Guest Blog by Rafael Scarnati
Executive Director at Learning Foundations Cognitive Training Center
Learning Ally’s December 2016 Specialist of the month
My parents were both teachers (that’s how they met) and I started teaching right out of college. After only three years, I realized that no matter how hard I tried to motivate some of my students to be successful, it was just not enough.
I never received any training on identifying or working with students with dyslexia, so I had the same misconceptions as most other educators do. I was taught that using colored paper would solve the problem for my dyslexic students.
It wasn’t until I read Overcoming Dyslexia and learned about Orton-Gillingham methods through Susan Barton that a passion ignited in me to help students with dyslexia overcome their unique challenges. Now, I get to work with these students all the time and see them grow and thrive in many important ways.
In my mind, there are 3 keys to help struggling kids and teens overcome their reading challenges:
1) Intervention – This is key. Using multisensory, structured language instruction in a 1 to 1 setting will give the child the underlying tools he or she needs to become a comfortable, efficient and confident reader and speller.
2) Accommodations – These help make the educational experience more enjoyable for the child. This helps them go from hating books and reading, to actually enjoying them and wanting to read more. Audiobooks play a very important role here as they allow kids to continue to love stories, and continue to learn content from textbooks without the stress and anxiety that print-reading produces. Learning Ally is an incredibly valuable tool for all of our students.
What Learning Ally has that is worth much more than the price of membership is that all of their books are read by actual people. This is critical when trying to get an already struggling student to comprehend by allowing him or her to pay attention to the tone, volume and prosody in the reader’s voice.
3) Development of natural strengths – Often forgotten is the fact that people with dyslexia have a lot of natural talents and abilities. Kids and teens with dyslexia should be allowed ample time to develop those skills. Extra curricular activities such as acting, robotics, martial arts, dance, Junior Achievement, playing with Lego’s or Minecraft etc, will allow kids to continue honing skills and talents that won’t get graded in school, but are still very marketable career skills.
At our free parent information sessions, I hear a lot of the parents concerns, grievances and fears regarding their children’s struggles. They often are very emotional since many of them are going through the same frustrations. It gives me immense joy to see those same parents a month into their child’s program with a sense of optimism and pride. Even more so, is to hear the success stories from parents and from the kids themselves.
As I write this, a grandparent in our waiting room just shared that her granddaughter was so proud to read out loud to her, her dad and grandpa for the very first time. She had tears in her eyes, and so did I.
Find out more about dyslexia, audiobooks and resources by visiting LearningAlly.org. We have a tutor and specialist network, student-to-student events, and teacher and parent support.
– Jules Johnson
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