SCC’s legal precedent re Jeffrey Moore that schools provide remedies for LD

Image credit CP Adrian Wyld.

Finally!  As this article by Tamsyn Burgmann of the Canadian Press explains, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the treatment Jeffrey Moore received while a student in the B.C. North Vancouver School Board fifteen years ago, was discriminatory.

And, by setting such a legal precedent, the SCC has, in effect, ensured that school boards across Canada must start providing the best possible remedies for learning disabilities.  No, not some type of “a” program or service, but “the” most appropriate.

As a result, parents can now insist and expect all provincial and territorial governments to provide adequate special education resources to school boards. They can also expect their public school boards to use their special education grants for what they are intended — to provide children with identified learning disabilities the specialized services and accommodations they need.

In brief, Jeffrey Moore (now aged 25),  did not have adequate reading skills by the end of Grade 3. That fact was confirmed when the B.C. North Vancouver school board referred him to a diagnostic centre for special attention. Yet, that centre was shut down even before Jeffrey could enrol, requiring his parents to re-mortgage their home in order to send him to a private school that was geared to helping children with learning disabilities.

However, kudos to the Moore family! They did what most families don’t. They fought back for fifteen long years!

First, in the early 1990s, they took their case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. That fight went on until 2005 at which time the Tribunal awarded the family the cost of the private school tuition, half the cost of transportation and $10,000 in damages. However, unbelievably, the B.C. Supreme Court overturned that decision which was also upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Yet, the family persevered and yesterday, on November 9th, 2012, the SCC ruled in their favour unanimously, in a 9-0 vote! Thankfully, the court not only restored the 2005 Human Rights tribunal’s award of tuition, transport and damages, it also awarded court costs.

The importance of the SCC decision:

As a former reading and dyslexia specialist I can say this: reading involves two separate learning processes. The first stage is called the “learning to read” phase and involves learning the alphabet, the sounds and structures of the English language, recognizing words and phrases and then being able to put those words and phrases into complete sentences.

Key, however, is that all that learning-to-read is done in Grades 1, 2 and 3 and has to be automatic before going into Grade 4 because that is when children traditionally move into the “reading to learn” stage — when the emphasis is on such comprehension skills as finding the main ideas, making inferences, drawing conclusions and so on. In other words, if a child does not have the skills to read-to-learn by Grade 4, they are never going to get them without intervention.

Are interventions expensive for taxpayers? As a conservative leaning person, I recognize they are costly initially. But, when you look at the long-term picture, they are not. As regular readers of CotM know, I used to operate a private special education practice (while also teaching university) for children, youth and adults who had learning disabilities, usually related to reading and writing.

Occasionally, as I did recently, I am able to find out what some of them did with their lives after they left my coaching.  One fellow, now in his forties, needed interventions when he was in high school because he had never fully grasped those reading skills I mentioned above due to his dyslexia. His intervention program was a struggle but he persevered. And, now, he proves the truth that interventions early in life are not expensive in the long run.  For instance, after he graduated from high school, he went through an apprenticeship program to becoming a very successful Honda mechanic. Now he actually owns his own franchise and employs some 15 other Canadians!

The crux of the matter is, however, that the top court has provided a legal avenue for parents who expect special education programming to fit their child’s assessed learning needs — and school boards do not provide it. For that avenue, we can all thank Rick and Jeffrey Moore!

[…]

Endnote: While I am retired from regular blogging, I will still occasionally post on particularly important subjects. This is definitely one of those topics.

Summary of dyslexia & what can be done about it?

I thought I would republish this article which was originally posted on July 24th, 2011. It updated and combined several articles on dyslexia that I had written before, such as this “page,” as well as the textbook I wrote in the early 1990’s that started it all — a multi-sensory approach that could help improve both reading fluency and reading comprehension. If you are a parent or teacher that wants to know how to do the strategy, I am going to put it in the next section under the heading: “The Tape-Recorder Strategy.” That will be followed with all the rationale and technical information — which can be read at a later late.

Using a tape-recorder to improve reading:

When you use a tape-recorder (with both record and playback features), several learning processes are going on simultaneously. The main technique is the repeated readings strategy — which involves reading something three times, but in a slightly different way each time. Plus, there are a variety of other learning strategies being used as well, such as using post-it notes or highlighting (signaling) main ideas.

  • First reading: Ask your child to read a a sentence, paragraph or short article from a newspaper or magazine. Have them read the passage slowly read into a tape-recorder or equivalent equipment with record and playback features. At this point, tell them not worry about comprehension, just to record each and every word in their usual voice.
  • Second reading: Once the recording is finished, have them put on earphones or ear buds to listen quietly to what they recorded, carefully following the text with the eraser end of a pencil or their finger. Following along is crucial in order to “attend” to what they are hearing.
  • Third reading: Then, once the recording and listening steps are fully completed, they should go back over the written copy and pick out the main ideas.  I would recommend post-it notes or a highlighter pen if the material is not borrowed. If a summary has to be written, then I would definitely use post-it notes because they can be moved around into their correct sequence and used as the basis for writing.

Continue reading

What is dyslexia & what can be done about it?

I thought I would republish this article which was originally posted on July 24th, 2011.It updated and combined several articles on dyslexia that I had written before, such as this “page,” as well as the textbook I wrote in the early 1990’s that started it all — a multi-sensory approach that could help improve both reading fluency and reading comprehension. If you are a parent or teacher that wants to know how to do the strategy, I am going to put it in the next section under the heading: “The Tape-Recorder Strategy.” That will be followed with all the rationale and technical information — which can be read at a later late.

Using a tape-recorder to improve reading:

When you use a tape-recorder (with both record and playback features), several learning processes are going on simultaneously. The main technique is the repeated readings strategy — which involves reading something three times, but in a slightly different way each time. Plus, there are a variety of other learning strategies being used as well, such as using post-it notes or highlighting (signaling) main ideas.

  • First reading: Ask your child to read a a sentence, paragraph or short article from a newspaper or magazine. Have them read the passage slowly read into a tape-recorder or equivalent equipment with record and playback features. At this point, tell them not worry about comprehension, just to record each and every word in their usual voice.
  • Second reading: Once the recording is finished, have them put on earphones or ear buds to listen quietly to what they recorded, carefully following the text with the eraser end of a pencil or their finger. Following along is crucial in order to “attend” to what they are hearing.
  • Third reading: Then, once the recording and listening steps are fully completed, they should go back over the written copy and pick out the main ideas.  I would recommend post-it notes or a highlighter pen if the material is not borrowed. If a summary has to be written, then I would definitely use post-it notes because they can be moved around into their correct sequence and used as the basis for writing.

Continue reading

What is dyslexia & what can be done about it?

Given it is summer time and the slow season for the release of new research findings, I am going to update and combine two practical articles on dyslexia  (and what to do to overcome it) that I wrote a few years ago. Originally published on my blog in 2008  (see here and here), they are based on a textbook I wrote in the early 1990’s. 

At the time my book was first published, it was considered a seminal work on “learning strategies” because of an eight-to-ten-step process I developed using a tape-recorder. The good news is, that while the content in that book is twenty years old now, the ideas within it are timeless.

Copyright and attributions:

First, however, credit where credit is due. Such researchers as S.T. Orton and A. Gillingham, Marie Carbo, G.R. Alley and D.D. Deshler come to mind, as well as D.J. Johnson and J.W. Blalock and D.G. Bachor and C. Crealock, without whose work I could not have written my original book. What has changed since my original work, of course, are the number of electronic devices (e-books and smart phones that have memo pads and built-in organizers) that are available today that weren’t available then.

However, my favourite still remains the Franklin Spelling Ace because it is phonetic. Type in “fizishun” and you will instantly get “physician.” I hear that there is now an updated version that includes the dictionary meaning so you know you have the right word, as well as a synthesizer that repeats the word.

Defining dyslexia:

The term dyslexia is explained differently depending on where you live. In the U.K. and Australia, for example, dyslexia is a generalized syndrome, much like we in Canada and the U.S. refer to “learning disabilities.” However, in the context of this article, dyslexia will refer to reading and related processing difficulties related to phonemic awareness, decoding skills, vocabulary development, visual and auditory integration and memory and cognition processing.

Sequencing & memory

Memory and cognition involves at least three inter-connected processes — immediate recall, short-term memory and long-term memory (where facts, colours, sounds and emotions are stored). So when information or emotions are taken in when we are reading, something happens that allows us to hold on to that information long enough to be processed into our long term memory. Later, when we need that information again, all we need to do is think of a word or idea and, all of a sudden, it’s there. At least, that is how it is supposed to work in theory.

Silent Reading & Sub-vocalizing:

Reading is not only a visual and memory processing skill. It also involves auditory processing, an aspect of dyslexia that few discuss. For example, we have to be able to read “silently” without moving our lips. Think about that. As you are reading this text, you are silent, yet you are “hearing” the words in your head. That is called “sub-vocalizing, a very important aspect of learning to read because we are internalizing sounds — although there are differing opinions on this.

In the case of hearing impairment or profound deafness, individuals have to learn to read “visually” which is helped by “signing.” However, for those who can hear, given what I learned in my reading clinic, it is imperative that individuals be able to read silently with ease for letters, words and information to be readily processed into memory.

The Reading Process:

Before I get into how to use a tape-recorder to compensate for dyslexia, let’s understand that reading involves two processes that overlap — “Learning to Read” skills (decoding, word identification and sentence integation) and “Reading to Learn” skills (comprehension — finding main ideas, drawing conclusions, making inferences and so on).

Traditionally, those processes were thought to be separate and distinct but for some time now, we have known they must be simultaneous — although once the first phase is automatic, reading is almost entirely about comprehension.

That said, any time we encounter reading materials that are technical or new to us, we have to resort to decoding and figuring out word meanings again.   

Using a tape-recorder as a multi-sensory strategy:

When you use a tape-recorder (that has both playback and record features) as a multi-sensory approach, several learning processes are going on simultaneously. The main technique is, of course, the repeated readings strategy — which involves reading something three times, but in a slightly different way each time. Plus, there are a variety of other learning strategies being used as well, such as using post-it notes or highlighting (signaling) main ideas.

So, readers, try this:

  • First reading: Get a short article from a newspaper or magazine, or even this post. Now, slowly read the entire article or a series of paragraphs into the tape-recorder (children could do as little as one sentence). At this point, do not worry about comprehension, just record each and every word in your usual voice.
  • Second reading: Once the recording is finished, put on earphones or ear buds and listen to what you recorded, carefully following the text with the eraser end of a pencil or your finger. Following along is crucial in order to “attend” to what you are hearing.
  • Third reading: Then, once the recording and listening steps are fully completed, go back over the written copy and pick out the main ideas.  I would recommend post-it notes or a highlighter pen if the material is not borrowed. If a summary has to be written, then I would definitely use post-it notes because they can be moved around into their correct sequence and used as the basis for writing.

The crux of the matter is that by the time the three steps are completed, the individual will, not only know how to decode the material, but have a clear understanding of it as well.  Eventually, of course, the tape-recorder will no longer be necessary — meaning the dyslexia will have been overcome.

Endnote: Over the years, I had several clients who were college and university students who had been diagnosed as dyslexic as children. They used the tape-recorder technique all the time when preparing for exams (e.g., recording and listening to lecture notes) or to understand key readings when preparing to write an essay.  

Do StatsCan numbers mean we are a country of illiterates?

I would swear that each and every time there is a major literacy study, the percentages get higher. Now, either the teachers in our publicly funded schools are totally inadequate (which some would debate is the case) or it is how illiteracy is defined that is responsible for the ever increasing statistics. And, while I think that decades long social promotion and no-fail policies are likely not helping the literacy rates, the latest StatsCan report is, without a doubt, misleading. 

Specifically, to read this CBC story titled “Canada’s Shame,” is to think Canada is a country of illiterates. Yet, that is simply not true. It is not true because it all depends on how the numbers are collected and analyzed, what assumptions one makes about what it takes to become literate, as well as how one defines illiteracy or semi-literacy. And, in my opinion, StatsCan misses the mark on all three with their seven-country international survey.

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Overcoming dyslexia & other LD

Here are five articles that have to do with accommodating and overcoming reading and other learning disabilies, such as organizational and memory difficulties. The technical aids and learning strategies are from a book I wrote on the topic (see Feature Pages), as well as what I learned from clients when I operated my own reading clinic. The main point is, with regular practice, they work and they work well.

Check out blog on reading disabilities

I would highly recommend paying a visit to this “reading disabilities” blog. An excellent resource indeed! Owned and operated by two very distinguished reading and learning specialists, Drs. Howard Margolis and Gary G. Brannigan, it is one of those sites that contains both research information and practical suggestions for both classroom teachers and parents.