Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bipartisan Resolution to Support Students with Dyslexia

1 in 5 individuals have dyslexia.

Self-made millionaires are four times more likely than the rest of the population to be dyslexic.

It is real. It is amazing. Those with dyslexia change our world. It should be fully recognized.

We want our future thinkers to be "progressive", individual and well-educated; we must then reflect this within our culture and policies.

Congress is taking steps in this direction. They need to know if their constituents support an educational environment and direction which recognizes the gifts of all learners. Let them know.

Below is the text of the Resolution. For more information, including sample letters, check out the Wrightslaw blog or Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

[Congressional Bills 113th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H. Res. 456 Introduced in House (IH)]
Calling o
2d Session
H. RES. 456l agencies to
recognize that dyslexia has significan
n schools and State and local education at educational implications that must be addressed.
January 10, 2014
r. Cassidy (for himself and Ms. Brownley of California) submitted the
and the Workforce
following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Education
RESOLUTION Calling on schools
and State and local educational agencies to
unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has
recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed. Whereas, defined as an intelligence to be a much better reader, dyslexia reflects a difficulty in getting to the individual sounds of spoken language which
ecting one out of five individuals in
some form, and is persistent;
typically impacts speaking, reading, spelling, and often, learning a second language; Whereas dyslexia is highly prevalent, af fWhereas dyslexia is a paradox, so that often the same individual who has a weakness in decoding or reading fluency also has strengths in higher
de in understanding dyslexia at a scientific
level, including its epide
level cognitive functions such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, and problem solving; Whereas great progress has been m amiology, and cognitive and neurobiological bases; and Whereas diagnosis of dyslexia is critical, and must lead to focused, evidence- based interventions, necessary accommodations, self-awareness, self-
nt educational implications that must be addressed.
empowerment, and school and life success: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significance.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Student Success Act Could Derail Progress

I am inserting a message I received from the National Council for Learning Disabilities in my inbox this morning. I have already submitted a letter to my representative and urge others to do the same. There are no easy solutions to the current crisis in education we have in our nation, but this is definitely not the answer for effective change - only to increase misconceptions about quality education for students with learning disabilities. 

Don't Take Students Off the Path to a Regular Diploma.

Stop H.R.5This is big. The Student Success Act (H.R.5) is up for a full vote this week on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and if the bill passes, it will be a disaster for students with disabilities.

Why? H.R.5 allows unlimited alternate assessments on alternate standards for students with disabilities — this practice could force millions of students off the path to a regular high school diploma. 

Here are the top five reasons we have to stop this:
  1. H.R.5 lowers expectations for students with disabilities.
  2. H.R.5 turns the clock back to a time when students with disabilities were not expected to graduate from high school or attend college.
  3. H.R.5 allows tracking of students as early as third grade.
  4. H.R.5 will lower the amount of early intervention, targeted instruction and support for struggling students.
  5. H.R.5 is the first education bill to make it to the floor since 2001 — 12 years ago! — and will set the stage for how students with LD are treated for years to come.
Now is the time to act. Tell your Representative to vote against H.R.5. 

(Note: You can act on this alert even if you did so before, because H.R.5 is now headed for a full vote in Congress.)

Write Your Representatives!
NCLD has a letter which can be personalized (follow the links above). This is from that template but I did add my own statements as well. 

As a nation we must have an expectation that all students will graduate college and career ready and this won't happen unless ESEA sets academic performance targets and graduation goals, requires improved instruction in struggling schools and limits the use of alternate assessments.
 Unlimited alternate assessments can be positive for specific groups of students, but for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities it can be catastrophic. In an effort to save money, schools already deny simple accommodations such as a reader or extended time for students who have a right to them. When it is allowable to stop reporting the scores of these students when improperly assessed rather than properly taught and supported AND assessed, we are not only opening the door to return to bad practice, but we are sending a message to those 2.2. million American students that while the adults are working hard with Responses to Intervention and wanting to get all students to success after graduation and they're just not worth the whole effort anymore. There are the 2.2 million American students with learning disabilities and many thousands more who struggle in school which are completely separate from physical and cognitive impairments. Over the past decade, as a result of the ESEA's focus on accountability and support, education results have improved for these students.These are certainly not perfect and can be challenging for schools to follow through upon, but they are necessary! Congress can continue this progress by reauthorizing ESEA using three core principles:
  1. Students with disabilities must be fully and equitably included;
  2. All students with learning disabilities must stay on track to graduate with a regular high school diploma;
  3. The law must increase access to early intervention and effective instruction.
 I urge you to vote against H.R.5 because this bill, if enacted, could take millions of students with disabilities off the path to a regular high school diploma.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dyslexia and Echoes of "Who's on First?"

"Mrs. B, what is dyslexia and how do I know I have it?"

"Well, wonderful, creative thinker I know, dyslexia is how we describe a brain that does not process language through what is considered an efficient or neurotypical process. People with dyslexia do not have typical development with reading, writing, spelling and other language-processing based tasks or skills. Researchers are finding that there are different categories of dyslexia and can show what brain activity is, or is not, operating efficiently when a person with dyslexia is processing language. 

Even though there is not a medication that can alleviate dyslexia directly, an official diagnosis of dyslexia requires a visit to a medical professional who performs an assessment and interprets the assessment results based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. The DSM first came out in 1952. The DSM-V, I mean DSM-5 is due out next Spring. 

Major studies are currently being published and funded through the National Institute of Health to further explore these neurological factors so teachers, parents and others can better support individuals with dyslexia. This is fabulous, because as recently as my mother's generation, people who struggled with reading were considered stupid, lazy or even brain damaged. I am thrilled that modern society is moving away from such a limited understanding of your creative brain."

Historical Definitions and Terms for Dyslexia Up to the Coming Soon DSM-5
Brain damage.
Congenital word blindness.
Specific Reading Difficulty.
Reading Disorder (Dyslexia).
315.00 Reading Disorder.
No Longer Recommended - See A 08 Specific Learning Disorder, Type Specified in Diagnosis From Following Domains of Academic Difficulties and Their Subskills Impaired at Time of Assessment:

  1. Reading (Word reading accuracy, Reading rate or fluency, and/or Reading comprehension)
  2. Written Expression (Spelling accuracy, Grammar and punctuation accuracy, Legible or fluent handwriting, and/or Clarity and organization of written expression)
  3. Mathematics (Memorizing arithmetic facts, Accurate or fluent calculations, and/or Effective math reasoning)

"So Mrs. B, what does that really mean?"

"Well, wonderful, creative thinker I know, it feels a lot like the educational version of "Who's On First?". I think I'm not so thrilled anymore."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"What now?"

I am proud to be an X for tomorrow! 

I have followed TED events online for many years now and never cease to be inspired. Tomorrow is TEDx Grand Rapids and I will be at the Livestreaming for Education. 

I was looking over the directions and information this evening and reading a few pointers on what to expect: surprises; opportunities to start exploring the What Now ideas; encouragement to share; and an environment totally open to interpretation - YES!!!!!!

C'mon Grand Rapids, what can we do? What will we do together? What now?!

Monday, January 30, 2012

The New Sundance Kid

I have always known the name Robert Redford . . . watching him in movies with my mom while I was growing up, seeing him in some adventure films when I was in high school and college, watching the Sundance Festival grow into maturity through the "newsreels" and enjoyed films after they've made a name there. I am not ordinarily a person who knows what movies are actually debuting at the Festival or, truthfully, even when the Festival is each year. I do now. The Redfords brought Dyslexia to the Festival. There's a "new" Sundance Kid: Dylan Redford, brave son of James Redford and talented grandson of Robert Redford.

I grew up with family members with dyslexia. We didn't know they had dyslexia until my sister and I were both adults. All we knew was that we had a wonderful roller coaster of emotions, creativity and love. We had some quirky family members, but doesn't everyone? Amazing though, that until there was a diagnosis of dyslexia and/or ADD, we didn't seem to fully believe that we also had some brilliant selves.

I have worked with learners with dyslexia for...well, for enough years now that I know my stuff. Educating kids and communities about the gifts of non-traditional learners is not only my job, it's my passion. After my daughter was diagnosed in 1st grade, shining the light on the fact that dyslexia is not a negative thing became even more of a passion. Finding materials for her and my students that show both the challenges and the fabulous-ness that comes with a dyslexic brain can be difficult. Many of them are good and filled with important information, but they still leave a reader or viewer with a sense of pity, a sense that "if only"  . . . . that their lives would have been better in some way. Why? Because they'd be more like everyone else? The world would be a pretty boring place then.

That does not mean that all the challenges faced are necessary or even acceptable. The truth is, that no matter what, they will have challenges - challenges learning to read or remember accurately language-based concepts and/or tasks being just a few. They most certainly do not need the additional challenge of judgement or feeling inferior because their brains process language differently then expected in school settings. The only way to reduce that obstacle is through education. Good information in good places to spread the message. Thank you Dylan, James and Kyle Redford for leading the way!!

The D-Word Movie: Understanding Dyslexia
The D Word: Understanding Dyslexia skillfully explores the complex and often challenging world faced by those who have this disability.  - Sundance Film Guide

I now know that The Sundance Film Festival is held each year, mid-January, in Utah. 

I am nowhere near Utah, but this year it's been like waiting for the new Star Wars or Harry Potter for me. 

Dyslexia makes a debut at The Festival:
The D Word gets an A-grade; it's an exemplary example of educational documentary filmmaking. - The Hollywood Reporter, Jan. 26, 2012
Such as review is like sharing icing on the yummiest cake imaginable, even though I won't truly get to eat a piece.

On top of that, the film utilizes a unique perspective by not just educating on the downsides of dyslexia, but also what it truly means to be dyslexic, and the creative pluses that can come from such a condition. - Film Threat Reviews, Jan. 21, 2012

As a sister, a daughter, a friend, a teacher, an advocate, and most importantly to my heart these days, a mom of someone with dyslexia, Mark Bell's review at Film Threat brings tears of joy to my eyes. It's about time! The creative pulses that most often emerge from the brains of  individuals with dyslexia are those that change our world for the better.

A New Kid In Town
I have not seen this film yet, but I have been spreading the word as much as I can. I am hoping this film will make the rounds in our area as well as on HBO. I am working to help this happen. I look forward to taking my daughter to this film so she can be proud.

I grew up with Robert Redford as an already established icon. I'm sure my mom had a poster or two with him on them at some time. I have a "poster" hanging in my work cubicle of The D-Word Movie. I have a strong feeling that in a few years, my daughter will also recognize the Redford name, but for a more personal reason. She will know that Mr. Redford "get's it". I will probably even have to ask her which Mr. Redford - and I can already hear her older voice in my head responding, "Duh. Dylan mom!". He will be her Sundance Kid.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Graphing

As I've been streaming and listening to the local radio station with my daughters this past week, I realized that this season provides an opportunity for some authentic, differentiated graphing, probability and intentional listening practice.

To Do
Pick a song. Select a day or time period. Estimate how many times you'll hear that song (each can pick their own song even!). Then, keep track and compare.

I thought about it as we were on our way to school the other morning. My eight year old informed me that she had heard I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus "at least 12 times already" that morning. Really? I would've loved to test that probable over-generalization -but I was actually feeling like it had been over 100 times.

Have fun - while I've been typing, I've heard what must be my fifth Frosty of the day!

Other Extensions/Additions
  • Compare numbers of female artists and male artists.
  • Do you hear any you don't already know?
  • Compare hymns and "secular" songs.
  • Country artists vs. contemporary artists.
  • Songs with lyrics vs. instrumental.

Monday, October 17, 2011

RTI in a Nutshell

In the GR area? Join me Thursday, October 20 from 4-5 at the Rivertown Barnes & Noble. I have an opportunity to provide an overview for teachers and parents of going through the RTI process for reading and what resources are available through SLD Center and the GR Community.

Event Information at Barnes & Noble

Event Informational Invite