Currently Browsing: reading disorders

Dramatic Success with an Autistic Student

QWERTYHere is a letter I received from a speech pathologist that I met at a dyslexia conference in Seattle.  She was sitting at the same coffee bar and heard me introduce myself to my neighbor.  She leaned toward me and asked earnestly, “Are you the Talking Fingers Jeannine Herron?”  I said “yes, I am” and she started singing me one of the Wordy Qwerty spelling songs!  She knew them all!  We have corresponded from time to time since then….

Dear Jeannine,

I am now using Read, Write, and Type with a low-verbal, severely austistic ninth-grader here in my new state of South Carolina, with amazing results!

Her teachers had not thought that she could read or spell, and they have been put off by some of her behaviors.  It turns out that she has been frustrated, because the staff assumed she could not learn.  They were skeptical when I brought in my computer and started her on the program, but she took to it like a fish to water.  I add comprehension work to the story activities and encourage verbal imitation and responses.  We are almost half way through the program, and it is changing her entire curriculum- the teachers are now focusing on teaching her to read and write, which is increasing her communication skills- her parents are thrilled!  She was previously thought to be unable to sustain attention to any activity; however, with skilled support, she works on Read, Write & Type for 50 minutes, and I think would happily do more- Read, Write, and Type is changing her life.

I do not exaggerate the results from your programs, Jeannine.   Now, each week when I come in the door, she is visibly excited and independently brings pencil and paper and sits down to work; she then insists that we write in her communication book to home what we did on Read, Write & Type that day.  Best of all, the teachers now know she can read and spell words, decode simple sentences, copy the sentences from the stories and re-read them, write grocery lists and engage in real literacy learning activities at school.

But you know I have used the Talking Fingers programs successfully in many environments, both clinically and in school settings.  In fact, I have yet to find a student, thoughtfully placed, who did not respond to  Read, Write & Type..  Whenever I have an opportunity to provide a dyslexia evaluation, I include Read, Write & Type, and Wordy Qwerty in my recommendations for parents.

I am now serving a very poor, rural, southern school district as a speech-language pathologist.  This district needs to spend what little money they have very wisely for kids. Your programs are so economical compared to others!  I have shown some special educators the Talking Finger programs, and they would like me to spend some training time this January, showing them the program and sharing my results.

All the best for 2010!

Jane Coolidge, SLP-CCC

Why Early Instruction Is So Important

Is there really anything new to say on the subject of reading and reading difficulties?  Indeed, there is!  Recent advances in medical imaging technology have made it possible for the first time to look at the brains of both skilled and dysfunctional readers while they are engaged in the act of reading and chart the strikingly different ways in which their brains are working.

CBR001036The most dramatic new discovery is that if dyslexic readers are provided intensive special tutoring and improve their reading skills, one can literally see that the brain changes its pattern of activity to produce a more efficient way of reading. These new insights, based not on theories but on the actual brains of actual readers have led to new ways of thinking about how to introduce children to the alphabet and to reading, and how to prevent reading difficulties.

Reading is a new human skill. Humans have been using some form of language in verbal communication for about two million years, but reading and writing have only been around for a few thousand.  We don’t know what early language sounded like but whatever its form, it’s pretty clear that language, and the capacity of the human brain to organize and express it, changed and evolved over the eons to accommodate more and more complex conversations.  Mothers found ways to tell their children how to keep out of trouble, and fathers found ways to brag about the hunt as the family gathered around the stew pot.

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Change is slow…unless we help!

It’s always good to see colleagues and friends at these yearly meetings of SSSR. Louisa Moats and I found ourselves commiserating at lunch one day.  Louisa has been teaching the importance of a speech-to-print approach for years.  She has lectured widely, taught professional development courses, been active on government advisory panels, and has written an excellent book called Speech to Print. (Also, Straight Talk About Reading with Susan Hall, another excellent book). But, as we said over lunch, it’s sometimes discouraging that change happens so slowly.  This is what she said in American Educator in 1998:

“One of the most fundamental flaws found in almost all phonics programs is that they teach the code backwards.  That is, they go from letter to sound rather than from sound to letter….the print to sound approach leaves gaps, invites confusions, and creates inefficiencies” (Moats, L. Teaching Decoding, American Educator, 42-49)

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THE GOOD NEWS—Many Reading Problems Can Be Prevented!

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to fly from San Francisco to Boston for a week.  I’m attending a conference where I’ll have a chance to talk to many friends and colleagues who have, like me, decided to spend their lives trying to understand why some children have difficulty learning to read and what we might be able to do about it.

It’s the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, a gathering of over 300 researchers from around the world who study everything about reading — brain structure and function, related cognitive and behavioral issues, and instruction and intervention techniques. You can find abstracts of the talks on the SSSR web site.  I look forward to learning new things to add to the knowledge I have accumulated from my own research over the last 37 years.

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