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Special Education Experts on

Special Education Topics for

Special Education Parents

Feb 24, 2021

Today I'm speaking with Kate Pearce, of Kate Pearce Educational Services, about reading deficits, assessments, and the importance of proper reading instruction.

Kate is a reading specialist, educator, advocate, mom, and, yes... proud dyslexic! She provides reading assessments, instruction, and consultative services to parents and schools. Join us while we discuss what you need to know about reading issues!

You can find Kate here:

And you can find me here:

TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)

reading, child, teachers, dyslexia, students, parents, read, writing, teaching, kids, hear, orton gillingham, language, talking, learn, dyslexic, test, kate, knew, trained
Kate Pearce, Dana Jonson

Dana Jonson 00:00
Today I am speaking to Kate Pierce from Kate Pierce educational services. Hi, Kate, thank you for joining me. Hi, I Kate is a reading and language specialist or what I would call a reading and language specialist. I don't know if there's an actual list of criteria for that. But you are one of the go twos here in Connecticut. So I wanted to talk to you today because what I'm seeing, at least in my office, the vast majority of cases we've been getting over the last year, which would, by the way, coincide with the global pandemic, I've been mental health and reading. And not necessarily they go hand in hand, I don't want to freak anybody out. But I have noticed that those are the two primary that are coming to my office. And so we here in Connecticut are searching for people to assess and make recommendations for children with reading and language issues. And so that's why I wanted to have you on here because I want to talk to you about some of these critical pieces for teaching children with reading or language deficits that we may not fully understand. So for example, I'm sure many people have heard the term. If you're familiar with reading programs, you've heard the term Wilson reading or Orton Gillingham, or maybe even Linda mood Bell, or something along those lines. And these are different strategies. So Kate, I wanted to bring you in to talk about what are the issues that we're seeing pop up now? And and how do we address them? How do we assess them? And what what is the right way to find the proper services moving forward? So first, I'm going to ask you, why am I asking you? Why are you the person I meet is going to tell me what I need to know about reading and language. How'd you get here? Well, it's been a very long journey.

Kate Pearce 01:51
It's not something you just fall upon. For me, I think everything in life kind of happens for a reason. And as a proud dyslexic, and the youngest of three with dyslexia, it's been long, but each phase of my career and life has brought me to this phase. So I was a special ed teacher in New York, and a general teacher and I have a master's in literacy. And no one ever taught me how to teach your child to read. And that's pretty scary when you have a master's in literacy. And I was gonna say and undergrad in special education. But I knew that I could help children in special ed in a special ed round because I too struggled. And here I was smart. College graduate from Fordham honor roll student in college, not so much my younger years or high school. School Board me in high school, I just was like, it's I went, I want to go to college because I wanted a party to be honest. And I want that social interaction and experience. But the thought of adulting was just a lot for me. Because I knew I was meant to do great things. But I just never thought I was smart enough. But I knew kids and I know people really, really well. So and I knew I couldn't be a psychologist or psychiatrist because that is just way too enjoyable for me. So long story short, I went to education became a special education teacher. And I was I realized I wasn't prepared to be it. You know, I have these students that couldn't read, but no one, I would give them more guided reading. And I have them in small groups, and I'd be looking at pictures with them. And they would make progress, but not the progress that they should have. I had a parent It was kind of like, you know, several years in and I had a parent say to me that she thought her child was dyslexic, and I 100% agreed with her. I just didn't know how to prove it. And it was the first time that a parent said that to me. And I went to the school psychologist and said, I have a student mom thinks the child's dyslexic. He said there's no test for dyslexia. And then I thought, That's odd. How is there no test for dyslexia? I know. You know, my brothers and I lived in the neighboring town and we have classifications is that how is there no real task, there has to be something. And I as a dyslexic, you do become insecure. You start to doubt your own knowledge and your own like I'm like, Oh, I guess he's right. There is no real test, although I knew I was right. But I just didn't know how to prove it. And Google wasn't really a big thing then. So I just kind of kept doing what was not really working. And at the time, I had a stepsister who was started. She was recently classified or got started privately working with an Orton Gillingham teacher. She was like in fifth grade or so. And she was making all this progress. And I heard her talking about her tutor and how and I'm like, wow, that's what my students need this explicit instruction that like So I brought it up. I said, I want to be trained in this thing called Orton Gillingham. Or maybe Wilson. And I was poopoo. They're like, no, you're in there, the literacy specialist came back up to my classroom showband do more guided reading. And I'm like, I just don't I don't get it. I don't get how these kids are going to learn how to read. And then I'm thinking, How the heck did I learned how to read. And really, I learned how to read because I did get some phonics instruction. And so they kept saying that the more you immerse, then these parents are not reading to their children. I'm like, No, these parents, they want to help them too, because they're struggling, but and they just don't know how to help these kids. They want to help.

Dana Jonson 05:39
I remember that, too. I remember when I was teaching, there was a big, and to some degree, it was true, which was some of our students really didn't have anyone reading for them at home. And I, you know, in the population I was teaching, but at the same hand, I thought, I can't imagine that every kid here hasn't been read to do you know what I mean? It was a little hard to imagine that that was the number one reason for everyone's failure in the reading program. Yeah.

Kate Pearce 06:08
Yes. And it's so I'm like, these parents are willing to their grandparents are willing to giving them sending them home more books, they can't like, and then I start to doubt yourself. And I don't know, like as a dyslexic, I just think I think you doubt yourself more, even though. And I do feel like coming back to that, you know, you're at the beginning of this like pandemic and depression. It's true, like, you do start to doubt yourself. And, you know, it's a terrible feeling. And it was,

Dana Jonson 06:40
I think one of our coping mechanisms for dyslexia, at least for me is guessing. Right. So I'm guessing and when you get used to guessing it's a crapshoot. You're not always right. So I think maybe we condition ourselves to know that, you know, I might not be right. I might be guessing. I'm just used to doing that most of the time. And so I think you're right, that self doubt comes into play. When that's how you learned you learn by guessing all the time.

Kate Pearce 07:13
It shouldn't, you shouldn't really have to learn to guess. And, like, yeah, it's an efficient way. And it definitely takes you longer to get there. But anyway, I was pregnant with my oldest. And it was I was a leave replacement. And it was just like, you know what, I can't do this anymore. And I decided to leave teaching. And I was like, I'm done. I'm saying goodbye to the teaching world. And I was going to be a stay at home for a little bit. But I knew financially we couldn't really do it. But I also knew that there was something else greater than me, although it was a very dark time and thinking I just have this new baby, I have a house have a mortgage, I have a family, and how am I going to support them? Because what else am I good at besides people and knowing them? And it's like the stars all aligned, and I was looking for jobs on Craigslist before it was creepy. And I saw an advertisement for this woman from the academy board Gillingham, which I had no idea what it really was opening a practice in that in Chappaqua, New York. And she was hiring people. So I went and sent her my resume. And I sat and talked further and I just fell in love from the first conversation and she just got me and it was amazing. And as we were talking, I asked her Wait a second is your daughter Katie, and she's like, yes. Turned out her daughter was the one who taught my stepsister how to read. And so it was kind of like, wow, this is ours aligning, stars aligning, and she was like, I'm a fellow from the Academy of Orton Gillingham. And I smiled not because I had no idea what the hell that was. And she's like, I'm going to teach you this program. And the first five minutes of her Orton Gillingham course, I was hooked. I couldn't eisert became a The good thing about being dyslexic and ADHD become obsessive over things. And I think I became obsessive like I it was my brain she was talking about it was how you learn how we're totally brilliant. It's not an intellectual disability, but a literally different wiring in our brain and how we process information and just getting the information to the right spot. And for the next decade, I was able to learn under her and learn the Orton Gillingham approach one student at a time with not having judgment or the pressure of a school district or I could do what's right and I could ask questions and Learn it. And it's taken me over a decade to really learn it well. And I think that's what teachers need to realize that it's okay. You might not know all the answers right away, because it is a process. It does take a long time to learn. But it's fascinating. And then long, long, long story short, after our business started growing so big in Connecticut that three years ago, almost she said, you know, Kate, time you take the reins, would you like to take over my business? And I did, I took over that portion of Connecticut, and we just have kept getting bigger and bigger. And so here we are today trying to educate parents. And yeah.

Dana Jonson 10:42
And I think it's really critical, because, you know, dyslexia has become more known and understood, I think, over the years, but I also find in the last year, as I said, the uptake has really been in reading and mental health. And I think we can all assume we know what the mental health issues are, we're all stuck at home, there's a global pandemic. You know, I'd be shocked if we didn't have mental health issues going on with our students and our parents and our teachers and everybody else. But this reading component that has popped up, is it. Are you feeling that this is because I mean, are parents noticing more? Is it because we're relying more on reading? What is happening, that we're seeing this uptick in reading? deficits that we're finding during this pandemic time? Do

Kate Pearce 11:38
you see I don't think there's an uptick of seeing, I think it's always been there, one in five children are dyslexic, one in five. But I think it's becoming we're shining a bigger light on it now. And there's a few reasons for that one, social media and decoding dyslexia groups like that. Parents are becoming more educated on what is happening in reading, they're starting to realize that their child is not reading. But what's happened is them the student being home, and the parents that the parents might be working right next to them. And they can't help them because they're working themselves. And the child is sitting there because they really aren't independent, like they, the parents thought they were. And it's the parents anxieties are going up, like why is like someone help my child, they're drowning, I'm trying to work. It's all and the kids being kind of left to their own devices. And then the kids feeling their own anxiety, because there's really no one there to help them unless they're in a breakout room. And they and they're being asked to be independent. And they're not independent.

Dana Jonson 12:50
And if you find their kids, you can, sorry, do you find that kids can mass that more when they're in the classroom, because that's what I think is happening, I feel that it's not suddenly more kids have dyslexia or reading and language issues, it's that they're not able to pick up on all the cues that they were able to enlist before, that they had strategies, maybe that were helping them get through the classroom or through the day, and now all of that is removed?

Kate Pearce 13:21
Is that part of it? I think that's part of it. Like, you know, I remember like, copying off the kid next to me in second grade.


Kate Pearce 13:29
like, oh, okay, it looks and making it look like I knew what I, you know, I was doing kids are really good at faking what looks appropriate, because they want to be that. Right? So I do think that like, that's part of it, I think teachers could move around a little bit, obviously easier in a classroom or be like, sit over here, let me show you this, while they do three other, you know, work with three other students at the same time. So I do think that's part of it. I think that for the most part, kids that are just just struggling because there's no one there really to help them. And the parents are getting really frustrated because they're starting to see it too. And there's only one modality that they're being taught through the computer, and there's not teachers are not doing reading kind of the way it should be done.

Dana Jonson 14:20
So when we're talking about deficit, such as dyslexia, and and I do think there's a good point that you brought up before we started recording, which was, I'd mentioned that you were a reading specialist, and you said, well, it's reading in language, which I think is a really important point. Because I think sometimes we think of reading as sort of off on an island there and either you can do it or you can't. But it's it's a much bigger component than that. Excuse me. So, when you talk about reading and language, how do those tie in together as, as a whole component that we're working on with children?

Kate Pearce 14:57
Well, because reading is The goal of learning of reading is for comprehension, right, that's our end goal is to obtain more knowledge, but also part of reading. And language together is writing, writing is the highest order of language, and so be able to output their thoughts. So first comes reading, lots of first come speaking and listening. And then the next comes reading. So then writing. So if as soon as starting with a leaky bottom with like speaking and listening, if you have a child that's, you know, our late talker, or would get speech and language services for articulation, they might be starting with a leaky bottom. And so we got to make sure that we're addressing those students at the bottom. And then we go, you know, into that learning how to read properly. And then the writing, you know, writing is the highest order of language, it's the hardest thing. I'm a very good writer now, but it's also probably takes me twice as long to write more than other people.

Dana Jonson 16:03
Yeah, I find it's really hard for I have all the ideas in my head, it's focusing them, to get them out is usually the challenging, narrowing them down when you talk about, you know, researching things incessantly, I call them my rabbit holes, you know, as I jumped down my rabbit holes, which has been helpful for me, and once I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, and dyslexia at 19, I had I knew which rabbit hole to go down, you know, and, and instead of studying everything a little bit, I could figure out what it was, and dive into that entirely. So, you know, as you said, you had a diagnosis of dyslexia, there had to be some kind of test for it. I am still hearing that I'm still having parents come to me and say, I know they have dyslexia, but I can't get a diagnosis. I can't get the school to a grade. Where does a parent start? When when you feel that their language and or reading issues for your child? And? And I do you think it's important to identify that those are the same and different? Because language is much bigger? Right? Reading just falls under one component of language? Yes. And so when you have any language deficit, it's going to impact you in any of those areas. Correct. It's not just like, Oh, I just suddenly don't have an issue here. But over here, I'm just fine. Right? It's it's across the board. So how do we as parents go about figuring out exactly what those deficits are? And how to address them? If we're not, if you know, if there's no test for dyslexia, but I'm pretty sure there is now

Kate Pearce 17:42
Yes, I mean, for Yes, that is a lie. And if any district tells you that, or they can't identify dyslexia as a school team. Now, a guidance came out in 2016, saying that school teams are allowed to identify students with dyslexia and say dyslexia, it's not like there's a whole movement called the SE dyslexia movement, like, say it like it's a dirty, bad word. And some teachers are holding on to these old administrator tales that have been passed down to them. That saying that you can't say that, that it's not true. You can and the way we tell is, by not just there's not one test for dyslexia, there's many, and you look at, you just have to have a deficit in, you know, fluency, comprehension, decoding spelling, one of those will give you a, that is dyslexia, you don't have to have all of them. Usually you do, but you don't. But I always ask parents, when they come to me, I say, Well, where do you What were you like as a reader? And usually, that's the biggest indication. And for me with I have two boys that I started from the beginning. Like, I am going to teach them how to read properly from the beginning. And my oldest actually did a really good job. My youngest, of course, we were talking about four, our youngest kind of slipped through the cracks sometimes. Yeah, he is probably one of those kids out, although I was very with phonological awareness with him. I was crazy. He knew all his rhymes, and like he was ready to return to kindergarten. And so he did struggle though, because I kind of let him go off to dinner thinking that everyone knows who I am. And the fact that they know that this is how I want him to be taught. And he kind of got caught up in the whole language component of reading and by January, the kid who wouldn't go to school, and it was heartbreaking as a parent, but it was also Oh my God, I see. This is how all these kids that and I was able to catch it, but I had to prove that his stupid tra he couldn't read even though it was putting on kindergarten level. But one thing I do and parents, I think I suggest that if you really are concerned that your child's not reading, type up the book that the school says their reading and what level they are, put it on a piece of paper and type it and then have your child read it, and then record them reading and bring it to me. This is sound like a reader, you told me my child read that. And that's kind of what I did. Like you're saying, My child's a reader, but he's not.

Dana Jonson 20:27
So what's the difference? When you say type up the book that they're reading? What is the difference between handing them that piece of paper versus the book that they're used to reading?

Kate Pearce 20:34
So by doing that I'm taking I'm only making my child focus on the words and be seen not pictures, or the story or telling him background information like this little this book is about Bobby and Bobby is going to a circus today. And can you help him look for? And so I'm not giving him any other clues, just the words. And that's what we want. We want to I want to know if he could read the words. And it's really evident early on that. They're not readers based on, you know, your assessments, but Connecticut is getting better, although it is. They're doing universal screeners now. And so all kids from kindergarten through third grade have to take a universal screener, and it tests for red flags of dyslexia, or like any reading reaction, not just Oh, Alexia Butlin,

Dana Jonson 21:33
so when you say universal screener, that means, like some kind of assessment that they give all students,

Kate Pearce 21:39
all students so, and our My goal is to start it with pediatricians started at four, three and ask, you know, we asked, we're so we asked parents, like, pediatricians will say to me, I remember with my son's a little can, it doesn't make eye contact doesn't, you know, trust himself, can you do this, but they're not asking Kenny Ryan? And he, you know, what else can he do? Can he if I say cup, can he say, Towson that rides with a cup or a cup without the cup? Can he hear we're not asking those questions early on, which we should be because for having a phonological awareness is what we know. Now children need to learn to read

Dana Jonson 22:22
how to children develop that phonological awareness. And, you know, I guess, you know, without getting into the argument over who should be raising our children, you know, whether it's a stay at home mom who happens to be a reading specialist, or, you know, or, or a child in daycare, or a child, wherever they are, what should we be doing to, you know, support the phonological awareness, because I think that we all think we are, I mean, I know I did, I knew I had dyslexia, I knew there's a good chance my kids might have it. I surrounded them with, you know, books and stuff like that, but even just listening to you. And as somebody who taught Wilson for five minutes in my life, at some point, as a special ed teacher, I still wasn't 100% sure what I was doing was right. So How can parents be more secure and sure about what they should be supporting, and then that's looking for in their child.

Kate Pearce 23:22
So I would, I think the way I handled it with my second, I did a pretty good job, with the fact with rhyming, nursery rhymes, music, all of that will benefit your child before they start with kindergarten, we do not want to be showing kids, you know, letters, we're so obsessed with letters, and showing them letters and the sounds that they make. And we our brains were never designed to learn to read, our brains were designed to see objects. And the objects we see are in 3d. So when we give a child, a three year old, four year old, and we're showing them all these letters and sight words to memorize, that is not helping them learn to read, that's actually just doing the opposite. What they're doing is clogging their brains to memorize more things, and they're not going to have enough data in their brains to hold on to what they need to hold on to when they get there. So if I was, as a parent, what I tell all my clients that come through our door is start with phonological awareness, making sure they hear sounds, manipulating sounds, take little pom poms, different colors, and say, okay, up with different colors for each sound before without letters attached. You don't want the letters attached. And when they're so young, you just want them to be able to hear and manipulate the sounds. And then when they get to first grade or kindergarten, I mean, they will learn the letters, and then they'll be able to correlate the sounds with them and be able to manipulate them because they're starting to have a phonological awareness. A third of kids pick that up automatic They just have to be exposed to it, they hear it, they put it into their graphic memory. And they're, they're good to go. Those are natural readers.

Dana Jonson 25:10
But I think I heard that because again, like I have one foot in the homeschooling world, and I hear people say, Oh, well, I never taught my kids to read ever, and they just sort of learned. And I think, well, there is a third of children who will write if they're just, if they're given material, and it's around them, they will develop that skill of reading. But that's only one third of children.

Kate Pearce 25:36
Exactly. And what we do know is another third children need that explicit, or they get need to be exposed to phonics, and phonological awareness and the phonemic awareness and hearing the different sounds, but they'll get it sprinkled here and there and a teacher will point something out, and they'll be okay. Yeah, then we know another third children, the one and five are dyslexic, that need that explicit, multi sensory structured, sequential approach to learning to read. So they don't have to, you know, guess later on,

Dana Jonson 26:15
get used to guessing. So, how do we, if we've assessed it, we, you know, when a parent comes to school and says, I have a concern, is it a regular psycho educational? That is the standard evaluation that all school districts do when we're talking about special education? Is that type of assessment going to identify dyslexia or rate reading and language deficits to the extent that we need them to?

Kate Pearce 26:44
I will tell parents this, if you have concerns early on, like kindergarten, first grade, look at those assessments, ask them what screeners they're using, that are based on science, not observation, not like a D RA, or an F NP, they're called, those are all based on observations. We don't want that we what are we want evidence based screener and I'd look at those screeners because some kids do pass them, you then if you really do still have concerns, I would go to your school first ask for the testing, then when the testing comes back, they should be showing every substance core in there, because Dyslexics hide in the sub tests. And it's not just one sub test. It's not and it's not just one test. They shouldn't be doing, you know, just a regular cognitive. But they should be doing a gamut, like I'd want like it's called the sea top like that's a test of phonological processing. I want a real more in depth writing as if they're like, in fourth grade or actual third grade and above, you know, what schools will do it they'll say, Oh, well, we did the you know, cognitive Woodcock Johnson and in that their writing is average. Well, their writing is average, because all they have to do is put words in order, just like a spark. It's not intellect. This is not an intellectual disability.

Dana Jonson 28:10
I think that's where we get confused. Because typically, children with dyslexia, again, their coping mechanism is to figure it out. And the coping mechanism is to present like you understand, not to actually understand. So the fact that a child with those deficits could present as fully understanding is what we should expect

your act.

Dana Jonson 28:38
Yeah. Right. So I mean, that's that's the whole thing. That's I mean, when we talk about the insecurities and all those pieces that come from the entire coping mechanism is to guess what they're doing and and figure out how to get really good at that. So then I agree with you i that's why I was asking about the the psycho educational because a lot of times, I'll have a student come back and it says, well, the overall is well within the average range, but we have to look at Yeah, but within those smaller sub tests within it, do we see a lot of scatter? Are their skill sets all over the place? Or if the test comes back, that they're average, and they're still struggling? I would argue we need more assessments. And I feel like sometimes the the response that parents get are no, your child tested in the average range, so they're fine. This is not our problem. So what can parents say or do to dig a little deeper? I always say, you know, the more information the better. But would you recommend like a specific is there specific language that you think triggers that evaluation? Like what is it the parents are looking for? like yeah, I know this test says average but I'm still really concerned.

Kate Pearce 29:54
This is I also this is my hurdle lately, what I've noticed now students grades are totally inflated, especially because of the pandemic. Yeah, it's really cannot. And so you have kids that are getting A's and are on honor roll, but they don't even deserve those A's. But the teachers feel like they're one they can't really assess because of the way they everything is. And they, they, meanwhile, teachers, they, they want, you know, all there for them, that is really, you know, they earned it because they are working really hard. So it's a false sense of security that parents are seeing, because teachers are giving these kids grades that are not really where they are. And we and the assessments that they're giving in the classroom are just complete garbage, and are not Yeah, like, accurate of who they are. And we're also not assessing writing, I give the child a writing sample, I can tell you so much about how that child can read their spelling, and what is going on just by looking at their writing sample. So as a parent, a give your child a piece of paper and say, write a story about a friend. Is there Can they write more than two sentences? Like Where are they? They should be able to write multi paragraphs by fourth grade.

Dana Jonson 31:15
Yeah, I have. Well, so we had a foster some foster children living with us and over the holidays. And I asked the 10 year old, you know, I asked all of them, give me your Christmas list, right? So I get this list from a 10 year old and I was appalled. It was just it was there was no, it was not a child who knew how to write period yet. And he's doing great in school. Right? So I reached out to his teacher directly. And, of course, she's his new teacher this year, she's never seen a piece of his writing, because they've been distanced the whole time. So there's no writing sample. I don't I don't blame her. She had no clue. You know, when I when I showed her the Christmas list, she said her response was Yes, that's probably, you know, but we're in this crazy time right now, where it's, I don't know, if it's harder to identify or easier to ignore.

Kate Pearce 32:14
It's easier to ignore. I think teachers are just so overwhelmed with putting everything on line and trying to figure it all out that and parents, some parents just don't want to know right now. They're just treading water themselves. And they're trying to manage working from home and making sure their kids are online, and they're trying to feed their families. So right now, parents are just in survival mode. But if this is our new reality, and who knows what the fall will bring, as schools and teachers, we have to get better at identifying them. So if that means having a parent, take a picture of your child's writing, and email it over to you, that's what we got to do. And let me just these kids are so computer savvy, they could figure out how to take a picture and send it to you, there's going to be very few children that you're not going to be able to get that from if you ask.

Dana Jonson 33:14
Now when I was growing up and and to date myself, the world of computers was up and coming. And everything well, you don't have to learn how to write because you're going to type, that's what you're going to do. So you no longer need to learn how to write no one, you just need a signature. That's it, you don't really need to and I have heard the suggestion a few times that children get text to read software, which is a little different than just audiobooks. Text to read has a different sound. It's not somebody reading the material attempting to be just, you know, computer, generating the words, I have found, at least with my daughter that books on tape significantly helped her reading she actually reads while listening to them. And that was huge for her with fluency because she gets stuck when she doesn't understand something. So with the tape to push her forward, but what are your thoughts on on text to speak because I don't envision a world where we still don't need our reading and language skills. And I worry that we're looking towards sort of putting a bandaid on some of the issues and saying, Well, you know, maybe we could just get someone to read them the questions or we can get a reader. You know, what, what is your take on those kinds of accommodations that maybe aren't actually teaching the student but maybe just helping them get through.

Kate Pearce 34:41
So as far as audiobooks and books on tape, I'm all for it, especially in the older grades because reading is made up of a formula. It's decoding plus vocabulary equals comprehension. So you want that vocabulary and the only and they're not reading grade level. material, that the only reason the way they're going to get vocabulary is by reading. So we Sorry, my son is half naked in front of me and happens. So you want that vocabulary. So if they're in seventh grade, fifth grade, and they're really at a first grade level, they have to have access to the same grade level materials, and they're not going to be able to read them. So right, what you want them to do is find a way to build that vocabulary and access to the same curriculum. Again, I cannot stress this enough, they are had the same if not higher, IQs as their peers, they just don't process language the same, but they can listen to it and be have access to the same vocabulary and the higher level conversations and thinking, I recently and this infuriates me, and I'm telling because I'm angry, I won't call out the district, but it's very hard for me not to, but I had a fifth grader barely read a second grade level. And I want them a part of this history and science cannot read the material. So instead of giving them audiobooks, or different little readers to help accommodate that, they put them in a second grade history curriculum, oh my gosh, is learning about communities don't even get me like I don't know why we're learning about communities. in second grade, we should be learning that preschool like every kid knows, the fireman is in the United States. So it's just, it was so one How humiliating for this child, who can't imagine to be part of the conversation and has great thoughts and ideas. There's learning about community workers. And that was their solution. Because he's reading at a second grade level, we'll put them in a second grade. And I'm like, absolutely not. The only way to build that reading is also to give them access to the curriculum and the vocabulary. So that's why with the writing, we have so far to go. In this country with how we teach writing we've gotten, we know what science tells us about reading, we know that they need a direct explicit structure, multi sensory approach to reading, writing, they need the same thing. So just letting a child dictate into a computer. First of all, it's going to be all off anyway, because they don't know they have a hard time with grammar. And it's not directly taught. Now, again, I never was told how to teach someone how to write I was, I would read books, and I knew I was a big into Teacher's College. And I think what I liked about teachers college was that it gave me something coming out of school, it gave me every lesson. Now knowing it wasn't backed by science or anything. But at least it gave me something, I had nothing. I had no idea what I was doing. So giving now looking back, like I'm like, Oh my god, all these kids need a direct writing program. And so that's what I've really been fighting for just as much in schools is to get these kids at direct writing program, like writing revolution, by Judith Hoffman, who taught at windward, it's a direct, multi sensory structured program that teaches kids from basic sentence levels and fragments to multi paragraph and how to come up with those ideas. Kids with dyslexia have a hard time with language in general, it's hard for them. So they're not going to have all the words to help them. But by just having them talk it. You don't talk the way you write. And it's unrealistic to think that if you could just do text to speech, all of a sudden there, it's going to solve their problems. Because what happens a teacher comes in and edits it makes it sound right. And then lo and behold, you have an A student that goes to college and

Dana Jonson 39:04
doesn't know how to write that doesn't matter. Right? No, it's

Kate Pearce 39:06
it's, it's

Dana Jonson 39:08
interesting that you say that, because that is so true. And I think about even in my own office, when, you know, pre COVID, I spent a lot of time on the road. And so I do a lot of dictating, and it is not easy. It's really not it's not easy to dictate the way I want something written when I'm speaking. So I would imagine the reverse is just as difficult. And I think it comes down to that piece where we're not just talking about reading, we're not just talking about writing, we're talking about language, and the writing and the reading are the byproducts of understanding language. And I think we get that confused with as you said, cognitive ability. You know, if it's easy for us to read, somehow we must be smarter, which is just not the case at all.

But you also

Dana Jonson 40:01
talked about very specific instruction for reading and writing. And that, you know, brings me to this other piece, which is once we've identified children with dyslexia or a writing issue, and they need that support, how are we providing it, and I feel like the reluctance to identify a child with dyslexia was really a reluctance to acknowledge they needed a specific kind of instruction that the school doesn't have. And that was the case versus the child doesn't have dyslexia. But now, we're allowed to say dyslexia, we're allowed to diagnose with dyslexia, we're allowed to say the child has dyslexia. So once we've established that, just saying a multi sensory approach is not the way to do it. And I know that because that's what we did when I was teaching way back when which was it's multi sensory, which means it's a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing. So what are we looking for with that instruction, once we identify that there's a deficit, whether we're calling it dyslexia or not, and it is impacting writing, and it's impacting everything else about this child's ability to communicate and learn what what type of instruction are we looking for, for the student who needs this?

Kate Pearce 41:21
We do need a derived has to be it. This is a rabbit hole in itself. But it definitely has to be the teacher, the level of training has to be the highest level of training, at least, you have to have two teachers in a building that have or that are highly trained in a direct, explicit multi sensory, structured approach to reading. Now, every program, Orton Gillingham is an approach. And there's many different types of Orton Gillingham programs out there. But they all should follow a clear scope and sequence. And they all should have. And when I say multi sensory, I don't just mean i think that means something different to everybody. I don't know, like I was in a meeting last week. And I asked the teacher Well, what does that mean, multi sensory, and she was like, well, they have, you know, a pen, and they're writing. And I'm like, no, it multi sensory includes all senses, your reading and writing and seeing and speaking all at the same time. And you're using manipulatives. And you are addressing that phonological awareness component and phonemic awareness component. So many programs are not addressing that kids get into like a small group. And the teacher just starts, you know, talking and lecturing more than the kids are actually writing, hearing it, seeing their mouth feeling it. That's what we want our students to do that we want them to hear, see, feel, use all their senses at the same time to really get it in their brains, because especially Dyslexics, they don't see. They see pictures, they need that other sense to understand and really make it concrete. And I think that's where teachers get a little confused.

Dana Jonson 43:23
And I think there's a lot you know, when you talk about something like Orton Gillingham, there is a specific training, right? So yeah, a lot of these programs, have specific trainings have specific hierarchies of who's trained and who they should be following under. So my frustration is, in hearing teachers or staff say, Oh, well, they're trained, and then find out they went to a weekend workshop. So, I mean, it's better than nothing. But are you finding that schools are getting to a place where they're willing to invest in the proper training for their staff? Or are we still, you know, under the, the pandemic, I think what we've really discovered in many ways is what schools can and can't do. And I find that we are seeking outside reading evaluators, much more than we were before, which I think is good, because I think school districts are starting to recognize that their own staff is not able to identify these issues at this point. And I feel like if you can identify them, how on earth are you going to address them?

Kate Pearce 44:31
Well, this is the problem. They think they can identify them. But they're not. And that is a major problem. When they think they're a they think they're doing the right thing. They had a workshop, they had a training, oh, I'm trained now. But when you the way I could tell I could tell everything by a program by the IEP goals. Okay, I read an IEP goal, and it's says, You know, I just won recently and was like, will read more fluently I'm like, fluidly? What does the hell does that mean? At what level you have a third grader? Like? Are they reading at a first grade level more fluently? And how many words correct are they reading? Like, we're in knowing that knowledge and then at digging a little deeper, like, well, what were you using to it was all based on observation. And I'm like, Oh, no, but what we know with kids that struggle, and most kids need an a plan, an explicit plan to learn how to read, and they're doing a hodgepodge program. So these teachers get some training, and they come back to the classroom, and they don't implement it correctly, because they're still using their toolbox. Or they'll say Orin Gillingham is just a tool in my toolbox.

That's what I hear a lot.

Kate Pearce 45:52
I do not want to hear that is a tool in your toolbox for my dyslexic child's? Because they don't need any other tool except knowing Is it a sound outward? Or is it a sight word, those are the only two tools they need, and that toolbox in the beginning. And then as a real strong Orton Gillingham tutor or teacher will know that, of course, our end goal is comprehension. And our our end goal is to teach them how to read and we're going to teach them comprehension and fluency. A good teacher incorporates all of the components of reading into their instruction. What we don't do is give them strategies. A little bit of this strategy and a little bit of that I do not want to see a child looking at the picture, and the first letter of a word to figure it out. Because what do they do when there's no pictures? If we're not teaching? And how do we know this is another big hot button issue got me all fired up now is that we're doing these, they'll say, I'm going where the child is. So I noticed today that they didn't know AI. So tomorrow's lesson is gonna have a lot of words with AI. And then I might notice that they have Oh, art tomorrow, but then it's not building on it. And so when that foundation,

yeah, and that's when I get

Dana Jonson 47:14
frustrated, because the science shows that doesn't work. So why are we still doing it? And I have had to find a nice way to say that no,

Kate Pearce 47:26
no, I don't I I will, I will tell you this. I recently was in a district, same actually same district that was using the second grade curriculum. And I said, the same thing. I said, Why are we using other strategies? like looking at the picture? And they were like, that director of Special Ed said, we're not a one trick pony. I said, Oh, no, no, no, yes, you are a one trick pony. When it comes to the science of reading, that we know what the neuroscience says how kids learn to read. And pictures is not beneficial to them as a reader. And her argument was at that level at a second grade, first grade reading level pictures is absolutely appropriate. You could sit there and argue to you're blue in your face, the face, I just send them the data and science after the meeting and just have them document that we don't want them using that strategy. It's not beneficial to them as a reader, because I'm also seeing kids whose parents think they have tracking issues. And I'm like, why I'm getting all these kids with tracking issues. So of course, my obsessive compulsive, nerdy side of me needed to dig deeper into why am I getting all these tracking issue kids? And because I and then I doctors are not really seeing it as well. It's because we're teaching kids to look everywhere. But the words, they're looking up at the pictures, they're looking, they're skipping, they're looking for clues. They're looking for clues, and they're not focusing on the actual word. And so like, Well, that makes sense. And so we have a bunch of kids that have look like they're having tracking issues, but it's not really tracking. It's just they're looking for other clues. And yes, we have to get, and I also had a superintendent of school I was pretty close with. And we were talking and she was telling me like, honestly, it's so expensive to get these two teachers trained, like, but what happens, you get them trained, and she found a workshop for them, which was great, like a 30 hour one and he listened. 30 hours is better than no hours. Yeah, but the poor teachers come back. And they don't know how to implement it. They have no one to supervise them. They have no one to supervise them or give them actual tools and like ideas on how to implement it. And here's a really great lesson in how we do it. And a plan, like your plan should follow this scope and sequence every time you Your your students should know where you're going to start every single time they should be able to tell you what's going to come next. And what that and it's reciprocal keeps going around like you every single time and it's just part of it. It's time teachers just don't have the time. Yeah.

Dana Jonson 50:19
Well, and I think that's why we're looking so strongly to outside sources now, because we don't and training is harder to do in a pandemic. So we're looking to people who are already trained, who know what they're doing. So what is it that you bring to the table? Okay, so you do assessments, do you? You know, I'm just curious, like your cape Pierce educational services, do you consult? Do you help set up programs? Do you just do assessments? What do you bring to the table in this process,

Kate Pearce 50:54
I bring it all to the table, I bring my everything I bring my knowledge of you. I have over 15 to 16 tutors that are all trained in Orton Gillingham at a minimum of a 16 hour course by a fellow Dr. Brown, who trained me. And then they get to learn just like I did one student at a time they get, you know, we bounce ideas off each other, I get to mentor them, and they become experts, if not better than I am now at it, because they get to have that luxury as well. So when this child comes into my practice, I do an assessment, usually informal assessments to kind of see where I would start and where the holes are. Sometimes I'd say listen, they need more speech and language testing, or they need a full neuro psych. There's more going on globally than right now then I could test for if you come to me with a lot of testing from the school or what have you, I will take it and I will come up with a treatment plan. I tell kids, I'm like a detective. I take clues. I will take clues from your parents, I take clues from the student, I asked them a ton of questions like how do you feel about reading? What do you struggle with it? Don't tell me what your parents you've heard your parents say? Or you've heard teachers say what are you feel like it's happening, kids are really a really good indication of where they struggle, what they need help with. And then I put it all together in a treatment plan of what skills we're going to work on right away. This is where we're going to start in the word Gillingham program. And this is how we're going to remediate it. And this is I'm going to put this child with this tutor because they're a great match. Now sometimes we get calls a lot of times now from schools and they'll call me and say, Kate, we have a student for you that really needs a more intense, you know, remediation, and one of my tutors will go into this, we'll do the same process, I'll look through their IEP, we'll come up with a plan, we'll meet with the schools. And that's actually becoming one of the more favorite parts of my job. Because I do get to for so long, I felt a little lonely. I just saw these students and then I leave and then I had no other adults around. Right? You know, but so it's great to collaborate with these teachers and be like, Okay, what is happening? Why are you able to, you know, we're going to do the decoding part you work, you could work on fluency. And the way you're going to work on fluency is we're going to give you what to work on. So you're not kind of overstepping or we're going to help you understand that you're missing you're doing Wilson but your child's not making progress, why well look at their phonological awareness. Again, that's where we learn start to learn how to read they don't hear sounds, listened doesn't incorporate that how could so I'll help teachers and give them actual lessons and do it with them and show him how to do it instead of just giving them a bunch of theory about how it should I will show them how to do it.

Dana Jonson 53:49
And I think an important piece that I've heard you haven't said it directly but what I've heard from you is that just because you are following a very prescriptive program does not mean there's no individuality individuality sorry you know you're still individualizing for the student.

Kate Pearce 54:05
I think we get confused with that sometimes

Dana Jonson 54:07
I hear teachers say no I individualized so I just use what I need. No is a complete comprehensive program whichever one you choose, and or that the child requires. And following that program within it there is individuality


Kate Pearce 54:25
Individually says but this pick your own adventure. Yeah to read is not beneficial to any student at all. And we've gotten so far out into that's how that you know, it's reading is boring. We need to give them a they love. No, it's not. You are the teacher, you need to direct the ship and that is how they're going to learn. They will love to learn how to read when they learn to read.


Kate Pearce 54:53
but we can't do this pick your own adventure. If you're into butterflies, you're gonna learn about butterflies and if you're into space, you're going to learn how to space And then we're going to go from that note we were on. And that's how I was trained, I was trained, and we have to make reading fun and engaging. But it'll be fun into gauging when they actually learn how to do it individually. So it's a science, if you go to the doctor, they're going to give you a formula to follow. It's not, it might be a little different than the next person that comes in, but they're probably going to give you you have to follow it to the tee. And that's, you know, what we do. And there are times where I'm like, this tutorial model one on one is not helping, they need more than what we can give them. And sometimes students need to be in a program at like a school, where they're immersed in it all day long. Yeah, and they are getting it from every angle in writing, reading, you know, science, math. And that's okay, that's my job to be like, it's time to wave that white flag and say, we surrender, because, as teachers, we want to say we can do it all. But there are students that just need more than what we can give them. And a good educator will be the one to say they need more.

Dana Jonson 56:07
And I think it's fair to say that we can't all be good at everything. So that includes teaching. And I think a good teacher understands when they don't understand something. And yes, you know, most I find most teachers are in it, because they like to learn and they want to keep learning and your class is never the same. And it's always different. And a lot of that is exciting. But there's no shame and I can't do this. And and I think we rely too much. And we expect teachers sometimes to be miracle workers and and they're not, you can't be providing a one on one instruction for a student, when you've got 25 kids in the class. That's just a reality. But that's why parents have to become their number one advocates for their students. And so for parents who are listening to this, who are saying the only person I can talk to is Kate Pierce, she's the only person who knows what's going on. That's a smart

Kate Pearce 56:58

Dana Jonson 56:59
that's a smart person, right? How are they going to find you? Where am I going to so

Kate Pearce 57:04
you could go to the empowered And you can find me there. I'm also on Facebook under Keith Pierce educational services, but probably through my website, and you could just send me an email.

Dana Jonson 57:18
groovy. And I'm gonna have all that information in the show notes. So if you're listening to this, and you can't remember it, it's non-problem, go back to the show notes and all of Kate's contact information will be there, as well as other information we discussed. And I really do hope that you'll come back and and do more podcasts with me because I feel it is even scratched the tip of the iceberg of reading and language. But I am really glad that we got this sort of overall

picture of

Dana Jonson 57:53
what we need to be doing, because I think it's really helpful to hear the bigger process and say, you know, this is, we are individualizing, even though it's within specific programs, and that the hodgepodge take a little bit of everything really isn't the way to teach this skill. So I'm hopeful that people will take that away from this and call you or call me and make sure they get the right services they need for their child.

Kate Pearce 58:19
And what just one thing I want to add is we need to get teachers to be on the same side as the parents. So often we're on the opposite side, and it kind of puts the teachers back up against the wall. If we were able to empower the teachers, by getting them the right instruction that they need will only help not only our children, but other students as well. So as frustrated as we might be, we have to be advocating to get the teachers the right support.

Dana Jonson 58:49
Agreed. And I I do say that, you know, parents have to become the number one champion for their child's education. And if that means a staff working with your child needs additional training, then that's part of it. Yep. And we should not be afraid to ask for it. So thank you, Kate. I really do appreciate all of this insight. Thanks.