Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
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. Read More
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at 11:58 AM
Thursday, November 08, 2007
About This Video
I was diagnosed with a "learning disability" as a young child. However before that my parents were told I was mentally handicapped and that I would never make it pass the 8th grade. I did make it pass the 8th grade. In fact, I graduated high school at the age of 20 and went on to graduate from College with a degree in Special Education.
Monday, November 05, 2007
We naturally understand other individuals from inside our own experiences. From the outside looking in, learning disabilities are difficult to comprehend, especially when you live or work with children or adults who do not perform as you do. Read More
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Sunday, November 04, 2007
What can you do?
Students with learning disabilities/differences typically begin the school year with a bang, yet somehow, mid-way through the year, find that they are behind and struggling despite every one's hard work. Here are a few tips to make sure your student makes steady progress during the school year. Read More
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Saturday, November 03, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Peninsula Daily News April 4, 2005
He races hydroplanes as a hobby. He goes "4 bying"---4 by 4 trucking on back roads. He rides motorbikes, and enters and wins mud bog competitions in vehicles he repairs and maintains.
Now 21, he has taken engines apart and put them back together since he was 9 years old.
But in school, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get off the mark in reading. Read More
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
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. Read More
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Letters have a life of their own when Shelley Wolff looks at them. "P's become q's because Wollf has dyslexia. Shana Cannavaro learns from images rather than words on a page. Both women have learning disabilities and both of them somehow got through Port Townsend High School. Read More
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Friday, September 07, 2007
But the cause of output failure might not lie in the complexities of the motor system. Dr. Levine identifies seven other neurodevelopmental areas where output failure can occur: weak production control, social distractibility, low mental energy, disorganization, language delays, impoverished ideation, and insufficient memory. Of course, an individual might have a combination of the above affecting performance! The first step in understanding output failures, is to examine the individual's performance across different types of motor, attention, and language tasks to determine their unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Then, effective remediation and appropriate instruction can be designed so that hard work leads to successful outcomes.
Students with learning disabilities/differences typically begin the school year with a bang, yet somehow, mid-way through the year, find that they are behind and struggling despite every one's hard work. Here are a few tips to make sure your student makes steady progress during the school year.
- Listen and Observe
Learning Disabilities are common, affecting between 20 - 30% of the population. Learning differences reflect unique patterns of strengths and weaknesses. MOST IMPORTANTLY,
So, the first step to successful learning is to be a careful observer of your child's performance. What activities and skills are improving? Where does "trying harder" only lead to frustration? What does your child tell you? For instance, a student having trouble writing, exclaimed, "I hate it when your pencil gets stuck! All the words I want to say jam up in the pencil point!" I never noticed my pencil getting stuck! Yet, as I thought about his comments, and realized that this student experiences grapho-motor delays in addition to language delays, I realized that his exclamation described this perfectly! Another student asked, "Why are the letters moving around on the page?" I never had letters move on the page, but now I know that this is fairly common among students who have difficulty learning to read.
- Get Informed
and perhaps, different paths for each learner!
- Set and Review Goals
- Be Your Child's Best Advocate
- Quantity vs Quality
- Accommodations and Assistive Technologies
Be a scribe for a student who has trouble producing written work. Part of writing is learning to develop one's expressive language. Student's language development can suffer when they are not able to produce the quantity or types of print expected. Add voice recognition software so students can begin to "write" independently and gain experience manipulating written language.
- CHERISH UNIQUENESS!
Don Winkler uses his thinking outside the box to lead corporations. Read his story at www.CyberWink.com
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Strategies for Success is an invaluable introductory course that puts the tools of Educational Therapy into your hands! Useful for:
- Parents trying to understand their child's learning
- Teachers trying to understand how to differentiate instruction effectively
- Home school parents working to keep learning fun
- Tutors or professionals working with children with learning struggles
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Advisor Shows how to cope with disabilities over the long run By Philip Watness Peninsula Daily News
January 2000 Port Townsend
Letters have a life of their own when Shelley Wolff looks at them. "P's become q's because Wollf has dyslexia. Shana Cannavaro learns from images rather than words on a page. Both women have learning disabilities and both of them somehow got through Port Townsend High School.
They have since learned that they can compensate for their learning limitations. Wolff, Cannavaro and two other individuals will share their experience as part of "Success Stories: Living with Learning Disabilities<' from 3:30 - 5 pm at The Upstage Restaurant, 903 Washington St.
The two women and John Vass of Port Angeles and Melody Haugen of Chimacum are clients of SISIUTL: New Paradigms in Learning, operated by Melinda Pongrey of Port Townsend, who counsels people with learning disabilities.
Wolff, 25, said she felt depressed a year ago because her dyslexia barred her from studying to be a veterinarian. She sought out Pongrey and discovered that she could overcome the disability. She also had to overcome self-esteem issues after years in a school system which failed to help her, even after the dyslexia was discovered.
"I told one teacher the letters were switching back and forth and she just told me to make them turn back," Wolff said. "It wasn't until my sophomore year that I was tested and they figured out I had dyslexia, but the problem was they had no clue how to deal with it. Nobody taught me how to go through the problem."
Cannavaro, 22, also experienced learning problems throughout high school, though she got into the Mar Vista Alternative High School as a junior where she received more individualized attention. But she still needed effective learning tools when she began attending Peninsula College.
"I learn in a totally different way than most people," Cannavaro said. "I learn really well doing hand's on work. I also have to put things in my own words to really understand something."
Pongrey said many people have similar experiences as Wolff and Cannavaro but won't seek help because they either don't know help is available or they have been shamed into not revealing their disability.
"I talked with a lady who had taught herself to read in her 20's" Pongrey said. "When I told her she was working 100 times more than others (to learn to read) she said thank you and began crying. She had been told she was lazy or not trying hard enough. I've never worked that hard at anything!"
Wolff begins study at Peninsula College this week and she feels confident she will earn an associate in arts degree. She hopes to go on to Washington State University and enter its veterinarian technician program.
Cannavaro said she hopes people who come to the talk Saturday will come away with a better understanding of learning disabilities and the reassurance that they're not alone.
"There are tons of kids I'm sure who have learning disabilities and the school district isn't taking the time and taking the care of their needs," Cannavaro said. "It's going to create a problem for them later in their life."
Wolff also hoped people would learn about the tools available to them to overcome learning disabilities.
The talk at the Upstage is free. For more information about Pongrey and SISIUTL, call her at 379-1223.
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Saturday, August 18, 2007
What? Why? Assistive Technology for Learning!
ATTENTION! Parents-Teachers-Social Service Providers-Students of all ages!
Sponsored by the Jefferson County Literacy Council
DATE: Nov 1, 2007 Thursday evening
TIME: 6:30 - 8:30 PM
PLACE: Jeff Co Library Pt Hadlock
Learn how assistive technologies---voice recognition software, etc.---are used as effective learning tools by people with all kinds and levels of learning challenges to improve reading/writing/computer literacy.
Learn about WATAP--Washington Assistive Technology Act Program. WATAP serves Washington residents of all ages with disabilities of all types, their families, employers, and employment service providers, educators, health care and social service providers, and others seeking information about assistive technology (AT) and assessible information technology.
Melinda Pongrey, MSEd will present an introduction of learning disabilities and how multi-sensory input supports learning and the learning process.
Maria Kelley, OTR/L Assistive Technology Specialist will present an overview of AT software and programs useful for individuals with learning disabilities. She will explain WATAP and related services.
Find out how WATAP, a non-profit organization, partners with other agencies to help people with disabilities learn about, try-out, compare, borrow and/or acquire Assistive Technology that can support educational, employment and independent living skills.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Sequim Gazette Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Sequim Gazette Staff Writer
Education therapist Melinda Pongrey helps people of all ages figure out how to learn.
Focusing on clients who have been struggling with learning, Pongrey works to understand how their brains process information, using the body's auditory, visual, motor, tactile, spatial and language systems. She then creates exercises and tools to help them catch up on reading, writing, math, social skills, time management or whatever areas are problematic in their lives.
"People with learning differences are not lazy or abnormal," she said. "They have different wiring, which can distract them. I work to help the person and those around them understand those differences, and learn to function with them."
As a way to comprehend how learning differences might be distracting and discouraging, she suggests trying to draw or write while looking at the pencil and paper in the mirror. Most of us cannot do it.
"Amazing things can happen when people are given the tools they need to learn," she said.
Ary Webb, now 12, went to public school until third-grade, when he just didn't seem to be progressing like the other students. His mother, Kerry, began to home school him, but she didn't have much luck teaching him reading and writing, either.
"At a program at Olympic Peninsula Academy, I met Melinda Pongrey, who talked about different ways of learning...Her methods have become the main core of our home schooling, " she said of teaching sons Ary and younger brother, Corbin.
Pongrey spent time "playing games" with Ary, and in the process recognized that he comprehends in a more visual way than most. She gave him exercises to help him recognize letters, including flash cards of the identifying features of different letters, which look like hieroglyphics to the average eye, but help dyslexics differentiate between similar letters. He completed dozens of exercises in which he identified similar grouping of letters, so that, according to his mother, "he no longer has to decode each word separately."
Pongrey's literature explains, "Reading includes figuring out how the marks on the page represent sounds and words, then figuring out what those words mean by linking words and sentences to their meaning, and then storing the information in your memory bank by linking the information to something you already know. If you read effortlessly, reading is like balancing when riding your bike--after you learn, the process is automatic and mostly unconscious...If you haven't mastered riding, it requires your full attention and riding is a scary, fatiguing, usually short-lived event."
Pongrey worked to find books on topics that would interest Ary, including sumo wrestling and medieval knights. She taught him to take "picture notes," instead of words.
When he was doing his homework on knights, Kerry was taking notes on cards, and Ary started taking picture notes.
"Then I use my picture notes to type notes into the computer," said Ary, showing a pile of papers with small drawings, some recognizable, some not.
"From my notes, he wasn't able to type the report, bu his own notes made sense to him. I realized that we simply don't think alike," Kerry said.
Kerry said that dyslexia runs in her family. When she noticed the learning problems in Ary, she worried that he, too, would not progress. But since spending eight months with Pongrey, everything has changed.
"I used to put books down without finishing them. But now, I read the whole book," said Ary.
"Now that he has these tools we can really see Ary going to college," said Kerry.
Learning how people learn
Pongrey grew up in Port Angeles, but now lives in Port Townsend. More than a decade ago, she got a job in special education in the Chimacum School District, where she was required to take continuing education classes. As one workshop, she met Judy Schwarz, the author of "Another Door To Learning,: the program where she learned how to assess and teach those with learning differences, including various kinds of dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, language delays, motor-spatial and visual-spatial difficulties.
"I just couldn't stand watching kids who were failing kindergarten," she said, explaining what sparked her to additional training.
Often, she said, people who suffer from a learning problem also experience psychological and/or social ramifications, as their differences impact how they interact in society.
After training in Tacoma with Another Door to Learning, seven years ago Pongrey opened an office for them in Port Townsend. When the Tacoma home office folded, she started her own private practice, called Sisiutl, named after a mythical beast that transforms people's greatest challenges into their greatest gifts. She provides assessment, instruction, workshops, training and consultation to clients of all ages as well as parents and teachers.
After working with Dr. Al Phillips' patients in Sequim, she recognized that having a Sequim office might be helpful to Clallam County clients. She now works three Tuesdays per month in Phillips' Sequim office in the Blue Mountain Professional building on Old Olympic Highway.
Pongrey works with private pay clients, often referred by teachers and therapists, as well as those referred by the state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
"She's a gifted teacher and a very non-critical person," said Phillips, a psychiatrist.
Phillips said he has several patients who had a terrible time in school and were convinced that they were not bright and not able to learn.
"She has been able to talk with them, hear information that enables her to develop an approach that they can use for learning," he said, mentioning a student struggling to get through junior high school, who after 10 weeks with Pongrey, was able to work at college level.
"He gained the confidence," said Phillips, stressing that besides learning, the attitude changes are all-important, "to believe he can learn and tackle anything life presents...If teachers could approach teaching in a similar way, we'd have a great deal of improvement in the rate of learning and pleasure in living."
It goes beyond school. Sixty-two percent of students with learning disabilities were unemployed one year after graduation and 31 percent will be arrested within five years out of high school.
"It could be a lot more fun at school for a lot more people if more teachers understood (these assessments and specialized study tools)," said Pongrey. "Even within large categories like dyslexia, each person is different. That's what makes direct instruction so important," she added.
Ary's Letter to the Sequim Gazette
I am Ary, from "Ary's Story" in the article printed last week on learning differences. I am writing to tell you about how great dyslexics are. These people are good at learning other things besides school. Most of these people had a hard time with school but turned out to be famous dyslexics. Bill Cosby, John F. Kennedy, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Cher, Thomas Edison, Mozart, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Nolan Ryan, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Whoopie Goldberg, and Dustin Hoffman. I think this list is cool, because I am a dyslexic.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Carefully designed, individual direct instruction builds more efficient neural pathways and connections as well as builds specific skills. Individuals try new methods to approach difficult tasks, and in the process, personalize strategies that work for them. Additionally, Instruction in how and when to use appropriate accommodations and assistive technologies builds independence and success.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Whew! Halfway through the fifty minute class and already, I could see the difficulty of really understanding what having "severe dyslexia" means for a student in our educational system. See Dyslexia and High School, Part One
Being inside a learning difference or disability can feel so invisible. Imagine that you have to go through your day walking across a tightrope. Imagine that no one, including yourself, can see that you are always walking on a tightrope. So everyone treats you as if you can walk without any special considerations. You keep trying to keep up, and can't figure out how everyone else seems to zoom ahead of you all the time. Teachers tell you to "try harder!" and then assign extra laps for you as an "incentive" when you are too slow! You get so tired, when others seem to expend any effort...
Seemingly "simple" tasks, like copying a definition from the board, or writing down a question dictated by the teacher, become Herculean challenges!Back to the class - - - I sit in the back of the literature class and note the remaining activities and the tasks that the teacher assigns. The student I am shadowing has a very high IQ, most likely one of the highest in the class. Yet, having a dyslexic learning profile affects his ability to use language efficiently. Everything language computes slower. Reading and writing are labored, inaccurate and so slow that he frequently loses his train of thought. Seemingly "simple" tasks, like copying a definition from the board, or writing down a question dictated by the teacher, become Herculean challenges!
Read "To Kill A Mockingbird silently for 15 minutes.
This student has documented difficulty reading!
From my work with this student, I know that this is a waste of time. He will have to go home and listen to an audio tape, or use reading software on his computer at home so that he can read with audio and visual support. Probably, his parents will read the book aloud to him. In class, he sits with his book open, appearing to read, yet I know that this is difficult and inaccurate at best.
Dyslexia used to be known at "word-blindness" which is not completely accurate, but might be a helpful concept when thinking about assigning reading to students who have trouble reading print. You wouldn't ask a blind student to sit and read a book for fifteen minutes! You would provide a different format for the book - audio or braille.
The teacher, knowing that the class is behind on their reading, and nearing the end of school, is trying to be helpful. Interestingly, quite a few students don't pick up their books, but sit doing other things for fifteen minutes. I suspect many others in the class would benefit from using various types of software support to "read" the text.
I note that many students have iPods and cell phones. My guess is that because this class is the "rowdy" class, many of the students may not read easily. Perhaps the text could be accessible in various formats so that students could pick how they "read" best. Some might like to listen to a recorded book, usually read by an actor, in mp3 format on the iPods. Some might like to read along with audio and visual support, for instance using WYNN Reader. Of course, some like reading books the traditional way!
Listen and write four dictated questions on a piece of notebook paper.
Too much writing, too fast, with difficulty trying to spell words correctly.
Again, back again to the language processing difficulties. Listening requires processing the meaning and being able to focus on what is important---quickly and automatically. Think of how quickly and accurately you process information when learning a second language.
Writing down a dictated sentence requires:
-translating what comes in your ears into printed shapes that make letters
-putting the right letters together to spell words
-funneling the correct information through the end of your pencil.
This is easy if all systems are go! You need:
-an accurate memory for letters and for spelling words
-efficient language processing to sort all the information in your head
-an accurate, automatic fine-motor memory for forming letters and words
-accurately "seeing" and being able to read your writing to edit spelling
Because listening and writing are not accurate and automatic for many students who have dyslexia, the seemingly "simple" task of copying dictated questions is NOT EASY. Processing difficulties could be bypassed by using the traditional format of handing out a paper with the questions printed on it.
Or, more interestingly, the teacher could post the questions on a classroom blog or website for students to access in the class or in the library or the cafe or when at home! Even more engaging, would be to text message the questions to the student's cell phones. Students could text-message the answers back to the teachers e-mail using the free software Jott? Cool? Even cooler is the word prediction support on cell phones, which aids spelling and writing!
Listen to class discussion, then handwrite the answers to the dictated questions!
Again, the information is presented in one format---through talking. The student must listen for the main ideas while trying to write down the correct answers--all quickly in a classroom full of distractions.
Okay. The teacher is asking good questions about the story. He has the students write the questions with the answers from the discussion in preparation for a test next week. Many students seem engaged by the "overarching" questions of race and justice in the story.
All of this information could be posted on a blog or webpage so that the material is already written, and available for text-to-speech support. Expanding from the paper-pencil modalities, the teacher could have the students view a movie made from the book. Students could write a play and perform the important events from the book, and/or write a rap about the story. In other words, expand on multiple intelligences using multi-sensory inputs.
By adding free software programs, like Microsoft Reader, or CLick,Speak, a text-to-speech reader for Firefox, Google Docs with Google Docs spell check installed, Jott and ScanR for cell phones, mp3 recordings for iPods, as well as more complex programs, such as WYNN Wizard for more study supports, the classroom becomes more accessible and engaging for all students. Integrating options into the classroom for all students allows all students choices to access information in the way that works best for them. No student had to sit and "pretend" to read.
at 1:17 PM
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Francinne Lawrence, MRE, MSW, LICSW is a well–seasoned professional with 25 years experience working with non–profit organizations serving persons with mental illness and their families. While Francinne has worked with charitable agencies and faith–based initiatives on the national, state, and local levels, her involvement with Attention Deficit Disorder Resources is especially gratifying because it allows her to combine her professional work with her personal experiences.
As a parent and former spouse to persons with ADHD, Francinne knows first hand, the challenges that face not only the individual with the diagnosis, but their loved ones. Francinne is an Alumnus of The University of Maryland Graduate School of Social Work and The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary at Wake Forest, N.C. Francinne has employed her skills as an adjunct professor at Louisiana State University Graduate School of Social Work where she taught non–profit management and group facilitation. An advocate by nature, Francinne has enjoyed her involvement with Federal and State advocacy campaigns affecting mental health systems reform.
Francinne happily resides with her husband in Maple Valley, WA. She is the mother of three spirited and diverse young women who are in college preparing for their own careers. Francinne is an avid swimmer and lover of nature. She enjoys getting together with her daughters for adventures in the wild outdoors and long slow walks with her aged Australian Shepherd.
at 10:07 AM
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
As an adolescent with an undiagnosed learning disability and attention deficit disorder, Cyd spent time in trouble with school and the law. "It was better to be bad than stupid. This is an uncomfortable world to be in when you have a learning disability and/or attention deficit disorder. It was better for me to get in trouble with my teachers and the law than it was to appear stupid to my peers." Diagnosed at age 35 as dyslexic and having attention deficit disorder, Cyd has successfully completed her education process and is a Certified Criminal Justice Specialist and Registered Counselor. She has worked for the Learning Disabilities Association of since 1987.
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