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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Slow Processing Speed: 5 Ways it Impacts Learning

Dear Friends:  The next two weeks I will be writing about processing speed. This week I will focus on how processing speed can be evaluated, the causes of a slow processing speed, and the 5 ways that a slow processing speed can impact learning. Next week, I will be sharing 7 powerful strategies for student success as well as reasonable accommodations in the classroom.

Have you ever noticed that it takes some students longer to make sense of questions, generate an answer, copy from the board, complete a project, or get everyday tasks done? While some learners can quickly absorb information and complete tasks, others require a greater amount of time. Processing speed, or the speed at which an individual makes sense of incoming information from the senses and then generates a response, is a cognitive task that impacts learning.  

How Can a Student Be Tested for Processing Speed Deficits?
There are a number of psycho-educational subtests that measure processing speed such as Coding, Symbol Search, and Cancellation on the WISC intelligence test as well as Paired Cancellation and Rapid Picture Naming on the Woodcock Johnson - Test of Cognitive Ability and Test of Oral Language. However, one must be aware of the fact that these subtests also measure other areas of cognition such as visual processing and making a fine motor response. Therefore, there is always the possibility that a student with poor scores on these subtests has, for example, visual processing or fine motor deficits that are pulling scores down. As a result, when interpreting these measures, it is important to rule out weaknesses in areas like visual processing and fine motor dexterity. It should also be noted that these subtests do not evaluate, for example, the speed of auditory processing or gross motor processing. Therefore, scores that suggest a slow processing speed should not be generalize to all areas of cognitive processing.

The Cause of Processing Speed Deficits:
When a student struggles with a slow processing speed, it may be caused by one or more sensory processing area such as visual processing, auditory processing, verbal reasoning, sequential processing, or motor processing to name a few.  What’s more, the cause of a delay can reside in any one or combination of the following sequences:
  1. Receiving and perceiving information through the senses.
  2. Making sense of that information in the brain.
  3. Producing a response or action.

How Does a Slow Processing Speed Impact Students?
  1. Students may miss important information, if the stream of sensory input is at a an overwhelming pace. For example, if a student can not keep up with the flow of content, like a damn that is overwhelmed by a large rainstorm, information spills over one’s memory banks and remains unprocessed. As a result, notes can be sparse and understanding of concepts can be limited or incomplete.  
  2. Learners may take longer to complete homework. Unfortunately, for these students, school work can consume much of their free time and many can become overtaxed and overwhelmed.  
  3. Students may find it difficult to complete assignments and tests in the allocated time.  Because these learners need more time to process, many of them require extended time to show their true knowledge.
  4. Learners may struggle to keep up with a lecture and record the information as notes. Modern day note taking requires students to listen, read presentations, and write. If anyone of these processes are slow or labored, it can make the note taking process extremely challenging.
  5. Students may find it difficult to reason with information when under time constraints. Some students just need more time to think about content, make sense of it and make personal connections.
  6. Learners may have a hard time keeping up with the flow and comprehension of both verbal and nonverbal communication.

I hope you found this helpful. Next week, I will continue on the topic of processing speed, and I will be defining 7 strategies for success. In addition, I’ll also be discussing reasonable schooling accommodations for those that struggle with this difficulty.
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Factoring and Multiples: Fun and Memorable Lessons and Activities

Creating magical activities for struggling math students is one of my favorite things to do. Teaching fun memory strategies, hooking techniques, color coded steps, drawing strategies, and color implementation can be the secret weapon to igniting joy in the learning process.

Over the years, I have found that many of my students have trouble with factoring and multiples. As a result, I have created a new publication to make the learning process both enjoyable and memorable for both the teachers and the students. Now, teachers have all the tools that they need to teach these concepts in a multisensory and effective way. Students can learn the concept once and continue to remember the process over time.

What’s My Method?
All of the following strategies are integrated into my publication Mathemagic Magical Math Instruction: Factoring and Multiples.
  • Memory Strategies: Implementing memory strategies helps students encode the new material. 
  • Hooking Techniques: Presenting hooking techniques is ideal for anxious learners that tend to forget what they know in testing situations. This strategy enables learners to see the answer in the question. 
  • Sequence of Steps: Breaking down math computations into a series offers a step by step approach. 
  • Drawing Strategies: Offering drawing activities allows creative learners to come up with their own, self-generated strategies. 
  • Color Implementation: Providing coloring activities helps to make the learning process fun and relaxing. 
  • Game Integration: Creating fun, interactive games as well as suggested kinesthetic learning activities allows students to practice in groups.
Knowing that teachers have little financial resources for teaching products, I try to make my materials as affordable as possible. Your time is money, and for only $5.99 you can download these multisensory lessons, activities, and games. If you would like to purchase this product, CLICK HERE.
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Finding the Best College for Students with Learning Disabilities

Finding the best college is tricky for any student, but for those with learning disabilities (LDs) it can be an even bigger feat.  In fact, the perfect school is out there for practically anyone, but finding it, takes some time and persistence.  There are a number of options for students with LDs from colleges that cater primarily to this population to larger universities that offer specialized programs.  With the proper testing in hand, all schools are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations, but not all institutions make it an easy task.

What Are My Options?
  • Pre-colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities: These programs help to prepare students for the rigors of college and make sure they have the study skills, basic math, reading and writing capabilities needed to be a successful student.  This might be a summer program or an additional year - commonly called a 13th year.  For example, Thames at Mitchell College is a unique transition program on a college campus.
  • Colleges Specifically For Students with Learning Disabilities: There are a few colleges that catering just to an LD population.  Landmark College and Beacon College are two such schools that are dedicated to serving students with LDs.
  • Programs within Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities:  Because colleges are mandated to accommodate students with diagnosed learning disabilities, more and more schools are offering specific programs for this population of learners. Commonly, students with LDs need to show proof of disability and apply separately to get into such a program. Once accepted, these programs offer assistance with learning content, test-taking strategies, study skills, and many offer individual support with a learning specialist.
  • Alternative Schools or Colleges for Non-Traditional Learners: Students who seek an alternative education environment are often referred to as non-traditional learners, and the schools that accommodate these learners can fall into this category for many reasons. This alternative to traditional ways of teaching can accommodate many students with LDs.  For example, a nontraditional college may grade students on projects in place of tests, offer small classes with roundtable discussions, present one intensive course at a time, discard traditional grading for an applied learning approach, NOT require homework, alternate between coursework and full-time work and much much more.  To access a list of some of the best alternative schools Click Here

If you would like a list of the 20 leading college options for students with learning disabilities for 2017-2018 Click Here

Do All Students Have to Take the SATs and/or ACTs?
More and more colleges are not requiring college entrance exams such as the SATs and ACTs.  Instead, they are interested in other student characteristics and can fall into three categories.  Test-optional colleges allow you to decide whether to submit college entrance scores, test flexible colleges may waive testing requirements if an applicant is able to meet a minimum grade point average, and test blind schools will not even consider tests scores, even if you send them along with your application. If you would like to see a list of these colleges Click Here.

How Can I Get Accommodations in College?
All colleges are mandated to provide “reasonable accommodations” to students with LDs. And as long as you have received accommodations in the past and you have current documentation with a diagnosis of an LD, getting services should not be a problem.  Here are the typical steps to follow:
  1. Check to see whether the college offers a handbook for students with disabilities on their website. Here you can find the specifics for each institution.
  2. Contact the person in charge of accommodations at the college and register as a student with a disability.  Usually, the department is called disability services or student support services.
  3. Schedule an appointment to meet with the person in charge of accommodations, and bring with you current documentation of your disability, as well as any prior IEP or 504 materials.  Also, make a list of the accommodations you have received in the past as well as those services and accommodations that you currently need.
  4. A person at disability services will review your materials, and let you know about your eligibility for services.
  5. Accommodations and modifications will be granted and you will receive letters that authorized accommodations.
  6. Be sure to advocate for any needed accommodations with your teachers and provide your disability services letter.
  7. If you have trouble getting accommodations from a professor, reach out to disability services so they can help.
Again, there is a college out there for practically any learner.  So, taking the time to scour the internet, read books, and consult with college counselors can assure that you will find the best fit.Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Accommodating Students with Dyslexia: 12 Strategies for Success

Students with dyslexia or symptoms of dyslexia often struggle in school. It is not that they have limited abilities.  On the contrary, many have IQs in the above average or genius range. As a result, instead of a dumbed down curriculum, these students need to be challenged and they need to receive accommodations, modifications and multisensory teaching techniques to unleash their learning potential.  

What makes it difficult to accommodate students with dyslexia is that each student has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Yes, two students with dyslexia don’t have the same pattern of cognitive processing deficits. In fact, there are a number of profiles that can lead to this diagnosis. In addition, there are a number of specific cognitive skills that can cause symptoms of dyslexia. Consequently, a successful remediation often requires a tailored, individualized approach.  To tap into the quickest results, I have learned that one has to look at the specific cognitive difficulties underlying the academic struggles and also develop the core skills required for reading. Then, these areas can either be strengthened or compensatory strategies can help blaze detours that lead to learning.

12 Difficulties, Common Accommodations and Remedial Strategies for Success.
The following is a table that I created to help make the pathway to success a little bit easier.
Past or Present Difficulty
Remedial Strategies
Letter reversals (b and d), symbol reversals (< and >) and words reversals (was and saw)
- Teachers should not take off points when students exhibit reversals.
- Color code common reversals to help students perceive the difference.  For example, make the letter b, blue and the letter d, red.
- Provide strategies: For example, turn the greater and lesser signs into a Pacman and explain that the Pacman eats the larger number:3443
- Do fun activities that exercise abilities from the Reversing Reversals Series.
Trouble with reading aloud and sounding out words
- Provide audiobooks through organizations like Bookshare, Learning Ally, Raz-kids, and Audible
- Offer instruction in an Orton-Gillingham Based reading program
- Make reading aloud optional for struggling readers.  

- Provide audiobooks through organizations like Bookshare, Learning Ally, Raz-kids, and Audible and encourage students to either read along or visualize the story.  Encouraging learners to read along while listening can improve tracking, whole word recognition and more - learn more HERE.  
- Students with learning disabilities that impact reading can qualify for a free membership at www.bookshare.org
- Offer instruction in a Orton-Gillingham Based reading program
Challenges with math word problems
- Use large graph paper to help students line up problems.
Trouble understanding jokes, punchlines, sarcasm and inferences
Think aloud and explain the meaning behind abstract concepts, inferences and other “hidden” meanings.

Check for understanding to make sure concrete learners fully understand any abstract concepts.
- Practice interpreting jokes,
- Practice finding inferences in billboards and magazine advertisements.
- Click here for other strategies.
- Use the Good Sensory Learning Higher Order Language Bundle to exercise and strengthen these skills.
Difficulty following a series of written or aural directions
- Have a student explain their understanding of an assignment and correct any misconceptions.
- Simplify directions and highlight keywords.
- Provide oral directions, check for understanding, and repeat directions - if needed.
- Offer a larger font with less content on each page.
- Provide text to speech technology.
- Play fun games and activities that strengthen these skills.
- Consider some basic remedial assistance with the core skills required for language processing.
Trouble mispronouncing words
- Be patient and guide the student to the correct pronunciation.
- Try not to laugh at funny mispronunciations as many kids get embarrassed and feel like they are being laughed at or made to feel stupid.
- Practice difficult words by coming up with your own tongue twisters.
Difficulty rhyming words
- Spend additional time on this concept and show the idea visually by taking simple words such as cat and changing the beginning consonant.
- Play hands on rhyming games or online ones.
Trouble mispronouncing words
- Work with a speech and language professional and help the student learn how to produce the proper letter and word formations.
- Help students learn how to form the sounds with their tongue and mouth.
Trouble telling directions
- Place markers on a student’s desk or body to help them with directionality.  For example, they might have a ring on their right hand or a rabbit on the right side of their desk and a lamb on the left.
- Do fun activities that exercise directionality abilities from the Reversing Reversals Series.
Trouble recalling names or words
- Offer a word list that can help students recall important words.  
- Teach the student to use a thesaurus.
- Teach memory strategies.  Click here to learn more.  
Difficulty with spelling
- Do not take points off for spelling errors.
- Allow student to use a computer with a spell check.
- Use a smartphone, tablet, Echo or other device that can provide the spelling of a words upon request.
- Learn about Spelling strategies
Trouble learning how to read
- Provide audiobooks through organizations like Bookshare, Learning Ally, Raz-kids, and Audible
- Offer instruction in a Orton-Gillingham Based reading program
- Provide extra time when reading.
- Shorten reading assignments.
- Simplify directions and highlight keywords.
- Provide oral directions, check for understanding, and repeat directions - if needed.
- Offer a larger font with less content on each page.
- Provide text to speech technology.
- Offer instruction in a Orton-Gillingham Based reading program

If you would like a discounted bundle of all of my products for dyslexia remediation, CLICK HERE.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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