Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.
February 26, 2020 by Jhara Navalo
Elaine Whitley is an educational diagnostician and dyslexia specialist for over 20 years, and is the owner of a private practice in Houston, TX Educational Success Advisors (ESA). She is also the mother of a 17-year-old student with a learning difference. Learning Ally is grateful to Elaine and her colleagues for referring and qualifying over 12 Learning Ally members. We sat down with Elaine to gain some insight into why and how she started her own private practice, why she recommends Learning Ally, and the impact Learning Ally has on her students.
25 years ago I ran a small tutoring business just to help kids with homework after school and realized there were kids who needed more help than I was able to give them in just an hour in the evening. So I went back to school and became a dyslexia specialist because a number of the kids I worked with really couldn't read well as high school or middle school students. And it was just like, wow, if you had gotten help earlier, maybe I wouldn't be here doing this now! The tutoring I did really showed me there were kids who needed more help. I fine-tuned my skills and became a dyslexia specialist. As a dyslexia specialist, I could start working with younger students providing an earlier intervention. Then I got my masters degree as an educational diagnostician, which gave me greater ability to enable students who learn differently to gain access to the accommodations they need so they can keep up with their peers in school. I started my private practice because I noticed that students were falling behind and just could not close the reading gap. Teachers and school administration often identify students who need help through their failures or lack of reading progress on annual standardized assessments.
Through my practice, parents have the ability to bring in their child(ren) and we can evaluate and provide an accurate diagnosis so their child can get the help they need before too much time has passed. One of my own kids, a junior in high school, has been using Learning Ally because he has a learning difference in reading comprehension. As a parent you know your child is struggling above and beyond what might be considered normal, and through my private practice parents have the power to get their child the support they need early. I serve students locally and throughout the state of Texas as well as a few students internationally who have parents who work for global companies. It brings me great satisfaction to know that we at ESA are able to help hundreds of students annually.
Pretty much all of our clients need some sort of help with reading, whether they're dyslexic or they've got a reading comprehension deficit. Learning Ally is one of the recommendations we put in all of our reports. I discuss with parents that right now when their child reads, they’re maybe getting a bad sketch of the story, but when using Learning Ally, that child can get a more vibrant and detailed color picture. It's so much more helpful to have the ability to read in multiple modalities. A student can read along while listening, so they don't have to stumble across the words they don’t know or have trouble decoding. Students get that visual recognition of a word, making that word easier to recognize in the future.
At ESA we talk about the importance of multisensory learning and multisensory reading. When an individual can see and hear the text, they will remember the content better. It really does boost their confidence. Let's say you read really slow...audiobooks can help speed you up, especially for those in high school who have to read large quantities of material for homework. Without audiobooks, reading a chapter can take much longer than 20 minutes for a struggling reader. Audiobooks can really help speed them through the material while helping them comprehend or understand what they are reading better.
Our students range anywhere from five-year-olds in kindergarten to grown adults who are maybe making a career change and are preparing for some sort of entrance exam. That's where Learning Ally can really come into play again. It is a definite help if the books they need can be accessed through the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. It really supports my students in preparing for a test or any kind of material they're going to need to keep moving forward in their education and career.
Personally, as a mom of a student with a learning difference, it’s really a lifesaver; my son will say, “Hey mom, can you put this book on my bookshelf?” And that's how he gets through all his summer reading and required reading. And that frees me up to help my other children with their homework and activities.
Our students have definitely increased their comprehension and the speed with which they can get through the material. It gives them a much better visual of what they've been reading. In Texas, students with learning differences and classroom accommodations are required to get updated tested every three years, and when we diagnose somebody and we see their reading comprehension is poor, then we recommend Learning Ally. When they come back for their re-evaluation, we often see that their comprehension has improved. The comprehension scores have either stayed on par with their peer group or better.
I also see the change in parent and family dynamics. Access to Learning Ally takes some stress off of parents' shoulders. We have working parents and we have parents with multiple kids. So if I can suggest, “Hey, have them put on Learning Ally for 20 minutes,” the parents are freed up to do other activities and help their other children. It also teaches that child that, “Hey, I don't have to have my mom right next to me when I do my 20 minutes of reading.” And so maybe they'll do it while they're waiting for a pickup from after school practice, or maybe they'll do it at a different time during the day. It can be a huge relief for parents to not have to be the only one responsible for reading out loud to their kids.
Categories: Featured, Learning Disabilities, Reading Champions
January 2, 2020 by Jhara Navalo
Sarah felt isolated, misunderstood, and always wanted to connect with other students who were just like her. What is not always apparent outwardly is that 13-year-old Sarah is a student with dyslexia. She is also a Learning Ally member since 2016 and community leader, since the first-grade when she was diagnosed.
With the help of her mom, Jenny, Sarah created a group called Dreaming Dyslexic, a safe space where kids who are dyslexic can come together to connect, inspire, and encourage each other and share in strengths, challenges and victories.
Since the inception of the program in October 2019. Dreaming Dyslexic has over 15 members and counting, who will participate in 6-8 local events (Minnesota) annually − where members meet notable people in the dyslexic community, share tips on how to deal with their dyslexia and learn how to identify their strengths as dyslexics.
Dreaming Dyslexic is not limited to local events, they’ve expanded on their offerings by piloting a virtual Read-A-Thon and fundraiser. Starting January 13, 2020 students who are dyslexic will come together and ear read using audiobooks and competing to win prizes and bragging rights. Using Learning Ally audiobook solution, students who are dyslexic can ear read and follow along with highlighted text to enhance the audible experience and increase their reading fluency and word recognition.
Student who participate will enjoy the benefits of reading, understand the joy in immersing themselves in a good book, and raise funds to support the Dreaming Dyslexic organization in providing even more support for students who are dyslexic. Sign-up to participate in Dreaming Dyslexic’s Read-A-Thon or to learn more about Dreaming Dyslexic visit https://dreamingdyslexic.com/
Categories: Learning Disabilities, Students
November 25, 2019 by Jhara Navalo
That’s right! Learning Ally is now a SOVAS (The Society of Voice Arts and Sciences) Award Winner! The one and only industry powerhouse Dave Fennoy won Best Voiceover Audiobook Narration in the History category for his work on our audiobook March Book Three!
Listen to Dave put his vast talent to work as he brings John Lewis's searing memoir of the fight for Civil Rights to life in an extraordinarily vivid way in March Book Three. And see below for more great Learning Ally audiobooks narrated by Dave!
Huge congratulations to Dave Fennoy, Michael Kinsey our producer, and the entire production team at Learning Ally!
Dave Fennoy, a preeminent voice artist, has one of the most versatile voices in the industry narrating globally-recognized commercials, TV programs, games and educational programs for companies like Lexus, McDonalds, The Disney Channel, Time Life Music R&B, National Geographic and the Science Channel. He has been part of our Learning Ally volunteer community since 2016 providing his unique voice to narrate popular, historic and iconic titles.
Here are some other audiobooks in our library narrated by Dave Fennoy:
March Book One:
March Book Two:
*A little trivia- this book was also used as a theme for the postal service holiday stamp back in 2017!*
LEARNING ALLY is a leading education solutions organization dedicated to transforming the lives of struggling learners. The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a proven multi-sensory reading accommodation for students with a reading deficit composed of high quality, human-read audiobooks, student-centric features and a suite of teacher resources to monitor and support student success. Used in more than 17,500 schools, empowering over 375,000 struggling readers annually, this essential solution bridges the gap between a student’s reading ability and their cognitive capability, empowering them to become engaged learners and reach their academic potential.
Learn More About Becoming a Learning Ally Member
Categories: Audiobook Library
November 18, 2019 by Jhara Navalo
Terrie Noland, C.A.L.P, VP of Educator Leadership and Learning, introduces Terrie's Tips, a monthly blog to help reading specialist and tutors support students with a reading deficit. This tip provides insight into how audiobooks fit into the schematic of a structured literacy program.
I get asked this question so often, "Tell me the number, tell me the percentage of time that should be spent on structured literacy and the percentage of time on audiobooks?" What reading specialists, tutors, and educators need to think about is the goal they are trying to accomplish?
In this video, Terrie shares her tips on finding the right balance between structured literacy and audiobooks.
Categories: Assistive Technology
Every month, Learning Ally features one of our amazing Reading Champions - highlighting their efforts in supporting students who have a reading-based learning difference such as dyslexia. This month, we caught up with the Director of the Cooper Learning Center and author, Dr. Richard Selznick, who has referred over 300 students to use Learning Ally's Audiobook Solution, enabling them to read independently, access grade-level content, and learn to their ability.
About Dr. Selznick
Dr. Selznick is a licensed psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, and the author of four books: What To Do About Dyslexia? 25 Essential Points for Parents; The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child; School Struggles: A Guide To Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success; and Dyslexia Screening: Essential Concepts for Schools & Parents. He consults with parents and act as a guide to help them navigate their child's educational landscape and make appropriate recommendations that will holistically satisfy the child's educational needs.
Dr. Selznick is one of Learning Ally's trusted partners, producing blogs for us to share with parents. In addition, he's been a featured speaker at our annual Spotlight on Dyslexia virtual conference. Please check out his blog "What to do about dyslexia? Maintain two column mindset" and website shutdownlearners.com or send him an email at email@example.com for more information.
Categories: Authors for Access