Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Math Disability - Dyscalculia

Math Disability - Dyscalculia

Many students come to the college Disabilities Office and are puzzled by their struggle with math. They are perplexed by their inability to pass math, yet these same people are skilled in reading and writing. What these students do not always realize is that it is possible to have a learning disability in math but not have one in reading and writing. The disability is called dyscalculia, and it is similar to dyslexia except the problems surface in math. These students often have trouble keeping numbers in the correct order. They sometimes struggle with multiplication facts and step-by-step math problems. There can also be a tendency to miss negative signs in algebraic equations.

These students usually have a long history of math struggles growing up. Students with a math disability often struggle with the visual steps as well as the auditory explanation of the processes. Someone who misreads and reverses numbers must remember to double-check work that has been copied to the paper. That same individual will often need to work through problems more than once or check the work on a calculator.

The only way to find out if someone has a math disability is to get tested for a learning disability. Generally testing will often show problems with memory, visual processing, or auditory processing. This simply means the individual might have a problem following along with the class notes and lectures. Testing may also show math reasoning, math calculation, and math fluency problems.

If you struggle with math, you may find the following strategies to be beneficial. First of all, take a very close look at your math book. Examine the way the chapters are presented. Look closely at each sample problem and match it to the same type of practice problem in the chapter exercises.  Most of the time, the practice problems follow the same order as the sample problems. In addition, look closely at the answer key at the back of the book. Many text books have every other problem worked out in detail. Work through one of the completed problems and then repeat the steps with the "twin" problem that only has a final answer. Finally, work the problem out on a board (white boards for the home are around $20.00) and talk aloud to yourself as you do the problem. If you become your own teacher, and talk through the process aloud, you will remember those actions when you take your test.

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Disability & Self-Advocacy at College - 4 Easy Steps

Disability & Self-Advocacy at College - 4 Easy Steps

Going from high school to college can feel like an overwhelming experience. If you are a student with a disability, the experience may seem rather challenging, but in reality, most colleges make the procedure easy to follow. As a new college student, you will need to become a self-advocate with regards to your disability and accommodation needs.

1. You begin your college life with an application to the college. Some colleges have strict admission standards, but the college will not deny entrance based solely on your disability. After you have completed your application, you should self-identify with the Disabilities Office at the college. Your name and disability information does not automatically transfer to the college. The college will have no idea that you need any accommodations unless you speak to the people who work in Disabilities Services. As long as you are 18 or older, you are the legal adult; the college is bound by FERPA rules of confidentiality, so your parents cannot speak for you on your behalf.

2. When you meet with the staff in the Disabilities Services offices, they will discuss documentation guidelines with you. Some colleges take IEPs and 504 plans from high school; others will want to see updated testing for a learning disability that uses adult norms. For disabilities such as medical conditions, psychological diagnoses, or physical challenges, documentation will likely be in the form of an official letter or medical report. Every college determines its own disability documentation guidelines, so you will need to investigate the correct procedure for your school. This is also the best time to discuss possible assistive technology you may need, especially if you need braille text or sign-language interpreters which could take additional time to arrange.

3. If you took ACT or SAT scores before applying to college, and if they are sufficient for entrance the college of your choice, then you likely do not need any additional testing. However, if you are accepted into a particular college, and your ACT or SAT scores do not exist or are not high enough for college level work, you may need additional placement testing. You should meet with Disabilities Services prior to taking your college placement tests in case you qualify for any accommodations on the tests. Placement tests determine the courses you will begin taking at college.

4. Once you have established a class schedule at college you should revisit Disabilities Services to get accommodations and/or assistive technology you need for your classes. In most cases, you will be the person who discusses the accommodations with your professors. The important point to remember is to keep the people who work in Disabilities Services informed if you have any issues, concerns, or problems with your accommodations, since that is likely the only way they will know what you need. Do not expect the professors to report your needs to Disability Services, and in most cases, you cannot go back and get a "do-over" if you failed to follow through ahead of time with your concerns.

In high school everybody told you what to do and when to do it. In college, you will need to follow up with things yourself. Be ready to be a self-advocate and make certain that you meet as often as necessary with your professors and Disability Services.

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Learning Style - What Is Yours?

Learning Style - What is Yours?

If you want to be a successful college student, you need to have a studying plan. Your old habits from high school will probably not work in college. You should begin your college career with a complete understanding about how you learn. Many students have not really thought much about their own learning style, but you should take a minute and examine your approach to your day-to-day experiences.

Do you prefer to be given your working assignments in writing or would you rather have someone just tell you what to do? That can make a big difference in your successful completion of a job! If you are a visual learner, you like to see a written explanation of your assignment. If you are an auditory learner, you prefer to just be told what to do. A visual learner with an auditory boss must make an adjustment to the situation. A good way to establish a balance is to carry a notepad or jot the information down on a sticky note for later. A visual learner in college needs to make sure that notes are good, and handouts and PowerPoints are printed and organized. Taking notes on the actual PowerPoint is a very effective way of learning your material.

An auditory learner in college should plan to tape record lectures on a digital recorder, so that he or she can listen to the lecture over and over again on the computer or MP3 player. The auditory learner should also make sure to study aloud. Hearing the information will reinforce the details into your memory.

Some people are tactile/kinesthetic learners. Those people need to handle equipment to see how it works, try things out for themselves, and generally stay active and physical whenever doing anything. If you are a tactile/kinesthetic learner, then you need to figure out a way to study that enables you to use your energy when you study. One way a tactile/kinesthetic learner can study is by getting a white board or chalk board at home to use for working through problems. This is especially effective for math classes where the work can be especially challenging. A tactile/kinesthetic learner can also benefit from a sticky note collection of important facts stuck to a wall or mirror!

The ideal college student will blend all of these approaches when going to class and studying for tests. We all have a learning style preference, and using that learning style to study will lead to an A+ in student success at college.

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Universal Design and Assistive Technology

Universal Design and Assistive Technology

Universal Design is a concept that - in a perfect world - would enable those students with a disability to enter a room and immediately have EQUAL ACCESS to any and all information. With Universal Design, assistive technology can be used so that class lessons can be easily completed by everyone including those individuals with disabilities who use assistive technology.

The following adaptations are everyday examples of Universal Design: sliding automatic doors,  large restroom doorways and stalls,  adjustable tables,  sidewalk curb cuts, texting,  motion lights,  lever handles, and e-books. Each of these examples makes everyone's life easier, not just someone with a disability.

• Assistive Technology for Hard of Hearing and Deaf

For people who are hard of hearing or deaf, a Sorenson service uses remote interpreters via a videophone. Videophones are free with the Sorenson service. Individuals may be in one location, and the interpreter may be in another state. Some schools have CART reporting available to Hard of Hearing and Deaf students. The CART reporter sits outside a class and listens through headphones to make an exact transcript of the lecture just like a court reporter. FM systems are also available for individuals who have hearing impairments. FM systems will amplify the sound from room to room. One person wears a small device with a transmitter, and the other person wears a receiver. The person with the receiver can hear what the other person is saying as if they are next to each other. Assistive Technology like FM systems should be available to anyone who visits a museum or enjoys a performance at an auditorium or movie theater.

• Braille/Tactile Diagrams

For someone who is blind, Braille technology is available in personal computers called PacMates that allow individuals to take their own notes using a Braille keypad. Tactile diagrams for science are also available for human anatomy models, cross-sections of the head, brain, nose, mouth, throat, respiratory tract, heart, digestive system, etc. Tactile maps are also available for anyone taking a geography class or studying the globe. Textbooks and tests in school can be produced in Braille for anyone requesting such services.

• E-Text

E-text is now available through many textbook and non-academic publishers. Students who have disabilities may qualify for free copies of their textbooks from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. The University of Virginia also has thousands of e-books available to students. Kent State University has a non-commercial repository for e-book research, and Project Gutenberg has many e-books that are free of charge. Google has over 500,000 e-books that are free access. Most publishers want a "proof of purchase" for college textbooks before providing an e-text alternative version of the book. Kindle, The Nook, and Sony all have electronic readers for thousands of books, but interested individuals should also check for text-to-speech software that will allow them to listen to the book as well as read it.

• Physical Disabilities/Wheelchair Users

Wheelchair technology and add on systems are available for recreational activities like bowling and soccer. Paralympic athletes compete in international paralympic sporting events. In addition, specialized wheelchair carts with balloon tires are an option for riding over sandy beaches. For those people with limited upper body movement, computer access can be achieved using large trackballs, a foot mouse, sip and puff devices, and a head controlled mouse. Electric eyes can be provided that allow computer access and control through limited head movement and even eye blinks.

• Screen Magnifiers

Personal computers all have accessibility options including a zoom feature for someone with low vision. You can find access on the Control Panel feature of your PC. Zoom Text enlarges print for someone with low vision, and Zoom Text with speech also includes a screen reader. Products from Kurzweil and Freedom Scientific also provide screen readers and magnifiers. Home magnifiers are not only good for students, but the technology will help those who do fine work with their hands. Their hands can be magnified onto a monitor so that people can see their knitting, writing, or small detail repairs. Camera technology also makes life more accessible to individuals with low vision. There are a variety of products that enlarge text for someone with low vision that can be used on a desk top, are portable, or can be worn on the head for someone with mobility disabilities. For example, Flipper uses a camera to project information from the classroom board onto a personal computer. Jordy is a product worn on the head. Small pocket electronic magnifiers are helpful when trying to read small print during shopping because the user can push a button and freeze the image for easier access to the enlarged print. These products are available at low vision websites. In addition, you can get a microscope that is digital. The user hooks it through a computer with special software. The computer is then attached to a projector, and it enlarges the slide onto a wall or table for all to view at once. Math calculators are available that use an overhead to project onto the wall.

• Speech-to-Text

Someone who has low vision or hand movement restrictions can use a speech-to-text product like Dragon Naturally Speaking, one of Nuance voice control products. Nuance voice Controls will allow users to use voice commands to dictate emails to Blackberry, to add appointments, and to search the web. Sony ICD-SX46 Digital Voice Recorder can be used with Dragon NaturallySpeaking Software. Tablet PCs have a sensitive screen designed to interact with a complementary pen. You can use the pen directly on the screen like a mouse to select, drag, and open files and can be used in place of a keyboard to handwrite notes. Tablet PCs should also have speech-to-text technology. Nexus 1 Smartphone has a Speech-to-Text feature as well.

• Text-to-Speech

Screen readers are also available for free or purchase, depending upon the product. ReadPlease is a free screen reader for home use that reads text that has been cut and pasted to the screen reader on a computer. Students who are blind can use JAWS to listen to everything on their computer. Zoom Text and Magic also have text readers built into their software. Electronic pens are available also that can read notes aloud, scan and store text, transfer information to PDAs, Smartphones, and Personal Computers. Some of these pens can also translate English in other languages. The Pulse, Smartpen by Live Scribe lets the user record notes and then replay the written words by tapping on the notes. Notes can be saved to the computer and shared as Flash videos, PDF files, or audio files.

Regardless of the disability you are facing, today's technology will aid you through your day-to-day challenges.

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SQ4R Reading Improvement Method

SQ4R Reading Improvement Method

Have you ever heard of SQ4R? This is reading technique that will strengthen your ability to remember what you read!

• S = Survey the material

You need to begin your chapter with a brief survey of the contents. Look at the bold print, read the headings, check out the pictures and captions. You should then move through the chapter one page at a time until you get to the end of the chapter with the summary, review questions, and list of terminology found in most text books. Take a moment to look over those parts of the chapter. Read the summary, check out the questions and ask yourself if you know any of the answers already, and make a note by any terms you might already know.

• Q= Question

Go back through the text and begin to ask yourself some questions about the material. Use the standard - who, what, when, where, why - questions as you are surveying the text. You don't need to answer the questions yet, just keep a list handy to use as a reference while you are reading.

• R= Read

This is the time you actually begin to read the text of the chapter. You should always read with a pen in your hand, but keep a highlighter close by. Be careful not to highlight too excessively or you will just end up with pretty stripes of color. Making side notes on your page is much more effective than a long colorful stripe of yellow or pink.

• R= Recite

Studying aloud is the most effective way to learn the material. At this stage of the reading process, you should be reciting information aloud to yourself as you read the text. Hearing the words aloud reinforces the information into the auditory cognition center of the brain, so you are actually putting in the information in both a visual and auditory manner at the same time.

• R= Review

At this time, you need to consider how you are going to review the material you just read. Perhaps you can look at the side notes in the text. Review any notes you made on paper as well. Look at the questions and terms at this time and figure out which information you still need to learn more completely.

• R= Reflect

Some reading techniques also suggest you reflect back on what you just read. This is a final chance to determine what information you are still unsure about in the text and which questions you should ask your instructor.

Practicing these steps will take you closer to becoming a good reader!

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Learning Disabilities - Do I Have One?

Learning Disabilities - Do I Have One?

Many people are confused about learning disabilities. How do I know if I have one? Can I have a disability as an adult that was never noticed when I was a child? Where can I get an LD diagnosis?

Someone who is LD usually has average to above average intelligence, but for some reason, that person is not able to perform academically at the level indicated by the IQ. Many times testing will reveal some data that are above ability and some data that are considerably lower than the person's ability. Often the individual struggles with reading, writing, or math. Spelling can be a challenge. Sometimes getting thoughts on paper can be a struggle.

For the current definition for children in K-12, individuals can go to the Department of Education website (see link below) and look closely at the complete Federal guidelines for the latest information on the Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities (IDEA). IDEA no longer requires a significant discrepancy between ability and achievement for children in the K-12 system, but it looks more closely at the child's struggle academically and the child's Response to Intervention (RTI) in eight different areas - oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, reading comprehension, mathematics calculation, and mathematics problem solving. You should also explore your state and school district's specific guidelines and procedures for assessing a learning disability.

Sometimes an adult can have a disability that was never noticed as a child. I once asked high school students when they first found out about their disability. Several of them were identified when they were young children. They were tested early and placed in special education classes when they were in kindergarten or first grade. Another group of students were identified around fourth grade, and several others were identified around seventh or eighth grade.

The work in the classroom really changes at those grade levels. When children reach each of those academic levels, they are expected to produce a larger body of work that involves many more complex reading, writing, and math skills. Because someone with a learning disability usually has an average or above average IQ, that individual finds ways around the complexities of the class work. Attending college brings a new level of work to adults that often frustrates people and brings back old challenges and issues that were long forgotten!

It is very possible for individuals to have been living with a learning disability all of their life without any type of formal diagnosis. Those who suspect a learning disability will need to obtain a diagnosis through a Psychological Evaluation. The personnel at your local high school or college Disabilities Office should be able to suggest a professional who can discuss current assessment guidelines and testing resources.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Memory Strategies - How Your Memory Works

Memory Strategies - How Your Memory Works

Do you know how your memory works? Understanding how you learn and remember is critical to being a success. Memory has 5 steps from input to output.

• Input

Input is the way you first introduce yourself to the material and how you put it into your brain. Do you read the text, scan the material, examine the pictures, listen to the lectures, and talk to yourself and others? These are all ways that you input the information into your brain. You need to input your memory by creating images that are easy to recall. Use color, large print, highlighted words, sticky notes, tape recorded notes and messages, repeating, repeating, and more repeating.

• Short-Term Memory

Sometimes this is also called working memory. This is your brain processing and digesting the information you just put in. Short-term memory only lasts a very brief time. You use short term-memory when someone gives you a phone number and you can't immediately write it down. You use short-term memory when you hear something, but can't act on it immediately. The idea is to store it into long-term memory so that you can retrieve it later, but if you do not find a way to hold onto it, short-term memory will rapidly disappear. You can call or text your own phone and leave yourself a message when you can't write it down!

• Long-Term Memory

Long-term memory occurs when you have a deeper understanding of the concept. You have taken the information out of your short-term memory, thought about it for a while, analyzed it, and figured out a way to keep it in your brain. Long-term memory is a file system in your brain. Create a memory link. Try attaching the information to a silly story or crazy picture. Attach the memory to an object in your room.  Make a movie in your mind and use your favorite actors as stars! Remember the association and the memory will be easier to retrieve at the test.

• Storage and Retrieval

One of the most effective techniques for storage and retrieval of long-term memory is linking the information to something else that is familiar to you. The idea is to file the details into an area of your brain which you can access at a later time. Think about a balloon with a string attached. If you can grab the string, the balloon will follow. If you can grab onto a piece of the memory, the rest should follow if you stored the details into long-term memory. How did you learn the information? Did you color code it, mark it up with notes, make a recording, or talk it through with someone else? Did you draw a silly picture or attach the memory to something in your room?  These are all techniques for storing and retrieving memory.

• Output

This is the final test. Do you know the answers to the test questions? The best way to see if you are ready for output is if you can "talk the talk." If you can teach the information to someone else, and get it out without stumbling and mumbling, you should be ready to take your test. If you still are having trouble expressing the ideas, you need to go back and input again! Can you "walk the walk and talk the talk" without a problem? You need to become your own teacher!

Understanding how your memory works will lead to a better future as a successful college student!

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