Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Low-tech and Digital Supports for Challenged Readers and Writers

Part 3 & final article in a series about Assistive Technologies for Challenged Readers

Many of the keyword searches that bring visitors to our blog and websites revolve around the term “struggling" or "challenged" readers and writers (really?) We felt it was about time to provide a list of good tech tools for teachers, parents and others who work tirelessly with children and teens challenged with reading (dyslexia, convergence insufficiency, etc.) and/or writing (dysgraphia, dyspraxia, etc.)

To follow here, you will find a collection of supportive low-tech & digital technologies for spelling, grammar, decoding, tracking, fluency, word choice, reading level, and overall visual readability. We hope these tech resources will “fill the bill” for those who come to us looking for solutions to help the many struggling readers and writers everywhere.

Reading & Writing Support Tools for Challenged Readers & Writers

1. Clicker 7 - Custom onscreen keyboards, talking word processor, word prediction & more (Mac & PC-FREE trial)
http://www.cricksoft.com/us/products/clicker/home.aspx

2. Ghotit - Spelling/grammar checker software & mobile apps for dyslexia & dysgraphia
(Mac/PC/iOS/Android/Linux-FREE trial)
http://www.ghotit.com/

3. Ginger Software - Spellchecker for content (online, PC-FREE & $)
http://www.gingersoftware.com/

4. Grammarly - Grammar & spelling checker (FREE & $)
https://www.grammarly.com/

5. Low-tech Reading Focus Cards - Customizable reading tools for physical books, documents & other applications (From $16.95)
http://www.focusandread.com/products

6. OpenDyslexic - Font designed by Abbie Gonzalez to ease visual aspects of reading for dyslexia (FREE)
http://opendyslexic.org/

7. Reading Focus Cards App - Virtual index card-like reading tool to aid visual focus, tracking, fluency, comprehension & retention---infinitely customizable (Mac, PC-$5.99)
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

8. Rewordify - Automatically defines, or substitutes simpler words in place on web pages (FREE)
http://rewordify.com/

9. Snap&Read Universal - Text-to-speech, image-to-text conversion & text leveling (simplify difficult words) for online reading (FREE trial)
http://donjohnston.com/snap-read/

10. Visual Thesaurus - Visual word map (online, Mac & PC-FREE & $)
http://www.visualthesaurus.com/

11. WordQ - Allows readers to modify word prediction to use specific vocabulary or topics.(Various $)
http://www.goqsoftware.com/wordQ.php?gclid=CN6P3K-l8KwCFRECQAod9TKxKg

12. WriteOnline - word banks, talking word processor, word prediction, mind mapping (online, Mac & PC-FREE trial)
http://www.cricksoft.com/us/products/writeonline/default.aspx

Sources:
My Assistive Technology Toolbox by Shelley Haven, ATP, RET
http://techpotential.net/attoolbox

Software & Assistive Technology by DyslexiaHelp, University of Michigan
http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/tools/software-assistive-technology

For more information about assistive technologies for 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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

BEST Websites for Assistive Tech: Text-to-Speech Tools and Related Resources

Part 2 in a series of articles about Assistive Technologies for Challenged Readers

Text-to-speech (TTS) is a form of speech synthesis that converts written text into a spoken voice output, or speech. Text-to-speech allows a computer, device, or application to speak by giving it a voice.

Text-to-speech was originally used to improve the accessibility of computers. This allowed visually-impaired and other challenged readers to listen to digital content that they were originally unable to read. It was also used to provide a voice for persons who had lost their own voices for a variety of reasons (injury, illness, etc.). Today, text-to-speech technology is used in medical devices, audio and announcement systems, emergency alerts, e-learning software, interactive voice response (IVR) systems and many other technological products. This same technology can be indispensable for readers with dyslexia, ADHD, autism and other issues that often impact reading success.

More recently, the demand for text-to-speech has grown rapidly. By combining text-to-speech and speech recognition capabilities, individuals are able to interact with technology as they would with another person through conversation. Because of the hands-free user interface this creates and employs, barriers are greatly eased or even eliminated for many challenged readers and learners.

Text-to-speech technology has become a significant part of the technical world and will increasingly become an even larger part of our daily lives. Through the text-to-speech tools from the websites and resource links provided below here, we hope you will discover just the right technology for your child, a struggling student or even yourself in order to enhance the reading and learning experience. In that way, an individual's quality of life will be significantly improved, too.

TextAloud MP3 for PC (FREE Trial)
http://www.textaloud.com/

GhostReader for Mac (FREE Trial)
http://www.convenienceware.com/ghostreader

ReadSpeaker (as used with this and all other articles in this blog-FREE Demo)
http://www.readspeaker.com/

NaturalReader for Mac & PC (FREE Version Available)
https://www.naturalreaders.com/index.html

NeoSpeech Text-to-Speech (FREE Demo)
http://www.neospeech.com/?gclid=CJu3yrX8lNECFVa5wAodgj0DRw

VoiceOver and Speak Selected Text (included in Mac operating system)
VoiceOver: http://www.apple.com/accessibility/mac/vision/
Speak Selected Text: http://osxdaily.com/2012/09/15/speak-selected-text-with-a-keystroke-in-mac-os-x/

Speak Selection and Speak Screen (included in iOS)
Speak Selection: https://help.apple.com/ipad/8/#/iPad9a247097
Speak Screen: https://help.apple.com/ipad/8/#/iPadfd740569

Speak command for Microsoft Word for PC (FREE to configure)
https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Using-the-Speak-text-to-speech-feature-459e7704-a76d-4fe2-ab48-189d6b83333c?CorrelationId=d85e4603-d659-4086-9e3e-e187ddec1f9a&ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US&ocmsassetID=HA102066711

Bookshare Web Reader extension for Chrome on Mac, PC; Safari on Mac; Chromebook (Requires Bookshare Acct.)
https://www.bookshare.org/cms/get-started/how-read-books/read-your-own

Read2Go (iOS app for Bookshare books-$19.99)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read2go/id425585903?mt=8

Voice Dream Reader (iOS and Android app for Bookshare books and other text)
iOS ($14.99): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voice-dream-reader/id496177674?mt=8
Android ($9.99): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=voicedream.reader&hl=en

GoRead (Android app for Bookshare books-FREE)
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.benetech.android&hl=en

Darwin Reader (Android app for Bookshare books-$14.95))
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ndu.mobile.daisy.full&hl=en

iBooks for Mac, iOS - Use device's built-in text-to-speech
http://www.apple.com/accessibility/mac/learning-and-literacy/

Acapela Text-To-Speech (FREE Demo)
http://www.acapela-group.com/

Nuance: RealSpeak (FREE Trial)
http://www.nuance.com/index.htm

Have Siri Read Articles To You on iPhone or iPad
http://osxdaily.com/2016/10/31/have-siri-read-screen-ios/

Sources:

My Assistive Technology Toolbox by Shelley Haven, ATP, RET
http://techpotential.net/attoolbox

The Benefits of Text to Speech by ReadSpeaker
http://www.readspeaker.com/benefits-of-text-to-speech/

What Is Text-to-Speech: Text-to-Speech Definition by Neospeech
http://www.neospeech.com/what-is-text-to-speech

For more information about assistive technologies for 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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

BEST Websites for Assistive Tech: Audiobook Resources

Part 1 in a series of articles about Assistive Technologies for Challenged Readers

If you know or help a challenged reader, you also know that the RIGHT technologies can make ALL the difference in the world for an individual's level of reading success. Being aware of the BEST technology available for a specific reading issue will increase the possibility of that same individual experiencing even MORE reading success.

When printed media presents problems for some readers, there are helpful tech options available to allow such individuals to read with more comfort, focus, comprehension and retention, improving the over-all reading experience. In this article, we present text-to-speech as just one type of technology that can significantly help and support all types of struggling readers.

Text-to-speech technologies convert printed text into spoken words using synthesized voices. This type of technology is built into most computer operating systems, mobile devices, and e-book readers. In addition, there is a range of software, apps and extensions that also provide this support. This text-to-speech technology provides much support for the many readers who need it in the form of audiobooks, recordings of human narrators reading aloud.

Resources for Audiobooks---When LISTENING Is a Better Option

Kindle Fire and Immersion Reading
Kindle Fire's VoiceView features IVONA's natural language text-to-speech voice.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00TSUGXKE/ref=sv_devicesubnav_1#tech
Immersion Reading (Video)
See the e-text highlighted while listening to narrated audiobook.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccwBwnhD9SE

Audible app (for Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
https://www.audible.com/sw

All You Can Books
http://www.allyoucanbooks.com/

Overdrive Media Console
Borrow digital audiobooks and e-books from local libraries.
https://app.overdrive.com/

Learning Ally Link (for Mac, PC, iOS)
https://www.learningally.org/link

Learning Ally Audio
iOS app for Learning Ally audiobooks.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learning-ally-audio/id418888450?mt=8

Learning Ally Audio
Android app for Learning Ally audiobooks.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.learningally.learningallyaudioandroid&hl=en

Sources:

Assistive Technology Tools for Learning Differences, ADHD, and Executive Function Challenges
by Shelley Haven ATP, RET
http://techpotential.net/attoolbox

AT Toolbox-Assistive Technology Tools for Education---Text To Speech
http://www.attoolbox.com/text-to-speech/

For more information about assistive technologies for 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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

10 Tips to Help Children with Dysgraphia

Does your child struggle to write on the appropriate lines provided? Do you know or teach a child who is challenged and/or frustrated with simply forming basic letters and words? A child or student with these issues just might be challenged with dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect. In children, the disorder generally emerges when they are first introduced to writing. They make inappropriately sized and spaced letters, or write wrong or misspelled words, despite thorough and apporpriate instruction.

Children with the disorder may have other learning disabilities; however, they usually have no social or other academic problems. Dysgraphia in adults generally occurs after some trauma. In addition to poor handwriting, dysgraphia is characterized by wrong or odd spelling, and production of words that are not correct (i.e., using "boy" for "child"). The cause of the disorder is unknown, but in adults, it is usually associated with damage to the parietal lobe of the brain.

1. First, CHANGE the paper used for writing.
A person with dysgraphia experiences significant challenges in the writing process. These challenges involve the inability to organize information that is stored in memory AND getting words on to paper by handwriting or typing them.

These 2 challenges prevent dysgraphic persons from understanding the spacing between letters, words, and sentences. In order to help your child visualize the space and to minimize frustration, first consider replacing your child’s lined paper with graph paper or turn the lined paper sideways, with each letter getting its own block/space and leaving an empty block/space between words.

You might also try using various kinds of highlighted printing papers. There are a few online sources for such supplies. (Please see FREE downloadable templates available via the link provided below here, too.)

Also, consider changing the color of the writing paper. A particular pastel color for paper may help alleviate some of the visual stress caused by white papers. Just the "right" colored paper for your child could make a positive difference, if only in the way he approaches the writing task.

2. CHANGE the writing tool or instrument your child uses.
Dysgraphia affects fine motor control. Because of this, gripping a pencil or pen lightly isn’t natural. Encourage your child to write as if she were holding a feather, or take it a bit further and give her an actual quill and ink. Feathers are delicate and children tend to handle them much more gently than they do a solid object like a pencil. If a quill is not readily available,consider using chalk, as it will crumble when pressed too hard.

As for writing surfaces, the bigger, the better! Use an easel or a large sheet of white poster board. Another option is to use sliding glass doors on which to write (with washable markers or transparency pens) as they are huge and the glass surface naturally encourages my children to write much more softly than they would on other surfaces. An added benefit is that these large glass doors can easily and quickly be washed.

In addition, adding a soft and comfortable pencil grip or holder to the writing tool currently used can provide much support for a struggling writer. These types of pencil grips can be found online from various special needs sources.

3. TEACH your child to type and effectively use a computer keyboard.
To help eliminate much of the stress of repeated writing difficulties, allow your child to express his ideas and thoughts with a word processor or computer keyboard. Providing this option can relax and enable your child to make more progress in learning in all content areas. Another option for this purpose is a portable keyboard/word processor called AlphaSmart. Although an older type of assistive technology, the AlphaSmart keyboards can provide the needed typing tool for a challenged writer and is available online either new or used.

4. INTRODUCE your child to gross motor skill exercises.
Show your child a few gross motor skill exercises to strengthen the arm and hand. Then incorporate these exercises into your child's daily routine. Make them fun, combining them with rhymes or your child's favorite kind of music. A good resource for these types of exercises is OT Mom Learning Activities (please see "gross motor" link below here).

5. INTRODUCE fine motor control exercises.
Introduce fine motor control exercises to strengthen the fingers and wrist. Add these to your child's daily activities as well. By combining these exercises with some relaxing instrumental music selections, your child may relax a bit more and be able to concentrate on the exercises more successfully. A variety of fine motor exercises can also be accessed via many special needs or OT websites such as OT Mom Learning Activities, too (please see "fine motor" link below here).

6. CONSIDER by-passing printing & proceed directly to cursive writing.
The move to cursive, too, can significantly reduce the levels of frustration experienced by many with dysgraphia, allowing them to relax and become better able to write. This might be a temporary by-pass of printing, or it could become more permanent, depending upon the results observed with the cursive writing.

7. DEVELOP & UTILIZE narration or speaking skills whenever possible.
Dysgraphia causes some individuals to experience a block between thinking something and writing it. Narration is an excellent tool for helping your child record her thoughts. Saying letters and words aloud as they are recorded on a small tech device (mp3 player or the like) or with a text-to-speech program will also be a benefit when it is time to write down those words. A handy list will have already been created.

8. WORK TOGETHER to evaluate & change your writing goals as needed.
Discuss at least once per week about how the accommodations are working to help your child. Even if your child is young, he can provide valuable input as to what is working and what is not. He may even have additional ideas to add or request, especially after you have begun to show him just a few helpful strategies or accommodations.

9. DEMONSTRATE and USE large "air writing" techniques.
Demonstrate and use large "air writing" of letters to develop a more efficient motor memory for the sequence of steps necessary in making each letter. You might also introduce "sand writing" which involves using the finder to write out letters in a sided tray of sand. These multi-sensory approaches often yield very positive results.

10.MAKE USE of a other multi-sensory techniques.
Make use of a variety of multi-sensory techniques to further develop handwriting skills. Visit Dysgraphia Resources to access more than 200 multi-sensory activities, tools and other resources to help your child with the challenges of dysgraphia (many of the resources there are FREE, too!)

Sources & Resources:

8 Strategies to Beat Dysgraphia from Homeschool Gameschool blog
http://homeschoolgameschool.com/8-strategies-to-beat-dysgraphia/

Strategies for Dealing with Dysgraphia by Regina G. Richards, LD Online
http://www.ldonline.org/article/5890

BEST Websites for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia from Help for Struggling Readers blog
http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2013/10/best-websites-for-dyslexia-dysgraphia.html

Pencil Grips and Holders from Fun and Function
https://funandfunction.com/more/write-and-more/grips.html

AlphaSmart Keyboards
Portable assistive technology for keyboarding and word processing.
https://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aalphasmart%20keyboards

Fine Motor Activities from OT Mom Learning Activities
www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/hand-exercises-for-kids.html

Gross Motor Skill Activities-from OT Mom Learning Activities
http://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/gross-motor-activities.html

Able Apps for Dysgraphia from Help for Struggling Readers blog
http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2012/08/able-apps-for-dysgraphia.html

200+ Dysgraphia Resources---ALL in 1 Place from Brennan Innovators, LLC
More than 200 multi-sensory resources to help someone you know with dysgraphia.
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dysgraphia-resources/?etslf=6371&eq=Dysgraphia

For information on digital & low-tech reading tools for ADHD, dyslexia and other challenges, 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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The RIGHT Strategies Get the Job Done for Challenged Readers with ADHD and Others

For students to become good readers, they need to be shown how to adjust their reading behavior to deal with a variety of situations, types of input, and reading purposes. Each student must develop a set of specific strategies and match the appropriate strategies to every reading situation in order to improve skills and overall reading success.

The following 5 strategies can make all the difference for readers who lack the needed focus and attention to content that must be read. In fact, these strategies have the potential to help all individuals experience more reading success!

The RIGHT Strategies That Help Students Read More Quickly & Effectively

1. Previewing
Review titles, section headings, and photo captions to get a sense of the purpose, structure and content of a reading selection prior to actually reading that same selection.

2. Predicting
Use your prior knowledge of the subject matter and about the author to make predictions about content, vocabulary and writing style.

3. Skimming and Scanning
Do a quick survey of the text to get the main idea, identify text structure, confirm or question predictions.

4. Guess-timating with Context Clues
Use your prior knowledge of the subject and the ideas provided in the text as clues to the meanings of unknown words (instead of stopping to look them up).

5. Paraphrasing
Stop at the end of a section to check comprehension by restating the information and ideas in the text.

How Teachers Can Help Students Learn When & How to Use These Reading Strategies

1. Model the Strategies
By modeling the strategies aloud, talking through the processes of previewing, predicting, skimming and scanning, and paraphrasing. This shows students how the strategies work and how much they can know about a text before they begin to read word by word.

2. Allow Class Time to Use the Strategies
By allowing time in class for group and individual previewing and predicting activities as preparation for in-class or out-of-class reading. Allocating class time to these activities indicates their importance and value.

3. Use Cloze Exercises for Vocabulary
By using cloze (fill in the blank) exercises to review vocabulary items. This helps students learn to guess meaning from context.

4. Encourage Student Discussion of Successful Strategies
By encouraging students to talk about what strategies they think will help them approach a reading assignment, and then talking after reading about what strategies they actually used. This helps students develop flexibility in their choice of strategies.

In conclusion, when students are shown and then learn how to use the right reading strategies, they find that they can control the reading experience and gain confidence in their ability to read the content. These are the important keys to reading success both in current learning situations as well in the future.

Source: Strategies for Developing Reading Skills from NCLRC-The National Capital Language Resource Center, Washington, DC
http://nclrc.org/essentials/reading/stratread.htm

For information on digital & low-tech reading tools for ADHD, dyslexia and other challenges, 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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kindle & Reading Focus Cards Apps Work TOGETHER to Help ADHD & Dyslexic Readers Succeed!

With these 2 DESKTOP apps added to your tech toolbox, you'll be ready to support even more challenged readers in your classroom this year!

With the estimated 1 in 5 persons in the U.S. challenged with dyslexia and the 8 to 13% (depending on the state) of school-aged children in our country who have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorders (ADHD), there is a significant need today to provide support for challenged readers and learners. These individuals can find it particularly difficult to focus, decode, track, concentrate, comprehend and retain information when reading, especially for extended periods or when many pages of text must be read at a time. Assistive technologies in recent years have begun to provide this much-needed support.

1. Turn Your Computer into a Kindle with This FREE App from Amazon!
One of the most popular and easily recognizable technologies to help these challenged readers is Amazon's Kindle, the well-known e-reader launched in late 2007 that has been most disruptive in the publishing world. The Kindle technology enables readers to eliminate glare with a unique screen, diminish the starkness of white page backgrounds behind virtual text, manipulate font or text sizes and more to assist persons with various reading issues.

Did you know that readers can actually download the FREE Kindle app to a desktop or laptop? Whether the hardware is a Mac or Windows PC, it costs nothing to turn one's computer or laptop into a virtual Kindle and then immediately purchase and download e-books to that computer from Amazon.com.

2. Add the Reading Focus Cards App to the Kindle App & Watch What Happens on Your Desktop!
For challenged readers who often struggle with focus and attention, tracking, comprehension and retention, it would be hard to beat the combination of the Kindle app AND an innovative application called the Reading Focus Cards desktop app (Patent 8,360,779) for Macs and Windows PC's. If you know a challenged student or other struggling reader with ADHD or dyslexia, this 2-app combination can enable that individual to experience more comfortably focused, sustained and successful reading of e-books or other digital media. ($5.99 per download)

3. When in use, the virtual Reading Focus Card actually floats on top AND stays on top of e-book pages or any underlying application to more easily read a web page, Word or PDF document, Excel spreadsheet, e-book or other digital media. If readers become overwhelmed with too much text on a digital page of an e-book, the Reading Focus Cards app directs the eye to what needs to be read WHILE covering as much or as little of the surrounding text as selected by the reader. Nearly an entire digital e-book page can be covered to improve focus on the text line needing attention.

4. Easily move the virtual Reading Focus Card over an underlying e-book or other application on the screen with a touch pad, mouse, arrow keys or even with your fingers, where touch technology is applicable. No speed reading here. Move the virtual card at your comfortable reading rate.
5. With this app's pop-up Toolbox, independently customize the color, level of transparency, height, width and orientation of both the virtual Reading Window and Reading Card, respectively, to provide more reading comfort and focus to block out distractions and keep you focused on the text you are reading.

6. Never worry about the virtual Reading Focus Card disappearing from the screen unexpectedly, even when using with the Kindle app or other underlying programs! It floats on top AND stays on top of your computer screen, so you can scroll through e-book pages as well as read documents without interruption. You decide when to close the application.

Special Note: Currently, mobile devices are unable to successfully support this unique, overlay-type Reading Focus Cards app that stays on top of and moves independently of the underlying media applications.

Now, readers of any age and ability can improve their focus to read e-books as well as other digital media in greater comfort and with much more reading success. Now it is possible to create your own reading system by combining these 2 great literacy apps, the Kindle app AND the Reading Focus Cards desktop app---and all for less than the price of a paperback!

Happy Reading---now for everyone!

Sources
By the Numbers: 120+ Amazing Amazon Statistics (2016)
by Craig Smith, of DMR
http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/amazon-statistics/

e-Book Statistics Update
from Writing for Life
http://www.livewritethrive.com/2012/06/18/ebook-statistics-update/

Research-Based Literacy Tool – Helpful App for Struggling Readers
by Jayne Clare, of Teachers With Apps
http://www.teacherswithapps.com/research-based-literacy-tool-evolves-helpful-app-struggling-readers/

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App---Patent 8,360,779 (for Macs & PC's)
For Macs: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12 or visit the Mac App Store and search for the Reading Focus Cards.
For Windows PCs: https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

Kindle App for Macs, Windows PC's & Other Tech Devices
from Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page/

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations [1867 Edition]. A Public Domain Book. N.p. N.d. e-Book.
This is the e-book available via Amazon.com used for the screenshots in this article.
https://www.amazon.com/Great-Expectations-Charles-Dickens-ebook/dp/B0082SWC30/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1472929542&sr=1-1&keywords=great+expectations

For information on digital & low-tech reading tools for dyslexia, ADHD and other challenges, 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:
MrRental: http://www.mrrental.com.au/media/computers-office/v5-431p-05_-copy.jpg?sfvrsn=0 and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dyslexia's Challenges Often Translate into STEM Strengths

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of once again returning to the gifted classroom. This is an annual experience for me in a program called College for Kids where classes for gifted students are conducted on the campus of our local community college, St. Louis Community College-Meramec Campus. For eleven years now, I have prepared for and instructed children (K-8) in foreign language classes as well as in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or maker-space classes. Each year, it is always an intense 5 days for all where kids are challenged to be particularly creative and to summon their abilities to problem solve and think in critical and innovative ways as they learn new and stimulating content in a college setting.

For me, the week experienced with these unique learners involved the teaching of 2 Exploratory Spanish classes and 2 STEM classes where the students built mechanical robotic arms. As you may already know, STEM classes such as the latter mentioned here are currently in great demand by parents and students alike, and as a result, both of these classes were filled to capacity within a short time after registration opened.

These STEM or Mechanical Robotic Arm Build classes were particularly interesting, as they required each individual student to build such an arm from regular household materials provided to them (card board, paper clips, tape, binder clips, twine, fishing line and other common items.) To add to the challenge and problem-solving skills promoted by the project, only a limited set or predetermined number of each item was provided to each student builder (that could not be exceeded).

The student-created products from these two classes were most interesting. Some of the designs created could even be described as elegant. One student devised a way to connect wooden craft sticks with robber bands in such a way as to allow them to flex, successfully picking up a Styrofoam cup. Another young 7th grader was able to manipulate the five, agile fingers of his mechanical arm with craft sticks and fishing line, enabling it to also achieve the same goal. The projects were indeed exercises in creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, patience, fortitude, determination and more. The students actually learned life lessons in these classes, not just the how of building a mechanical robotic arm with a specific set of items.

What was even more interesting was the fact that when I mentioned my work outside the classroom involves serving students with dyslexia, both of the student designers above mentioned to me that they were challenged with this same learning disability, with one student adding that he also had ADHD. In fact, the number of gifted students with dyslexia in both STEM classes exceeded the current statistics for dyslexia with more than 1 in 5 of all students stating that they struggled with the symptoms of dyslexia.

So, why am I relating all of this to our blog readers this week? Well, it is becoming more and more apparent to educators and others that children and adults with dyslexia think differently from those not challenged with the language-based learning disability. Dyslexic individuals are often highly-creative thinkers, global learners and persons who think outside-the-box. Because of these assets, they are very frequently sought after as innovative problem-solvers and troubleshooters for challenges that leave the rest of us "in the dust" so to speak. Our world needs these unique individuals and their gifts---desperately.

If you are the parent or teacher of a child or teen with dyslexia, or you suspect as much, consider presenting new information or content with hands-on activities that promote creative thinking and innovative troubleshooting or problem-solving skills. Seek out STEM or STEAM (that is, with an added Art component) activities and resources that will bring out the BEST in the skills set of your dyslexic readers and learners. Then allow these children to excel at what they do best---solve problems and accomplish the learning goals you have set for them in innovative and unique ways. You'll be very glad you did.

STEM Resources for Dyslexic Readers & Learners

200+ STEM Links & Resources---ALL in 1 Place!
A Pinterest board with a HUGE collection of STEM and STEAM resources, many of which are FREE!
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/stem-links-resources/?etslf=4387&eq=STEM

STEM Resource Finder
This STEM Resource Finder from The Concord Consortium features some of the best FREE, open-source educational activities, models and software tools available. You can search by keyword or filter by subject, grade level and type to find the right resources for your learning goals.
https://concord.org/stem-resources

Project Lesson Plan: Build Your Own Robot Arm
This is the lesson plan described and utilized in the above article that helped students develop a robot arm using common materials. Students will explore design, construction, teamwork, and materials selection and use.
http://tryengineering.org/lesson-plans/build-your-own-robot-arm

For information on customizable reading tools for dyslexia, ADHD and other challenges, 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