Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dyslexia and High School

From my Seattle PI Reader Blog, Learning Connections: Insights on ADHD/LD

Seemingly "simple" tasks of everyday high school classes create a daunting minefield for a student who lives with a dyslexic learning profile.

Last week I visited a local high school to observe a freshman. Even though the end of school is near, I wanted to see first-hand how the teachers were implementing accommodations and modifications for his severe dyslexia.

Before school began in the fall, I had met with this student twice a week to build his reading, writing and study skills. He began the year rating school as a "-1" on a one-to-ten scale. By mid-winter, he had moved his self-assessment of school to a "10." Since then he had become increasingly discouraged. Finally I realized that I better get a first-hand look at what was going on in his classes.

So, his teacher kindly let me sit in the back of the class. I spent the hour noting the tasks that he was asked to complete along with the other students in his literature class.

First Task---
Copy the definition of a vocabulary word from the overhead.
This task is very difficult for him to do, especially in the time allowed.

Having severe dyslexia means that he has trouble making accurate and automatic memories for print. Spelling words requires an accurate memory. Even copying from the board is tedious, slow, and oftentimes, not very accurate. At this point, probably a real waste of time.

Alternate ideas:
Students could scan the board with their cell phones using ScanR
Or the teacher could have text available online so students could use various software, for instance CLiCk,Speak for text-to-speech support. Helpful, as students could access the vocabulary words at home or at school on their computers.

Second Task---
Note the date of the upcoming vocabulary test.
Again, this went by too fast for him to write down.

Dyslexia is a language-based disability. For many students, processing language is slow. For instance, when I was traveling in Germany, I had a moment in the train station when I heard an announcement with my ears---and, after a long pause, my brain translated the meaning. If you are sitting in class trying to listen to the teacher, but your language is being processed slower than your ears take in the sound--watch out! Students zone out just from the fatigue of trying to "translate" meaning and keep up!

Alternate ideas:
The teacher could post assignments on Google Calendar and have reminders sent to students' cell phones automatically. Also, calendars can be set up so parents can check assignments, too. At this point, many of his assignments were illegible when he brought his written notes home.

Third Task---
Read a paragraph aloud from the overhead.
The teacher good-naturedly asked him if the print was "too small" or if he could read the paragraph aloud, seeming to include him with the other students who read aloud.

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised by this one! Most students who read well below grade level will not even attempt to read a passage aloud in front of their peers. When you read to yourself, you can skip over big words, or unfamiliar names--words don't have to be pronounced correctly to get the meaning.

The student quickly agreed that the print was still "too small" to see; however, I knew this as an excuse. The teacher called on students around the room to read aloud, and meant to be inclusive.

Alternate Idea
Don't do it! Let students volunteer to read aloud.

Are you tired out yet? Already, this student has barriers to accessing the curriculum akin to walking a minefield - and this only in the first 15 minutes of class! Read Part Two

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trouble with Organization?

Do you have trouble managing your day to day tasks? Here's something to try!

Check out Jott, a free software program that converts your voice into text. You can send voice messages from your cell phone to e-mails, lists, calendars, other people.

Or, using Google Calender, you can send reminder messages to your cell phone, or to your co-worker, child, friend, students cell phones!

Thanks to Ira Socol for the tips on technology. BTW If you are taking algebra or other math courses, or use a graphing calculator on the job, check out the on-screen graphing calculator Graph-Calc.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning Connections: Insights on ADHD-LD

Join the conversation on LD and ADHD. Check out my new Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reader Blog Learning Connections: Insights on ADHD/LD

What's up in the field of education and learning? I will post interviews with innovators from education, science, learning disabilities, ADHD, and technology. The focus will be on how to create successful environments for all learners.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busting the Myth of Normal

I have been working with students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting for about fifteen years.

I started working with high school students who were served by Special Education Services--which mostly meant me. I traveled to different classrooms with the students. My job was to get students to connect to the class, help them if they didn't understand, cajole, encourage, remind... yet, many of them continued to fail.

During my second year working at the high school, feeling like I was failing the students as they continued to fail classes, I attended a free workshop on ADD. One of the guest speakers, Judy Schwarz, described teaching adult non-readers to read---in short, helping all ages of students master all sorts of learning tasks--reading, writing, math, organization, time management, etc. Hearing Judy's stories captured my attention. Wait, I didn't see learning happening like this!

So, I began my training in educational therapy at Another Door to Learning in Tacoma with Judy and her staff. First, I learned to do "Assessments" for different learning profiles. What strengths does this person have? What processing pieces work well--auditory, visual, motor, language, tactile, etc? How does this person make sense of the world? All of a sudden, a whole world of learning diversity opened up around me.

Then, I learned how to design and deliver individualized, direct instruction using some typical and non-typical methods, along with lots of multi-sensory activities to tie the learning together. All of a sudden, the process of learning opened up for my students! They began being successful, and could build on their successes. Failure could return to its rightful place as an exploratory step in learning, not an individual label of "stupid."

Basically I was trained in using a "medical model" of learning.
Something is wrong, here’s what it is, and here’s how to fix it. This moved us away from interpreting learning disabilities as just “laziness” or “moral ineptitude” on the part of the student, and many times, the parent. Yet, over the years, as I have watched individuals develop their skills, and make substantial progress toward their learning goals, I have changed my idea of the "normal" in learning. Normal is different! There is no normal!

We all have areas in which we process more easily. Some like to listen, some like to move, some like to build, some like to daydream, some like to draw, some like to talk, some only hear music... As a culture, we enjoy the fruits of learning diversity, but as an educational system, we've missed the orchard.

What if we don't have to "label" students any more to provide "services."
What if we were curious about how many different ways each of us makes sense of the world around us? What if we focus on each person's unique set of strengths, while providing all sorts of avenues for their success in areas that are more difficult? What if we spent the energy we expend writing up Individualized Education Plans (IEP's) just helping all students be successful in their learning process?

Intelligences can be developed. I know this
on a profound level from years of facilitating learning with struggling students. Language-based learning disabilities, the bulk of learning difficulties, can be ameliorated with universal design technologies such as speech-to-text and text-to-speech software. Classrooms no longer need to pose barriers for students who struggle with reading or writing. What are we waiting for?

Here is the first part of a presentation I gave at the local high school at the end of April. Still working on the technology!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Using AT for Educational Access!

Have you ever used a mobile phone's word prediction for typing in-school answers? Or think about the advantages of wearing a baseball cap to help focus attention and block out the flickering from fluorescent lights? Did you know that Firefox Browser v2 works with CLiCk, Speak, for free text to speech---reading text to you?

Check out Ira Socol's thought provoking blog, SpeEdChange. Lots of useful information on how to use technology to open access to traditionally printed materials and paper/pencil tasks. Many solutions are FREE.

Ira writes powerfully from his experiences with the education system. A Special Education Technology Scholar at Michigan State University, Ira presents workshops on how to create access to classroom materials and every school, parent, and student needs to read his article, "Toolbelt for the Lifespan: Learning How to Learn Assistive Technology."

You can't really claim to be educating all of your students if academic (and school life) materials are not all accessible. So write your plan down, and get yourself started. - Ira

An author, Ira has two published books of fiction. His recent book, The Drool Room, is written from the point of view of a young man who doesn't mesh with the school system. The story is painfully personal, yet familiar for youth and adults with LD.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Check out LD Live!

Since January, SISIUTL is sponsoring a weekly online radio call-in show LD Live! Connecting Innovators, Ideas and Individuals within the field of Education and Learning Disabilities.

Join me, your host, Melinda Pongrey,
for our live broadcasts on Friday mornings at 9 am PST as we speak with special guests from around the country and the world. Bring your questions and concerns for our guests.

Today I spoke with Maria Kelley, OTR/L from the Washington Assistive Technology Act Program.
Maria explained how WATAP and partner programs promote access to assitive technology AT for individuals with disabilities across Washington State. Also, check the WATAP website for the upcoming training in June at the University of Washington.

Last week, I spoke with author, speaker, director of Project Eye to Eye Jonathan Mooney. Jonathan reaches into his past experiences growing up as a student with labels of dyslexia and ADHD and tells it like it is! He shows us the gifts inherent in re-framing LD as part of a continuum of learning diversity. Challenging the concept of "normalcy," Jon lays out LD/ADHD as a civil rights issue, pushing us away from our present special education model toward reforming our whole educational system.

onathan says, "Disability and normalcy are ideas we create as a culture and society and something we can transform."

Check out the podcasts of our previous shows, too. You can download to your favorite mp3 player. Let me know what you think. Who would you like to talk to?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gifts of ADHD

Dr. Ned Hallowell and Dr. Kenny Handelman's "Unwrapping the Gift of ADD" series, is in the fourth evening tonight, 5 - 6 PM PST. You can listen in tonight and next Monday through Thursday evenings through your computer for free. After next week the shows are only available for a fee.

So far, the conversations have proved interesting. Very positive look at the benefits and gifts that can accompany ADHD, especially as one learns to use them. Good info for parents and teachers working to nurture children.

For instance, to quote Dr. Hallowell "Creativity is impulsivity gone RIGHT!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Unwrapping The Gift Of ADD

Part 1: Dr. Kenny Handelman flies down to visit Dr. Edward Hallowell in 'The Hallowell Center' in Sudbury, MA. They discuss Unwrapping The Gift of ADD, a free teleseminar series that features "8 of the TOP EXPERTS in the field of ADD.

The Unwrapping The Gift Of ADD website went live today at 12 pm EDT, 9 am PST! Check it out and download a free copy of Find the Genius in ADD - Moving beyond the moral and medical models of ADD to a Strength-Based Diagnosis!

Part 2: Dr. Kenny Handelman flies down to visit Dr. Edward Hallowell in 'The Hallowell Center' in Sudbury, MA.

Yes, children with ADD/ADHD may require more effort to get out the door in the morning with all needed items intact, and may require more innovative and energetic educational opportunities! But the Dr.'s note that with impulsivity can come "thinking and acting outside the box" which can lead to innovation. They note creativity is often wrapped together with ADD! Inspirational and helpful information for parents, adults with ADHD, teachers, counselors, therapists, doctors...!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Claymation on Learning to Read!

Check out the videos from Lab School in Washington and others! Re: on learning to read and other dilemmas! On LD Online....Reading Rocks: From Zero to Hero!

Project Eye To Eye

Check out this innovative mentoring program! Project Eye to Eye links adults who have LD/ADHD with students who have LD/ADHD. Listen to a conversation with Co-founder and Executive Director, David Flink, on LD Live!

Combining mentoring, advocacy, art, parent support, and professional development for teachers, Project Eye to Eye tells it like it is! and empowers participants to drop the deficit model of LD and embrace the empowerment model of living with LD and ADHD.Project Eye to Eye Video

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Effective Advocacy!

Check out this excellent LD Online article by Rick Lavoie on keeping your focus on the student's needs. While written for special education teachers, his tips are good for everyone advocating for children in the schools.

Fighting the Good Fight: How to Advocate for Your Students Without Losing Your Job

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Read How You Want

Read How You Want Founder Christopher Stephen has degrees in Mathematics, Physics, Economics and Law from the University of Sydney. Starting as an interest in finding ways to help his sister continue to enjoy reading as the effects of her multiple sclerosis progressed, Read How You Want has developed into a unique company that offers the capability to print documents and books in all kinds of individualized formats, including large and atypical print formats, braille, audio and e-books.

Listen to an interview with Melinda on LD Live!

New Audio Tool! Odiogo Listen Button

Cool new tool! Just click on the Odiogo Web 2.0 "Listen Button'" on each blog entry to hear the post read aloud!

The free service can be added to a variety of blogs. What a cool tool for teachers who use blogs for posting work for students. Now, every post can have the added support of audio in addition to the printed text!

Be sure to let me know how this works for you!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Assistive Technology for Learning

Maria Kelley, OTR/L Assistive Technology Specialist from WATAP demonstrates Clicker5 for Ryan while Jacob enjoys Dragon Naturally Speaking!

Maria will return to SISIUTL Friday April 25th, 2008 to meet individually with you to demonstrate available assistive technologies that might be helpful. Hear Jacob after using Dragon Naturally Speaking to "write" on the computer!

Call 379-1223 to book your hour appointment for Friday April 25th, 2008 --limited space!

WATAP ---Washington Assistive Technology Act Program--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.

Thank you to Jefferson County Literacy Council
for sponsoring
Maria's presentation on November 1, 2007
What? Why?
Assistive Technology for Learning!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Balametrics: Learning Breakthrough Program

In the early 1960’s, Dr. Frank Belgau, working in the classroom with children with reading problems, began carefully experimenting to see if he could find activities that made an immediate observable improvement in the children’s reading and academic performance. The procedure was simple and straight forward - the children read a passage orally, they did ten to fifteen minutes of motor skill sensory integration activity, and then read a different passage from the same story. He listened to and compared the two reading samples. He also asked the students to report any differences they observed themselves. He found activities that made a difference in reading and in vision.

In the above video, Dr. Belgau explains the basic principles in his Balametrics program.

Melinda asks Dr. Belgau to explain the principles of his balance board.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Delinquency or Disability?

This week on LD Live! I spoke with Ron Hume, Exec Director NCO Youth and Family Services, and chair of the LDA Committee on Justice about the high prevalence of ADHD and LD in youth who meet up with the juvenile justice system. While some parents are finding that the NCLB measures are insuring a higher level of education for their children with disabilities, (Washington Post article) we still have a long way to go in meeting the needs of students with learning difficulties.

Benna Golubtchik, Senior Faculty Advisor Teachers Network, posts several ideas for creating more multi-sensory classrooms, and she tells students not to ask how smart they are, but ask, "How am I smart?" Watch video! How are you smart?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

LDA Interview: Mobility International and Show Updates

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I spoke with Melissa Mitchell last week at the LDA National Conference - she had a booth representing Mobility International- FYI - thought it sounded quite interesting - they had a youth summer leadership camp in Costa Rica this summer for students ates 18 - 24 I think - For all types of folks with all types of disabilities or who know someone well with a disability - so, sibling, close friend, etc -

FYI - I will be LIVE on air tomorrow morning - Wed, March 5 - at 9 am PST - at 9:00 interviewing Deborah Meier, leader in the field of education, author of several books,--and one of a host of presenters at the Teaching and Learning Celebration which runs this Friday and Saturday in NY, NY

Then at 9:30 (PST) , I'll be interviewing the VP of WNET, Ronald Thorpe - channel 13 public TV New York - to discuss their upcoming Teaching and Learning Celebration which begins Friday in NY NY - !! So, if you have questions or ideas for these guests, be sure to listen or chat in! Show will re-run Friday morning at 9 am (PST)

You can always listen to saved shows, as podcasts, and sign up for notices of upcoming shows, through the link on the sidebar at LD Live!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

PT's Pongrey produces live broadcast of learning disabilities conference

Thanks to Port Townsend's Melinda Pongrey, individuals worldwide will have the opportunity to listen and participate in live informational broadcasts for the first time from the 45th Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) International Conference, Feb. 27-March 1 in Chicago.

During the LDA conference, Pongrey, of the Sisiutl Center for Learning, will produce a daily online talk show titled LD Live! from her downtown office on Taylor Street. The web broadcasts are through the LDA website,

Over the past two weeks, Pongrey has interviewed conference organizers, association board members, and experts in the field of learning disabilities. Three hours of live show recordings are now published as podcasts on her blog LD Live! at
Read More

Click here to read the press release the above story was written.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Live with Whitney Hoffman!

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Our guest this week is Whitney Hoffman, creator of LD Podcast, a free weekly podcast for parents about learning and learning disabilities! Whitney, a parent of two children with learning differences, has been podcasting for two years, talking to authors, parents, experts...creating a community of support and information for parenting children who struggle with learning.

When Whitney travels, she uses Utterz to mobilecast reports.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

LIVE with Domenic Greco, Ph.D.

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. Read More

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Live with Daniel Amen, MD

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Update February 1: The interview with Dr. Daniel Amen

Dr. Amen is a leader and innovator in the field of psychiatry who has helped to pioneer the use of SPECT imaging to diagnose and treat ADHD and other brain disorders.

With 25 years of clinical experience, Dr. Amen is an outspoken proponent of how to keep brains healthy. He has appeared on multiple television shows, including PBS Special, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He is the author of many books, including his most recent, Sex on the Brain: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life (Jan 2008)

Photo: A Healthy Brain Scan

Article: Healing The Hardware Of The Soul Nine Principles of the Amen Clinic

Friday, January 18, 2008

Live with Francinne Lawrence!

Interview with Francinne Lawrence,
new Executive Director for

Read Francinne's bio!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Live with Cyd Imel

PODCAST: Interview with Cyd Imel, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Washington -Cyd is a leader in the field of learning disabilities, social justice, and social skills/life training!

On Monday, January 14th at 1:00 Cyd talked with me about the work of LDA of WA as well as her experience of living with dyslexia and ADHD. READ her bio!

Press Release