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Understanding Your Child with Dyslexia

As a parent, guardian or educator, you know that children with dyslexia struggle to read and that their struggle often leads to educational, social and behavioral problems. You have great sympathy with that struggle but you also have your own frustrations in handling the situation.

Sometimes, though, it helps to see a situation from the inside--to briefly experience dyslexia to understand it better. One way to do that is to read the stories of individuals who grew up with dyslexia. Ben Foss is dyslexic; he is the founder of Headstrong Nature, an organization for adults with dyslexia and parents of children with dyslexia, and has written a book, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. His blog includes stories from his own childhood and often includes a sample of his writing before he has spoken into a computer and then edited and proofread several times. The contrast between the starting product and the finished confirms that dyslexia is not about the ability to think; it is about the ability to read and write. And there are techniques to help with reading and writing.

Another way to briefly experience dyslexia is with a recently developed typeface that mimics what many children with dyslexia see when they try to read. The problem revealed by the typeface is more profound than reversing letters or confusing similar letters (like lower case g and q); entire parts of letters are "invisible," turning a page of writing into nonsense. The typeface was developed by Daniel Britton, who still read at the level of a 10-year-old when he was 18. His motivation for developing the typeface is clear: If people have a greater empathy for dyslexia, the learning disorder can be identified faster and treated more effectively, allowing students to learn at the same pace as their peers.

Just as it is difficult for someone with color blindness to describe how they see colors, so it is difficult for someone with dyslexia to describe their exact experience when trying to read and write. Autobiographical stories and illustrations help us to walk briefly in the shoes of a dyslexic child.

At Windy Row in Peterborough, New Hampshire, we aim to give every child with dyslexia techniques that allow them to enjoy the gift of reading. Please contact us today.

How to Apply for Reading & Math Tutoring

Windy Row Learning Center is accepting applications for specialized afterschool tutoring in reading and math. Here is the process for applying:

1. Reach out to us by phone (603-924-7198) or email with your contact information and the best time to reach you. We should respond within 24 hours.

2. In our initial talk, we will answer your questions about Windy Row Learning Center and any concerns you may have about Windy Row and the child you are trying to help.

3. Set up a formal parent interview with Dr. Cheryl Orcutt, our Executive Director.

4. Fill out the application form and any request for financial aid or scholarship.

5. We will evaluate your child, pair him or her with one of our professional tutors and set up an individual, one-on-one tutoring program that targets the reading or math problem(s).

6. Watch your child blossom!

Are you worried that your child is too young or too old for Windy Row? Most of our students are between kindergarten age and grade 10; but we have worked with younger (pre-K) and older (high school) students. 

Are you worried that your child's reading challenge is too minor or too extreme? We have helped children with just one reading or math hurdle, and those whose challenges are complicated by or misdiagnosed as AD/HD. Our tutoring is individualized to the child's struggles.

Are you worried about the fees? We will do everything in our power to help you out financially. Our goal is to never turn away a child because of financial reasons.

Are you worried that you are seeking help too early or too late? Most of our students have fallen a year or more behind their peers in reading. If you are concerned now, please talk with us. But later will work fine, too. Every situation and child is different.

Are you worried that you will be pressured to send your child to Windy Row? Some parents and educators have spoken to us and then taken a year or even two to decide on Windy Row. Information is always helpful. Let us help.

Windy Row Learning Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping children who are struggling with reading and math. Our one-on-one specialized tutoring is available after school on Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday for one hour each session. We can be reached at 603-924-7198 or by email.

Helping Your Child Learn--A Windy Row Presentation

Do you know how children learn to read? Do you know how to recognize if a child needs professional help?

On Wednesday October 14 at 3:45 p.m., Windy Row's Stephanie Hood will offer a free presentation to parents, educators and professionals at Highbridge Elementary School in New Ipswich. She will explain the mechanics of reading and why some children struggle, answer questions and suggest ways to address reading issues for families and teachers. Many thanks to Highbridge Principal Marion Saari who invited Stephanie to speak at the school.

Stephanie Wood is an experienced English and special education teacher who worked in the Monadnock region and Massachusetts school districts. She has served as both a special education chair and an assistant vice-principal. After receiving her B.A. from Franklin Pierce, she went on to earn master degree in education from Antioch University. She has worked with Windy Row for over a year now, to share her insights into reading and the reading challenges experienced by young children.

How do you know if your child is ready to read?

When should you worry if your child is falling behind peers in reading?

Why is your child getting a reputation for "laziness" or "underachieving" when you know your child as a smart, perceptive kid?

What can you do if your child is exhausted by school work?

Bring us your questions; we'll help you find answers.

If you are interested in this interactive, lively presentation, please join us on October 14 at 3:45 p.m.

Want to bring Stephanie in to speak to your group? Contact Windy Row by phone (603-924-7198) or by email.

Reading as a Second Language

If speaking English is our first language, then reading English could be considered our "second" language. Just as many of us have difficulty learning a foreign language, children with reading challenges like dyslexia have difficulty learning to read. The causes may be different, but the frustrations and sense of failure are very similar.

Recently, I read a report about teaching English as a second language (ESL). The writer described the difficulties ESL students have in understanding the English alphabet, grasping cultural differences, locating the relevance of lessons to their everyday lives and even understanding the concept of reading for the first time. The ESL students who have the most difficulty are those who never learned to read in their own language, usually because there were no schools or reading was not a high priority. It struck me that children with reading challenges like dyslexia approach learning in very much the same way.

Here is a table from that report, comparing the learning styles of ESL students who are able to read with those who are not able to read:

ESL Readers

 ESL Nonreaders

a. Learn from print

a. Learn by doing and watching

b. Tend to be visually oriented

b. Tend to be aurally oriented

c. Make lists to remember

c. Repeat to remember

d. Spend years learning to read

d. Have limited time for learning to read

e. Know they can learn

e. Lack confidence in their learning ability

f. Have varying needs and goals

f. Have varying needs and goals

g. Learn best when content is relevant to their lives

g. Learn best when content is relevant to their lives

h. Can distinguish between important and less important points

h. May accept all content as being of equal value

Doing and watching, listening and repeating are some of the same skills that children with reading challenges often develop to compensate for not being able to read. They also lack confidence about reading, learn best when the content is relevant to their lives and may have difficulty in separating important from unimportant information.

Unlike learning a second language, total immersion does not work with dyslexia or other reading challenges. You can surround a struggling child with books and read to the child every day, but that child will still be unable to read. Specialized, one-on-one tutoring is needed. That's where Windy Row Learning Center excels. 

What Children Want to Know about Dyslexia

At Windy Row Learning Center, we know parents have many questions about dyslexia and reading challenges--and so do children. What we hear most often from children is that they feel "stupid" or "broken." They may have been told by other children, adults and even teachers that they are lazy and not working hard enough; that they are underachievers; and that they are disruptive, which you would be, too, if you were trapped in a room all day long facing failure after failure.

Dyslexia is nobody's fault. Every individual's brain works differently; we all have strengths and weaknesses; and those with reading challenges like dyslexia can learn techniques to help them read. Just a few centuries ago, suspicion fell on the few individuals who were able to read, not the majority who couldn't. Reading is a relatively new skill for human beings and is only one skill among many. 

Children with reading and math challenges need to know that they are not stupid or broken and help is available. They approach reading and math in a different way, and that difference has incredible benefits in creative thinking. Dyslexia is common among actors, musicians, artists and the most successful business entrepreneurs. All of those careers demand a unique and creative point of view.

No child has to suffer through 12 years of school unable to crack the math or reading code. Using Orton-Gillingham and other internationally known instructional methods, Windy Row brings children up to grade level and beyond through one-on-one individualized tutoring. Our students go from repeated failure to success, even to straight A's.

If you suspect your child might benefit from individual, professional reading or math tutoring, please reach out to Windy Row.

If you're an adult who has surmounted your reading challenges, please share your story with us and consider helping other children facing the hurdles you once faced.

Growing Up and Succeeding with Dyslexia

More and more individuals are "coming out" about their struggles with dyslexia. Whoopi Goldberg is one of them, as she explains in a recent video. She says, "It was nice to know I wasn't just lazy...and didn't have to explain myself any more."

American astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrassse Tyson, talks about working with fellow scientists who have dyslexia and dyscalculia.

CEO Leana Greene talks about how she was "never good in school" and how she "sees patterns that other people don't see" in a short video about her dyslexia.

As many of you may know, Henry Winkler, actor, writer, and producer, is also dyslexic; in an interview, he discusses his dyslexia and his problems growing up undiagnosed. He says, "Every book I read I have to read in hardcover and it has to be on my shelf so I can see it because every one of them is a triumph."

The point of all these examples is that dyslexia is not a stop sign on success--it is more like a detour that might even take you through beautiful countryside you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Dyslexia doesn't go away, but there are techniques which allow children to master reading. Because reading is so essential in every aspect of our lives, and especially in a school-aged child's life, having access to those techniques is very important. It is also important to have people who understand that dyslexia is not laziness or a refusal to learn. It is a learning disability.

At Windy Row Learning Center in West Peterborough, New Hampshire, we use a multi-sensory approach and age-appropriate methods to help children with dyslexia make the connection between the shapes of letters and their sounds; between groupings of letters and words; and between groupings of words and content. Our tutors are all specially trained and have years of experience with children in kindergarten through grade 10. Please contact us.

 

What Is Reading?

What professionals talk about reading, the two words that most often come up are "phonological awareness" and "decoding."  

Phonological awareness is the ability to identify the different sounds for letter and then associate sounds with written words. It is the basis of reading. A reader also needs to be able to put sounds together to make words. For example, if you know how to read "cat" and see "bat," you should realize that the "at" sound is being used again. There are 44 separate sounds (phonemes) in English. "Cat" contains three of them--the hard cee, the short a and the tee. 

Decoding is the ability to quickly and accurately join sounds to make words and join smaller words to make bigger words. For example, you should be able to read "seesaw" if you know the words "see" and "saw." 

In brief, children with reading disabilities have difficulty relating letters and words to their sounds and vice versa. They generally need more one-on-one help than their peers to develop phonological awareness and decoding skills. As many as one in 20 children has some sort of reading challenge, including dyslexia.

The US Department of Education recommends universal screening to find children at risk for reading disabilities. "In both research and practice, [testing] usually involves measures of early literacy and foundational reading skills, including phonemic awareness, letter naming fluency, concepts about print, word reading, and oral language ability, including vocabulary."  

The programs that we use at Windy Row Learning Center in West Peterborough, New Hampshire, are grounded in phonological awareness and decoding. We give children techniques to help their eyes and ears work together. Step by patient step, we give children the tools to be successful readers.

The children who come to Windy Row vary in age from kindergarteners to 10th graders. They are all struggling to keep up with their peers in reading and some of them are 1, 2 or more years behind in reading. Because our tutors are specially trained, they use teaching techniques that are developmentally appropriate; they take into account the age of each child so that the child is always engaged in the lessons. 

Do you know a child who is struggling to read? Please give us a call today.

Learning Disabilities: Math

Dyscalculia is the term used to describe a severe inability to do math; it is often called "math dyslexia." In New Hampshire school systems, the terms "dyscalculia"  and "dyslexia" may not be used but they are covered as "learning disabilities."

As with reading challenges, math challenges do not mean that your child is unable to learn. Reading and math are skills, just like driving and cooking--we all know very intelligent bad cooks! At Windy Row Learning Center in Peterborough, New Hampshire, we give children techniques for sharpening their math (and reading) skills so that they can reach grade level and continue to learn.

If your child is counting with fingers much longer than other children, has trouble estimating or understanding concepts like "more" or "less," cannot follow a sequence of directions, has no memory for numbers or cannot tell time when other children that age can tell time, your child may have dyscalculia. Sometimes math and reading challenges occur together, but not always. Windy Row's reading tutors keep an eye out for difficulties with math. We have specialized math programs that give children tools for dealing with and overcoming their math challenges.

Every day we use math to create a budget, pay bills, estimate the time a trip will take, arrive on time at an appointment, plan our vacation or measure the ingredients for a cake. Math enters our lives when we follow directions ("go left at the second traffic light") or play games ("go 4 spaces") or order a cup of coffee ("do you want a large or small?"). In many ways, an inability to do math is as limiting as an inability to read.

Your child may not have a formal diagnosis of dyscalculia. However, if you feel that there is a difficulty, please contact Windy Row. We are open to answering questions and will refer you to other resources if we cannot help.  

Dyslexia in New Hampshire

As the fledgling New Hampshire branch of Decoding Dyslexia has mentioned on its website, "Many parents in NH are being told by their local school districts that dyslexia is not a term recognized by that district and therefore they have no services for a child with dyslexia." However, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does specifically mention dyslexia as a learning disability that school districts should address. 

Here in New Hampshire, we have a branch of the International Dyslexia Association; a Children's Dyslexia Center in Nashua; and a program at Southern New Hampshire University that was launch in 2014 to provide a Master's in Education specializing in dyslexia and language-based learning disorders.

And, of course, right in Peterborough in the Monadnock Region of New Hampshire, we have Windy Row Learning Center, which has helped children with dyslexia and other reading challenges since 2003. 

As our executive director, Dr. Cheryl Orcutt has often said in interviews, "Why do we think all children learn the same way? Dyslexia is a spectrum." Reading challenges can manifest themselves in different ways but they have in common an inability for the child to read at the same level of peers; and a likelihood that problems will become more obvious after the 2nd or 3rd grade when children reading is an essential part of learning.

The earlier problems are caught, the earlier that children can learn techniques for overcoming their specific challenges. Unfortunately, New Hampshire does not have specific legislation for early diagnosis of dyslexia and intervention, even though as many as 1 in 20 children has some form of reading challenge. Such legislation has been passed in about 15 states to date.

As a result, many New Hampshire students are misdiagnosed every year with ADD, developmental delays and behavioral problems, when what they need is help with reading. Windy Row therefore launched a program to bring information about reading, math and writing challenges (dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia) to New Hampshire parents and educators. Please info [at] windyrow.org (contact us) for more information about this program and our one-on-one specialized tutoring.

Dyslexia and the Law

Several states have laws now that specifically mandate screening and/or intervention for reading disabilities like dyslexia. Those states include California, Colorado, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington. For example, the Wyoming law reads as follows: "Each school district shall design and implement a reading screening program that measures student reading progress and includes prescreening for dyslexia and other reading difficulties as early as possible in kindergarten through grade three..."

New Hampshire does not have specific legislation related to dyslexia although the symptoms of dyslexia are recognized under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1990, as a learning disability "which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to....read."

Early intervention for reading challenges, as with most learning disabilities, is very important. Children who begin to fall behind their peers in reading continue to fall behind. With the help of specially trained tutors and teachers, they can be taught how to read. Without that help, their self-esteem suffers a blow that takes a long time to heal. In addition, they begin to dislike school--as anyone would who had to spend hour after hour failing.

Since 2003, Windy Row Learning Center has helped Monadnock Region children learn to read; we accept children as young as kindergarten age (see page 2 of our current newsletter) through grade 10. Based on Orton-Gillingham and other internationally known programs, our tutors create individual, step-by-step instruction for each child to address the physical barriers to reading and provide emotional support to address the psychological hurts from being unable to read. We are located in West Peterborough, New Hampshire, and we would be happy to answer any questions you have about our program or about reading challenges. Please info [at] windyrow.org (contact) us.

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