The hidden dangers of silent reading

“Reading is good for you!” I hear you say, “How could it possibly be dangerous!?” Well there are 2 main dangers I see: Reading silently results in poorer comprehension even for mature readers (see reference below). Practicing a skill incorrectly means you will get better at doing the task incorrectly therefore systemic decoding errors are reinforced while reading silently and that is certainly not the foundation we want to lay for our early readers! I have noticed an increasing trend towards encouraging “silent reading” even in the very early stages of literacy development. I was recently in a meeting regarding a student in grade 1 and the teacher reported he was having behaviour problems during their daily silent reading session. It highlighted to me that many teachers, speech pathologists and parents aren’t aware of the danger associated with silent reading particularly for young children. The other dedicated and experienced health and education professionals within that meeting weren’t aware that reading aloud enhances comprehension and is vital in laying solid foundations for future literacy success. A study by Hale et. al. (2007) identified that reading comprehension for readers of a variety of ages was enhanced when they read aloud. Here’s a link to the article if you are interested in reading more: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ800965.pdf So, the take away message is that encouraging our children to read aloud more often and even as they become more independent readers may help to enhance their comprehension. Go forth and READ...

Irlen syndrome, coloured lenses and reading: the facts

The lure of the lens When a parent or teacher is watching a child struggle to read, and dealing with tears every night at homework time, the promise of an easy cure and simple diagnosis is alluring. One of these promised cures is the use of coloured lenses or coloured transparent overlays to address visual sensitivity or processing difficulties aka.  U2 head man Bono is particularly famous for wearing coloured or dark lenses. As much as I love U2 I’m going to have to recommend you don’t go trying to make your child look like Bono in the interests of solving his reading problems though. Learning to read is a complex skill that requires high level interactions between dozens of different skill areas to work. In fact reading’s so complex it has even been shown to make physical changes to our brain structure. This complexity is why reading difficulties are so common. It’s a natural human tendency to want to reduce such complex problems down to simple solutions. However, in reviewing the evidence for the efficacy of coloured lenses or overlays for dyslexia, there are some large pitfalls that parents and teachers who want to help children with reading difficulties should be aware of.   The Theory The theory behind the use of coloured lenses for dyslexia is that reading difficulties are primarily caused by a visual-perceptual issue due to a weakness in the pathway of the visual system. People who support this theory claim that the cells in this pathway are sensitive to coloured light (especially yellow light). It is suggested that the use of coloured lenses in glasses or coloured transparent overlays placed over the text should correct visual ‘distortions’ (Ray, Fowler,...

Specific Learning Disorders and Dyslexia – making sense of jargon

We often get asked by parents and teachers who are worried about a child’s reading difficulties, “do they have dyslexia?”. Others ask, “is he just lazy?”. In an attempt to help everyone make sense of the terms used to describe different types of learning difficulties and the underlying causes we’ve summarised this and provided explanations of some of the alternative terms in this post for you. A Bit of Background: Historically children with reading difficulties were often incorrectly assumed to have an underlying cognitive deficit (intellectual impairment) and then there was a surge of interest in underlying visual deficits being the cause. There have been so many different terms and theories that have risen in and fallen out of favour in the past 100 years. It’s no wonder everyone is a bit confused now. The latest terminology is described  in the updated 2013 DSM-5 diagnostic subtypes of Specific Learning Disorder: 1. Specific learning disorder with impairment in reading. Includes possible deficits in: Word reading accuracy Reading rate or fluency Reading comprehension DSM-5 diagnostic code 315.00. Note: Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding and poor spelling abilities. 2. Specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression.  Includes possible deficits in: Spelling accuracy Grammar and punctuation accuracy Clarity or organization of written expression DSM-5 diagnostic code 315.2. 3. Specific learning disorder with impairment in mathematics. Includes possible deficits in: Number sense Memorization of arithmetic facts Accurate or fluent calculation Accurate math reasoning So all of these 3 types of learning disorder are now considered under the one...

Teachers need help to teach literacy

The Problem with Reading It’s estimated that between 10% to 16% of children aged from five to 16 years will have reading difficulties such as dyslexia and inadequate comprehension skills. For these students, regular literacy teaching will be insufficient. They need alternative teaching pathways. Despite numerous initiatives, such as the Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership, and the A$706.3 million spent between 2008-2014 on reading programs to support students, literacy underachievement continues to plague Australian education, suggesting that current interventions are not working for many students. Teachers don’t necessarily know how to teach these children and it isn’t the teacher’s fault. The problem is not a lack of research about what works. The problem is not a lack of caring teachers (they care more than many parents know)! It is more the lack of guidance for teachers and schools and inadequate training in how to use this knowledge in teaching. They need clear and explicit instruction on how to choose effective literacy interventions that will work for students and the tools to implement these interventions so that they work for teachers as well. Why do students struggle with reading? Reading comprehension is an incredibly complex process. There are two key elements to reading though: decoding and comprehension. Decoding involves being able to break apart and blend together the sounds in a word, understand the sounds that make up spoken words and knowing which letter makes which sound in what context (phonological and phonemic skills), using letter patterns accurately (phonic skills) and sequence letter and sounds correctly. Difficulties with these skills lead to word reading and spelling difficulties, or dyslexia. Reading...

Hope for parents of picky eaters

It’s on again! Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders – the parent workshop with a twist. After a sell-out workshop event last year we are once again opening the doors to help you learn how to stop table tantrums, manage mealtime meltdowns and nourish your child who struggles to eat or refuses foods. Trying to parent a picky eater is exhausting and nerve-wracking. And being forced to eat is frustrating and distressing for children. We want you and your child to find joy in sharing meals together and for your child to enjoy the nutritional benefits of eating a wider variety of tastes and textures. If you are ready to learn how to help your child, our “Transforming Picky Eaters into Peaceful Feeders” parent-training course has been designed specifically for you. This course provides a comprehensive and evidence based approach for parents to develop the knowledge and skills they need to support their picky eater to develop successful feeding skills. The course is also suitable for carers and teachers. Let us help provide you with the knowledge and skills you need so you can start moving from stress and frustration towards long term feeding success for your child. Friday 20th May 9am-2:30pm at Chatterbugs. A delicious morning tea and lunch and all learning materials are included. Because the workshop is personalised and hands on it is strictly limited to a 12 participants. Tickets are only $197 per participant (payable a minimum of 7 days before the event) To reserve your seat, BOOK NOW before it sells...