Saturday, April 26, 2014

Decoding Resources for Children Who Struggle to Read

March and April were very busy months for us here at Brennan Innovators. In addition to providing our usual consultation services and reading tools for challenged readers, we also attended two educational conferences here in the Midwest.

Again and again at each conference, we spoke with parents as well as teachers who mentioned the issues with decoding that their children and students were experiencing when trying to read. We enjoyed providing strategies and resources at each event both through presentations and at our exhibit tables. The attendees were very interested in and most grateful for the ideas presented. We came away from both conferences feeling that we had made a difference for more than a few families and classrooms, which is always our goal.

What is this reading skill called decoding? Decoding is the process of using known words to figure out unfamiliar words. It is based on the idea of looking for and seeing small words or sound units inside larger words. For struggling or non-fluent readers, decoding demystifies reading. It also removes the "fear factor" and starts them on the road to becoming fluent, confident readers. Decoding is a kind of learning tool to help tackle the fear of reading aloud. When faced with a word that he or she doesn't know, instead of going into panic mode, the eyes can quickly scan for the small words they recognize. Almost immediately, they begin to read independently with more confidence and less dread.
(Source: Teach ALL Kids: ---see direct link to follow)

Because of the number of requests for decoding strategies received at our March and April conferences, we thought it might be helpful to provide a few decoding resources here for the good readers of our weekly blog. So for this week's post, we have done just that. We hope you will find the links and resources provided here to be helpful for a child or student you know who struggles to decode words yet wants to read those words and their sentences with much more success.

Happy reading, everyone!

Decoding Resources for Challenged Readers

Decoding and Reading Comprehension Resources---from Cambridge Public School
A long list of assistive technology links for young children, older children and young adults who are new or challenged readers.

Reading Comprehension and Decoding Strategies---from Scholastic
Ideas and resources for helping children learn how to decode words and begin to read with success.

Reading Focus Cards---from Brennan Innovators, LLC
Customizable, low-tech tools to help readers improve focus, decoding & tracking

Desktop APP---Reading Focus Cards (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.)

Word Decoding Lists---from Teach All Kids
Practical decoding strategies to help children who are reluctant or challenged readers.

READING ACTIVITIES I---Teaching the Basic Code---Establishing the Alphabetic Principle---from
Classroom "learning-to-read" ideas, decoding strategies and more.

Decoding Strategies for PARENTS & More!
A Decoding Strategy Quick-Reference Guide for parents to keep and use at home.

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

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Helpful Activities for Your Child with Dyslexia

You've finally received a diagnosis of dyslexia for your child from a developmental optometrist or other appropriate medical professional. Now what? What does this mean for your child---and you? Which strategies will work best for her? What can you do as a parent to help your child manage the symptoms of this learning difference called dyslexia?

Not to worry. There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child or teen with the reading and learning issues involved with dyslexia. Some of those things include activities that can actually help manage the symptoms your child may be experiencing. This week, we wanted to provide a list of links to such activities that can be helpful to your child or teen AND you. As always, we hope you will find that these will assist you in your efforts to improve the quality of life for your child with dyslexia.

Helpful Activities for Children with Dyslexia

Look carefully! One shape is missing.
by Stephany Koujou (from the American Dyslexia Association)
For this FREE resource, you will need to look carefully! One shape from the field on the right is missing in the field on the left. Can you find the missing shape? There are two levels of difficulty. Level one: The shapes have been mixed. Level two: The shapes have been mixed AND turned around and/or mirrored. This trains attention and visual and spatial perception – important skills for good reading, writing and calculating. This is also good brain training for adults. Have fun searching!

Monster – Perception training
by Stephany Koujou (from the American Dyslexia Association)
Who can say “no” to these monsters? This FREE download is full of monsters! Children can find monsters, connect monsters, recognize clippings and find monster shadows. These exercises train attention and visual and spatial perception – important skills for reading, writing and calculating.

Great FREE and Affordable Activities and eBooks for Your Dyslexic Child
These FREE animated reading books can help improve children's reading, vocabulary and listening skills at home. The careful choice of graded words provides vital reading practice at the beginning stages of reading but story content is suitable for a slightly older age group who may have fallen behind. These interactive books can act as a vital bridge between listening and reading. Reading ability 5-7 years, appropriate content to age 12.

All Kinds of Brain-Training Exercises---for You & Your Child!
(related article from this Help for Struggling Readers blog)
Many FREE resources for improving brain function both with specific, physical exercises and with other brain-building activities. By adding a few of these to your and your child's daily regimen, you'll both be ready for just about any cognitive skill workout. What's more, your child's next school year could be even more productive! Do them together, and imagine what great things could develop for BOTH of you!

Dyslexia Games (Teaching Children with Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism or Asperger's Syndrome)
Creative Kids can help overcome reading confusion with art, drawing & logic games! Use fun activity books to QUICKLY overcome reading confusion, messy handwriting, poor spelling, concentration problems, and letter reversals that are common to children with these learning challenges.

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

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Are There Different Types of Dyslexia?

It is not easy to subdivide dyslexia into groups or category types. There are various theories regarding categories for this learning difference, each dividing up dyslexia differently (types, sub-types, etc.) and offering different methods of intervention.

Although there is this desire to categorize or label one with dyslexia, it is far better to consider an individual's strengths, how that person's unique set of symptoms negatively affects him/her and then what can be done to overcome the symptoms while building those strengths.

The following is a brief description of three main types of dyslexia as described by David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP from (Please see source link to follow.) These types are based on cause rather than only symptoms. We have chosen to present this information in a bulleted format for the benefit of challenged readers.

A. 3 Different Types of Dyslexia

There are several types of dyslexia that can affect an individual's ability to spell and/or read.

Trauma Dyslexia
1. Usually occurs after some form of brain trauma or injury to the area of the brain that controls reading and writing
2. Rarely seen in today's school-age population

Primary Dyslexia
1. A dysfunction of, rather than damage to, the left side of the brain (cerebral cortex)
2. Does not change with age
3. Individuals affected are rarely able to read above fourth-grade level.
4. Individuals affected may continue to struggle with reading, spelling & writing as adults.
5. Often hereditary (passed trough family lines)
6. Found more often in boys than girls

Secondary Dyslexia (or Developmental Dyslexia)
1. Believed to be caused by hormonal development during early stages of fetal development.
2. Often diminishes as children mature
3. Also more common in boys than girls

B. Dyslexia May Affect Several Different Functions

1. Visual Dyslexia: Often characterized by number and/or letter reversals as well as the inability to write symbols in the correct sequence.

2. Auditory Dyslexia: Involves difficulty with sounds of letters or groups of letters. The sounds are perceived as jumbled or not heard correctly

3. Dysgraphia: Refers to a child's difficulty holding and controlling a pencil so that the correct markings can be made on paper.

It is important to keep in mind that every case of dyslexia is different. One of the reasons it’s difficult to divide dyslexia neatly into categories is because each person has a different set of symptoms. Although there may be a tendency to "pigeonhole" an individual into one category or another, it is again much better to resist this approach and focus instead on that individual's strengths. Then build on those strengths in all teaching and learning efforts made.

Dyslexia Sources & Resources

Dyslexia-by David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP and
General information about dyslexia that includes symptoms, signs, causes, diagnoses, types and other related content.

Scientific Types of Dyslexia-from
Two theories about the sub-types of dyslexia are briefly described.

Dyslexia Resources for Parents-from The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
Information and helpful resources for parents who want to help their children with dyslexia.

Helping Children with Dyslexia-from
General information about signs, symptoms, statistics and causes of dyslexia in children. Includes links to treatment options and other related information.

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

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at