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Webinar: Helping Kids with Dyslexia Get a Handle on Homework

Categories: Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Webinars

On May 21, 2013, Educational Therapist Shawn Simon joined Learning Ally to present Getting a Handle on Homework, a one-hour webinar about after-school strategies for students with dyslexia and learning disabilities. Download the presentation slides. (PDF Format) Background: After receiving many requests from parents who struggle through "homework battles," "meltdowns" and "backpack disasters," we collaborated with the Association of Educational Therapists to develop this webinar and identify an expert presenter. AET recommended Shawn Simon, who spoke about critical executive functioning skills and outlined a host of practical tactics that parents and kids can apply together to make the homework hours more efficient and productive. shawn-headshotBio: Over the past 17 years, Shawn Simon has been in private practice as a Board Certified Educational Therapist. Based in California, she has her BS in Child Development and her MS in Special Education, with an emphasis in educational therapy. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher and a resource specialist.   Dozens of questions were submitted by audience members.  Shawn answered as many as she could during the Q&A portion of the webinar. In addition, here is a selection of audience questions that she didn’t have time to answer in the live session: Q: How can I find educational therapists in my area? Shawn: Visit www.aetonline.org. There’s a tab for finding an educational therapist in your area, if there are any. If there are not any close to you, some ETs will offer Skype sessions. Q: What should the balance be between listening to audio alone and reading the printed text in a book?  Your child needs to be reading at his/her level daily, for at least 20 minutes. As for the literature books, they don’t need to read those themselves at all. Those they can listen to. These books are for content and are often too hard for dyslexic kids to read themselves. The books they are reading need to be at their ability level. You can find high interest/low level books for them. Q: What are your favorite books concerning dyslexia? Here are a few I recommend:
  1. Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level  by Sally Shaywitz
  2. The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read...and How They Can Learn by Ronald D. Davis and Eldon M. Braun
  3. Secrets You Need To Know About Dyslexia That Will Save Your Child's Self-Esteem: An Interview With Susan Barton by Michael Senoff
Q: My son dislikes reward systems because it acknowledges that his learning style is "different" from other students’. In what other ways can I encourage and support him?  Helping him learn to embrace his differences would be a good place to start. Tell him about all of the successful, brilliant people out there who learn differently, like Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Tom Cruise, and of course, Albert Einstein. You can Google this too, as there are many more current people and people from history who have overcome learning differences. I know it’s challenging for kids to accept, let alone embrace, the fact that they do not learn the same as other children, so this is a long process, but an important one. Help him see his strengths, gifts, and talents. We are all different and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. It’s best to capitalize on the strengths while remediating the challenging areas. Q: Part of our plan is to have my child’s teacher sign off on his agenda/homework, but I frequently hear the excuse from my child that they were rushed and didn’t have time. How can I resolve this?  Create a rewards chart for him. Every time he gets the signature, he gets a sticker or money; then at the end of the week, he gets something special. In addition, you can ask the teacher to remind him. She may not be willing to do this, but you can always ask. Some teachers are more understanding than others and are willing to go the extra step. Q: My son wants me to sit right next to him as he works but I have other children and duties that require my time. How do I encourage him to work on math problems or reading on his own and only come to me when he has a real question or issue? A rewards chart may be good for him. Set up a chart that rewards him for working independently. Also, be sure to check on him regularly, rather than waiting for him to come to you. It may help him if he knows you will be checking on him at regular intervals as he’s working, maybe every 15 minutes, then progressively increase the time to 20 minutes, then to every half hour. The goal is for him to become an independent worker, but it may take some time and patience to get him there. Q: When my daughter gets home from school, she is so exhausted from the demands of school (and her ADHD meds have worn off) that she wants a long break before doing homework. This causes us to finish homework as late as 10:30 p.m. every night. Do you have any suggestions to avoid this? One possibility is to discuss with your psychiatrist about giving her a small dose of her ADHD meds to get her through the homework time. In addition, creating a structured time with breaks helps as well. She doesn’t have to start her homework immediately. Typically not starting right away is best, even as long as a half hour or 45 minutes before is good. Then regular breaks are recommended. This can actually help the homework time be more productive, allowing her to finish earlier in the evening. However, it is important to understand that for kids with ADHD, the homework time, unfortunately, will take longer than for a typical child. Q: How can I get my 2nd grader to remember to bring his study guides home?  This is where getting teacher involvement is helpful. If they are willing, ask them to check with your child before leaving school. Also, if you pick your child up at the end of the day, make sure the study guide is in the backpack before leaving the school. Q: Is there a good online reading program that dyslexics can use over the summer time to not get out of practice?  "Read Naturally" has the One Minute Reader for home use. Q: Are there any videos you recommend teachers watch to learn about dyslexia?  Shawn: Yes, Rick Lavoie’s F.A.T. City is a wonderful tool for this. It’s entitled "How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop." Q: I work with a young boy at his after school program where we have to be very flexible with space, time, and routine. He is a gifted builder and creator so he often arranges his own work space with gym mats, a desk/table, and chairs. He works well and often functions best in this small space that he has created and it only takes him 10 minutes. Do you feel this approach is an appropriate avenue for working with this particular child? Yes. He may need to do this before working, but if it only takes 10 minutes it’s most likely time well spent.

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Learning Ally thanks Jeanette Rivera, President of the Association of Educational Therapists for their collaboration and consultation on this webinar, which drew over 900 registrants.

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