Stay tuned. Not much information explained. Hopefully this school will get its act together.

Principal replaced at school for students with dyslexia

Dislecksia, the Movie

Looking forward to seeing this documentary film,
“Dislecksia”, by Harvey Hubbell.

Upcoming Information sessions for parents and professionals interested in this excellent school.

Information Sessions for Riverview Academy, October 11th, 2013, East Sandwich, MA

Dyslexia May Be Behind Directional Confusion

Marson Nance’s wife doesn’t have to worry about him leaving her; she simply says his sense of direction is so bad, if he did go back to his parents on the east coast he’d probably end up in Nevada (where they live) anyway. When she tells him to turn left, he’ll always turn right.

Then it adds:

“The matter of left-right confusion, which is found in those who suffer from dyslexia…”

I think this article gets it wrong. From my experience it’s way too simplistic to say part of dyslexia involves confusion with directionality. What I’ve found is that there are plenty of folks with dyslexia who get confused around some words that indicate directionality, most notably “left” and “right.” That list could be expanded to be sure, but the point is the confusion lies with attaching the right meaning to a word, not direction per se. I have known plenty of people with dyslexia who are amazingly good at a sense of direction and space, while using landmarks or other visual anchor points. I’ve been with Alaskan commercial fisherman.

Of course there are people who really do have real impairments with directionality but that is a co-occuring condition with dyslexia sometimes, and other times it exists soley on its own.

Photo Credit: Samantha Contis

Vision Therapy to Address Learning Disabilities? One L.A. School Official Says ‘Scam’

I know there are well-meaning people who advocate for vision therapy as an effective way to treat certain aspects of learing disorders. As with most enterprises there are scams and a risk of over-selling. Certain kids need vision training. Most kids with reading problems will not however be helped with this approach. The most common reason kids struggle with reading is that schools do not teach them in a way that fits their cognitive profile of weaknesses (phonological processing and/or rapid naming) and strengths.

The problem in that regard lies within the colleges that prepare teachers of reading:

“Teachers in teacher training are not being taught in reading and reading instruction,” Handler said. “It has not been properly incorporated in teacher colleges, so they cannot teach children right…so they look for other reasons kids have problems [learning to read].”

“There is absolutely no evidence it’s helpful at all,” said Sheryl Handler, co-author of a 2011 joint technical report on vision therapy and reading disabilities that found vision therapy to be an ineffective treatment for learning disabilities.

A handful of other published papers, including an assessment by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, claim there is no valid proof that vision therapy benefits learning-disabled students.

Should We Teach Emotional Intelligence in Schools?

NY Times article on teaching “Emotional Intelligence.”

My initial thoughts on this article:

The field of teaching children such skills as self-regulation is promising. There’s some great research pointing to the value, cognitively and community-wide, of a kind of melding of neuroscience and very old techniques, such as mindfulness practice.

I have a ton of reservation however, about a quick jump on the bandwagon approach…not the least of which addresses the need to understand what is being asked of teachers. Teachers would need more than scripts; they’d need training in self-regulation and posess SEM themselves. The example in the article (about finding words to use in response to being yelled at by “mommy”) has potential value but puts a teacher dangerously close to some risk from at least a couple of angles, including properly assessing the risk for domestic violence from “arming” a child with the “correct phrasing.” This is a job for professional counselors as a general rule.

I also take issue with the idea that this furthers Dewey’s ideas of not having just vocational schools. That sounds a bit snobbish. Wouldn’t “vocational students” benefit from SEM too?

I hope that with enough time and training, schools would do much better at teaching a holistic curriculum, one that did more than teach to the cerebral cortex and slightly to the left.

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

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, or call 808 956-7539. Please visit 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, or call 808 956-7539. Visit our website at