Saturday, December 31, 2011

Need Apps for Special Needs? Great!

The holiday season is winding down, and the new year is about to begin. The presents have been put away, returned, or exchanged. However, if you were fortunate enough to receive an iPad or the like for Christmas, have you begun to take full advantage of it? Are you needing more information and resources to make that happen? Let's see if we can help you here.

First of all, we have been receiving quite a number of calls from parents and teachers telling us that they are using our Reading Focus Cards with their new iPads and Kindles. Of course, we are recommending a protective film for the tech devices' screens with this application.

Secondly, if you are a parent or a teacher of a child with special needs, you are in luck today. I have been busy this past week researching the BEST apps for your new tech devices---specifically, apps for children and teens with special needs.

To follow here, you will find the apps that will be worth your time to investigate. Most of them have been chosen by professionals in the field of special needs. I only bring them directly to you here. Please let me know of your experiences with any one or more of them. It will be very valuable to receive your input! This is my humble gift to you for the new year. Happy New Year 2012 to all my readers here and the children you help!

Best 5 iPad Apps for Dyslexia (posted by Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide--July 26, 2011)

Top Word-Processor App (iPad writing tool)

Apps Index from A to Z--for Children with Special Needs (+ reviews and demos from Dr. Gary Brown)

List of Top 10 Apps for Children of ALL Abilities (for iPads, iPhones, and others from Ms. Meg Wilson)

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Even More Resources for Struggling Readers with Dyslexia--Part 2

As promised, we wanted to provide you with additional resources for those readers who struggle with dyslexia. We hope you will also find these to be helpful as well as those listed in our last article here!

1. Are you a parent of a child struggling with learning strategies for reading, writing, math, test taking – or school in general? Or are you looking for methods to help yourself in some area of learning? This site will help.

2. SEN weblinks and resources for dyslexia

3. How to accommodate students challenged with dyslexia (From the National Center for Learning Disabilities)

4. A story to inspire---Porsha Buck's story follows her struggles with dyslexia and her goal from an early age to become a doctor. Porsha was the 2007 Runner-Up for the Anne Ford Scholarship and a great example of a learning-disabled student who accepted challenges with the confidence she could always overcome them.

5. Dutch researcher designs distinct characters into "Dyslexie" to make it more difficult for dyslexics to rotate, swap and mirror letters and numbers. (October 26, 2011)

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support

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Friday, December 16, 2011

More Resources for Struggling Readers with Dyslexia --Part 1

Our recent articles on the topic of dyslexia have been generating much interest during the past several weeks. In addition to publication of these articles, there may be another reason for this surge in interest on the subject. Here are some current statistics (from the U.S.) that may partly explain this increased interest level:

Dyslexia Statistics

• Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.

• Of people with poor reading skills, 70-80% are likely dyslexic.

One in five students (approx. 15-20% of the population) has a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia is probably the most common of the language based learning disabilities.

• Nearly the same percentage of males and females have dyslexia.

• Nearly the same percentage of people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds have dyslexia.

• Percentages of children at risk for reading failure are much higher in high poverty, language-minority populations who attend ineffective schools.

• The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)* found that approximately 38% of fourth grade students have "below basic" reading skills. These students are below the 40th percentile (performing below the other 60% of their peers) and are at greater than 50% chance of failing the high-stakes, year-end school achievement tests.

• About three quarters of the children who show primary difficulties with basic reading skill early in reading development can be helped to overcome those difficulties to a large extent. Not all of these children have dyslexia (see symptoms of dyslexia in children).

• Less than 1/3 of the children with reading disabilities are receiving school services for their reading disability.

• The causes for reading difficulty may be neurobiological (caused by differences in the structure and function of the brain), experiential (the student could not learn because of his behavior or inability to pay attention), instructional (the teacher did not provide adequate instruction), or a combination of these factors.

• At present, there is no genetic or neurological test to diagnose or predict whose problems are primarily neuro-biological or which problems are experiential or instructional (dyslexia is a neuro-biological condition).

• About 5% of the population will have enduring, severe reading disabilities that are very difficult to treat given our current knowledge.

Source: * The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) is a measure used across most of the United States courtesy of

Do these statistics concern you? They certainly should. So, we thought this would be a particularly good time to provide even more resources and related support links for our many readers affected by dyslexia.

Dyslexia Resources

1. Research in recent years has contributed to our knowledge about dyslexia. As a result, there is now a wealth of information about dyslexia designed specifically for parents. Explore these Web Sites, Books for Parents, Books for Children, Videos, Organizations, and Other Resources to learn more about reading difficulties. Also check out the Glossary of Terms to learn more about the language of dyslexia. (From PBS Parents)

2. The Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center is available to help both students and adults who have dyslexia and AD/HD, as well as their parents, teachers and professionals, who work with them.

3. This website is dedicated to helping children learn to read and for anyone who cares about reading or helping those with dyslexia and reading difficulties.

4. Free information about dyslexia, free Dyslexia Magazine for Parents, a free Dyslexia Advice Line, and dyslexia testing information

5. The dyslexia resources page for the site above here.

6. One more page of resources from the same site as the 2 pages listed above here. (includes a Dyslexia Test, Dyslexia Parents Resource, Dyslexia Adults Link, etc.)

Next week: More Resources for Struggling Readers with Dyslexia --Part 2

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Resources for Challenged, Sensory Learners

In our last article here, we discussed strategies for a struggling reader with sensory needs. In this week's article, we will continue to address these needs but from the standpoint of resources for the parents and teachers of these readers and learners.

The following is a current list of links that should provide information on assistive technology, educational resources, more strategies and tips, and additional information to help sensory learners. If our readers have additional resources to offer for these learners, please feel free to post them in the comments boxes below to share with others here. As always, thank you in advance for your valuable input!

Resources for Sensory Learning Styles

Kinesthetic techniques and strategies
1. Math resources for younger learners
2. Study tips for kinesthetic learners

Visual graphic organizers
1. (free)
2. (free)
3. (free)

1. (subscription-based)
2. (free)
3. 1,000s of unabridged books on tape, CD, or in a downloadable format (A Division of Random House)

Recipes for making tactile other multi-sensory learning materials
1. Finger Paint Gel
2. Puffy Paint
3. Fun Putty
4. Crafting Dough
5. Multi-sensory Letters, Numbers, and Shapes

Assistive technology resources for all sensory learners
1. Lists of strategies/modifications and low-high tech tools to support computer access, vision, and hearing (courtesy of the Assistive Technology Training Project, developed by the Southwest Human Development AT Program in collaboration with the Arizona Department of Education).
2. Reading tools with visual and tactile features that appeal to sensory learners
3. Resources for special needs sensory learners

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support

Some of the resources here were provided courtesy of
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Help for Struggling Readers with Sensory Needs

There are many resources, both in print and online, for struggling readers. We have tried to provide some of these for our readers in previous blog articles here. However, information and resources for sensory learners who are struggling readers is a bit more challenging to find.

Since we will always want to “teach to the strengths” of a child, it is important to know the child's learning style. If the learning style of a particular child is not yet known, you might consider visiting for a FREE learning styles inventory quiz. One type of learning style is that of the sensory learner. Sensory learners need to learn by using one or more of their five senses.

Many of these learners may need “soothing” or “anchoring” when trying to read or learn. Consider that these learners require an even stronger connection with their senses to address these needs.

Many sensory learners prefer concrete, practical, and procedural information. They look for the facts. Visual (sensory) learners like and learn best with graphs, pictures, and diagrams. They look for visual representations of information. Tactile sensory learners prefer to manipulate objects where the kinesthetic (sensory) learners like to move, dance, and use gestures or demonstrations to learn. In addition, they prefer to do physical experiments and learn empirically (by trying). These learners also enjoy working in groups to figure out problems. Auditory (sensory) learners, of course, learn best by listening. Audio books, CDs, and music work well for teaching new material to these learners.

If a child is a struggling reader AND a sensory learner, then it is even more critical to “teach to the strengths” of that child through soothing or anchoring via one or more of his senses. Consider the following strategies:

Visual Learners
take in information by:

• Underlining
• Different colors
• Highlighting
• Symbols
• Flow charts, timelines
• Charts and graphs
• Pictures, videos, posters, slides
• Different spatial arrangements on the page
• Flashcards
• Textbooks with diagrams, pictures
• Teachers/tutors should use gestures & picturesque language

Possible strategies:

1. Transform lecture notes into a learnable unit by changing them into “picture pages”.
2. Reconstruct images in different ways – i.e., different spatial arrangements
3. Redraw your pages from memory.
4. Replace words with symbols or initials.

Auditory Learners
take in information by:

• Attending lectures
• Attending tutorials
• Discussing topics with other students
• Discussing topics with your lecturers
• Explaining new ideas to other people
• Adding rhymes or tunes to your studying
• Using a tape recorder
• Remembering the interesting examples, stories, jokes
• Describing the overheads, pictures and other visuals to someone who was not there
• Leaving spaces in your lecture note for later recall and “filling in”

Possible strategies:

Convert lecture notes into a learnable unit in the following ways:
1. Lecture notes may be poor because learner prefers to listen. Learner will need to expand notes by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook
2. Put summarized notes onto tapes and listen to them
3. Ask others to “hear” student’s understanding of topic
4. Read summarized notes aloud
5. Explain notes to another “auditory” person

Tactile Learners take in information by using:

• Laboratory equipment and experimentation
• Artifacts from actual fields trips
• Physical examples of principles
• "Real-life" examples
• Making actual applications
• Hands-on approaches to learning(computing)
• Empirical learning opportunities (by trial and error)
• Inspecting and manipulating collections (i.e., of rocks, plants, shells, etc.)
• Creating exhibits, making samples, working with photographs
• Recipes (sense of taste, too)– for solutions to problems
• Manipulatives and physical samples for hands-on work

Possible strategies:

Convert lecture notes to learnable units by:
1. Using many concrete examples in a summary (i.e., case studies and applications to help with principles and abstract concepts).
2. Talking about notes with another tactile learner
3. Using/working with pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea
4. Going back to the laboratory experience or to the actual lab manual for support
5. Recalling the actual experiments, fields trip, etc. as sequential experiences (first, this was done, etc.)

Kinesthetic Learners take in information by using:

• Physical movement
• Doing work in laboratories
• Taking actual fields trips
• "Acting out" or dramatizing examples of principles
• Teachers/tutors who give "real-life" examples
• Applications in the field
• Trial and error through physical actions
• Collecting rock types, plants, shells, grasses, etc.
• Exhibiting, finding samples, taking photographs
• Step-by-step lists or protocols as solutions to problems

Possible strategies:

Convert lecture notes to learnable units by:
1. Using many examples in a summary (i.e., case studies and physical applications to help with principles and abstract concepts).
2. Talking about notes with another kinesthetic learner
3. Using pictures and photographs that illustrate an idea
4. Physically going back to the laboratory or lab manual to re-work an idea
5. Recalling the actions taken in experiments, fields trip, etc.

Next week's article: "FREE Resources for Sensory Learners"

For more information: For focusing tools that work! For info, resources, and support

To read testimonials from teachers, parents and students who have used the Reading Focus Cards, please visit

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