Katrina's Blog

How a Glitter Jar Creates Calm​

I came across this article in the New York Times on helping adolescents deal with emotional ups and downs (worth a read) and remembered how fantastic a glitter jar is, both literally and figuratively.  A glitter jar is filled with glitter, glue, and water. Here's a quick YouTube tutorial on how to make one. On the crafty side, it's fun and easy to make with your kids, and you can even use biodegradable glitter. Besides being lovely to look at, a glitter jar can be an excellent tool to help children calm themselves when they are in the middle of an emotional storm. Shaking the jar and watching the glitter swirl and settle provides a great metaphor for how emotions can feel inside us. Having a visual to focus on that encourages calm can be a helpful addition to the usual tools of taking deep breaths or counting to ten. Eventually, they may even internalize what it's like to watch the glitter jar and then only need to visualize the jar to help them calm down when they are feeling stormy.    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash ​

The Importance of Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is a vital skill, but many students with learning differences struggle with it. Being a fluent reader means...

When After School is Hard​

You may not have heard the term after-school restraint collapse before, but I'm nearly certain you have experienced it at one point or another. It shows up when kids come home from school. Some children stomp around, yell, cry, and generally melt down. Others retreat into themselves, not wanting to talk or be around others for a while. It shows up a great deal in kids under 12, but also manifests in teens. Psychologist and parenting educator Andrea Nair coined the term after-school restraint collapse to describe this common and natural behavior.  Think about how hard students work to keep it all together during school: they have to follow the rules, ignore bullies, stay focused during lessons, and navigate social situations. When they finally get home, they feel less pressure to keep it all inside and it spills out. Often, adults feel the same way, but we've learned how to contain our energy and emotions.  Students with learning differences have these pressures multiplied by a huge factor.  So, what can you do? Give them a snack when they come home and then give them space to process their day alone, or if they need to talk, listen.  Both Scary Mommy and Motherly have some other good tips to follow.  While it's not fun to experience, know that it is normal and that your child's behavior is generally not personal. They just need a chance to transition from school to home.   Photo by Luz Fuertes on Unsplash ​

Dyslexia is Not About Vision

There is a common myth that dyslexia is caused by vision problems, and if students get the right glasses, do eye exercises, or use a colored overlay while reading, their dyslexia will be cured. Unfortunately, this is not true. Dyslexia is a neurobiological issue that causes individuals to struggle with decoding language, spelling, recognizing words accurately, and sometimes also reading comprehension. Therefore, no amount of vision intervention will solve the problems caused by dyslexia. Certainly, if there is an underlying vision issue, glasses or eye exercises will aid readers in various ways, but it will not help them learn how to decode and spell words, which are the only things that can help students learn to manage dyslexia. The best intervention is a structured, explicit, and systematic approach like the Orton Gillingham approach I use with my dyslexic students.

Digital vs. Print Reading​

Determining the best balance between digital and print reading experiences for your child can be tricky. There is a tendency to believe that print reading is inherently better than digital reading, but it's not so black and white. Students are asked to read a mix of digital and print material as part of the school experience, and the balance often shifts toward a greater percentage of digital material as they move through middle and high school. Therefore, having both print and digital literacy is important for children.So what are some of the pros and cons of each? Print material pros1. Tactile experience of holding a book2. No ads, multiple open tabs, or other applications to distract3. Can be written on (annotations, notes, highlighting)4. Reading print builds stamina and encourages perseverance, especially longer books5. Ability to mark the line of text you're reading with a bookmark or piece of paper under the line, which is helpful for students with reading struggles Print material cons1. You can't physically transport an entire library (but you can load lots of books onto a Kindle, for instance)2. Not interactive3. More easily lost or forgotten (many students forget their book at home/school, but few forget their laptop or phone) Digital material pros1. Access to an astonishing variety of text, which increases the likelihood a child will find something interesting to read2. Interactive text (hyperlinks to related articles, definitions, relevant information)3. Ability to manipulate font type and size, helpful for dyslexic students or others with reading struggles4. Text supports like read-to-me functions Digital material cons1. The digital environment is more distracting and requires strong executive function skills 2. It can be difficult to determine the quality of online material and one needs to learn how to spot questionable sites and information 3. More time skimming or scanning than in-depth reading Although it is documented that digital reading encourages skimming and scanning behavior (not just in children, but adults as well), deep reading skills can be taught for both types of reading. Deep reading skills include defining unknown words, searching for the main idea and supporting ideas, and summarizing what you've read. To encourage deeper reading of digital material, ask your child to summarize the chapter or article they have read, or to find a word or two they didn't know in the text and look up the definition. If you'd like to explore this topic further, I recommend this article on Mind/Shift. ​