The Open Door Education Services

Click here to edit subtitle



view:  full / summary

Make Your Mornings Less Stressful with a Good Starting Routine

Posted on January 10, 2018 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (1)

Are your mornings hectic? Does anyone in your family have a learning disability? Do you have trouble getting everyone out of bed and ready for school and work? If the answer to any of these is yes, then these tips are for you. Here are ways to organize your mornings to get everyone up and going:

Image Source:

Additional Morning Routine Resources:

1. Prep the night before and other tips on how to establish a morning routine for kids that actually works

It seems that the most common piece of advice parents receive is to prepare the night before, and for good reason -- it helps tremendously. Imagine waking up in morning with lunches already packed, backpacks waiting at the door, clothes laid out, and your car keys waiting right where you’ll know they’ll be. You can use the extra time to take a longer shower, or rise early for a cup of coffee before the morning kicks into full gear. The bottom line is that anything you can do in advance will make a big difference.

2. Easy and effective home organization tips

If the word “scramble” is synonymous with your morning routine, it’s time to employ a little bit of organization. Sometimes we take comfort in a little bit of mess to give our homes that lived-in feel, but something as simple as organizing the children’s breakfast options on a single shelf can save some hassle in the morning. Perhaps you could put a bin by the door to house shoes, jackets, backpacks, and lunchboxes, or employ a DIY organization hack by using a hanging shoe organizer to lay out your kids’ outfits for the week.

3. De-stress your morning routine tips

A stress-free morning routine sounds heavenly, but how exactly can you accomplish this? Sometimes things just don’t go your way, and no matter how hard you try you can’t convince your youngest to brush her teeth. Pinpoint the areas that cause the most upset such as hygiene routines or getting out the door on time, and come up with a way to revamp it. Perhaps you could offer a reward for an entire week of teeth brushing without incident or set the clock forward 15 minutes to give yourself some wiggle room.

4. Breakfast to go and other secrets to getting the kids to school on time

After reading some of these morning hacks, you’ll realize that parents everywhere do whatever they have to do to make it before the school bell rings. As one parent notes, a quick spray of air freshener can take the place of a bath in a pinch. There’s no shame in your morning game, so do what works for you and be proud of it.

5. Get plenty of sleep and other tips on how to establish a morning routine for kids that actually works

With all this talk of establishing a morning routine, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want to undermine it. While weekends should be special, don’t get too far away from the routine you’ve so painstakingly worked to cement. Rather than wreak havoc on the bedtime routine with late night fun, plan a fun meal, take a trip to the museum, or have a movie day. Bring on the fun without having to start from square one on Monday.

6. Play music (Revolutionary morning routine hack for kids)

Music makes the world go ‘round, and it applies to morning routines as well. There’s nothing like a few upbeat songs to get those feet moving. Start out with some calm, relaxing songs during the wake-up process and gradually switch over to something a little more upbeat. Let your kids pick out some of their favorite songs, and switch up the playlist every week to keep things fresh.


Studies show that routines can help kids with learning disabilities focus and feel more secure. This plan will help you and your kids have a more energetic, healthy start to each day. Enjoy!


Daniel Sherwin is the proud single father to two amazing kids (a daughter and a son). After noticing the lack of resources for single dads on the web, he started writing articles so that others could learn from his successes and failures.

Five Tips for Helping with Attention

Posted on December 1, 2017 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (2)

Approximately 40% of kids who have dyslexia will have some form of ADHD/ADD. This means that if you work in this field, there is a pretty good chance that you will have students with some attention issues. As a parent, even if your child does not have ADHD, homework time may be quite the struggle. Your child is tired from a hard day of learning. In fact, they are likely more tired than other students who don’t have to work so hard to get the same (or better) results. They also may be tired from the emotional strain of struggling and being different from their peers.

Here are a few strategies to keep in mind when you are working with your student/your child:

1. High Energy: Students pick up your high energy and enthusiasm and respond naturally with more interest and attention. Our minds are wired to tune in to this type of communication. The younger the student, the more “exaggerated” you will want to be – think of a children’s television show host. If you are excited about what they are learning, it just may get them more interested too.

2. Relationship: This applies more for people working with students, as parents hopefully already have a relationship with their kids! Make a point of building the relationship with the student. Show an interest in their interests, in how their day went, in their upcoming plans. Use conversation and humor to build that relationship, because if they start to feel that connection, and know that you care, they will start to care about pleasing you too.

3. Reward effort and good behaviour: It can be with some simple praise, but point out and praise their good behaviour (even their willingness to try something hard). These children are often used to being reprimanded for not being on task, but may not get as much praise for when they are doing the opposite. What is the motivation to put in an effort if it seems to go unappreciated? I remember early in my teaching career I was supply teaching in a class with a student who was extremely poorly behaved. I remember just about jumping over desks (covertly) so that I could get to his side in time to quietly praise him while he was still on-task. I kept praising him when these moments came, and the moments of on-task behaviour kept growing longer and longer. Do not underestimate the power of praise, even if they act like they don’t care!

4. Body Breaks: How frequently a student needs a body break depends on the individual, but at the very least, getting up together and having a good stretch and bend is helpful. Some students you can get to stand up and do jumping jacks, jog on the spot, toe touches, burpies, etc. Not only does it let them burn off that extra energy, but it increases blood flow to the brain, which helps with focus and learning. It also releases dopamine, which is neurotransmitter that is critical for memory and learning. Again, get them to do this with high energy and enthusiasm in your voice. Parents, an extra tip for you is to have your child participate in some form of exercise every day. The positive effects this will have on your child are too numerous to list here, but it goes far beyond exercise simply being for physical fitness.

5. Switch activities: How frequently you need to switch activities will depend on the student. If possible, present the child with two tasks that need to be completed, and let him/her decide which one to complete first. Changing things up with a little game, a body break, or a more physical task that needs completing will help the child to refocus. Using a timer to show how much time will be spent on a task before changing activities or taking a break will go a long way. At a workshop which I was assisting with through the LDAO-C, the speaker suggested using a physical hour-glass as a timer. It made so much sense. Not only can the child see how much time is left, but he/she can also physically see the passage of time, gain an understanding of what the amount of time left looks like, and can also see how much time has actually passed. Sets of hourglasses with different lengths of time can be bought on places like Amazon for a reasonable price.

There are infinite tips and tricks to help these kids get through lessons or homework, so the ideas I listed here are by no means exhaustive, but they are some good overall principles to keep in mind if you are looking for some strategies.

- Heather

Meet Gerald & Piggie - a Book Review

Posted on November 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (2)

Meet Gerald & Piggie:

Lovable, unusual best friends with a funny bone!

The Elephant and Piggie Series by children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems

A book review by Marion May

As a reading and spelling remediation tutor for young students, I like to find out what kinds of books my students enjoy looking at and having read to them. Knowing this, gives me insight into what subjects interest them, what story themes they enjoy, and what style of illustrations appeal to them. Most of all, it tells me what makes them laugh and the kind of humour they enjoy. Thanks to one of my seven year old students—who has a delightful sense of humour and natural curiosity about friendships and human dynamics—I was introduced to the Elephant and Piggie series written and illustrated by, Mo Willems. You may recognize Mo Willems, as the Emmy award-winning writer for Sesame Street and the author and illustrator of the Pigeon Series, and Knuffle Bunny.

Who are Elephant and Piggie and what makes them so endearing?

Gerald and Piggie, the two main characters, are complete opposites. Gerald is an elephant; a worrier, very careful, large in size and grey in colour. Piggie meanwhile is a dreamer, a little impractical, much smaller than Gerald and light pink. Despite their obvious differences, their outlook for each other’s well-being and enduring friendship is a heart-warming theme and source of amusement throughout the 25-book series.

My young students tell me they enjoy the series because Gerald and Piggie are a very funny friend combination. Usually Piggy comes up with an idea or plan, and Gerald explains why it doesn’t make sense or won’t work. With a little honest feedback, friendly diplomacy, imagination, and encouragement, they manage to compromise and adapt to overcome challenges and unfamiliar territory—by themselves or with other characters. Every Gerald and Piggie book guarantees the reader humourous insights into the quirky pair, and very often, an unexpected twist at the end of the story. Along the way, they tackle various social dilemmas; from how it feels when a best friend makes a new friend, whether to share an ice cream with a friend, feelings of loneliness if a friend goes away to, absurd predicaments like how to play ball with a snake and managing Piggie’s determination to fly. Above all, co-operation, honesty and inclusion are the core refrains, which naturally appeal to children and adults alike.

The graphic style: simple and expressive

The modest, line-drawn characters are presented on a plain white background. Dialogue appears in a large font within comic-book speech balloons for each character. Piggie’s speech balloons are pink and Gerald’s are grey. This clever graphic feature makes it very clear who is speaking and eliminates the need for quotation marks and the constant repetition of ‘he said’ or ‘she said’. It also makes it fun to read aloud and gives a young reader the opportunity to take on a role if they wish. The comical facial expressions and hand gestures precisely describe the emotions of each character, making the storyline easy to follow. The dialogue is simple and often young children can sound out consonant-short vowel-consonant words. I find the content and presentation especially appropriate for struggling young readers because they can read some words and understand the humour without feeling that they are reading a picture book below their reading level. Because very little text is presented on each page, story reading moves along swiftly and keeps the story pace, up-tempo.

When Gerald and Piggie came alive

The first two books in the Elephant and Piggie Series, My Friend is Sad and Today I Will Fly!, were released in 2007. There Is A Bird on Your Head, which won the Geisel Medal in 2008, was the book I was first introduced to. The laugh-out-loud absurd humour hooked me immediately. Are You Ready to Play Outside? also won a Geisel Medal in 2009. Time Magazine’s Top 10 Children’s Book of the Year, listed Today I Will Fly # 2 in 2007 and Elephants Cannot Dance #5 in 2009. Sadly, in August 2015, Mo Willems announced that the 25th book, The Thank You Book, would be the last in the series. In this final goodbye, he manages to speak to, and include the young reader, as well as he did in my all-time favourite We Are In A Book!

To meet Gerald and Piggie for yourself

I am fairly sure any library, or your favourite bookstore, with a children’s collection will undoubtedly have the entire Elephant and Piggie Series. I found a one book, five-story edition at Costco called, Biggie which contains books 2, 8, 12, 18 and 24. With Christmas just around the corner, I am certain any one of the Elephant and Piggie books would make a suitable for any young reader on your list. And for the record, my second favourite is, I Will Take a Nap! …T’was the Night before Christmas…zzzzzz

Happy reading! Here is a list to help you get started on your Gerald and Piggie journey:

1 My Friend is Sad (Mar 2007)

2 Today I Will Fly! (Mar 2007)

3 There Is a Bird on Your Head! (Jul 2007)

4 I Am Invited to a Party! (Jul 2007)

5 I Love My New Toy! (Jun 2008)

6 I Will Surprise My Friend! (Jun 2008)

7 Are You Ready To Play Outside? (Oct 2008)

8 Watch Me Throw The Ball! (Mar 2009)

9 Elephants Cannot Dance! (Jun 2009)

10 Pigs Make Me Sneeze! (Oct 2009)

11 I am Going! (Jan 2010)

12 Can I Play Too? (Jun 2010)

13 We Are In A Book! (Sept 2010)

14 I Broke My Trunk! (Feb 2011)

15 Should I Share My Ice Cream? (June 2011)

16 Happy Pig Day! (Oct 2011)

17 Listen To My Trumpet (Feb 2012)

18 Let's Go for a Drive! (Oct 2012)

19 A Big Guy Took My Ball (May 2013)

20 I'm a Frog! (Oct 2013)

21 My New Friend Is So Fun (June 2014)

22 Waiting Is Not Easy! (November 2014)

23 I Will Take a Nap! (June 2015)

24 I Really Like Slop! (October 2015)

25 The Thank You Book (May 2016)

Check out this great interview with Mo Willems

Looking Beyond the "Dis" in Learning Disabilities

Posted on September 1, 2017 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (1)

Finding out that your child has a learning disability can be a very overwhelming experience. All too often doctors, teachers and family members focus on the ‘dis’ability. The list of what a child cannot do becomes long - read, write, spell, learn the times tables, focus, make friends, read nonverbal cues. People, including professionals, forget that inside this wonderful person is a much greater list of abilities, and often, true gifts.

Neurologically, a child or adult with a learning disability is different from peers. Different areas of the brain are impacted depending of the disability. What many people don’t realize though is that these differences also result in the brain having strengths that the neuro-typical brain may not have. Some of these strengths include superior visual-spatial skills, artistic ability, musical ability and for some, strong rote memory skills.

If we look at the dyslexic brain for example, we find that both hemispheres are equal in size, unlike the neuro-typical brain in which the left hemisphere is larger. This is not because the left hemisphere is smaller in the brain with dyslexia, but rather, because the right hemisphere is larger. What is the right hemisphere is responsible for? One of the big things is visual spatial skills. People with dyslexia often see in pictures. They often have the ability to see these pictures in 3-D and manipulate them in their mind. They are the Macgyvers of the group. They are also the artists and the musicians and the actors. They are often naturally charismatic and funny because they have the ability to ‘read’ other people.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is also seen as a disability. There is is no denying that it is difficult if you lack focus and need to be moving all of the time. However, to have a brain that works that fast and can truly multitask - that is a gift. These are the kids who grow up to be first responders, inventors, CEOs, great athletes and comedians and actors. Combine ADHD with dyslexia and you have one talented, outgoing, funny and amazing kid!

It isn’t easy to have a learning disability. It isn’t easy to parent a child with a learning disability. It can be frustrating and even heartbreaking at times. When we shift our mindset though from what a person can’t do to what a person can do, things change. Children begin to own their learning disability and take pride in their gifts. This is what will carry them into their future careers. Celebrate these differences and be proud.

Shelley Holloway is an active member of the LD community. She is also the owner of Mindware Academy, a private school which specializes in children with learning disabilities.

Is Reading to Your Child Important?

Posted on June 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (2)

Do you have fond memories of reading cute little board books to your children when they were just little toddlers? For children who struggle with reading, sometimes books can become a negative thing. It represents really hard work, or failure, or even embarrassment and shame. Not all children feel this way about books, but it certainly is an issue for some.

Regardless of whether your child thinks the work “book” is a scary word, it is important for them to still be exposed to age-level literature. Whether your child is working through a reading remediation program with a parent or tutor, or receiving support through school, the content is going to be at their expected reading level, and not their intellectual, comprehension, or interest level. Or, if they are given reading materials that are age-level, then they are likely struggling so much with the mechanics of reading that they are not getting anything out of the book – aside from a headache.

Why is it important for them to be exposed to age-level reading? Children who struggle with reading often fall behind on more than just the ability to read. Other areas that develop through reading will also start to lag. For example, if they are learning vocabulary by listening to conversations, either in-person or through television and movies, they will be exposed to an average of 5,000 words. When reading, depending on the text, one is exposed to an average of 10,000 to 35,000 words. You can see where one will fall short in vocabulary development if they do not read. This is not even touching on the more complex sentence structures, themes, ideas, and plots that a child sees in age-level books instead of reading-level books. Not to mention, how will a struggling reader develop a love of literature if they only read simplistic books about Spot, Dick, and Jane.

The solution is easier than you think. All you need to do is read books to your child that are at his or her listening comprehension level. Make sure you pick books that interest them, because you want this to be a positive experience. It will also help them fit in socially if they have read the same latest books as their peers. Don’t worry about your child looking at the words and reading along with you, this is not the time for that. They are not reading to learn how to decode words, they are reading with their ears to improve all the other areas that are developed by reading. All the right parts of their brain will still be activating.


Another tool that can help is audiobooks. Particularly if your child does not want you to read to him or her, or the timing is not convenient. The effect is the same, but the child has more autonomy and can read even if you aren’t available. Whether you are reading to your child, using audiobooks, or a going with a combination of both, you child will be learning so many important things that struggling readers often lack.


While there are many sources for audiobooks, you can download audiobooks on your computer or smart devices for free from your public library using the website or app called Overdrive. For example, the Ottawa Public Library currently has 1,600 audiobooks for download for juvenile audiences, 1,300 for young adults, and a total of just under 8,000 audiobooks for all audiences. Audiobooks are great, but as a last note, if your child will actually allow you to snuggle up and read a book with them, then enjoy it for as long as possible!


Mothers are Awesome

Posted on May 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (2)

Mothers are awesome, and I mean that in the original sense of the word. The Oxford dictionary defines the word “awesome” as “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe”. One of the reasons I am so fortunate to work as a tutor for students with dyslexia, is because I have the opportunity to work for and with so many truly awesome mothers who, day after day after day, do whatever it takes to ensure the future success and happiness of their children. You are my people, because about eight years ago, I became one of you. Eight years ago I couldn’t fathom why my beautiful, oh-so-bright son just couldn’t seem to learn to read. He couldn’t remember the sounds of the letters of alphabet. In fact, he couldn’t remember many of the letters of the alphabet. My son, Kieran, who is still beautiful and oh-so-bright, is now 14 years old, almost 6’ tall, and an honour roll student who chooses to read for pleasure.

Our family comes from a long line of academically-inclined readers. My husband and I have 19 years of university combined. In our family tree we have a university professor (from Cambridge no less!), a librarian, two lawyers, a scientist, a research editor, a journalist, several health care professionals; almost everybody has a university degree or three. Our house has always been full of educational materials and books. When our son was a young child, we read to him everyday, strictly limited his screen time, and made sure he attended a quality preschool. All of our hard work paid off, and he was a toddler-sized expert in many subjects. He could, and frequently would, explain to us how plate tectonics worked and how amphibians were different from reptiles. However, he could not, despite our efforts, tell you what sounds were made by the letters of the alphabet.

When our son was six years old we moved to Colorado for my husband’s career and it was time for Kieran to start school. We had already decided homeschooling him would be our best option. Kieran’s preschool had warned us that he would need extra help once he started Kindergarten, and since he didn’t have any type of a diagnosis at that time, he wasn’t eligible for additional support in public school. Fortunately, Colorado had a program for homeschooling families whereby the state provided a full curriculum along with teachers to monitor students’ progress.

A few months after Kieran started (homeschool) Kindergarten, his Colorado teacher noticed that he wasn’t making progress with his reading or writing skills, despite the fact the he was a hard working student. We were incredibly lucky that his teacher had taken extra courses in recognizing dyslexia in young children! She counseled us to start using an Orton-Gillingham based reading and spelling program right away. This was the beginning of our homeschool journey with the Barton program.

Kieran’s dyslexia was severe and yet I never doubted he would learn to read and spell proficiently; I knew he just needed to learn in a different way. We worked together diligently, five days a week, eleven months a year, and he progressed slowly. Being a wiggly young boy, he struggled with focusing on his Barton lessons, and it took a lot of ingenuity on my part to keep him engaged, but as mothers do, I dug deep and did whatever it took. We followed all of Susan Barton’s recommendations about pacing and when to allow Kieran to try reading uncontrolled text. Additionally, we used all of the extra Barton resources that were available such as the fluency pages, the extra practice pages, and the Barton-specific children’s books.

His hard work paid off for him, and at age 7 ½ he chose to read a book on his own for the first time. It was an unforgettable moment for our family. He wrote his first complete sentence at 8 years old, and by age 9, he was finally reading at grade level and writing paragraphs. Eventually, Kieran started enjoying his Barton lessons and we continued with them until he completed level nine at age 11. By then, Kieran was an accurate reader and a reasonably good speller, but his writing lacked complexity and style. We spent about a year focusing on a program recommended by Susan Barton called “Teaching Writing: Structure and Style” with excellent results. By age 12, he was able to pen engaging compositions with flair.

Kieran’s introduction to a “brick and mortar” school was not gentle by any measure. By the time he was ready to start school, we were living in Belgium, and the only option for education in English was at one of those rigorous, competitive international private schools. Kieran wanted to keep being homeschooled, but I felt that socially and emotionally it was time for him to be with his peers. It took about a year for him to adjust to life in the classroom and to figure out the social dynamics of preteen boys, but once he got in the groove he absolutely shone, despite the incredibly high scholastic expectations and workload. He was, and continues to be, one of the top students across the board in all subjects, except for French, in which he receives good grades with a lot of hard work. He has received several academic achievement awards and he has also won awards for his songwriting, guitar, and poetry slam performances.

The Barton Reading and Spelling system set Kieran up for success in life, and as a mother I am so thankful. There were also other educational resources he benefited from, such as Handwriting Without Tears, Type2Learn, K12 online school, Five in a Row, “Two plus two is not five” and “Five times five is not ten”, Times Tales, all sorts of manipulatives, and the aforementioned “Teaching Writing: Structure and Style”.

As anything worth doing does, it took time and effort, but in the end, it worked brilliantly. When I look back at where he started, and where he is now, I am in awe of my son. My self-professed super nerdy, robotics crazy, show choir guitarist son who, on a pleasant summer day, will choose to flop in the hammock with a book instead of being holed up inside playing video games.

To all the mothers out there who are doing whatever it takes, don’t give up, because just like you, the results can be awesome.

Leigh Anne is an awesome mother, as well as an awesome tutor with The Open Door Educational Services.

Book Review: Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them by Gavin Reid

Posted on April 1, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (1)

A book review by Marion May

Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them (Second Edition)

By Gavin Reid

  • ISBN (Paperback) 978-0-470-97373-8 ISBN (Hardcover) 978-0-470-97374-5
  • 216 pages/267 pages including appendices and index
  • Available at some public libraries and Chapters: Paperback $41.26, Hardcover $117.95, Kobo EBook $32.99
  • Note: Second Edition (published in 2011) by Wiley-Blackwell
  • First edition was published in 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

An essential A-Z step-by-step guide on dyslexia

Tip: A necessary read if you’re considering a learning assessment for your child

I was number nine in line for the Ottawa Public Library’s next available copy of Dr. Gavin Reid’s, Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents (First Edition). With the school year well underway I wondered a) how many parents in Ottawa might be questioning dyslexia in their children and, b) what made Gavin Reid such a sought-after author and expert on the subject of dyslexia. Being a former tutor of teenage students who struggled with literacy and now, a tutor with The Open Door Educational Services, I was curious to tap into Dr. Reid’s nuggets of wisdom to better understand my students learning challenges and empathize with their parents’ frustrations in seeking help. When my copy finally arrived, I devoured it within a few days and could easily understand its popularity.

The title says it all…

Just like the title promised, it was a complete step-by-step, chronological guide written specifically for parents about dyslexia, and includes: how to spot the early signs in very young children, how to get a useful assessment to achieve school accommodations, what to look for in research and learning aids, how to successfully collaborate and communicate with educators and professionals and how to support children with dyslexia through to adulthood.

Written in plain language in a logical, easy-to-reference format—with a short summary at the end of each chapter—it was easy to see why the book was in such high demand. I should also mention that, in addition to being a well-educated and highly-respected educational psychologist on dyslexia and learning disabilities worldwide, Dr. Reid is also a parent to a young man with special needs. I found the empathetic tone of his writing and respect for the reader’s situation to be very refreshing, offering the reader a sense of hope without being preachy. In supporting a child with dyslexia, he promotes advocacy with a healthy dose of collaboration and enlightenment.

Naturally, it comes as no surprise that Dr. Reid published a second edition in 2011 entitled, Dyslexia: A Complete Guide for Parents and Those Who Help Them. Having read the entire second edition, I am pleased to report that he has expanded the chapter on obtaining an assessment, added more information on the assessment tests and why they are conducted, expanded the resources section, updated the research and included a chapter entirely devoted to dyslexia’s effect on self-esteem and emotional development. Best of all, on the “About the Author” page, I was pleased to discover that Dr. Reid is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

About the Author:

Gavin Reid, is an independent educational psychologist based in Vancouver, Canada and a consultant to a number of organisations and charities worldwide. He is the co-founder and director of the Red Rose School for children with specific learning difficulties in Lancashire, UK and was visiting professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Previously he was Senior Lecturer at Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of 25 books including Dyslexia: A Practitioners Handbook (4/e 2009), Dyslexia in Context: Research and Practice (2004) and Dyslexia and Literacy (2002). He has run seminars for parents on dyslexia in over 60 countries and is also the parent of a young man with special needs.

“Collaboration is the key and communication is the means”

In the Preface of the second edition, Dr. Reid writes that he extended the title to include ….and Those Who Help Them, because “it is important that parents should not be seen as separate or isolated. Collaboration is the key and communication is the means. Parents and teachers need to work as informed partners and that is the thinking behind extending the title.” For me, being in the “Those Who Help Them” category as a Reading and Spelling Remediation Tutor with The Open Door, I couldn’t agree more! Having read through the psychological assessments for my students and recommendations for remediation, I found Dr. Reid’s guide to be very helpful in discovering why certain tests are conducted, what the outcomes reveal and how I can be a more effective tutor in addressing the deficits and strengths of my students.

While I found the entire book to be very helpful in explaining dyslexia, related learning disabilities, latest research, successful teaching methods, accommodations and advocacy, Chapters Three, Nine and, the Appendices offered information I had not come across in other books about dyslexia. Information such as: assessment criteria, a human portrayal of self-esteem in learning, practical lists of psychological tests—and why they are conducted—and commonly used terms by educators and psychologists. For parents and helpers trying to navigate a learning path for a dyslexic child or student, this is very practical and necessary information for the journey ahead.

The importance of an assessment and what it should contain

In Chapter 3, Finding out if my child is dyslexic, Dr. Reid begins the chapter by stating that “this is one of the most important chapters of the book.” I couldn’t agree more! In this chapter he explains why an assessment is important, who should assess the child and, the role of parents and professionals such as classroom teachers, educational psychologists, specialist teachers in the assessment process. He goes on to explain what feedback parents should expect from the assessment and what crucial information the report should contain. For instance, under the heading “Understanding assessment reports”, he explains that the report should contain a list of the tests conducted and what learning challenges they are looking for.

In the Appendices of the book, he has generously provided a list of the psychological tests normally done and what strengths or deficiencies they reveal. Appendices Two to Four include further information on, programs recommended for remediation, criteria for learning disabilities under the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychological Association, and more information on sources, resources and organizations for help. Appendix Five provides a glossary of terms for learning disabilities and learning styles mentioned throughout the book.

Self-esteem and its role in the learning process

Chapter 9, Self-esteem and emotional development, focuses on the emotional needs of children with dyslexia and how parents can identify and support these needs. He outlines in a timetable format, what a typical day for a dyslexic student might look like, and the frequency of recurring failures from forgetting to set the morning alarm to failing a class math test at the end of the day due to number reversal problems. We begin to understand how these little failures can add up and affect a child’s self-esteem. Following the time table, he offers hope by describing simple, small steps that parents and teachers can take to support a child with dyslexia to avoid these daily failures. He goes on to discuss the importance of self-esteem in learning, how low-self-esteem can affect future learning and other areas of school life, the importance of positive feedback for self-esteem and motivation, the role of emotional development and emotional literacy in successful learning, the importance of student engagement and ownership as a motivator and the hidden effects of dyslexia that may not be obvious but can be very real.


From Chapter One, What is dyslexia? through to Chapter 13, Issues for parents to consider, and the abundance of information contained in the Appendices One to Five, I would highly recommend this book to parents, teachers and “those who help” children with dyslexia. It will give them a full empathetic understanding of dyslexia, a sense of hope in creating a positive, solution-oriented learning path—and beyond—for their child or student. Most importantly, it gives the reader a sense of empowerment to successfully advocate for their child or student.

Other books published by Gavin Reid available at Chapters include:

Dyslexia: A Practitioners Handbook Paperback|Mar 21 2016 $54.95

Dyslexia in the Early Years: A Handbook for Practice Paperback|Feb 21 2017 $29.95

Low literacy - A fight against statistics

Posted on March 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Literacy Unlimited is a non-profit organization on the West Island of Montreal, which provides free, one-on-one English tutoring for adults to improve their reading, writing and basic math skills.

Low literacy has far-reaching implications. It is highly correlated with lower income, poor health and food security, increased work accidents and absenteeism, unemployment and underemployment, and social isolation. Statistics are staggering. Four out of ten adult Canadians, age 16 to 65 - representing 9 million Canadians - struggle with low literacy. They fall below level 3 on the prose literacy scale. According to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, level 3 is generally accepted as the “desired level of competence for coping with the increasing skill demands of the emerging knowledge and information economy.”

How are these statistics even possible? In some cases, learning disabilities such as dyslexia may be present. But in many cases, it can be a complex issue with a number of influencing factors: not finishing high school, not pursuing higher education, lack of educational opportunities, and lack of family support or poor literacy in the family environment. People who struggle will often learn coping strategies to mask their difficulties:

• They will avoid reading in front of another person by saying they forgot their glasses, or that they will bring documents home to review.

• They may ask for someone to summarize a document out loud (i.e. ask the Pharmacist to outline medication usage and side-effects)

• They may have a trusted family member or friend to help them read documents or fill out forms.

• They will often avoid or cancel meetings.

People may finally seek help when their coping strategies start being ineffective. So how can you help if you think you know someone who struggles with low literacy? Think R.E.A.D:

R = Recognize the signs

E = Empathize with the struggle

A = Assist by giving a referral (to a group like Literacy Unlimited or The Open Door)

D = Discretely. Respect that this is usually a very private problem.

Literacy Unlimited changes lives through improved adult literacy. Services are free of charge, flexible and discreet. To find out more about us, contact us at 514-694-0007 or at You can also like and follow us on Facebook:


Getting to Remediation: Diagnosing Dyslexia

Posted on February 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Parents and teacher have an urgent need for low cost, rapid, accurate identification of reading problems in order to move on with remediation as soon as possible. Yet conventional wisdom has it that one cannot diagnose dyslexia, only identify those at risk for it. This isn’t quite true. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (5th Edition) used by psychologists and psychologists can be used to formally diagnose a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in reading, written expression, or mathematics contingent on four criteria being met. Importantly, the DSM V includes the following note:

“Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.” (p.67, DSM-5)


This formally equates the diagnosis of “SLD with impairment in reading.” with dyslexia. While a DSM based clinical diagnosis is the gold standard it can easily cost several thousands of dollars to procure privately, and public school wait times can run into years. This leaves most parents and teachers hanging. Bridging the gap are a myriad of screeners, assessment tools and standardized tests, each more rigorous than the latter. Googling “dyslexia test” will round up countless examples. Screeners typically take the form of a free, self-administered checklist of symptoms of signs and can be completed in minutes. Assessment tools such as the Shaywitz Dyslexia Screen or Nessy Learning’s Dyslexia Quest are more rigorous, but still generally parent or self administered, and build a simple cognitive profile of a student containing metrics on things like phonemic awareness, working memory and rapid naming. Such tools may take an hour to complete, and cost up to $200, but often much less. Standardized tests such as the CTOPP or Woodcock Johnson provide the same kind of cognitive metrics, but with more rigour and detail. They are administered by a professional, certified in the delivery of the test and may take one to two hours to administer in full, costing up to $500. A complete battery of standardized tests usually constitute a psychoeducational assessment which would form the basis of a DSM diagnosis, bringing us full circle.


Which instrument a parent, teacher or school might use will depend on budget, time, availability and the purpose of the assessment. If the purpose of the assessment is to force a school to take action or an employer to recognize a disability, then the more rigorous standardized tests would be the wise choice. But a formal DSM diagnosis should not be required before students begin receiving remediation in the classroom. While a checklist screener may not suffice to form the basis of an individualized education plan, many assessment tools and all standardized tests have science based evidence behind them that can and should be recognized by our educational system.


Michael Bates is the Director of Communications for Nessy Learning, a leading educational software company for students with dyslexia. He is the founder and webmaster for the Reading Well website and currently sits on the board of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ottawa Carleton.


Accommodation, Modification, and Remediation...What?

Posted on January 1, 2017 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (2)

These are three words that we often hear in education. Many parents wonder exactly what these terms mean, why each is important, and what's the difference between them?


Accommodation is exactly how it sounds; to accommodate students refers to how a student is taught. This means that they are expected to cover the same material as other students, but they are allowed to do it differently. The reason that they are to complete work differently is because if they do assignments and tests the same way as other students, it won't really reflect what they are capable of achieving. For example, if a child has a reading disability, an accommodation may be that they are permitted to read the assigned novels by listening to audiobooks. They are still reading the same text, but their reading disability is not holding them back.


Modification refers to what a student is taught. Gifted students may have a modified curriculum because they are expected to go into greater depth on their assignments and tests. A student who has a learning disability related to math may be working on the same curriculum strain, but is working on an earlier grade level. For example, the class is working on grade 6 fractions, but the student with the modified lesson plan is working on the grade 4 or 5 curriculum expectations for fractions instead. He is still working on fractions, but at a different level.

The Difference Between Accommodation and Modification:

Accommodation refers to how a student is taught. The expectations are the same, but how those expectations are achieved is different. With modification, the expectations are different. Either what is being taught or the expectations are changed. So, the student who had permission to use an audiobook to read the same novel as the rest of the class is being accommodated. The student who was reading a less advanced novel than the rest of the class is doing a modified lesson.


Remediation is extremely important. It is often completely overlooked when the correct mix of accommodations and modifications have been worked out. If accommodation is giving the students the tools that they need to keep up with the class, and modification is teaching the students at their own level, then remediation is working on the root problem that is causing the child to need accommodations and modifications in the first place.

Accommodations and modifications are important to allow the students to continue to learn along with the rest of their class, but this is essentially treading water. We need to teach these students some actual swimming lessons if they are ever going progress. It's wonderful to be able to let students read a novel through an audiobook, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to work on teaching them to read. If you have a student who needs a modified lesson because his reading comprehension is poor, then it's important to modify his lesson so that you can meet him at his level. However, you should still work on strengthening his reading comprehension skills. Remediation focuses on "fixing" the problem.

Accommodation and modification are like giving a wheelchair to someone who is recovering from an injury. Remediation is like giving them physiotherapy and retraining their muscles to walk. We don’t want to simply give them a wheelchair and not bother with the physiotherapy because they can get around well enough in their wheelchair. Similarly, we don’t want to deny them a wheelchair while they are working on physiotherapy because they still need to be able to get around while they are recovering.

Accommodation and modification allow students to continue to learn about history, science, math, arts, grammar, and literature while they are receiving remedial teaching to acquire the skills that will lessen their need for accommodations and modifications in the future.