Singular Minds
January 1, 2005 • Volume I, Issue 5
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
Laura Zink de Diaz
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Quote(s) of the day:

"When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."
(Isaac Asimov)

Prepublication sales of the next Harry Potter book are gigantic (J. K. Rowling finishes sixth Potter book," December 21). Amazon has already had over a million orders, even though the book will not be published for seven months. This should put to rest any suggestion that children are no longer interested in reading, and that we need to give them pizza, gold stars, or money to entice them to read.
(Stephen Krashen)

PDCC News

Public Talks on Dyslexia

The talk titled "The Gift of Dyslexia" will be held on January 6, 2005. I reiterate my invitation to you all to attend this talk, especially if you missed it in October. And please let friends, relatives, neighbors or co-workers know about it, if you think they would benefit from attending. We'll hold the talk in Room 206 at the Tridex Building -- this is a slight change from the location announced earlier. You'll have to come up the stairs! but it's a bigger room, and much easier to find. The talk will begin at 7:00 pm. Doors will open at 6:45 pm. Those in attendance will receive a coupon from PDCC for 10% off the cost of one dyslexia correction program.

Later in the month, January 27, I'll be offering another talk titled, "Creativity and Learning." I'll address the nature of creativity -- which should be defined more broadly than it often is by those who think of it only in terms of the fine arts -- and how creativity and learning go hand in hand. This is true for all learners, but especially for those with the dyslexic gift, so I'll also give the audience information on how the Davis strategies promote the development of creativity, which in turn promotes learning. This talk will also be held in Room 206 at the Tridex building. We'll start at 7:00 pm, opening the doors at 6:45 pm. I hope you can all come!


Support Group Meeting

The Support Group will meet January 20 at 7:00 pm in Room 206 at our offices in Mount Vernon. If you haven't been to the office yet, there are directions and a map on the web site at:
http://www.pdcc-read.com/WhereAreWe.html
Or, give me a call at 360-848-9792 for verbal directions.

The purpose of the meeting is to exchange information, provide mutual support, and have a relaxing time. Please remember that this is an informal support group, a place to find people who are dealing with issues that may be similar to yours, whose experiences you may or may not find helpful. There is no fee to attend, although contributions to help cover the cost of coffee and snacks are always appreciated. As always, if you feel you need counseling, I encourage you to consult a qualified counselor.

Clay Clinic

Our next clay night will be January 13,  also in Room 206 at our offices in Mount Vernon. We'll begin at 5:30 pm with PIZZA! and conversation.  Clay night can help if you've gotten off track and need to jump start your commitment to completing your symbol mastery. Or perhaps there are some words on the trigger list you've been putting off. Maybe you'd just like to work on clay in a different environment and see who else is doing symbol mastery... and after eating, we'll work on words from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Please call (360-848-9792) or email (dyslexia@prolinguistica.com ) to let us know you plan to attend -- so we can be sure we have enough pizza on hand! Cost: $15/client.

Restless? -- nah - just a good opportunity!

If you read the foregoing announcements you undoubtedly noticed a sudden use of Room 206 at the Tridex Building. Our office has been #208 since September. But the opportunity arose to move into the larger 206, which is also lighter, and has outside access, so I jumped at it... even though it feels as if I only JUST stopped announcing my move to the Tridex Building this fall! Not a big move, only a few feet down the hall. If you could find us before, you can find us now just as easily! And with more light and more room, I'm sure you'll find it more comfortable too!

So the new address is simply:
Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center
1621 Freeway Drive #206
Mount Vernon, WA 98273


Good Stuff to Read

There's been a LOT of interesting reading out there this month. If you don't have time to peruse all of these articles, make sure you don't miss Cathy Trost's "Enter the Therapy Zone" and Carl Glickman's comments on "Big Brother" turning schools into test preparation centers.

(Please note that some of the URLs are too long for some mail programs to pick up in their entirety. If you click on a link and it doesn't work, check to see if your mail program included the entire URL in the link. If some of the URL isn't underlined, copy the whole link and paste it into the address line in your browser -- that should do the trick!)

How About Not 'Curing' Us, Some Autistics Are Pleading
By Amy Harmon - NYT
BOICEVILLE, N.Y. - Jack Thomas, a 10th grader at a school for autistic teenagers says "We don't have a disease," echoing the opinion of the other 15 boys at the experimental Aspie school. "So we can't be 'cured.' This is just the way we are." Justin Mulvaney, another 10th grader, objected to the program's description of people "suffering" from Asperger's syndrome, the form of autism he has. "People don't suffer from Asperger's," Justin said. "They suffer because they're depressed from being left out and beat up all the time."
You can read the rest of this article at:
http://www.cepp.org/News/S00103212-00103213?WasRead=1
The article also describes the disagreements between autistic activists who seek acceptance just as they are, and activist parents, who want a "cure" so their children can lead "normal" lives. Who defines normal? And how homogeneous do we want -- or need -- to be? A fascinating debate.


For Some Parents, It's Never Too Early for S.A.T. Prep
By Constance L. Hays - NYT
Every so often, a toy that reflects a national obsession makes its way into the marketplace. This year's example is the Time Tracker, a device whose purpose is to help children improve their performances on the standardized tests that have become unavoidable in education. Recommended ages: 4 and up. Shaped like a colorful peppermill, with a digital readout panel, lights that suggest a traffic intersection and an electronic male voice that booms "Begin" and "Time's up," the Time Tracker, which sells for a list price of $34.95, has turned into a surprise hit of the holiday season, according to some toy sellers.
Read the rest of this drivel at: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/20/technology/20toy.html
If you bought one of these this season, don't tell me -- I don't want to know! Time does not exist in sufficient quantity to produce a comprehensive list of all the things wrong with this "item", beginning with the feverish greed that passes for corporate concern for children's "academic performance," and moving on towards the whole notion that using something shaped like a pscyhedelic peppermill to develop "a sense of passing time" is a good thing or even a possible thing. The toy seller recommends this for kids as young as 4! Please. If your child indeed has difficulty perceiving the passage of time, a multi-colored, loud-mouth, siren-spewing, faux stop-watch isn't the answer. And here's a comment from Stephen Krashen, emeritus professor of education at USC, widely read author and researcher into matters relating to language and literacy:

Published in the New York Times, December 24, 2004
To the Editor:
Now parents can buy special timers to help their 4-year-olds prepare for standardized tests, a present that, according to one product developer, "is not the kind of thing kids would want for themselves." They are also, according to many testing experts, not the kind of thing that does children any good; test preparation is not real learning. Only test manufacturers and toy manufacturers profit from the tests.
Stephen Krashen

Enter the Therapy Zone
By Cathy Trost
The Spectrum Center... is filled with anxious parents and children who have come to try a therapy called Tomatis, named after the French eye, nose and throat doctor who invented it. There are families from out of town living in motels on Wisconsin Avenue or on Rockville Pike so their children can do "loops" of Tomatis therapy at the center. A loop is two hours a day for 15 days, followed by a break, then back for two more sessions of eight days each with a break in between. The cost for an evaluation and treatment is $6,800. ... I am a responsible parent. I'd spent years training a skeptical eye on far-fetched claims as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Yet there I was, signing a big check, pushing my very reluctant youngest daughter toward a room filled with floppy children tethered to headphones. We had become official residents of Therapyland, a place familiar to any parent with a child who has problems, a theme park that woos you with the notion that the brain can be rewired and children's futures can be shaped. There are no guarantees here, just big bills, big hopes and big questions. And the biggest question is: Does any of this stuff really work?
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20533-2004Nov29.html
This is a very long article that takes a quick look at a number of therapies and diagnoses offered in the Washington DC area (and around the country) for kids with a variety of developmental or learning problems. Ms. Trost doesn't give us any real answers. (She'd probably be sued if she put her real findings in print, after all.) The part I found most revealing - and most agonizing - is the last half of the article, where she drives around ALL DAY with a mom and her daughter as they go to therapy after therapy after therapy session, doing incredibly repetitive, sometimes physically, certainly psychologically nerve-wracking exercises. With no reliable way to truly know for sure which ones, if any, are responsible for any good effects. Frankly, the accumulation almost looks like child abuse, even though we know that on the parent's part, it's all done with the best intentions and the deepest love. Each time I read an article like this I'm more convinced that the Davis methods, quieter, simpler, requiring no technological machinery more expensive, or scientifically proven than the human mind and will, are far, far superior.

Drill and Kill: Relax the Pressure to Read
Kristin L. Sullivan
Stop the madness! Do you ever feel crazy sitting at the table with your 5-, 6-, 7- or 8-year-old doing page after page of homework? Do you feel crazier knowing that there is no evidence that homework has any effect on academic performance until after the eighth grade?... When did we decide to trade our children's childhood for some bizarre version of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World?... The success of our educational system should not be judged on a yearly basis through standardized test scores, but instead measured in terms of the finished product, when the student becomes a well-rounded, productive citizen.
A heartfelt letter to the San Francisco Bee, you can read it at:
http://susanohanian.org/show_atrocities.php?id=3334

Tests Are History at This High School
By Elizabeth Mehren, Times Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. —The 9-year-old Met School defies convention, with no letter grades, no required classes, and "advisors" instead of teachers who work with the same small group of students for four consecutive years. Instead of taking tests, the 580 students present "exhibitions" of their work. With 100% of its seniors accepted each year to college, the Met's "one student at a time" approach to learning has caught the attention of educators around the country.
Read more about this fascinating alternative at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-met27dec27,1,2935622.story

Parents Mentally Prepare Yourselves
By Carl Glickman
Hi Parents,
Welcome to the new world of schools that can be summed up in a few words; test, test, test and Big Brother knows what is best! Get ready to comfort, cajole, and shake your head when that swinging school door opens. This year will bring more invalid tests, erroneous formulas to determine passing/promotion rates, harried and frazzled teachers and principals trying to measure up to impossible state and federal regulations
Wow - check out Carl!: http://www.forumforeducation.org/parents.html
I had the good fortune to hear Carl Glickman speak at a conference a few years ago - one of the most articulate and intelligent speakers about learning I've ever heard.

For your consideration...

The Great Word Catalogue
FUNdamental Activities for Building Vocabulary
Susan Ohanian
Published by Heinemann
Grade Level: 2-6
List Price: $19.00
Recipient of the Kenneth S. Goodman "In Defense of Good Teaching" Award
This is from the publisher's website:
In her inimitable way, Susan Ohanian offers something new and different to use in the classroom. She brings language to life in this irresistible invitation to investigate vocabulary, to practice and play with words. At once whimsical and functional, The Great Word Catalogue: FUNdamental Activities for Building Vocabulary delivers on its title, showing teachers and students that fundamentals are fun and that fun is fundamental. This book gets students excited about words and teachers excited by its endless possibilities for teaching.
Students learn how to write riddles based on idioms. They discover the history of dictionaries. They know what the heck a hink pink is. And they have hundreds of potential topics for writing or discussion—everything from flower and food names to the hidden delights in car names and the wonderful, sometimes zany histories of American place names are all here. Teachers have a field day too. The Word Watch, Word Challenge, and Word Puzzler features, the Teaching Tips, and reproducible activities are immediately doable.
Filled with word lore to fascinate just about any age, The Great Word Catalogue also contains important research. Learn about the promises and perils of teaching "context clues" and word affixes. Be aware of specific do's and don'ts for teaching important vocabulary-strengthening strategies. Draw on the "context bank" of items from children's literature for classroom study or discussion. Most of all, use this book to celebrate words every day in every way.
You can take a closer look at: http://heinemann.com/shared/products/E00427.asp

www.lazyreaders.com
I just discovered this website. Every month "Danny" lists ten books under 200 pages long for those of us who - ahem - don't have time or inclination to read anything longer. He lists books for adults, young adults, and children. These are not necessarily newly published works - some are old favorites that should never be forgotten. Each item includes a short description, Danny's commentary, and a link to amazon.com, where you can often read reviews by their customers. Of course, you don't have to buy from amazon.com, and many of the books he lists will be found in your public library. But if you do, amazon will donate up to 10% of the cost of the book to Bookends, a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing children's access to books and community service awareness (www.bookends.org). You can also sign up to receive a monthly newsletter from lazyreaders.com, which will also list the ten recommended books.

Thinking about it all...
Say what?
 
U.S. Students Fare Poorly in International Math Comparison
In their most recent lackluster showing on the world stage, students in the United States scored below average in mathematics literacy and problem-solving in an international comparison of the academic skills of teenagers in developed nations.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/12/07/15pisa_web.h24.html

U.S. Gets Better Showing on Latest International Math and Science Exam

Fourth and 8th graders in the United States scored above international averages in both math and science on the third version of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, which was released here Dec. 14.
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2004/12/14/16timss_web.h24.html
 
Confused? Small wonder! The media has been waxing hysterical about these scores. But researchers know that US performance on these and virtually any standardized test can be predicted from the demographics of the students taking them. Children in affluent neighbor-hoods score at the top of the stack, nationally and internationally. American children living in high poverty areas score on a par with kids in third world countries. The more poor kids take the test, the lower our overall average is going to be. So the test scores, in addition to telling you a little about math and science, tell you a LOT about the rise of poverty in this country. The same is true internationally: factor in poverty, and you find exactly what we find here: live in a rich neighborhood, you score well; live in a poor one, aw shucks. Laura’s correlary: we don’t need more testing to improve our children’s learning – if you want to see learning improve, what we need is fewer families living in or on the edge of poverty.

Keep an eye out for the PDCC ad in Kids Directory, a small brochure of services for children published monthly. It should be available in stores, businesses, doctors offices etc, starting January 1. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'll mail you one!

Also, honk if you see my van around the county, which now sports jaunty silver lettering on the back window!

Have a great month!
Laura

Next Issue of Singular Minds: February 1, 2005

Got a topic you’d like to see addressed in Singular Minds? E-mail questions, proposals, letters, and/or stories to: singularminds@prolinguistica.com

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You have received this newsletter/update as a service of Prolinguistica Dyslexia Correction Center. To unsubscribe from future mailings, simply reply with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject line. On the other hand, if you like what you’re reading, forward this newsletter to a friend, family member, or colleague! It’s free and available to all interested parties.
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