Monday, March 31, 2014

BEST Special Needs Websites-2014

Our weekly blog article is coming to you a bit later this week, as we have been busy presenting and exhibiting at the 2014 Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators Expo over the past weekend. What a wonderful event it was for homeschooling families---and for us, too!

We always look forward to this event each year and have participated since 2009. Once again this year, we were impressed with the enthusiasm of the many parents (and grandparents!) so motivated to teach their children in the best ways possible and with the best resources.

Over the past several years, we have been noticing a significant increase in the number of families searching for practical resources for their children challenged with special needs. This year was no exception. Again and again, parents visited our exhibit table for consultation about their children's learning struggles, particularly with reading. We provided many with relevant resources and strategies to help. At the same time, more than the usual number of parents and children wanted to interact with our Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) to experience firsthand the tools' focusing and sensory features. We were happy to help them and enjoyed doing so.

For those of our readers who were unable to attend the conference but also need helpful resources for special needs, we thought we would provide here our most current list of websites for their children or students. If you are such a parent or teacher, we hope you will find these resources helpful in enriching the life of your child, your family or that of your students as a result.

Happy reading and learning, everyone!

BEST Websites for Special Needs-2014

Tax Strategies for Parents of Kids with Special Needs

Top 100 Special Needs Resources on the Web

SEN Teacher
Many FREE resources for teachers can be found here. There are numerous downloads and printables for immediate classroom use!

Autism Buddy
Aims to provide a FREE user-friendly website that provides high quality pintables and resources for teachers and parents for use with children with special educational needs

FREE life skills videos categorized by age of viewer and content area

ADHD Blogs: Meet the ADDitude Bloggers
ADHD blogs from ADD adults, parents of ADHD children, and ADHD experts -- helping you cope with the challenges of and delight in the benefits of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).

FREE resources for teachers and parents of children on the autism spectrum that include thousands of free pages with social skills and behavioral regulation activities and guidance, learning songs and games, communication cards, academic material, and transition guides for employment and life skills.

Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne
FREE resources with lesson plans for teaching with technology

Best Free Children's eBooks Online
Link to 233+ sites for FREE children’s e-books

For information on customizable reading tools for ADHD & other reading challenges: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

5 Super Strategies to Encourage Reading This Spring---& Always!

Were you thinking that spring might NEVER arrive? We certainly were! Here in the Midwest, we had a winter to remember. It was definitely one for the record books, as we managed to dig out of more than our usual number of snow storms and manage too many frigid days. However, spring has finally sprung, and we couldn't be happier. As always, we think it is a GREAT time to read, too!

To help usher in this new and long-awaited season, we wanted to share with you a few resources to help encourage more reading this spring, whether for your children or for your students. It is very possible to combine the refreshing outdoor activities you can again enjoy with the pleasures and benefits of reading---and we'll prove it.

Springtime Strategies to Encourage Your Children to Read

1. Coordinate an Outdoor Activity with a Themed Book
Did you know that the coordinated skills required for jumping rope actually promote more brain connectivity? That's right! Why not teach your child the "how-to" of this activity, and then combine it with reading a book about jumping rope? You and your child will enjoy the benefits of this excellent physical activity AND a coordinated, literary experience---all at the same time.

Of course, it doesn't have to be the activity of jumping rope. It could be about walking, gardening, hopscotch or whatever activity you and your child or students choose to do. To get you started, however, we can recommend a couple of books you and your child might enjoy on the topic of jumping rope:

a. Hope Learns to Jump Rope---by Amy Cancryn
This is a new book published in December 1013 (paperback---Kindle eBook also available).

b. Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes---by Joanna Cole and Alan Tiegreen
Great rhymes and short poems for jumping rope!

c. Jumping Rope the Second Time Around---by Carlos Coffman, Bobie Capel and Samuel G. Coffman
This is an excellent book for parents when jumping rope is a "distant memory."

2. Keep Books Handy---Everywhere
Get into the good habit of carrying at least 1 or more books with you wherever you go. Store them in a tote bag or other container for "wait times" in the car. Keep 1 or 2 books in your purse for a "quick read" in a long check-out line. Slip a couple of children's books into the baby's diaper bag, too. That way, you'll be ready to read no matter where you go this spring. At home or in the classroom, carefully arrange books in baskets stored on the floor within easy reach of young children. Replace your big "coffee table books" with children's favorite books or action-packed paperbacks for teens. Just watch what happens.

3. Read on the Go---Anytime, Anywhere!
Did you know that Barnes and Noble provides a FREE Nook Reading APP for your smartphone or tablet? Yes! You can access it without charge by visiting the company's webpage at That way, when you are waiting in the pediatrician's office with your children or another time when "patience" can get the better of children---AND parents, you will be ready to read to your children or provide them with an e-book they can read. If you prefer the Kindle app for smartphones and tablets, you can access it from Amazon at

4. Organize a Children's Book Club
Start a children's book club in your community or classroom. Give the club a name that the children suggest or recommend. You can even have a naming contest with a favorite book as a prize for the best or creative name. You can even award "stars" for library visits or bookstore "browsings." Your neighbors and parents will thank you in spades!

If this idea sounds a bit daunting, it could easily be implemented on a smaller scale for just your family with parents (or grandparents) and children each having opportunities to read aloud and share ideas about main characters, plots and more. This kind of activity will not only encourage literacy in your family, but it will also draw the family closer together with the good quality time spent.

5. Plan a Few Library "Field Trips"
Finally, don't be afraid to take a walk to the library (even the school library!) If your local lending library is within walking distance, try it with your child. Talk about the books you read last week or discuss what kinds of books you will be searching for when you arrive at the library. If walking is not feasible, the same conversations can be had just as easily in the family car or in the classroom before and after these visits. Don't be surprised if you end up creating some "good old days" memories for you, your child or your students in the process.

We're hoping that you find these strategies will help you promote literacy in your family or classroom this spring season. Who knows? Perhaps these ideas will start a few new, good habits that will last well past springtime, into the summer---and ALWAYS!

For information on customizable reading tools for ADHD & other reading challenges: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, March 15, 2014

GREAT Dyslexia Websites---2014

As a follow-up to our last post, Decoding Dyslexia: The Grassroots Movement Making a Difference!, we immediately wanted to provide our readers with more internet resources to help with the challenges of dyslexia. This past week, we did our research to locate additional websites helping to make a difference in the lives of those who daily face the hurdles of dyslexia.

We have presented several lists of dyslexia resources, including one in late 2013 with websites for dyslexia and dysgraphia (BEST Websites for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia). In this new article, we are providing additional websites offering current information on this topic of dyslexia, each with a different approach. We hope you will find these resources helpful for someone you care about who struggles daily with dyslexia.

Helpful Dyslexia Websites---2014 helps to address the needs of students with dyslexia. Russell Van Brocklen provides teleseminars for parents, teachers and other adults who want to help children with dyslexia or who are themselves affected by this learning difference (to begin in late March 2014). Mr. Van Brocklen and the organization also provide specialized tutoring for motivated students with dyslexia. The company is based in the U.S.A.
Teleseminar link:

Learning Ally
Learning Ally, a national non-profit since 1948, has partnered with those who learn differently to ensure academic and lifelong success. The organization has 11 locations in the U.S.

The Dyslexia Foundation
The Dyslexia Foundation (TDF), a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, was established in 1989 to identify and assist children with dyslexia – to establish higher levels of learning through specialized programs promoting better reading. The Dyslexia Foundation is located in South Dartmouth, MA, in the USA.

Dyslexia Action
Dyslexia Action is a national charity in the UK that takes action to change the lives of people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. The organization takes this action by offering help and support directly to individuals and empowering others so they can help individuals affected by dyslexia. The organization operates from its Head Office in Egham, Surrey and a network of 25 regional centers and 97 teaching locations throughout the UK.

Davis Dyslexia-Pacific (dda-Pacific)
The Davis Dyslexia program works alongside the dyslexic’s natural learning style providing a proven method for permanent learning. A Davis facilitator works with learners individually and a typical program will take around 30 hours of one-to-one, guided work with a licensed facilitator. Davis Dyslexia is located in New Zealand and serves its country, Australia and Pacific Islands.

For information on customizable reading tools for ADHD & other reading challenges: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Decoding Dyslexia: The Grassroots Movement Making a Difference!

Just in case you haven't yet heard, there is a movement sweeping the country here in the U.S. that definitely is making real waves AND moving things in the right direction for individuals with dyslexia. This movement is called Decoding Dyslexia, and it is already making a difference in the push for dyslexia legislation and support for parents, interested teachers and others who serve children and adults challenged with dyslexia.

The Decoding Dyslexia organization, started in late 2011 by a group of New Jersey parents, is connecting and empowering parents across the country, providing them with support and current information about proposed and pending dyslexia legislation. At this writing, there are 46 states that have each established a Decoding Dyslexia group for their individual state. As recently as last April 2013, there were only about 20 of these DD groups. Since that time, the efforts of like-minded parents have grown and combined to significantly help improve dyslexia services in schools throughout our country.

Parents of children with dyslexia or adults who want to see that services for dyslexia are improved in their state is encouraged to join their local Decoding Dyslexia group. When you decide to join, please be ready to provide support and encouragement for the cause and not just "take" the support and information offered there.

While you are at it, check to see if your DD group has a Facebook page. You can use some of the resources provided at the end of this article to help you with this. If so, LIKE the DD group's fan page and join in the social media discussion to learn all about the up-to-the-minute situation with dyslexia services in your state. You'll also find wonderful resources posted there, too. Once again, be prepared to offer and post current information, strategies and resources to the Facebook page to help other parents and adults who need your support. It's all about helping one another, supporting one another to make this kind of progress a reality.

Finally, there are some closed and open DD Facebook groups available to join. Again, you can use the resources to follow here or search for "Decoding Dyslexia" in a Facebook search box to locate these groups and all DD Facebook pages, too. You might be surprised to see just how many groups there are helping to raise awareness and provide much-needed support to families challenged with dyslexia!

Happy reading!

Sources and Additional Dyslexia Resources to Help

Decoding Dyslexia
This is the home page for the national Decoding Dyslexia website.

Locate Your State's Decoding Dyslexia Organization
Each Decoding Dyslexia State Movement has a FaceBook page and many have websites and other social media outlets. Currently, 43 states have a Decoding Dyslexia group. To find yours, visit

List of Decoding Dyslexia Facebook Pages and Groups
This is a direct link to all Decoding Dyslexia Facebook Pages and Groups

Follow progress on all dyslexia (and other) legislation across the U.S. by visiting this website. You can set up alerts so that notices of particular legislative progress can be emailed to you.

What Can YOU Do to Help Dyslexia Legislation Become a Reality?
This additional article (of February 8, 2014) from our blog contains legislative updates regarding dyslexia bills and additional resources for parents, teachers and other adults who want to help children with the challenges of dyslexia.

Decoding Dyslexia – Empowering Parents Concerned about Dyslexia Services in Schools by Lyn Pollard of Learning Ally

For information on customizable reading tools for ADHD & other reading challenges: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Map Resources at
ESL Voices at
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, March 1, 2014

One-Stop APP Lists for Dyslexia & Other Reading/Writing Challenges

Do you often discover great apps that could help a struggling reader you know? Are you short on time to evaluate and catalog them for later use? As you may already know, trying to relocate them online again at a future date may often lead you into a circle of frustration and a great loss of time, never actually accessing the desired app at all. Sound familiar?

When parents and teachers attempt give their efforts to help one or more struggling readers, time is of particular importance---both for the helper and the challenged reader. Parents' and teachers' time constraints are an issue and children's attention spans are often short or non-existent. What can one do?

We frequently hear from adults who work with challenged readers and ask us, "Is there just one, master list of apps for children and adults with additional or multiple reading needs?" We have asked this question ourselves here at Brennan Innovators, but until very recently, were only able to cobble together several lists to provide what parents and teachers have been trying to find for sometime. Our readers and clients wanted a list where all the needed apps were in one place---and electronically accessible, too.

So when we resumed "the hunt" for such a "master list" of helpful apps for struggling readers ALL in ONE place, we found several good ones. The first one discovered was created by CALL Scotland out of the University of Edinburgh. This organization's mission is to help provide information about communication, literacy and assistive technology for persons with disabilities. Their master list of apps does just that, AND it is electronic. In other words, the list enables the user to have easy, "clickable" access to iPad Apps for Learners with Dyslexia/Reading and Writing Difficulties, a master list of 75+ apps to help challenged readers and writers of all ages. These apps span five skill categories---organization, reading, writing, numeracy and memory.

The second list (presented in a pdf file format) is also electronic but for use with younger struggling readers. The LITERACY APPS FOR STRUGGLING LEARNERS by Harvey Pressman and Andrea Pietrzyk from Central Coast Children’s Foundation, Inc. lists many apps for various Apple platforms with a few for Android. Basic learning categories of phonics, word attack, alphabet and more for the apps are provided. Additional apps lists for young challenged readers are also provided at the end of this master list.

Finally, we also listed here several, non-electronic apps wheels should you prefer to download as needed. These apps wheels were created by Mark Coppin, Cherie Pickering and Allan Carrington for different kinds of readers/learners (autism, Asperger's and other additional needs).

We believe you'll find these resources helpful as you assist a challenged reader you know. We also hope that you'll return again and again to this blog page to more easily access these apps that could really make a difference for many struggling readers in all age groups.

One-Stop APP Resources for Dyslexia & Other Reading/Writing Challenges

iPad APPS Chart for Learners with Dyslexia/Reading and Writing Difficulties---from CALL Scotland at The University of Edinburgh)
CALL Scotland helps provide information about communication, literacy and assistive technology for persons with disabilities. The organization is funded in part by the Scottish Government. The electronic version of this chart (Version 1.0, November 2013) can be downloaded from:

LITERACY APPS FOR STRUGGLING LEARNERS by Harvey Pressman and Andrea Pietrzyk from Central Coast Children’s Foundation, Inc.(Mostly apps for Apple platforms with a few for Android) Another electronic list of apps sorted by focus category, then by price (least to most expensive, with all prices in US dollars). Each app description includes a target audience (“Ideal for”) - pre-reading (children who have not yet learned how to read), beginning reading (children who are just starting to learn how to read), and catch-up reading (children who have learned how to read but are having difficulties)

Apps Wheels by Mark Coppin, Cherie Pickering & Allan Carrington
3 Non-electronic Apps Wheel Charts for Autism and Other Additional Needs

Other Related Resources

Dyslexia Reading Well---A virtual well of dyslexia resources

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the low-tech, physical Reading Focus Cards tools (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This app provides very practical support for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, low vision, stroke or brain injury issues, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. This desktop application promotes more FOCUSED online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the app supports touch-screen technology (where applicable).
1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to
2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad at OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

What's on my iPad? Assistive Apps I Use as a Dyslexic Student---from the Assistive Technology Blog
A number of assistive apps for students with dyslexia (provides direct links to apps)

40+ iPad Apps for Reading Disabilities from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning blog
We discovered this electronic list after our article was published but wanted to include it here, too.

For information on customizable reading tools for ADHD & other reading challenges: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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TeleRead at
Brennan Innovators, LLC at