Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Season Long!

Part 1: Build a Great Book List! (The 1st in a series of 5 articles)

It's been called The Summer Slide for some years now. Unfortunately, this phrase has nothing to do with child's play or any equipment found on a local playground. More recently, however, you may have heard the term Summer Learning Loss, which refers to any loss of knowledge, cognitive skills or even reversals in academic progress, commonly due to the extended, educational gap known as the summer vacation period.

At the beginning of each new school year, some educators take this summer learning loss in stride, building weeks (or sometimes more than a month) of review into their classroom schedules.

At the same time, however, there are other teachers who prefer to provide wise guidance for students and their families prior to each summer vacation time. Before dismissal on the last day of the school year, these teachers share resources with students' families to help maintain (and even improve!) their young pupils' reading and other cognitive skills over the summer months. Some homeschooling parents, especially those who choose to unschool during the summer months, have been using various educational resources in this way for many summer seasons---and with much success, too!

At times, these resources might be presented by educators in a special email message with resources that are hyper-linked and ready for use. Another method of presentation could be a simple yet comprehensive list or booklet of resources to keep children's brains sharp over the summer vacation period (not more than 4 or 5 pages, please). These resources might include the following items:

1. Recommended book list(s) with both fictional & non-fictional titles
2. Recommended reading & learning games (both physical & online offerings)
3. Well-vetted list of other reading & learning activities with brief descriptions (or links to more info)
4. Suggestions for no/low-cost educational field trips student families can make in-town
5. List of the key skills & main curriculum units to be learned in the NEXT school year

Because sustained, silent READING is so critical in preventing summer learning loss, the first order of business will be to build a great book list for students, appropriate for the age, grade level, interests and reading levels of the children. The list of recommended books you create should take into consideration and include ALL the reading levels in the student group---from challenged to gifted readers and everything in-between, too. Remember to include biographies and how-to books in addition to science fiction and choose-your-own-conclusion books, etc.

This week, to give you a head start, we are providing some good resources to help you begin building a customized book list. It will be most important that parents help students start the summer by establishing some type of daily reading routine. We hope our resources to follow here will be just the right amount of motivation needed to help you locate the best books possible, customized specifically for your student group or children. We believe you'll discover some excellent book selections there to start creating a great book list.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be providing additional resources for each of the other 4 recommended lists you'll want to create to help prevent summer learning loss in your students or children. For example, in next week's article, we will help you jump start your list of reading and learning games (physical and virtual) with the best resources we know to be available. Then the following week, the article will be all about other great reading and learning activities. We will continue each week in this way until all 5 articles are published with their respective resources to help you assist your children or students throughout the summer.

We're not at all advocating that you set aside your family's summer FUN here. We're simply suggesting that reading and learning be mindfully INCLUDED in students' summer vacation times. It is indeed possible to READ, LEARN and PREPARE this summer for the next school term AND have FUN doing so. It's one of the BEST ways we know to PREVENT summer learning loss!

Happy Reading---AND Happy Summer, everyone!

Recommended Book Lists (with Fictional & Non-fictional Titles)

Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal

Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal

Previously Published Literature Lists
(Literature Lists for K-12 published by the California Department of Education)
As with any work of literature used in the classroom, educators should read and evaluate the book to determine its appropriateness for students. Parents using the lists will want to consider factors such as the child’s particular interests, independent reading ability, motivation, and level of maturity.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/litrlprevlit.asp

Summer Reading Lists (for K-12)---from TeacherVision
Vacation time is the perfect time to read, read, READ! Check out these lists of super-entertaining books, from classics to fun picks, for you and your students. Enjoy the site's slideshows on summer reading to find the best of the best children's literature for your child or students.
https://www.teachervision.com/reading/summer/6101.html

Books & Resources (from 1996 to 2015)
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 (OSTB Award Seal)
Reading science trade books is the perfect way for students to build literacy skills while learning science content. The books that appear in these lists were selected
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/litrlprevlit.asp

Baby Brown Reads
The books listed here celebrate, encourage, and promote literacy among African-American children.
http://www.brownbabyreads.com/booklists.html

Hispanic Heritage Booklists---from ColorĂ­n Colorado
The following link provides children's book lists that feature both fictional and non-fictional titles about Hispanic Heritage organized by topic that can be used all year long! Many books on our recommended lists are bilingual or are available in Spanish. Also, you can access additional Hispanic Heritage titles for young adults and other recommended resources there.
http://www.colorincolorado.org/read/forkids/hhm/

Other Related FREE Resources

Fight Summer Loss With These FREE Learning Tools---from MetaMetrics
As summer break arrives, students will leave the classroom and many may begin to slip in their reading and mathematics abilities. This slip has become known as summer loss. MetaMetrics has developed several FREE tools to help parents and educators combat summer loss.
http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2e034b60c66ea054d7eb44348&id=b8744d50fc&e=1bd9583c14


8 Resources to Prevent Summer Learning Loss---by Jean Fleming from NWEA
Both teachers and administrators can make a big difference in thwarting summer learning loss, particularly for students with limited access to expanded and summer learning opportunities. Explore these FREE online resources and share them with families so that summer is a time of learning and growth.
https://www.nwea.org/blog/2014/8-resources-prevent-summer-learning-loss/

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BEST Apps for Sensory Processing Issues

SPD Apps for ALL Platforms

We often hear the words Sensory Processing Disorder or the acronym SPD used to describe a child's or adult's challenges that involve the 5 senses. Yet, what does that really mean? What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory processing or integration is the ability to perceive (by using our senses) and respond to our environment – both internal and external in an appropriate manner. It is consistent and grounded with awareness and attention. It is neither overly responsive nor dulled. As human beings, we all have our issues, both our sensory preferences and things that we avoid. That is what makes us who we are. It becomes problematic if it interferes with our ability to function and interact appropriately within our environment.

Sensory Processing Disorder is the newest term for, and is used synonymously with, Sensory Integration Disorder, Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SI Dysfunction) and Dysfunction in Sensory Integration (DSI).

Currently, sensory integration is still being used to describe the theory and treatment, based on the original work of A. Jean Ayres. (Please see resource to follow below for more information on Dr. Ayres' work.)

Sensory Processing Disorder is used to define and describe the disorder and its dysfunctional symptoms - in hopes of making this a universally accepted "medical diagnosis" - thus enabling insurance reimbursement for evaluation and treatment.

We receive and perceive sensory input through sights, sounds, touch, tastes, smells, movement and balance, body position and muscle control. Difficulty taking in or interpreting this input can lead to devastating consequences with:

1. Interactions with others
2. Daily functioning
3. Social and family relationships
4. Behavioral challenges
5. Regulating emotions
6. Self-esteem
7. Learning


Over the past several of years, there have been more than a few technological developments and contributions made to assist parents and teachers in helping children and adults with SPD. This week, we wanted to provide our readers with a list of apps and other resources to further help them in their efforts. Here is such a list that includes Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android apps for Sensory Processing Disorder. We hope our parents and teachers will find them beneficial for their children and students who struggle with these SPD issues.

BEST Apps for Sensory Processing Issues

Sensory Integration Therapy (FREE---for Android)
by SensoryTreat
This app is specifically designed to help parents and OTs manage sensory diet. OTs can easily build daily routines that families can adhere to and receive reports on therapy progress. Helping parents turn sensory diet from chores to fun activities, which blend easily into family daily routine. This SensoryTreat app makes a sensory diet fun & easy!
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sensorytreat.sensorytreat

Best Apps for Sensory Processing by Jo Booth (FREE & various prices---for iPad, iPod, iPod Touch and iPhone)
by Angie & Technology in (SPL) Education, Part of @AppyMall Network
Sensory processing or integration is the ability to perceive (by using our senses) and respond to our environment – both internal and external in an appropriate manner. It is consistent and grounded with awareness and attention. It is neither overly responsive nor dulled. As human beings, we all have our issues, both our sensory preferences and things that we avoid, and that is what makes us who we are. It is really only problematic, if it interferes with our ability to function and interact. Here are some of Angie's favorite apps for working with sensory processing.
http://www.techinspecialed.com/2014/01/22/best-apps-sensory-processingself-regulation-jo-booth/

Apps for Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism and Video Task Cueing, QR Codes & iBeacons
by Lon & No Limits to Learning
The apps by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers Bloom $3.99, Air $1.99 and Trope $3.99 work for iPhones and iPads. The Scapes app $11.99 is for iPads only. Scapes looks more like a construction and creative workstation with more working parts. These apps are currently used for self-regulation and calming.
http://nolimitstolearning.blogspot.com/2015/03/apps-for-sensory-processing-disorder.html
For more information on these apps, please visit http://www.generativemusic.com/trope.html

Sensory Apps (Set #1---published in April 2011)
by Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP
Sensory apps used with students having attentional, behavioral or mental health challenges help calm, refocus or motivate students. Here are some favorites of many occupational therapists.
http://otswithapps.com/2011/04/23/sensory-apps/

Sensory Apps (Set #2---published in May 2012)
by Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP
Are you familiar with the Autism Apps App – a comprehensive list of apps used with and by people diagnosed with autism or other special needs?
Autism Apps is a FREE app with over 30 categories of curated apps providing information and links to reviews, videos and purchase of them. One of the categories listed in the Autism App is “Sensory”, providing suggestions of apps with visuals and auditory effects.
http://otswithapps.com/2012/05/23/sensory-apps-2/

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
This article describes an innovative, overlay-type app that can open new doors and eliminate many hurdles for a number of challenged readers when to attempting to read web pages, e-books, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and more on a Mac or Windows PC. This app can help decrease or often eliminate the OVERWHELM of TOO MUCH TEXT on a digital screen. The customization of this application for desktops is virtually infinite (user can adjust color, transparency, size of the digital tool components and more to meet needs). The application can be especially helpful for challenged readers of any age with ADHD, sensory issues, dyslexia, autism, stroke/brain injury issues and other conditions affecting reading ability. (App download links included in the article.)
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

Other Helpful Resources for Sensory Processing Disorder

The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
A thorough explanation of the behaviors and developmental concerns that exist for some children, which may have seemed almost impossible to understand or manage. You can take the information and resources provided here to positively influence, understand, validate, "treat", support, and help your child or others who are behaviorally and emotionally "imprisoned" by their ineffective perception and interpretation of sensory input.
http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

Health & Parenting---Sensory Processing Disorder
by WebMD
General information about sensory processing disorder from one of the most trusted websites for medical information. Includes information about treatment options, too.
http://www.webmd.com/parenting/sensory-processing-disorder

A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR
from SPD University---Sensory Processing Disorder Education
Information and bio about the work conducted by Dr. Anna Jean Ayres ((1920–1989), an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist known for her work in the area of sensory integration dysfunction, a term she coined in the 1960s to describe a theory used in occupational therapy.
http://spduniversity.org/jean-ayres-biography/

For information on customizable sensory-appealing, low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
HubSpot.com at www.hubspot.com and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BEST ADHD Apps for Better Focus

Overwhelmed by too many tasks or projects you need to complete in the weeks ahead? Struggling to pay attention at work? Has your child's teacher mentioned that he often daydreams during class time? Attention issues and focusing challenges are often two of the key symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can make it harder for you or your child to stay focused in order to complete tasks or assignments.

Today, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental problems in childhood and adolescence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in its latest statistics that more than 1 in 10 children in the United States live with ADHD. Many of these children will also continue to deal with ADHD and its symptoms as they get older.

At the same time, there are tools, strategies and apps that can help with the management of ADHD and its related issues. If your child is struggling to get through his homework or you yourself are having a difficult time focusing at work or at home, you can find help with the following apps that include setting up reminders, creating to-do lists and improving focus and concentration for better reading comprehension. We hope you will find them helpful!

BEST ADHD Apps for Better Focus

StayFocusd (a Chrome extension)
This FREE productivity extension for Google Chrome restricts the amount of time one you spend on time-wasting websites.
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji

The Pomodoro Technique involves breaking up work into timed, 25-minute chunks (known as pomodoros), separated by short breaks to help improve concentration. Here are several apps based on this technique:

a. Focus Booster (FREE trial without credit card)
This app helps eliminate the anxiety of time and enhances your focus using the Pomodoro Techinique. Boost your productivity using the Focus Booster digital Pomodoro timer. Simple time management removes the stress of timesheets from your day, while you achieve more.
https://www.focusboosterapp.com//

b. Pomodoro Desktop 0.31 (for Macs)
Developed by Ugo Landini
Pomodoro Desktop is a FREE desktop application for time management on your Mac OSX. This desktop app is a simple but effective way to manage your (coding) time, and it's based on the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro stays silently on your status bar. You can only start/stop it or make interruptions. Pomodoro discretely notifies you of important time events, using Growl or spoken notifications.
http://mac.softpedia.com/get/Business/Pomodoro-Desktop.shtml

c. Pomodoro Desktop Version 1.0.0.12 (for Windows)
From Mill Square Software
FREE time-management application. Another Pomodoro supporter, this app helps you avoid procrastination and finish tasks.
http://download.cnet.com/Pomodoro/3000-2124_4-75024062.html

The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year (FREE & paid options)
Written by The Healthline Editorial Team (Medically Reviewed, February 27, 2015)
These 14 smartphone apps for children, teens and adults can do everything from setting up reminders to creating to-do lists to improve concentration.
http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-adhd-android-iphone-apps

7 Awesome Apps for ADHD Children (FREE & paid options)
By Nick Politelli, Learning Works for Kids (October 5, 2013)
These recommended apps offer ways to improve or support key cognitive skills such as focus, organization and working memory (executive functions) — common problem areas for kids with ADHD. The apps range in purpose and functionality, providing a variety of ways for kids to be more organized, attentive and productive in academic and everyday tasks.
http://learningworksforkids.com/2013/10/7-awesome-apps-for-adhd-children/

The 30 Best Apps for ADHD Minds
By Eric Tivers, ADDitude Magazine
Use the power of these smartphone apps to manage ADHD symptoms ranging from distractibility and disorganization to poor sleep and overflowing creativity.
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/11135.html

Best Apps For Kids With Adhd On iPad
By RMS Mobile Games Admin (March 17, 2015)
A list of app links for parents, teachers and other adults to help children with ADHD. Also includes apps for special needs, autism and other learning differences.
http://www.rmsmobilegames.com/best-apps-for-kids-with-adhd-on-ipad/

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779) (for Macs & Windows PCs)
from Brennan Innovators, LLC
This DESKTOP app for Windows PCs and Macs provides practical READING SUPPORT for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. It improves FOCUS, FLUENCY and VISUAL COMFORT for better CONCENTRATION and RETENTION when reading digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) The app's innovative technology allows it to float on top AND stay on top of nearly any underlying application. It can be moved over text on a computer screen by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed. In addition, the Reading Focus Card app supports touch-screen technology (where applicable). (This desktop app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers.)
1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12 or search for the app called Reading Focus Cards.
2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

Sources:

The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year from HealthLine.com
http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-adhd-android-iphone-apps

The Reading Focus Cards App (Patent 8,360,779) from Brennan Innovators, LLC
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The RIGHT Sensory Resources Can Improve Focus for ADHD Readers

During the past week here at Brennan Innovators, we have been getting back to normal here in the office after concluding our annual spring conference season. Each March, we attend various educational conferences to present, exhibit and demonstrate our customizable reading tools for challenged readers across the Midwest. As in years past (since 2008), we again met with many enthusiastic parents, teachers and others who wanted to learn more ways to help their children, students and other adults with various reading difficulties.

From suspected to diagnosed ADHD, dyslexia, convergence insufficiency, autism and more, we offered strategies and techniques to assist them in helping readers of all ages. Again and again, we heard about the sensory needs of many of these readers. The sibling of a young reader mentioned that her sister "likes anything that has to do with soft animals." One adult care-giver told us that her mother reads better and more easily when the materials and resources used are soft or textured. Still another individual talked about how her 'tween son on the autism spectrum "loves the feel of a basketball when he reads." You can be sure that we had a set of Reading Focus Cards on hand to address each of these needs--- colorful, soft or textured!

Repeatedly at the conferences, we also heard about how the right sensory materials can significantly and positively enhance the focus of reading and learning for a number of individuals, regardless of age. A few visitors mentioned a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder (SPD) had been received. For this reason, we thought that in this week's blog article, it would be a good idea to include a collection of sensory resources that might provide some much-needed help for unfocused readers with ADHD. If focus is an issue for someone you know or even for yourself, we hope you will consider taking a look at these resources that might enhance and improve one's overall reading success.

Sensory Resources for Unfocused Readers with ADHD

Sensory Strategies for Kids with ADHD
from North Shore Pediatric Therapy
Sensory strategies are one of the most common and least invasive suggestions made to assist children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) function more successfully in their day to day lives. A nmber of these sensory strategies are offered in this article.
http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/sensory-strategies-for-kids-with-adhd/

ADHD Study Tricks for Serious Wigglers
by Karen Sunderhaft, ADDitude Magazine
Parent-tested strategies are provided here to help your ADHD child sit still... and learn through all her senses.
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/846.html

Study Finds ADHD Improves With Sensory Intervention
from Temple University Health Sciences Center
Though published in 2005, the information in this article continues to hold true today---that sensory intervention (for example, deep pressure and strenuous exercise) can significantly improve problem behaviors such as restlessness, impulsivity and hyperactivity.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050513103548.htm

Fidgety, Forgetful, and Unfocused---How to Help Your Child Focus and Finish
by Ann Dolin, M.Ed., Educational Connections
Resources to help a child read and learn with more success.
http://www.fcps.edu/dss/conference/2015/materials/Session%201/02_FidgetyForgetfulandUnfocused_Dolin/FidgetyForgetfulandUnfocused_Donlin.pdf

APP---Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
This article describes an innovative, overlay-type app can open new doors and eliminate many hurdles for a great number of challenged readers and struggling learners when they attempt to read web pages, downloaded e-books, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and more. Visual customization (which includes color, transparency, size and more) of this application for desktops is virtually infinite. The application can be especially helpful for challenged readers of any age with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, stroke/brain injury issues and other conditions affecting reading ability. (App download links included in the article.)
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

Reading Focus Cards, Low-tech Reading Tools for Challenged Readers
These reading tools can be especially helpful for unfocused, sensory readers. Colorful, soft or textured materials are used to create focusing tools that actually FEEL GOOD to use. The sensory attributes of these tools can actually promote more focus and concentration for easily-distracted readers with ADHD or other reading difficulties. As a result, comprehension can also improve as well as retention when the Reading Focus Cards are used according to directions included.
http://www.focusandread.com/product/RFC-001-002-CC

5 Senses Games for Kids
FREE games & activities to help increase awareness in young children of the individual differences of each of the five senses.
http://www.wartgames.com/themes/humanbody/5senses.html

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
K-3 Teacher Resources at
http://www.k-3teacherresources.com/5-senses.html#.VSBFr_nF9j8 and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Saturday, March 14, 2015

GREAT Reading & Learning Resources for Your Family's Spring Break (or Anytime!)

Alternative Ideas & Activities for Spring Break

Have a special family get-away planned for this year's spring break? Is a roadtrip with children in your very near future? Do you know a challenged reader for whom a break from school could mean a loss of content or even a disruption in the daily learning routine? You are certainly not alone! Many families are about to embark on their annual spring break vacations, and more than a few parents wonder if this time away from the classroom will negatively impact their children's learning at this critical time of the year.

Every educator (and nearly every parent) is more than aware that annual achievement tests will be conducted in most US schools during the month of April. With these tests looming, is a March vacation a wise idea? Well, family time is very important, but not all family time needs to be in the pool, at the beach or playing games and sports together. In fact, parents and their children might wisely consider a spring break that involves some time with these activities but also a good amount of time spent in other pursuits---together.

Since many families will begin their spring break sometime during this month, we wanted to provide some good resources here to help parents make this spring break's time together more beneficial for all members of their families. What's more, we also wanted these resources to help keep students' brains sharp and ready to successfully complete the school year upon their return to the classroom.

First of all, you will find a brief list of ideas for this spring's vacation that you may not have considered in the past. Then to follow that list, you will discover a second list of links to materials, activities, ideas and other resources to enhance your family's time together this spring (or anytime!)

We hope you'll agree that these resources could make ALL the difference in helping your children stay on-track academically, decrease the chances of a loss of learning and yet truly enjoy the time together as a family this spring break! We guarantee that all of these activities and resources will keep the creative juices flowing and help promote continuous learning throughout the season---AND and well into the summer for your children! Have a wonderful spring break!

Alternative Ideas for Spring Break

1. For a vacation away from home, choose an educational destination for this year's trip to help your child or teen better understand a past or upcoming unit of study at school. For example, a visit to Williamsburg, Virginia, would provide much for learning about Colonial America. For a trip closer to home, consider a visit to your state capital that might include witnessing the legislature in-session (depending on government scheduling, etc.) You can incorporate some swim time at a hotel pool or practice a few shots together at a local playground near your motel, but time spent learning together just might create some of the best memories for all of you.

2. For quality time spent in-town, plan together a visit to a different "learning location" each day of the spring break week. Consult with your child or teen as to what and where they would like to visit and learn more about---locally. Your child's input will provide you with excellent guidance and give you many in-depth insights about him that you may not have known previously. Your teen who is crazy about video games may want to see the local museum's exhibit of Heroes from Baseball's Early Years. Your daughter who really enjoys playing with dolls and their miniature fashions might suggest visiting a local fabric store for a free demonstration of Sewing for Beginners. Your 'tween son who already shows a penchant for programming and coding might recommend attending or even participating in a local "hackathon" to try or even improve his skills. You yourself might even learn the rudiments of writing code! These are just a few of the great possibilities that exist.

3. Talk with your children about the opportunity to visit an organization that could really use your family's assistance for a day or two. A local kitchen that serves the needy might truly benefit from just a couple of hours of your time plating meals, cleaning tables or doing other important work. Your children and you will experience and learn much during such a visit. Don't be afraid to return at a future time, too! Of course, always call ahead to plan helping sessions like these rather than just appear at the location and then offer assistance.

4. Spend time at home cleaning and re-organizing storage areas, particularly clothes closets that are overstuffed and needing your attention. Then donate any unneeded or outgrown garments to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to help others. Prior to your visit, ask if the organization might need your help with any activities on the planned day of visitation. You never know, but this could be the beginning of a long-term relationship between that charitable group and your good family!

5. All the while that you are riding in the car or a train, flying in a plane or waiting in an airport, have plenty of things to READ---for everyone! If an e-reader is your thing, bring it along. Let your children SEE you reading for enjoyment. Of course, don't forget to read TO them, too. If a toddler's board books will chase away "the boredom blues" for your little one, then pack them into your carry-on bag or purse. Reluctant teen readers will rarely turn down a comic book. Plan to have a few of these handy if your teenager is less than thrilled about picking up a book. Of course, some comic books or graphic novels are much better than others. Enlist your teen to choose titles for himself---with your good guidance, of course.

Reading & Learning Resources for Spring Break (or Other Vacation Time)

Spring Break Activities by Katherine Lee
Here are some great ideas for family fun and activities (for school-aged children) during spring break.
http://childparenting.about.com/od/funcelebrations/tp/spring_break_activities.htm

Spring Activities for Teens - Fun Activities for Teens - 12 Week Series by Denise Witmer
Fun Spring Activities for Your Teen to Do This Spring
http://parentingteens.about.com/od/activitiesorteens/a/springactivitiesteens.htm

Ten Totally Inexpensive but Super Fun Spring Break Activity Ideas
Guaranteed Fun for Families
http://www.signupgenius.com/home/ten-inexpensive-spring-break-activity-ideas.cfm

ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK by the United Way---LIVE United (Student United Way)
Trade your beach towel for a tool belt this spring break. Take part in United Way’s Alternative Spring Break and work with other students to improve communities around the nation. Sign up here for our mailing list. We’ll update you as we release more information.
http://www.unitedway.org/student/alternative-spring-break/

3 Cheap Ideas for Spring Break by Miranda Marquit
Whether you are a college student getting ready to head out for a little party fun, or a family trying to figure out what you can do while the kids are out of school, there are plenty of possibilities for spring break. Unfortunately, some spring break ideas tend to be rather expensive. Do you really want to spend $1,000 on your spring break? Plus, air travel is expensive during spring break season, and sometimes hotels charge more, too. If you take a few minutes to find your creativity and your inner frugality, though, you might find that spring break doesn’t have to be that expensive after all.
http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/3-cheap-ideas-spring-break.html

Fun Family-Centered Activities for School Break
No activity will fit every family perfectly, but these activities can be easily adapted to work for your family. They’re all designed to get you working together and interacting with your kids during the school break.
http://www.helpteaching.com/blog/fun-family-centered-activities-for-school-break.html

Spring Worksheets for Kids
Check out collection of FREE printable spring worksheets for kids. We created these high quality spring worksheets for you to use for free and hope you have fun using them and learning with your kids during the spring season. Younger kids will enjoy the tracing lines worksheets, spring counting practice and word and picture matching worksheets, while slightly older children will love the missing letter and spring word scramble worksheets as well as our secret spring message cryptogram puzzle. All of these spring worksheets for kids are available in perfect printable pdf format.
http://www.allkidsnetwork.com/worksheets/spring/

Spring Theme Unit - Free Printable Worksheets, Games and More
FREE spring theme printable worksheets, reading activities, word puzzles, coloring pages, craft projects & more to supplement lesson plans.
http://www.abcteach.com/directory/holidays-months-and-seasons-seasons-spring-3612-2-1

Spring Worksheets
Spring is not only the most beautiful season of the year; it is also the holiday season. With Easter, spring break, May Day and more lined up, spring season will find kids being at home more often than not. Keeping children occupied during this free time will be a cakewalk with our free spring worksheets! Introduce your kids to these fun and FREE printable worksheets to help them learn all about this wonderful season.
http://www.jumpstart.com/parents/resources/seasons/spring/spring-worksheets

31 Things For Kids To Do During Winter Break by Allison McDonald
Although these activities are mentioned as those for a winter break, many would also work very well for a spring break, especially for any rainy days during that time.
http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/12/31-things-for-kids-to-do-during-winter-break.html

Spring break activities for teens and pre-teens by Jennie Withers
Spring Break is right around the corner. For most area schools it is March 26-30. Many of you are planning to get out of town, while others plan to spend it at local ski resorts. For those of us who don't ski and aren't planning a Spring Break trip, here are some inexpensive options to keep our teens and pre-teens busy.
http://www.examiner.com/article/spring-break-activities-for-teens-and-pre-teens

Spring Break Resources for Families of Children with Additional Needs

Spring Break Ideas for Special Needs Families
Here are some of our ideas for Spring 2015 that are fun and encourage the sense of wholehearted love and group integration that enhances well-being and entrenches each child’s sense of self within the context of family. This can be especially important for a child with additional needs.
http://www.convaid.com/blog/2015/02/spring-break-ideas-for-special-needs-families/

5 Great Spring Break Activities for Children with Special Needs
Spring break can be a great opportunity to engage your child in new activities, even you aren’t traveling to a luxurious locale. It is also a great time to work on generalizing speech and language skills. In speech-therapy, it’s important to remember that getting away from the environment in which we were taught a skill is the best way to generalize and reinforce the lesson. Take advantage of spring break and consider these activities for your child.
https://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/financial-resources/other-resources/5-great-spring-break-activities-for-children-with-special-needs/

Activities for Special Needs Children - Autism Activities
Here you will find an extensive list of various activities and resources for children on the autism spectrum and their families.
http://www.specialneeds.com/activities-special-needs-children-autism-activities

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Accommodating Learning Differences: Multisensory Teaching Materials by Dr. Erica Warren

We recently had the privilege of visiting with Dr. Erica Warren, a unique educator who creates and provides unique materials that are very individualized and multisensory. Her work as well as her materials help to promote mindful instruction that nurtures a genuine love for life-long learning.

Dr. Warren earned her Doctorate in Education (University of Georgia), which focused on life-long issues in learning, the impact of learning difficulties across the lifespan, and comprehensive diagnostic evaluations. In addition, Dr. Warren acquired a Master's degree in Educational Psychology, which covered life-span development, learning, and cognition and a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

Earlier this month, Dr. Warren was kind enough to answer a few questions we posed about her passion and the unique work she does to help ALL kinds of learners:

1) What experience(s) motivated you to establish Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials?
I had such a difficult time finding multisensory, fun and engaging materials, so I began to design my own. Then, when I saw how much my students benefited from my materials, I started the process of creating activities, documents, PowerPoints, audio discs, and Prezis that I could share with others.

In 2008, my first publication was Multisensory Multiplication and Division to Melodies. This project was a blast, and many of my students assisted by helping with the design of the CD cover and singing the songs in a professional recording studio. It was wonderful seeing these once dis-empowered learners who had struggled with the process now teaching and motivating others.

Since then, I have created board games, card games, cognitive games and exercises, and instructional presentations on topics such as following directions, multisensory instruction, mastering place value in math, teaching visualization, Orton-Gillingham remediation and executive functioning to name a few. I now have over 80 products that are available in my online stores Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials. I also offer them on Teachers Pay Teachers.

2) What are the goals/objectives for your organization and the work you do?
My ultimate goal is to set a high standard and to reform education. We are living in a time of that I call Edu-chaos. Learning is a drag and both teachers and students have become passive participants of a broken system. I hope to bring the joy and awe back into education; what I like to call AwEducation.

3) What kind of feedback have you received about your Good Sensory Learning Materials?
I hear amazing testimonials from all over the globe.
If you really want to know what people think, you can go to my store at Teacher Pay Teachers. As I don’t own the site, the testimonials are unbiased.


4) Which materials are or appear to be the most in-demand?
My two most popular products are Reversing Reversals (remedial tools for struggling readers) and Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success.

5) Do you have plans to create additional materials? If so, for which topics (content) do you see the most requests or demand?
Really, the students that I work with one-on-one are my inspiration. If they have trouble mastering an academic topic, I usually create materials for them before their next session. Many of these become the foundation of a new publication. However, sometimes the projects are much bigger and can take 1-2 years to produce. For example, I wrote a digital book called Mindful Visualization for Education and I’m presently co-authoring, with Michael Bates from the Dyslexia Reading Well, a teaching guide for working with students with dyslexia. Finally, I’m thinking of collaborating with some amazing professionals to create teacher training workshops.

6) Who are the persons or groups seeking your advice and your materials? In other words, who is your audience?
My audience is students, teachers, parents, homeschoolers, learning specialists, and educational therapists. I have products, free materials and advice for all of these populations.

7) To date, have there been any specific individuals, groups or other organizations that inspired you and helped you realize your goals for Good Sensory Learning?
Again, my students are my greatest inspiration. In addition, there were key teachers along the way that helped to pave my path and fuel my fire.

8) You write and manage a blog entitled Learning Specialist Materials. Who are your readers? What important topics do you address in this blog?
Because I tackle a variety of topics, my audience is also students, teachers, parents, homeschoolers, learning specialists, and educational therapists. I have written a blog every week for a number of years now, and it has become a diary of my thoughts, ideas, and creations. I offer instructional strategies, reviews on technology and games, free materials, interviews, product reviews, and thoughts on how we can improve education.

Links and Resources Provided by Dr. Erica Warren

Good Sensory Learning
Educational workbooks, other materials and advice for all kinds of learners are available here directly from Dr. Warren.
http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/

Dyslexia Materials
This is the "daughter" site of Dr. Warren's Good Sensory Learning (Please see previous link above here.) Materials for reading, writing, math, memory & organizational skills are available via this website (some FREE).
http://www.dyslexiamaterials.com/

Teachers Pay Teachers
An alternate website where Dr. Warren's unique educational materials are available for online purchase (some FREE).
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Erica-Warren

Blog: Learning Specialist Materials
Dr. Warren offers free advice, materials, links and more here on her community blog.
http://learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com/

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Images courtesy of: Dr. Erica Warren

Monday, February 2, 2015

BEST Games, Apps & Activities to Help Improve Auditory Processing

What IS Auditory Processing?

Auditory processing is the term used to describe what happens when the brain recognizes and interprets the sounds in one's environment. A person can hear when energy that is recognized as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information. This electrical information can then be interpreted by the brain. However, if a child or adult has what is called a "disorder" involving auditory processing, this means that something is adversely affecting the actual processing or interpretation of that electrical information. This is called auditory processing disorder (APD).

Children with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even though the sounds themselves may be loud and clear. For example, the request, "Tell me how a chair and a stool are alike," may actually sound to a child with APD like, "Tell me how a hare and a tool are alike." Problems like this one are often more a likely to occur when a person with APD is in a noisy environment or when he or she is listening to complex information.

APD may also be known by other terms. Sometimes it is referred to as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). Other common names for APD are auditory perception problem, auditory comprehension deficit, central auditory dysfunction, central deafness, and even word deafness.

Symptoms of Possible Auditory Processing Difficulty

Children with auditory processing difficulty typically have normal hearing and intelligence. However, they may experience:

-Trouble paying attention to and remembering information presented orally

-Problems carrying out directions with several steps

-Poor listening skills

-The need more time to process information

-Low academic performance

-Some behavior problems

-Some language difficulty (e.g., confusing syllable sequences, problems developing vocabulary and understanding language)

-Difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary

What Should You Do If You Suspect an Auditory Processing Problem?

You as a parent, teacher, or day care provider may be the first person to notice symptoms of auditory processing difficulty in your child. If you do have such a concern, you should:

1. First, talk to your child's teacher about his school or pre-school performance and your concerns. Be sure to include any observations you have made at home concerning your child.

2. Consider visiting the healthcare professionals who can diagnose APD in your child. Sometimes there may be a need for ongoing observation with the professionals involved. These professionals will try to rule out other health problems.

a. Make an appointment with your child's pediatrician or family doctor can help to rule out possible diseases that can cause some of these same symptoms. He or she will also measure and evaluate the growth and development of the child.

b. Discover if there is a disease or disorder related to hearing. To do this, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist--a physician who specializes in diseases and disorders of the head and neck. Your child's pediatrician or a local healthcare center can provide you with a good referral for such a specialist.

c. Learn if your child has a hearing function problem. This can be determined by an audiologic evaluation. An audiologist will give specific tests that can determine the softest sounds and words a person can hear and other tests to see how well people can recognize sounds in words and sentences.

d. Visit a speech & language pathologist who can evaluate how well a person understands and uses language.

e. Consult with a mental health professional can give you information about cognitive and behavioral challenges that may contribute to problems in some cases, or he or she may have suggestions that will be helpful.

f. Keep in mind that because the audiologist can help with the functional problems of hearing and processing, and the speech-language pathologist is focused on language, they ALL may work as a team to help your child. All of these professionals can work together to seek and provide the best outcome for your child.

In the meantime, it may be possible to help improve one's auditory processing ability. However, much research is still needed to understand APD problems, related disorders, and the best intervention for each child or adult.

Several strategies are available to help children with auditory processing difficulties. Some of these are commercially available but have not yet been fully studied. Any strategy selected should be used under the guidance of a team of professionals, and the effectiveness of the strategy needs to be evaluated. Researchers are currently studying a variety of approaches to treatment. Several strategies you may hear about include:

1. Auditory trainers are electronic devices that allow a person to focus attention on a speaker and reduce the interference of background noise. They are often used in classrooms, where the teacher wears a microphone to transmit sound and the child wears a headset to receive the sound. Children who wear hearing aids can use them in addition to the auditory trainer.

2. Environmental modifications such as classroom acoustics, placement, and an appropriate change in seating may help. An audiologist may suggest ways to improve the listening environment, and he or she will be able to monitor any changes in hearing status.

3. Exercises to improve language-building skills can increase the ability to learn new words and increase a child's language base.

4. Auditory memory enhancement, a procedure that reduces detailed information to a more basic representation, may help. Also, informal auditory training techniques can be used by teachers and therapists to address specific difficulties.

5. Games or software applications (apps) may be able to help improve auditory processing to a certain degree in some individuals. For the convenience of our readers, we have provided a list of resources that may be able to help:

Games & Activities to Help Improve Auditory Processing

18 Auditory Processing Activities You Can Do Without Spending a Dime!
by Bonnie Terry Learning
http://www.bonnieterry.com/blog/2009/01/18-auditory-processing-activities-you-can-do-without-spending-a-dime/

Activities to Enhance Auditory Processing
from Education.com
http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Activities_Enhance/

Activities to Improve Language Skills in Children with APD
by Chris O of Speech Buddies
https://www.speechbuddy.com/blog/speech-therapy-techniques/activities-to-improve-language-skills-in-children-with-apd/

Apps to Help Improve Auditory Processing

Virtual Speech Center's 8 Auditory Processing Apps
Virtual Speech Center offers innovative mobile software solutions for schools, private practices, independent speech pathologists and parents. The company provides a wide range of mobile applications for speech therapy developed for iPad and iPhone devices. Some of their applications are offered at no charge to speech pathologists.
http://www.virtualspeechcenter.com/MobileApps.aspx?cid=1&url_entry=MobileApps

Top Apps for Auditory Processing Disorder
List compiled by Smart Apps for Special Needs
http://www.smartappsforspecialneeds.com/2013/08/top-apps-for-auditory-processing.html

Apps for Auditory Processing/Sound Discrimination Skills
by Lauren S. Enders, MA, CCC-SLP (via Pinterest)
https://www.pinterest.com/lasenders/apps-for-auditory-processing-sound-discrimination-/

Sources

National Autism Resources, Inc.
This organization is a global leader in providing cost effective, research-based therapeutic tools that meet the needs of people on the autism spectrum across their lifespan since 2008. Their tools and adaptive technologies work together to improve skills and significantly decrease impairment.
http://www.nationalautismresources.com/auditory-processing.html

Auditory Processing---from The National Assoc. of Child Development
by Lori Riggs, MA, CCC/SLP Director, Center for Speech and Sound
http://nacd.org/journal/auditory_processing.php

For more information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Shutterstock at http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-203771752/stock-vector-ear-icon-with-shadow.html?src=&ws=0
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com