• Increasing Literacy in Times of COVID

    Lindamood-Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing Reading Program is a rocking way to increase reading comprehension skills and something you can do from home!

    Who knows what the 20-21 school year will bring for our kids. Let’s face it—there’s no guarantee it will be safe enough for them to physically stay in school for the duration. Now there’s a cringe-worthy thought!

    One thing looks certain: our kids will need extra support this year. This post offers one method to help grow their reading comprehension skills no matter what comes next.

    I had already found and fell in love with Linda-Mood Bell’s (LMB’s) Visualizing and Verbalizing program in September 2019. I still adore how it addresses the heart of comprehension difficulties. Its central idea is clear:

    To better understand content, learn to create vivid, detailed mental images of what you read.

    This process is called dual coding. Dual coding happens when you learn something through both word and image.  

    The program is for people at all different reading levels.

    So it meets the student where they are. The program starts with having you verbalize what you see in a given picture. Once you master that skill, the visual aids vanish and they lead you step-by-step through a series of progressively more challenging exercises. The next activity is visualizing words, after that, visualizing sentences, and finally. visualizing paragraphs.

    To help you start your reading journey, they also supply these structure words:

    A simple premise and basic tools, but not so breezy with autism or nonverbal learning disability!

    A lot of our kids have trouble painting a picture of verbal information, so they naturally lean on processing things through words instead. Verbal processing needs to happen in sequence, and in small chunks. This takes more time and effort than making an image in your brain. When you make a visual in your brain, lots of info can be processed simultaneously.

    A quick contrast between verbal processing and visual processing:

    Verbal processing happens in the left brain hemisphere and visual processing happens in the right. Verbal information is digested sequentially in little bits. Visual information is organized synchronously—so rich details and the big picture are perceived simultaneously.

    The goal of the Visualizing and Verbalizing program is to make and strengthen new neural connections in the areas of the brain that visualize information. 

    With a little imagination, you can jazz up the assignments.

    For example, in Picture to Picture, where you describe what you see, it’s easy to find a slew of images from the web that will fit any hobby or obsession. So if your kid happens to be a Star Wars fanatic (ahem, like mine), you could use “Kylo Ren,” “Yoda,” or my favorite go-to, “Darth Vader.” This picture is a fun activity for all SW fans out there. (Note: This kilt-wearing man truly exists, and his fascinating videos can be found on the world wide web!)

    This program really works. It can be done—like balancing on a unicycle while playing the bagpipes, except easier!

    With enough practice, it can be done. “Ten weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading.” Says a study of the Lindamood-Bell program by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It’s hard work, and it takes tenacity, but it does the job. If you keep at it, you can see results in as little as a few weeks.

    You can get in touch with a center and have your child evaluated remotely. They also run online Visualizing and Verbalizing training events for caregivers and educators. You can find more information about the program here.

    ***********

    References:

    https://lindamoodbell.com/press-releases/uab-study-on-children-with-autism-improved-reading-and-brain-activity-utilized-lindamood-bell-instruction

    https://lovetoteach87.com/2019/05/02/examples-of-dual-coding-in-the-classroom/

    https://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/11/17-1

     

  • Caring for the Caregiver, Bringing the Beach Home

    Summer’s warm gentle hands are starting to fold as autumn creeps in around the edges. A few brown leaves crunch underfoot. Dandelions turn fluffy and smoke from a wood-burning stove (or is that a BBQ?) fills the air.

    The warmest season of the year is coming to an end, and so are treasured trips to the beach.

    After just one day there, I feel energized, happier, healthier. There are many reasons to love ocean beaches.  Here are just a few of them:

    It’s the water…

    Whether I only put my feet in or take a running flop, the cold numbing seawater also feels healing and fresh.

    It turns out that ocean water is much like some of the fluid that surrounds our cells, called interstitial fluid (source). Both are rich in sodium and chloride, which makes it non-irritating and soothing to our respiratory system. In this way, seawater helps relieve allergies.

    Sodium has antiseptic attributes, so wounds heal faster in the ocean! Chloride helps with nerve function. Also, the magnesium in the water reduces eczema and helps our skin hold onto moisture longer.

    It’s the air…

    Because water and air mix together so easily at the beach, we actually breathe in all those super-charged, nutrient-rich water-droplets. 

    There’s also a high concentration of negative ions found in beach air. Negative ions happen when air molecules break apart. Sunlight and waves naturally slice them. So do rainstorms and waterfalls!

    Studies say that airborne negative ions remove pollution including fine particles like soot that harm our health. They also remove certain bacteria, viruses, and mold. Breathing ocean air gives us a break from highly polluted areas.

    Also, having an abundance of negative ions around you has a positive effect on brain function and mood by regulating serotonin. Serotonin is a popular neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.  It also has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

    It’s the light…

    The generous bath of sunlight the beach offers on a clear day naturally sparks the brain into making serotonin. While the sun helps you make this feel-good chemical, negative ions in the air help you regulate it!

    Also, the ultraviolet sun rays cause our bodies to produce vitamin D. Depending on skin color and location, it could take anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour in full sunlight to get your daily dose of vitamin D.

    Having enough Vitamin D is needed to fight viruses, bacterial infections, and maintain respiratory health. Evidence suggests there’s a link between vitamin D and cancer risk in mice. They found that increased levels of vitamin D slows or completely prevents cancer cell and tumor growth. It also helps the body kill off malignant cells (source)

    News to me: UV rays from the sun help regulate our white blood cells. It helps prevent our immune system from attacking itself in the form of lupus, multiple sclerosis, asthma, IBS, and type 1 diabetes. 
    Plus the sand…

    My senses love the crunch-crunch of it. It’s not everyone’s favorite, but that feeling of sand under my feet has a comforting way of reminding me of where I am in the moment. 

    BOOM–Instant Beach Resort in the midst of winter, the pandemic, and chilly Boston.*

    I’m 50 minutes away from a beautiful ocean beach on a straight run, without traffic, speeding. It takes extra effort, determination, and polar bear genes to make the trip in the freezing cold. So I pulled some things together for a possible home beach situation:

    *All of these items can currently be found on the web. A list of where to find them will be added shortly.

    ***************************************************************************************

    Additional References:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873555/

    https://www.wellness.com/blog/13295843/the-benefits-of-ocean-air/wellness-editor

    https://gracefullyagingtips.com/sunshine-good-for-health/

    https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/vitamin-d-fact-sheet#what-is-the-evidence-that-vitamin-d-can-help-reduce-the-risk-of-cancer-in-people

    https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2015/02/why-sunshine-is-good-for-you-its-more-than-vitamin-d/

    https://study.com/academy/lesson/interstitial-fluid-definition-pressure-composition.html

    Photo Credits: Sergio Sousa for Unsplash, Marcus Spiske for Unsplash