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A DISCUSSION OF READING DISORDERS: PERCEPTUAL, COGNITIVE AND MNEMONIC ELEMENTS

October 5, 2014 in Featured, Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

A Perplexing Problem

In some ways the very idea of a reading disorder makes little sense; particularly in light of the “all things being equal” paradigm – i.e. that reading teachers and curriculum materials are usually adequate vehicles by which to impart this skill. To some extent, this is also true with regard to neuro-developmental factors.

For example, assume a given child has average intelligence, which, according to a study conducted by the Council of Exceptional Children (2011) is typical of most students with reading disorders. The fact that intellectual tests measure many of the same skills needed to learn to read, i.e. auditory memory, visual perception, visual computation and spatial perception suggests the reading disabled child’s cognitive and perceptual faculties are functioning well enough to absorb a wide variety of inputs from various sources (school, family, the general environment). This is especially relevant in light of the fact that the evidence for a specific, neurological dysfunction is varied and questionable. For example while some MRI studies have pointed to prefrontal cortical and executive function deficiencies (Beneventi, Tonessen et al. 2010) other studies have suggested cerebellar dysfunction (Nicolson, Faucett et. al 2001) while still another implicated working memory – presumably arising from temporal left hemispheric roots (Berninger, Raskind, 2008).  These assumptions are mostly based on brain activity levels – as derived from MRI studies and do not point to pathologies per se. In fact Berninger cautioned against drawing conclusions of neuro-pathological roots to reading disorders due to the fact that unusual brain activity patterns can arise from behavioral compensations learned by the child, resulting in skewed shifts in brain blood flow rather than from neuropathy. The idea that various brain sites could be involved in producing the disorder – as it often asserted with regard to more severe learning disorders such as autism, seems somewhat specious.  Children with reading disorders are usually normal in every respect, which runs contrary to the global brain dysfunction hypothesis inferable from these various research and theoretical sources. Read the rest of this entry →

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Orton-Gillingham: Who, Where and Why?

July 10, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

To those of you who have tried (and some have succeeded) it seems like you need a secret handshake to get Orton-Gillingham training. After a quick search on the internet, it might appear that you need to fly to a destination that is most likely east of the Mississippi and requires at least two weeks of your time away from home. Then once you complete this two week training, you must dedicate the rest of your life to become ‘certified.’ But this is all an illusion, an illusion that really hampers the ability of very good people to get their knowledge and training to those who need it the most, the struggling kids. Read the rest of this entry →

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Reading Is Not A Natural Process

March 26, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Many proponents of ‘whole language’ feel that, since humans learn to speak their native language through immersion, the act of reading follows a similar pattern and exposure to the printed word leads to the development of reading skills.  This reasoning bears a false truth value.  A great deal of care and attention to detail must accompany reading instruction because reading is quite different from speech.

In speech, the listener is provided with many clues as to the meaning of the words presented by the speaker.  Intonation, pitch, cadence, and body language all provide context clues that assist in the comprehension of auditory signals.  Further, according to the Innateness Hypothesis, children are equipped with a blueprint for the innate principles and properties that pertain to the grammars of all spoken human language called universal grammar.  Barring neurologically-based developmental delays, children do not require explicit instruction to master the spoken language.  Universal Grammar aids the child in the task of constructing the “spoken language”.  Structure dependency of the native language and coordinate structure constraint are inherent.  Additionally, through stages in oral communication, a speaker learns from the surrounding linguistic environment the proper cadence, pitch, and intonation associated with the successful display of language ability, as well as, the rules of grammar that are language specific.  This presents speech as a natural process.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Childhood Apraxia of Speech – Reading Help

January 30, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Reading is a fundamental skill needed for academic success.  In today’s world, strong literacy skills are essential.  Children who struggle in reading tend to experience extreme difficulties in all content areas, as every subject in school requires reading proficiency.  When children are then faced with further struggles such as speech production and receptive and expressive language difficulties, the effects can be even more detrimental.

To read proficiently, a child requires highly integrated skills in word decoding and comprehension and draws upon basic language knowledge such as semantics, syntax, and phonology.  Children with speech and language impairments, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), have deficits in phonological processing.   For these children, phonemic awareness, motor program execution, syntax and morphology will interfere with the ability to acquire the skills necessary to become proficient Read the rest of this entry →

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Embedding an ABA Intervention During Read Aloud

September 4, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It is well documented that students with ASD benefit from ABA interventions.  It is also well documented that children with disabilities (including students with ASD) benefit from inclusive classroom experiences with the necessary services and supports integrated into the classroom to improve learning outcomes.  When students with ASD are included in general education classrooms, ABA interventions can and should be embedded into as many different instructional and non-instructional activities as possible to provide the intensity of intervention they often need to meet their social communication, behavioral, and academic needs.  Many teachers consider ABA as a 1:1 intervention that can only be implemented in therapeutic settings.  However, as I discuss in my books Bringing ABA into Your Inclusive Classroom and Bringing ABA into Home, School, and Play for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ABA interventions can be implemented within everyday routines and activities across home, school, and community settings. Read the rest of this entry →

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Struggling Readers Need Small Classes

July 12, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Being in a small class, with a quality teacher, positively and profoundly effects children:

Most of the research done in the last 30 years [shows] … that small classes, especially in the primary grades, boost student achievement and that the benefits last through later grades when students are in ordinary size classrooms…. If we really want all the excellent teachers policymakers, politicians, and pundits are calling for, we have to be willing to provide the school supports that are necessary. One of those supports is reasonable class sizes that allow teachers to do their job to the best of their ability (Joanne Yatvin, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English). Read the rest of this entry →

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Why Is He Behaving “That Way?” The Answer: PEAT

June 20, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Ever wonder why your child behaves “that way?” Wonder why he dawdles, why he won’t read, why he fights with David and Brian? We can’t tell you about his genes, his DNA, the chemicals in his body, each of his neurons, or David and Brian. We don’t know all the causes of troubling behaviors, especially for individual children. But we can tell you about PEAT. Using PEAT might help you learn what’s currently causing his troubling behavior, an important step in figuring out a solution.

PEAT

PEAT stands for Physiology, Experience, Action, and Thought. First we’ll define the words and ask some questions that help explain them. Then we’ll show you how you might use PEAT to help your mythical 10-year old son, Charlie.

Physiology refers to your child’s physical needs. Does he get enough sleep? Does he have a nutritious diet? Is he having an allergic reaction? Do his ears and throat hurt? Is he forced to sit in class far more than his body can tolerate? Read the rest of this entry →

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Can Students with Learning Disabilities Learn How to Learn?

May 31, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Many middle school and high school students with reading disabilities have difficulty understanding their textbooks and succeeding on assignments. Reasons for their difficulties include:

  • Their inability to understand the demands of the task
  • Instruction devoted solely to the mastery of subject materials, such as a social studies chapter. Read the rest of this entry →
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They Ain’t Happy Tears, But They Should Be

March 28, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I had an opportunity to work with Tessa this afternoon. Earlier in the day, she brought a book to me that she hoped I’d share with the class. I said I would, but upon flipping through it, I thought better of it, and decided it’d be more meaningful if she read it instead. Read the rest of this entry →

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IEP Goals And Objectives: Are These Any Good?

February 19, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

To develop IEP goals (and, in some states and situations, objectives) that are meaningful, measurable, and manageable, requires a  preliminary step that too many IEP Teams rush though: Writing a quality Present Levels section (“present levels of academic achievement and functional performance”) of the IEP. This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.

Because goals and objectives are so critical to obtaining the services your child needs, and to monitoring his progress, it’s critical to understand the flaws that characterize so many goals and objectives. Below are some of my comments, slightly edited, from two brief evaluations I did of a third grader’s IEP. The name is fictionalized and I have the parent’s permission to use the materials. Read the rest of this entry →

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