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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Busy October, Be Aware: Awareness Month for AAC, Dyslexia, Mental Health

October is a very busy month in terms of special remembrances and observations.  First of all, it is World Mental Health Awareness Month, and last week was Bipolar Awareness Week.  The International Bipolar Foundation repeated its #SayItForward Campaign aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

October is also National Dyslexia Awareness Month. I created a press release on this topic that was picked up by many news outlets, listing the major signs and symptoms of dyslexia, a language-based reading/learning disability.  I also put both of my apps - Question It and SoundSwaps on sale October 1-14 in celebration.  You’ve got a few days left if you want to catch them.  Here are the iTunes links:

October is also AAC Awareness Month worldwide.   If you follow this blog, you know that just about every month is aac awareness month for me.  The vast majority of what I do revolves around children - and adults - who use augmentative communication.

So, this month, I am going to post about some of these issues, starting with dyslexia.

Approximately 10% of the population suffers from some symptoms of dyslexia; including lack of fluency in reading, difficulty writing, confusing similar words, difficulty with spelling, and more.  Dyslexia is not related to an intellectual disability. It is not “reading backwards.”  It is a language-based learning disability found in people with average or greater intelligence; people who can learn to read if given appropriate educational strategies.

Signs of dyslexia can include:
  • Delayed speech and language milestones. 
  • Difficulty learning the alphabet and letter-sound correspondence. 
* Difficulty with pronouncing multisyllabic words, and with recognizing which words begin or end with the same sounds.
  • Difficulty memorizing number facts and ordering math operations.  Much of math is language based.
  • Difficulty organizing oral and written language.
  • Difficulty learning to spell.
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension due to the need to focus all of one’s attention on decoding the words.
* Difficulty learning a foreign language.

Children with dyslexia can learn to read.  If a child displays any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to his/her teacher, request a formal assessment, and read up on dyslexia facts.  Rule out any vision defects or cognitive problems.
There are places to get help for adults with dyslexia who are still struggling. The International Dyslexia Association has a newsletter and information to share.   Dyslexia cannot be cured, but its impact can be overcome. 

There are some great technology tools for students with dyslexia. is a free resource for people who have difficulty with accessing print.  There are thousands - actually more than 250,000 - books on the site that can be read to the user, can have altered font size and some color modifications for those with vision issues.  It is a free resource - I repeat that because schools are not always aware that it exists and it doesn’t cost them anything to set up an account for a student.  is another great free resource.  Begun by Karen Erickson’s literacy research and practices group at UNC-Chapel Hill, this website (and app) give students access to high interest low print books with great graphics. These books have been written by teachers, therapists and students.  It also allows for either reading on the computer oneself  or having the computer read to you.
A lot of software aimed at this population is also now available as iPad apps; including Clicker Sentences, Co-Writer, and iReadWrite. 

What tools do you use for your students with dyslexia?


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