Understanding Dyslexia


“It’s frustrating that you can’t read the simplest word in the world.”Thomas Lester grabs a book and opens to a random page. He points to a word: galloping.

“Goll—. G—. Gaa—. Gaa—. G—. ” He keeps trying. It is as if the rest ­­of the word is in him somewhere, but he can’t sound it out.
“I don’t … I quit.” He tosses the book and it skids along the table.

Despite stumbling over the simplest words, Thomas — a fourth-grader — is a bright kid. In fact, that’s an often-misunderstood part of dyslexia: It’s not about lacking comprehension, having a low IQ or being deprived of a good education.

It’s about having a really hard time reading.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States. It touches the lives of millions of people, including me and Thomas. Just like Thomas, I spent much of my childhood sitting in a little chair across from a reading tutor.

Today, Thomas is working with his tutor in an office building in northwest Washington, D.C. The suite they’re in is an oasis of white couches and overstuffed pillows. In the waiting area, a kid is curled up sucking her thumb, and a mom reads a magazine quietly.

In the back of the suite — a Lindamood Bell Reading Center — Thomas fidgets with everything in arm’s reach.

“All right, I am going to give you some air-writing words,” the tutor says to Thomas, speaking rapidly as if daring Thomas to keep pace. She spells the first one out loud: “C-O-R-T.”

With his index finger, Thomas writes the letters sloppily in the air.

Then his tutor asks a question: What sound do the two middle letters make? “Eer? Aar?”

Thomas squints at whatever visual memory he can retain from the letters he has just scribbled in the air. Then, with a burst of enthusiasm, he stumbles on the answer: “Or!”

“Good job!” his tutor replies, with what seems like genuine excitement, before moving on to her next question about the letters.

I also have a question for Thomas: What’s it like to have dyslexia?

Thomas stops his fidgeting. “It’s hard,” he pauses. “Like, really hard.”

Thomas, 9, has trouble reading, but he likes books. Just give him the audio version, he says, and he’ll “listen to the book on Audible like 10,000 times.”

“His comprehension is that of a 13-year-old,” says Geva Lester, Thomas’ mom. “He can understand Harry Potter, but he can’t read it.”

Before they started coming to this Lindamood Bell Reading Center, Lester says, she’d watch with alarmed confusion as her son struggled with the most basic text: “See Spot run.”

She remembers trying to read with him. “On one page he would figure out the word: ‘There.’ And on the second page, he would see it and he would have no idea what it said.”

Sitting there with Thomas and his mom, I remember doing that myself — and in some ways, I still do.

As a child, my dyslexia was a closely guarded secret. In kindergarten, I’d leave class to work in a tiny closet, with a space heater and a reading specialist. Walking there, down the locker-lined hallways, I’d avoid eye contact, hoping nobody would notice me.

In middle school, I struggled to read even picture books. In class, I’d pretend. Then, at home, I’d listen to my books on cassette tapes — at double speed. And during the summer, I’d go to Lindamood Bell, just like Thomas. (The reading centers, which offer tutoring and reading programs around the world, also provide financial support for NPR.)

Over the years, I survived by memorizing words. It started with boxes and boxes of index cards. I’d practice each night, looking at a word and saying its sound as quickly as I could. I memorized hundreds and hundreds — maybe a few thousand — words this way.

I’ve never been able to sound out unfamiliar words. And I still can’t.

Dyslexia causes difficulty in recognizing words.

When I come across a word I don’t know, I freeze. It’s often a last name or a street name that never made it onto those index cards. It takes a great deal of focus for me to clump the letters into groups, link those groups with sounds and, finally, string those sounds together.

Since dyslexia is not something you outgrow, I have learned to work with it, and work around it. It’s always there, but it is rarely the focus of my thoughts. That was true through college and graduate school, but when I became an education reporter, it changed.

As I returned to elementary school classrooms and interviewed parents and teachers, dyslexia kept popping up in places I didn’t expect. I saw teachers who were mystified by their students’ struggles and parents whose stamina and empathy were tested.


Dyslexia is so widespread that it forces schools and parents to take action. And yet, it is deeply misunderstood. Even basic questions don’t have easy answers.

Exactly how many people around the world have dyslexia? Well, it’s complicated. Estimates vary greatly, partly because it depends on what country or language you are talking about (English speakers may be more likely to have it than, say, Italian speakers) and partly because many people who have dyslexia never get a formal diagnosis. However, most estimates in the United States put it at somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population.

Many people think that dyslexia is seeing letters in the wrong order, or getting b and d mixed up. Not true. Researchers, experts and people with dyslexia dismiss these as common misconceptions.

So, if dyslexia isn’t any of those things people think it is, then what is it?

“It’s basically like looking at a foreign word,” says Jonathan Gohrband. He’s a videographer in Chicago and, at 31, he says dyslexia is still part of his daily life.

When reading, Gohrband says, his eyes often lurch to a stop in front of a word that looks utterly unfamiliar. His best solution, he says, is to turn to his girlfriend, asking a now familiar question: “What’s this word?” And as she answers, he almost always has the same response: “Of course that’s what it is!”

Here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with Jonathan Gohrband’s vocabulary. Or 9-year-old Thomas Lester’s vocabulary. They know what “galloping” means. And they can use the word in spoken English 20 different ways. They just can’t read the word.

That’s why dyslexia used to be called “word blindness.” People with dyslexia don’t naturally process the written word. They don’t easily break it into smaller units that can be turned into sounds and stitched together.

Dyslexia causes many obstacles for reading.

This makes reading a laborious — even exhausting — process. Writing, too. Gohrband remembers when his former boss pulled him aside after she’d received emails littered with spelling mistakes.

” ‘Hey, I know it’s the weekend, but don’t email when you’re drunk,’ ” he recalls her saying. He was, of course, perfectly sober — just dyslexic. Now, he can spend hours scouring emails he’s drafted, looking for typos. “It’s very time-consuming and very exhausting.”

Consuming. Exhausting. There’s an emotional dimension, too. Gohrband recalls that when he was a child he would fantasize about not “being broken.” He would avoid telling people about it: “If they know that you’re dyslexic, they’ll think you’re dumb.”

Yet, he says, there came a turning point when the shame faded. For him, it was when he found videography. There he discovered a “language” that came easily, and suddenly his talents were visible to others.

“I felt so much more confident,” he says.

And with time, Gohrband says, he has found benefits hidden inside his struggles. He thinks that being pushed outside his comfort zone by dyslexia has made him more creative and less judgmental.

I’ve felt that myself, and as I’ve talked with many others, I heard one thing again and again: When things don’t come easy, you learn to try new things and work hard at them.



Using Digital Devices Around Bedtime Can Disrupt Kids’ Sleep



A new study discovers use of devices such as smartphones and tablets at bedtime more than doubles the risk of poor sleep in children.
Previous research suggests that 72 percent of children and 89 percent of adolescents have at least one device in their bedrooms and most are used near bedtime.
The speed at which these devices have developed — and their growing popularity among families — has outpaced research in this area, meaning that the impact on sleep is not well understood.
Researchers from Kings College, London reviewed 20 existing studies from four continents, involving more than 125,000 children aged six to 19 (with an average age of 15).
Their findings appear in JAMA Pediatrics.
Investigators discovered bedtime use of media devices was associated with an increased likelihood of inadequate sleep quantity, poor sleep quality, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

in bed.jpg
Bedtime use was classified as engagement with a device within 90 minutes of going to sleep.
They also found that the presence of a media device in the bedroom, even without use, was associated with an increased likelihood of poor sleep.
One potential reason for this is that the “always on” nature of social media and instant messaging means children are continuously engaged with devices in their environment, even when they are not actively using them.
It is thought that screen-based media devices adversely affect sleep through a variety of ways, including delaying or interrupting sleep time; psychologically stimulating the brain; and affecting sleep cycles, physiology, and alertness.
Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, sedative behavior, reduced immune function, and stunted growth, as well as links with mental health issues.
Dr. Ben Carter from King’s College London, said, “Our study provides further proof of the detrimental effect of media devices on both sleep duration and quality.
“Sleep is an often undervalued but important part of children’s development, with a regular lack of sleep causing a variety of health problems. With the ever-growing popularity of portable media devices and their use in schools as a replacement for textbooks, the problem of poor sleep amongst children is likely to get worse.
“Our findings suggest that an integrated approach involving parents, teachers, and healthcare professionals is necessary to reduce access to these devices and encourage good sleeping habits near bedtime.”



Teach Your Kids to Pick, Prepare and Pack Their School Lunch


If kids help plan and prepare their school lunches, they’re more likely to eat them, an expert says.

Give children a list of choices in each of the main food groups — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy — and let them pick favorites in each category, Penn State University dietitian Kara Shifler suggested.

“This definitely takes time, but past third or fourth grade, they should be taking on some of the responsibility themselves. That will help them have more control over what they eat and be more experimental in the kitchen,” she said in a university news release.

Pre-planning a menu and shopping for the entire week will reduce how much time parents have to spend packing a healthy lunch on busy weekday mornings, Shifler said.

Her colleague, Dr. Marsha Novick, recommended packing a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.

“Look for things that are quick — that you can easily grab and put into baggies like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas. That can help with the time pressure we all face in the morning. It’s also helpful to pack some of it the night before,” said Novick, director of the pediatric weight loss program at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

Other healthy choices include dinner leftovers such as soup with vegetables and pasta with vegetables in the sauce, Novick said in the news release.

While a home-packed lunch is often best, school cafeterias now offer a fruit, vegetable, whole grain and low-fat dairy item at each meal.

“The key is to know what is on the menu for each day and discuss the choices with your child ahead of time,” Novick said.

Source: Medline Plus

N-n-n-n-nervous about day one? Check out 14 fun activities for that first day of class.


Whether you’re a first-time teacher or a seasoned educator, getting the year off on the right foot is certainly something to shoot for.
Day one often sets the tone for things to come, so it makes sense to kick-off the year right with entertaining and suitable activities. pencils and-stuff.
With that in mind we asked fellow teachers on Edmodo how they’ve approached the first day of class. Naturally we received lots of eye-opening suggestions for activities. Some were insightful. Some creative. Some just plain hilarious (a big thanks to Alejandra Guzman for her idea, which may not apply to everyone, “Snowball fight!”)
Here are a few other suggestions that help break the ice, without requiring snowfall:
“I’ve used several over the years, but my favorite is to get them to seat themselves in birthday order from January 1 to December 31 without my help.”
Vanita Vance
“Give Me 5 – I ask students to share 5 things about themselves.”
Merewyn Patrick
“Anything that gets them up and moving around.”
Michelle Touceda
“Have them interview their elbow partner, turn that interview into a paragraph, then have the partners stand and introduce one another using those paragraphs.”

Mrs. Touceda
“I like to start the year with world’s worst actor. The kids aren’t expected to be good which is very freeing and lets me see a bit about their performance comfort level.”
Jody Urbas
“I love art and other things where students create. This collaborative drawing ice breaker is fun.”
“2 truths and a lie.”
Cristin Miller
“Brainstorming a great school year, and creating a poster wall to get to know students and help them get to know one another.”
Stella Maris Berdaxagar
“We share our favorite book.”
Rory Morse
“I like to have them answer a fun survey, or do a share out, sometimes will use some tech games to have fun with them, learn who they are.”
Rachelle Poth
“Play the game where the teacher asks a question and kids move from one side of the room to another based on their answer. For example, the teacher says, “Pizza is one of my favorite foods.” Kids move to the right of the room if they agree and the opposite side of the room if they disagree. It’s a get to know you activity without a lot of risk.”
Sandy King
“I always start out with a Science mystery hunt! Gets the kids up and active and meeting new people.”
Linwood Starling
“Shoot selfies and show them in the interactive whiteboard while students describe themselves.”
Jose Angel Morancho
“Here’s my favorite way to start the school year off! I like to have students make a one-minute Animoto video about themselves to introduce themselves to the class. I then have them post the video to an Edmodo small group and have them comment and say nice things to each other.”
Mr. Fairfield
As you can see, the approaches are varied but most have a common theme: Get all of your students participating so they each feel involved, and let everyone get to know each other.
With that you’re sure to have a great first day that leads to a magical year.



6 Simple Ways to Stay Connected When You’re Super Busy


Couples may find themselves spending less and less time together, and the time they do have might be stained with stress. Not surprisingly, this can make you feel like you’re miles apart.

But it doesn’t take long hours of quality time to enhance your relationship connection. What’s important is developing an “attitude of carrying your spouse or partner with you” throughout your day, according to Mark E. Sharp, Ph.D, a psychologist in private practice who specializes in relationship issues.

Here are six simple ways to sustain a strong connection when the days keep getting shorter (and the to-do list, longer).

1. Use technology for good.

Technology can strain your relationship if you’re constantly plugged in, but it doesn’t have to. “Sending a quick text, an email, a chat or a phone call can take just a few seconds but can send an important message – I am thinking about you and I love you,” said Chelsea Madsen, Ph.D, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with couples at Wasatch Family Therapy.

If you get so busy throughout your day that you forget, just set an alarm on your phone as a reminder, Madsen said. Or schedule specific times in your day to reconnect, even if it’s a brief phone chat, Sharp said.

2. Plan ahead.

According to Madsen, “When the ‘to-do’ list gets longer we often get lost in the have to, want to, and should do’s, but the clarity of which tasks are the highest priorities seem to get a little cloudy.” Plus, waiting to spend quality time together when you actually have time will likely leave you waiting forever. Prioritize your relationship by planning ahead for date nights. For instance, hire a babysitter well in advance, Madsen said.

3. Know each other’s schedules.

“Another way that partners can carry each other is being aware of each other’s schedule and activities,” Sharp said. This way, if your partner has an exciting or tough day, you can support them, he said.

4. Create and continue rituals.

Your rituals don’t need to be elaborate or time-consuming. They could be as simple as a kiss before work, a chat before bed or a glass of milk in the evening together, Madsen said. And if you already have certain rituals, keep them going, she said. “Rituals tell your partner you are there, and there is stability in the relationship, something to count on,” she said.

5. Tackle tasks together.

Madsen suggested checking off your to-do list as a team. Run errands together. Catch up while you’re cooking dinner, she said. “Even working side by side on your computers can be fun and relationship-enhancing if you make it that way,” she said.

6. Check in with each other’s emotions.

“One of the first things I see slide when we are busy is emotional connection,” Madsen said. But this is an important way to feel closer to your partner. “It gives you a sense of support and confidence that is unique,” she said. So talk about your feelings, worries, woes and life in general, she said.

Credit: psychcentral.com

Transitioning your kids back to school

Back to school pics


See how to take tiny steps that can help them adjust to back-to-school season.
1. Getting Back to It
After a summer of swimming parties, outdoor activities and lazy play days, it’s natural for your child to dread the return to a more structured school schedule. Transitioning back to school doesn’t have to be a struggle, though. Prepare your child for the changes the school year will bring by discussing expectations and arranging fun activities to build the excitement.

2. Arrange Playdates
Allow your child to get back in touch with friends or meet new classmates by arranging playdates before the first day of school. You might also ask the principal for a class roster with contact numbers.

3. Adjust Bedtimes
If your summer schedule includes staying up late and sleeping in, it’s time to get back to a school sleep schedule at least two weeks before the first day. Prevent bedtime battles by gradually adjusting your child’s bedtime before school starts.

4. Implement Routines
Parents should begin to implement school routines and schedules at least a week or two before school starts, says Christina Soriano, an art specialist in New York City schools. “Use a timer and make it a game,” suggests Soriano. “Have your child complete basic actions, like packing and unpacking schoolbags and lunch boxes, creating a designated space for doing homework and other activities, and having a sign by the door that reminds kids what should be in their bag the night before.”

5. Shop for Supplies
Fuel your child’s excitement for the beginning of school with new gadgets and supplies for the classroom. Make it specific for your child and allow her to pick out a backpack, colorful folders and brand new pens and pencils. Plan a special day to pick up supplies and a special lunch outing to celebrate the start of the school year.

Source: everydayme.com

Four (4) Surprising Factors in Raising a Well-Rounded Child


It’s amazing how far a parent’s support can go. Whether it’s cheering your child on during soccer,building her confidence for a recital,or encouraging her to try a new instrument, the effort you put into her growth can influence her success.

In a country obsessed with private tutors and extra-curricular classes, psychologist-educator Queena N. Lee-Chua explained that home and family still play the most important role in a child’s learning. After conducting her own study with family counselor Maribel Sison-Dionisio at Ateneo High School, she discovered some very surprising factors in what makes a little achiever, such as…

Not with tutor

1. The time your child spends with you, not with his tutor.

Lee-Chua found out that more than 80 percent of honor students never had a professional tutor. Instead, they had their parents.

“The first 10 years of our (children’s lives) are essential not just for building relationships, but for developing good study habits as well. Investing time and effort, especially in the early years, (provides) a steady foundation for lifelong learning and may prevent future problems,” she wrote.

Own place and materials

2. A place of her own and the right materials.

Surrounded by technology, children these days are accustomed to watching TV, browsing through the net, playing games, or listening to music as they study or do projects.

But Lee-Chua didn’t agree with achiever kids who thought they performed better with these distractions. For them to really concentrate and learn, she recommended a quiet place to study with a solid routine.

She also advised providing enough educational materials for children to turn to. Books, websites, shows, and even games can make learning easier and more fun.

Reading to your child helps too. In fact, Lee-Chua encouraged, “For parents with pre-school kids, for those who haven’t done so yet – start reading to (and with) them. Make reading a bedtime ritual.”

Don’t just stop with hitting the books though, because it’s important to have…

long chats

3. Short chats and long discussions.

Encourage your child to talk to you about anything. Ask her about what happened in her day. Get to know who her friends are. Learn about her hopes and dreams.

Showing interest in what she likes can give you the opportunity to help her set personal goals that you can work with together. Lee-Chua advised, “When the child is old enough, discussion and guidance about personal goals (e.g. he wants to be on the basketball team but at the same time, he wants to do well academically) should be constantly done.”

Involving your child in family discussions is important too. It sounds like a big step, but actually exchanging opinions – even if you feel you are right and your child’s idea conflicts with yours – shows that her thoughts and feelings count as much as yours, boosting her self-confidence.

Talking about both the big and little things in her life will not only make her more open to you, but it will also help shield her from peer pressure as she grows older. Lee-Chua explained, “…one way to prevent negative influences is to be constantly present, so that our (children do) not have to turn solely to peers for affirmation.”


4. Communication is especially key when your child needs

No one is perfect, and your child will eventually encounter a challenge she’ll find difficult to overcome. The important thing is to remain loving and supportive.

Lee-Chua wrote, “Unconditional acceptance is the rule – however, acceptance is not enough. When their child gets low grades, parents do their best to help (by tutoring him themselves, researching reference materials, consulting the teacher, or rethinking the balance of academics and extra-curricular activities).”

It’s also important to never compare your child with others. Instead, instill in her the belief that she creates her own success. It’s not a matter of genetics, luck, or talent. Rather, it’s about putting in the effort to rise above mediocrity.

And it doesn’t hurt to celebrate successes. Lee-Chua added, “When based on fact and done with love and joy, this measure of family pride also bolsters the child’s and the family’s self-esteem.”

Your child’s love for learning starts with you. You play the biggest role in shaping her attitude, and it’s you she’ll turn to for the most support.So remember, the more you give, the more your child can achieve.