Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on parent advice.

15 Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

How can we nurture resilient, active learners that embrace challenging academic material and become successful lifelong learners? Carol Dweck suggests that what we need to do is help students shed a fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. What’s more, Dweck contends that developing a growth mindset will also result in less stress and a more productive and fulfilling life. 

What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
In a fixed mindset, students believe that their abilities are dependent on fixed traits that can not be changed such as intellect or talent. Individuals that think this way, often cultivate a self-defeating identity, feel powerless, and many struggle with a sense of learned helplessness. In contrast, students with a growth mindset accept that abilities and aptitude can be developed with persistence and effort. As a result, these individuals are not intimidate by failure, because they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They continue working hard despite any difficulties or setbacks. 

So What Can Teachers do to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom?

  1. Instruct your students about what it is to have a growth mindset and ask them to interview and write about someone that has a growth mindset.  
  2. Resist offering hints when students struggle to answer questions.  Instead, allow your students the time to think aloud and formulate answers so that they can embrace this as part of the learning process.
  3. Demonstrate your own growth mindset by seeing yourself as a lifelong learner that can improve and grow.
  4. Teach your students that what is most important is what they do after a failure.  Ask them to discuss this in small groups and then share their conclusions with the class. 
  5. Create an environment that nurtures and rewards students that maintain motivation and effort. Provide opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes, make corrections and improve grades.  
  6. Share real-life stories of past and present students that have exhibited a growth mindset. Challenge your students to do the same.
  7. Read about successful people who worked hard, struggled, and overcame obstacles to reach a high level of achievement.  Ask your students to write about how they could apply a similar mindset to their own life.
  8. Recognize initiative and praise students for hard work.  Avoid accolades for intelligence or talents.  To learn more about this, watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly.
  9. Encourage students to be aware of their inner voice and to speak to themselves like they would speak to their best friend. Help them to become aware of any fixed mindset phrases they may use such as “I can’t do this.”  Ask your students to share other fixed mindset phrases they have used in the past and make a list on the board.  Next, as a group, reword all the fixed mindset phrases listed with growth mindset suggestions.  For example, a growth mindset phrase might say, “This may be difficult at first, but with practice and effort I can master this!”  
  10. Watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly and lead a discussion with your students about how they can become better learners.
  11. Celebrate mistakes and thank students for sharing any misconceptions. Tell your students that this will help you to be a better teacher, and they will become resilient learners. 
  12. Offer a suggestion box to your students, so that they can share thoughts and ideas that can help to improve the classroom environment, instruction methods, and assessment tools. 
  13. Find out what motivates your students and integrate it into the curriculum. Then, share your own enthusiasm and excitement on the topic.
  14. Don’t give homework.  Instead, assign creative, home-fun activities that are optional.  Provide assignment possibilities that students will enjoy completing and let them be a part of creating these assignment options.  
  15. Have your students complete and score a grit scale test.  Then watch Angela Duckworth’s TED video and lead a discussion about how students can become more gritty. 
If you have any more suggestions on what we can do to nurture a growth mindset in the classroom, please make a comment below this blog 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.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Sleep and Learning: Strategies to Help School Children Fall Asleep

Do your students or children struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Do they complain that they are fatigued during the school week? Many youngsters are up late doing homework, and as a result, they do not get the needed rest.  In fact, recent research suggests that insufficient sleep has been shown to cause poor school performance, cognitive and emotional problems, disciplinary problems, sleepiness in classes, and poor attention skills. 
Insufficient Sleep Can Also Lead to:
1.     symptoms of depression and anxiety
2.     aging of the skin
3.     serious health problems
4.     weight gain
5.     impaired judgement

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
According to WebMD, the amount of sleep needed varies per age. 
·       7-12-year-old children need 10 – 11 hours of sleep per night
·       12-18-year-old adolescents need 8 – 9 hours per night.

What Does the Recent Research Suggest?
Recent research has revealed an association between insufficient sleep and poorer grades and behaviors in school.  In 1998, psychologists Amy R. Wolfson of the College of the Holy Cross, and Mary A. Carskadon of Brown University Medical School surveyed more than 3,000 high-school students and found that those who earned C’s, D’s and F’s had about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed about 40 minutes later than students who received getting A’s and B’s.  In addition, researchers at the University of Minnesota reported on a study of more than 7,000 high-school students that attended a school district that had switched from a 7:15 a.m. to an 8:40 a.m. start time. When compared to students that maintained earlier start times, those that started later reported more sleep on school nights, feeling more alert during the day, earning improvements in grades and experiencing fewer depressive thoughts and behaviors.  Furthermore, in 2009, American and French researchers discovered that events in the brain called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. This process transfers learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep which can be impacted by insufficient sleep.  What’s more, Wiggs and Stores research reported in, Sleep Disturbance and Daytime Challenging Behaviors in Children with Severe Learning Disabilities, indicated associations between sleep problems and challenging behaviors. They found that sleep problems were more common in children with severe learning disabilities and that these children were also more likely to show daytime irritability, lethargy and hyperactivity. Finally, according to Backhaus, Junghanns, Born, Hodaus, and Faasch from the University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany, lack of sleep is associated with diminished consolidation of declarative memory. In other words, during sleep the brain turns recently learned memories into long-term memory storage, and sleep helps to lock in the learning.  

What are Some Strategies to Help Students Get Enough Sleep?
  1. Avoid television or screen time two hours before bed.  Research suggests that children who watch TV before bed stay up later and sleep less than children who do not.
  2. Prevent exposure to bright lights two hours before going to sleep.  A bright light can disrupt one’s circadian rhythms making it difficult to fall asleep.
  3. Keep your child’s bedroom as dark as possible.  Even a night light can disrupt sleeping patterns.  Help them to get comfortable with the lights off, or leave a nightlight on until they fall asleep.
  4. Provide children with a pass that is good for one (and only one) trip out of the bedroom after their bedtime.  If needed, allow them to earn a reward for compliance after a few days.
  5. Avoid long naps during the day as this can make it difficult to fall asleep in the evening.
  6. Engage in calming activities like meditations, lullabies, affection, and storytelling to help children relax and prepare for sleep.
  7. If your child still has difficulty falling asleep, encourage them to count backwards in their heads from 100.
Clearly, we need to assure that our children get the needed sleep so that they can optimize their learning as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing.  If you know of any other strategies, please share them with us.

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.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  
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A Learning Disability Diagnosis: Should I Tell My Child?

I find that a lot of parents decide to hide the fact that their child has a learning disability.  They want to protect them from negative associations with the label.  Most of all, they don’t want their child to feel disabled or experience any bullying from his or her peers. Although there might be some short-lived uncertainties and uneasiness associated with learning about one’s diagnosis, the research shows that has lasting beneficial outcomes.

How Can Learning about One’s Learning Disability Diagnosis Help?
Learning about one’s diagnosis can help in a number of ways.  Whether the child is in elementary school or even approaching college, learning about one’s learning disability:

  1. shows there is a reason for academic struggles and that the child can receive support and reasonable accommodations that will help them to succeed.
  2. helps define the type of assistance that a child needs so that remediation can be tailored.
  3. enables children to shed negative labels such as stupid, lazy, unmotivated, and careless.  
I actually did my doctoral dissertation on this topic.  I interviewed higher education students that were diagnosed with a learning disability for the first time in college.  I wanted to see if their diagnosis impacted their sense of self.  The stories were inspiring and profound. Although some of the participants experienced some initial, short-term concern about their testing results, before long, all those interviewed reported that learning about their learning disability as well as their strengths was empowering in three areas of their life: personally, academically, occupationally, and socially. All of the participants had an improved self-esteem and felt “vindicated, validated and freed.”  They reported improvements in their lives, and they all experience resulting academic and occupational success.

How Do I Disclose a Learning Disability Diagnosis to my Child?

      1) Prepare Your Discussion

  • Manage your own emotional reactions to the diagnosis, before talking to the child.
  • Make sure you know all about the learning disability including associated struggles and even some possible strengths associated with the condition.
  • Compose a simple script before you begin the conversation about the evaluation results and any changes that might take place in school.  
  • Be prepared to explain what the learning disability is and what it is not in a sensitive and age-appropriate way.  Avoid professional terms and use vocabulary that is easy to understand.  

      2) Conversation Suggestions:

  • Discuss the child’s learning problems with him or her in a gradual, informal, and sequential way.
  • Share that all people have strengths and weaknesses and then discuss some of your own challenges. 
  • Remind the child that they learn in a unique way that requires hard work and some different activities from classmates.  
  • Explain that learning can be a challenge and that it may take a little longer to master some skills than other classmates.
  • Reassure the child that negative and fearful feelings are natural and understandable at first, but that in time, learning about their brain will help them to be successful in life.
  • Provide inspiration by citing successful people, friends and family members that have similar problems.
  • Emphasize the child’s strengths and do not simply focus on deficits and difficulties.
  • Remind the child that there is a strong and intact support system at home and at school.
  • Talk about accommodations and modifications that he or she may need.
  • Encourage the use of teacher-pleasing behaviors in response to receiving extra help.
  • Finish the conversation by encouraging the child to ask questions.
How Do I Support my Child After Disclosing His or Her Learning Disability?
  • Maintain open lines of communication with your child, so he or she can speak freely at home and with school personnel.
  • Be prepared to spontaneously discuss incidents that may occur at home or at school in a positive and supportive manner.
  • Share ways your child can compensate for any academic or social difficulties.
  • Teach your child self-advocacy skills.
  • Provide encouragement as well as positive and constructive feedback.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and express optimism about the future.
  • Keep expectations realistic but high.  As children grow and receive remedial assistance, areas of difficulty can be overcome.
  • Set goals that are attainable, even if this is only in small progressive steps. 
In the long run, hiding a learning disability diagnosis from your child will create more difficulties and angst than it will save.  In contrast, helping a child learn about their difficulties as well as their strengths is a critical step in developing and sustaining motivation, independence, and self-advocacy skills.
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.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Eradicating Errors and Mistakes and Embracing Oopsy Doodles

Have you ever made a mistake or error? Were you ever wrong? Were you ever told that you were careless, lazy or umotivated?  



How did that make you feel?  Were you embarrassed?  Were you ashamed?  Were you angry? Were you sad?



Now, I want you to imagine a giant eraser, because were are going to erase all mistakes.  We are going to erase errors.  We are going to erase anything and everything wrong or careless.  And, as we mindfully delete all those negative words and memories while holding onto any valuable lessons, all those bad feelings disappear too.



Imagine that you travel around the world and erase every careless mistake – every single error – everything that is wrong.  All those bad feelings leave everyone and float up into the sky and disappear.   All that remains is a perfect, deep blue sky with wispy clouds.



Now, imagine that in the sky, appears the words Oopsy Doodles in colorful swirly letters.  Oopsy Doodles are wonderful, because they help us to grow. Oopsy Doodles tell us what we don’t understand, so we can learn. Oopsy Doodles are cool, colorful and fun.  

Everyone makes Oopsy Doodles and that’s one of the wonderful things that make us all human beings. Parents make Oopsy Doodles. Teachers make Oopsy Doodles.  Even our president makes Oopsy Doodles; and you make Oopsy Doodles too.  So the next time someone tells you that you have made a mistake or an error, that you are incorrect or they call you careless, tell them about Oopsy Doodles. Tell them that you and many others are changing the world.  That you are helping to erase negative labels and replacing them with the beauty of Oopsy Doodles.  Help them to see how positive Oopsy Doodles can be.  

____________________

The reason why I created this post and I encourage you to spread the word about Oopsy Doodles is because so many students are traumatized by negative labels and wording in education. Students are continually told what is wrong with their work, but rarely told what is right. Many are afraid to participate in their classes, because they don’t want to “look stupid.” They are disinclined to make mistakes and combat the impatient smirks, belittling snickers, and disgruntled rolling eyes. In addition, time and time again, students have shown me assignments that are covered in negative comments and large red “Xs.” A couple years ago, one student came to a session feeling so dejected, it took me an hour to rebuild his confidence. Even though he got an 87 on an assignment, the paper was filled with big red “Xs” and in giant letters across the page his teacher wrote, “LOTS OF CARLESS ERRORS!” This student had executive functioning as well as attentional weaknesses, and the last word that described him was careless. Still it took me an hour to pull him out of a deeply defeated and helpless mindset. It wasn’t until the end of the session that I pointed out to him that that everyone makes oopses. In fact, the teacher had misspelt careless. Another incident was a six grade student that was doing poorly in school. She had a teacher that made all the students in her class redo wrong answers on assignments and tests and categorize these mistakes as concepts errors (never understood the content) and detail errors (careless mistakes). She hated completing these assignments and because of them, she hated school. It wasn’t until I changed the wording that she could begin to follow through with the assignment. Instead of a content error we called them a “What?,” and we replaced detail errors with an “oops.”  

An article by Harvard Business Review reported that the ideal praise to criticism ratio is six to one for the highest performing teams, and this study was done on adults!  But is criticism even appropriate in education? Couldn’t we just change our focus to the positive and even praise those that help us to understand areas of confusion? 

Over the years, I have learned to mindfully eradicate negative words. For example, I never say “no.” Instead, I declare, “That was close” or “Give it another try.” If you too can do this, it will change the energy of your classroom and will create a safe place for students to participate and learn. If you would like to learn more about shifting negative labels to words of encouragement come read my blogpost entitled Embracing Positive Learning Environments.

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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Mindful Meditations for Children: An Interview Heather Bestel

It is with great pleasure to share with you an interview with Heather Bestel – the creator or Magical Meditations for Kids.  Heather is a holistic therapist and mindful teacher that embraces the ideas of “hope, love, kindness and forgiveness.”  She believes that “everyone is capable of doing great things” and she helps many along their path to success.

New research suggests that meditation benefits children academically, emotionally, and personally, and Heather’s materials are truly outstanding.  My students love Heather’s meditations!

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Erica: If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is at the heart of Magical Meditations for Kids?
Heather: Inspiring children to connect with their inner sense of calm.
Erica: Why did you create your products?
Heather: I had been working with children as an educational psychotherapist for many years and loved to use stories and meditations with them as part of the process. I’m passionate about the power of story and love meditation.  I had built up quite a library of resources, but they were never exactly what I was looking for, so I started to develop my own. All the meditations have been honed and tested on thousands of children over the years. In 2010 I was approached by a publisher

who was a big fan of my work and wanted to make it available to the world.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Magical Meditations for Kids Click here to view more details
Heather: All the children I’ve worked with for more than twenty years have inspired me, and I learn from them all the time.
Also, my good friend and founder of A Quiet Place, Penny Moon. Penny has always been a big fan of my therapy work and invited me to head up the team to pilot her idea of offering Educational Therapeutics in inner city schools to support families of children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. The pilot was monitored and measured by Liverpool University and deemed a huge success.  Now A Quiet Place offers holistic support in schools nationally and internationally. It was during my time working with this project that I created my first magical meditations.
Erica: Who is your audience?
Heather: The meditations are divided into two age groups: 4-7 year olds and 8-11 year olds. But I’ve used them successfully with pre-schoolers and teenagers too. They can be used by teachers during circle time or quiet time or during personal health and social education classes or as a wind down to the day. Parents love them whether their child is experiencing challenges with anxiety or just enjoying a chill out session before sleep. They are a great resource on a long car journey too.  
There are 2 titles in the 4-7 age group:
  • Magical Me – is a lovely safe way to introduce younger children to the world of relaxation and helps them learn how to find their inner calm. They develop some wonderful resources to empower them whenever they need it.
  • Magical Adventures – takes our explorers on magical journeys: under the sea, into space, to the circus and on a magic carpet ride.  It helps them build their confidence and creativity.
  • Click here to view more details
There are 2 titles in the 8-11 age group:
  • The Magic Castle – helps children to feel calm & confident, increasing feelings of happiness and pride and build a belief in being amazing and talented.
  • The Magic Garden – helps older children to relax and switch off. They will love visiting their own special quiet place where they can develop a sense of wonder and feel: calm and peaceful, happy and relaxed, safe and loved.
  • Click here to view more details
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about Magical Meditations for Kids?
Heather: I especially enjoy all the wonderful comments I get from the children as they always tell me how the magical stories make them feel.
Parents and teachers notice changes in behavior and attitude sometimes a soon as the first few days of listening. They are great if a child is struggling with a specific issue like nightmares, bedwetting or anxiety as the parent can measure results really easily.  Parents are delighted when their child is able to find their way back to their happy place.
Teachers love that they have a way of helping their pupils learn to slow down and be still, especially in this age of constant distraction. They notice a difference in use of imagination, concentration and an increase in their sense of well being, self esteem and a deep sense of inner calm.
I get a lot of emails from parents of children with autism telling me what an indispensable resource I’ve created.  Those messages are always extra special.  
Erica: Will you be creating more CDs?  How about digital downloads?
Heather: I’m always working on new ideas and would love to create more CDs. The present meditations are available as digital download and as apps. 
Erica: Will Magical Meditations for Kids be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?  
Heather: I love to think of my work being around and developing in the future and am looking at ways to progress it in terms of new technologies. There is so much potential for growth and I’m always listening to new ideas and feedback from the most important people, the children.
Erica: Do you have any links or images that you would like to share?

Heather: I have a free gift for any parents wanting to try out my meditations with their own children. It’s a very gentle introduction to my work with a bedtime relaxation called My Angel to help your child have a peaceful sleep with their very own mp3. To download: go to 

http://www.magicalmeditations4kids.com/custom-p/free-stuff.html  If you are interested in Heather’s other materials Click here to visit Heather Bestel.

                                                  ________________________

I want to thank Heather for sharing her words and wisdom with us.  


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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Mindfulness and Resilience for Teachers and Students: An Interview with Renee Jain

I am truly honored and very excited to share an interview that I conducted with Renee Jain.  Renee is an award-winning technology entrepreneur, speaker and certified life coach that specializes in cultivating mindful resilience skills for children and adults.  Renee has transformed research-based concepts into fun and multisensory learning modules and workbooks that are ideal for teachers and students.  My questions focused on her site, GoStrengths!, that offers metacognitive techniques through digital animation and activities.  However, I soon learned, as will you, that she has a number of fabulous products and resources. 

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Erica: Hi Renee.  Thank you for making the time to speak with us.  If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is the heart of Go Strengths?

Renee: The idea that happiness is a skill that can be fine-tuned with practice.

Erica: Why did you create the Go Strengths website and products?

Renee: There are simple research-based tools that can change a child’s life such as awareness of our self-talk, disputing inaccurate thoughts, and nurturing more optimistic explanatory styles. Why should kids only have access to such a toolkit inside the walls of a therapist’s office? Right now, we wait until children get anxious or depressed, for example, to send them to therapy. That is, if we recognize the issue, can afford therapy, have access to it, or deem it appropriate. All these qualifiers result in less than 30% of kids ever getting the help they need. But what if we took fundamental skills that anyone would learn in talk therapy and just taught this to kids early? What if we gave kids life skills before they faced their first big challenge? What we know is prevention of mental health disorders is possible. GoStrengths is a prevention program. 

The other reason we created GoStrengths is that beyond surviving, we wanted to teach kids how to thrive. Just getting rid of all the bad stuff can take you from a -10 to a 0. To live with meaning, hope, purpose, joy, and gratitude, are a whole separate set of skills we can pass onto children.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Go Strengths? 

Renee: There were so many people (and continue to be) that it’s hard to create a comprehensive list. The work of Martin Seligman–the founding father of the field of positive psychology–has been a great inspiration to this work. Research by Richie Davidson who studies contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and its effects on the brain has been another inspiration. Then, of course, there was a boy named Scott in my 7th grade math class who used to pick on me–a very non-resilient child. Many of the scenarios within the GoStrengths and GoZen programs are based on the challenges I faced while growing up. 

Erica: Who is your audience?

Renee: We reach parents, teachers, amazing children, and practitioners. This last group includes therapists, coaches, social workers, and other professionals working with children. 

Erica: The cartoons as well as the dialogue presented in your 10 modules is truly excellent.  Did you have a large team working on this comprehensive program?

Renee: Thank you! Our team is extremely large when it comes to heart, passion, and ingenuity. In terms of absolute numbers, we’re pretty dinky.

Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about your Go Strengths materials?

Renee: Oh, the feedback has been tremendously positive. It often brings tears to my eyes when someone says that this program is the thing that really clicked with their child and has made all the difference. 

Feedback we recently received on GoZen: “Thank you really doesn’t even begin to do justice to what GoZen! has done for my daughter. She is in kindergarten and this has turned us around. She also made her own GoFreeze necklace to take to school.”

Erica: Will you be creating more modules?

Renee: Absolutely. We have two full programs right now. The first program we launched was GoStrengths! dedicated to teaching social and emotional learning skills to children and aimed at the K-12 community. We also have GoZen! which deals specifically with anxiety relief and is used more by parents and therapists. We also have a mindfulness program that has yet to fully roll out called GoToTheNow! Our next project is an anger management program for kids.

Erica: Will Go Strengths be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?  

Renee: Yes! We started with online programs only, but realized people still love to hold something in their hands and write on paper. So we’ve expanded the programs to have home study versions with workbooks and DVDs. We also have an array of other books, relaxation CDs, mindfulness cards, and more. What we’re most excited about is the launch of our toy line. Our first anxiety relief doll will be available next month!


___________________
Thank you Renee for sharing your words with my audience.  The products you have already created are both brilliant and magical.  I can’t wait to see what you create next.  
You can purchase comprehensive modules on the sites www.gostrengths.com and www.gozen.com.  In addition, some of Renee’s products are available through Amazon – see the links 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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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A Multitude of Resources for Dyslexia at Dyslexia Reading Well

I am so pleased to feature an interview with Michael Bates: the creator of the Dyslexia Reading Well website and the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide 2014-2015 (Click here to view more details). As a parent of a dyslexic son, Michael has created a wonderful and heart-felt site packed with valuable resources for individuals with dyslexia, parents, teachers and more.

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Erica: Why did you create the Dyslexia Reading Well website?

Michael: Because there is overwhelming need for it. There are literally millions of parents with kids who struggle to read, many dyslexics themselves.  I am convinced that most of those parents (and many teachers) desperately want to help their children, but are not finding the kind of information and advice they need; my website is intended to help them.  I know for fact that many parents are struggling, because I was one of them. I wish we had caught the dyslexia in kindergarten or grade one instead of grade 5—it could have made everything much easier for my stepson. 

Michael Bates


As a parent, community and even a society, we have to take the problem very seriously. Lives can be derailed and destroyed by reading disabilities. For example research shows that our prisons are full of struggling readers.   While there are some good websites out there already, they are tiny compared to the scale of the problem and the need.  I felt that reaching even a few parents would make the site worthwhile; but today, seeing the number of daily visitors, and the kind emails I receive every week, I know that many people are benefiting.  This feedback is extremely rewarding.      


Erica: Why did you create the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?

Michael: Even though I try to make the website easy to navigate, I recognize that parents have very limited time and can’t get to every page that may be of interest.  So I pulled together what I thought to be the critical information parents need and assembled it into one easy to read guide.  It’s not a short guide at 80+ pages, but I think it is very easy to navigate and as an e-book, very portable.  To be sure, there is more that parents need to know beyond the guide, but if I had been referred to this guide when we first discovered that my stepson was struggling to read, it would have put us on the right path, helping us avoid false starts, unhelpful programs and wasted money. That’s what I hope it can do for other parents.  

Erica: What types of resources can parents find in the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?


Michael: The guide is meant to present the essential information: definitions, lists of symptoms and signs and an explanation of causes.  There is also some information on assistive technology since that is now so important for every student. But where I think the real value of the guide lies is in the resource lists. First there is a table of reading programs that work best for dyslexic students and an explanation of why they work (the critical content and methods).  This can help parents find a reading program that will make a real difference.  
Sample pages from DRW Parent Manual

Second there is a state by state list of schools, tutoring centers and community groups. This table will point parents to local resources.  For example, I had no idea that there are so many schools for dyslexic kids until I started building my website.  Also most parents don’t know that there are very active support groups such as Decoding Dyslexia and the International Dyslexia Association that have branches in most every state. My guide helps parents discover those critical links and connections which in turn will lead to more information and support. Finally there is a state by state list of legislation relating to dyslexia. In some states there is legislation requiring schools to assess young readers for dyslexia or laws requiring teachers to be trained for teaching dyslexic students. By knowing ones state mandates (and other states) parents are in a stronger position to assess how their school is performing or where their child might be better served.   

Erica: Will you be updating the guide yearly or creating other guides?


Michael: My plan is to make minor updates on an ongoing basis (two already since October) and then make one major annual overhaul before releasing the next edition each October in conjunction with Dyslexia Awareness Month. 


One of the benefits (and challenges!) of authoring an e-book is that it can be kept current with the latest science, news, product releases and policy changes that are going on.  I am also currently working on a guide for U.K. parents and after that one for parents right here in Canada.  Finally, I am thinking about creating other guides for teachers and students.
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?


Michael: The feedback from my Facebook page and through the website has been very positive and encouraging.  It’s not yet on Amazon, where it will be publicly reviewed, but it should be soon.  Of course as an author, I see room for growth in future editions. For example, I look forward to adding content on Individualized Education Plans, homeschooling, and new assistive technology, which is always in a state of flux.  
_______________

If you are interested in viewing a free sample or getting the guide,  Click here to view more details! You won’t be disappointed.


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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Our Golden Anniversary – Celebrating 50-Years Married to Dyslexia

I’m so pleased to feature this heart-felt and beautiful piece by my dear friend and fellow dyslexic, Stan Gloss.  Stan provides a glimpse of his “marriage to dyslexia” and shares his life’s challenges as well as his most recent realization that dyslexia is in fact a gift.

A
golden anniversary is an amazing milestone to reach in any relationship.
 It is even more remarkable when your marriage is to Dyslexia.
 Although this can be a challenging relationship, you can learn to work
together to create success.  Please join me on my 50-year journey with
Dyslexia.
My
relationship with Dyslexia began in 1963.  My mother spoke to our family
doctor, Dr. Gregory, because she was concerned that I was struggling in school
with reading and writing. Initially he sent us to an eye doctor to check my
vision.  After a comprehensive assessment, I was diagnosed with a “lazy
eye.”  To treat this condition, a special screen was attached to our
family’s 19” black and white TV set.  I had to wear huge glasses that
swallowed my face like the ones from the first iMax movies. To see the whole TV
screen, I had to concentrate on using both eyes, or half the screen went black.
Even watching TV became work.  My eye did get stronger but my reading and
handwriting did not improve.  In fact it got worse, and because of this, I
began to fake asthma attacks to stay home from school to avoid feeling anxious
and humiliated.
Next,
my mom and I were sent to a Neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. After
a lot of poking and prodding and having to stand around in my underwear, my mom
and a strange doctor talked about me like I was invisible.  From there, we
were referred to the Reading Research Institute in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
 At the Institute, I met Dr. Charles Drake, who would go on to establish
the acclaimed Landmark School in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1971.  After a
battery of psychological tests, he reported his finding to us. “You have
Dyslexia.” With those words, Dyslexia became my silent partner.  Dr. Drake
advised me, “Your relationship with Dyslexia is not going to be easy, but with
hard work you will learn to flourish together.”  Dr. Drake should know, he
was happily married to Dyslexia too.
Sadly,
my teachers and principal had no concept of Dyslexia and refused to accommodate
us.   For them, my diagnosis was just an excuse for being stupid and
lazy.  Their answer was always, “just try harder.” I tried and tried and
nothing changed. This became a frustrating, vicious cycle.  Albert Einstein
best describes this pattern, “ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over
again and expecting a different result.” I quickly learned, it was best to try
to keep Dyslexia “in the closet.” However, as the school years
continued, I could no longer hide my Dyslexia.  Red marks slashed across
my papers and kids giggled as I stumbled to read aloud.  Peering over the
shoulder of the girl in front of me, I compared my small insignificant blue
star to her giant golden seal.  I felt ashamed and defective.
 Dyslexia and I wrestled and clashed through the school years and what
resulted was a lot of scrapes and scarring.  I blamed Dyslexia for
all my bad grades, a 714 combined on the SAT’s, and the rejection of every
college I applied to except for my father’s alma mater. To say I was in a
dysfunctional relationship was an understatement.  I hated Dyslexia, but a
divorce for irreconcilable differences was impossible.
What
do you do when it seems like the world is against you?  Where do you find the
strength to keep going?  The key to my survival was finding mentors and advocates.
 They coached me to stand strong when nobody else believed in me.  The
two most important people were Dr. Gregory and my mom. On the one hand,
Dr. Gregory was my mentor.  I became his little apprentice. I would spend
time after school sitting on his knee while he stitched up cut fingers, looked
under the microscope at blood cells and read chest x-rays.  When I was
with him, I felt excited and smart.  On the other hand, my mom was my
advocate.  She fought the school system every step of the way. When they
tried to hold me back a grade or limit my future by pulling me out of the
college track, they invited a battle that they would never win. My mom
was an unyielding force,
but I was still in the trenches.
To
hold my ground at school, I had to sacrifice playtime for tutoring. Saturday morning cartoons were traded for tedious drills.  Strict nuns in
their scary habits and shiny black shoes instructed me at the Cardinal Cushing
Reading Clinic in Boston.  My reward for enduring the tutoring was riding
the subway home alone from Boston.  For me the Boston subway system was an
amusement park.  I bought my token from the man in the booth, inserted my
coin, pushed through the turnstile and entered a magical wonderland of
adventure.  I loved riding in the front of the trains and trolleys, imagining I
was the conductor driving through the symphony of orchestrated lights. Between stops, I slid down the escalator handrails and raced back up the
descending stairs.  Fresh-popped popcorn was a common treat at the
Government Center T stop, as well as weaving between people to catch the next trolley.
When I was in the subway, I was free, independent, and in control.
If
school and tutoring was not challenging enough, Hebrew school and my Bar
Mitzvah became an impossible burden.  After a long day struggling through
school, I went home and traded my school books for Hebrew books. Mrs. Gutell
whisked us away in her carpool to the next town.  Reading English from left to
right was difficult, but reading Hebrew from right to left became my
worst nightmare.  In my second year of Hebrew school, Dyslexia and I could
not take it any longer, so we dropped out and my mother acquired a tape
recorder and another tutor.  Mr. Copeland was a rather portly, older
gentleman with suspenders who taught at MIT.   Each week he recorded
a couple of new lines for me to learn and practice.  I listened to the
recordings over and over again.  Eventually, I memorized my entire Bar
Mitzvah and proudly delivered it in front of my family, friends and the temple
congregation.  
I
made my next breakthrough with Dyslexia my first year in college studying to be
a respiratory therapist.  At the end of my first semester, I volunteered
at my local hospital in the Respiratory Therapy Department, and this became my
classroom.  Watching the respiratory therapists controlling the life
support machines, treating asthmatics, and bag breathing patients during a
“Code Blue” became my best way of learning.  Once I made the connection
between the real world and what I was studying, there was no looking back for me.
 I began to stop blaming Dyslexia for holding me back, and with that I
moved forward – fast forward.
With
these learning strategies in hand, together we completed Bachelor’s and
Master’s degrees and all of the coursework toward a Ph.D.  At 24, I was
named the youngest Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University. By 28, I was
the Chairman of our Department. After that, I worked in the medical
device market collaborating with Anesthesiologists. Now, I am CEO of my own
company building the super-computers that scientists use to accelerate
discovery.  For those who knew about my Dyslexia and me, they continually
commented about and complemented our accomplishments. However, I still felt I
was in a struggling relationship.
They
say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. One day my sister shared
a book call  The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain.  Drs. Brock and Fernette Edie’s words
artfully reinforced that a relationship with Dyslexia is a blessing. For
the first time, in my life, I fully accepted my Dyslexia.  It reminds me of
a verse from the David Crosby song, Long Time Gone. “But you know, the darkest
hour, is always just before the dawn.”  Now I reflect on my first fifty
years with Dyslexia. A long time has gone, but the dawn has risen on my next
fifty years.  Moving forward, I embrace Dyslexia as my amazing gift, and I
hope my journey shows others with Dyslexia a path to acceptance and
empowerment.

I hope Stan’s story inspires you, too, to recognize the gifts in dyslexia.

Affording Academic Support For Students with Dyslexia



Will Insurance Companies Pay for Academic Support Outside of School?

Many families hope that their insurance coverage can help lessen the financial burden of academic assistance for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, as study skills, development of cognitive abilities and homework help is often necessary for this population.  Although this appears to be a reasonable service, particularly for children that have a diagnosis, upon investigation, you will find that this is not the case.  Insurance companies will often accommodate medical and mental health services, but because tutors, learning specialists and educational therapists, are trained primarily in education, they don’t have the licensing credentials and codes needed for insurance companies to cover the costs. 
Are There Any Tax Benefits for Tutoring for Students with Dyslexia and other Learning Disabilities?
Before disregarding this option all together, there is good news.  According to the IRS publication 502, under the heading Special Education, with a doctor’s note, parents can include in medical expense fees the costs for tutoring by a teacher who is trained and qualified to work with learning disabilities.  Moreover, check with your employer to see if they have any other options.  Some large companies, such as IBM, offer financial support for these types of services.   

Are There Any Tax Benefits for Special Schooling for Students with Learning Disabilities?
According to the IRS publication 502, again with a doctor’s note, families can be compensated for a child attending a school where the primary reason is overcoming a learning disability.  

So How Do I Decide on the Right Type of Services?
First off, make sure that you pursue a comprehensive psycho-educational assessment. This can be done through your local school district.  However, please note that many school districts often do inadequate testing, so finding a professional in your community that can do a comprehensive evaluation is best.  Make sure that they provide a thorough report that discloses the underlying cognitive weaknesses associated with the learning disability.  Then, find a highly-trained tutor, learning specialist or educational therapist in your area that can offer the remedial help needed.   Click here to read an article on finding the right professional.  Be sure to speak with each potential provider, so that you can find the best fit for your child.  
Early intervention and support is key for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.  If young learners get the right help, some areas of deficits can be remediated and children can also develop compensatory and self advocacy strategies that will help them to attain their highest potential.


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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The CodPast Celebrates the Cool and Creative side of Dyslexia

I’m so please to feature and share an interview with Sean Douglas and his Codpast!  Sean is an internet broadcaster with experience in broadcast TV news, public relations, corporate communications and podcasting.  After Sean was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult and met other successful dyslexics, he created the Codpast, to share those stories and more with the public.

My Interview with Sean:


1)
Can you please give us a brief description of The Codpast?
The Codpast is a media portal which consists of three online radio shows (podcasts), a blog, news articles and videos.  The main purpose of The Codpast is to celebrate the cool and creative side of
dyslexia.  We hope it will be a place where
people can come to hear positive stories that they can identify with and pick
up tips and advice.  Ultimately though, we hope it will be a place where people
can come to find compelling and interesting content.
2) I
understand that you were diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult.  What impact
did this have on you as a person and a professional?
At the time it didn’t have a huge impact, as I already knew I was
dyslexic.  The diagnosis just meant I had
confirmation and a certificate to prove it.  At that point, I was a news
cameraman which utilized a lot of my
dyslexic strengths, so once I got the diagnosis I kind of just forgot about it.
3)
Many individuals with dyslexia have genius qualities.  What do you believe
are your most amazing talents?
I’m extremely organized.  I wouldn’t say this is a talent, as it is
something I have to work at incredibly hard. However having everything organized
is what allows me to function in the kind of work I do now.  For instance I have
about 12 email addresses.  Most people would see this as a huge pain but for me
this is great.  I see each inbox as a folder, so for me this is actually a
system where emails automatically sort themselves into the correct folders.  This is a bit time consuming to set up but once it’s up and running is saves me
hours.
4)
What are the ways that dyslexia creates challenges for you?
Reading and writing are challenging.  Writing emails
takes forever and takes a huge amount of energy, especially when
trying to convey a complicated concept.  As the world now relies more and more
on text-based communication, this is a bit of an issue.  Whenever possible, I will give someone a call.  Even if it takes me a
few days to get hold of
someone on the phone, I know that in a 5 minute conversation I can achieve what would have taken me
hours
of email writing.

5) What can people learn from your website and podcasts?
I really hope people are inspired and entertained when they come
to my site or listen to the podcast.  I try and keep the
guests as varied as possible, so hopefully there will be many guests that
people
can personally identify with.  I also want to make the site quite fun and
contemporary, so we do things like our Top 10 videos.
6)
Who were the two most interesting people you interviewed and why?
Every story we have featured so far is different, but two that
standout for me are Episode 5 with Aakash Odedra and Episode 6 with Peter
Stringfellow.  I think Aakash’s story shows how important it is to accept your dyslexia. He had achieved so much in his life, but it wasn’t
until the age of 21, he had an incident with his passport which forced him to accept that dyslexia was a part of him.  This
allowed him to take
his career to the next level.
Peter’s story was a pretty epic rock
and roll tale, incorporating the Beatles, Marvin
Gaye
and Stevie Wonder.  But at its core, it reinforces the fact that in life things
don’t always plan out the way you thought they
would.  Although it may be difficult at the time, in hindsight these mishaps are
generally the things that push you in a new direction you may
never have thought of.
7)
What have you learned from creating the Codpast?
Producing the Codpast I have learnt a hell of a lot about myself and
how dyslexia has shaped the person I am.  It’s great connecting with other dyslexics and realizing there are other people
that do some of the weird and quirky things that I do.  When you realize there are a whole group of people doing the same
things as you, they suddenly become less strange.

The self-awareness that I have gained from
producing The Codpast has also given me the confidence to be less apologetic
about being dyslexic.  It’s also made me more
pro-active in doing
things and obtaining information in the ways that best suit me and yield the
best results.
8)
What can people do to support your effort?
The best thing that people can do to help the show keep going is to
spread the word.  I would love people to tell their friends,
retweet and share our posts on Facebook and Twitter.  Another thing that really
boosts the show’s visibility is when people subscribe to the show on iTunes and
leave 5 star reviews; this helps the show get on the
featured list on
iTunes.  There is also a donations page and any donations large or small really
supports this cause as, at the moment, I fund the show myself.

I also had the great opportunity to Skype with Sean.  We had fun sharing our passions and experiences.  One area that Sean discussed was the different types of assistive technology that he utilizes.  Here is a list of his four favorites:

  1. ClaroRead:  ClaroRead is text to speech software for the internet as well as scanned books and documents.  It includes visual tools such as colored text, highlighting, and it offers an enhanced spell check, homophone check and thesaurus.  ClaroRead can even read the words as you type.
  2. AudioNotetaker: Audio Notetaker offers a visual and interactive form of note-taking where audio, text and images are used to create comprehensive notes.  
  3. Global AutoCorrect:  Global AutoCorrect allows you to focus on your writing as it automatically corrects your spelling as you type. 
  4. Encrypted dictaphone:  This device records audio and is converted to another form that can not be easily understood by anyone but the authorized parties.  
Sean also shared a video of a recent speech that he gave at the Moat School in London on how Dyslexia has impacted his work life.  Thanks Sean!
So, please check out the wonderful free podcasts and other goodies at Sean’s site, and share this gem with your friends and loved ones.  To learn more go to: http://thecodpast.wordpress.com/


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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