What can you do during the winter weather to help your kids improve their skills? This question is a frequent one for me. Parents are always interested in helping their kids, but it is sometimes hard to stay motivated, especially during the winter months.
The following activities work well with all kids, whether they have dyslexia, LD, ADHD, are falling through the cracks, or are gifted. I have done the activities successfully with all of them!
I have two favorite things to do to not only help my kids, but to stay motivated doing it too. The first thing is to have more frequent game nights, playing educational games - learning games like The Sentence Zone, The Comprehension Zone, or The Math Zone. When you play games with your kids, they build skills while having fun and get a lot of modeling from you too. At the same time you get to have quality family time, so it is a double win situation.
The other activity I like to do is to have an evening where I might turn the heat up a degree or two, and everyone gets dressed in ‘summer’ clothes, and we have a ‘picnic’ on the floor of the living room. Afterwards, we might tell stories to each other – what I call ‘add-on stories.’ In these stories one person starts off and then the next person adds on to the story. We keep going round and round and the story gets longer and longer. The only thing is, the kids have to pay attention and so do you, so what you add on makes sense to the story. This builds listening comprehension and memory as well as a really good time.
Hope this is helpful!
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET
When do you start giving your kids reading help? When do you teach them reading readiness?
You would be amazed at the number of children I've seen over the years that have needed reading help that didn't have a solid foundation of reading readiness skills. This goes for children that are in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th grade. So, when I received the following question from Karen, I thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on reading help and reading readiness.
I just received a letter from Karen regarding activities for teaching her triplets.
"My triplets are 5 yrs. old and in kindergarten this year. One is a special needs child. I could use ideas for teaching multiples. There is no older sibling to model. Also, trying to work with our special needs daughter and the others creates many challenges."
I know what you mean about challenges - working with 3 kids at the same time and one of them being a special needs child can be difficult.
Here are some tips for working with kids at the same time - whether they are in kindergarten or any of the primary grades.
I would pick a time to work with each of the kids individually - for 10 to 15 minutes so they get some individual time with you. While working with one of them the other two can be doing something like coloring or listening to a book on tape.
In fact, you can even read their favorite books into a tape - at a speed that is comfortable for them to listen to and then they can listen to you reading to them - following along with your voice - while you are doing some individual work/activity with the others. Then you are still being 'present' to the one/s you aren't working with.
You might even set up a special spot with their stuffed animals and a large pillow where they get to listen to the books. So it winds up being the 'special place' where they get to listen to stories.
Also, I would do things like playing Simon Says, bean- bag toss,hop-scotch, or red light green light - games that are relatively easy to do with all 3 that would also work on listening skills and following directions.
You are at the perfect time for doing reading readiness activities with your kids. Remember, all kids need the following readiness skills in order to do well with school tasks. These specific readiness skills are critical to being a successful learner. Reading help is lessened when these readiness skills are in place.
Readiness skills can be categorized into the following areas:
I would be interested to know more about how you make your
visual clocks and what they look like.
As a teacher of K- H.S. age, I have a lot of resources and supplies. I'm a learning disability specialist and educational therapist as well as parent. I have ADD & have worked with ADHD kids for over 30 years. So, I have a number of telling time work sheets that are blank as well as a large blank clock stamp for making clocks.
The stamp can be gotten from
And, I just did an online search and found this site where you can program in your times on the clocks and then print the sheets.
After making them, I would copy them on card stock paper to make them more durable and cut them from the sheets so I can tape them across the top or side of their desk.
You can even color code the hands of the clock or copy them on different colors of card stock to make it even easier for your kids to follow.
Hope this helps.
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET
P.S.: Don't forget to sign up for the 10 FREE homework & teaching tips - right above my photo.
Back to School…
What can you do to make your life a lot easier? Anna Weinstein from education.com contacted me earlier this week and asked if she could interview me about what parents of LD children could do to help there kids have a great start to the school year. We recorded the interview, so you can hear it here.
Here are a few of the highlights that you will hear Bonnie talking about:
At 4 min: There is a special tip regarding school supply tips to help your child be more organized.
At 6 min: How do you organize your homework area
At 7:29 min: Specific supplies that help the homework time
At 15:53 min: How much time should kids spend on homework – especially when they have dyslexia or LD?
At 17:30 min: How do you talk to teachers?
At 21:05 min: Specific things to tell the teacher to set your child up to have a great year
At 25:40 min: Can you just contact the teacher via email or does it have to be in person?
At 29:44 min: Isn’t there a system put in place already for me to meet all of my kid’s support team?
At 31:54 min: Doesn’t the teacher already know what my child needs – he was pulled out last year for services?
At 38:45 min: Why you want to have a clear understanding of what is going on with your child
At 40:00 min: Ways to keep track of your child’s assignments
At 42:40 min: Parent self care & support for parents
At 47:30 min: Evening family routine
At 51:27 min: Best way to speak with the teacher or principal
Listen to it here!
I've been in contact with two parents regarding using visual clocks to help their children keep track of transition times at school. Thought you might be interested in their questions and my response to them.
Has anyone used visual charts with pictures of items and clock faces
that show time? I am having trouble finding websites so I can get one
set up for school to show my son when he will be doing things. I talked
last year about it but the teacher never did it and I want to try this
year and see if it helps but I can not find sites
Nichole from MI
I would love to have whatever info you get. Can you use
Boardmaker? We asked the school if WE could provide our son with a visual
schedule to help him at school, and they said "no - then the other kids
would want one." The sad part is that we didn't pursue it. This year,
though, we are at least going to do that at home.
I've used visual clocks but I've made them myself. What I would do is to
make up my own clocks and then go in to meet the teacher and say something
to the effect of "I'm so glad to meet you. We're looking forward to a
great year with you. I know you have my son's (daughter's) best interest
at heart and want to help him/her succeed. I just wanted to give you a
heads up on what has worked for us. Using visual clocks that are on
his/her desk to denote the change in subject or class makes a big
difference in their day. I know how busy you are with the start up of the
year so I went ahead and made them up for him/her. If you could just tell
us your transition times so we can fill them in that would be great."
This type of statement tells them rather than asks, but tells them in a
nice way and you are being helpful by making them up and taping them to
the desk. It is also giving the teacher credit for working with you to
help your child succeed as well as getting them off the hook with the
statement that you know how busy they are with starting up the school
I hope this helps!
BTW: I'm a parent as well as a teacher
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET
P.S. Feel free to ask you questions and/or leave a comment!
A parent recently wrote in:Is a language disability considered a learning disability? My son has problems with both expressive and receptive language. He has a big difference between his visual and verbal scores on his test. That turned his language delay into a disability. There was a very large difference between the two. He is much better with visual than verbal, but I knew that when he was little. He has always been very visual. He also needs some help with speech, but the main problem is language. He also needs help with social skills and behavioral help.
I do have an IEP meeting scheduled in a few weeks so it will be ready to be implemented when he starts 1st grade. What kinds of things should I have in his IEP so that he is taught visually? Is there anything I should ask about? He is already getting speech and language help one day a week at school, but his diagnosis has changed from delay to disability since that was implemented.
In one word, yes, a language disability is considered a learning disability.
Specific Learning Disability: A disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Disability categories: IDEA disability categories include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment (e.g., asthma, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, nephritis, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia and Tourette syndrome), specific learning disability, (e.g., Perceptual Disabilities, Brain Injury, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, Dyslexia, Developmental Aphasia), speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment (including blindness), and developmental delay.
There are a few other things I'd like to share with you.
1. In CA there are services for those with severe speech &/or language disabilities. Kids are typically placed in a classroom where the teacher has a background speech & language [typically a speech & language pathologist].
Placement in a class that is specifically designed for speech & language students where I live are actually county classes - in other words, the county office of education has classes sprinkled throughout several public schools and they bus the kids to the specific school that has the program/class they need. These classes are for those with more severe language problems than one or two sessions per week with the speech person in a pull out program would be providing.
"Language is often described in two ways: expressive language and receptive language. Individuals with LD often have difficulty with both expressive and receptive language. There is a strong relationship between language and learning disabilities. Articles within this section provide information for parents and teachers about early warning signs of speech and language difficulties." [LD Online]
2.Even if you send your child to a private school, if you want, you can access speech & language services from the public school. You will need to transport your child at the time of day the public school schedules him, but the public school should be providing it.
I was in a similar circumstance a number of years ago. One of my students was in a private school and I attended the IEP meeting at the public school. The parents kept the student at the private school but were able to transport him to the public school for resource services provided by the public school.
3.Regarding the IEP, you will want to come as prepared as possible. You might ask your son's current teacher for any special things he/she is doing for your son. You will want to also make notes yourself on how he works best at home. To get a fuller picture of what is going on, you may want to avail yourself of an informal comprehensive assessment tool like the Learning Difficulty/Disability Pre-Screening Tool and Informal Comprehensive Identification Tool. It will give you a lot of information so you will be coming from a position of knowledge and strength to the meeting.
I'm so excited...just posted my first video answering, "What do you do when your child is overwhelmed by the text on a page?"
Hope you enjoy the video. See it here:
More on solutions to the 3 roadblocks to reading success.
LD Online just posted this interesting article from Educational Therapist Regina Richards. I thought you would enjoy it.
By: Regina G. Richards (2008)
I shake myself to stop daydreaming…Writing is definitely the worst task of all. It was just way too hard to remember all the things I need, like periods and capital letters. And then it's almost impossible to think about how to spell words when I'm busy trying to think about the story. It's so hard to remember what I'm writing about.
— Eli Richards from The Boy Who Hated to Write: Understanding Dysgraphia, p. 36
Students benefit when they compensate for writing problems. Why? Because the struggle to write often interferes with learning and prevents students from fully demonstrating what they have learned. Compensating helps them bypass the problem area and still accomplish the goal of the activity.
Some example classroom compensations include the following:
Dividing the task into smaller units and performing each subtask independently. Some students become overwhelmed because tasks appear to be too large or have too many steps. Staging helps them focus on each subtask with greater concentration and an emphasis on quality.
Other topics include: Decreasing Quantity, Increasing Time, Copying, Adjusting Writing Format, etc. Read more...
For more writing help and games that teach grammar and sentence writing that solve the 3 roadblocks to writing...writing help
One of the critical questions I often get is why should I do an informal assessment of my child? Can't the school do an assessment and tell me why my child is having trouble learning?
Yes, the school can test your child, but the tests used by the schools don't always give you the whole picture. For example, sometimes a child is shown to have poor auditory memory because they were not able to repeat nonsense syllables or random digits. These activities have absolutely no meaning to your child. You know that your child can often tell you a long story about something that happened the day or week before.
Using an informal assessment in the comfort of your home that utilizes parent observation can give you the opportunity to do an assessment from your own observations of your child. Remember, you are the one that knows your child best. Then, when you have the results of your evaluation, you have a starting place to approach the school if formal testing is indicated. You can even suggest areas that need to be tested more thoroughly than might otherwise be tested, so the school can get an accurate picture of your child. (TheLD Dyslexia Screening Toolgives lists of suggested formal tests that can be requested if indicated upon scoring the informal test.)