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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Applying Research in the Classroom

From The Boston Globe

By Cindy Atoji Keene
October 12, 2014

At the Landmark School in Beverly, Adam Hickey is charged with sifting through the most recent studies on dyslexia to help best meet the academic needs of students at this private school for language-based learning disabilities.

“An incredible amount of research on the human brain — in the fields of education, neuroscience, and technology and more — is helping us understand how to best help children with language learning difficulties,” said Hickey.

Adam Hickey explores and employs strategies to help students
at the Landmark School in Beverly, a private school for
children with language based learning disabilities.

What’s a specific example of how Landmark could apply research to help formulate new systems and curriculum?

Studies have shown that the gap between dyslexic and typical readers already exists by first grade and persists. So we need to identify these “at risk” readers early and give them intensive instruction before they start falling behind.

What do we know about kids with dyslexia that we didn’t know a decade or two ago?

Dyslexia is a “blind” disability, meaning it’s hidden, and kids are good at developing coping strategies to compensate They have trouble discriminating between words and difficulty decoding sounds, letters, and meanings. And yet they have an incredibly high reasoning ability.

When you go with them to dinner, they’ll order the same item from the menu over and over because they can’t read, yet are able to spin a conversation about current politics at a national level.

You worked with researchers from Harvard to look at the use of e-readers by students with dyslexia. What did you find out?

Researchers found that the short lines on an e-reader can reduce this distraction and help readers concentrate. So now we know that these devices aren’t just technological gadgets, but an educational resource for those with dyslexia.

What do you tell other schools when you work to transfer Landmark strategies to other settings?

The most common question they ask is, “What do I do tomorrow to help a student who is struggling with writing?” I tell them to break up tasks into small steps and manipulate the variables. With a higher volume of text, you need to reduce complexity, for example.

If they’re reading William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, for example, they might read fewer pages; but if it’s a novel by John Irving, you can bump up the reading pace.

What kind of student were you?

I was a pretty good student. I was lucky enough to have an English teacher during my sophomore year of high school who helped me understand the way language worked. Everything fell into place and the syntax of language made sense to me.

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