprint.
Our dyslexic kids have a chronic risk of feeling ashamed, inadequate, confused and helpless. Guess who else feels that way sometimes? Yep. Parents and educators.
I’m frequently asked what is the true key to building resilience in our kids. And this is my message to you: We need to inject more humanity, compassion and self-care into our own professionalism.
And, yes, self-care is a part of professionalism.
Clearly it is a delicate, complex dance. But a necessary one.
So how do you as a parent or educator nurture this humanity, compassion and self-care in your own life? I recommend this FREE recorded webinar I did entitled 10 Ways to Take Care of Your Heart and Soul.
The ideas in my webinar may be simple but they are powerful methods to keep our cups full as we take on the challenge of supporting our dyslexic kids and students. Please make room for these methods in your life!
And remember…Self-care is not Self-ish. It may be the greatest gift you can give to our children and students.
If you’d like to see all the slides from my presentation, please click here to download.
For the kids.
As it often happens these days I was contacted by some dyslexia-friendly folks from across the globe recently. They put together a rather nice infographic and asked me to share it with you.
JunoMedical is a global company based in Berlin. Their mission is to fundamentally transform how patients access and experience healthcare globally through the use of smart technology. I was pleased to see that they have dyslexia on their radar…and it’s always interesting to see how other countries are supporting our students!
I’m pleased and honored that they reached out to me and I hope you find their infographic comforting and useful! Please feel free to share!
Infographic – 5 Ways to Build Reading Skills in Your Child with Dyslexia – an Infographic from Junomedical
Book Review: Dyslexia Advocate–How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public School System
Kelli Sandman-Hurley’s book, Dyslexia Advocate, is not a just good book. It is a very, very good book.
If you’re helping a student who is struggling with dyslexia, whether you’re a parent or loved one, this book should be on your shelf.
If you are a clinician or learning specialist, I strongly suggest that you recommend this book to every family with whom you work.
Dr. Sandman-Hurley has been able to beautifully weave together the key information we need to have when learning how to advocate for our children with dyslexia. She aggregates the core information you need in one place so that you don’t have to search all over the web. Not only has she pulled the information together into one place but she “wraps” it in really solid and grounded advice and wisdom.
There is so much I like about this book. I often speak of the importance of helping parents “build a map” for understanding how to navigate the crazy, hair-pulling process of getting appropriate services for our dyslexic kids. Dr. Sandman Hurley does just that.
Keili starts with the basics of dyslexia and why structured, multisensory and explicit interventions are important for our kids. From the beginning, her writing style reflects her ability to distill complex issues into understandable concepts.
I also like how she structures Chapter 2 regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In this chapter she does a great job outlining many of the basic issues and concepts that you really need to consider. If you were to start with the actual regulations in IDEA, your eyes will likely glaze over pretty quickly and you may got lost in the wonky jargon. However, at some point it is important to do a deeper dive with the regulations so she includes the full regulations in an Appendix in the back of the book.
Chapter 3 is when the value of Dr. Sandman-Hurley’s book really takes off. She provides step by step guidance for getting yourself organized when you suspect your child may have dyslexia. Clearly, especially for parents and others who are just starting in the process, this period can be confusing, upsetting, terrifying, enraging or all of those things at the same time. Having these step by step recommendations (that include examples, by the way) really serves to anchor you and helps you feel a sense of order and control. The record keeping that Kelli recommends also helps you keep the school team accountable for staying on track and providing the appropriate services your child needs by making all interactions explicit and recorded.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Sandman-Hurley devotes over 80 pages (out of 200) to the IEP process. She prepares you well for the sense of being overwhelmed that these IEP planning meetings will likely cause you. Well, she prepares you as best she can anyway. If you don’t have an advocate, walking into that room by yourself and facing anywhere from 5 to 10 people on the school team can be very destabilizing. The amount of information in the evaluation can be confusing and daunting. There are so many things coursing through your head and heart. Let’s keep in mind that this is your CHILD we’re talking about. So the recurrent theme here is prepare, prepare and prepare again.
Kelli does a great job with the basics of understanding the assessment results. You have to keep in mind that psychologists, speech and language pathologists and other assessment experts spend years accruing the education, training and experience necessary to conduct and interpret testing. You should not expect that you will become an expert right away. If you follow Kelli’s advice, it will again serve you well by anchoring you to the basics. Start there and trust that you will become an expert about your own child in time.
My favorite chapter of the book is Chapter 5: What Does a Good IEP Look Like? Again, she does a great job of combining clear guidelines, examples and solid advice and wisdom about the IEP development process. Most importantly, Kelli provides many concrete examples of exactly how to write up goals and accommodations. The exact wording is absolutely critical to the creation of a solid set of goals. So many of us, the school team included, have never been properly trained to create an actionable, realistic IEP. If for nothing else, it is worth buying this book just for this chapter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie in the process or a professional with 15 years of experience. You will find valuable tips in this section.
In the following two chapters, Kelli discusses how to follow up during the implementation of the IEP and what you should consider if you go with a 504 plan.
She also has compiled an excellent resource section at the end of the book that will prove to be very valuable over time.
Finally i want to comment on Chapter 8: Communicating With the School. Dr. Sandman-Hurley delivers a message that we will likely need to hear frequently. Sometimes things go very smoothly during the IEP process…Everyone works together as a team with the child’s best interest at heart. Far too often, though, the process can be contentious. Regardless, using aggressiveness and a blaming tone is not likely to be effective. You’ve got to be persistent, prepared and not intimidated. Not easy to do but it will increase the likelihood of getting what your child needs. And you will find that when you acknowledge good work you increase the probability of teamwork and collaboration.
So, I guess I’ve been kinda clear that i really respect Kelli’s work in creating this book. Every parent with a dyslexic child should have a copy. Every learning differences professional should highly recommend this book to all families with dyslexic kids. It’s that good.
Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dyslexia-Advocate-within-Public-Education-ebook/dp/B01BCQP8MK
For the kids,
Note: I am in no way being compensated for this review.
I want to share this recent interview that my friend and colleague, Erica Warren, did with the CEO of www.scrible.com, a research and writing digital tool.
This is, by far, the most robust research and writing digital tool for researching and organizing your content for virtually any kind of writing project. It is of particular interest to me because so many of our kids who learn differently really struggle with executive function and overall organization.
But the way the Scrible.com team built the tool is ingenious. Not only can individual students use the tool for research and wrting but teachers can use it with an entire class…AND monitor the individual progress of each student in real time throughout the research and writing process.
I won’t go on and on here regarding all of the features and functionality. I think it makes more sense to link you to Erica’s interview with Victor Karkar. The review is extensive (45 mins) and well worth the listen.
Click HERE for the link.
Finally, the tool is very affordable. There are two free levels usage (if you sign up they give you a free upgrade) and the third level is called EDU PRO. It’s only $10 per year for a middle or high school student and $28 per year for college and graduate school.
Hope you enjoy.
For the kids,
The Coolness of Online Tutoring
Just a few years ago I suggested that maybe we could find some online tutoring services for a child I had evaluated. The poor little guy lived in the middle of nowhere…The term “Orton Gillingham” could have been an obscure skin condition for all anybody around him knew. Nonetheless, judging by the response from others working on the case, you’d think I was a complete idiot.
Well, that’s changed. As with so many other areas of life touched by technology, the ways in which we care for our kids has changed forever.
Arranging for post-evaluation remediation has been one of the most painful, frustrating issues for the families of my students throughout my career. As clinicians, we worked so hard to write a report that made sense, stripped away all the confusing jargon, and told a story about who this child is as a person…Most importantly we strived to write recommendations that were clear, concrete…doable. And yet time and time again the community just didn’t have the resources we needed to follow up.
Sometimes it was because the teachers had not been properly trained and supported. Sometimes it was because there just were no learning specialists in the area. Sometimes the really good tutors weren’t able to take on anymore clients. Far too often it was all three of those things.
That’s why I’m so excited that the tide is turning. Every day, more and more properly trained tutors/learning specialists have adopted online tools that allows them to provide high quality, multisensory support to our kids through the Internet.
It’s not that there is any perfect substitute for being in the room. But when there is no “room” think of the millions of kids with learning issues that can now be properly cared for over the Internet.
We need to get the word out. Many highly regarded folks are compiling lists of tutors who are offering their services online… Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Susan Barton, The Kildonan School and many others.
Still, there are many issues that need to be addressed when a parent is seeking an online tutor/learning specialist.
My colleague, Dr. Erica Warren and I would like to help . Next week we’re going to launch an online course that very specifically provides parents with the map you need to successfully match your child with the right online tutor.
We’re going to cover all kinds of topics including:
- The types of key professionals that support students through online platforms
- How to deal with safety, connectivity and cost
- How to find the RIGHT person to work with your child
- 14 best questions to ask when you interview prospective online candidates
- What online instruction and remediation sessions should look like–including a video demonstration with Dr. Warren
The last part is especially cool because Dr. Warren is an expert at online educational support (well beyond just reading) so you get a real example of what it looks like.
I’ll post again next week when we’re ready to make the course available. Stay tuned.
For the kids,
My Understood.org video chat recording is available. Great for beginners to learn about psychoeducational evaluations. I’m very pleased to be included as a subject matter expert with Understood.org. In this video chat I provide basic information regarding a family’s rights regarding getting a child tested, what the evaluation should look like and the benefits of testing and the difference between a public and private evaluation. I cover several other very common questions about testing as well. I hope you find this helpful!
Click Exploring Evaluations with Dr. Michael Hart to listen!
Your Child Restored: The Path from Suffering to Success
By Michael Hart, Ph.D.
Effective Advocacy for Your Child with Learning Issues
Discovering that your child has a learning problem can be very confusing, frustrating and often overwhelming. Many of us, even bright, highly functioning people really struggle with figuring out what to do. Oftentimes, our first reaction is to reach out to the school for help and support. For a myriad of reasons, we may find that teachers and their colleagues are ill prepared to provide all the help we need. In addition to the lack of training and support for the teachers, our education system is often a messy, slow-moving bureaucracy. In the meantime, our children suffer needlessly…Sometimes for years.
Just last week, while meeting with a group of parents, I was struck again by the pain and agony we feel when we assume that our children’s school officials have the know-how or resources to adequately support our students’ special learning needs only to find out that they don’t. I’ve been experiencing this pain and agony since I started practicing 25 years ago. That is TRULY needless suffering and we’ve got to change this.
To be clear, I am a huge advocate for teachers. The vast majority of educators are seriously committed to their profession and want to do their best. A lack of proper educational opportunities, inadequate professional development and limited resources frequently stands in the way of their ability to function effectively.
The primary example I use is this:
Facts about Dyslexia and Teacher Preparation Programs
- Research indicates that approximately 10% to 20% of our students struggle to some degree with dyslexia–a language processing-based difficulty with reading, spelling and writing.http://eida.org/dyslexia-basics
- And yet, three out of four elementary teacher preparation programs still are not teaching the methods of reading instruction that could substantially lower the number of children who never become proficient readers. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Chapter3_FindingsByStandard (pp. 36-38)
- Virtually no secondary school preparation programs include curricula about reading and written language instruction in spite of the fact that dyslexia is a life-long issue.
The majority of our students who struggle with learning struggle due to issues with language-based processing weaknesses. So, first and foremost, how can you expect a teacher or educational team to help your child in this area when they aren’t given the education, training and experience to do so? The short answer is that they can’t.
We need to change that reality but it’s going to take decades. So I’ve come to realize that the path from suffering to success is found by changing our assumptions, expanding our focus and taking better care of our heart and soul RIGHT NOW.
Your Child Restored: The Path From Suffering to Success
Over the course of 25 years of working with kids and their families, I’ve created and refined a 5-Part Program where parents and guardians have to think much more creatively about their kids who have learning challenges starting at the very beginning of awareness of the problem.
The core belief behind my program can be obvious but also quite provocative and nerve wracking for the child’s caregivers. I very directly challenge the assumption that the experts lie outside the family. Parents must go way beyond contacting the school for help and understanding.
In a nutshell, PARENTS OR PRIMARY CAREGIVERS are always going to be the most powerful and effective advocate for THEIR child. NO ONE…Not your child’s teacher, or guidance counselor, or principal or therapist will be more effective than YOU. You may not feel that way in the beginning but you can get there. It’s important to remember that this is a process…a marathon, not a sprint. But you’ll get there…and so will your child. This is not to say that there is not a role for educational consultants. We can be very helpful but in the long run we often come and go over the years. We are most effective serving as anchors or guides during the critical moments when you need us. And we are most effective when we guide your self-directed education. It’s the old “Teach a man to fish and he eats forever” model.
My program, Your Child Restored: From Suffering to Success, is based on five key steps that a parent or caretaker needs to take. Here is a very brief synopsis of each of those key steps.
Part One: Fully accept and embrace the role of your child’s advocate
Many of us feel overwhelmed by the prospect of advocating for our child when we think we don’t know a thing about their challenges. Moreover, aren’t the teachers the experts? Far too often that is not the case. When we offer our children up to the educational bureaucracy, months and months or even years can go by before a proper remediation plan is put in place.
It behooves us to emotionally accept that we are not only able to take on the role but can be effective. And, as I will mention in Part 3, it creates a mindset where you much more rapidly begin to take a look at all of your options both in school and out. Remember that early intervention is key and that you cannot take the “let’s wait and see” approach.
Part Two: Educate yourself relentlessly so that you can make informed decisions
One of the wonderful aspects of the digital revolution has obviously been our ability to access information that previously was locked up far and away from lay people. There are mountains of content out there that you will find helpful in both understanding what you’re dealing with as well as what to do about it.
Initially, it will take time, like all new things, but you will grow your database of knowledge quickly. It is not rocket science. Even understanding the underlying neurobiology is do-able. Just slow down and you will learn the specific terminology.
One key issue will be your awareness of your rights in negotiating for services within the school district. Know them well.
Over time, your need for certain types of information will change. The demands of middle school are different than the demands of high school and college. How your child’s or loved one’s brain is wired will likely not change but how they use their brains to meet the environmental challenges will shift over time. Information regarding how to manage those transitions is available to you.
Part Three: Evaluate all of your options for supporting your child–both in your community and within your school district
The cliché that “It takes a village to raise a child” is a cliché because it is true. In most cases you will find that you will need community and home-based resources above and beyond what the school is offering for remediation and skill building. This may take the form of perhaps private school placement, extra tutoring, special classes (both to help with the dyslexia and classes that give your child or loved one pleasure), counseling and consulting, etc.
Fortunately, educational technology has become one of the most powerful tools for remediation, training and education. The software and applications available today are completely transforming how we work with our children. This is especially so for people with dyslexia. It is a “specific revolution” within the overall educational technology revolution.
Part Four: Advocate fiercely along the way. Be calm, be ready, be fearless and never give up.
By advocating “fiercely,” I do not mean that you should act like a bull in the china shop. A true warrior is calm, well-prepared and fearless. “Never give up” of course is the mantra for many struggles in our lives. In this case, it is a great gift to your loved one.
Dyslexia does not go away. Henry Winkler, The Fonz from Happy Days, is well known for quoting the following, “You don’t grow out of dyslexia, you just learn to negotiate with it.” So you have to keep at it and work to avoid giving up.
Again, having electronic access to information and having access to a community of others through digital media and local groups is so critical and at the very least you or your loved one will learn that he or she is not “broken” and you or your loved one are not alone.
Part Five: Take care of your heart and soul as well as your child’s heart and soul.
I am not sure that I can possibly emphasize Part Five enough. It’s often the missing ingredient for families who really struggle with learning issues like dyslexia.
For your child or loved one it is so important to help them pursue what they love to do and what they do well. Six or seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months out of the year our children are in a setting that screams failure for them. They need your guidance and support to heal their heart and soul by doing what they love.
And the same goes for you. So many parents or caretakers get so focused on the difficulties and challenges that they miss the value of replenishing their spirit.
Really, when all is said and done, what is most important in life?
This two hour webinar on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17 AT 10AM CT is a follow up from our previous webinar entitled Dyslexia Screening in Schools: Supporting Our Teachers By Doing it Right!
In the first webinar, you learned best practices for both evaluation and implementation of an effective dyslexia screening process in your schools.
Now in this webinar we will provide a clear “map” for selecting and implementing intervention programs based on the results of the universal screening process.
Our goal is to offer a framework to make your job easier!
In this webinar you will learn about:
- The importance of understanding literacy and math skills development for ALL educators
- A map for assessing which intervention approach is best for your school or district
- Guiding recommendations for appropriate intensity and duration of interventions at multiple levels
- Specific examples of intervention approaches
- Extensive live and pre-selected Q&A with a top educational expert
IF YOU CANNOT ATTEND THE LIVE WEBINAR, WE WILL RECORD THE EVENT AND YOU WILL BE ABLE TO VIEW IT WHEN CONVENIENT FOR YOU. ANYTIME. ANYWHERE.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND VIEW AGENDA: Choosing and Implementing Dyslexia Intervention in the Classroom
The NSA and Dyslexia: A Love Story
Soon after relocating my learning disabilities (mostly dyslexia) diagnostic practice to Annapolis, Maryland I encountered a bit of a mystery during my family interviews. Fortunately it turned out to be a lovely mystery.
In the mid to late 1990’s I had a thriving practice evaluating and diagnosing a wide range of learning issues for kids and adults. I had learned early on in my training that collecting as much information as possible from BOTH parents was critical to truly understanding who these young people were as…people…and not just a set of test scores. So I made it really clear in the intake process that both parents needed to attend the initial interview.
But something strange although ultimately wonderful started happening during my meetings with mom and dad. It went like this:
Me: So, what do you do for a living?
Parent: I work for the government.
Me: Yeah, yeah, right…So what do you actually do for a living?
Parent: I work for the government.
Stone-faced, resolute response. Period.
Hmmm, what’s the deal here?. It took me a few family interviews to figure it out and then the light came on.
Annapolis, Maryland is a bedroom community outside of Washington, DC. Of course DC is the home to the FBI, Secret Service, CIA and the NSA (among other shadow agencies we don’t even know about)…Guess where all these folks live? Specifically with the NSA, employees are not allowed to tell anyone where they actually work. Hence the stonewalling which was really just a reaction to my cluelessness!
But here’s the real story. I was getting a LOT of referrals for families that did not share where they were employed! Why was that?
Of course, as we now know, dyslexics and people with other learning issues think differently! And more importantly, they approach problems in atypical and oftentimes unique ways. The NSA is all about finding unique solutions to huge, hoary global problems buried in massive volumes of data. They HIGHLY VALUE dyslexics as employees because they possess special cognitive abilities! Dyslexics, by and large, see things differently which is enormously valuable to security agencies.
I can’t confirm this but I’ve heard that up to 50% of people who work at the NSA have some sort of wiring issue in their brain…It’s certainly not something that the NSA would publicize but it makes sense.
Here’s where the story gets lovely.
We know that far too many of our dyslexic kids suffer needlessly in school–often for many years–due to a lack of understanding about how they learn and how they need to be taught. This is not a knock on teachers–they just haven’t been getting the type of university training and professional development they need.
Often my NSA parents had suffered through school as well…but they ultimately had the experience of finding themselves being highly valued for their brains as adults. They were embraced and highly respected in their careers.
And that experience gave them the wisdom and foresight to know that their children would be okay too…once they got through school. The world will open up to them too. This knowledge so deeply informed their emotional response and actions when their children started struggling in school that their own experience became a gift to their children.
My NSA parents were able to consistently deliver the message to their children–both emotionally and rationally–that they were okay. They weren’t stupid or weak or broken. It was the environment that was not taking proper care of them–there was nothing wrong with them. Yes, school was a pain. Yes, they had to go get tested. Yes, it was a struggle. But there was such a deep and clear emotional understanding that “we are going to get through this as a family” and the children would flourish and their strengths would be valued as the world opened up to them later in life.
To this day, I am enormously influenced by my experience with those moms and dads. I will never forget them. Of course it was tough but it was a beautiful example of how parents can raise their child to thrive even in difficult times.
It was a great gift to me too.