From Good.Is 7 Things You Need to Know About Your Local Public School

From the article:

# 7. If your school believes that the purpose of public education is to prepare students to be well educated in order to take part in our democratic society, go to the head of the class! Does your school invite students to weekly town hall meetings? Do students have a voice in some decisions? Are teachers part of a collaborative team along with parents and administrators? If so, your children are better equipped to preserve, protect and promote our democratic way of life.

Using Mobile Screens To Make Reading Easier For Dyslexics

This is a fascinating article on a few different levels.

The fact that the the astrophysicist, Martin Schneps, who directs a laboratory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is also dyslexic is pretty cool. I know I sometimes roll my eyes at the over-emphasis on showcasing bright people with dyslexia. However, I still can’t help but feel good about some of these non-celebrities doing such advanced high level work and who happen to have dyslexia. It just blows apart the myth that dyslexia and intelligence are connected.

Even though the heavy preponderance and longstanding evidence that primary weaknesses of the “dyslexic brain” are in the lower rote aspects of language processing and not a visual impairment, there are obviously visual components to reading. This article correctly points to some interesting studies that I’ve seen before, which indicate that many people with dyslexia pick up information from peripheral vision faster than non-dyslexics.

I appreciate that Dr. Shneps is doing research on the effects of smaller screens on reading efficiency for struggling readers.

Personally I’m not a great fan of reading on a phone, but love to do so on my iPad.

Reading on an iPad has some other features though, not mentioned, besides a smaller screen than a laptop, that are very helpful to the enjoyment and ease of reading.

Being able to instantly get a definition or pronounciation of a word is helpful to be sure. Just the ease of jotting notes into a digital book, bookmarking and saving pages, makes applying and retaining what I read so much easier and more enjoyable.

From US News and World Report: Succeed in College as a Learning Disabled Student

Some pretty basic reminders for students with learning disabilities in college or about to start.

While this article has some holes, the take away should be that students need to have proper documentation of their specific learning disability. In all cases, even with the documentation in order, it eventually becomes even more important that you understand your own learning profile and what’s in the report so that you can advocate in an authentic way.

Written in 1996, this article written by Will Small still holds true and has some great ideas.

Online College Directory and Infographic

Interesting infographic (sorry though, slow loading I see) on Online University Learning.

Full article and directory here at OnlineCollegeCourse.net

It’s so fascinating to me to track the different attitudes and perspectives about having a learning disability. On one hand there is one that implies that having a learning disability somehow means you are brilliant in some way.” Paraphrased, that one may also be stated something like “Being dyslexic automatically means you have inherent talents that are caused by your learning disability.” Sometimes that perspective grows out of a well-meaning response to its opposite; that having a learning disability means you are dumb, unintelligent, stupid. Disentangling LD from IQ means just that: There’s as much incidence of dyslexia in people who score high on IQ tests and those who test low/lower. It has nothing to do with intelligence.

So what is it to be? Where and how do we advise and empower children who have real struggle because of LD issues? Do we focus on the rose and adjust their sights on the powerfully successful and wonderfully well-known celebrities of the LD spectrum? You know, Charles Schwab, Walt Disney, Agatha Christie. You know the list.

(But, as we know, roses have thorns.)

Or, do we focus on the risk and the turmoil of failure, by looking to the prevalence of illiteracy in the prison population or the stark reality that upwards of 60 percent of teens in treatment centers for substance abuse have learning disabilities?

Finally you have to land squarely in the middle of it all. It means we must be very mindful of both, and that somehow our children learn to step into an awareness of both. That doesn’t mean doing so unguided. Good care and proper timing are required. It doesn’t mean that we tell six year olds of the perils of drug use, anxiety or depression as co-morbid conditions or risks. Of course not. Yet, denial of a darker side, and overreliance on rosy pictures can in fact be a road frought with as much risk as being negative and without hope.

When we teach our children and teens, in developmentally appropriate ways, to know themselves, to stand in a mindful way, seeing their learning profile, with strengths and weaknesses, we help them progress further and into appropriate actions. True self-advocacy is based in a fierce self-knowledge. Learning when and why to challenge ineffective teaching methods is important, and is the result of this type of advocacy.

Over the years, I gotten so much mileage out of going over a pyscho-educational evaluation with students. It’s empowering and liberating to know the specifics of how one’s brain works. It turns out it’s quite helpful to understand what “rapid naming” or “phonological awareness” weaknesses means. When someone understands that their working memory is weak in the “phonological loop,” then creating an action plan to use a voice memo, or a Dragon app, to write things down, gains important traction.

By the same token a child or teen that moves from there (or in reverse order..better yet) to seeing their cognitive strengths is just as important. I remember a student who saw that her visual memory for icons and pictures was superior. She was delighted and it helped her to deal with her equally low scores in auditory working memory.

What happens when people are given truth about themselves? It takes the self-limiting and self-critical judgements out of the picture. Well, maybe not take them away completely, but it limits them, and begins the shift into accountability and strategizing. When you stop telling yourself you’re stupid (and sometimes, telling yourself “I’m brilliant” is a mask that covers up the fear of the opposite), you can become more free to work hard, take risks, to try different approaches, and to be more compassionate with your own self. Aren’t those the qualities we want for ourselves and our kids?

For most people, having a learning disability means enduring all sorts of crappy experiences in school. That’s six hours per day for many kids. Putting up with the transient but nonetheless ‘shamingness’ of this type of struggle is what the Buddhists describe as effectively dealing with Dukkha, the appearance of suffering in daily life.

When you deal more directly with that reality, you’re more able to experience and be open to the good stuff and, dare I say, even the joy of learning and living.

A wonderful example of that was Vedran Smailovic, the cellist from Bosnia who played in bombed out places of Sarajevo (former Yugoslavia) during their siege. While acknowledging the cruelty of the bombs and war (the images of the bombed out buildings), yet not giving up his capacity for hearing and playing beautiful music, he became a worldwide inspiration. Images of him playing his cello surrounded by bombed out buildings are striking.

Giving your attention only to the dukkha is giving that too much power. To live in denial of it, does the same.

From the poem “A Brief for the Defense” Jack Gilbert writes:

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.

And, he continues:

There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta…

We must admit there will be music despite everything.

The 30th Pacific Rim International Conference on Disability and Diversity, Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu, Hawaii will be held on May 19 & 20, 2014. For more information email prinfo@hawaii.edu, or call 808 956-7539. Please visit www.pacrim.hawaii.edu. Proposal submission starts on September 1, 2013.

Pacific Rim International Forum on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, May 17, 2014, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Honolulu, Hawaii. Email prinfo@hawaii.edu, or call 808 956-7539. Visit our website at www.pacrim.hawaii.edu.

The mission of the Imagination Foundation is to find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children around the world to raise a new generation of innovators and problem solvers who have the tools they need to build the world they imagine.

If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s an inspiring and on-going story of a developing non-profit dedicated to fostering creativity in children. It’s also about a cool young kid who inspired the whole enterprise with his cardboard boxed fun arcade.

In a time where arts, music and project-based learning are in short supply, it’s great to see organization like this.

On the last day of summer, filmmaker Nirvan Mullick went to buy a door handle for his ’96 Corolla. He pulled into a random used auto parts store in Boyle Heights, where he met Caine Monroy, an enterprising 9-year-old boy who had taken over the front of his dad’s auto parts store with an elaborate arcade made from recycled cardboard boxes. Caine asked Nirvan to play his arcade, offering 4 turns for $1 or 500 turns for a $2 Funpass. Nirvan bought the Funpass.

Goals of The Imagination Foundation

1. Instill Creative Thinking as a Core Skill and Social Value
Give kids the tools to develop as creative thinkers who can take on the jobs of the future, seek innovative and resourceful solutions, tackle social issues and find happiness.

2. Give Kids Opportunities to Create and Learn Based on their Passions
Help children find and develop their passions through play, hands-on learning and supportive communities. Design scalable Project-Based Learning programs that can be used by a wide range of communities.

3. Foster a Community of Creative Makers
Develop an engaged community (local and global) of young makers, parents, storytellers and educators who can share with, learn from, and inspire one another.

4. Introduce Social Entrepreneurship at a Young Age
Show kids how their enterprising spirit can have a positive impact on their community and how they can change the world for the better.

5. Use Storytelling to Celebrate Exceptional Kids and Inspire Communities
Find, document and share amazing stories of creative kids like Caine to inspire wonder, possibility, and engagement

Meet Jack, my friend and former student

Recently, the National Center for Learning Disabilities website published an interview with new high school freshman, Jack. NCLD interviews Jack, who is dyslexic, as a real success story. And while that’s true, there’s a story and history to Jack becoming so well-spoken and such a good self-advocate.

I was Jack’s literacy specialist during his 3rd grade year and again in fifth grade. As the article/interview notes, he was always a great “puzzle” kid. He’d create the most inventive Lego designs I’d seen in a while. He always had a good thirst for knowledge. In addition, he was lucky enough to have parents who saw the better in him and I’m sure that helped as well. Jack always displayed a sensitive and generous nature, but there’s two other qualities I noticed in Jack that I’m sure have been an integral part of his success.

1. He had a willingness to trust his own judgement.
He seemed to trust his own sense that besides the Orton/Slingerland styled reading and spelling training I was giving him, I was interested in his overall well-being and his “mindset.” I suggested to him once, that he would enjoy and benefit from talking on the phone with some stranger (to him) from back in CT, who was also dyslexic and knew a fair bit about computers and how technology can help. The stranger was Richard Wanderman, founder and previous owner of this site, LD Resources, and a friend and colleague of mine. I had a hunch that if Jack was willing, he’d benefit from hearing some advice and story from someone who’d been through some of the same angst and struggle. I knew instinctively that hearing from someone who’d lived through the disentangling of intelligence and reading speed would be a good thing. Jack and Richard did speak on the phone one day from my office, because Jack was willing and open to the experience even at a young age. They did have a pretty cool conversation about the benefits of word processing and other similar subjects.

2. Jack’s willingness and particular type of fearlessness.
As fifth grade got underway, I suggested to Jack that he do a presentation to his class on dyslexia and how it affected him personally. At the time, I think he was having a little bit of internal struggle about using his laptop to help him through some of the novels being read and for writing. He wanted his peers to understand why these tools were useful and necessary for him. He thought the presentation idea was pretty good. So, he made this awesome multi-media presentation to his class and the administrators who saw it were duly impressed. His peers got it, his social status went up actually, and his teacher was thrilled.

So glad to see Jack’s continued to move forward and set examples.

Right on Jack.

Photo courtesy of University of Vermont

I think Steve Jobs, who famously did not go to Stanford (nor actually complete coursework at Reed College where he enrolled) hit on some key ideas concerning intelligence and what may lead to real learning and innovation. He believed that intelligence was in part the ability to make connections between ideas and practices that may not be obvious. He further suggested, strongly, that one of the best things someone can do in order to develop those capacities is to go out and have loads of different experiences. He reasoned that if innovation was part of what you’re after, then having the same experiences as everyone else will just lead to all the already predicable places and thoughts.

Recently Stanford University published a study that showed the importance of letting students get involved with experimenting with projects and having real experiences with the subjects of what your studying, before ever reading a text about it, or even watching videos beforehand.

A new study from the Stanford Graduate School of Education flips upside down the notion that students learn best by first independently reading texts or watching online videos before coming to class to engage in hands-on projects. Studying a particular lesson, the Stanford researchers showed that when the order was reversed, students’ performances improved substantially.

Whatever discipline you’re teaching; reading, writing, science or social studies, the more and varied experimentation and hands-on experiences you and your students have, the more likely you can make connections between ideas, and the more possible it will be for you to come up with novel solutions to problems. Learn to bake bread, go for hikes, learn to use a navigation device (maps included) paint, visit a third world country and see real poverty (some of this is for upcoming college and grad students), listen to varied music or better yet, learn to play an instrument.

Here’s a link to more info on the Stanford Study, published early this summer.

Here’s a link to seven speeches by Steve Jobs, some of which concern innovation and intellignce.

A few weeks ago my mom passed away and I haven’t felt much like writing or blogging.

However that’s changed now.

I want to connect the dots from something she emphasized to me a while back, and the whole idea of thinking it’s a good idea to cart out images and stories of celebrities who are dyslexic, to kids with dyslexia.

A while ago I told my mom that my wife Debbie had given her mom a child’s doll for a present. Deb did this after learning her mom never had a doll as a young girl. Her family was poor and not particularly prone to displays of emotional warmth. My mother-in-law was probably nearing seventy when Deb gave her the doll. Stella loved the doll and the thought, by the way. My Brooklyn mom didn’t miss a beat after I told her the story and said, “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood.”

It struck me somehow as accidentally profound in this sense: My mom expressed the powerful idea that reframing your condition, whatever it is, can be a powerful ingredient for change and health. “Reframing” isn’t the same thing as denial or distortion; it’s when you consciously look at an event or experience in a different light; one that helps you move forward. Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and the author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” is perhaps the most well-known author of choosing the meaning behind any personal suffering or struggle.

So, what does this have to do with dyslexia and the use of “famous people with dyslexia?” Well, first let me begin by saying that I’ve been full circle with this one. Originally a strong user of this tactic to help kids feel better about their learning disability, I slowly became disenchanted by this over-used tendency. Sometimes relying too heavily on “famous people” can backfire. What does this all mean anyways? If I’m dyslexic does this mean I’m the next Tom Cruise or Charles Schwab?

The other day I was listening to a program on NPR about inequality of treatment and damaging prejudice towards women in Japan and other parts of Asia and the developing world. (Obviously there are corollaries in western society.) One of the parts that struck me was about how to change ignorant behavior. Experiments indicated what worked and what didn’t, when trying to in change prejudicial attitudes towards wome

What didn’t work was “education.” What didn’t work was simply “teaching” people about the history of mistreatment of women or other groups and expecting a change in attitudes.

What did work however, was exposing people to powerful images and stories of women who had overcome obstacles and become an ironworker, or a judge, or a Alaskan fisherman. Showing images and telling stories of this type did more to changing perceptions about the reality of prejudice against women, and what’s possible for women to accomplish.

This had me reflecting on, among other things, the benefits of having true role models of different types for kids who struggle in school with such conditions as dyslexia. Exposing kids to strong examples of ovecoming prejudicial and limiting beliefs (including self-belief) is important

So, yes, while it can be overdone with too much fluff, the use of exposing kids who learn differently to adults who are healthy and successful can be a powerful and useful tool. They don’t have to be celebrities mind you, ordinary people who are doing good things will do.

Many of you have heard of Temple Grandin. She’s a professor at Colorado State University, known for her ability to think in pictures in similar way, she says, to animals. She gained initial recognition by applying that ability and her affinity with animals, by revolutionizing the business of animal husbandry and humane treatment even within slaughterhouses. She has now designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States. Autism she feels, has positive sides that are essential to society.

This is a fascinating article including some great description of her brain structures.

Temple Grandin sees autism’s positive side

If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend watching Claire Dane’s brilliant portrayal of Ms. Grandin in the movie “Temple Grandin.”

Again: Vision and Dyslexia, Unrelated

Vision and Dyslexia, Unrelated

Here’s another study, based on pretty sophisticated brain imaging that shows that visual system processing and dyslexia are not linked.

While there is little debate that visual processing is important in reading and learning, the evidence piles up that when it comes to dyslexia, the most common cause of reading and spelling problems in children and adults, one should not focus on repair of visual circuitry.

Children without dyslexia appeared to have the same level of visual processing activity as dyslexic kids, when matched by reading level instead of age, they found.

Further, children with dyslexia who received intensive tutoring in reading skills experienced a subsequent increase in visual system activity.