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Red Flags for Dyslexia

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States, impacting 20 percent of the country’s population. If a child is not diagnosed by the second grade, there is a significant chanceblog-dyslexia-main-landscape he or she will remain undiagnosed until they reach adulthood. By educating yourself on the red flags of this learning disability, you can avoid misconceptions as well as delayed identification of this disability. Early identification of any disorder correlates with improved outcome and prognosis.

Preschool-Aged Red Flags for Dyslexia:

Difficulties with phonemic awareness or the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in words are beginning signs that your child may have dyslexia. Examples of phonemic awareness skills are:

  • Segmenting syllables (e.g., “how many syllables do you hear in butterfly?”)
  • Rhyming (e.g., “which word rhymes with mat; star or hat”?)
  • Phoneme isolation (e.g., “in the word sun, is the /s/ at the beginning, middle or end of the word?”)
  • Sound deletion (e.g., “say cup without the /k/.”)

Other signs include:

  • Trouble reading single words
  • Trouble generating rhyming words or identifying which words don’t belong
  • Reversing letters and words (e.g., tab/bat)
  • Difficulty identifying sounds at the beginning or end of a word (e.g., “what word begins with /t/; toad or boat?”)

Elementary-Aged Red Flags for Dyslexia:

Once children enter elementary school, the expectations for reading and writing abilities increase significantly. Children not previously identified as being at-risk may begin to exhibit signs as school work becomes more challenging. These children often have average or above average IQ, but demonstrate below grade-level reading and writing abilities.

Red flags include:

  • Trouble sequencing (e.g., steps, alphabet, naming months)
  • Continued trouble with rhyming
  • Difficulty with word finding (e.g., relying on “stuff,” “things” or other generic words)
  • Difficulty with organization and studying
  • Trouble with story telling
  • Avoidance or dislike of reading

Should an individual demonstrate some of these signs, it is not necessarily indicative of dyslexia. Other reading or language disorders may play a factor. However, if these difficulties persist through childhood, it may negatively impact that child’s academic success.

Through early identification, children with dyslexia can begin treatment in phonics-based programs, such as Orton-Gillingham or Wilson. These programs are unique in that the relationships between sounds and letters are explicitly and systematically taught. With consistent treatment, children with dyslexia can learn to compensate for their disorder, as well as begin to enjoy reading and writing.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Find-Out-More-Learning-Disabilities

10 Steps to Diagnosing A Learning Disability

If your child has difficulty with reading, writing, math or other school learning-related BlogLearningDisabilityDiagnosis-Main-Landscapetasks, this does not necessarily mean that they have a learning disability. Lots of children struggle at times with school.

Common signs of a learning disability:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing or math skills
  • Short attention span or difficulty staying on task (easily distracted)
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Trouble following directions
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Problems staying organized
  • Inability to discriminate between or among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • Difficulty with paying attention
  • Inconsistent school performance

Each learning disability has its own signs and not every person with a particular disability will have all of the signs. These signs alone are not enough to diagnose a learning disability, so a professional assessment is necessary to diagnose a learning disability.

If some of these symptoms sound familiar, below are 10 steps to take:

  1. Talk to your child about the areas they are struggling in order to understand the symptoms.
  2. Provide empathy and emotional support for your child. Let them know that lots of people struggle at times with school related tasks.
  3. Get specific feedback from teachers regarding problem areas or grades.
  4. Set up an initial intake session with a Psychologist/Neuropsychologist to discuss symptoms and background information.
  5. Have the child tested in specific areas:
    1. Intellectual/IQ
    2. Achievement/Academic
    3. Language/Communication
    4. Memory
    5. Attention
    6. Visual/Motor
    7. Problem Solving
    8. Social, Emotional, Behavioral
  6. Get feedback from teachers with specific forms regarding behaviors
  7. Discuss with Psychologist/Neuropsychologist the results of the testing and recommendations.
  8. Talk to the child’s school about accommodations and services.
  9. Follow up with teachers about effectiveness and gains of accommodations.
  10. Follow up Neuropsychological testing in 6 months to 1 years’ time.

References:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/learning/conditioninfo/Pages/symptoms.aspx

http://ldaamerica.org/symptoms-of-learning-disabilities

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

The Importance of Person First Language

The language we use and the labels that we place on individuals are powerful. In today’s society we rely heavily on medical diagnoses to define a person’s values, their strengths and weakness, their education, the services that people are eligible to receive and ultimately their future. Too often an individual’s diagnosis is used to define them as an individual – the retard, the autistic boy, the stutterer. Person First Language is a way to put the person before the disability, “describing what a person has, not who a person is (Snow, 2009).

The Importance of Person First Language:

In reflecting on the importance of person-first language, think for a minute how you would feel to be defined by yourPerson First Language perceived “negative” characteristics. For instance, being referred to as the heavy boy, the acne student, or the bald lady. To be known only by what society perceives as negative characteristics or “problems” would completely disregard all of the positive characteristics that make you as an individual who you are (Snow, 2009). Individuals with disabilities are more than their diagnosis. They are people first. The boy next door who has autism is more than an autistic boy, he is a brother, a son and a friend who happens to have autism. The girl who stutters in class is more than a stutterer – she is a daughter, a sister, and a best friend who has a fluency disorder.

Contrary to society’s definition, having a disability is not a problem. When defining a person by their disability, there is a negative implication that that person is broken. Especially within the health care field, it is imperative that we as professionals, co-workers and human beings begin to focus on other’s strengths. By focusing on the strengths of individuals who have disabilities, we are setting up our clients and friends for success. Using person-first language is a great first step to this change of thinking.

Use the table below to help guide your language in following person-first language recommendations:

Rather than… Please Say…
Autistic Child who has autism spectrum disorder
Stutterer Boy/Girl who has a fluency disorder
Retard A child with a cognitive defect
Slow child A child who has a learning disability
Non-verbal child She communicates with her device
Down’s kid Child who has Down’s Syndrome

This table is by no means a definite list. However, it can help build a framework for the importance of person-first language and how to implement it into your own language. When you are unsure of how person-first language applies to a situation, remember the emphasis is on the person as a whole – putting the person before his or her disability.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Snow, Kathie (2009). People First Language. Disability is Natural. Retrieved from www.disabilityisnatural.com

 

Math Disability Strategies and Resources

Is your child struggling with math?  Do they have a hard time memorizing basic math facts, solving word problems or making sense of equations?  Approximately 3-5% of school-aged children are estimated to have a Math Disability.  With evolving teaching practices, electronic applications and online resources your child should not have to suffer without help.  The following can help your child become more successful and confident in math:

Math apps and online programs:

Classroom-based accommodations:

  • Graph paper to help with organization.
  • Use different colors for columns in solving equations (e.g., green is where to start, etc.)
  • Chunking can make an unmanageable amount of work manageable.  Play with the presentation of problems and/or break assignments into smaller pieces.
  • Teach common words in problems and create a list to refer back to.
  • Break down problem-solving into steps and do not proceed until a step is mastered.
  • Create a visual reminder for solving equations.

Incorporate multisensory techniques:

  • Make your own flash cards, each one unique.  Review two or three of the most troublesome at a time and fold in with new problems.
  • Clap while counting.
  • Use manipulatives for visual, hands-on learning.

For more information about Math Disability and its remediation, please visit: http://www.dyscalculia.org/.  For information about your child’s rights and standards in public education, please visit: Idea.ed.gov.


Talking to Children about Their Learning Disorders

As we all know, children are very inquisitive and ask questions all the time.  Children with learning disabilities are often pulled out of their main stream classroom, attend after school tutoring, or receive accommodations and interventions within the mainstream setting.  Parents and schools are often quite good at identifying the needs of children; however, at times are at a loss of how to approach the topic to children.

How to talk to a child about his learning disorder:

There really is no easy answer as to how to discuss learning disorders with children.  This depends on the child’s age, maturity, and ability to comprehend and understand information.  If the child starts to ask questions about why he or she is being pulled out of class or receiving work different than his or her peers it is most definitely time to discuss this with the child.  What I would recommend is to focus on the positive.  Indicate that everyone learns differently and everyone has things that they are really good and things that need a little work.

One technique that I have used in my clinical practice to explain services to children is to compare it to other medical/health issues.  (e.g. if I told you that you had a vision problem you probably would go and get glasses; if I told you that you had a hearing problem, you might get a hearing aid; so you have a weakness with learning to read so we are going to find someone to help out with that).

If the child is older I always believe it is best to be proactive and inform the child before services begin.  Let the child know what will be happening with services and accommodations in the school.
Overall, it is always best to keep the child informed about services and accommodations.  Focus on the positive and remind the child that everyone learns differently.

Click here to learn more about learning disabilities.

Learning Disabilities Demystified

Learning concerns are one of the most common neurological issues with which children and adolescents present.  It has been estimated that approximately six percent of the general population meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of a learning disability.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which is the guide book for psychologists and psychiatrists that provides information regarding diagnostic information, indicates that there are several essential features of specific learning disabilities in children.

5 Features of Learning Disabilities in Children:

  1. Persistent difficulties learning basic foundational academic skills with onset during the early elementary years.  The manual indicates that these foundation academic skills include: reading of single words accurately and fluently, reading comprehension, written expression and spelling, arithmetic computation, and mathematical reasoning.
  2. A child’s performance is well below average for his or her age.
  3. Learning difficulties are readily apparent in the early school years in most individuals.  That being said, there are some instances in which the concerns are not fully evident until later in the individual’s academic life.
  4. The learning disorder is specific in that it is not attributed to other factors such as intellectual disability, socio-economic status, medical conditions, or environmental factors.
  5. The deficit may be restricted only one academic skill or domain.

Prior studies have indicated that learning disorders are more common in males than females.  There are several long-term consequences associated with learning disorders in which the individual never receives any intervention, including:  lower academic achievement, higher rates of high school dropout, higher levels of psychological distress, higher rates of unemployment, and lower incomes.
Data has indicated that children with learning disabilities are often at risk for a variety of co-existing conditions including ADHD and social-emotional concerns.  Click here for more information on learning disabilities.


Accommodations on the SAT and ACT

Many high school students with learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder require additional assistance and accommodations when they are required to complete lengthy examinations such as the SAT and the ACT.  These adolescents often are unable to complete the examination within the time frame allotted to them or exhibit difficulties with certain aspects of the examination because of their learning disability.

It is important for parents and academic staff to be aware that the testing boards are clamping down on allowing accommodation on these examinations.

There are several factors that need to be met in order for an adolescent to qualify for accommodations:

  • There has to be documented evidence of a learning disability or medical condition that impacts the individual’s performance.
  • There has to be school evidence that the symptoms from the condition have an impact on the adolescent’s academic performance.
  • There should be a ‘paper trail’ established in which the individual has a history of accommodations and interventions within the academic setting.

Once the necessary requirements for accommodations have been met, it is then important to help determine what specific accommodations the individual would necessitate for the examination.

Accommodations are created based upon the individual’s specific needs; however, a list of possible accommodations that many adolescents with ADHD and/or learning disabilities may benefit from include:

  • Extended time under a minimum of time and one half conditions
  • Small group testing
  • Ability to type responses as needed
  • Ability to write in the test booklet as opposed to having to transfer responses to a separate bubble sheet or scantron form

The most important thing for parents to understand is to not wait.  If you speculate that your child might need accommodations on formal testing, have an evaluation completed as soon as possible in order to help establish the needed diagnosis and paper trail.  Visit our Neuropsychology Diagnostic and Testing Center for more information on formal testing.

What is a 504 Plan?

I have received several telephone calls over the past few weeks from anxious parents about their child’s school wanting to create a 504 Plan in the academic setting.  Many times parents are not informed about what this means or about possible benefits that might be exhibited from such a plan.

What is a 504 Plan?

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 which was designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in any facility that receives federal financial assistance.  What this means for a school age child is that the school is unable to deny academic services to a child because of a specific disability.  These plans were originally established for children with medical concerns such as being confined to a wheelchair or having a medical condition such as a seizure disorder.  Today, it is quite likely that the main reason 504 Plans are offered to children are from diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

 How do 504 Plans and IEPs Differ?

There are a few major differences between a 504 Plan and an Individual Education Plan (IEP).  A child with an IEP has significant academic concerns in which he or she requires intervention from either a learning resource teacher, or specific therapist such as a speech and language therapist.  The 504 Plan should be thought of as accommodations within the classroom setting to help address the specific concerns that a child may exhibit.  These accommodations are designed such that the child’s academic demands are the same as his or her peers but there is assistance given such that the child can reach his or her academic potential. Read more

The Social-Emotional Side of Children with Learning Disorders

It is well known that kids with learning disabilities face academic challenges.  Academics are often the focus of interventions with these children, but it is important to also pay attention to the impact on their social-emotional development.  Read on for ways to make sure this critical aspect of your child’s development is not overlooked. Read more

ADHD and Learning: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’s Impact on Learning

Many children with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder exhibit significant concerns with regard to their academic

ADHD and learning diability

achievement.  Research has demonstrated that a lot of children with the diagnosis also have a co-existing diagnosis of a learning disability.  However, even children without a separate learning disability diagnosis are also at risk for struggling with their academic achievement.

The hallmark feature of ADHD is inattention.  If a child has significant inattention and distractibility, he or she is unable to listen to the teacher and follow directions.  These children often present with impulsivity or hyperactivity, which can result in concerns with behavioral functioning in the classroom environment.

Another area of concern for children with ADHD is poor executive functioning which could have an impact on a child’s academic performance.  Executive functioning is the child’s ability to organize work, transition between tasks, develop effective problem solving strategies, and monitor one’s work.  Read more