Dr. Warren has a blogger blog entitled Learning Specialist Materials Blogspot. Here you can access her articles.

Dietary Changes Can Cure Learning Disabilities and ADHD Symptoms

Did you know that comfort foods such as ice cream, chips, cereal, and cookies can impact children’s health, behaviors and ability to learn? As a child, I learned that I was allergic to preservatives, and once I got off of processed foods, I felt tremendous cognitive gains.  There is a multitude of reported, dietary remedies for students with learning disabilities and ADHD, however, what works for one individual often does not work for another.  The reason for this is that each individual has their own background, genetic makeup, and sensitivities.  As a result, finding a natural remedy can be a bit of a process, but I believe that it is best to address the cause then to treat the symptoms with medications.

Do Allergens/Intolerances Impact the Brain?
Everyone’s body reacts differently to food allergens and intolerances.  Some common indicators are hives, sneezing, coughing, a swollen tongue or lips, and a stomach ache.  However, because allergens travel in the bloodstream, they also affect the brain. Allergies to food can upset hormone levels and alter key brain chemicals.  In addition, allergies can cause fatigue, a slower thought process, irritability, hyperactivity, impaired concentration and in extreme cases aggressive behavior, depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and schizophrenia. Dr. Joseph Egger from the Pediatric Univeristy in Munich and his team studied the effect of food on 76 hyperactive children to find out if diet contributes to behavioral disorders. Results showed that 79% of the participants had adverse reactions to artificial food color and preservatives.  In addition, 48 different foods produced symptoms in the children.  For example, 64% reacted to milk, 59% to chocolate, 49% to wheat and 16% to sugar.  What’s more, once the participants eliminated the triggers, behavioral problems diminished, and they reported additional benefits such as fewer headaches, fits, stomach aches, rashes, achy limbs, and ulcers of the mouth.

Common Dietary Culprits:

  1. Preservatives/Nitrates: Preservatives are now known to cause a number of problems such as neurological and reproductive problems, headaches, difficulty breathing, and anaphylactic shock. There are many names for these offenders.  Here are a few: sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, sulfites, nitrate benzoic acid, propyl gallate, BHA, BHT, and TBHQ2.  
  2. Artificial Colors and Flavors:  Hyperactivity, behavioral disorders, attentional problems as well as learning disabilities have been linked to artificial colors and food flavors.  To learn more, CLICK HERE.
  3. Excitotoxins: An excitotoxin is a chemical often found in soups, dressings, broths, canned vegetables processed meats and snack foods. It causes brain cells to become excited and fire uncontrollably leading to the death of the cell.  MSG and other excitotoxins such as aspartame (Nutrasweet) are used to enhance food flavor and trick the brain to eat more.  There are many other names for excitotoxins and some include sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, anything “hydrolyzed,” autolyzed yeast, and yeast extract.  Other common culprits are carrageenan, citric acid, soy protein, “seasons,” and natural flavors.  
  4. Cane Sugar: Cane sugar and other sweeteners such as corn syrup, cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, maltodextrin, molasses, rice syrup, and sucrose can cause difficulties for some individuals. A study at the University of South Carolina found a correlation between increased sugar intake and destructive and restless behavior in hyperactive children.  In addition, a study at Yale University concluded that diets high in sugar may increase inattention in some kids with ADHD.
  5. Other food allergies and intolerances.  Some common sources of food allergies and intolerances are: wheat, milk, eggs, beef, corn, and chocolate.

What Can Be Done to Uncover Allergies or Intolerances? 

  1. Get Tested for Food Allergies and Intolerances: One simple solution is to go to your doctor and ask for a comprehensive allergy test.  These aren’t 100% reliable, so I would also consider the other options listed below.
  2. Keep a Food Diary: A food diary or log can be a time consuming, but reliable method to finding the best solution.  A child’s diet can be documented and symptoms or noteworthy behaviors can be recorded.  In addition, a child’s pulse can be taken and recorded after each meal, as an increased pulse rate is an indicator of an allergy or intolerance.  Once a particular food is thought to be a possible allergen or intolerance, this food can be eliminated from the child’s diet and the results can be recorded.  
  3. Consider follow a diet such as the Feingold diet.  

Final Thought:
Please keep in mind that other environmental factors from pollen to perfumes can also wreak havoc on the brain.  So be sure to be cautious when selecting bottled cleaners, glues, air fresheners, detergents, pesticides and other commonly known irritants.  Furthermore, some additions to one’s diet can also help. Known beneficial supplements include omego-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, vitamin D, and magnesium. Deficiencies in all of these have been shown to worsen attentional difficulties.  Finally, mindful meditation and exercise are two more powerful agents that help to combat the symptoms of learning disabilities and attentional problems.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Vocabulary Development: Why Reading is Not Enough

You often hear that children’s vocabulary will improve if they read more. As a result, many teachers and parents place a lot of pressure on students to pick up a book.  However, poor vocabulary can make reading a chore and can turn students off to reading altogether!  Here is a better way to think about it:  A rich vocabulary improves reading.  Research now shows that direct instruction on vocabulary has a greater impact on reading comprehension than comprehension strategies and even phonics programs.

Why Reading Alone is Inadequate for Building Vocabulary?

  1. Students often skip over or misread unknown words, so even if they glean the meaning in the larger context, it is often not associated with the word.
  2. Readers rarely, if ever, stop to look up a word when they don’t understand the word in context. 
  3. Learners will most likely learn a new word when there is repetition.  Therefore, when a new word is mentioned only once in a text, the likelihood of them learning it is very small.
  4. Students that infer the meaning of a word through reading can have a vague or insufficient understanding of the word.  They may have a gist of the meaning, but that is not enough for standardized tests like the SATs. 
How Can You Help Students Develop Vocabulary?
  • Exhibit and nurture a fascination of words.  Continually share your favorite words with your students and talk about the etymology, roots, suffixes, etc.   Here are two great sites that can help you:  Online Etymology Dictionary and Learn that Word.
  • Ask your students to keep a word diary, or collection of words.  Students can select a new word from readings, discussions, books, newspapers, SAT lists etc.  Each morning they should record their word with a definition into a journal.  Ask them to teach it to three people, use it throughout the day in discourse and writing, and record a final thought about the word at the end of the day.  Monitor their word journals often so that students don’t do a weeks worth of words in one sitting.
  • Suggest the use of audio books.  This reduces the cognitive load on students so that they can focus on the meaning of the text instead of the decoding process.  In addition, students will learn the proper pronunciation of words, and they will improve their sight word vocabulary.
  • Encourage and reward your students for asking you to define unfamiliar words.
  • Ask your students to select and share a favorite word of the week with the rest of the class.   This can be done through an online discussion group, as a presentation for the entire class or in small cooperative groups.  Have them explain their personal connection to the word.
  • Use a vocabulary building system such as Wordly Wise
  • Tell your students about Free Rice.  This is a free site that offers an online, game-like activity that helps students build vocabulary. The program gets harder with student success and for each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.
  • Use sites like Vocab Ahead that offers visual and auditory definitions of words or Visuwords that offers a visual thesaurus.  
  • Inform students about Vocabulary.com, a free site that offers a number of fun activities that students can play with their own vocabulary lists.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Free 60-Day Pilot of Nessy Reading and Free Dyslexia E-Book

I’m so pleased to offer you an incredible opportunity from my friends at Nessy learning.  Nessy Learning is looking for a few Canadian and U.S. schools interested in participating in a free, winter 2016 pilot of their Nessy Reading and Spelling program, used in over 10,000 schools worldwide.
  • The pilot targets children with reading disabilities such as dyslexia, and other at-risk readers from K-5 but accommodates all students and abilities.
  • The software utilizes intensive, Orton-Gillingham methods in a fun, multisensory game format.
  • The pilot will run for 60 days – beginning this winter 2016. 
  • Based on previous pilots, you can expect at least a grade level improvement in reading skill.
  • Nessy Learning provides all software, orientation material, and support material at no cost.
  • The pilot can supplement existing reading remediation programs.
  • Three, 30-minute sessions per week for each student is the recommended commitment.
  • Schools are under no obligation to purchase software at the completion of the pilot.
RSVP to ensure participation.

How to Participate:
Please use this activation code: EW101 and complete this: sign up form 

Who can Participate?

  • Teachers and school administrators 
  • Participating students do not have to be dyslexic or have difficulty reading, although struggling or dyslexic readers will benefit most.  
  • There is no minimum number of students required for participation. 

Purpose of the Pilot:

  • The purpose of the pilot is to improve reading skills (vocabulary, phonemic awareness, spelling, comprehension, fluency) for young, struggling students. Based on previous pilots, you can expect at least a grade level improvement for participating students.
  • Data collected from the pilot can be utilized in student evaluation (report cards) and planning (IEPs). 
  • Nessy will use the data from the pilot to improve and enhance the next version of the software.

Note that Nessy Reading has already undergone extensive testing.

Technical Requirements:

  • Windows – PC or Apple – Macintosh desktop
  • Broadband internet connection
  • Latest version of Firefox or Chrome browser recommended
  • Full tablet accessibility with Puffin browser
Nessy’s Role:

Dedicated Nessy staff will work with your school for the duration of the pilot. They will:

  • Provide orientation material.
  • Assist in the installation of the Nessy browser and software.
  • Provide technical support.
  • Address any issues arising including any questions.
  • Conclude the pilot early for any reason.

Your School’s Role in the Pilot:
Nessy will make every effort to limit any administrative burden.  Each school must identify a person who will work with Nessy. Their role includes:

  • Reviewing orientation material.
  • Viewing a pre-recorded webinar.     
  • Installing the Nessy browser and software.
  • Having all participating students begin with the Nessy assessment.
  • Allocating three, 30 minutes weekly sessions per student for the pilot duration.

Beyond the Pilot:

  • Progress reports data will be available to school staff at every stage of the pilot.
  • Your school will have the option of continuing to use Nessy by purchasing licenses at a steep discount compared to retail rates. 

Please use this activation code: EW101 and complete this: sign up form  

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Are Academic Accommodations Fair?

Many parents, teachers and administrators worry about whether academic accommodations offer an unfair advantage to some students. They are concerned that providing services such as extended time on tests, the use of a computer with a spell check, a reader or a copy of the teacher’s notes provides an uneven playing field.
Fair Shouldn’t be About All Students Getting the Same Thing:
If all students came to the classroom with the same brains and experiences, offering them equivalent expectations and an identical curriculum would make sense.  However, that is not even close to the truth.  In fact, each student offers diverse strengths and weaknesses, developmental levels, experiences and abilities.  As a result, fair shouldn’t be about all students getting the same things. Fair is that each student gets what he or she needs to learn.
So How Can a Student Get an Accommodation if This is What They Need to Learn?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both use the term “reasonable accommodation” to represent the modifications or adaptations resulting in equal access or improved accessibility to buildings, programs, and academics. They provide changes to traditional methods so that students’ disabilities do not impede the learning process.  For example, if a student has deficits in fine motor control and their penmanship is labored and illegible, a reasonable accommodation may provide a copy of the teacher’s notes.  Consequently, this student’s disability will not get in the way of learning lecture-based content. 

Many Schools are Now Offering Informal Accommodations.  Is this a Good Option?
Schools often offer this option to families, as it can save districts a lot of money on testing, meetings and staffings.  The problem with informal accommodations is that the teachers are not mandated to offer services and they can be discontinued at any time.  In addition, informal accommodations never apply to standardized tests such as the SATs.  If, however, a student is receiving formal accommodations, they are protected and modifications or adaptations result in equal access or improved accessibility to buildings, programs, and academics. 

Who can Initiate Reasonable Accommodations?
Any student with a qualified disability or their legal guardian/parent can request a meeting that can result in reasonable accommodations.  Please note that the disability must be documented by the school or an outside source and the results must be presented at the meeting.  If there are no prior testing results, you can request that the school provide the needed testing.  Contact your local school district to learn about their step-by-step procedure.  Make sure to put all requests in writing and also indicate that you wish to tape record the meeting.   This blog post is intended to provide an overview of reasonable accommodations and is not legal advice. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Using Tiled Floor to Create a Coordinate Plan Game

I love to use stairs and tiled floors when teaching math concepts.  In fact, I integrate as much movement and games as possible into my lessons with students.  This week, I will present my rationale and share a specific kinesthetic and playful strategy for teaching the coordinate plane.

Although many educators recognize the connection between learning, movement and games, many dismiss the correlation once children get beyond first and second grade.   I propose we are never to old to move and play!

Movement Improves Learning for 4 Reasons:
  1. It feeds the brain by increasing blood flow and oxygen.
  2. It improves attention, alertness and motivation by uniting the brain and body.
  3. It helps nerve cells to bind together, which is the basis for learning new information.
  4. It triggers the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus which is an area of the brain that is used for memory and learning.
Games and “Play” Boosts Learning:
Studies also suggest that when students engage in academic games, they become more excited about school and their learning increases.  In fact, by uniting movement and games with the curriculum students can encode new content on a body or cellular level.  Body memory suggests that the body is capable of storing memories in organs, whereas cellular memory suggests that memories are stored in the cells of our bodies.  
A Coordinate Plane Game:
Here is an easy, kinesthetic game that can be used to help students master the coordinate plane.


  • Ask two student volunteers to use masking tape to designate the X and Y axis of the coordinate plane on a tiled floor.  
  • Next, ask two or more students to write the numbers on the X and Y axis.  Finally, challenge another to define the four quadrants.  


  • Break the class into two groups (Group 1 and Group 2).  
  • Hand each group 16 index cards (you can play with more or less cards – depending on the number of students in the class).  
  • Ask the group members to write out four points for each quadrant such as (-3, 5).  
  • Check the stack of cards for accuracy and then ask a student to shuffle and swap the cards with the other group.  
  • Ask Group One to begin the game.  One at a time, each member of the group will select a card from the deck and stand on the designated point on the coordinate plane.  If there are not enough students to stand in the coordinate plane, then the index cards can be placed on the designated points.  Group One will discontinue play when they have at least two players (index cards) in each of the four quadrants.  
  • Ask Group One to add up the number of points they plotted on the coordinate plane.  
  • Clear the coordinate plane for Group 2.  
  • Ask Group Two to repeat the same process.
  • The winner of the game is the group that plotted the fewest number of points on the coordinate plane.
Clearly, teachers who require students to remain seated during the entire class period are not promoting optimal learning conditions.  By adding movement and games, students will maintain engagement and energy levels and provide oxygen-rich blood to their brains for highest learning performance.
If you would like to learn more about the research behind this, check out the book: Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition:

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Nurturing Lifetime Success for Students with Learning Disabilities

There are many successful adults with learning disabilities, but what are the common traits that these people share?  A 20-year research study by the Frostig Center in Pasadena, California answered this question and they identified 6 key attributes that contribute to success. 

  • Self-Awareness:  Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses is an important indicator of success because students can learn to utilize their strong abilities and, with the right support, deficits can be remediated.  One of the best ways to define difficulties and talents is by pursuing a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation and then working with a learning specialist or educational therapist on remedial methods and compensatory learning strategies.
  • Proactivity: Learning that we can control our future and that we can affect the outcome of our lives is another earmark of future success.  Individuals that are proactive make and act upon decisions, assume responsibility for their actions, and are willing to consult with others and weigh options. 
  • Perseverance: Pursuing goals with repeated persistence despite difficulties is also a common characteristic of successful individuals with learning disabilities.  These individuals are resilient, motivated by challenge and continue to refine their approach until they reach their objective.
  • Goal Setting: Setting attainable yet flexible goals is another key trait for success. These goals cut across education, employment, family, and personal development and often includes a well-organized and planned approach.
  • Support Systems: Supporting, guiding, and encouraging family members, friends, mentors, teachers, therapists, and co-workers are also important indicators of success for individuals with learning disabilities. Yet, as these individuals move into adulthood, they often reduce their dependence on others and usually switch roles to help others in need.
  • Emotional Coping Strategies:  Learning to manage disability-related stress and frustration as well as avoiding triggers is a final strategy for success. In particular, there appear to be three components of successful emotional coping: 
    • Awareness of the situations that trigger stress
    • Recognition of developing stress
    • Use of coping strategies that include 
      • seeking counseling
      • asking for help and self-advocating 
      • switching activities to manage stress
      • expressing feelings
      • asserting oneself 
      • utilizing peer support and encouragement 
      • learning to ask for help 
      • planning ahead for difficult situations
      • avoiding negative or critical people
      • obtaining medication – if necessary
      • working through differences with friends and family
      • sharing with sympathetic friends and family

What’s more, recent research also points to the added emotional coping strategy of mindfulness techniques such as meditation, and relaxation techniques.  To learn more Click Here

Clearly, one of the best things we can do for students with learning disabilities is to provide the nurturing support system and mindful discussions that will help them to develop these key attributes that lead to success. 

If you would like to learn more about the Frostig Center study,  SchwabLearning.org offers a free Parent Guide which describes each of the six success attributes in greater detail.  Here is a link so you can get your own free downloadable copy: CLICK HERE  In addition, to read more of the research conducted at the Frostig Center: CLICK HERE

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Multiples and LCM Made Easy with Millipedes

Over the years, I have found that students struggle remembering how to find multiples as well as least common multiples.  Somehow the wording doesn’t cue them into the process that they must execute to solve the math problems.  As a result, I continually associate multiples with millipedes and use the alliteration, multiple millipedes to help them recall and even visualize the process.   

To make the process easier, I have created a new publication (a document and PowerPoint) – Multiples and LCM Made Easy with Millipedes.  This product includes a PowerPoint lesson, as well as a comprehensive document that includes embedded memory strategies, step by step instruction, practice problems, a coloring activity, and an interactive game so that students can receive the practice they need while having fun.  Now students can learn the concept once and continue to remember the process over time. 

Click Here to learn more.  

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Free Text to Speech Software Can Help Students Edit Papers

Text to speech software is a valuable tool that comes for free on all Mac computers, and now a number of free apps make this technology available at no cost for PC users too.  Text to speech has been used as an accommodation for struggling readers, but did you know that it is also an advantageous device for writers too?  In fact, I often teach my students how to use this technology to help them edit their written language.

What is Text to Speech Software?
Text to Speech software is a form of speech synthesis that converts text to a spoken computerized voice.   This technology was originally created to aid those with vision impairments so that they could hear written text.

How can Text to Speech Help Students Edit Their Writing?
Many students struggle to edit their own work, because when they go back to refine their text, they often glide over mishaps and read it as they meant to write it.  Furthermore, there are many errors that are easy to make but difficult to see.  For example, for many learners simple letter and word reversals are difficult to detect.  If you type the word “from” as “form,” you probably won’t catch this reversal when scanning your document visually.  In addition, many young learners get confused by words that look similar but are pronounced differently such as loose and lose.   Text to Speech allows students to hear the mistakes that they may not see!

How Can I Access Text to Speech on a Mac Computer?

  1. Select the Apple icon on the top left of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click Dictation and Speech.
  4. Click Text to Speech.
  5. Select “speak selected text when the key is pressed” checkbox.
  6. The default for enabling Text to Speech is Option-Esc – or to select a different key, click Change Key, press one or more of the following keys (Command, Shift, Option or Control) together with another key and click OK.
  7. To have your Mac read text aloud, press the specified keys.  To have it stop speaking press the same keys again.  If you want it to read specific text, highlight the text before you select the specified keys.

What Free Text to Speech Apps are available for PCs and Surface Computers?
There are a number of free apps, but my favorites are Read and Write and Natural Readers.

I hope you found this blog post informative.  If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below this post.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Key Reason Dyslexics and Struggling Readers Hate to Read

Imagine going to the movies with your eyes closed.  How much of the movie would you understand?  How much of the storyline would you recall?  Not much, and it probably wouldn’t be very engaging. In fact, you may begin to focus on the smells and the sounds of people crunching on popcorn. Your thoughts might wander, and you could even fall asleep. 

Many struggling readers have a similar experience when they open a book. They get little to no visuals in their mind’s eye while reading, they report that it is difficult to maintain attention and many complain that the process is boring.  Others purport to have a “blind mind’s eye” and are amazed to learn that it is possible to create mental imagery while decoding text.    

Why Does This Happen?
The average reader puts 20% of their cognitive effort into decoding and 80% into the visualization and comprehension of the text.  However, most struggling readers put 80% of their cognitive effort into the decoding process, leaving a measly 20% for comprehension. It’s no wonder why many can’t generate personal visualizations and they end up putting books down out of boredom, frustration and exhaustion.

What Makes Reading Fun, Engaging and Memorable are the Visualizations Created from the Text
Voracious readers report that what makes reading enjoyable, enticing and memorable is the mental imagery that they encounter when reading.  They report that they get lost in a “movie in their head.”  In other words, their mind’s eye conjures up visualizations of the words they read and paints pictures. This is similar to watching a movie and their attention and motivation gets pulled into the pages.

What Can We Do to Help Struggling Readers Learn to Create Mental Imagery?
I have found that the best way to teach visualization is through games and mindful discussions. You want to develop this skill to automaticity so that students can generate visualizations while doing other activities such as reading and writing. Here are some activities you can try:

  1. Play imaginary games and encourage your students to generate visualizations and describe them in detail.
  2. Break your classroom into groups of three students.  Ask them to all read a short descriptive passage to themselves.  Then ask them to read it again and highlight the words that create mental imagery.  Next, encourage the students to share their personal visualizations with their partners.  Finally, have the groups report back to the whole class and make a list of all the unique personal visualizations.
  3. Encourage learners to listen to passages of text and then draw images.
  4. After your students read a chapter, ask them to create storyboards – a sequence of drawings that share the storyline.
  5. Take the decoding process away and offer text to speech software.  Encourage your students to close their eyes while listening and create a movie in their head.  When they are finished, have them write about or draw their own personal visualizations.

Are There any Added Benefits of Visualization for Students?
By helping your students learn how to visualize, you can provide them a “secret weapon” that can enhance their learning capacity, improve memory and spark creativity.  In fact, the research shows that visualization not only improves reading comprehension, but also creative writing abilities and memory for math, history and science concepts.  To learn more about this, CLICK HERE.

Is it Ever too Late to Develop One’s Mind’s Eye?
No, it’s never too late. Let me share a story about and elderly woman that began to visualize while reading for the first time in her life:

I’ll never forget a grandmother bringing her grandson to a consultation.  After learning that her grandson had a great visual memory, I asked him if he visualized when reading.  When he said he didn’t, I went into a short explanation and summary of the process I would teach him.  A week later, his grandmother sent me an email.  She expressed that she had been listening to our conversation and that she picked up a book and made a conscious effort to visualize the text for the first time in her life.  She reported that the experience was wonderful. 

Are There any Ready-Made Products that Can Help Students Learn to Develop their Mind’s Eye?
To help teach students to improve their visualization capacity, I wrote a book entitled Mindful Visualization for Education. This 132-page downloadable document (PDF) provides a review of the research, assessment tools, over twenty game-like activities, lesson suggestions in all the subject areas and more.  In addition, I offer two PowerPoint downloads that review the 10 core skills that need to be developed to optimize visualization abilities.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please post them below.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Successful Educational Therapy Remediation: Learning How Each Student Thinks

Every student processes information and learns differently because we each have our own, individual cognitive makeup as well as strengths and weaknesses.  As a result, the key to successful remedial outcomes is to celebrate, understand, and accommodate the unique ways that each student thinks.

How Can Educational Therapists and Learning Specialists Uncover How Each Student Thinks?
There are a number of things that professionals can do to reveal how each individual processes information.

  1. Read comprehensive psycho-educational evaluations and progress reports. 
  2. Talk to parents, teachers and other professionals that know this student well.
  3. Ask the student.
What Valuable Information Can Be Gained From Prior Testing and Reports?
A comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation can help uncover each student’s strengths as well as their areas of challenge.  On the one hand, by focusing on strengths, professionals can help students to develop compensatory learning strategies, so that they can learn to work around difficulties by using their best abilities.  For instance, a student may struggle with writing due to spelling and graphomotor challenges. However, if this student also possesses excellent expressive language skills, they could use speech recognition software to sidestep their difficulties.  On the other hand, by remediating areas of challenge, students can often improve cognition and develop abilities.  For example, by repeatedly exercising an area of cognition, a student’s capacity can improve over time.

How Can Discussions with Parents, Teachers, and other Professionals Help?
Discussions with parents, teachers, and other support personnel can also help to uncover areas of talent and challenge.  What’s more, feedback can provide clues concerning strategies that have and have not worked in the past.

The Most Valuable Person to Speak to is the Student Themselves:
The most important individual to consult is the student.  Surprisingly, they are often overlooked.  In fact, many students, when asked the right questions, can guide you to quick and easy interventions. One of the most important activities is asking the student how they think and approach different learning tasks.

  1. Ask each student how he or she processes information, and if they can not express it in words, allow them to draw a picture and then explain it.  Focus on one achievement area at a time.  For example, ask a student what it is like for them to read.  What is their inner process?  If needed, you can ask guiding questions such as: 
    • Do you see images?  
    • Do you hear an inner voice? 
    • Do you make personal connections to the information that you are learning?
  2. Question them more about their capacity to visualize?  
    • Can you imagine imagery in your mind’s eye? 
    • How strong are your visualizations?
    • Are your mental pictures in color or black and white?
    • Can you see movement?
    • Can you hear, taste and smell your visualizations?
    • Do you use mental imagery while learning in school?
  3. Ask them more about their internal voice.  
    • Can you hear thoughts and ideas in your head?  
    • Can you hear your memories?
    • Do you ever rehearse information aloud when trying to learn or memorize it?
  4. Ask each student about his or her best ways of learning.  You can do this qualitatively or you can use an inventory such as the Eclectic Learning Profile.  Consider asking about all 12 ways of learning:
    • Visual – seeing
    • Auditory – hearing
    • Tactile – touching
    • Kinesthetic – moving 
    • Sequential – ordering
    • Simultaneous – categorizing
    • Reflective/Logical – thinking to oneself
    • Verbal – talking and sharing thoughts
    • Interactive – collaborating
    • Indirect Experience – learning vicariously
    • Direct Experience – encountering in real life
    • Rhythmic/Melodic – applying music or a beat to aid memory or maintain focus
Four Specific, Student Illustrations that Show the Importance of Evaluating How Each Student Thinks:
  1. Pat struggled with school-related anxiety and expressive language deficits.  He experienced great difficulty communicating verbally and through written language. When I asked him to try and explain to me what it was like inside his brain to write, I offered him the choice of using words or a drawing to share his thoughts.  I was surprised that he had no difficulty finding the words.  Pat expressed that it was like trying to do a puzzle.  His problem was that he could only look at one piece at a time.  He had no access to the gestalt or big picture.  This was such an insightful comment that helped me guide his instruction to learning the “formula” to writing, so that when he “picked up a single piece of the puzzle” he would know where to place it.  
  2. Peter was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD, and he had the most trouble with written language.  When he came to me, everyone reported that he struggled with “writer’s block.” When I asked him how his brain worked when trying to write, he could not come up with any words to describe his internal process.  However, when I gave him a dry erase board and some markers.  He quickly produced an insightful image.  Many squiggly, overlapping lines were trying to get through one small opening.  Peter didn’t have writers block, he had, what I like to call, “writer’s bottleneck.” Instead of having no ideas, he had too many ideas, and we found that creating his own graphic organizers was the solution.  
  3. Sue struggled with memory deficits and her problems manifested in poor test grades.  Through discussion, I soon learned that Sue had what I call, “a blind mind’s eye.” She was unable to create mental imagery, and her visual memory was extremely poor.  Through discussion, Sue remembered having a wonderful imagination as a young child and recalled using mental imagery when playing.  Soon, she realized that her ability to visualize stopped after she experienced the traumatic experience of seeing her father die of a heart attack.  This event was so disturbing for Sue, that, as a coping strategy, she mentally blocked her capacity to visualize. Once she realized this, she was able to make the conscious effort to tap into this ability again and her visual memory and capacity to visualize improved, resulting in higher test grades.
  4. Jay attended sessions to determine strategies for improved reading comprehension.  I was happy to learn that he had strong decoding and verbal abilities and also had a strong capacity to visualize.  In fact, Jay possessed all the needed skills.  However, he had never considered visualizing text, and after a few lessons, was able to apply this skill to reading.  Not only did Jay’s reading comprehension ability soar, but he reported that the process of reading was, “so much more enjoyable!”
Once You have Learned How Each Student Thinks, Help Share This Valuable Information:
Once you understand how a student processes the world around them, this information often uncovers the best remedial methods.  Most importantly, be sure to share your discoveries with others, so optimal ways of learning can continue to be realized.  Be sure to:

  1. Communicate with teachers and other professionals.
  2. Tell the parents.  
  3. Educate the student and help them to learn metacognitive skills, a growth mindset and self-advocacy skills.

I hope you found this blog helpful.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz