By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, SPED Homeschool Partner & Board Member

 

Behavior and character are topics parents are always interested in pursuing. The privilege and responsibility we have in raising our children in the way they should go can often be a challenging and frustrating journey. It would be easier if we knew what influenced certain behaviors and how to determine if a negative interaction with a child is a heart issue or if there is something else at the root of it all. 

 

When thinking about the root cause of behavior issues, we must look at several different factors. Some might be more obscure than others. 

 

What is the root cause of challenging behavior? The source of negative behavior could be metabolic, having to do with body chemistry. It could also be the sin nature we were all born with. Or, from my perspective, it could be caused by neurodevelopmental deficits. We will look mainly at neurodevelopmental causes, but the others are well worth mentioning. 

 

  1. Metabolic Causes

Diet and nutrition can play a significant role in negative behavior. If the child reacts to food or the environment, it can cause a wide range of difficult behaviors like irritability, anger, and even aggression or destructiveness. This is beyond the child’s control and care should be taken to consider this as a cause since you cannot discipline this out of a child. One approach to this is to create a food diary each time you see negative behavior, especially if the behavior is uncharacteristic of the child in general. If you see a pattern in food consumed and negative behavior, try eliminating that food type and see if the behavior changes. 

 

  1. Neurodevelopmental Causes

Underdeveloped brain pathways can cause challenges in receiving sensory information correctly, processing information in your short-term memory, as well as storing information for good retrieval. These, like the metabolic causes, are beyond the child’s ability to control. 

Let me give you a few neurodevelopmental examples. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Sensory Overload: If the child is hypersensitive to touch or sound and noises or irritating touches invade the child’s sensory system, the immediate overreaction is fight or flight because the brain is interpreting these stimuli as pain. When you are in pain, you want to get away or retaliate. The result can be negative behavior which is misunderstood by people whose sensory system gives the correct messages.  
  • Underdeveloped Central Vision: It might be considered a negative character quality not to look a person in the eyes when you talk to them. We tend to require this of our children, especially when we try to get our point across about a behavior or character issue. When the central detail vision (how you see right in the center of your vision field) is underdeveloped, the child can move his eyes toward you but soon look like he is looking over your shoulder. You have trained him to move his eyes toward you, but since he can’t really see well in the center, the eye moves so he can look with his peripheral vision. This is often interpreted as defiance or disobedience when, in fact, it is beyond the child’s control.
  • Following Directions or Staying on Task: Parents often comment that their child REFUSES to follow directions and exhibits the poor character of not staying with their work. Look no further than the inability to hold pieces of auditory information in short-term memory when you have these behavioral challenges. When children’s auditory processing is low, they literally can’t hold the pieces of the instruction together long enough to complete the request. Often, this gets them in trouble for not “obeying” or not being “diligent” when it was simply beyond their control at this point. Read more about auditory processing and attention here.  

 

  1. Sin Nature

Unlike metabolic or neurodevelopmental causes of negative behavior, the sin nature CAN be controlled by the child. The discerning eye of a caring parent can determine whether they are dealing with a metabolic, neurodevelopmental, or heart issue in a particular situation. 

 

To identify which of the three root causes of behavior or character issues you are dealing with, I suggest watching a couple of videos I recorded called Create a Positive Learning Environment Part 1 & 2 on the  Brain Coach Tips YouTube Channel. These videos will help you better understand the different possible causes of negative behavior that I discussed here and how to change this for better compliance in the future. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., Master NeuroDevelopmentalist, SPED Homeschool Board Member & Therapy Partner

 

April is Autism Awareness Month and we here at SPED Homeschool understand how autism can affect learning and the education process. SPED Homeschool Founder and CEO, Peggy Ployhar, started their family’s homeschooling journey after their son’s autism diagnosis 19 years ago. We hope that our resources will empower your homeschool and your student will reach his/her full potential.

 

An autism diagnosis has become alarmingly more prevalent, moving from 1 in 10,000 births 25-30 years ago to 1 in 66 in recent reports. This increase is not explained away by better testing or the “gene pool” theory. So many children today fall into this label because of the broad spectrum of symptoms that are currently included under the umbrella of autism. As neurodevelopmentalists (NDs), the thought process is that the symptoms causing behavioral triggers resulting in this label should be addressed directly and not simply labeled. The question is, where do you start? 

 

Every individual on the planet learns through their senses. The bulk of the information comes primarily from three of the five sensory avenues – auditory, visual, and tactile. In the case of a diagnosis of autism, these sensory messages can be too sensitive (hypersensitive), not sensitive enough (hyposensitive), or a scrambled message. All of the above cause misinterpretation of sensory input by the brain. Every child does the best they can to function with the information provided through these sensory input channels. If one or more channels are giving distorted information to the brain, it compounds the challenge of the daily demand to function in a typical manner.

 

The NeuroDevelopmental Approach uses brain plasticity (its ability to grow and change) to improve the functional ability of the child. We also acknowledge the huge part that the chemistry of the body plays in individual progress. There isn’t enough space to expand on the metabolic aspect of spectrum disorders, so we will focus here on the ND help that is available. Let’s look at the main areas of input to the brain for some examples.

 

Vision:

When peripheral vision is hypersensitive, it means the detail or central vision is not working well, and the peripheral is working too well. When this happens, it is easy for a child to “play” with their vision by moving objects, flapping arms, or moving fingers, just to name a few common repetitive actions that we refer to as sensory play or stimming. These actions produce endorphins that are the same chemicals that make you feel good when you run. Running to get this feeling is good and very different from continuously pumping this chemical into your system by engaging in sensory play. The more this destructive behavior happens, the further the child retreats from the world around them. NDs encourage a multi-pronged approach to this situation. 1. Discourage the sensory play and redirect as much as possible. 2. Work to improve the central detail vision through specific stimulation so the child’s payoff (endorphins) is no longer there and the behavior stops.

 

By addressing the root cause, these symptoms can diminish significantly and allow more typical functioning to emerge.”

 

Tactile/Touch:

Many children with an autism label have an aversion to light touch. Certain clothes bother them, hugs are rejected, washing hair, haircuts and showers can be a nightmare, and food sensitivities make it hard to get nutritional meals consumed. At the same time this hypersensitivity exists, children may also have trouble distinguishing deep touch or pain (hyposensitivity). They might have unexplained bruises or ear infections that are not acknowledged as a problem until the eardrum bursts. All of these examples reflect a brain that is not getting the right messages from the tactile sensory stimulation in the environment. The ND’s solution again is to provide enough tactile input to change the brain and thus the reaction to the outside stimulus.  

 

Auditory:

Many autistic children are so hypersensitive to sound that much of the auditory stimulation in their world is painful. To combat this pain, many children simply turn off their auditory systems. This results in two very negative outcomes. 1. Withdrawal from friends and family as well as struggles with negative behaviors in noisy environments. 2. Lack of use of the auditory channel creating deficits in auditory sequential processing, which is holding pieces of information in short-term memory. This results in the inability to follow directions, stay on task, comprehend what is said or read, understand cause and effect as well as posing a challenge to reading with a phonetics approach. This deficit causes behavioral and academic challenges. For example, if you have a 9-10 year old that is only processing like a 2-year-old, you may have behavior and even academic abilities more like a 2-year-old. 

 

To address the first issue of hypersensitivity, the auditory system needs stimulation to reduce sound sensitivity. For low processing (short-term memory), the children need to learn to stretch their ability over time to be more age-appropriate. This is done through specific 1-2 minute interactions that happen multiple times a day. The results have astounded parents as well as professionals working with these children. To find out more about this important aspect of the autism diagnosis, visit this link. You will find a free test kit to check your child’s short-term memory level for yourself, information about the importance of auditory processing for successfully navigating life, as well as how to enhance this extremely valuable, life-long skill. 

 

In conclusion, it is the author’s opinion that we must pay much more attention to the cause of those negative indicators. By addressing the root cause, these symptoms can diminish significantly and allow more typical functioning to emerge. The best place to do this is at home, so homeschooling a child with autism is highly recommended. When parents are equipped with the right kind of information to stimulate the child’s brain at the root cause, progress toward typical function can be achieved. This is in stark contrast to public schools that have rooms that overstimulate with random stimulus. When there is a room full of children with sensory issues and non-typical behavior, how can you expect your child to gain typical development or behavior? Home with the model of parents and siblings is a much better option. 

 

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, Ph.D., M ND, SPED Homeschool Partner and  Board Vice-Chair

This month, we have featured articles about Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, for homeschool students. But what if your child still struggles with achieving goals? Do you think your child is capable of meeting their goals but he or she may have a mental block for retaining information? Maybe your child can say all the letter sounds but struggles to put them together when reading. Or does your child still struggle with handwriting goals? An INP may be your missing link to success.

So, what is in INP, and what is the difference between an IEP and an INP? An INP is an Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan. NeuroDevelopment (ND) has to do with the brain’s development in three strategic areas of input (getting information accurately into the child’s brain) through the auditory, visual, and tactile channels. We all process information through our senses of hearing, sight, and touch. The brain’s three areas of development for output are language, fine motor, and mobility (ability to move body parts in space, including coordination). To respond to our environment, our brains help us speak, write, and move. Why is this important? The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory. The IEP focuses only on output, or specific performed ability, as the goal. The INP focuses on stimulating the brain to make the goal more easily achievable.

Let me give you an example. If the educational goal is to increase handwriting skills, the traditional approach is to have the student practice writing with specific verbal instruction or a visual example. But, what if the tactile pathway from the brain to the fingers is immature? What if the fingers are not getting the correct feedback from the brain to make the letters well? Or, what if the central detail vision is not fully developed or the eye-tracking and convergence are off, and the visual images are distorted as they are writing? All the practice in the world is not going to overcome these areas of incorrect information from the brain to help the handwriting.

Instead of focusing on the child’s performance, the emphasis should be the root cause(s) of the deficit. Here is where an INP can be very helpful. Allow me to give you an example from my own experience homeschooling my daughter that was developmentally-delayed. On my homeschool IEP, I had the goal of her reading phonetically past CVC words. Of course, a step toward that goal, in my mind, was the mastery of all the phonograms that make up larger words. We used a phonics program with 70 cards representing the sound(s) of each phonogram. My daughter mastered all the cards, even the phonogram with six sounds! But, she was rarely able to hold the sounds together to read beyond three-letter CVC words. 

The brain controls everything we do, and if the input isn’t right, the output will not be satisfactory..”

After getting her INP from a NeuroDevelopmentalist, I understood the additional developmental issues that held her back from reading with phonics. The first issue was her low auditory processing ability. Her processing (short-term memory) was so slow that it prevented the retention of the sounds to make a word after the laborious pronouncing of each phonogram. The second issue that caused reading to be a struggle was my daughter’s central vision had not developed well and, because of this, she kept skipping lines, words, or parts of words. Her INP addressed these areas of neurodevelopmental need. Her plan included eye-tracking activities, specific activities for developing the central vision, and lots of practice for her auditory short-term memory. By adding this input, along with other short, brain-stimulating sessions, she was able to read longer words, which would have been the goal on an IEP but able to be achieved through an INP. 

If you are interested in finding out if an INP (Individualized NeuroDevelopmental Plan) is right for your situation, call for a free personalized consultation  with a NeuroDevelopmental Specialist. Or, to see if low auditory or visual processing is an issue for your child, go to www.BrainSprints.com and scroll down to “Tools” to get the free processing test kits.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Dr Rebecka Spencer SPED Homeschool Consulting Partner Cherish Children Ministries

 

Am I the only one who has thought this with one of my children? So many times I have thought, “Can that kid hear me?” Or, “Why doesn’t he just follow instructions?”

As an educator for over 18 years with experience in all grade levels from early childhood through college levels, you can imagine my dismay when I found myself homeschooling, not one, but two struggling learners. Two of my children have auditory processing disorders and one is hearing impaired. In addition to homeschooling, my latest endeavor is to help moms and educators across the globe get their little dyslexics and struggling learners thriving with easy tools and exercises that can be done at home for free. 

When I would ask my then 4-year-old to put his shoes on, grab his coat, and come to me to help him tie and zip, he would get his coat, ball cap, and no shoes. I wondered if he was even hearing me. Then, I began to wonder if it was an obedience issue that needed to be addressed. After taking classes in dyslexia, brain balance, and spectrum disorders such as ADD, ADHD, Autism, and Auditory Processing, the dots began to connect. It was then that I realized my child had an auditory processing weakness.

 

Checking the boxes – Auditory Processing

I don’t know about you, but when I found a checklist, I had an ah-ha moment. Even though I had taken classes and had a dyslexic child, I did not know about the signs and symptoms to look for in that of an auditory processing weakness.

This is so important in academic, social, and behavior skills. Understanding and decoding language, verbal instructions, and commands as well as social cues are all related to auditory processing. I did not know what to look for or how to stimulate growth in this area, but now I do!

Listening skills and auditory processing are not about the ears’ ability to hear. Rather, they are about the brain’s ability to decode language, make sense of it, and then produce an appropriate response. That’s complex stuff!

 

What does auditory processing have to do with reading?

Well, auditory processing disorder is different from dyslexia, but reading is language-based and so is auditory processing.

Reading is language-based, dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, and auditory processing delays are weaknesses in the ability of the brain to filter and process sounds and words, especially in language. 

This is why many children with dyslexia also have auditory processing issues and auditory processing delays can contribute to dyslexia at a young age. 

You may be wondering what the difference is between hearing and actual auditory processing, so here are some facts. Several kids with dyslexia have had a hearing test because it was thought the child could not hear well. 

Auditory processing is more than just hearing what is being said. Even though kids may have perfect hearing, there could still be an issue with auditory processing. Some research indicates dyslexic children struggle with both written and spoken language (sight and sound).

Many kids have some kind of auditory issue. Sometimes kids have hearing tests that come out normal but they do not seem to react to sound and a normal way. Then we have some kids who are under-sensitive to sound.

Many parents sometimes think their child cannot hear as an infant. Most are unaware that auditory processing is a difference in the right and left hemispheres, like most sensory detection and processing. It does need to be determined if it is a deficit in the right or the left.  

It is simply not enough to say that the child has a hearing or auditory processing issue. The reason this is important is that the issues related to this disorder show up differently, and they need different approaches. 

There is no sensory function that works by itself. Every single one of the senses is dependent on the other sensory functions, which depend on a baseline level of brain activity. Most will assume that if a child does not respond very well to sound that there must be something wrong with the ears, and usually this is not the case. The hearing pathway in the ears can be perfectly normal, and the brain could not respond to the sound because brain activity is weak. Now, if brain activity is not igniting at the right speed it just cannot keep up with the input of sound. 

Auditory processing can inhibit reading. Some kids have even been diagnosed with dyslexia when it is an auditory processing disorder. This information is going to help you either way. You might want to add an audiologist to your child’s team to make sure they hear properly.

Parents and teachers often ask me what should be expected at certain ages just as a baseline of guidance.

Milestones based on age: (It is important to note this is just for a baseline.)

  • 2-4 years old should be able to do 2-3 step commands
  • 5-6 years old should be able to do 3-4 step commands
  • 7 years-adult should be able to do 7 step commands

You can do a few simple tests to see if your child has decreased hearing, but before you do these tests, check to make sure the child does not have an ear infection or fluid in the ears at the time you conduct the test. Be sure to go to your physician to have the ears checked before testing. 

Auditory processing disorder could be to blame for affecting your child’s inability to hear all of the sounds in words and in our language not to mention being able to connect meaning to words.

Sound or auditory discrimination is the ability to distinguish between similar sounds. Weakness in sound or auditory discrimination might be caused by physical hearing issues or by a weakness in sound perception or any combination of these variables. Sound or auditory discrimination difficulties could affect phonological awareness as well as the processing of verbal or auditory information. All of this was news to me even as a doctor of education and being active in the field for over eighteen years. You see, language strength is crucial for children to develop proper auditory processing skills. I like to go over the various milestones with parents to help determine the possible underlying issues such as the unintegrated ATNR (primitive reflex).

So, let’s discuss the difference between actually “hearing” and that of “auditory processing” for just a moment. Typically kids with dyslexia are encouraged to have a hearing test because parents and educators believed there was a hearing issue.

At birth, typical auditory development signals the baby is familiar with parents’ sounds, and become startled at strange sounds, but cannot yet distinguish where sounds are coming from due to the fact the brain has not formed a visual memory to the sound yet. You may have noticed your child preferring the sound of a humidifier or a fan, but do not know where the sound is coming from. However at about 4-6 months, the baby becomes more aware as to where sound is. Children this age know a rattle makes one sound while a big brother or sister makes a different sound. You may notice the child looking at you differently and trying intently to understand what you are saying. 

Remember the ATNR reflex? Well, between 6-12 months of age, the baby will begin to crawl, and this is very important. The baby will crawl towards a sound and even the call of his or her name, and make connections with sounds and movement. Peek-a-boo is a favorite and it is understood objects have names like mamma and daddy, meow, baba, do-do, and will try to imitate those sounds.

This reflex was active at birth. It connected shoulder movement to neck movement and helped the child descend in the birth canal. The ATNR reflex should be integrated by 6-12 months of age. If it is not, it will affect free crawling. This can become an issue because of its impact on auditory processing. Some kiddos will army crawl, or use one side more than the other if they still have the ATNR reflex present. I advise parents to be sure to ask your pediatrician if this reflex is integrated at your well-baby visit. 

If the ATNR is not integrated, it can interfere with proper development. Why? As the baby crawls, he will move his head back and forth trying to take in sounds from places in the room, and this will assist in auditory development in each ear. The baby will learn to understand sounds, away, above, around, to, from, near, and far. The baby will crawl toward the sound and understand the noise becomes more intense while crawling away from, the sound fades.

Pronouns are learned around the age of two, and kids will begin to combine two-word phrases, such as “mama go” andbaba drink.”

By the time a child is about three years of age, the child will be able to find hidden objects, comprehend simple commands, recognize questions, love songs, and rhymes, and develop comprehension of two-step commands.

By 4-5 years old, 200-400 words will be in the child’s vocabulary bank. Understanding special concepts such as, it’s behind the door, or in the bottom of the drawer or it is on top of the shelf. This is the age where children should be able to understand a three-part command, like, go get your coat, put it on, and come to me and I will zip it for you. If the child can only do one part of the command, you might think the child is not obeying, but these kids really may forget because of the processing delay. These kids have a hard time storing and recalling the steps properly and also might stare off into space. They sometimes get diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder when it is just an auditory processing issue. 

I often wondered why our son would mix up parts of a word, and I thought he needed some speech therapy, but I soon realized he struggled with auditory ordering and sequencing like many children who are misdiagnosed with a speech articulation issue. Children with a weakened sequencing ability will recall and store information out of order, like syllables, and might say (bullfallow instead of buffalo, or aminal instead of animal) and they get their numbers out of order so they might say 36 instead of 63. Steps of instructions might be remembered but done out of sequence. These kids may struggle with speech, reading, and math.

He was not able to integrate auditory input and had difficulty understanding words as a whole. At this point, I knew he had dyslexia, but this was when I realized the WHY. The right side of his brain was not communicating with the left to understand the language. Continuing to struggle to understand the meaning of words when sounded aloud was a daily battle until we started auditory brain exercises. Our son always needed to see an example of what he was supposed to do and never wanted to try anything first because he did not understand the instructions. He would just wait and see what others were doing before giving it a try. These sweet kids are good at catching on quickly.

You may find your child struggles with social situations, has poor spelling, poor grammar, and poor reading skills. Most likely this is due to decoding issues which, again is related to auditory processing delays. Differences in similar sounds are not heard like pig vs. big

Perhaps your child is withdrawn from school or social gatherings because of noises. Most likely this is due to auditory figure-ground discrimination. This is because there is a deficit in the ability to separate sounds. 

Speech articulation may be a struggle for your child, and if this is so the case, the most likely contributor is that of an auditory output or organization deficit. Children will say words out of order and confuse similar sounds where they are often mistaken to have a speech delay when articulation is the skill required for speech, but the organization output could be contributing to the speech issue.

Maybe your child can hear sounds and order just fine but struggles to connect it to meaning. If so, this could be due to an auditory associative deficit. Parents can oftentimes become frustrated with these kids because they were able to repeat instructions verbatim, however, not be able to carry out the task at hand because meaning was not made.

Does your child speak in a monotone voice or have difficulty with rhythm and tones in voices? Chances are the child has an auditory prosodic deficit which prevents kids from being able to hear modulation and tones so they are not able to cipher differences in sound and inflection in speech. These kids will struggle in social situations due to the fact they cannot cipher the differences in sounds of voices and can mistake when someone is teasing or being funny versus being mad or frustrated. It’s important to steer clear of sarcasm with these little ones.

You may be surprised to learn short-term memory can also contribute to our auditory delayed learners. Since short-term memory is used to store and recall information, sounds and words, a weakness in this area can cause the language processing part of the brain and memory not to communicate effectively, which will then contribute to reading struggles and difficulty remembering steps. Remember a word learned today will have to be retaught again tomorrow. 

Emotions run high in our auditory delayed learners. Since sound triggers different emotional responses, hearing different stimuli can be a strong trigger. 

You will want to get an audiologist on your child’s team if you suspect auditory delays. 

These are listening and response exercises to help stimulate growth in these areas we’ve just discussed. Together, with my colleague, we created these beautiful effective cards for our struggling learners. Kids enjoy these games.

The auditory processing cards are meant to be a fun way to help your child stimulate and increase brain processing. These cards and activities will aid the child in:

  • Associative Deficit
  • Prosodic Deficit
  • Sequencing (you may use along with the Brain Balance cards SEQUENCING portion for this activity). When giving more than one clue at a time and asking the child to mark off the images in the same order as they have been called out orally will assist with sequencing.

Processing disorders, like auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, and sensory processing disorder are caused by a deficiency in a person’s ability to effectively use the information gathered by the senses. 

If you have a child or a student who you believe has auditory processing issues, you need to consider the issue may not be the result of impaired hearing, impaired vision, attention disorders, intellectual disability, or learning deficit. It is simply this; if the brain cannot properly process the auditory, visual, and sensory information it receives, a child’s ability to learn and thrive in an academic setting is affected, often leading to low self-esteem and social withdrawal. While processing disorders are not featured in the DSM-IV as stand-alone disorders, they are widely recognized as co-morbid issues for children with developmental delays.

So, what does all of this matter? Well, auditory processing disorder could be affecting a child’s ability to hear all of the sounds in words, in our language, and be able to connect meaning to words.

The best part is you can do so many strengthening exercises right in your own home without spending hundreds of dollars on fancy centers and special equipment. It just takes a little know-how, time, and consistency. You can do it! 

After I began to do all of these really fun and as my sons would say, “kinda crazy” exercises, it was like a flip of a switch in that the light turned on. Just the other day, our 10-year-old had three step instructions for a language lesson. He was supposed to draw a line between the subject and predicate, underline the simple subject once and the verb twice. He was thrilled when he said, “Look, Mom, I numbered the steps of what I was supposed to do without you helping me.” Here’s to YOUR Success!

 

Be Blessed,

Dr. Rebecka

Cherish Children Ministries

 

 

 


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Jan Bedell, PhD, Master NeuroDevelopmentalist

If you are a parent of young children today or you teach your children at home, chances are very good that phonics is your exclusive go-to approach to teach reading. A conviction that phonics is the ONLY way to teach reading, and success with other children with this approach, leaves you purchasing one phonics program after another for a child that just doesn’t seem to “get it” with the current phonics program. Yet still, a satisfactory result eludes you. Sound familiar?

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school, reading instruction was a whole word approach. Definitely showing my age now! This method did work and I got through college while maintaining Dean’s List status. After graduation, my first job was teaching kindergarten where phonics was required. I learned right along with the students and I still find it very helpful in decoding unknown words to this day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love phonics as a way of teaching reading! I “taught” both of my girls to read in our home school with an intense phonics program. Well, to be perfectly candid, I only successfully taught one of my girls to read with phonics. The other one, labeled as developmentally delayed, struggled to read anything past a three-letter-word even though she mastered all 70 phonograms in isolation. I was perplexed, to say the least!

Reading is complex. The individual has to gain meaning from a string of symbols making up a word and then combine that with other strings of symbols to gain an understanding of what is written. Let’s explore from a NeuroDevelopmental perspective, the skills that make a successful reader?

 

Skills of Successful Readers

1. Visual Skills:

    • Acuity – a reference to 20/20, is the eyes giving a clear picture to focus up close or focus at a distance 
    • Tracking – the eyes moving smoothly across a horizontal line without darting back or forth that would give the wrong feedback to the brain about what is seen
    • Convergence – the eyes working together, placing the image of one eye directly on top of the other so there is no distortion of the letters or swimming of word on the page
    • Central Detail Vision – the ability to see directly in front of you – children that didn’t go through the proper developmental steps to gain good central vision often don’t have good eye contact, they don’t write on a line well and often skip little words or parts of words on a page while reading. Consider this video from the  YouTube Channel – Brain Coach Tips for information about checking the eye function at home.
    • Visual Discrimination – the ability to see subtle differences between very similar words like “then” and “them” can be developed with practice – consider this  Visual Discrimination Game to advance that skill

 

2.   Auditory Processing:

A prerequisite skill to reading in general and for phonics, in particular, is auditory processing (auditory short-term memory). You may not have thought about it but phonics is an auditory approach to reading. You have to hold pieces of auditory information (sounds) in sequential order and sometimes even a rule together in your short-term memory to decode the word. The capacity to hold auditory sequential pieces of information together is called your auditory processing ability.

Without the foundational skill of auditory processing, phonics is a painful, frustrating and often ineffective way to learn to read. The good news is that with practice, an individual’s auditory processing can be raised and then phonics can be effective. An individual needs a strong level 5 or better yet, a 6 auditory digit span for phonics to work well. To get a free test kit to discover processing levels for your whole family visit  www.BrainSprints.com (scroll down to the “Tools” section). This information will give you a clue as to whether low processing is a root cause of an individual’s reading struggle. When you accelerate this skill, you accelerate success in reading. Learn more: Auditory Processing-Best Kept Secret in Education

 

3.  Information Storage:

From a NeuroDevelopmental perspective, the efficient storage of information or being able to get what is in that little brain out into a functional form requires proper placement of the information. It is a bit like a filing cabinet. If you put information in the 2nd drawer in the proper folder, it is easy to get it when you need it. Improper filing of a piece of paper in the 2nd drawer with no folder can be frustrating, time-consuming and energy expending to find. The same can be true of storage in the brain. For more understanding of dominance that is key to storage, watch “You Knew It Yesterday!” 

 

An Alternative Approach

Many families have found help with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach.

While you are working on the child’s auditory processing for two minutes twice a day, teach “sight words” by flashing cards and telling the child what the word is. If your child is an emerging reader, consider  3Rs Plus with the accompanying flashcard and detailed instructions. Beginning readers are very encouraged when they tell dad, “I read this whole book!” Granted the book is only 12 pages long and contains one to two sentences on each page but in their mind, they did read the whole book.

Children reading at 1st-grade level, I recommend Pathway Readers and the flashcards developed for the first few books in this series.

You can also read a sentence or two and in some cases a paragraph or a full page and have the child read the SAME selection after you. This is called Echo Reading and is a temporary but very effective approach to building reading confidence! For leveled books that will work on reading recognition as well as comprehension, just search “Reading” at the  Brain Sprints Store.

 

Bringing This Information Together

So how do you square up your belief that phonics is the best way to teach reading with this new information? First, you realize that we are all sight-readers. Let me ask you this – Do you read all the words phonetically when you read? No, absolutely not. After you learn a word, you never sound it out again as it would be extremely slow and laborious to do otherwise.

Secondly, rest assured that as soon as your child’s auditory processing is at a level to handle phonics, you can go back to the phonics approach. In the meantime, your child has developed a really good sight word vocabulary and will feel encouraged by a new ability to read. The best of both worlds is now achieved! Your child has a head-start on identifying a word immediately and then will master an ability to phonically decode unknown words. 

If a phonics approach or the sight word approach is not effective in teaching a child to read, one must explore other root causes by looking at how the eyes are working or where information is being stored in the brain. For more individualized direction consider a  Free 15 minute Consultation with a Brain Sprints’ coach.

 

 

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, PhD, M.ND

We all want our children to read so they can read God’s Word and get along better in the world. Much of learning comes through the ability to read. As moms, we often make it “our mission” for our children to read well. This is an admirable mission.

The Truth About Phonics
I am going to say something controversial now and get it out of the way. Are you ready? Here it is: Phonics may not be the best way for you to teach reading to a particular child. Unless foundational skills are in place, phonics will be ineffective. I know it may be a shock to hear me say that about phonics. This was quite a surprise when I first heard it as well. I had diligently been trying to teach my daughter with special needs to read with a phonics approach for five years!

Before my own attempts at this reading quest, the public and private school were also trying to teach her to read with phonics. She was a phonics dropout, but she was a phonogram champ! She knew the sounds of all 70 phonograms, even the ones like “ough” that have six sounds. Even though the sounds of the phonograms were solid, she couldn’t hold the sounds together past a three letter word to read anything! This was rather confusing, and I have to admit extremely frustrating.

I found out after my five-year, miserable struggle with phonics that she had low auditory processing. That meant she couldn’t hold the pieces (phonograms) in her short term memory long enough to put them together to get the word out. We were in an endless loop of sounding out the same word over and over until something sort of like the word came out. So, by the time she got to the end of the sentence, she had no clue about the meaning of what she read. WOW!

The Auditory Processing Disconnect
For some children, learning to read using the phonics approach is a breeze, but for others it is a huge struggle like it was for my daughter. When children have low sequential auditory processing abilities (an inability to hold a series of items in consecutive order in short-term memory), phonics doesn’t work well. Why is auditory processing so important for using phonics? Phonics is an auditory learning system, meaning the child must be able to hold all the pieces of the word and the rules together in his brain long enough to get the word out of his brain. Phonics is a fabulous way to learn to read for those with good auditory sequential processing! I love, love, love it! For those with low auditory abilities though, it can be a nightmare for parents and students alike.

When auditory processing is low and words get longer and more complicated, the child gets lost by the end of the word and starts guessing. There are also some developmental issues with the eyes that can make reading in general difficult. You can listen to Podcast #17 – Make Reading Easier for a better understanding of other developmental challenges. Number 17 at  www.BrainCoachTips.com will also help you learn how to raise your child’s auditory processing abilities so he can be more successful with phonics in the future.

Some Brain Coach Tips for More Reading Success: 

  • Determine if your child is struggling with low sequential auditory processing by ordering your Free Auditory Processing Test Kit. Your child should have a strong 5 digit span and preferably working on a 6 digit span before reading with phonics is effective.
  • Do some auditory processing activities twice a day for two minutes (instructions included in your free kit). In my opinion, this would be the best investment of your homeschooling time that you will ever make! The benefits go far beyond phonics help.
  • Read to your child with him following word by word. Then have the child read the same sentence or paragraph immediately after you (Echo Reading). I know this sounds a bit like cheating and memorizing, but prepare for another shocker that you might not have realized yet: We are all sight readers! Once we know a word, we don’t sound it out again. I know that is hard to believe, but read the statement at the end of this article: Phonics vs. Sight Reading. Now tell me if you read it with phonics. 
  • Don’t let your child struggle. Tell him the words he doesn’t know or sound it out for him.
  • Have your child listen to auditory books daily and read aloud daily. At least an hour a day of listening will help develop the auditory processing.
  • Teach your child sight words while building auditory processing levels. Then work more successfully with the phonics approach when the foundation of processing is set. Find resources here. We become sight readers once we know a word, so by combining these approaches you have the best of both worlds and a happier, more successful reader.

 

 

 


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By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

Are you working with a bright, hard working child or teenager who has to work too hard to learn?  This is the child who does not respond to other curriculum or materials and teaching strategies that have worked so well with your other children. In fact, you may be on your fourth reading/phonics program, your third math program, and your fourth spelling program.  

If it is your first child or student who is struggling, you may now have a younger sibling or other students who are yelling out the words from the corner of the room. That’s when you decide, “Something isn’t right” with this child.  You wonder if this child has a processing problem, a learning disability, or Dyslexia.   You are puzzled because orally, he/she is so good in many things, and loves to listen to stories.  What is going on?

According to Dr. Mel Levine, MD, in his book, One Mind at a Time, all learning requires energy. He refers to it as “battery energy.”  I like this term.  It clearly describes what we see happening with the struggling learner. This child is using way too much battery energy to write or remember sight words or phonics for reading.  We see the battery drain happen before our eyes.  Our question is, why does this child have to work so hard at things that should not take so much energy to learn or remember?  

This energy drain is generally because this child has one or more of the Four Learning Gates blocked.  We think of these learning gates as information pathways.  Children who learn easily seem “smart” because they don’t have any major blocks in their information pathways.  Our struggling learner may have many blocks.  When we speak of a blocked learning gate, we mean that the processing skill has not transferred into the Automatic Brain Hemisphere. The child continues to need to concentrate on the processing task because of this lack of transfer.

 

Exploring the Four Learning Gates
As you look at the list of characteristics of a struggling learner, it is important to remember that many children have one characteristic, but aren’t struggling.  Conversely, a child does not need all of the characteristics to be struggling.  It is also common to find that a child has all four learning gates blocked.

 

1. Visual Processing Gate
The act of moving the eyes over a page from left to right is not a naturally developed trait.  For example, in Israel they read right to left, and in Japan they read in a column.  We teach this process when a child is first learning to read, by having him track with his finger across the page to train his eyes to move in this fashion.  After some practice, this should transfer to the child’s automatic hemisphere.  

 

How do we know if this process has not transferred and is taking too much energy?  

These are some of the characteristics this child will exhibit:
  • Reading reversals (on=no; was=saw…after age seven)
  • Skipping of little words, but can read longer word
  • Reading begins smooth, but soon becomes labored
  • Older children who can read, but tire easily…yawning shortly after beginning reading.

 

2. Writing Processing Gate
When the child’s visual/spatial skills, or the act of writing, haven’t transferred into the automatic hemisphere, he often looks like he’s “sloppy, lazy or unmotivated.”  His papers are poorly spaced, or he refuses to write much of anything for the parent or teacher. This is the most common learning gate that is blocked in gifted children.  It seems like they are “allergic to a pencil.”  Transferring his thoughts into writing, or just copying something, takes a huge amount of battery energy for this child.  

 

Characteristics of this gate being blocked include:
  • Frequent or occasional reversals in letters after age seven (even if only “once in awhile”)
  • Copying is laborious
  • Poor spacing in math papers
  • Great stories orally, but writes very little
  • Does mental math to avoid writing

 

3. Auditory Processing Gate
A common myth about Auditory Processing is,  “My child has an auditory processing problem because he can’t remember three directions at once.”  This is likely more of a focusing/attention issue.  For example, if we would ask him to ”Go into the kitchen and get a candy bar, a glass of chocolate milk, and a dish of ice cream for you,” the child would likely remember these directions.

 

A child, who is suffering with an Auditory Processing Problem, generally has trouble with reading.  

  

Common characteristics of this gate being blocked are:
  • Phonics sounds don’t stick; no matter how many games you have played.
  • Sight words are hard to memorize…even learning alphabet letter names can be hard
  • Sounds out same word over and over in a story
  • Can’t easily sequence sounds…like months of the year or skip counting
  • Is a “Word Guesser”
  • No phonetic pattern to spelling…doesn’t hear consonants.  “Thursday is Tuesday”

 

4. Focus/Attention Gate
This can be the most puzzling blocked learning gate to identify. A child may look like he has no memory, or a true learning disability, when what is really going on is that this child has to use too much battery energy to remain focused during the instruction, or completing the lesson.  The child may look like he is “paying attention” to your lesson by giving you good eye contact.  However, in his head, he is “two doors down playing with his friend, or in the dinosaur village.”   

 

Here are some characteristics of a child who has to use too much battery energy to remain focused:
  • Inconsistency in performance from one day to another
  • Needs to have someone sit with him to finish work
  • Forgets previously learned work much of the time…seems to have a “memory” problem
  • Can have impulsive behavior…easily getting upset when things go wrong.
  • Sensory Processing problems (little things bother him a lot, like tags on shirts, loud noises, transitions, foods, etc.)

 

Be assured, you do not need to be an “expert, or professional” to make learning easier for your child or student.  In the many articles I have on my website, I discuss each learning gate individually, and show you the corrections that I developed when I taught these wonderful children in my special education classes.  

 

You will see that it is not hard to do.  It just requires some tools, strategies and techniques that you may not be familiar with right now.  

 Bottom line:  Learning does not have to be so hard for your child.

 


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