In this Episode
Dyslexia can be corrected.
And we don’t mean temporary accommodations like dyslexic-friendly fonts. We’re talking about life-long transformation.
We’ve been correcting dyslexia for over 35 years and the brain research has been out there even longer. But this still isn’t widely known. Join our mission and spread the word that dyslexia isn’t a life-long sentence to struggle.
This week’s podcast guest is Dr. Joan Smith, author of You Don’t Have to Be Dyslexic. She shares the latest brain research and therapies for dyslexia.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- Common symptoms of dyslexia like having a weak memory
- How a dyslexic brain is wired differently
- Sample therapies used to treat dyslexia
"People who experience dyslexic learning styles are usually extremely bright, extremely creative, and they're very talented. And I think that's the confusion that often prevents them from getting some help because they are able to cover it so well."
- Dr. Joan Smith
- You Don’t Have to Be Dyslexic by Dr. Joan Smith
- Edu-Therapeutics - Dr. Joan Smith's company website
- Learning Ability Platform (LAP)- Online tool full of dyslexia therapies developed by Dr. Joan Smith
Does your kid confuse the order of words?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A for more simple ways of detecting dyslexia in your child so that you can get them tested and treated ASAP.
[00:00:01.140] - Jill Stowell
Did you know that 43 million children and adults in our country may have dyslexia? Dyslexia is now considered to be the most common language based learning disability, with most sources citing an estimated 15% to 20% of school age children as being dyslexic. Today we're going to talk about correcting dyslexia and the research behind it. This is LD Expert Live.
[00:00:42.560] - Jill Stowell
Several years ago, a mom came in and told me the story of their journey with their dyslexic son. It was such a classic tale that I asked her if I could write it down to share. It's a little bit long, but I want to read it to you today because you may recognize your child in this story or maybe even yourself. Here's what this mom said.
[00:01:10.540] - Jill Stowell
She said, starting in kindergarten, the teachers have said that there was something wrong with my beautiful, friendly, athletic son. My son, who is an actor, who is so polite and mature. The kindergarten teacher wondered if it was dyslexia, but he was so young that the confusion with letters and getting words out of sequence and when telling things could just be a function of his age. Just be careful, the teacher said.
[00:01:41.400] - Jill Stowell
So I was in first grade. The teacher said, I've been studying dyslexia, and I know he's young, but I'm sure he has it. Let's get him tested. So I did, and the school psychologist said that he tested too high, his comprehension was too good. He didn't have dyslexia, and nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong. But my son couldn't read or write without a huge struggle. So we spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in tutoring, hammering in the reading. Still, every year the teacher sees that something is not right.
[00:02:23.740] - Jill Stowell
In second grade, it was he comes up to my desk 20 times a day to ask questions. He's not listening. In third grade, it was, he's got ADHD, get him on medication. In fourth grade, he was lazy and not trying hard enough. Now in fifth grade, my son has started to hate school.
[00:02:49.060] - Jill Stowell
He's cute and easy going, intellectual and athletic, still acting and so normal in every way, except when it comes to reading and writing. Especially writing. The words get jumbled in the sentences. Words he memorized for his spelling test are coming back completely misspelled. When he writes, his papers come back with D's and F's and comments like, "Really? This was an open book test and this is the best you could do today?" My son said, I don't think I'll make it to 6th grade.
[00:03:30.860] - Jill Stowell
This mom went on to say, after reading an article on dyslexia, I realized that it was describing my son and my husband and myself, my mother and my grandmother sorry, my grandfather. She said, if you had asked me yesterday, I would have said there was no history of dyslexia in my family.
[00:03:53.410] - Jill Stowell
But now my 82 year old grandfather to this day, cannot read or write he passes birthday cards to my grandmother to read, blaming his vision. My mother sometimes says things that make us all wrinkle our brows as she puts words in the wrong place in sentences and mixes up sounds. She laughs it off and says, oh, you know what I mean?
[00:04:18.190] - Jill Stowell
My husband is brilliant and accomplished, but I can't let him read to my son anymore because he reads so haltingly and leaves out or mixes up words. I have to correct every email he writes because the spelling and word order are atrocious. And me? Well, I was a terrible student. I worked so hard and so long, but I never got good grades.
[00:04:44.310] - Jill Stowell
And when my high school counselor asked what I wanted to be, I was told that what I'd set my sights on since second grade would not be possible for me, not with my grades. Thankfully, I was creative and started my own successful business while still in high school. She ended by saying, I want a different story for my son.
[00:05:13.240] - Jill Stowell
This is a story that we hear over and over from parents. Today we are talking about dyslexia with one of the experts in the field, you can have a different story for your child. Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia learning and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of a brand new book, Take the Stone Out of the Shoe: A Must Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning and Attention Challenges. This book will help you understand why some bright children and teens have more difficulty than expected in school. It provides simple, practical tools for supporting struggling students at home and in the classroom. Most importantly, it presents real solutions and the science behind them.
[00:06:18.690] - Jill Stowell
My guest today is Dr. Joan Smith. Joan is a licensed school psychologist, licensed speech pathologist, and an incredible teacher and trainer, a researcher and program developer, she is the author of the book, You Don't Have to Be Dyslexic, and I know you are going to love hearing from her. Welcome, Joan.
[00:06:44.810] - Dr. Joan Smith
Well, thank you, Jill. It's good to see you back.
[00:06:48.710] - Jill Stowell
It's great to have you back.
[00:06:52.540] - Dr. Joan Smith
I was really intrigued with your story because it illustrated one of my favorite things, which is people who experience dyslexic learning styles are usually extremely bright, extremely creative, and they're very talented. And I think that the confusion that often prevents them from getting some help because they come...
[00:07:21.340] - Jill Stowell
Yeah, you're absolutely right. They are able to cover it so well because they're smart and they're talented, and a lot of times people don't they kind of look at these kids and because they might be very verbal or, you know, very talented in other ways or good at other things, they just feel like they're not trying hard enough.
[00:07:48.640] - Dr. Joan Smith
Yes. And that's what they're told. Just try harder. You could do it. So they feel their problem, something that they're not doing and feel guilty about that they hide that too. Right. I think that's a huge piece.
[00:08:03.560] - Dr. Joan Smith
You have dyslexia. It's not just that you can't read, but you aren't getting information that's allowing you to gain content and to be able to share information that we experience in print. So it has a huge impact on our lives and it changes our course of our education. So it's really important for us to recognize it and do something about it.
[00:08:29.650] - Jill Stowell
Absolutely, and it's something that follows people into adulthood as well. And I know you work with a lot of adults, and we work with adults as well, so often they really have good skills and maybe they're good managers, but they can't move up in their company because of the reading and writing demands.
[00:08:54.570] - Dr. Joan Smith
Yes, most of the time with the adults, what I'm seeing with them is that they're having difficulty with comprehension, so they can read words at that point because they've experienced them for so long, but they're not getting the information from it.
[00:09:10.980] - Dr. Joan Smith
And I had a wonderful gentleman who I thoroughly enjoyed. He phoned up and said, did I have a back door? And I said, what a back door? Well, I don't think there's one on the clinic. And he said, well, he said, I didn't want anybody seeing me coming in. And so obviously he was embarrassed to come in and say I had an issue.
[00:09:32.140] - Dr. Joan Smith
But he knew he had needed help and he finally made it in the front door. And he was an interesting person because he was a bank manager and moved up a great deal, and the banks were being changed now, and he had the option to move into a very responsible position in the new bank. So he found he was like, I need help now. And that made a big difference. And what's doable.
[00:10:00.260] - Jill Stowell
So people have heard about Dyslexia for years, but most people, when you hear Dyslexia, you think, oh, they just flip everything backwards. But let's talk a little bit about what Dyslexia is.
[00:10:18.410] - Dr. Joan Smith
Well, you know, I think let's go back just a little bit further. Even about 40 years ago, we started being able to if we identified someone as Dyslexic in our clinics, and you probably had this too, we could then get them help for taking the bar exam. They could have more time or they could get all kinds of accommodations, and that was true on almost all of the different examinations or jobs that you needed to have. You could get accommodations.
[00:10:48.940] - Dr. Joan Smith
But the schools didn't recognize Dyslexia as being a reality. They said, well, that's just part of the reading problem or something else, and they didn't see it as any different. So it's only been in about the last ten years that the schools have suddenly said, whoa, what is this?
[00:11:06.550] - Dr. Joan Smith
I was at the school's psych conference last year and everybody, all the psychologists were saying, how do we test for this? How do we know when someone's doing that? And I kept saying this is a no brainer. What you're going to see is either they have trouble holding and recognizing the symbols in the first place, they've had trouble in gaining vocabulary because they don't recognize the words, they have trouble with the timing, they have trouble with reading quickly because they're really working on the words as they go through them.
[00:11:40.980] - Dr. Joan Smith
And it could be that they have trouble with comprehension. And those are all different elements that I think are related to Dyslexic reading styles. But they often are confusing because everybody thinks it's going to be a reversal of A, B or D. And that's a different kind of that's one of the very beginning ones in which it's a spatial orientation type of Dyslexia. Is that what you find too?
[00:12:06.570] - Jill Stowell
Oh, absolutely. And I do find that well, all of those things that often there is a visual aspect, so there often is a visual spatial issue and an auditory issue where they're not able to really think about and process all of the sounds and words. So maybe they're not hearing and saying words correctly or recognizing their errors when they're reading.
[00:12:37.990] - Jill Stowell
Often I find that our students have really good comprehension and they compensate with that. But then we do have other students that really struggle with accessing that vocabulary. So it's just different for every Dyslexic learner, even though there are some common pieces.
[00:13:00.710] - Dr. Joan Smith
And that's logical because we all have different brains. Our brains genetically are going to be different, but they also are different because of our experiences. And for me, if we can reach someone who has the possibility of becoming Dyslexic when they start having to read, if we can reach them at ages five and six, we can remove all of those issues that would have occurred.
[00:13:29.200] - Dr. Joan Smith
And so whenever we're waiting until, gee, they're three years behind or two years behind in terms of identification, wow, we could have taken care of this a long time ago and we still can. But they've suffered in between. And we've seen issues with self confidence and feelings like maybe I'm stupid, maybe I can't do this, a lot of embarrassment. So all of those are key that we identify them early.
[00:13:56.590] - Jill Stowell
Absolutely. Having been in this field so long, it is astounding to me that the common belief is that if you have Dyslexia, it will just be a lifelong challenge and you'll have to find ways to cope with it. What are your thoughts about accommodations for dyslexia?
[00:14:19.170] - Dr. Joan Smith
Oh, that's my favorite topic. Oh, okay. Well, first of all, when I have someone come in for testing and they say, I want to get accommodations for my student or my child in school, I am like, no, no, no, you don't want to get accommodations, you want to get rid of the problem. You know, why have this?
[00:14:44.110] - Dr. Joan Smith
We are seeing students in school now as soon as they're identified being given, often an aide who sits with them in the classroom, they're being given more time to do things. They have someone who reads to them. They have someone who writes the information down for them.
[00:15:02.360] - Dr. Joan Smith
And that's so disturbing to me because who's going to follow them when they graduate, right? Who's going to be there when they're trying to get a job to fill out the application? I don't think the aid is going to still be provided for them. And it's really not something we want to accommodate. Accommodations should be temporary and only a first aid. And that's what I tell parents, is, you know, need to teach the student to read. We need to teach give them the skills. The accommodations are not going to build the skills. And yet this seems to be the theme that we're coming up with right now in all of the schools.
[00:15:48.560] - Jill Stowell
Yeah. And as you said, so many of our dyslexic learners are really bright. And so they're smart enough to know that they should be able to do this like everyone else, and they can't. And so then when they have all kinds of accommodations, it just sort of piles on that feeling of inadequacy. And maybe I'm dumb because they can see the difference. They know what they should be able to do.
[00:16:21.010] - Dr. Joan Smith
And you know what? They know it from age five and six.
[00:16:25.830] - Jill Stowell
[00:16:26.610] - Dr. Joan Smith
They see the other kids doing it. And as soon as they see them do it and they can't do it now we've established that belief that they're not okay in their minds.
[00:16:37.630] - Jill Stowell
[00:16:38.290] - Dr. Joan Smith
I had a little boy come in who was in kindergarten. And at that time we had a private school in Sacramento, four students who had Dyslexia, and he said, I failed in kindergarten. What do you mean? And he said he was in a parochial school. And he said, I failed in God's school. And I thought at the time, oh my gosh, what a burden that youngster is carrying with him.
[00:17:10.380] - Jill Stowell
[00:17:11.740] - Dr. Joan Smith
I said to him, you know, I don't really think that's what happened. I think that they weren't ready for you yet because you were ahead of them. And he said, really? I think so. You should try that on. I think it'll fit better. And that's the kind of we need to verbalize to reestablish who they are and that there's not something that's a fault of theirs that they need to carry with them. They're okay.
[00:17:43.800] - Jill Stowell
Yes. So one of the things that I really love about your work is that you always correlate the challenges and the solutions to the brain. So let's talk a little bit about the current brain research and kind of what it's showing about the Dyslexic reader.
[00:18:07.240] - Dr. Joan Smith
I love to talk about the brain, and I even have one. Well, I have two. I have one I hope upstairs here, but I have this one too. I brought it for you to see today. And it kind of looks like a glob, but really what a brain is, it's the consistency of pretty hard margin. Okay, so it's pretty soft in that sense.
[00:18:36.340] - Dr. Joan Smith
And our brains have two hemispheres. They have one on the right and one on the left. So one on each side of the head. What we're doing at this point and what we know is so exciting because for the first time in our profession, and I think for you and I especially, we can find out what's going on inside this structure as we're working with it for many, many years.
[00:19:03.690] - Dr. Joan Smith
And for most of my professional time, I knew the input I was giving and I could measure the output, but I didn't know what was going on in the middle other than to kind of make informed guesses about, okay, this is probably the area that's not working right, we need to work in this way. The exciting thing we know now is that this brain actually has different areas that acquire the information and Dyslexic brains are totally different in terms of where they're sending their information.
[00:19:44.060] - Dr. Joan Smith
Now let's just talk about side for a minute because we have the two hemispheres in our brain. One hemisphere is responsible for language and one is responsible for more spatial organization types of things. And they do share a lot of their information between the two of them. If you are primarily a right hander, your information is actually going to be more likely on the left side of your brain.
[00:20:14.510] - Dr. Joan Smith
That's where you're going to be doing your reading and most of your language is going to be coming in and 90% of right handers read on the left side. Okay, people who are left handers minds kind of half and half, 50% go on one side, 50% would be on the other. So we aren't always sure whether they're reading on this side or this side. And for most things that we do, that doesn't matter because we're going to give that information and share it.
[00:20:46.240] - Dr. Joan Smith
Now the language side of the brain then is absolutely key in processing reading. Now that we know that Dyslexics tend to read up into the frontal lobe in the articulation area, we know that they are not activating the language part of the brain and the one that actually holds information like a good reader does.
[00:21:11.740] - Dr. Joan Smith
So this is going to mean we're going to make some changes in how we present information to individuals who have these issues. And I think that's the biggest key in why we're successful in relieving the symptoms that go with Dyslexia because we're actually going to target different ways of creating, I guess, pathways in the brain connections, neurological connections, so that they actually begin holding information in the occipital temporal lobe, which is in the back of the brain.
[00:21:51.260] - Dr. Joan Smith
If you're a good reader and you're reading a novel and it's just playing before you and you're getting all that exciting information from it. Basically, you're operating off of that part of the brain. You're not operating up here off of your articulation area. Your brain, one quick way of checking that for yourself is if you read something out loud, you actually read it word by word by word by word. If you look at those words and you scan across them, you're getting that information. But your inner voice, that voice in the back of your head, reads it much faster than you can if you're having to articulate words. So it makes a difference if we're activating that area in the brain.
[00:22:41.660] - Dr. Joan Smith
Now, it's interesting because when a new reader starts to try to learn to read, it activates this area right up here, which also has been called Wernicke's area, or it's also our parietal temporal lobe of the brain. It's right in here, kind of above your ear. And they usually will see a word, figure out what it says a couple of times and add that meaning to it. And then it's storage in the occipital temporal lobe.
[00:23:11.960] - Dr. Joan Smith
If that person looks at that word and is trying to figure out but and trying to put those sounds together, you can already see they're doing it with their articulators, even if it's inside their head. And that's sending it up here to that frontal part of the brain. So every time we sound out a word, we activate what's called Broca's Area, which is the frontal part of the brain.
[00:23:41.230] - Dr. Joan Smith
And honestly, one of the things that I really focus on and I work with teachers and clinical staff, is to begin avoiding sounding out words because we know that it automatically sends it to Broca's Area. And instead we have ways of teaching that we do not have to do that and we don't have to create that fluency issue in reading that is so important for all of our readers.
[00:24:12.640] - Dr. Joan Smith
Is that right?
[00:24:13.770] - Jill Stowell
And that is kind of revolutionary because for so many years there's been a big focus on sounding out words. But that's where you can take a kid who actually has good comprehension, but when they go to read, they have no comprehension because they're not activating the part of the brain that's going to allow them to get the whole picture of what's going on. They're really stuck. And that was kind of a profound piece for me when I really began to understand that our dyslexic learners tend to get stuck. And so we think we're doing a good thing for them, having them sound out each word, but in reality we might be perpetuating they're being stuck there.
[00:25:06.930] - Dr. Joan Smith
And, you know, I think yeah, exactly. I think we've trained them to be dyslexic in that sense. So if they have difficulties at all and we have them go through that process, they think that's how they have to read. The underlying issue there though, is memory. Okay?
[00:25:27.690] - Dr. Joan Smith
So it's their visual and their auditory memory, but the visual memory of looking at a word and automatically saying, I know what that says. If we have connected, that what the word is, what it says, it's automatically going to be storage where it ought to be and the pathway is going to be activated if we haven't the adequate memory to do that.
[00:25:51.100] - Dr. Joan Smith
And you know, that's always been my belief that most of the youngsters who come to us who have difficulty in beginning reading have memory issues. I worked with a gentleman, 27 years old and he could not hold a single symbol and connected. We spent three weeks on the B sound and the A short vowel A. And I would show him the symbol B and he would say and I'd say it says B and he'd say B and I'd go good.
[00:26:29.430] - Dr. Joan Smith
What is it? And he'd say B and I'd say and this one says A and he'd say Ah. I'd say what was this one? Gone. He couldn't hold it. So we worked his memory in every way we knew how. And within three weeks he could hold two symbols and within three months he knew all the sounds and he was beginning to read and he became an effective reader.
[00:26:56.010] - Dr. Joan Smith
But we had to build the memory first to get him to hold it. He came to me, he was 27 then, about 20 years ago now probably, and said, my child's five years old and I want to know what you did for me that I can do for him so that he doesn't experience what I did.
[00:27:20.510] - Dr. Joan Smith
It is a memory issue in the beginning, I'm convinced. Sometimes it's an attention issue also. But if you're having trouble with your memory, it's really boring to sit there and look at these symbols. And so you begin to, I guess, show attention problems. And that's why youngsters that you mentioned at the beginning of our program today was actually having people say he's ADD. He probably wasn't ADD.
[00:27:52.150] - Dr. Joan Smith
He probably was just bored, creative and needed something to do. And so I think many youngsters who are called attention disordered actually have an issue of their memory is not functioning or they're having trouble with and that could be a visual or auditory memory. So they'd have trouble listening, they have trouble following directions, all those pieces.
[00:28:16.810] - Jill Stowell
And then when the brain, the brain isn't going to be able to pay attention if it's not making sense. And so especially a creative brain because they can go off and so easily entertain themselves.
[00:28:31.610] - Jill Stowell
We've been talking to Dr. Jone Smith, author of You Don't Have To Be Dyslexic about the brain research around dyslexia. Most people still believe that if you have dyslexia you're kind of stuck with it. But we have known for over 30 years that dyslexia can be corrected. So I want to talk about in this segment what is needed in an intervention in order for it to be effective in changing Dyslexia.
[00:29:03.960] - Jill Stowell
And I think this is really relevant to our parents who now see their kids at home, you know, with distance learning. They see this and they want to help, and also for teachers, because now schools are starting to have to at least acknowledge and try to address Dyslexia. So this is some important stuff, what needs to be in an intervention.
[00:29:35.060] - Dr. Joan Smith
I'd like to introduce Susan Smith, who will be joining me here, and if we can sneak her into the picture, also, there's two of us. Cool. Thank you. Susan and I've worked together for a number of years. We no longer count. I think that's been my best act on it. And Susan has worked as our clinic directors. She is finally consented to come to where we are in Monterey this last year, and she is probably one of the finest therapists that I have ever known, but she knows, I think, that about her.
[00:30:12.940] - Dr. Joan Smith
I would like to share with you a number of things that we're looking at. And, Jill, you can kind of guide us, if you would like, through this. When we first start working with someone who has any kind of a reading issue. And I know there's a comfort in saying it is Dyslexia, but sometimes it's difficult to just make a label like that.
[00:30:38.470] - Dr. Joan Smith
And so we need to just jump right in and say, this is what we need to do in order to resolve this so that it doesn't become a long term issue for you. Okay? And the first thing that we do is if we're starting with a beginning reader, we're going to begin with a program in which we introduce the sound and to the symbol.
[00:31:02.360] - Dr. Joan Smith
That's a key element, so that when we say the sound of the word and we put a symbol out there, we want that connection to occur and in order to be effective with this. And I think one of the biggest problems with most of the introduction to reading programs is they give too much information for the memory to in the beginning.
[00:31:30.860] - Dr. Joan Smith
We go to no more than seven symbols, and we'll use two short vowels because they're easier. We want to build those in because it's easy, for instance, if to look at an A and say, it's A. But it's more confusing to say, oh, that says A or I. And we also like to use vowels that are pretty far apart so that they don't sound alike, like I and sound really a lot alike. Right. Some of those.
[00:31:58.990] - Dr. Joan Smith
So we use two that are far apart, and then we use symbols like the B symbol, but we don't use the D in for a long time. And as a result of that, we never run into a BD confusion, so that makes a big difference. M, the T S. And I don't know if there's another one we use. I think those are primarily the ones BMTF and F is another one we'll use. And with those we can make a whole bunch of words. We can make a whole bunch of syllables. We can make a whole bunch of two letter ones.
[00:32:36.110] - Dr. Joan Smith
First, what we suggest doing is introduce just those symbols, and you always introduce them with the sound, not with the letter name. I don't know, I've never had a student who didn't automatically learn the alphabet name of it. Do you find that, too? Yeah.
[00:32:54.550] - Dr. Joan Smith
So we give them the sound that goes with it and don't worry about what basically the name of the letter is. So find me the A or find me the I. So they automatically do that. We're building at this point the pathway in the brain to hold the information. And we talked about this a little bit ago because we wanted to go directly into Wernicke's Area for processing and then get storage automatically into the Occipital temporal lobe for the reading.
[00:33:28.460] - Dr. Joan Smith
Now here we divert from what is commonly called sounding out, and that is we're going to introduce now two symbols together. So we'll put the it together, the I and the T, and they're going to automatically learn that when they see that they say it, at, im.
[00:33:54.190] - Dr. Joan Smith
It doesn't even have to be real words, but they put two sounds together and they hold that. And when they can recognize those, automatically we go to three. What we're doing here is we're building their memory, but we're doing it with a limited number of symbols, and it can happen fairly rapidly.
[00:34:15.100] - Dr. Joan Smith
I saw Susan worked with someone that we had just been testing, and he started out with the sounds, and then pretty soon they were working on two letters. And she already had him going into the three letters within a few hours. And it was like, you know, whoa, he can get this done pretty quickly.
[00:34:33.710] - Dr. Joan Smith
When we're doing that, we've now built in the memory, and we're building in the recognition of clusters. Okay? And when we read, we read with clusters. That's how if you see a word like destinationing, you can actually read it because dis is one you recognize. Ten, you recognized an ation. Ation, you did an ing. If you tried to sound that out, it'd probably take a week. No, it would take quite a while to do that, and it probably wouldn't make any sense.
[00:35:13.050] - Dr. Joan Smith
I experienced that with one of my kids when we first had the school, and the word was river. And he sat there going, and I kept going and I couldn't and finally I said, river. Oh, you mean the river. And I go, yeah. So it's very difficult if we don't already have those clusters and remember them. And if we can remember them, then we're going to build into words very, very quickly.
[00:35:45.260] - Dr. Joan Smith
Now, one of the things that we do when we're building in that in is a whole bunch of different activities. And we have a program that we use which is called the Learning Ability Platform. It's available with EDU-therapeutics, and that program basically takes you through all of the different tasks that we're going to show you now.
[00:36:06.270] - Dr. Joan Smith
So that's something you can look at and get some ideas from or you can actually use that program. First of all, one thing we like to do is something that Susan is an expert on, and it's called Word Flash. And I think I have some words here, but I don't know where they are. They were hiding. Susan actually started this program for me. It's been like, wow, this is so cool. It works beautifully, right? Okay, so I'll let her show you one of the cards because she knows exactly what to do with this.
[00:36:46.310] - Susan
All right, so can I use you.
[00:36:49.090] - Dr. Joan Smith
As a oh, good grief. Okay. Yeah. Good thing I've memorized the card.
[00:36:53.140] - Susan
Maybe I can shoot back a bit.
[00:36:55.200] - Dr. Joan Smith
Show them what you're going to show me, right? Okay.
[00:36:59.360] - Susan
All right, so maybe we can do both here. So I'm just going to flash this card really quickly.
[00:37:05.430] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:37:06.580] - Susan
But don't worry, you don't need a lot of time to get it.
[00:37:08.920] - Dr. Joan Smith
Okay. Okay, here we go. Okay.
[00:37:11.740] - Susan
Did you see it?
[00:37:12.490] - Dr. Joan Smith
I did. All right, let's see if they did. Do you want to flash it to them directly?
[00:37:18.640] - Susan
Okay, got it.
[00:37:20.710] - Dr. Joan Smith
I don't know. We'll find out.
[00:37:22.920] - Susan
We just need to know you got it.
[00:37:24.510] - Dr. Joan Smith
I got it. That's the important piece, right?
[00:37:26.550] - Susan
Okay, so what you're going to do now is you're going to tell me what you saw.
[00:37:32.850] - Dr. Joan Smith
Okay. We have entertainment. I saw vocal. Vocal? Yes.
[00:37:42.660] - Susan
[00:37:43.090] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:37:43.810] - Susan
So I noticed I'm not going to give you able to see them in your email. Okay, I'm ready.
[00:37:54.560] - Dr. Joan Smith
These are getting longer, you know. Okay, I have it.
[00:37:57.900] - Susan
[00:37:58.440] - Dr. Joan Smith
The word was fluent. Now, I want to point out a couple of things here. She didn't leave it very long for me. She wasn't very nice about that. She just showed me really fast and down. But what's happened to me was I had to hold that image, hold it in my brain and remember it. And I could probably I can already spell that word, but if it were a word that I wasn't familiar with, I could actually spell it if she asked me to.
[00:38:30.310] - Dr. Joan Smith
This really connects in your brain. You're building memory. You're building, of course, knowledge of those words, but you're also recording the sequence of letters in your brain, and you're holding them. If you have a student who confuses the starting, where to go with it, you can always put, like, if you were working with a word and they needed to know which direction to go, you can always start. Do you usually use a red to start or green to start?
[00:39:05.130] - Susan
I always use the green on the left so that they know how to read it, though. It's going to read it from left.
[00:39:11.290] - Dr. Joan Smith
So you'd put a green dot here and then a red dot here.
[00:39:15.250] - Susan
[00:39:15.690] - Dr. Joan Smith
So that they always know I'm looking at it in that direction.
[00:39:19.500] - Dr. Joan Smith
This is a really good technique for you can use that with your beginning letters. When I'm doing beginning letters, I play with them. So we only have seven of them and I'll say, you know, OK, I've hidden the B sounds somewhere around here. Can you find the and this active little youngster goes running around the room looking for that sound.
[00:39:43.910] - Dr. Joan Smith
If I'm really interested in keeping their attention, I might use a little drum or something that I can tap on. And as they get closer to the sound, the sound gets louder or softer if they're moving away. So they're now doing auditory processing at the same time and they're getting information as they're doing it.
[00:40:05.440] - Dr. Joan Smith
We can put three letters down like the A and the and the to sound. And I'll say and we'll flash the word all three of those letters and then I'll say find the and they'll go right to it and show you. Good job. Put it down, trace over it and they can actually make that sound. There are so many ways of making them interested in doing it and keeping them engaged and then you're both having fun, so that's always something you do, Jill.
[00:40:40.610] - Jill Stowell
Definitely. Yeah. Well, those are great suggestions and that flash words. It really can also build to holding more words.
[00:40:56.440] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:40:57.250] - Jill Stowell
Can you guys demo that?
[00:41:00.040] - Dr. Joan Smith
I don't think we have one right here.
[00:41:01.690] - Jill Stowell
Do you have enough cards?
[00:41:02.730] - Dr. Joan Smith
Okay. Yeah, but one of them would be you can do phrases like I am fun, I am a man. Whatever it is, you flash the phrase and they're holding it. That's how we read. Those are keys in our reading. There's a couple of others. We use a great deal with rhythm and if we can just add that in, we'll use a chart like this. And I don't know if you can see that clearly, but they'll have words on it. And we do rhythm tasks with the reading. And Susan's found that you do what, clapping with it?
[00:41:39.520] - Susan
Is that what I was actually doing? The cross-crawl with it?
[00:41:43.300] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:41:44.280] - Susan
Where you take your right hand and you lift your left knee and you push it down and you can do the sitting down so you don't have to get up at all. And what happens is your whole body takes over the rhythm so that when you're reading the words, you're going to be reading them with the rhythm. So it just keeps that rhythm in place.
[00:42:04.460] - Dr. Joan Smith
And this develops fluency in reading because you're having to do it. You're getting a rhythm as you're doing it and they're reading it. So it's like bed bad bid bud dab. And they're going back and forth with it. Really, really good exercise. But you can see that it engages even our active young kids in doing something like that, but it's also training them to their brain to hold that sequence of symbols that cluster and getting it immediately.
[00:42:38.830] - Dr. Joan Smith
You start that with just single letters and you can do that at home. Put them on one of those wonderful white sheets that you can get at one of the office supply stores and that stick on the wall and you just write on that, put the letters on it, and then you can read them together. You used to do that with a trampoline, didn't you?
[00:42:56.820] - Susan
Oh, I did. Yes, I know. But I have discovered that this works as well, if not even better, because you're moving both your hands and your feet at the same time and talking about getting both sides of the brain to work. And it's amazing for fluency and accuracy, I've seen huge differences. You can even do it with sight vocabulary, sight words, where they have to read the sight words. And there's a huge difference in learning them that way.
[00:43:26.290] - Dr. Joan Smith
And it becomes something that's very quick for them to do. There's a number of areas that one of the things we don't ever want to ignore in reading is teaching the student to add imagery to what it is they're seeing or the word that they're seeing. And so if we're doing like a phrase, one like, I see a dog, you show it, you read it. What's he look like? You know, what color is he? Where is he? In other words, have them anchor words into that wonderful imagination of theirs.
[00:44:06.100] - Dr. Joan Smith
But it's also then connecting them immediately to what that word meaning is. And it's a wonderful, wonderful technique. If you are using the LAP, you'll find that there's a whole series of different exercises like this, but it's primarily going to move you through working from individual sounds to clusters to all of these different pieces.
[00:44:32.470] - Dr. Joan Smith
The other piece that we're really working on right now and we've seen tremendous changes are is we're actually feeding in the information to the language center in the brain. And we'll do that by using a single headphone on one side that we occupy the spatial part of the brain with music while we give them the information on the other side.
[00:44:59.110] - Dr. Joan Smith
And we've seen rapid changes with that also. So there's just so many things that we're constantly learning, adding to our repertoire in making a difference for these kids. And I think it's so important for us to keep doing that. And Jill, you've been great at doing that too.
[00:45:18.340] - Jill Stowell
It has been a constant journey of learning, but it's really exciting. Like you, I love, love working with this population of students. We are, believe it or not, at the top of the hour. So real quickly, we want to understand these critical components and then build them into everything we're doing.
[00:45:42.790] - Jill Stowell
So we need to think in terms of building memory and you saw when they were doing that word flash technique, which could be done with symbols or words, they were flashing it very quickly. It wasn't giving the students a chance to dwell on it and think about it and sound it out. It was very quick because visual memory, visual processing is fast. So we want to connect to that part of the brain.
[00:46:13.110] - Jill Stowell
We want to add rhythm. If you're working on times tables or spelling words or sight word development, add rhythm to that. It's regulating and organizing, and it's going to help us to retain that information. We want to definitely connect language words that we're hearing, that we're reading to mental images so that we understand what it's about. And then I know one of the other things that we work on and that Joan has built into the LAP program is processing speed.
[00:46:49.320] - Jill Stowell
So all of those pieces, those four pieces are really critical to any intervention that you're going to do for dyslexia. The LAP program is the Learning Ability Platform that Joan was talking about, is a computer based program. I have to tell you, it is very, very reasonably priced, and it does activate all those pieces. And so, Joan, do you have anything that you would like to share with people about how they could learn more about it or access it?
[00:47:36.030] - Dr. Joan Smith
Well, basically, if they go to the website eduthrapeutics.com, all of the information is there. And I think you shared with people my contact information. Did you?
[00:47:49.560] - Jill Stowell
We will be doing that, and they.
[00:47:51.970] - Dr. Joan Smith
Can also contact me, and I'll assist them in making any connections. And if they have certain questions, I'm always happy to respond via email on that. I think the most important thing for all of us and the reason that the app is out there is because we wanted to have a program available that included all the components that you and I know so well are critical in target therapy and training our brains to hold information and be effective in reading. And, you know, that's the main reason it's out there.
[00:48:31.290] - Dr. Joan Smith
The other piece is we wanted it to be accessible to teachers as well as schools. The clinics use it, but parents can use it at home, too. And one of the things that's being added to it right now is a series of demonstrations that you'll get to see Susan, more of Susan on, in which for each of the activities, she shows other activities to do, just using paper and pencil, types of things that will augment it and give more opportunity to reinforce in them. You know, it's so important to me to reinforce that our brains are marvelous learners, and they can change.
[00:49:16.690] - Dr. Joan Smith
So with any kind of appropriate teaching or therapy interventions, and the key here is think neuroplasticity. That means our brains can change. They can add information, and they can become very, very effective. We have that opportunity for all of our dyslexic learners, and there's no reason for them to experience frustration for their lives. Absolutely, we need to get it all in place for them, and we appreciate being able to share that with you today.
[00:49:53.210] - Jill Stowell
Well, and I appreciate you both being here with us to share it and all of your work in this field because it is truly incredible and has impacted thousands of children and adults. And, Susan, thank you so much for joining us. You both have made so many contributions to the field of learning and attention and dyslexia, and it is always a joy and an honor to have you. Joan practices in the Monterey Salinas area in California. Her specialty is in developing and implementing targeted therapies for the resolution of learning challenges. Be sure and check out her books and the New Learning Ability Platform program on her website.
[00:00:00.130] - Maddie
I loved all that, Joan. That was such great information. And I was thinking about my husband. He's actually Dyslexic, and he told me that they thought he had ADHD as a kid, which blew my mind because he has incredible attention, way better than me, like, such good attention. And I'm just like, how would anyone think you have an attention problem? But it totally makes sense how it can appear that way in the classroom. We do have a few questions from the audience. The first one, how do I know if my child has Dyslexia?
[00:00:37.910] - Dr. Joan Smith
Well, usually, first of all and Jill, you might want to pop in on this, too, because it fits with what you were talking about earlier. But the first thing that I look for or that I hear from parents is the teacher says they're not holding words. They're not able to remember their words. They are confusing the order of the words. Sometimes they're confusing the order of the symbols. They'll say form is from, was is saw. Okay, those types of things, and those are a visual spatial type of disorganization.
[00:01:13.670] - Dr. Joan Smith
When we're talking about a student that's a little bit older, they're usually let me give you a little caveat on this one. Many of our kids who have Dyslexia have figured out that it's better to not do your work or not do your homework or not cooperate than to be found out that you're really stupid, because that's what they immediately assume when they can't do it. Okay. So many of the students who have trouble turning in their homework, students who can't fill out the worksheet, all of those kinds of things, I immediately say we need to intervene. It doesn't matter if we have a diagnosis of Dyslexia.
[00:02:05.720] - Dr. Joan Smith
If we've got the symptoms, we need to change it, and we need to develop the skills that they need so that they can do those types of things. So I look for their behind in reading, the teachers are saying that they're not trying hard enough. Watch that one. And it could be that they're having trouble with remembering the information that they're reading, especially if they're a bit older. Those are just some of the things that you'll see.
[00:02:35.540] - Jill Stowell
Yes. Sometimes kids will work so hard on their homework that homework comes back to the classroom, and it looks like they did, like, they're getting it. But then they do terrible on tests. For some of our kids, our students with learning challenges in general. But I see this in particular with some of our Dyslexic students. They find ways to work around it. So working really hard or bringing their work home so mom will help them.
[00:03:19.700] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:03:20.830] - Jill Stowell
Or just grabbing enough of the content, enough of the concepts in a long page of reading just by really looking at the pictures and reading the big content words. But then they go to a test where they have to specifically read that question accurately, and they can't do it.
[00:03:46.990] - Dr. Joan Smith
One that I just was talking with the other day is the mom who's doing, obviously distance learning at this point, which is just raising habit for all of our kids who have any issues at all. And so the child has to do these activities on this computer and she can't read. So the mom is sitting there whispering the words to her so that then she can say them. And I said, this is going to confuse everybody because the teacher doesn't realize that this student can't do the activities because the parent is doing them for them and they're putting them in a position that a child knows they can't do them and they know that other kids can. So, yes, we want to help, but we always want to consider it first aid and not a solution, what we're doing.
[00:04:40.000] - Jill Stowell
[00:04:42.910] - Maddie
Well, that really makes sense. Thank you so much. I think that was really great advice for everyone. We have one more question before we jump back in. Teachers in the past have said that my son might have ADHD, but I think it might be Dyslexia. Is there a link between ADHD and Dyslexia? And I know you kind of touched on that already, but do you ever find that people truly do have both?
[00:05:06.970] - Dr. Joan Smith
Oh, we can definitely have both, but we need to see ADD as a different subject these days because we know more about what is actually happening in our brains and we have attention issues. It's a frontal lobe inefficiency, okay? It's basically happening in the frontal lobe, and we need to intervene with that.
[00:05:34.390] - Dr. Joan Smith
Medication is wonderful. It can make you feel like, wow, I'm on target, I can do this. And I don't in any way deny anybody that privilege of feeling that way. But we really need to understand it's a regulation disorder, and we need to build in the executive function skills to make it work for the student so they can do it anytime and all the time.
[00:05:59.200] - Dr. Joan Smith
So, yes, you could have both. Likelihood is usually in my experience, it's a reaction to not being able to read, not being able to be successful. I bet you the youngster you're thinking about is pretty bright also.
[00:06:18.850] - Maddie
[00:06:20.470] - Jill Stowell
I think one of the key things when parents come to us, most parents will say that their child has difficulty with attention. And what we have to do is really sort out, is that truly an attention challenge? Is that a frontal lobe executive function regulation kind of issue? Or is the attention problem a symptom of something else? And very often it is a symptom. Parents get so frustrated because they're Dyslexic kids. They dig in when it's time to read. They don't want to do it. They whine, they cry. They've put up a fight. Well, it's so hard. We all put up a fight for things that are that hard, but it can look like behavior or attention so those are things that we just really have to sort out.
[00:07:16.890] - Dr. Joan Smith
And parents are stuck with the worst time of day to try and help. Absolutely.
[00:07:21.820] - Maddie
[00:07:22.620] - Dr. Joan Smith
They've just spent 6 hours in school all day suffering if they are having these problems, and now you want me to do it more at home. So this is a huge piece that parents are burdened with them in that effort.
[00:07:37.390] - Dr. Joan Smith
I think the other piece to this is when you want to look at is it really an attention issue. I use very specific assessments, and I think you probably use them too. I'll usually use the test of variables of attention. But the key piece to that one and the linking there between Dyslexia and attention is looking at the speed of response time of that student. And I won't go into that in great detail, Jill, because, you know, I do anyway.
[00:08:10.450] - Dr. Joan Smith
But if a student is having a delay in response speed, they have trouble decoding when they're reading because it takes some time to make that registration between what the image is saying and what they're being able to verbalize it or understand it. So I always use that in our assessments to find out is there a relationship between their speed of processing and their ability to come up with the reading information.
[00:08:42.850] - Maddie
[00:08:44.890] - Dr. Joan Smith
Got some more?
[00:08:47.050] - Maddie
Yeah, we actually do. I realized that I forgot to acknowledge the people who said hello before. I was so excited to jump right in. Thanks for taking in. We have you are from Minnesota. Laura. Hi, Laura. She's an occupational therapist, the school system, and her child has Dyslexia. So thanks for tuning in. Laura, we do have a few questions just came in. Kim is wondering, how do I help my Dyslexic third grade son without spending a fortune? She looked into a couple of resources, and they're just pricey. So any tips for how parents can help their kids at home?
[00:09:37.170] - Jill Stowell
Actually, in our next little segment here, we are going to talk about what things need to be in any intervention that you're doing for Dyslexia. So we'll, I think, be able to touch on that in pretty good detail.
[00:09:56.220] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:09:57.050] - Maddie
Okay, sounds good. Yeah, I think that'll touch on is it Adelina? Sorry if I'm mispronouncing that. Yeah, she's looking for also some recommendations to support her child. It looks like they're going to attending Stowell. So hello. And then also early intervention for her four year old. Will we get into that or did you want to touch on that now?
[00:10:19.510] - Dr. Joan Smith
I think that's exactly what we're going to be doing for the next segment. Is that right?
[00:10:23.520] - Maddie
Yeah. Okay. Sounds good. Right up and then Kathi, I'll take it down in a second. But finding a balance is difficult between being diabetic, ADHD and Dyslexic. It looks like she's on medication for all. Medication helps and she's working on her skills. It's made a really big difference. I think my diabetic medication has increased this brain fog. Could that be true? Well, Joan, looks like that's right up your alley.
[00:10:54.470] - Dr. Joan Smith
[00:10:55.930] - Maddie
[00:10:59.730] - Dr. Joan Smith
We're seeing students having incredible amounts of medication being introduced into their systems these days. A real bias in terms of looking at, first of all, nutrition and how that student is absorbing nutrients. And I think that might relate in this particular case, too, because there's obviously a challenge in terms of the Adrenal system and how they're absorbing sugars and using all of that.
[00:11:36.450] - Dr. Joan Smith
I like to look at that and to see are there any ways in which we can make, simplify what's being ingested, what we need to add to that student in order to help them be successful. And we see tremendous differences once we can identify if there are certain nutrients that are setting that student off. And that's a whole other hour long session. So perhaps we should give some ideas about how to help. Dyslexia sounds good.
[00:12:14.730] - Maddie
Joan actually had an amazing another show with us where she does talk about that cognition. Cognition. So you can probably go back to watch that one. I think it might be helpful, too. Yeah.
[00:12:27.200] - Jill Stowell
But I will say to that parent that is one thing that definitely can happen is medications can kind of cause some brain fog. And so perhaps in addition to your traditional doctor, because we certainly can't give any medical advice, but check in with a functional medicine doctor or a naturopath, see what you can learn about the diet and what might be helpful there.
[00:13:10.590] - Dr. Joan Smith
That could make a difference. Yeah.
- Episode 69: Embracing Differences and Building Social Emotional Health – Suzanne McClure
- Episode 68 – Executive Function Tips for Parents, Teachers, and Students + T.E.F.O.S. – Part 2 – Seth Perler
- Episode 67 – The Executive Function Online Summit PLUS a Special Message for Kids – Part 1 – Seth Perler
- Episode 66 – Auditory Processing and Managing Anxiety – Jill Stowell on the Re-Focus Podcast with Angela Stephens
- Episode 65 – “Smart but Struggling” – What Does it Mean? – Jessyka Coulter, Love to Learn 2023
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