Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Strategies for Success: Reaching All Students


Want to know what do to with your hardest to reach students?

Find out what is getting in the way of reading success!

Improve your assessment strategies!

Know how to target your instruction and add to your tools to reach your struggling students!

Webinar Workshops: Tuesdays 4 - 7 PM PST $180
You will need computer with internet access!
May 20: Performance Clues: Identifying Learning Differences
May 27: Reading/Writing I: Reading Components—Build Fluency
June 3: Reading/Writing II: Building Grammar for Comprehension

Nine OESD Clock Hours Pending for webinar format
Please note with registration if required!

School PO VISA Checks accepted
Register early — Class size limited!

$180 for Nine Hours of Course and Materials:
Fees include workshop materials
Upon receipt of payment packet of materials is mailed to you!
Register early to allow for mailing time.

In this interactive 9-hour training you will:
  • Identify markers of ADHD, dyslexia & motor and visual spatial planning problems
  • Increase understanding of the neurological processes of learning
  • Increase understanding of how learning differences affect classroom performance
  • Use “learning layers” model to assess student areas of challenges & strengths
  • Rehearse multi-sensory instructional methods that build fluency & comprehension
  • Rehearse strategies to increase reading, writing, spelling, and memory performance
  • Combine effective, fun instructional strategies to meet needs of different learners
  • Reach more students by creating successful learning environments
  • Integrate research based strategies into instruction—at home and school!
May 20 Tuesday 4-7 pm PST
Performance Clues: Identifying Learning Differences

Experience learning differences in this interactive, informative workshop.
Learn how dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia are related. Find out how motor or visual spatial delays affect learning and written performance. Parents: Understand how to observe and to support your child’s learning efforts. Teachers: Learn to recognize affected learning layers from student performance so you can differentiate instruction effectively. Choose
instructional routes based on assessment observation so your student moves from success to
success! Rehearse picture notes to build memory for tests, vocabulary & comprehension.

May 27
Tuesday 4-7 pm PST
Reading/Writing I: Reading Components—Build Fluency
The second evening adds to the first. Learn to spot the five necessary components
of reading from your student performance. Match instructional strategies to build reading
components. Learn to make letters stay on the page with no reversals. Have fun practicing hand's-on multi-sensory methods that dramatically improve spelling and reading fluency!

Tuesday 4-7 pm PST
Reading/Writing II: Building Grammar for Comprehension
The third evening builds on information and your questions from previous two sessions. Practice atypical teaching strategies that are keys to improving reading comprehension and written composition. Rehearse questioning strategies that build cognition across the curriculum. Match learning layers to various instructional needs and plug in your new strategies for your students!

For more information reach Melinda at 360-379-1223

Strategies for Success—Participant Responses:

Strengths of this workshop—
  • “Tools presented/knowledge of instructor –”
  • “Melinda’s knowledge & experience with real people”
  • “Melinda is strongly devoted to all learners succeeding and her strategies are specific, practical, effective.”
  • “Melinda’s enthusiasm and examples of success – “
  • “I’m very excited to try the things that we have learned.”
  • “Engaging, interesting, flexible, relevant information.” “Range of applicability”
  • “Insight to how people learn —examples of ways to help.”
  • “Found that we got right into issues related to the students and tools to use.
  • * Excellent! In such a short time I was hoping to come away with activities to try...Definitely met my expectations.”
  • “Great strategies to use immediately”
  • “Lots of refreshing and useful info we don’t get in
  • “Great material—moved fast—kept interesting —interaction—questions—group participation.”
  • “Really helped me to understand student’s difficulties in regard to their learning.”
  • “ Very helpful…”
MAY 2008 Online Webinar Workshops
Register Early! Materials will be mailed to you upon receipt of payment

For more information reach Melinda at 360-379-1223
  • Make registration checks payable to SISIUTL
    Mail registration fee to:
    SISIUTL Center for Learning
    230 Taylor Street Suite C
    Port Townsend, WA 98368

  • Credit Cards Accepted - Call 360.379.1223 or email mpongrey@gmail.com
  • Please note if you require OESD Clock Hours for class
  • Include your e-mail address: class packets e-mailed before each class.
  • Include your correct street mailing address - packet of materials will be mailed upon receipt of payment

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Why do physical activities affect reading, writing or attention?

The June 2003 Volume 24, Number 6 issue of Discover magazine includes an interesting article outlining neuroscientist Paul Back-y-Rita’s current research into the plasticity of our senses. His thesis is that our brain is so adaptable that any of the five senses can be rewired. By placing a copper electrode on a subject’s tongue, and sending electrical information in place of visual information, blindfolded subjects can catch balls or pick up objects 9 out of 10 times! Sensory information on the tongue is used by the brain to “see.”

Young children explore the world by manipulating objects and taste-testing them. But if you pick up a piece of paper and put it in your mouth, you can’t get much sensory information from the print. Dyslexics tend to have difficulty translating 3-D objects to 2-D representations or visa-versa. By making tactile memories from feeling 3-D alphabet letters, dyslexic learners create more accurate visual memories for letters and words! Reading and writing fatigue decrease, decoding and fluency increase!

Sandy Roberts teaches kids to juggle, beginning with scarves, using lots of bilateral movements to increase eye-hand coordination. Fifth-grade teacher, Sara Murto, asked for her help when she found she had a classroom full of kinesthetic learners. Sandy helped Sara for a year, integrating juggling activities into the weekly classroom routine. The students presented a culminating performance with all sorts of juggling and the teachers presented data that showed an above-average improvement in reading and writing scores for the year. Typically, students who began the year behind grade level, ended the year above grade level.

Because we use the same neurons to throw and catch balls that we use to write letters, all sorts of directed physical activities enhance learning processes! Dr. Frank Belgau set out to find activities that produce the most benefits for learning processes. Through careful observation, he developed the Belgau Balance Board and the Learning Breakthrough Program, which take advantage of the integration and fine-tuning of the vestibular or balance system.

The Learning Breakthrough Activity program that Dr. Belgau developed over many years is used successfully in schools and private programs. The program can significantly increase the test scores in any school and does not only improve scores of children with difficulties, but also improves the scores of normal and gifted students. The program’s greatest value is that it develops intelligence and improves lives. Many years of careful observations made it possible to select the most productive and powerful activities and materials for the Learning Breakthrough Activity program.

“Dr. Frank Belgau’s Learning Breakthrough Program was an integral part of a most successful three year education pilot study in Seattle. The results of the program demonstrate its value.

  • Student IQ scores increased an average of 24 points
  • Academic scores increased an average of four grade levels in spelling and reading
  • Behaviors negative to learning were almost totally eliminated
  • All children in the study knew that now they had the skills to learn and were eager to do their school tasks.”

---Dr. Jerald C. Winger, Cognitive Rehabilitation Specialist, Seattle School District

Thursday, April 20, 2006

On the Fast Track; Innovative Ways to Overcome Reading Disability, cont:

" A lot of people said you need to practice reading and you'll figure it out," Short said. "It didn't work."

Short, who grew up in Port Townsend, has one of the most severe forms of dyslexia.

Adept at finding ways of coping with life without being able to read, he is now learning ways around the roadblocks that prevented him from learning in the first place.

"I was stuck until I came here, " Short said. "It made me realize what to do."

Here is the second floor in the American Bank Building in downtown Port Townsend where Melinda Pongrey moved the SISIUTL Center for Learning from its uptown home last year.

Learning Disabilities

For the past three months, Short has been meeting with Pongrey, who specializes in assessing and helping people with learning disabilities.

After only 30 hours of work, Short is now reading at the seventh-to-eighth-grade level where he was able to read at only the second-grade mark before, Pongrey said.

"Melinda showed me some paths to take," Short said.

"I'm not fluent, but I read a whole lot better. It's really paying off."

It was his employer, Lee Short, who set Anthony on the road to getting help. A distant relative, he knew Anthony could not read when he was hired to work at his business, Lee's Truck Repair on Center Road in Chimacum.

Anthony had the skills, having grown up near Four Corners, where he rescued power weed trimmers from the nearby junkyard.

"I'd take them apart and repair anything I could get my hands on," Anthony said.

But at school, his inability to put letters together into words put him in the special education program at Chimacum schools, where he spent 13 years before graduating in 2002.

Repeatedly told he needed to try harder, he spent several hours after school every day when he was in junior high, working with his grandfather on a phonics program.

That proved fruitless as well as frustrating, he said. But he didn't say no when his employer suggested he try again.

"I'm game. I"ll try anything," Anthony said.

Customer's Suggestion

A customer at the shop suggested contacting Pongrey, who set up an assessment for Anthony in January.

Lee and Bonnie Short paid for the first set of sessions, Anthony said; he's now paying for them himself.

In addition to instruction, Pongrey also introduced Anthony to balance activities developed by Dr. Frank Belgau of Port Angeles, that help people with visual processing, reading, learning efficiency and academic as well as physical performance.

They include balancing on a balance board while tossing bean bags in the air and tracking a pendulum ball with his eyes.

Pongrey has also introduced a program of balance activities, called Balametrics, into Port Townsend and Quilcene school curriculum's.

"It builds neural networks, builds several areas of the brain, including the cerebellum," Pongrey said.

"The cerebellum coordinates motor movements and recently has been shown to effect automatic language responses. With the development of the cerebellum, research shows that the symptoms of dyslexia decrease."

Pongrey also recommended an eye exam.

Dr. Neil Cays, a Sequim optometrist told Anthony that he had a lazy eye, something that is not uncommon with people with dyslexia, Pongrey said.

Now, he has glasses that help his eyes work more efficiently together, she said.

With his new skills, Short, who could only read a little before, is starting to read recipes and menus.

He can also write in cursive, something he's never done before---he wrote "Today is my 21st birthday," on the board last Thursday.

He's still not great at spelling --his brain transposes letters ---but dictates stories about his life to Pongrey that he can read to others.

He's also reading a book on his own.

His favorite is Brilliant Idiot, a biography by Abraham Schmitt, a man who coped with dyslexia in a less-tolerant time--his teachers beat him--but who persevered.

"He got a Ph.D.," Anthony noted.

Anthony also has ambitions--to go to diesel mechanic school and specialize in repairing diesel engines.

It's a goal that up until now has been thwarted by his inability to read the manuals, which use technical terms the average person would have trouble with.

To help, Pongrey has Anthony draw pictures of engine parts and practice matching them with word cards.

"It's been an education for me, too, " Pongrey said.

Determined to continue

Reading is still a lot of work for Anthony, and is easier some days than others, he said. But he keeps on going, determined not to let anything block his way.

"I want to be able to read everything," he said.

"I want to be able to read shop manuals, bank statements, whatever I come across."

"That's what 's keeping me motivated---to be able to read whatever I come across in everyday life."

For more information on learning disabilities and upcoming lectures, workshops and conferences in the Puget Sound area, contact Pongrey at SISIUTL Center for Learning, 360-379-1223.

The International Dyslexia Association website is www.interdys.org, or check out links on the SISIUTL website, www.welovelearning.com.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Educational Therapy offers children and adults with learning challenges and/or learning disabilities a wide range of intensive, individualized interventions designed to remediate learning problems.

Combining a knowledge of how learning takes place in the brain with knowledge of specialized teaching methods, Educational Therapy demystifies learning problems.

Clients increase awareness of their learning strengths in order to use those strengths to best advantage overcoming or compensating for areas of weakness.

Educational Therapy empowers children and adults with learning challenges to learn and to develop optimally. The mission of SISIUTL is to empower you to —
Learn in a way that works for you!

Friday, February 03, 2006

LIVE with Domenic Greco, Ph.D.

i-Radio Show: Friday February 8, 9:00am (PST). You can listen to the live show or access the podcast on this blog.

Domenic Greco, Ph.D., CEO Smart Brain Games, has been in the business of delivering Biofeedback services, both peripheral and EEG NeuroTherapy since 1982. He has successfully developed and operated treatment centers specializing in Biofeedback for stress related disorders, and EEG NeuroTherapy for ADHD on both the East and West coasts. Dr. Greco is an innovator in the ADHD field and has operated some of the largest ADHD, EEG NeuroTherapy centers in the country. He has lectured nationally and appeared before NIMH as an expert in EEG NeuroTherapy

Article: ADHD patients play video games as part of treatment (USA TODAY)
Article: Playstation Neurofeedback Hybrid for ADHD Treatment
Mark Dombeck

In 2007, Smart Brain Games was awarded the First Annual National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) Peer Awards for Brightest Idea.

The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI), funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), advances learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities by fostering technology innovation. They seek to broaden and enrich the field by providing resources and promoting partnerships for the development of tools and applications by developers, manufacturers, producers, publishers and researchers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Dyslexia-Overcoming day-to-day challenge of living with learning disability

Wednesday Jan 12, 2000
By Janet Huck
Leader Staff Writer

Shelley Wolff, a single mother of two young boys, thought the only job she would be able to get was hanging clothes at a department store. "I wanted more, but I couldn't see how I could get a better job because I could barely write, and working a cash register was out of the question," she said.

But the 25-year-old woman learned to overcome her learning disabilities by working with Port Townsend's Melinda Pongrey, the owner of SISIUTL: New Paradigms in Learning. SISIUTL was names after a mythical beast which transforms people's greatest challenges into their greatest gifts.

Pongrey works with people from age 6 to 60 who have a range of learning differences, from dyslexia to spatial disorders. She provides assessments to establish learning profiles. Then she teaches one-on-one classes that show her clients new strategies to overcome difficulties.

"Just because we have learning difficulties doesn't mean we are dumb," said Shana Cannavaro. "We may be smarter, in fact."

Last Saturday, four of Pongrey's clients gave an informal talk about their achievements after working with Pongrey. The Upstage Restaurant had a full house.

"Many people who don't experience learning disabilities firsthand don't realize the problems exist," Pongrey told the crowd. "But the personal experiences of these four people can open up the world of learning disabilities and give us a peek into the myriad of daily challenges faced by people all around us."

The four speakers said they all recognized their challenges early in life, but they were rarely given help to overcome their disabilities. Wollf said she was having trouble in the second or third grade with reading because the letters were switching back and forth. "I told my teacher at the time, and she told me to flip them the right way," remembered Wolff. "I didn't even question her, but I had no clue what to do. I wished the world could read backwards like me, so it would be easier for me."

Melodie Haugen said she couldn't get the letters to stay still on the page in elementary school. But she was too embarrassed to tell anyone. Cannavaro said she was constantly in tears in fourth grade because no matter how many times someone would explain something, she couldn't grasp it.

And John Vass told how his third-grade teacher took away all his school books for the rest of the year because be couldn't do the work. "It was only January," he said. The teacher would taunt him in front of the other students, giving what, Vass thought, was covert approval for the kids to tease him. "I work every day on trying to forgive her, but sometimes I hope she ended up in teacher's hell," he confessed.

When the schools did try to help, they didn't always help the students overcome the problems. Wollf was in 10th grade when the school finally tested her for dyslexia. "But instead of teaching me how to get beyond my problem, they showed me how to get away with it," she said. "If I couldn't do something, then (instructions) were written to get me out of it."

After graduating from high school, the four found they were still failing. Haugen wanted a better career. When she started at the Port Townsend School of Massage, she found she couldn't pass the required chemistry course. "I was crushed," she said. 'I really wanted to do good."

Instead of giving up, she ended up at SISIUTL. Vass, too, found that SISIUTL was the first thing that helped. "When I found Melinda, it was life-changing moment No. 18," joked Vass.

The four clients had to work hard to learn "coping" skills. If they lost track of the math problems or stories they were reading, they learned to use cues to get them back on track. Wollf used index cards to write detailed notes and pictures to help her remember where she was. She also began using a pink overlay sheet that helps the letters and words jump out oat her instead of dancing all over the page.

Pongrey's instructions worked for these four clients. Wollf, who used to write backwards, found she couldn't do it any more. When she wanted to get her food handlers permit, she worked six months on learning the necessary skills for the test. The test was supposed to take 30 minutes. "I did it in 10 minutes and only got two wrong," said Wollf, who now wants to enroll in community college to get her associate arts degree.

Haugen can read with the letters staying still. "They don't swim around anymore," she said. She is getting A's and B's at the massage school instead of F's. "I keep plugging away," she said proudly.

Cannavaro plans to finish her program at Peninsula College. And Vass will take the last of his GED tests in the next two weeks.

"Nobody else should have to go through what we did," said Vass. "I hope these kind of problems are spotted early, so the kids get the help they deserve. They shouldn't fall through the cracks. I hope they throw out their arms like I did, so they won't fall through the cracks. We aren't the victims; we are the survivors."