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Friday, February 27, 2015

Word Finding Strategies for Dyslexics with Word Retrieval Deficits

We all suffer, from time to time, with that feeling that a name or phrase we are trying to recall is on the tip of our tongue, but somehow we just can't access the needed information in the moment.  For many students this happens during stressful moments such as test taking, but for others, such as most students with dyslexia, this is a pervasive problem that requires intervention.

What Exactly is a Wording Finding Problem?
Word finding problems, also known as word retrieval difficulties, dysnomia, anomia or semantic dyslexia, result in difficulties recalling names of objects, places, and people, with no impairment of comprehension or the capacity to repeat the words.  This difficulty can stem from the cognitive processes of encoding, retrieving or a combination of encoding and retrieving.

What Are the Symptoms of Word Finding Problems?
A student with word finding difficulties may display the following challenges: 
  • Word Substitutions - Using another word that has a similar meaning such as utensil for fork.
  • Circumlocutions - Providing descriptions of the word such as, "it's the apple that is green and sour" for granny smith apple.
  • Fillers - Filling time with utterances such as "um", "I know it...", or "It's coming to me."
  • Vague Wording - Using phrases such as "that thing on the desk", "the thingamabob in her hair, or "the doodad on his plate."
  • Gestures - Acting out the targeted word (e.g. "You know, when you do this...").
Do Other Learning Challenges Struggle with Word Finding Problems?
Dyslexia is not the only learning diagnosis that struggles with word finding difficulties.  In fact, there are numerous learning disabilities that can share this challenge:
  • Specific Learning Disabilities
  • Specific Language Disabilities (expressive, receptive or both)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Executive Functioning Disorder
Can Word Finding Problems be Remediated?
These cognitive deficits are not known to be curable, however, individuals can learn compensatory strategies that can enable them to largely navigate around these hurtles.  Here are a number of both encoding a retrieval strategies that can improve word finding:
  1. Go Through the Alphabet:  Go through the alphabet and say the sounds of each letter and think about whether the word may start with that sound.
  2. Visualize a Letter Association:  To remember names, associate the first letter with the object person or place.  For example, when I met a woman named Vera, I noticed that she was wearing a v-necked shirt.  Whenever I saw her, I remembered her wearing that shirt and it triggered her name.
  3. Use Word Associations: Associate an idea or quality with the object.  The way I remember the name of the flower impatiens is to remember how impatient I get when trying to think of the name. 
  4. Associate a Rhyming Word: Use a rhyming word with the object.  To remember the flower's name geranium, I think of cranium - geranium.  
  5. Visual Associations:  Associate a visual to aid recall.  I often associate a visual when using rhyming words as combining strategies can help to assure future recall.  In the example above, cranium - geranium, one may notice and then visualize that a full geranium blossom resembles the shape of a cranium.
  6. Use Visual Hooking Strategies - Using visual hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  A visual hooking strategy for the name Richard might be the recognition that the word rich is in Richard.  One could then visualize Richard as being very rich
  7. Use Auditory Hooking Strategies - Using auditory hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  An auditory hooking strategy for the vocabulary word benevolent might be that the word sounds like be not violent.  Then one can think, be not violent - be kind, and benevolent means kind in spirit.  
  8. Utilize Circumlocution - Describe the word so that others can provide the name for you.   
  9. Create a List or Table: Take a picture of the object, person or place, create a document or memo and label each image.  Make this document accessible from technology such as computers and smart phones. 
  10. Name Associations:  Associate names of new acquaintances with other people that have the same name.
  11. Visualize the Word: When you can not recall a word, use your mind's eye to see the word written on paper.  
  12. Use Technology:  Use technology to find the word you can not recall.  For example, you can go onto Google and describe the word.  This will often guide you to the answer. 
Are There Any Games that Strengthen Word Finding?
There are a number of games that I have found to help strengthen word finding.  Here are a few of my favorites

  1. Word Shuffle 
  2. Hey What's the Big Idea 
  3. Anomia 
  4. Spot It 
  5. Scattergories 
  6. Scattergories Categories 
  7. Lumosity - Lumosity is an internet site that offers games for the brain.  Two of their games, familiar faces and word bubbles, are great for exercising word finding. 
Just remember to truly remediate your word finding difficulties and reach your full potential, you must make a conscious effort to use the strategies that work best for you. 

 
 
 
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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Friday, February 20, 2015

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. 
____________________

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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Reading Focus Card: An Interview with Designer Joan Brennan


This week's blog features an interview with Joan Brennan, a teacher and inventor who designs reading tools for struggling readers.  We will focus our discussion on her ingenious Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) and her Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360,779).
_____________________________

Erica: Hi Joan.  Can you tell us about your mission to help struggling readers?

Joan Brennan
Joan: My mission and that of my company, Brennan Innovators, LLC, is to create and provide inexpensive yet helpful low-tech AND digital tools to challenged readers of all ages.  In addition, as certified educators, we also present parent and educator workshops, consultation services and other professional development opportunities in the Greater St. Louis Area. We work diligently to bridge the gap between no services for challenged readers and expensive therapies, methods and other resources that are not accessible to many because of the cost or the location of such resources. 

We are particularly passionate about helping children, teens and adults who struggle to read.  This struggle may be for a variety of reasons.  As a result, since 2007, our Reading Focus Cards have helped many readers of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision and other issues that can affect reading success.

Erica: Why did you create the Reading Focus Cards website and products?

Joan: The low-tech and sensory-appealing Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) grew out of need in my own middle school classroom in the late 1990's.  Because a special education teacher was not on the faculty at the time, all teachers worked with all students in their individual classrooms, even children with additional needs. 

More than a few of my students had experienced focus, tracking and attention issues.  As a result, comprehension and retention skills were significantly compromised.  Some had been diagnosed with ADHD while others were suspected to have attention deficiencies.  A few had been prescribed medications by their pediatricians, but even these students sometimes did not always take their medications (parents forgot to administer before school day, etc.) 

The "light-bulb moment" occurred some years ago during one reading class period when a student (without her medication taken that day) privately mentioned to me that she was having difficulty paying attention enough to read the requested 2 pages of a selection.  To make matters worse, this was at a time when the school had just established a daily schedule that included a 90-minute block for language arts classes.  So, I knew something had to be done to help this young student to focus and read with some degree of success---and immediately!  That's when the first prototype of the Reading Focus Card was born.  I instinctively (and on the fly!) took an old manila folder from the top of my desk and cut a shape about the size of a 3" X 5" index card.   With that, I then cut a narrow but long rectangle in the center of the card and gave it to the student, asking her to read each line of the two pages in front of her with that card.  This immediately allowed her to focus on one line at a time and read each when she was ready to read it.  The focusing card also covered much of the surrounding text that had overwhelmed her.  The result?  The student was amazed at the card's ability to help her, and she asked if she could take it to her next class!  Since that time, I have learned from many special education educators that they, too, have often created similar paper devices to help their students who struggled to read, only to discard it after use.

During the ensuing summer vacation periods and as a result of doing a considerable amount of research, the left side of the Reading Focus Card prototype was opened (for improved tracking), colored filters were added (recommended by a developmental optometrists' group here in St. Louis) and sensory-appealing materials were sought for the final, working prototype.  Later, two independent focus studies were successfully conducted of the Reading Focus Cards (in 2007-2 6th grade classrooms and in 2011 in a high school reading specialist's classroom).  Today, thousands of these Reading Focus Cards have been sold and are in use in the U.S., Canada and around the world. They continue to help many readers who struggle with all kinds of reading challenges.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the Reading Focus Cards? 

Joan: Yes, there were a few key people and organizations that helped to inspire and contributed to the development of the idea of the Reading Focus Cards;
a. First of all, my husband, Robert Brennan, Jr., M.D., has inspired and supported me and the idea in every way since it first "made a difference" for my reading student.  He is amazing.
b. My former principal, Mr. Michael Talleur, recommended that I "do something" with the first "seeds" of the idea.
c. My business advisor, Mr. William Deemer, volunteer mentor in the St. Louis University Dept. of Entrepreneurship (part of the John Cook School of Business at SLU) advised and supported my efforts to bring all of my reading tools to market.

Erica: Who is your audience?

Joan: My audience is GROWING daily.  The majority of my audience is primarily mothers, teachers and tutors of children & adults with ADHD & dyslexia, and special needs organizations.  However, in the past year, we have received many more orders and requests for services from OTs, speech & language pathologists, optometrists, autism caregivers/orgs. and stroke recovery, brain injury (TBIs) patients and their caregivers.  Most recently, a local optometrist ordered a Reading Focus Card Combo Pack for her patient with Parkinson's disease.  So you can see that there is a very interesting, diverse AND increasing audience for our reading tools and services.

Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about the Reading Focus Cards?

Joan: Our testimonial page will provide many comments from users of the low-tech RFCs.  

Erica: I understand that you have also created the Reading Focus Cards App for both Mac and PC. Can you tell us more about this?

Joan: This new Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360, 779) for Mac and PCs (desktops & laptops) was also created for challenged readers to help provide improved focus and better tracking when reading digital media. This customizable app is an extension of the low-tech Reading Focus Cards used with physical books and documents. As a result and if the app is used properly, the reader can experience better comprehension and retention as well as better focus and tracking when using this desktop app.  In addition, the digital, pop-up Toolbox for the app will allow the user to adjust color, length, width and orientation of several features of the virtual Reading Focus Card to help the reader enjoy more visual comfort as well. This app can be especially helpful for persons of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision, stroke or brain injury issues and other challenges that can affect reading success. 

The Reading Focus Cards desktop application is very innovative in that it is able to independently float over AND stay on top of underlying digital applications. It can be customized and controlled by using a mouse, touch pad, arrow keys or the reader's fingers on a screen (where touch-screen technology is available.)  Currently, Apple and Android tablets and other mobile platforms are not able to support this "disruptive" type of technology.  However, we are monitoring this for possible future development.  To learn more about this technology Click here.

Erica: Are you presently working on any other projects to help struggling readers?

Joan: We are currently collaborating with another company to create a new program with e-books, online courses and materials specifically for readers with dyslexia.  In addition, another company has recently requested our new Reading Focus Cards app's assistance in allowing challenged younger readers to more easily read its new series of e-books soon to be published.

_________________________

I want to thank Joan for taking the time to share all this great information with us.  You can purchase the reading focus card on Amazon (also linked below) and the App on the Mac Apple Store button. You can also purchase products directly on Joan's website and learn how to get the software for Windows PC





 
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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Friday, February 6, 2015

Show Don't Tell 2: A New Descriptive, Suspense Writing Game


Have you ever read a book that you couldn't put down, because the author's words allowed you to visualize the scenes as if you had a movie going on in your head? These authors are masters of descriptive writing and have learned to paint pictures in their audiences' minds eye through the use of descriptive and figurative language.

How Can Descriptive Writing Be Taught to Students?
Many teachers instruct their students to "show" their readers the scenes through rich descriptions, instead of just telling the audience what happens. In fact, a common critique that students might hear is, "Show me; don't tell me!"

Bringing Games Into the Learning Process:
If you follow me or have purchased any of my products, you probably already know that bringing enjoyment and games into lessons is one of my primary goals.

Due to the popularity of Show Don't Tell Descriptive Writing Game, which many teachers play in classrooms and homeschoolers use to bring joy into teaching descriptive writing, I have now released a new version that teaches students the fundamentals of descriptive, suspense writing.  My new game, Show Don't Tell 2, is a multisensory, downloadable and printable game. The purpose of the game is to help young writers learn how to and practice the skill of "showing" readers with the use of descriptive words and figurative language.   This new game also integrates additional types of figurative language, as well as practice with leading words, sensory hints, suspense words, setting the scene and building tension.  Instead of "telling a story" players quickly learn how to vividly describe a dramatic scene or scenario while having fun!

If you would like to learn more or purchase this game, Click Here.

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

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