Parent Lisa Manwell received a dozen calls last fall telling her her son couldn’t stay in school because of behaviors she says stemmed from his disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Many schools have promised to cut down on suspensions, since kids can’t learn as well when they aren’t in class. But none of these pickups was ever recorded as suspensions, despite the missed class time.
Laws and programs to address dyslexia are among the best hopes for students who struggle to learn to read. Legislation focused on dyslexia has been passed in at least 47 states. However, there is a downside that is not understood: Some dyslexia laws and practices exclude or neglect many struggling readers, even though most of them suffer from similar learning difficulties and require similar evidence-based instruction.
Dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often travel together. (About 25% to 40% of the time, according to some estimates.) For individuals with ADHD and dyslexia, routine treatment protocols and approaches for each condition may not be effective. ADHD symptoms might affect therapies for dyslexia, and vice versa. And addressing only one condition – a common error – often results in subpar outcomes all around. If your child has both ADHD and dyslexia, it is important to understand the dynamic interplay between these conditions and how it affects the application of treatments and interventions.
Our bodies don’t come in neat, one-size-fits-all packages, so of course neither do our brains. Start to think outside the box with these titles for the tween and younger set that feature neurodivergent characters and celebrate the extensive ways our minds can come up with ideas, solve problems, and learn new things.
Neurodiversity can be seen in every classroom, but not every teacher incorporates the needs of neurodiverse students into their pedagogy. Our neurodiverse students are often great at hiding how overwhelmed they are in the classroom. As a neurodivergent teacher who has worked with neurodivergent students for many years, I’ve found that the following strategies help make sure these students feel less anxious and help them stay engaged in class. All of these strategies can be used and modified for K–12 students.
Growing up, my undiagnosed ADHD symptoms made me feel like something inside was broken or disconnected. A diagnosis in my early 20s, along with the right medication to manage symptoms, improved my life significantly — so much so that I carried on believing I had finally been “fixed.”
How you talk to your child about dyslexia and ADHD will depend on their age. With younger children, you need not focus on challenges just yet. For tweens and teens, acknowledging challenges is essential to helping them feel understood and supported.
Parents and educators can access free, online training to support the executive functioning skills of elementary school students with autism or ADHD. Children’s Hospital Colorado teamed with Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and The Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland to pilot the online training and tele-support system for Unstuck and On Target, a program aimed at improving executive functioning skills such as flexible thinking, emotion regulation, planning and organization.
Many students with communication disorders were particularly affected by changes like virtual and hybrid learning that were implemented during the 2020–2021 school year due to the pandemic. As some of these children return to in-person instruction for the first time in more than a year, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) recommends the following ways for families to help them prepare for a successful in-person school year and support recovery of communication, social, and learning skills.
The veteran educator and leading voice for differentiated instruction offers five hopeful scenarios for classrooms this fall. There will be an abundance of collaboration, accomplishment, and adventure.
Reflection is one of the most important and powerful skills for anyone to engage with, and it’s important for educators to introduce this concept to all students. Far too often, students with disabilities are not afforded the opportunity to learn about reflection and how it can help them succeed in school. Reflection encourages students to evaluate and understand their mistakes while supporting a growth mindset to develop either solutions or action plans to improve their skills in order to master a topic or standard.
For the latest audio roundup, we turn to titles inspired by fairy tales and mythology, each published in 2022. Rewriting, adapting, subverting the familiar has long been a popular literary trope—who can argue with universal appeal? Cinderella, especially, continues to be an evergreen favorite, appearing in multiple stories, often in surprising permutations. Read (and listen) on!
While the pandemic caused widespread disruption to learning, one of the biggest concerns, for students of all ages, has been how it has affected their mental health. High numbers of teenagers have reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless, and the Biden Administration has tried to make student mental health a priority. For parents concerned about how their students are handling the new school year, here are five suggestions mental health experts say can help them monitor their child’s mental health.
Educational software maker Texthelp announced the results of a new study which looked at the current state of teaching dyslexic students. The goal of the study was to “identify common problems in student teaching and learning that could be addressed, and to help build better, more inclusive learning environments.” Nearly 50% of teachers surveyed said utilizing assistive technology is one of the best ways to help dyslexic students improve their literacy, along with reading and phonemic awareness.
The California public education system’s approach to educating students with dyslexia is a study in contrasts. Some schools have made real strides in recent years to implement curricular and culture changes aimed at helping struggling readers and dyslexic students overcome their early difficulties before they fall too far behind. Yet in many schools, a lot of parents feel they must fight the system to get support for their kids, paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for tutoring services or private evaluations. Advocates say Sacramento’s reluctance to hand down clear mandates means some schools’ approaches to literacy instruction remain woefully out of date.
Literacy advocate Weaver is heading up a campaign to get his old school district in Oakland, CA to reinstate many of the methods that teachers resisted so strongly: specifically, systematic and consistent instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics. Weaver and his co-petitioners—including civil rights, educational, and literacy groups—want schools to spend more time in the youngest grades teaching the sounds that make up words and the letters that represent those sounds. His petition is part of an enormous rethink of reading instruction that is sweeping the U.S.
Mayor Eric Adams has made literacy a priority, promising to overhaul reading instruction in New York City schools. Carolyne Quintana, the education department’s deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, shared some insights around the city’s push to incorporate more phonics in K-2 classrooms across the five boroughs, along with more training for teachers. Some smaller scale initiatives: Two new elementary school programs will target children with reading challenges including dyslexia, and about 160 elementary and middle schools will receive extra training on literacy strategies and different types of interventions for struggling readers.
It’s an extremely personal decision for educators with disabilities to decide when to share their experiences and with whom. Some have kept their diagnoses private; others started talking about it publicly to help students and families. Some did so after their seeing their own children struggle to get appropriate resources and accommodations in K-12. Others believe that showing vulnerability builds trust. Winston Sakurai, a former school principal who was diagnosed with dyslexia as a college student, thinks broadly about the needs of students—not just those with disabilities—when policies are being developed. He’s constantly asking, “‘Is there something that we are missing that we can actually help the students with?’ ”
Gifted programming, already uneven across the country and prone to racial discrimination, has yet another blind spot: twice exceptional students. These advanced learners, who may also receive special education services, can languish academically, their skills overlooked. The same holds true for low-income children, students of color and those learning to speak English.
A new study from neuroscientists at the University of California-Berkeley found that whether you’re reading a story or listening to it, you’re activating the same parts of your brain. Delilah Orpi, a literary specialist who works with struggling readers and students with dyslexia, has been using audiobooks in her teaching for years. She says audiobooks and podcasts aren’t as passive as watching videos. That makes all the difference. “When listening to a book or podcast we must visualize what we hear and make a ‘mental movie’ much like we do as we read printed text,” she said. “Through visualizing we can comprehend and recall information. Listening to stories actually strengthens our comprehension skills.”
When working with students with sensory needs and difficulties focusing, fidgets can be a vital tool to help them stay engaged. Students with these needs can use these tools to burn off excess energy, reduce classroom anxiety, and energize their bodies to remain involved with the lesson. The key is to pick the right kind of fidget. They need to be quiet and low-tech and serve a purpose. The students also need to be taught the appropriate way to use them. The students must know that these are tools, not toys.
About 150 high school and college students with ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurodiversities are set to gather this week in Denver at a conference about mentorship, leadership, and advocacy. They’re involved with a national organization called Eye to Eye that trains older students with learning differences to mentor younger ones. Eye to Eye estimates that 20% of students have a learning difference.
Trang Huynh-Watts isn’t a teacher. Over the past few years, however, she’s had to become one. Her two boys are dyslexic, which is a learning disorder affecting the area of the brain that processes language. It’s something Huynh-Watts says she discovered in her eldest son, Alex, much too late.
As states and districts overhaul the way their schools teach reading, many are banking on one specific professional-learning program to propel this transformation: Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, commonly known as LETRS. A critical part of making large-scale changes to reading instruction is introducing teachers to research and new methods. That’s where professional learning comes in. LETRS instructs teachers in what literacy skills need to be taught, why, and how to plan to teach them. And it delves into the research base behind these recommendations.
An estimated 6.1 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. Millions more children with the disorder are surely left undiagnosed. Early intervention is so crucial for success down the road, at home and at school. It is important that teachers—who play a key observational role in ADHD assessments in a school setting—understand that many factors can play into a diagnosis and how racial, gender, and age biases can affect those factors. It is equally important that school systems provide educators additional support through more objective testing measures, many of which already exist.
When it comes to academic interventions, given a choice between technology and a human being, “we always choose a person,” says Megan Murphy, head of school at Circle City Prep in Indianapolis. That’s why this spring, instead of bringing in some sort of artificial intelligence app to help students learn to read, Murphy turned to an online resource that brings live tutors into her classrooms. Ignite! Reading trains its instructors — mainly college students working toward a teaching degree — using materials from the National Council on Teacher Quality. They are then paired with young students across the country to run daily 15-minute tutoring sessions via Zoom.
Dyslexia is not a neurological disorder or even an impairment, but rather a concession for having cognitive strengths in exploration, big-picture thinking, creativity, and problem-solving that have contributed to human survival amid changing environments. This insight comes from a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology that finds an association between the learning difference and “an explorative bias.”The researchers found that people with dyslexia (explorers) have strengths in experimentation, innovation, and searching for the unknown. In contrast, people without dyslexia (exploiters) have strengths in efficiency, refinement, selection, and in what is known. Researchers say that striking a balance between exploring new opportunities and exploiting the benefits of a particular choice is needed to ensure human survival.
For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, everyday school tasks like remembering the due dates of homework assignments or staying focused in the classroom can be a challenge. As children with ADHD grow older, their hyperactivity may decline. But clinical psychologist Russell Barkley says that deficits in their executive functions – for example, working memory and impulse control – typically become more evident. ADHD-diagnosed children also struggle to keep track of time and may even have difficulty forming close friendships. Whether a child has just started kindergarten or is going into high school, extra support from parents and educators can help. Here are a few of the ways parents can help children with ADHD succeed in school.
Many teachers and schools are falling short of federal requirements for digital accessibility, posing undue challenges for students with a wide range of disabilities, two accessibility experts argued Tuesday during a virtual panel at the annual International Society for Technology in Education conference.
For decades, most doctors, parents, and teachers have believed that stimulant medications help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) learn. However, in the first study of its kind, scientists at the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University (FIU) found medication has no detectable impact on how much children with ADHD learn in the school classroom. While medication did not improve learning, the study showed that medication helped children complete more seatwork and improve their classroom behavior, as expected. This study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and was funded by the National Institute on Mental Health.
Even though schools have closed, the learning continues through the Code Academy Dyslexia School of Houston’s Summer Literacy Camp, which kicked off June 6, 2022. The camp looks to provide personalized teaching sessions focused on reading, grammar, writing, and more. Each program includes a 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio, ensuring each child gets proper attention while preparing them for the Fall school year.
Studies have shown that children are behind on their reading, and gaps predating the pandemic have only widened for Black and brown students, English learners and students with disabilities. But teachers don’t always have the time to work with students one-on-one, and many parents are busy and burnt out from pandemic reshuffling. To try to fill the gap, nonprofits are creating new and innovative programs to help kids catch up.
Imagine being a fourth grader who can’t read. Or parents fighting to get a dyslexia diagnosis and proper services for their child in school. This is a decades-old problem — according to parents of former and current students. And while school districts believe they are better equipped than ever before to address these issues, some disagree, pointing to what they see as inadequate approaches to teaching reading in elementary school.
A lot of returning faces are headed for the graphic novel shelves, but some of them may still be brand-new to your patrons. Which new sequels can be devoured immediately, and which ones work best from book one? Our reviews evaluate each title on its own merits, including a verdict advising whether the title functions as a fresh start or is strictly a continuation.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is launching a city-wide dyslexia screening program for all students. Adams, diagnosed with dyslexia in college, had pushed for the program during his run for mayor. Under the program, literacy screening will happen three times a year in grades K-10, with students significantly behind in learning benchmarks being screened separately for dyslexia. A city-wide pilot program will start in 80 elementary and 80 middle schools and include training on identifying students at risk for dyslexia.
Lucy Calkins, a leading literacy expert, has rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics and the science of reading. Critics may not be appeased. Parents and educators who champion the “science of reading” have fiercely criticized Professor Calkins and other supporters of balanced literacy. They cite a half-century of research that shows phonics — sound it out exercises that are purposefully sequenced — is the most effective way to teach reading, along with books that build vocabulary and depth.
Across Iowa, students with dyslexia may see new initiatives to help them better understand their coursework. The Iowa Department of Education is hoping to release a dyslexia guidance for school districts which would implement many recommendations from the Iowa Dyslexia Board. “We need to be teaching in a manner that is systematic explicit instruction, cumulative instruction,” says Nina Lorimor-Easley, a board member for Decoding Dyslexia Iowa. “We need to really lean hard into evidence based instruction.”
Missy Purcell is a former Gwinnett County Public School elementary teacher with three children. Her first two children are fluent readers, but her third child, Matthew, has struggled. “I was told repeatedly that he’s young for his age,” Purcell said. He was moved along each year from kindergarten through first and second grades making very little progress toward becoming an efficient reader. Purcell took a friend’s advice and had him evaluated outside the school by an educational psychologist. Not only was Matthew diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, but she said Matthew stated his “greatest goal in life is to learn to read.”
Noted Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell believes ADHD can be a gift, and those with ADHD can be intelligent, creative, imaginative, and thrive when faced with a challenge. Creativity is one of the superpowers of ADHD, and a lot of human progress has been thanks to “outside-the-box” thinkers.
“The weight of not feeling ‘smart enough’ or ‘good enough’ that our tiny girl carried throughout her early childhood began to lift as she learned about the disorders and their manifestations.” She eagerly started Orton-Gillingham tutoring. The satisfaction of learning how to learn kept her engaged and motivated. As her confidence grew, she told us what she needed to thrive.
The Hyperactivity, Executive dysfunction, and Attention problems (HEAT) Clinic in the ASU Department of Psychology is launching a new research project that is hoping to uncover treatment and prevention options for parents and children who both have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. Traditional interventions are routinely parent-focused, and when those parents are unable to effectively deliver the intervention because of their own ADHD, neither party is able to benefit. The HEAT Clinic is aiming to change that.
New York City public schools are slated to get $7.4 million in city funding to identify and support students with dyslexia under Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed executive budget. The budget includes funding for dyslexia screeners and programs, according to a report by Gothamist, as well as new school buildings in Harlem and the Bronx designated to support students.
Imagine being unable to read a paragraph or follow a conversation without your mind wandering. Losing track of time is something you’re known for among family and friends, and you can’t seem to meet deadlines despite your best efforts. Your tendency to speak without thinking sometimes bruises feelings. You may occasionally interrupt people so you don’t forget what you want to say. Now imagine your friends and family telling you that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn’t a real condition, and you should just try harder.
For Leonardo Cohen, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health and the senior author of a June 2021 study published in the journal Cell, the idea that breaks are a cooling-off period is a misconception. Cohen says that incorporating breaks into learning “plays just as important a role as practice in learning a new skill. It appears to be the period when our brains compress and consolidate memories of what we just practiced.”
Major employers including Microsoft, Google, Freddie Mac and more are part of a newly launched job search platform directly aimed at recruiting employees with autism and other neurological differences. The career portal known as the Neurodiversity Career Connector debuted last week. It’s intended to connect neurodivergent job seekers with openings at companies that have neurodiversity hiring programs in place.
At least 40 states have passed legislation mandating how teachers deal with dyslexia in the classroom, from proper screening methods to timely intervention strategies. And yet, misconceptions about dyslexia linger even among educators. In fact, research indicates over half of teachers, administrators, and the general public harbor mistaken beliefs about the disability and the specific challenges students with dyslexia can face. Here are specific ways for educators to help students with word-level reading difficulties in the early grades, as well as how to help students identified with dyslexia as they progress through school.