SEVEN AMAZING THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE “1 IN 5” WITH LEARNING AND ATTENTION ISSUES


Seven Things to Know About the “1 in 5” with Learning and Attention Issues
By: Dr. Ifeanyi A. Ufondu

The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges kids may face in school, at home and in the community. It includes all children who are struggling — whether their issues have been formally identified or not. Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties, and they often run in families. Find resources that can help kids be successful in school and in life!

#1: One in five kids has a learning or attention issue. Chances are, you know a child with learning and attention issues.
Learning Disabilities: An Overview
Find out more about the different types of learning disabilities, how they’re identified, and what types of instruction support students with LD.
Reading Rocks
Meet Sam, Madeleine, Oliver, and the rest of the kids at the Lab School of Washington, D.C., a school designed especially for children with learning disabilities.
Down and Up: The Emotional Journey of a Child with LD
This animation from the National Center for Learning Disabilities shows what it’s like for a child who is struggling in school. It also shows the power of kind words when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
9 Surprising Facts About Learning and Attention Issues
In a recent survey by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, nearly everyone asked had heard of dyslexia. But only one-third knew about other learning disabilities. And more than half of the people surveyed incorrectly think that wearing glasses can treat certain learning disabilities. Here are nine other facts that might surprise you.

#2: Learning and attention issues are brain-based difficulties that can cause kids to struggle in school, socially and with everyday skills. Dyslexia and ADHD are examples of common learning and attention issues.
Dyslexia Basics
Do you think your child or student might have dyslexia? This fact sheet provides a definition of dyslexia, symptoms, prevalence, signs, and effects, as well as ways to help your child.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Get the basics on ADHD, including signs, treatment, accommodations in school, and tips for parents and teachers.
Reading and the Brain
Hosted by Henry Winkler — who has had his own struggles with reading — our PBS show explores how brain scientists are working to solve the puzzle of why some children struggle to read and others don’t.

#3: Having learning and attention issues doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. In fact, many kids with learning and attention issues are very bright.
Talking to Children About LD
A psychologist specializing in language-based learning disabilities explains how to talk to children about their LD. All the parts you need to be smart are in your brain. Nothing is missing or broken. The difference between your brain and one that doesn’t have an LD is that your brain gets “traffic jams” on certain highways.
Children’s books featuring characters with learning and attention issues
Use our Book Finder tool to discover picture books and chapter books that include characters with dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning and attention issues (ages 3-12).
Meet children’s authors and illustrators with dyslexia and ADHD
Hear first-hand what it was like to struggle with reading from Dav Pilkey, Patricia Polacco, Avi, Jerry Pinkney, E.B. Lewis, Carmen Agra Deedy, and others, and learn how these talented writers and illustrators discovered their strengths and gifts.
Personal Stories
From Understood, discover stories of perseverance and strength from celebreties and other adults with learning and attention issues, as well as kids who have their own stories to share.

#4: It’s a myth that kids with learning and attention issues are “just being lazy.” While learning and attention issues may not be as visible as other health issues, they’re just as real.
The World’s Greatest Underachiever
Actor and author Henry Winkler reminisces about how dyslexia impacted his school years in this article from Highlights for Children magazine. “Now I know,” he writes, “that even if a person learns differently, he or she can still be filled with greatness.”
What Are Classrooms Like for Students with Learning Disabilities?
Classrooms can be perilous in a number of ways for students with learning disabilities. Here are some tips to remember when working with students with LD.
Putdowns and Comebacks
When children struggle in school, they can easily get discouraged. They might say or think “I’ll never learn how to read” or “I’m just dumb.” To turn these self-defeating thoughts and feelings around, kids need the help of caring adults. Discover what a child’s “put downs” may mean and what “comebacks” you can say or do to encourage a child to keep trying.
Experts Weigh In: “What Should I Do When My Child Says ‘I’m Dumb’?”
It may be one of the most painful things to hear your child say: “I’m dumb” or “I’m stupid.” Your immediate reaction might be “No you’re not!” But is that a helpful way to respond? How you react can have a positive impact on your child’s self-esteem and his motivation to keep working on his challenges. Here, five experts weigh in on what to do if your child says he’s dumb.

#5: Some signs of learning and attention issues — like refusing to read aloud, having a consistently messy backpack or not wanting to go to school — can seem so commonplace that they’re easy to overlook. If parents are concerned, talking to their child’s teacher or doctor is a great first step.
Common Signs of Dyslexia
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties. This article provides a brief overview list of typical signs of dyslexia in preschool and kindergarten.
Recognizing Reading Problems
Learning to read is a challenge for many kids, but most can become good readers if they get the right help. Parents have an important job in recognizing when a child is struggling and knowing how to find help. Here are some signs to look for and things to do if you suspect your child is having trouble reading.
Handwriting: What’s Normal, What’s Not
Learn what to look for as your child’s handwriting skills begin to develop, as well as some signs and symptoms of dysgraphia — a learning disability that affects a child’s handwriting and ability to hold a pencil or crayon.
I’m Concerned My Child Might Have Learning and Attention Issues. Now What?
Are you wondering if learning and attention issues are causing your child’s challenges in school or at home? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. One in five kids have learning and attention issues. And with the right support, they can thrive in school and in life. Here are 10 steps you can take to determine if your child has learning and attention issues, and where to go from there.

#6: Kids learn in different ways and at different paces. It’s important to teach to each student’s individual strengths, skills and needs. This is true for all kids — not just kids with learning and attention issues.
Universal Design for Learning: Meeting the Needs of All Students
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides the opportunity for all students to access, participate in, and progress in the general-education curriculum by reducing barriers to instruction. Learn more about how UDL offers options for how information is presented, how students demonstrate their knowledge and skills, and how students are engaged in learning.
Multisensory Parenting Tips
There are many ways a parent can help and encourage a child by using some multisensory techniques. Discover 12 easy tips that encourage multisensory learning at home.
Designing a Dossier: An Instruction Book for Your Child
Many of the adults in your child’s life are unfamiliar with learning disorders in general, or your child’s unique pattern of strengths and limitations. Developing a one- to three-page dossier that provides useful information about your child can help their babysitters, coaches, teachers, bus drivers, school support staff, neighbors, and relatives understand their limitations.
Educational Strategies: An Overview
Many educational strategies are available to build on your child’s strengths. Understanding these strategies can help you work with the school to figure out what’s right for your child. From Understood, learn more about the educational strategies you’re most likely to encounter.

#7: By setting high expectations for kids with learning and attention issues, and ensuring they have the right supports from parents, educators and the community, we can propel them to thrive in school and in life.
5 Things Your Grade-Schooler With Dyslexia Can Say to Self-Advocate
Self-advocacy is an important skill for even young kids with dyslexia to develop. But sometimes it’s hard for grade-schoolers to know what to say. Find out how you can help your child by rehearsing common situations she may face.
How Parents Can Be Advocates for Their Children
Parents are often the best educational advocates for their children, especially children with a learning disability. The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD) has developed the following tips to help parents champion their child.

Help Your Child with a Learning Disability Be More Independent with Assistive Technology
This guide focuses on ways to encourage the independence of a student with learning disabilities while in school and as they transition to college or work.
Empowering Parents
In our PBS show, Dr. Ifeanyi Ufondu, founder of Beautiful Minds Inc. – Advocacy & Special Needs Solutions visits schools in Huntingtown, Maryland, and Portland, Oregon, to see how families learn to identify early signs of reading problems and find ideas for getting their kids the help and support they need to succeed at reading.
Partnering with Your Child’s School
From Understood, find dozens of articles, tips, and checklists to help you learn how to work more effectively with your child’s school and teachers.
Empowering Your Child
From Understood, find dozens of articles, tips, downloadable activities and worksheets, booklists, and more to help your child understand his unique strengths and challenges and learn to advocate for his needs.

Non-Traditonal Instructional Grouping for Reading for Students with LD: Implications for Practice


By: Ifeanyi-Allah Ufondu, Marie Tejero Hughes, Sally Watson Moody, and Batya Elbaum

After discussion of each grouping format, implications for practice are highlighted with particular emphasis on instructional practices that promote effective grouping to meet the needs of all students during reading in general education classrooms. In the last 5 years, two issues in education have assumed considerable importance: reading instruction and inclusion. With respect to reading instruction, the issue has been twofold: (a) Too many students are not making adequate progress in reading), and (b) we are not taking advantage of research based practices in the implementation of reading programs. In the popular press the complexities and subtleties of this issue have been reduced to a simple argument between phonics versus whole language, but the reality is that there is considerable concern about the quality and effectiveness of early reading instruction. With respect to the second major issue of inclusion, considerable effort has been expended to restructure special and general education so that the needs of students with disabilities are better met within integrated settings. The result is that more students with disabilities receive education within general education settings than ever before, and increased collaboration is taking place between general and special education.
Both of these issues-reading instruction and inclusion-have been the topics for national agendas (e.g., President Clinton’s announcement in his State of the Union Address in 1996 that every child read by the end of third grade, Regular Education Initiative), state initiatives (e.g., Texas and California Reading Initiatives), and local school districts. The implementation of practices related to both of these issues has immediate and substantive impact on professional development, teaching practices, and materials used by classroom teachers.
Grouping practices for reading instruction play a critical role in facilitating effective implementation of both reading instruction and inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classes. Maheady referred to grouping as one of the alterable instructional factors that “can powerfully influence positively or negatively the levels of individual student engagement and hence academic progress”, as well as a means by which we can address diversity in classrooms. As increased numbers of students with learning disabilities (LD) are receiving education in the general education classroom, teachers will need to consider grouping practices that are effective for meeting these students’ needs. Furthermore, reading instruction is the academic area of greatest need for students with LD; thus, grouping practices that enhance the reading acquisition skills of students with LD need to be identified and implemented.
Until relatively recently, most teachers used homogeneous (same ability) groups for reading instruction. This prevailing practice was criticized based on several factors; ability grouping: (a) lowers self-esteem and reduces motivation among poor readers, (b) restricts friendship choices, and (c) widens the gap between poor readers and good readers. Perhaps the most alarming aspect of ability grouping was the finding that students who were the poorest readers received reading instruction that was inferior to that of higher ability counterparts in terms of instructional time; time reading, discussing, and comprehending text (Allington, 1980); and appropriateness of reading materials. As a result, heterogeneous grouping practices now prevail, and alternative grouping practices such as cooperative learning and peer tutoring have been developed.
As general education classrooms become more heterogeneous, due in part to the integration of students with LD, both special and general education teachers need to have at their disposal a variety of instructional techniques designed to meet the individual needs of their students. In this article, we provide an overview of the recent research on grouping. practices (whole class, small group, pairs, one-on-one) teachers use during reading instruction; furthermore, implications for reading instruction are highlighted after each discussion.

 

Whole-class instruction
Research findings

Considerable research has focused on the fact that for much of general education the instructional format is one in which the teacher delivers education to the class as a whole. The practice of whole-class instruction as the dominant approach to instruction has been well documented. For example, in a study that involved 60 elementary, middle, and high school general education classrooms that were observed over an entire year, whole-class instruction was the norm. When teachers were not providing whole-class instruction, they typically circulated around the room monitoring progress and behavior or attended to their own paperwork.
Elementary students have also reported that whole-class instruction is the predominant instructional grouping format. Students noted that teachers most frequently provided reading instruction to the class as a whole or by having students work alone. Students less frequently reported opportunities to work in small groups, and they rarely worked in pairs. Although students preferred to receive reading instruction in mixed-ability groups, they considered same ability grouping for reading important for nonreaders. Students who were identified as better readers revealed that they were sensitive to the needs of lower readers and did not express concerns about the unfairness of having to help them in mixed-ability groups. In particular, students with LD expressed appreciation for mixed-ability groups because they could then readily obtain help in identifying words or understanding what they were reading.
Many professionals have argued that teachers must decentralize some of their instruction if they are going to appropriately meet the needs of the increasing number of students with reading difficulties. However, general education teachers perceive that it is a lot more feasible to provide large-group instruction than small-group instruction for students with LD in the general education classroom. The issue is also true for individualizing instruction or finding time to provide mini lessons for students with LD. Teachers have reported that these are difficult tasks to embed in their instructional routines.

 

Implications for practice
Numerous routines and instructional practices can contribute to teachers’ effective use of whole-class instruction and implementation of alternative grouping practices.
Teachers can involve all students during whole-class instruction by asking questions and then asking students to partner to discuss the answer. Ask one student from the pair to provide the answer. This keeps all students engaged.
Teachers can use informal member checks to determine whether students agree, disagree, or have a question about a point made. This allows each student to quickly register a vote and requires students to attend to the question asked. Member checks can be used frequently and quickly to maintain engagement and learning for all students.
Teachers can ask students to provide summaries of the main points of a presentation through a discussion or after directions are provided. All students benefit when the material is reviewed, and a student summary allows the teacher to determine whether students understand the critical features.
Because many students with LD are reluctant to ask questions in large groups, teachers can provide cues to encourage and support students in taking risks. For example, teachers can encourage students to ask a “who,” “what,” or “where” question.
At the conclusion of a reading lesson, the teacher can distribute lesson reminder sheets, which all the students complete. These can be used by teachers to determine (a) what students have learned from the lesson, (b) what students liked about what they learned, and (c) what else students know about the topic.

 

Small-group instruction
Research findings

Small-group instruction offers an environment for teachers to provide students extensive opportunities to express what they know and receive feedback from other students and the teacher. Instructional conversations are easier to conduct and support with a small group of students. In a recent meta-analysis of the extent to which variation in effect sizes for reading outcomes for students with disabilities was associated with grouping format for reading instruction, small groups were found to yield the highest effect sizes. It is important to add that the overall number of small-group studies available in the sample was two. However, this finding is bolstered by the results of a meta-analysis of small-group instruction for students without disabilities, which yielded significantly high effect sizes for small-group instruction. The findings from this meta-analysis reveal that students in small groups in the classroom learned significantly more than students who were not instructed in small groups.
In a summary of the literature across academic areas for students with mild to severe disabilities, Polloway, Cronin, and Patton indicated that the research supported the efficacy of small-group instruction. In fact, their synthesis revealed that one-to-one instruction was not superior to small-group instruction. They further identified several benefits of small-group instruction, which include more efficient use of teacher and student time, lower cost, increased instructional time, increased peer interaction, and opportunities for students to improve generalization of skills.
In a descriptive study of the teacher-student ratios in special education classrooms (e.g., 1-1 instruction, 1-3 instruction, and 1-6 instruction), smaller teacher-led groups were associated with qualitatively and quantitatively better instruction. Missing from this study was an examination of student academic performance; thus, the effectiveness of various group sizes in terms of student achievement could not be determined.
A question that requires further attention regarding the effectiveness of small groups is the size of the group needed based on the instructional needs of the student. For example, are reading group sizes of six as effective as groups of three? At what point is the group size so large that the effects are similar to those of whole-class instruction? Do students who are beginning readers or those who have struggled extensively learning to read require much smaller groups, perhaps even one-on-one instruction, to ensure progress?
Although small group instruction is likely a very powerful tool to enhance the reading success of many children with LD, it is unlikely to be sufficient for many students. In addition to the size of the group, issues about the role of the teacher in small-group instruction require further investigation. In our analysis of the effectiveness of grouping practices for reading, each of the two studies represented different roles for the teacher. In one study, the teacher served primarily as the facilitator, while in a second study the teacher’s role was primarily one of providing direct instruction. Although the effect sizes for both studies were quite high (1.61 and .75, respectively), further research is needed to better understand issues related to a teacher’s role and responsibility within the group.

 

Implications for practice
Many teachers reveal that they have received little or no professional development in how to develop and implement successful instructional groups. Effective use of instructional groups may be enhanced through some of the following practices.
Perhaps the most obvious, but not always the most feasible application of instructional groups, is to implement reading groups that are led by the teacher. Whereas these groups have been demonstrated as effective, many teachers find it difficult to provide effective instruction to other members of the class while they are providing small-group instruction. Some teachers address this problem by providing learning centers, project learning, and shared reading time during small group instruction.
Flexible grouping has also been suggested as a procedure for implementing small-group instruction that addresses the specific needs of students without restricting their engagement to the same group all the time. Flexible grouping is considered an effective practice for enhancing the knowledge and skills of students without the negative social consequences associated with more permanent reading groups. This way teachers can use a variety of grouping formats at different times, determined by such criteria as students’ skills, prior knowledge, or interest. Flexible groups may be particularly valuable for students with LD who require explicit, intensive instruction in reading as well as opportunities for collaborative group work with classmates who are more proficient readers. Flexible grouping may also satisfy students’ preferences for working with a range of classmates rather than with the same students all of the time.
Student-led small groups have become increasingly popular based on the effective implementation of reciprocal teaching. This procedure allows students to take turns assuming the role of the leader and guiding reading instruction through question direction and answer facilitation.

Peer pairing and tutoring
Research findings

Asking students to work with a peer is an effective procedure for enhancing student learning in reading and is practical to implement because teachers are not responsible for direct contact with students. For students with LD involved in reading activities, the overall effect size for peer pairing based on a meta-analysis was ES = .37. This finding was similar to one reported for students with LD (ES = .36; Mathes & Fuchs, 1994) and for general education students (mean ES = .40).
The Elbaum and colleagues report revealed that the magnitude of the effects for peer pairing differed considerably depending on the role of the student within the pair. For example, when students with disabilities were paired with same-age partners, they derived greater benefit (ES = .43) from being tutored rather than from engagement in reciprocal tutoring (ES = .15). This may be a result that for the most part the tutors were students without disabilities who demonstrated better reading skills and were able to provide more effective instruction. These findings differ, however, when the peer pairing is cross-age rather than same-age. Overall, cross-age peer pairing students with disabilities derived greater benefit when they served in the role of tutor.
Students with LD prefer to work in pairs (with another student) rather than in large groups or by themselves. In fact, many students with LD consider other students to be their favorite teacher. Considering the high motivation students express for working with peers and the moderately high effect sizes that result from peer pairing activities for reading, it is unfortunate that students report very low use of peer pairing as an instructional procedure.
Implications for practice
Because students appreciate and benefit from opportunities to work with peers in reading activities, the following instructional practices may enhance opportunities for teachers to construct effective peer pairing within their classrooms.
Classwide Peer Tutoring (CWPT) is an instructional practice developed at Juniper Gardens to “increase the proportion of instructional time that all students engage in academic behaviors and provide pacing, feedback, immediate error correction, high mastery levels, and content coverage”. CWPT requires 30 minutes of instructional time during which 10 minutes is planned for each student to serve as a tutor, 10 minutes to be tutored, and 5 to 10 minutes to add and post individual and team points. Tutees begin by reading a brief passage from their book to their tutor, who in turns provides immediate error correction as well as points for correctly reading the sentences. When CWPT is used for reading comprehension, the tutee responds to “who, what, when, where, and why” questions provided by the tutor concerning the reading passage. The tutor corrects responses and provides the tutee with feedback.
Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) borrows the basic structure of the original CWPT but expands the procedures to engage students in strategic reading activities. Students are engaged in three strategic reading activities more typically addressed during teacher directed instruction: partner reading with retell, paragraph summary, and prediction relay. PALS provides students with intensive, systematic practice in reading aloud, reviewing and sequencing information read, summarizing, stating main ideas, and predicting.
Think-Pair-Share hare was described by McTighe and Lyman as a procedure for enhancing student engagement and learning by providing students with opportunities to work individually and then to share their thinking or work with a partner. First, students are asked to think individually about a topic for several minutes. Then they are asked to work with a partner to discuss their thinking or ideas and to form a joint response. Pairs of students then share their responses with the class as a whole.

One-on-one instruction
Research findings

Traditionally, one-on-one instruction in which the student receives explicit instruction by the teacher is considered the most effective practice for enhancing outcomes for students with LD. In fact, the clinical model where the teacher works directly with the student for a designated period of time has a long standing tradition in LD. Most professionals consider one-on-one instruction to be the preferred procedure for enhancing outcomes in reading . Many professionals perceive one-on-one instruction as essential for students who are falling to learn to read: “Instruction in small groups may be effective as a classroom strategy, but it is not sufficient as a preventive or remedial strategy to give students a chance to catch up with their age mates”.
In a review of five programs designed for one-on-one instruction, Wasik and Slavin revealed that all of the programs were highly effective, even though they represented a broad range of methodologies. Though one-on-one instructional procedures are viewed as highly effective, they are actually infrequently implemented with students with LD, and when implemented, it is often for only a few minutes.
In a recent review of research on one-on-one instruction in reading, no published studies were identified that compared one-on-one instruction with other grouping formats (e.g., pairs, small groups, whole class) for elementary students with LD. Thus, though one-on-one instruction is a highly prized instructional procedure for students with LD, very little is known about its effectiveness.

 

Implications for practice
The implications for practice of one-on-one instruction are in many ways the most difficult to define because although there is universal agreement on its value, very little is known about its effectiveness for students with LD relative to other grouping formats. Furthermore, the instructional implications for practitioners revolve mostly around assisting them in restructuring their classrooms and caseloads so that it is possible for them to implement one-on-one instruction. Over the past 8 years we have worked with numerous special educators who have consistently informed us that the following factors impede their ability to implement one-on-one instruction: (a) case loads that often require them to provide services for as many as 20 students for 2 hours per day, forcing group sizes that exceed what many teachers perceive as effective; (b) increased requirements to work collaboratively with classroom teachers, which reduces their time for providing instruction directly to students; and (c) ongoing and time-consuming paperwork that facilitates documentation of services but impedes implementation of services.
Considering the “reality factors” identified by teachers, it is difficult to imagine how they might provide the one-on-one instruction required by many students with LD in order to make adequate progress in reading. Certainly, it would require restructuring special education so that the number of students receiving services and the amount of time these services are provided by special education teachers is altered.
Research studies have repeatedly shown that reading instruction in many classrooms is not designed to provide students with sufficient engaged reading opportunities to promote reading growth. We have provided a summary of recent research on the effectiveness for students with LD of various grouping practices that can increase engaged reading opportunities, as well as implications of this research for classroom instruction. As classrooms become more diverse, teachers need to vary their grouping practices during reading instruction. There needs to be a balance across grouping practices, not a sweeping abandonment of smaller grouping practices in favor of whole-class instruction. Teachers can meet the needs of all students, including the students with LD, by careful use of a variety of grouping practices, including whole-class instruction, teacher- and peer-led small group instruction, pairing and peer tutoring, and one-on-one instruction.

 

About the authors

Ifeanyi-Allah Ufondu, PhD, is the Nation’s leading Special Needs advocate and Educational Psychologist. He is also the founder of Beautiful Minds Inc.- Advocacy & Special Needs Solutions. His current interests include best grouping practices for reading instruction and advocacy for At-Risk youth. Marie Tejero Hughes, PhD, is a research assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her research interests include parental involvement and instructional strategies for students with disabilities in inclusive settings. Sally Watson Moody is a senior research associate in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her research interests include instructional grouping and effective reading instruction for students with learning disabilities. Batya Elbaum, PhD, is an assistant research professor in the School of Education at the University of Miami. Her primary research is on the academic progress and social development of students with learning disabilities.

Video games that improve skills for kids with special needs


At Beautiful Minds Inc. we understand that strengthening skills through play is a proven strategy to help kids learn. For kids with special needs, video games can offer opportunities to practice everything from communication skills to organization — even social interactions — in a comfortable environment where players set the pace. While games designed specifically for kids with special needs can address certain issues, many mainstream titles can support your kid’s learning. Dr. Ifeanyi Ufondu, founder and psychologist at Beautiful Minds Inc. -Advocacy & Special Needs Solutions states, “Mainstream games can boost a sense of independence and confidence in kids with special needs, provide the ability to ask for help, and let them challenge themselves.”  Try these games to help kids with special needs in these five areas:

COMMUNICATION

Games that promote visual storytelling, social modeling, and language patterns can help kids with speaking, listening, and communicating. Learn more about communication challenges.
Cool School: Where Peace Rules, Mac, Windows
This free game helps kids practice conflict resolution.
Itzazoo, Windows
Using “living ink” technology, kids’ drawings are animated and incorporated into this unique learn-to-read game.
Storybook Workshop, Nintendo Wii
Players take turns reading fairy tales aloud, and the game changes your voice to fit the scene.
Apps for kids on the autism spectrum

MOTOR SKILLS

Games that encourage movement — from dancing to sports to drawing to handwriting — strengthen muscle memory and put a name to an action. Learn more about motor skill challenges.

Active Life: Magical Carnival, Nintendo Wii
Using both the standard Wii remote and a special floor mat that tracks players’ foot movements, this collection of fantasy-themed mini-games gets kids moving as it tests their short-term memory, their ability to follow instructions quickly, and their skill at matching colors, shapes, and patterns.
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved, Microsoft Xbox 360, Xbox One
By moving like a conductor in time with specific sounds, this innovative rhythm game teaches kids about music and provides plenty of physical exercise. Kids will feel as though they’re actually manipulating and creating music while getting a modest physical workout.
LetterSchool, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
LetterSchool does a great job of teaching letter writing with a three-step process: Learn the starting points for each stroke, trace the letter, and write the letter without hints. Once you draw the letter, it animates, which is a sweet reward.
Organization
Developing new routines, transitioning activities, and managing time are challenges for kids who struggle with executive functioning. Games that emphasize visual scheduling and break big jobs into smaller tasks can help. Learn more about organizational challenges.
Disaster Hero, Mac, Windows
This free Web game visually demonstrates what to do in case of emergency. Upon completion, players gain a sense of empowerment, as they will know the recommended steps for planning for, anticipating, and responding to a natural disaster.
Engineering.com Games, Mac, Windows
With about 100 engineering, physics, aerospace, and logic games, kids can find a wealth of opportunities to practice skills such as decision-making, deduction, and prediction that help build understanding of sequential directions.
Super Mario Maker, Nintendo Wii U
Kids learn step-by-step processes as they use the Wii U GamePad’s stylus to design, create, and share their very own Super Mario adventures.

READING & WRITING

Games that give both verbal and written instructions, break down directions into small steps, and focus on the player’s strengths can help boost reading and writing skills. Learn more about reading and writing challenges.
Elegy for a Dead World, Mac, Windows
It sounds creepy, but Elegy for a Dead World is a free-form storytelling game that gives kids the freedom to write whatever they want using prompts or their own imaginations.
Mia Reading: The Bugaboo Bugs, Mac, Windows
With 12 learning activities and four levels of difficulty, Mia Reading takes kids on a super-engaging learning adventure that covers a wide range of literacy basics, including associating words with images, phonics, spelling, sentence structure, and more.
Scribblenauts Unlimited, Nintendo Wii U
Kids can learn about puzzle solving while exercising their vocabularies and stretching their imaginations in this highly creative puzzle adventure. When the game prompts them to help a character, kids write a word using the Wii U’s stylus, and voila — the item appears on-screen!

 

So let’s get out there and get gaming! Beautiful Minds Inc.

Dr. Ifeanyi Ufondu

Schoolyard Bullying: Dr. Ufondu says “It’s COOL To Be Different!”


Bullying. A word that has only gained in intensity and power despite its frequent use. Everyone is outraged by bullying. It’s the hot topic at parent meetings and “zero tolerance for bullying” has become every school’s catch phrase.

And rightly so. Consistent bullying is intolerable and can lead to horrific situations and leave lifelong wounds, especially on the heart of a small child, unequipped to make sense of a situation that would baffle most adults. We have all read the stories, horror stories really, of children and teenagers who take their own lives as a result of prolonged, systematic bullying.

We read these stories and try to convince ourselves that these things couldn’t touch us on such a devastating level.

We tell ourselves that a child who is bullied so badly that they take their own life must not receive the necessary love or attention at home to overcome the bullying by their peers. A child who would take their own life must not have really been taught how great their worth was, how precious and irreplaceable they were. However, if we are honest, we know that this is not always the case. It’s far more complex than that. A child who is terrorized daily on the playground may have vulnerabilities in other areas already and may not have the capacity to cope with or process the trauma they are enduring.

Sometimes the most loving home in the world can’t save a child who has been made to feel so utterly worthless.

It is frightening to acknowledge that sometimes the most secure home isn’t enough.

Bullying is intolerable.

Schools should have a zero tolerance policy. These words instill confidence, the idea that something is being done right, but is there substance behind them?

Sometimes a concern about bullying is met with something frighteningly similar to victim blaming. “I am sorry but your child isn’t like other children. I’m sorry but your child doesn’t read social situations very well. I am sorry but…”

In essence, I’m sorry but somehow your child has brought this upon himself.

The bottom line is that these “I’m sorry but” comments are essentially contradictory to the idea of having a zero tolerance for bullying policy in the first place. These comments in fact, contribute to bullying rather than lead to finding a solution. The message given is that children could avoid being bullied if they would just conform to a standard notion of normal. If they could manage to become just like everyone so as not to stand out in any way.

Is this what we want for our children? It isn’t what I want for mine. The answer to bullying is not conformity or eliminating differences or the very things that make someone an individual. As my children grow, I don’t want to teach them to blend in and not stand out. I want to teach them to stand up and be who they are and were created to be, even if who they are is a little bit quirky, a little bit different.

We can try to teach ourselves and our children courage, empathy and hard things like how to stand up for someone who is being hurt or made fun of. We can try to help them understand that a person is allowed to be different.

It’s important to keep teaching children that there are obvious differences we see at once. Founder of the nation’s leading Special Needs advocacy agency, Dr. Ifeanyi Ufondu, Ph.D. states, “We must remember to teach and educate our children that we don’t bully a child who has a different skin color or who speaks with an accent. We must remember to teach them not to make fun of someone who uses a wheelchair or has a visible disability. Must must diligently show them that those with differences are just that…DIFFERENT! It’s cool to be different!”

It’s also important to teach our children and perhaps ourselves, that there are less obvious differences as well. Disabilities or syndromes we don’t see or understand fully because a child seems “normal” on the surface. The little boy who is bright and engaging but obsesses over one thing and repeats himself constantly. The child who is sitting quietly in class and suddenly has a series of noticeable vocal or motor tics. A child with sensory issues who has trouble processing the light, feel, noise, and speed of the world around them and experiences meltdowns or shutdowns. All of these things may seem funny to classmates until someone sits down and explains to them what is actually happening to the child experiencing these things.

That that child may just think a little differently and understand and experience the world a little differently. Most importantly, that there is room in the world for everyone and it’s ok to be a little different. It’s not a bad lesson to take with us as we go through life.

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