Microsoft working on Irlen/visual stress assistive tech

Microsoft has recently previewed a software update to their popular Office package that includes adjustable contrast modes for people with visual stress or Irlen Syndrome.

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“More Editor enhancements are coming in the next few months for Word on PCs—all inspired by the needs of people with dyslexia and beneficial for everybody. In particular, Editor will make it easier to choose between suggested spellings for a misspelled word. Synonyms or definitions will be shown alongside suggestions and it will be possible to have both read aloud,” said the director of Microsoft Office Engineering, who has been spearheading the redesign.

The OECD reports that around 50% of adults have some difficulty with reading – a staggering number. While much more work needs to be to fix the underlying difficulties, assistive technology can be an enormously useful stop gap in the meantime.

Read the full article here: http://www.eweek.com/enterprise-apps/microsoft-previews-office-accessibility-enhancements.html 

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GCSE Success

We just wanted to let you know that our daughter Meghan, who learned to read with Easyread at 10 years of age, received her English Language GCSE grade result at 15 years of age. She passed with a grade “C” after being home schooled!
We are very happy parents and wanted to let you know that without your Easyread system she would never have come this far!
Good luck with all your current students.
J
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Dyslexia in the workplace

Software company Novacraft’s CEO Debra Charles is promoting greater awareness of the strengths of dyslexia in the workplace.

“CEO Debra Charles said: ‘I’m one of the estimated 20 per cent of dyslexic entrepreneurs in the UK, and it took me a long time to realise that the perceived barriers of dyslexia were barriers that I put in my own way, and that the strength to overcome them came from me, from valuing myself and my own ideas.’

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Read more about her work here:

https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/news/hr-industry-invited-share-positive-experiences-dyslexia

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Starting to read signs outside

Dillon is enjoying his easy read lessons. He is now taking more time to read words rather than just guessing them… He has started to read signs when we are going out and he is starting to understand what he reads a bit more.

All in all we are very happy with Easyread and we’re looking forward to the next lessons.

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Autism and… Camel’s Milk?

We’ve all heard of some crazy sounding cures from ages past – from heroin in early versions of children’s cough syrup (true story!) to the milder Windex-for-a-pimple cure.

But one intervention that is gaining a bit of attention from the modern medical community is raw camel’s milk for autism.

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Not exactly a cure, camel’s milk rather has been used by parents of autistic children to help mitigate some of the behavioural and physiological effects that impede normal daily life.

Read one parent’s anecdotal report, published in a medical journey a few years ago, here:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865381/

Sarah Forrest is an Easyread Advisor for Oxford Learning Solutions, makers of the Easyread System for children with reading and spelling difficulties. 

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Breakthrough Readers of June

Even though the school year was winding down, our Easyread secret agents were working just as hard to get to their reading breakthrough moment!

Please join us in congratulating our Breakthrough Readers of June, and read about their journeys from reading struggles, to reading success.

Emily

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In a time before Easyread, Emily had a hard time decoding words, frequently guessing at those that were unknown to her. A word that was read seemingly well on one page, provided a puzzling challenge on the next.

Emily’s spelling appeared to be OK, it was more her reading her mum was concerned about. Her mum suspected that she may be dyslexic.

At lesson 100, Emily’s mum let us know how she was getting on:

“Emily is doing great. I can see the difference in her reading. Her fluency is much better as well as her decoding. She still struggles with some of her vowel sounds, but it is getting better.”

We’re so pleased with all the progress Emily has made to date, and we are confident that the different vowel sounds and combinations will become much more familiar with the more accurate reading Emily now does. Way to go Emily!

Ava

Although Ava appeared to get on well with the traditional phonics and blending techniques, her mum still noticed that she would often guess at words in a bid to read with speed. Small, common words were often substituted for others, and Ava found it difficult to read a word right to the end – regularly skipping to the next word without noticing the “ing”, the “ed” etc.

Consequently, Ava would often miss out words in spelling, and was known to mix up letter combinations, writing “ro” instead of “or”.

At around lesson 90, Ava reached level 7 in our Reading Assessor, which is an amazing achievement as it has our longest and most irregular words – they’re words that some adults would struggle with too! A sure fire sign that Ava’s decoding skills have come a long way. She’s also gone from Level 1 to Level 7 in our Spelling Assessor since March. And Ava’s eye-tracking difficulties have improved, helping boost that reading speed up.

We’re so proud of you Ava!

Nathen

22 year-old Nathen had tried a lot of interventions post-dyslexia diagnosis: many reading programmes and a tutor for a year to help bring his reading level to fifth grade level.

But he still hated to read. And spelling just wasn’t coming easily for Nathen.

Nathen has been completing the lessons more independently recently, after sitting with his mum for the first phase of the programme. So we were delighted by the evident progress Kathy saw as she completed a lesson with Nathen recently.

“I just have to take this moment to report in… only because I myself have been out of commission in regard to working with Nathen of late. But today, I finally had a chance to witness the lesson… and my…. what an improvement. He read the words flawlessly, and sooooo much more quickly. Wow, I am dumbfounded. It IS working!!! Praise the Lord!!!

He read from the book shelf “The beautiful Daughter Marian” in a flash… no pictures even!!!

Incredible.

Thank you Thank you Thank you. You have renewed my hope!!!!

Ever so grateful, MOM Kathy (lesson 59)”

It’s been a long time coming, and we’re so happy that reading is starting to fall into place for you Nathen. Congratulations!

Olivia

6 year-old Olivia appeared to get on well with reading sight words as they appeared on flash cards. But faced with them in a book setting, and it was a different matter altogether. Olivia would often guess what the next word would be, rather than looking at the word itself. So her mum knew that there was a problem there.

After working on her blending and eye-tracking, we were really pleased with the progress detailed here by Olivia’s mum at lesson 99:
“We have seen an improvement in her reading. Not a major step change but a gradual improvement since we started. She is starting to catch up to her classmates and progress at a faster rate.
The main thing is now she actually wants to read and can enjoy picking up a book and reading it. We’ve also noticed that there is a lot less guessing of words. She is trying the word out rather than guessing what the word could be.”

Well done Olivia!

Will

9 year-old Will was reading at/slightly above grade level before Easyread. But his mum still sensed that he wasn’t reading to his true potential.

He loved to read familiar texts so that it was easier to memorise the words. Further to this, Will would often guess at harder, longer words based on the first couple of familiar letters, rather than figure the word out by decoding. He would also skip over some words too. As a result, Will would resist reading aloud.

Will could spell phonetically, but this just wasn’t translating to spelling with accuracy. He could get the words right for a spelling test one week, but would then struggle to remember them for follow-up tests.

At lesson 77, Will read pretty flawlessly for me during a Skype lesson! And with such fluency, it was really great to hear. Will is also starting to picture the Trainertext characters above words outside the programme, which will make decoding previously unseen words much easier.

Will is currently working on our recommended eye-tracking exercises, just to help any residing guessing or skipping over small words.

Keep up the great work Will!

If you feel like your child has reached the point of reading take-off and we haven’t included them this month, then do let us know, so we can send their badge out to them for this month. And do let us know if you’re having any worries around this stage too – we’re here to help every child achieve their breakthrough.

This month, we chose Briggs as our Breakthrough Reader of June.

From feelings of low confidence around his reading, to reading with such fluency and expression during a Skype lesson, Briggs has come a long way in the space of 90 lessons.

Briggs

8 year-old Briggs was familiar with a phonics-based approach to reading as part of his homeschool programme. He got on well with the phonographs when presented in flash card form, and could easily sound out longer words.

But the decoding never really transformed into fluent reading of whole words. Short, simple words seemed much harder than the longer ones. And Briggs would often begin at the end of a word, before moving back to the beginning. And words that had been read well on one page – it was like he was seeing them for the very first time on the next.

Briggs would excel on all his oral spelling tests, and he had excellent comprehension. But his mum was still concerned about the fact that his reading didn’t seem to be improving. Rather, it had plateaued over the last year. And this had naturally given way to a lack of confidence and desire to read.

I was delighted to hear Briggs read during a recent Skype lesson. He read our version of Robin Hood with such expression, such confidence, and just got all the tricky names with ease! Testimony to always rereading any tricky phrases where he’s had to decode a word. Briggs is also reading more outside the programme, which is a huge breakthrough in itself.

Congratulations to all of our amazing secret agents, wherever you are in the programme. And a big well done to all those who have completed the course too! We’re so proud of you.

Maddie and all the team

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Results from a new MIT study show it could be possible to identify children at risk of developing dyslexia

“A new study from MIT reveals that a brain region dedicated to reading has connections for that skill even before children learn to read”. And their findings suggest that this type of brain imaging could help identify children who are at risk of developing dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

By scanning the brains of children before and after they learned to read (at ages 5 and then 8), “researchers found that they could predict the precise location where each child’s visual word form area (VWFA) would develop, based on the connections of that region to other parts of the brain.”

In studying the VWFA, MIT postdoc, Zeynep Saygin, says that this area of the brain “does not respond preferentially to letters at age 5, [and] it is likely that the region is involved in some kind of high-level object recognition before it gets taken over for word recognition as a child learns to read.”

At age 8, however, researchers “precisely defined the VWFA for each child by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity as the children read. They also used a technique called diffusion-weighted imaging to trace the connections between the VWFA and other parts of the brain.”

“The researchers saw no indication from fMRI scans that the VWFA was responding to words at age 5. However, the region that would become the VWFA was already different from adjacent cortex in its connectivity patterns. These patterns were so distinctive that they could be used to accurately predict the precise location where each child’s VWFA would later develop.”

As Saygin Says, ““it’s really powerful to be able to predict functional development three years ahead of time… This could be a way to use neuroimaging to try to actually help individuals even before any problems occur.”

We eagerly await the results of their next study…

You can read the full article on MIT News here.

– Maddie

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