Orton-Gillingham Phonics Program in Classroom

Here is a great Youtube video highlighting the use of Orton-Gillingham instruction in the classroom. Orton-Gillingham frequently offers training sessions here in Chicago. Their next near-by comprehensive (30-hour) training is in Milwaukee, IL on August 6th.


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July 28, 2012 · 8:13 am

Chicago Literacy Tutor Training

Literacy Chicago is offering tutor training August 4th and August 11th this summer.

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ipad use in language and literacy instruction

The hot buzz these days is the use of the ipad in language and literacy, particularly in regards to teaching children on the spectrum. The Erikson Institute in Chicago is offering a continuing education course on this November 3rd, 2012: http://erikson.edu/default/profdev/pdcourses/professional_development/w701_i_have_an_ipad_now_what.aspx
As hot trends tend to go, sometimes there can be misrepresentation. You may have seen the 60 minutes segment aired tonight on the ipad and autism. While there is awesome potential in this new technology, I think it is worth reading the response that Dr. Marion Blank, director of the A Light on Literacy prog…ram at Columbia University, wrote in the Huffington Post in November, 2011 when 60 minutes first aired the piece. I tend to agree with Dr. Blank that there is a distinct difference between reciprocal communication and the language 60 minutes highlighted with this ipad use. We have long known that many children with autism tend to prefer highly stimulating high-tech programs (sometimes to the point of fixation) to reciprocal communication with other people. In my practice, I try to use programs such as proloquo2go as a supplement, with a focus on more functional and interactive language. That is not to say that I disregard the wonderful tools that the ipad can offer for many children with autism, and I believe we should all work to understand how to best implement these tools in our communication with children with autism. If not a complete, well-rounded presentation, the 60 minutes segment is still inspirational and worth watching. I do also recommend reading Dr. Blank’s response: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-marion-blank/60-minutes-autism_b_1091378.html

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Will literacy be defined as “habilitative” in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act??

As everyone knows, last Thursday the Supreme Court held that most of the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare, were constitutional. The key finding of the majority of the Court was that Congress had the power to impose what has been called the “individual mandate,” which is the requirement that all individuals have health insurance. With the law upheld, beginning in 2014 insurance companies will not be able to prevent people with pre-existing conditions from purchasing health insurance, and they will not be able to charge higher premiums for individuals with pre-existing conditions. In addition, insurance companies will be required to cover “habilitative” services, as opposed to just “rehabilitative” services. Today, many insurance companies only offer coverage for rehabilitative services, which are those services that help a person recover skills that have been lost, such as from a stroke or head injury.  Habilitative services are services that help a person learn, keep, or develop skills that may not be developing as expected. Examples of habilitative services that clearly will be covered include speech therapy and occupational therapy. This is good news for parents of children with special needs. The big question remaining is which of these habilitative services will covered under the PPACA? That will be defined in regulations. While it is clear that some services, such as speech, will be covered, we have to wait and see whether services such as literacy will be defined as “habilitative” and thus will be covered by insurance, or whether the definition will be more limited.

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Recent Cuts to Medicaid

On June 14, Governer Quinn signed a bill cutting Medicaid funding by $1.6 billion. These cuts are set to take effect on July 1. As a result of the cuts, approximately 25,000 Illinois families will be removed from the Medicaid program. The Early Intervention program, which provides services to 3.5% of children in Illinois under the age of 3, did not have any reduction in funding as a result of these cuts.

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Literacy and Down Syndrome

Dear Parents, Colleagues, Clients, and Friends,

Since my studies in graduate school, I have always been especially passionate about serving children with Down Syndrome. The individuals with Down Syndrome that I have worked with over the years have all uniquely touched me and continue to drive my desire to better service this population. I find it particularly interesting that, compared to some populations of children with special needs, the community of people with Down Syndrome have a comparatively broader support system in local as well as national organizations, yet there remains a significant lack of research on how to best help children with Down Syndrome through therapy. Clearly, it is challenging to complete a solid meta-analysis of best practices due to the wide range of presentations of Downs, but for goodness sakes, there does not even seem to be much effort. There is some research, for example, on the efficacy of NS-OME (non-speech oral motor exercises) in typically developing children, but there are still no large-scale studies that I am aware of that study these exercises in children with Down Syndrome– a population who may theoretically benefit from these exercises due to the severity of hypotonia. As a speech therapist, I cannot even provide a decent developmental language norm-referenced guide to families with children with Downs. The gap between the variety of Down Syndrome-related organizations and the actual quality research for evidence-based practice is frustrating to say the least. This disparity, however, does drive me to problem solve and address the unique challenges to servicing this population. The experience has so far been a blessing, and I am excited to take on a new personal challenge: teaching literacy to children with Down Syndrome. 
From my independent research when I was working at a reading clinic in Highland Park, I learned that children with Down Syndrome frequently show a remarkable ability to learn literacy. In fact, I remember being surprised to read that many children with Down Syndrome best learn new vocabulary through reading, and that some speech therapists use sight word recognition as a means to teach basic vocabulary words. I found it fascinating that many children with Down Syndrome learn to read before they functionally talk. I am embarrassed to say that while I was amazed, I filed that information away and I moved on. Only now am I returning to research the exciting field of teaching literacy to children with Down Syndrome. Blair, Julie, and I are excited to be researching and taking continuing education on this fun and exciting area of our field. We are picking the brains of parents that we trust and respect who have children with Downs. We are brainstorming creative ways to utilize the skills of case-study clients in our instruction. We are not there yet. All three of us have learned in our careers the acute importance of getting it right the first time.

So please, if you have any support, access to research, or personal stories about teaching literacy to your child with Down Syndrome, tell us. We not only would appreciate your input, we need it! And in the meantime, if you are looking for quality literacy instruction for your child, one parent who I particularly respect had recommended GiGi’s Playhouse in Lincoln Park. Thank you for your time, support, and continued patronage. We couldn’t do it without you!

Kathleen Holman, M.A., CCC-SLP, Holman Therapy, Inc. www.holmantherapy.com

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Epilepsy and Literacy

 Chicago Reading Services is our new endeavor to relieve the severe lack of literacy support specific to a child’s unique needs. At Holman Therapy, we specialize in providing speech and language therapy to children with epilepsy, and we are particularly affected by the unique challenges that children with epilepsy experience. While there are clear skill sets and areas of need that many children with epilepsy share, over the years we have truly come to appreciate the individuality of children who have seizures. Seizures vary in type, location, duration, and frequency requiring a unique plan, drug cocktail, and sometimes diet to “tame the beast” (the seizures). Unfortunately, not only the seizures but also the treatment plan, necessary for controlling these seizures, frequently comes with it’s own side-effects and challenges. Ultimately, no child with epilepsy is the same. In addition to the great truth that all children are individuals with their own essence and skill sets that their epilepsy will not change, the variety of types of seizures and chemical changes due to medication and diet truly make each struggle with epilepsy unique. This can sometimes be a source of frustration for parents, who are networking and advocating for their child, wondering why other children with epilepsy may not be experiencing the particular struggle that their child is. While the variation of presentations may certainly be isolating, at Holman Therapy we view this variety as an indication that there are no clear-cut barriers to a child with epilepsy’s learning potential.

We empahsize this individuality– perhaps to the point of exhaustion!– because the common challenges that a number of children with epilepsy experience tend to dominate the conversation. Difficulties with motor planning, attention, body awareness, sensory regulation, exectuive organizational functioning, social-pragmatic skills, multi-tasking, completion of tasks, receptive and expressive language, viso-spatial awareness, and even low body tone are all real challenges that some children with epilepsy experience. An ideal literacy program for a child with epilepsy is one in which the instructor has extensive experience tailoring instruction for children with these specific difficulties, without pressuposing that these challenges apply to all. The most effective approach for literacy, and ultimately any therapeutic intervention, must be flexible to be able capatalizes on each child’s specific needs and skill sets.

There is a significant need for stronger and more current research in the field of reading instruction and epilepsy. Below, please find most current research articles:

Language in benign childhood epilepsy with centro-temporal spikes abbreviated form: Rolandic epilepsy and language, Journal: Brain and Language, March 2005

Reading Skills of Children with Generalised or Focal Epilepsy Attending Ordinary School, J. Hart,Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 2008

Reading impairment in the neuronal migration disorder of periventricular nodular heterotopia, Chang, B.S., et al., American Academy of Neurology, 2005.

Reading abilities and cognitive functions of children with epilepsy: Influence of epileptic syndrome, Chaix, Brain and Development, 2006.

Neuropsychological Aspects of Learning Disabilities in EpilepsyA. P. Aldenkamp*, W. C. J. Alpherts, M. J. A. Dekker, J. OverwegArticle first published online: 5 NOV 2007 Epilepsia

Attentional Ability in Children with Epilepsy, Sánchez-Carpintero1, R. and Brian G. R., Epilepsia, 2003.

Lateralization of Temporal Lobe

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