Orton-Gillingham and Dyslexia

cropped-new_website_header_11This blog has covered many aspects of dyslexia so far. I have discussed what it is like to live with dyslexia, different ways to cope with organizational aspects of having a learning disability, the importance of empowering your child with dyslexia and many other different angles. But what about timely intervention?

If your child has been formally diagnosed with a reading disorder, or dyslexia (a term not often used in psychological reports), you may have done some research. Most likely you have found that, among the many ways to assist children in tackling their challenges in reading, the Orton-Gillingham method is one of the most effective, research-based programs to remediate for reading disorders. Often, psychological reports may recommend Orton-Gillingham programs or private tutors in order to help children with dyslexia develop effective strategies in their reading and writing.

I have had the recent privilege of becoming the Centre Director for Windsor’s Scottish Rite Learning Centre at the Masonic Temple. The Centre is funded by The Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation of Canada Learning Centres for Children and their mission statement is as follows:

“to provide quality, state of the art, free remedial tutoring to children with difficulties in reading, writing, and scholastic skills formally identified as dyslexia.”

The Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation uses the definition of dyslexia from the International Dyslexia Association. Their definition is as follows:

“Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition of language. Varying in degree of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including the system of processing sounds in language (phonology) in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting and sometimes in arithmetic. Emotional disturbances and behavioural difficulties are often secondary results. Dyslexia is not a result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions. Although dyslexia is lifelong, individuals with dyslexia frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate remediation.”

At the Learning Centre, we receive many referrals for children whose parents wish for them to attend, and with good reason! The Orton-Gillingham tutoring we provide has been proven to be very successful in the remediation of dyslexia.

It is so true that many components of the Orton-Gilllingham program would assist any child whose struggles with reading! However, the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation Learning Centre has specifications in order for a child to qualify for the free tutoring program.dyslexia-conclusion

I would like to share some more information about the specifics of the Learning Centre.

Is there any cost for the tutoring at the Scottish Rite Learning Centre?

No. The program is absolutely free for children that meet the qualifications.

Who does qualify for tutoring?

Children that are formally identified as having a reading disorder, or dyslexia are candidates for the Learning Centre. This means the child has had a psychological assessment (administered by a psychologist either privately or by a School Board) that formally diagnoses them with a learning disability in reading. However, this is not the only criteria. Children must also fit the profile of being ‘dyslexic’ in order to benefit from the program. Children with dyslexia demonstrate intelligence within the average range and have only specific difficulties in reading. Students dealing with other challenges (i.e. multiple disabilities, intellectual disabilities, etc.) would not necessarily get the benefit of our program. All applications are looked at on an individual basis to determine eligibility and all students at our Centre are on a trial basis, as not all students are as receptive to the program.

What if my child has not had a psychological report, but has difficulty reading?

The Learning Centre requires formal diagnosis through a psychological report in order to be considered for the program. Psychological assessments can be obtained privately. They tend to be expensive but sometimes ar covered by benefit/health plans. If a student struggles at school, they may obtain an assessment through the school board, especially if they are significantly behind their grade level.

Although the tutoring would be beneficial in teaching many children how to read, the Learning Centre has a long waiting list of students that are formally diagnosed and meet the requirements of the program. There are many tutors that provide our services privately for a fee.


How long is the program? What is the time commitment?

The length of time that it takes to provide tutoring depends on the child. However, the average length of time to complete the entire program is approximately two to two and half years.

Tutoring is twice weekly, for an hour each session. As this is an intensive and very expensive program to run, it is expected that the child is there for every session. Other commitments (e.g. sports, music lessons, etc.) are expected to be secondary to your child learning how to read and write. Therefore, frequent cancellations due to these reasons (and others) would likely cause a student to be suspended from tutoring sessions. Commitment is essential to The Learning Centre.


What are the tutors’ qualifications?

The Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation provides certification for our tutors. Tutors apply to the program with proof of post-secondary education, a resume, and must provide police clearance. A Bachelor of Education is preferable, but not necessary for training. Tutors must also have a good command of the English language in order to qualify. Training for Orton-Gillingham certification requires 45 hours of instruction, many required readings (with subsequent reports/reflections on the readings), quizzes and a final exam. Additionally, each tutor must do a 100-hour practicum tutoring students in this methodology, with at least 8 of these hours being observed by the tutor trainer to determine effectiveness.

Training can be obtained through the Learning Centre free of charge to those qualified and interested in the time commitment. It is a requirement that the practicum is done at the Centre with our children.

What is the time commitment for Tutor Certification?

Full certification takes approximately two to two and a half years to obtain. Each tutor begins tutoring one student for an hour, twice weekly. When they are ready, tutors take on a second student bringing the time commitment up to two hours, twice weekly. We highly value our tutors and the commitment they put in to tutor our students.

Do tutors get paid?

No. The tutors that work at the Learning Centre volunteer their time. The practicum allows them to gain the necessary experience to obtain certification through the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation. However, certified tutors may take on students privately, but do not work through the Learning Centre.

How can I learn more about getting tutor certification through the Scottish Rite Charitable Foundation?

To get further details about the qualifications and commitment of being a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor, or to obtain more information on tutoring your child. Please contact:

windsorbear - colourTammy Groulx (formerly Wilcox)

The Windsor Scottish Rite Learning Centre

986 Ouellette Ave.

Windsor, ON






a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

(Thank you Google!)

As a Learning Support teacher and specialist in treating students with Language-based learning disabilities, I often have parents enquiring about whether or not I believe their child has Dyslexia. I am not a psychologist and cannot make that call! Only a certified psychologist can properly diagnose Reading Disorders, through psychoeducational testing.

However, there are warning signs. I noticed several oddities when my son was a preschooler. My son was very intelligent! He understood everything that was asked of him, although he sometimes had difficulties following multi-step directions. He had a fantastic vocabulary and general knowledge, especially about the things that interested him. He knew the alphabet song and could easily sing it anytime it was requested. But, when it came down to pointing to the letters of the alphabet as we sang, I noticed he had no idea that each of these strange symbols meant. He had difficulties with cutting and pasting, pronouncing some sounds, words and phrases. Seeing hundreds of children every day enabled me to realize that something was up.

What is Dyslexia?

  • Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading.
  • Dyslexia is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, decoding and spelling.
  • Dyslexia may cause problems with reading comprehension and slow down vocabulary growth.
  • Dyslexia may result in poor reading fluency and reading out loud.
  • Dyslexia is neurological and often genetic.
  • Dyslexia is not the result of poor instruction.
  • With the proper support, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers.

Could my child have Dyslexia (or a language-based learning disorder)?

The warning signs…

(taken from http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia)

Young Children

Trouble With:

  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech

  • Pronouncing words, for example saying “mawn lower” instead of “lawn mower”

  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words

  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences

  • Rhyming

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

  • Mastering the rules of spelling

  • Remembering facts and numbers

  • Handwriting or with gripping a pencil

  • Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization

  • Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d, b) or moving letters around (left, felt)

  • Following a sequence of directions

  • Trouble with word problems in math

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

  • Reading at the expected level

  • Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs

  • Reading aloud

  • Organizing and managing time

  • Trouble summarizing a story

  • Learning a foreign language

  • Memorizing

Empowering your child with Dyslexia

bruceDyslexia is a very specific learning disability. Children with Dyslexia usually have at least average (and many times above average) intelligence. Once your child is able to be aware of this, they can understand and embrace that they only have a very specific challenge. This empowers them! It is way easier to know that you only have to overcome one or two hurdles than to think you are incapable. Often this is the case before the diagnosis of Dyslexia.

Let them know and reassure them that as they learn new strategies life will get easier. Reading and writing will always be a bit more of a challenge for them compared to their peers, but over time they will learn way to compensate for this and their true abilities will shine through. Sometimes these challenges help them to realize that their strengths are truly gifts.

For example, my son always had difficulty writing in his agenda. However, he always remembered his assignments and important dates. He then came to realize that his memory for schedules and date was extraordinary!

Famous People with Dyslexia

I find that my son and my students are amazed when they find out that many famous and successful people struggled with Dyslexia. One of my students recently came to me and said he would never be able to do anything academic because he had Dyslexia. I said to him that I know a lot of people with Dyslexia that were still able to be very successful! We went on the computer and looked it up. He was ecstatic and began to take on a different view of his challenges.dyslexia-banner-1000x288

Let’s take a look at just a small sampling of some people with these challenges:

  • Walt Disneywalt_disney_records
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Tom Cruise
  • Will Smith
  • Steve Jobs
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Anderson Cooper
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Andy Warhol
  • Tommy Hilfiger_41358919_orlando_getty_203
  • John Lennon
  • Cher
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • George Washington
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Woodrow Wilsonimages2
  • Nelson Rockafeller
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Bruce Jenner
  • Greg Louganis
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Jackie Stewart
  • Richard Branson
  • Henry Ford
  • William Hewlitt
  • Charles Schwab
  • Ted Turner
  • Frank W. WoolwortSteve Jobs
  • Hans Christian Anderson
  • Agatha Christie
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Robin Williams
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Jim Carrey
  • Danny Glover
  • Famous_DyslexicsWhoopi Goldberg
  • Jay Leno
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kiera Knightley
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Tommy Smothers
  • Henry Winkler

…and the list goes on!


Read more: http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm#ixzz3OcDLAhpr

Transitioning to University or College

students_2357903bThe transition from high school to post-secondary education is always a difficult time. There are so many things to consider! Should I go to college or university? What do I want to choose as my career? Will I get in to the program that I desire? Are my marks high enough? Do I qualify for scholarships? Should I stay at home or go to school out of town? …the list goes on.

These decisions become increasingly more difficult when you have been faced with the additional challenge of have a learning disability.48359784

I have been witness to the many issues that arise when a student makes their way from the comforts of secondary school to the “real world” of post-secondary life. Both of my sons have been going through this trying and uneasy time lately. My oldest is in his second year of university and is coming to the realization that, although he has not wanted to disclose his learning challenges, it is necessary to accept the assistance offered in order for him to meet his full potential.

A little background…My oldest son has Executive Functioning Disorder. He has difficulties with transition, set-shifting, time management, task initiation and various other aspects of managing time, space and emotion. He has never taken full advantage of the assistance that could be offered to him because he works hard and tried to overcome his challenges decisionswithout the aid of others. He has always been successful with his efforts and has definitely met with success. However, the challenges that University offer can sometimes overwhelm. He is feeling this pressure now (as most university students would agree) and has succumbed to the realization that the assistance that he qualifies for would definitely be beneficial in helping him meet his life goals. Thankfully, the University is very prepared for students that attend and have learning challenges. This year we have learned the following:

  1. Consult with Disabilities Services at the University (or College) to see what you are qualified to receive for assistance. They are amply prepared to provide whatever accommodations are necessary in order for their students to meet with success.
  1. Make sure you have a recent psychological report. Disabilities Services requires recent information on the student’s level of functioning, strengths and needs in order to provide appropriate accommodations.
  1. Advocate! Help your son/daughter (or yourself!) to speak up and ask for the assistance necessary in order to meet with success. They will not come to you (as in elementary and high school) to help give you what you need.

Both Colleges and Universities are excellent at accommodations and meeting the needs of students that require different download (1)learning methods and/or styles – you just have to ask.

A recent Psychological report is necessary to make sure information is up to date and relevant to the student’s current level of need and functioning. You must decide whether the need is for a regular psychoeducational report or a more extensive neuropsychological report. In our case, since my son has Executive Functioning issues, he was in need of a current neuropsychological report to give a more accurate reading of his abilities and adaptive functioning as an adult.

If there is a financial need (for example, if you are not covered through health benefits), the University is often willing to assist in that manner as well. Again, self-advocacy is key in acquiring the help you need. Disabilities Services is always willing to lead you in the right direction regarding accessing the assistance necessary to meet with success.  choices_meme_of_the_week

Self-Regulation in the classroom


Self-regulation. What is it? Why is it important for student success? What is needed in order to support the development of self-regulatory skills within oneself?

Self-regulation is defined as regulation of the self, by the self. It monitors conditions to maintain optimal arousal for a given task. A lack of the regulatory forces that govern our organization and behaviour can have detrimental effects on a child’s academic and socio-emotional success.

There are a broad range of mental and physical problems that are not caused by difficulties with self-regulation, but are often accompanied by it. Self-regulatory skills are typically not seen in isolation. calm alert learningAccording to Dr. Stuart Shanker, author of Calm, Alert and Learning, there is a high comorbidity for self-regulatory deficits to occur with Autism, ADHD and high anxiety, to name a few.

It is critical to accommodate students with complex profiles because these children are at greater risk. Teachers can help improve self-regulation in students by modelling and scaffolding good self-awareness and self-regulatory skills, by making their environment more conducive to self-regulating behaviours and by providing a stable and predictable routine.

Like motivation, self-regulation is not always automatic or internalized by individuals, particularly young children or those with Executive functioning disorders. For a student who lacks internal motivation we may provide stickers or a token economy to externally motivate, with hopes that these are only part of the scaffolding that will eventually lead them to become internally motivated. It is the modelling and scaffolding that is the structure of this support.

For students lacking self-regulation skills, we can use externally organized environments, routines and strategies to assist them in finding their own self-awareness…, self-monitoring… and ultimately… self-regulation.

Mindfulness or self-monitoring of arousal level is paramount in determining if there needs to be up- or down-regulation in order to match the task with the appropriate state of arousal. Students need to be aware of their arousal level before they are able to regulate it. Adults can facilitate the process externally until the awareness and regulation is internalized. Child-friendly strategies like use of meditation and purposeful, calming movement are a few ways for a child to attain mindfulness.

A person’s environment is a very important aspect of their education. Everyone benefits from purposeful changes in the physical setup of a classroom. Children who are easily overwhelmed by auditory or visual stimuli, benefit from a environmental makeover in the classroom to provide external help with self-regulation.org.crayons

The third teacher, the environment, should be utilized to assist students in regulating themselves.
Addressing the arousal level of the students through use of a calming environment, such as that expressed by the teachings of Reggio Emilia, is essential in order to provide students with different strategies to up or down regulate themselves. This approach involves a calm atmosphere, interaction with the environment, communication with others, and self-constructed learning.

The Reggio Emilia teachings provide an ideal environment to foster self-awareness and monitoring.
Research in this area finds that children concentrate better with a reduced number of visual distractors. Use of fidget toys, neutral colours around the room and secluded areas for breaks are some examples that one may consider to support the development of self-regulation skills.

organizedAuditory stimuli are by far the most powerful of all distractors. Strategies that can be employed to help decrease anxiety and provide predictability include… chimes instead of bells, use of visual timers, and the use of songs, drum beats or other soothing sounds to signal transitions within the classroom.

Visual supports such as schedules provide students with predictability within their classroom environment. Once students have an established schedule that they are comfortable in following, they are aware of what is next in their routine. This predictability in routine allows children to up- or down-regulate in preparation for upcoming activity. This strategy fosters a sense of self-awareness.

When the external organization system is strong, the strategies will be transferred and generalized to sock drawerhigh school, post-secondary education and beyond to the work place. For students to be properly regulated for learning, our goal as educators is to reduce the demands on the sensory system. This includes satisfying the needs for certain types of sensory stimulation while helping to avoid others. Optimal self-regulation is achieved when one is calm and focused.

thinking cap

Given the current realities of the significant increase in student needs in our schools, it is imperative that parents, staff and community partners learn, model and teach self-regulatory behaviours in order to improve the success of all children. Dr. Stuart Shanker states, “the better we understand self-regulation, the better we can implement educational strategies that enhance
students’ capacity to learn and develop the skills necessary to deal with life’s challenges.”


Organize your Life!

One of the most frustrating parts of having executive functioning difficulties, is the lack of a clear organizational system. Simple, everyday tasks become difficult when you don’t know where to begin or worse…when you are ready to begin you can’t because you cannot find the necessary tools for the job. This can really get in the way of not just learning, but life in general. Those with poor organizational skills often end up late for school, appointments, social functions, etc.

Whether it is the child that is lacking in organizational abilities, or the parent (I’m guilty of this!) here are a few suggestions and strategies to help make things go a little smoother.

1.ROUTINE – Create a routine for your family. This is so important. Routines can easily become habits when they are DSC_0014-3Snap 2012-03-07 at 08.02.04consistent. This paves the way for leaning life-long strategies to help organize your life. Time management is always a valuable lesson. Making a schedule for your young children to follow can cut out a lot of family arguments as well. If children have assigned shower times and homework
times, there is no fighting over who goes next in the shower and yelling to turn the tunes down (depending on the age of your children). Always include homework time, a chore and free time in the routine. A balance is necessary. If your child doesn’t have time for these things, you may want to consider a shift in activities for better time management.calendar

2.FAMILY CALENDAR – Have a central family calendar that is posted somewhere with high visibility, like the fridge. I bought an “Mom’s Ultimate Family Fridge Calendar”. It comes with stickers for different activities and
appointments. You could also find many different DIY calendar ideas on Pinterest. It is way easier to plan events and activities when everyone knows what is going on.

2.PERSONAL AGENDA – Another important tool for children as students is the agenda. Many students are expected to carry an agenda for school each day. This
provides an essential daily means of communication between the parent and teacher. Phone calls and interviews are good for periodic checks, but in order for you to get the full picture on your child’s agendaschool day, an agenda routine is necessary. Some teachers and/or schools do not follow this policy. If that is the case it may be difficult for you to convince your child to consistently use an agenda, but give it it a try. It keeps them organized with assignments and homework and they can transfer any important days onto the family calendar at the end of the day.
Some teachers use blogs and websites to relay this type of information. That is great news! Make sure that checking the blog or website is built in to your child’s nightly routine.

3. ORGANIZE! – Organize and reorganize and reorganize! We finally get a room organized and then VOILA! All your hard is gone. Of course it is…it takes work to stay organized. Make sure you expect this to happen. Look for lots of ideas on how to organize parts of your house. I find most of mine on Pinterest or Google. It does take time to adjust to news ways of organizing your items, but it is worth it when you are looking. I use labels and pictures to help organize things at home and things at school. If you aren’t sure where to start, a FANTASTIC website for organizing your life is:



This website really can help you clean and organize your entire house. She has tons of great ideas and even better – a routine to follow!

Most of my favourite ideas come from Pinterest though…



4. GENTLE REMINDERS – Remember – everyone needs lots of reminders! That usually includes the parents too. It takes a lot of work to change a lifestyle. You can do it! Life will be so much easier in the end.

Living with Dyslexia – Part III

 What to do if you think your child may have Dyslexia.

 As a Learning Support teacher, I see a lot of children that have difficulty learning how to read. I work with these children to help them learn the rules of our language. Although these children are often extremely bright, the standard ways of teaching these concepts do not seem to do the trick.

The story at schools is so often the same: Teachers are hesitant to give poor marks to students that know the work, yet are unable to write it down or read the content. Even though the student may be reading or writing two or more years behind grade level, they seem to know their stuff and can recite their knowledge orally. This is actually really good assessment – being able to give oral answers is a very popular way of extracting information from students with Learning Disabilities. However, in the primary grades if a student is reading and/or writing well below grade level it can seem devastating. Our schools are experiencing a seemingly ever-increasing amount of students with special needs. These needs are complex and must be addressed for the safety of the student, the student body and, often, the staff. Many of the children with very high needs are waiting to be tested, and will be high priority.

 What does this mean for students with reading/writing problems?

 We know that many children with reading difficulties exhibit similar symptomology:

  1. They are very bright

  2. They have a hard time reading

  3. They often have difficulties with writing

…and many more that depend on the individual child.

Since we are dealing with bright children, they get by. Teachers give them extra time and accommodations such as oral answers, etc. The problem with this is that they will never get identified by the school if they are passing. In order to be referred for further testing a child must be receiving R’s and D’s.

Many parents (with the required resources) address this issue by pursuing private psychological testing. This is often a much quicker path to identification by the school. The school can use the report to identify the student with an exceptionality in a quick meeting called an IPRC (Identification, Placement and Review Committee). Once the identification is in place, an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed by the student’s teachers and the LST. This plan helps to address the individual learning needs of that particular student (using recommendations from the psychological report).

 If you wonder if you should be looking into private testing or being a stronger advocate for your child’s learning at school, take a look at this website. It offers many suggestions on what to look for when your child is having difficulties with reading and writing.


 Never hesitate to advocate for your child. They need you!

The Importance of Self-Advocacy

knowledge_is_power1The more you know something or have a keen awareness of a subject, the more comfortable we are talking about it. These discussions are valuable for solving problems that may arise.

In the case of having Dyslexia – talking about the fact that he has a problem with reading, spelling and writing, my son Donny has decided that this disability is becoming more like a challenge accepted.

 I believe that his knowledge and awareness of his own unique challenges have helped him to become a more confident individual. He sees Dyslexia as a challenge in that he has to figure out how to take a task (like reading a novel) and make it work for him (buy/download the MP3 file of the that book, start earlier and budget more time, etc.). This is what teachers have been trying to do for ages!

 Since he was diagnosed and identified with Dyslexia, he has been kept informed of all the information he could handle at that time. In grade four he knew that he had a really difficult time reading, spelling and writing, but that was it! He did well in math and all his other subjects, as long as text was read to him.

 By grade eight, Donny was attending his own IPRC and helping decide his pathway based on recommendations made by the Learning Support Teachers, Counsellors, etc. He was also a strong advocate of his Individual Education Plan. He knew what was on it and what was best for his learning.

 Donny was a graduate of the Orton-Gillingham program and is familiar with the program so he has been encouraged over the years to help with tutoring (by listening to young students read). He also has the opportunity to sit on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association – Windsor Essex as the students representative.

 Each experience and each chance to learn about LDs empowers him even more. He has been on The

Donny Rotary

Bridge radio show on CBC radio and was featured in Communiqué magazine. Last night I was very proud of him as he spoke in front of a group of Rotarians about his Learning Disability and the challenges he faces. He did a great job!

If your child is able to understand information about his or her learning challenge, empower them! Simplify things, but let them know that their challenge is not with everything – it is specific. This can create a shift in attitude. The idea that there is only a couple of challenges to face the task seems more manageable than if you feel that you don’t understand anything.

Empower your child! Talk with them about their learning issues. They will know what they are good at and what they have a hard time with. You can guide them through the tough parts and help to find strategies that will work for them. As they get older, ideally they will adopt these strategies as their own and know what works best for their own learning.