Faith Berens, a trained dyslexia interventionist who holds a certification in Equipping Minds Cognitive Curriculum, joins us to discuss sound therapy, its benefits, and how often learning difficulties are rooted in auditory and language processing weaknesses. This insightful discussion will help parents of students whose unique learning experiences make learning more of a challenge.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:04.381
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Demme Learning Show. This is Gretchen Roe, and I am absolutely delighted to welcome my good friend and colleague, Faith Berens, today to talk about sound therapy and children who learn differently. Faith and I have known each other for a number of years and when this opportunity to have this conversation came up, I jumped on it, because I know that you will be blessed by the conversation we are going to have today. I’m going to apologize in advance. I have a pet fly who is here in the office and I’m hoping he doesn’t land on the camera as we talk today. But we’re going to have a great time having this conversation. So thank you all for joining us. And Faith, if you would please introduce yourself.
Faith Berens: 00:00:50.497
Absolutely, sure. Thanks so much for having me, Gretchen. As she said, my name is Faith. I am a homeschooling mom of two, and I’ve been homeschooling since 2008. My training and background is that of an educator, reading specialist. I’ve taught in public school, private Christian school. I’ve worked in NILD therapy, cognitive therapy, and dyslexia intervention. So I’ve been a reading specialist also in private practice. So yeah. So I came to homeschooling with some of that background and kind of fell into homeschooling. It really wasn’t on my radar, as Gretchen and I have talked about in the past. But it’s been a great fit for us as a family. And we were also former military army families. So I had lived in Seoul, Korea, and taught with Department of Defense as well. So that’s a little bit about me. For the past 15 years, I’ve been serving part-time with HSLDA, Homeschool Legal Defense Association, as a special needs consultant. And then, I do some private practice on the side when I’m not homeschooling or wearing one of the multiple hats that us as moms wear.
Gretchen Roe: 00:02:14.966
Absolutely. And I read an article yesterday that talked about how difficult it is for us to believe the myth of multitasking. But a little bit of that is the genre of being a homeschool parent. I know that you wear so many hats. And you bring something really special to the table as far as your ability to understand kids who learn differently. And I wondered, Faith, if you would talk about that a little bit. About your own experiences with learning challenges, particularly with mathematics. Because I think that changes the conversation we’re going to have, particularly for parents. Because you see it from a child’s perspective in a way that’s very unique.
Faith Berens: 00:03:04.793
Yeah. So what a journey it’s been. People say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And so, I had been a struggling learner all my life. Was very talkative, rambunctious. Would probably have been labeled ADHD back in the day. I was very wiggly, was always singing, moving. I would say a very creative child. Very inquisitive. However, math did not come easily for me. And so, I struggled all through school with math. And I had to have special math groups, pull-out, tutoring. Was never identified, never had an IEP. Was never identified with a learning disability [inaudible] or different, as I like to call it, until college. And so my mom was just an advocate for me. She was a single mom. She couldn’t homeschool, but. Anyway, she got tutors for me, but in high school, I was told, “Don’t bother going to college. You’ll never make it,” from my high school guidance counselor because I was an average student.
Faith Berens: 00:04:30.964
But I really wasn’t an average student. I was disengaged. I was kind of falling into that pattern of learned helplessness and learning anxiety, which often accompanies learning differences. And so I just gravitated towards my strengths and kind of skated by. But my mom said, “Absolutely not. You can do anything you put your mind to. You’re going to go to summer school. You’re going to take these classes that you need. Apply to colleges.” And we applied to smaller colleges. And she helped me learn how to advocate for myself. I got it into every college I applied to and went and then went on to get a master’s degree, and I’m currently at Regent for my doctorate. Now, I didn’t major in mathematics, okay? I majored in education with a specialization in reading. For a reason, because that’s a strength area; I’ve always excelled with reading and spelling and writing and things like that. But my passion has always been to help the most struggling students because I was that kid who couldn’t get it or needed the multiple examples and the repeats and always had to put things to movement and dance and music to remember steps in a process.
Faith Berens: 00:05:45.622
And so my passion has been just finding ways to support different learners and teaching them to thrive, to tap into their strengths. And to not give up in spite of their challenges and to just find workarounds. And so I’m blessed I get to do that in the homeschool realm. And so that’s a little bit about my perspective. I was diagnosed in college with dyscalculia finally by a specialist there. I went to the learning center at my university in my undergrad program. And he said, “You have dyscalculia.” And I said, “What do you mean? That’s a thing, and there’s actually a name for this? I just thought I was dumb or I could never learn higher-level math or something like that.” And so he really helped me to understand what that was and to equip me with tools to work around it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:06:44.257
And the reason I think that that’s so valuable for parents to know is because sometimes, particularly in this day and age, when we get a diagnosis for our children, that diagnosis comes with shouldn’t, can’t, won’t, you’re not able to do those kinds of things. I mean, I received that diagnosis for my middle son when he was back in fourth grade, so he was what– eight, nine years old at the time, and like you, he was told he shouldn’t go to college. And you know what? I have a great affinity for your mom because I had the same attitude. You can do anything you want. We’re just going to have to figure out how you’re going to do it. He holds a degree in computer science. And he is a successful young man at the age of 24. And I think that one of the things that sets homeschool parents apart from any other kind of parent is the fact that we don’t have to just receive a diagnosis and then accommodate. We could figure out how to make it work. And that’s why I wanted you to share that because that, to me, gives you an extra special perspective with the kids that you work with, because you understand what it is like to be maybe discounted a little bit. And knowing you, I wouldn’t discount you for anything, for any reason. And now that you’re about to pursue a Ph.D., I think that’s even more exciting. So, as a personal friend, I’m real proud of you.
Faith Berens: 00:08:22.895
Oh, thank you.
Gretchen Roe: 00:08:24.237
That you didn’t receive that information and just say, “Oh, well, I guess I can’t do that.” And I think we need to take that attitude when we homeschool our children. Oh, we don’t have to receive everything that’s said to us.
Faith Berens: 00:08:38.984
Spoken, that’s right. We don’t have to receive everything that’s spoken over our children, we speak truth over them, and hope. And there are answers, there are ways to not only accommodate them, but to remediate things. And I think that’s some of the beautiful things about homeschooling. Is that we cannot only strategically teach them, so we’re going to use good curricula that’s solid, and research-based. And meet them where they are, with our instruction. And then we can accommodate them, but we can also remediate. And that gives them a real strong basis, and those gaps can close over time. So, yeah. Homeschooling’s just been a great fit for us, personally. And I think it’s a really, really viable answer for many struggling students.
Gretchen Roe: 00:09:33.976
Faith, you sent me a question this morning that I think is really important, and I really want to use this to set the tone for the rest of our conversation. And that is, who does the diagnostics for auditory processing disorder? Or a central auditory processing disorder? If I’m the parent that suspects one of my children has that issue, how do I figure that out?
Faith Berens: 00:10:00.306
Yeah, so testing is a huge issue. Diagnosis. So, only an audiologist can thoroughly give a diagnosis of auditory processing disorder, or central auditory processing disorder. Now, most parents will be familiar with an audiologist that just does the typical hearing check, or a hearing screening that you may– that’s not the same as the hearing screening that the pediatrician does in the office, where a nurse practitioner, a nurse comes in, and does that. That’s just a typical hearing screening. And then, if they see any red flags, they may refer on to an audiologist for further assessment. But, an audiologist will specifically assess, and sometimes you have to ask for it. Because I will say that sometimes students that are having processing problems in auditory realms can look like they’re not listening. They can seem unfocused, or they actually have hypersensitivity, they’re listening to everything else going on around them, and they don’t know how to self-regulate and screen out that ground noise.
Faith Berens: 00:11:20.183
But the audiologist will do a very specific way of testing, they put them in a sound-proof booth, and they listen to different noises, and sounds, and words. And they might play something in the left ear, and there’s competing information coming in the right ear, and vice-versa. So they do figure grounds, listening, what’s called dichotic listening. They’ll play different tones and frequencies, and games. And they’re looking to see what are the student’s auditory skills, what tones can they hear, not hear? Can they discriminate sounds? Within words, can they discriminate words? And then they’ll also do something where they speed sound up, and then they slow it down because they want to see what their processing is like with speech rate. So there’s a lot of different things that they explore, and we had that testing done for my son when he was about seven because he had had lots of issues with not understanding what we were saying. He had chronic ear infections. He was very sensitive to sound and would say, “Noise sound, noise sound,” and he was rubbing his ears and, “What’s that sound?” And then he was able to tell me later, “It’s like a bell. It’s like a bell ringing in my ear.” So he had tinnitus, so lots of different things going on there. But yes, an audiologist would be the first person to go to or if your child is having trouble with understanding language or expressing themselves, then a speech and language pathologist could also be a good person to see.
Gretchen Roe: 00:13:18.170
And I think it’s really important. I had a child who had auditory issues when he was very young. He had over 32 ear infections before he was three years old. And so we knew that he had issues. And he had tubes at a young age, and he had tubes until he was about ten years old. And then my grandson comes along, and I said to my daughter, “He can’t hear you.” And it took my daughter a number of years to recognize that what was happening was he wasn’t distracted. He didn’t have attention deficit. He just flat couldn’t hear, and it wasn’t until his younger sister started answering for him and outpaced him as far as language skills that my daughter then went, “Something might be wrong.” And so if you suspect there might be something that is an issue there, one of the lowest bars, believe it or not, is to play Simon Says. And so if you play Simon Says three or four times, and then you take a piece of paper and you cover up your mouth and continue to play Simon Says– a child who has either fluid on their ears or auditory processing delays depends very much on watching what you say. And when they can’t see what you say anymore, then their ability to continue to play will decline. And so if you see that in your household, then it’s time to really get that checked out. And that was true for my grandson, Ben. He’s now 11. He’s on his fifth set of permanent tubes because apparently, his body says, “Nope, don’t need them.” Pop, and out they come.
Faith Berens: 00:15:01.177
Gretchen Roe: 00:15:01.470
But hopefully, he will eventually outgrow this. But you can tell when Ben starts to be distracted and you ask a question and Ben is no longer attending to what is being said, then his tubes are either clogged or they’ve come out. So if you see that as a parent, man, I’m telling you, this is why parents need to be detectives and really watch their children.
Faith Berens: 00:15:27.012
Yeah. That’s great, yeah, being a detective, being a keen observer, doing different things to try to pinpoint. On the HSLDA website, then the special needs section, we do have some checklists that are really helpful for parents of symptoms. Because there’s different areas of auditory processing, and I would like to say that auditory processing is– a true auditory processing is really not a hearing problem. It’s not a hearing loss. Although it can be rooted in chronic ear infections, that type of thing. There’s different reasons why people can have auditory processing or acquire it even from head trauma or stroke, concussions, so. But it’s really the way the brain processes because the auditory information goes in, and there’s something weak in that auditory loop on the left side of the brain and it’s like the brain can’t hear. The information goes in, and it’s just processed wrong or it’s scrambled. Oftentimes kids can’t discriminate the difference.
Faith Berens: 00:16:43.696
So, Gretchen, I loved what you demonstrated. And another thing that parents could do is stand behind their child and just play a simple game, listen to these words: wing, ring. Like, thumbs up, thumbs down. Are they the same? Are they different? Wing, sing. Wing, ring. Ding, bing. Playing games with like, ship, chip. Can they hear the slight difference between a sh sound and a ch sound or an ih and an eh sound? Many kids who have that phonological processing, they don’t hear the differences of sounds or they don’t hear sounds in order, will be weak. So if you stand behind them and you just play a simple listening game, thumbs up, thumbs down, same or different. That can be a way to kind of screen, are they having trouble with sound discrimination?
Faith Berens: 00:17:43.492
And I think that’s just absolutely a wonderful piece of advice because that’s so easy for a parent to do. And it occurs to me in our conversation that if parents are watching us, they would know that I took a card and put it over my mouth. But if parents are going to listen to the podcast, I should clarify that what I did was, in playing Simon says, is to cover my mouth so that my kids couldn’t see what I was saying. I love what you’re doing, Faith, about standing behind them because then the only thing they have to rely on is sound. And sometimes that’s very quickly apparent. My child who has APD auditory processing disorder, even at 24 years old, I can only give one direction at a time, I can’t– and being [a good?] German, I’m going to fling a bunch of stuff at you and you’re going to have to sort all of that. No, that doesn’t happen for him. I have to be attentive even as he is an adult that he won’t be able to sort content if he gets too much of it at one time, so.
Faith Berens: 00:18:55.396
That’s a good tip. Yeah. A lot of people with auditory processing disorder or even someone like myself with dyscalculia don’t hold multiple steps well. So that could be auditory sequencing or it’s just– it’s the load, it’s the cognitive load of too much at one time. So chunking information, giving it slowly, using a visual checklist as well– I mean, the same thing with my son, and we just– it’s little sticky notes, one, two, three, then come back and check with me. Or still, I mean, he’s 13. Here’s your packing list; we’re going on a trip. Because if I rattle off five pairs of underwear, four– he’s not going to hold all of that. But a simple checklist, packing checklist, things like that to help manage and live with it and work around it.
Gretchen Roe: 00:19:49.066
Right. And that just makes such sense, but sometimes as parents, we don’t think about that particularly. I know in my world, he was my fifth child, and I had not had those kinds of issues with his older siblings, so it was definitely a game-changer for me to learn how to respond differently to a child who related to the world differently. You had mentioned, in the notes that you sent me this morning, that there are several kinds of listening programs. So I want to now– really, because the reason we are here today is to talk about sound therapy and its benefits and those kinds of things. Before we talk about those notes, let’s talk about how you found yourself availing yourself of sound therapy. I was so excited when you had posted this a while back and I saw this because we had used sound therapy with Duncan with his auditory processing delays and it was a total game changer, so I was so excited to find somebody who could talk to me about this, so.
Faith Berens: 00:21:02.981
Sure. Yeah, there’s several different programs and I found it because not only as a mom who had a son that was diagnosed with this, as a dyslexia specialist, it’s always been something that I’m interested in because most dyslexia is rooted in problems with auditory processing and phonological processing. So I’m always searching for answers, solutions, tips, best practices, and I love to research, anyway. So I’m just constantly learning new tips for our toolbox [laughter]. And I think a lot of homeschooling parents are like that. We are researchers and if we’re going to figure it out, we’re tenacious like that. So I had heard that there was this lady, Dr. Carol Brown, coming to our area to do a workshop for a weekend on a cognitive therapy and I found out that she was a person of faith, so that was attractive to me. It was a holistic program. It was cognitive-based, research-based. And having my NILD background and dyslexia training, I thought, well, this could be really good and it was open to speech and language, pathologists, dyslexia. It was open to a lot of different people, teachers, parents, so it wasn’t just targeting.
Gretchen Roe: 00:22:36.507
Can you pause for a hot second and explain what NILD is because I know, but our listeners may not, and I think it’s important to understand that and as you tell the story, so.
Faith Berens: 00:22:49.913
Yeah. So NILD is National Institute for Learning Development. It’s nild.net, I believe. It might be dot org. They may have changed that. But that is a cognitive therapy. It’s been around since the 1960s and it’s based on Dr. Reuven Feuerstein’s work who believed that brains could change. He was really ahead of his time before we knew what brain plasticity was or that brains can change, right, and new pathways can be learned. So he was working with students that had all manners of special needs and Down Syndrome and all kinds of things. So NILD therapy really focuses on the underlying processing skills, thinking, language, problem-solving, attention, planning, more of those executive functioning skills, planning, organization, and language processing as well as auditory processing and visual processing.
Faith Berens: 00:24:04.806
So NILD therapy usually is two days a week, an hour and a half sessions, and they’re doing Orton-Gillingham for dyslexia. But then they’re also doing a lot of activities and games that works on building up those, we would call them, bottom to top skills, so the very foundational skills that all of academics build upon. So Dr. Carol Brown followed Dr. Ruben Foyer signs work and other cognitive therapies. But she had also learned from her experience as a parent with her son who had to go through many, many therapies because he didn’t talk until he was almost four years old. And they did Lindamood-Bell and Learning RX and speech and language therapy and you name it. She did it. And she was in there learning all these therapies with him, and they also homeschooled. So she kind of took the best of the best of what she learned and then went on to get a master’s degree. She was a recreational therapist, went on to get a master’s degree and then a doctorate. And she developed this Equipping Minds therapy that’s very holistic.
Faith Berens: 00:25:25.440
So I went to that training that weekend seeking answers not only as a mom but also as a practitioner to support students that I was working with. And part of her program was all students that did the program needed to do what’s called primitive reflex integration. So we did some physical exercises to get the left in the brain hemisphere playing nice together, brain integration. And we really learned about how your visual processing system, your auditory processing system, and your vestibular balance system are so highly integrated in the brain. And oftentimes, if one system’s off, it throws another system off. And then she said that all students that do Equipping Mind, they’ve been doing some memory like jungle wear safari, but also sound therapy. And I had never heard of sound therapy, but I love music. I’m a musical person. And it uses classical music and it’s specially filtered. So this was the key part of the Equipping Minds. And I was so fascinated because it was so holistic. And I just sat there going, “Yes, because we are fearfully and wonderfully made and we’re mind, body, spirit, and there’s so many different things that can impact learning.” And as a teacher, I was frustrated often because it was like we’d throw something at a kid for a few weeks and then we’d throw something else at them and then we’d do some other therapy for six weeks. But it was never integrated. And so that’s how I came to learn about sound therapy and was through Equipping Minds and Dr. Carol Brown.
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:22.081
Absolutely. So now, can you tell us a little bit more about what sound therapy is and how it can help children who have learning challenges?
Faith Berens: 00:27:33.800
Sure. All different kinds of sound therapies and listening therapies are rooted in Dr. Tomatis work. Now, he was a French physician and was really ahead of his time. And so the program that I use is, I don’t know, Sound Therapy International. So so in the 1950s and ’60s, there was something called audio psycho phonology, so this French ear therapist that I mentioned, Dr. Alfred Tomatis, was working in France. Now music and chants and meditation has been around for a long, long time, and we know the benefit of classical music. I mean, there’s even a research study out there called the Mozart effect, and how listening the Mozart had a great effect for studying, and particularly for mathematics. But Dr. Tomatis was working on the ear and brain function, and he wanted to be able to improve the processing of sounds.
Faith Berens: 00:28:51.162
And particularly, we should be right-ear dominant, because the sound would go in, obviously, it goes in both ears, but when we’re processing sounds of speech and words, and the brain is mapping sounds to symbols, it should go in our right side. And then it goes over to what’s called the auditory loop in our left hemisphere. And so sound therapy uses specially filtrated music, chants, rhymes, poems, even African stories and fables and fairytales, and scripture. So this program, Sound Therapy International, that’s what I like about it. It’s portable. It’s affordable. You wear it. You should listen for at least 30 minutes daily, but it can be customized. And it’s training the brain to hear the higher frequencies. Now, not a speech and language pathologist, but I do know that our consonants are on one tonal hearing plane and our vowels are on a different. And so when kids can’t hear those higher frequencies, that attributes to why they can’t discriminate sounds. And so with this, because it’s specially filtrated, and the sounds will go up or down, and the tones are different.
Faith Berens: 00:30:28.595
It goes in and it stimulates the inner ear. And have a little visual here. It goes in and it stimulates all the different parts of the ear, and the cilia, and just all the different parts. And then it goes over and it integrates and works with different parts of the brain. So it is actually helping to train the brain to be able to process. So if you think about our brains or a muscle, or if you if you have an accident and you go to physical therapy to learn and to strengthen a muscle, well, that’s what sound therapy is doing. It’s strengthening the muscles and the inner workings in the ear and then stimulating the different parts of the brain and the auditory loop then to be able to process. It also can help to normalize the fluid balance in there. So. Rafaele Joudry created this Sound Therapy International with her mom, because her mom actually worked with Dr. Tomatis and had such great results with treatment. So her mother was Patricia Joudry, and then Rafaele Joudry picked up her work and has expanded it and has developed this program. So that’s what we use.
Gretchen Roe: 00:31:55.827
Being a lefty, so much of what I do is reverse would the auditory loop that you’re talking about still be right to left or is it opposite in a left-handed child? You might not know the answer to that. So I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I’m just nosy.
Faith Berens: 00:32:22.704
So I mean, we’re whole-brained. There’s been this myth for a long time about right-brain, left-brain. Now, we can be– you can have one side that’s definitely stronger. I mean, you might think better in pictures and be more creative and musical, which means you’re tapping into more of your right side, and typically, people that are more right-brained or could be more mathematical and sciencey than a left-brain learner like myself where I like words and spelling and reading. But there can be something with mixed dominance, ambidextrous. You’ll have kids that will switch. My husband’s mixed dominant. He’s also dyslexic. So I haven’t done– even as a dyslexia specialist, I haven’t gotten into a lot of the studies about mixed dominance. I do think it’s important if a student, whichever student, whichever handedness they’re gearing towards, just let them do that. Don’t try to force a kid who’s writing as a lefty to be right-handed. But we do want to be right-ear dominant. And so I always tell parents when you’re reading with your child, make sure you’re sitting on the right so that the sound is going into the right side. Handedness is fascinating.
Gretchen Roe: 00:33:58.811
I think that’s really fascinating. That thought wouldn’t have occurred to me. If I’m listening to a book on my– I’m a big fan of Audible because I can do other things while I’m listening to a book. I’ve learned enormous amounts of things. But I tend to always wear my earbud in my right ear, mainly because I use my left ear for like, okay, I’m walking down the road, is a car coming behind me, and those kinds of things. So maybe there’s more to that than I have thought about before. We had so many families who registered for this event and asked us such great questions. I love to be able to ask you some of those questions as we move on today. There’s one thing that I want to address in that is, as a dyslexia specialist, we had this conversation last week, and this is something I talk about from the stage when I speak at homeschool conferences. Can you talk about the importance of ruling out vision issues as a mitigating factor for a suspicion or even a diagnosis of dyslexia?
Faith Berens: 00:35:18.582
Yeah. So I think that– so when students are struggling with reading and they don’t have a diagnosis. One of the first things I tell parents is, let’s start with the vision. Because a typical vision check, just the general vision check, may not show typically doesn’t if a student has convergence issues, eye tracking. My daughter, she was a vision problem. She was a great decoder. It wasn’t a reading problem. But because she would get fatigued, lose her place when she was reading, get headaches, that tracking issue, her eyes weren’t teeming properly together, and that smooth sweep that we need the left to right smooth sweeping, top to bottom. That slowed down her reading. Well, when your reading slows down, when your fluency goes down, as you well know, then your comprehension goes down. And so vision is really key. Now, there are dyslexia gurus and experts that will say a true dyslexia is not a vision problem.
Faith Berens: 00:36:29.249
And it’s not. It’s not flipping B’s and D’s, although that could be a symptom, but I think that’s more left-right. They’re just not firm on left and right and crossing the midline, so again, holistic, right? We want to do our exercises, we want to work on left and right, we want to work on tracking left to right, top to bottom. So vision therapy, getting a good diagnosis, is important because we want to rule that out. So as a reading specialist, I’m always like, “Let’s peel back the onion layers. Is this a vision problem? Okay, no. Now let’s look at auditory processing, language.” Most learning issues are rooted in language processing, dyslexia is rooted, primarily, in auditory processing. So we start with vision, then we go to the auditory processing, speech and language, and look at decoding, rhyming, phonological processing, all those sub skills. And before I say, “Now go see a psychologist and get a formal diagnosis of dyslexia.” But yes, vision is key, and it’s often overlooked.
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:42.860
Absolutely. And sometimes as parents, we misinterpret a child’s hesitancy to read or read out loud or stick with the task that involves reading as obstinacy or–
Faith Berens: 00:37:57.675
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:59.169
Laziness. And the truth is, there’s an obstacle there that we don’t perceive as parents. So if you have a child who tilts their head, who has chronically messy or off track handwriting, they mix lower case and upper case letters when they should not do that, they get car sick, they have a limited attention span, they have a short temper. If you see those kinds of things, it is definitely worth ruling out vision as a mitigating factor, and you need to find a developmental optometrist to rule that out. Your garden-variety optometrist will not have the additional training necessary. Just as Faith has gone to get additional training to do sound therapy, you need an optometrist who has had additional training as well. So I wanted to make sure that we did bring that up for parents, because so many of the parents who registered for this particular event reported that they had children with dyslexia, so I think that that would be important for us to consider.
Gretchen Roe: 00:39:15.831
And Faith, I have a great question here from Natalie. She says to ask you, “Do you have any tips for teaching math to a rising 5th grader with central auditory processing disorder?” She said, “This is my first year homeschooling to help him and doing homework with him. I noticed that he still counts on his fingers. He needs repetition. He was doing a spiral math at school. He loves reading history and science, but is still struggling with sentence structure and writing in run-on sentences.” So there’s a lot to unpack in Natalie’s question here, and I have opinions, but you’re my guest, so I would love for you to be able to answer for her.
Faith Berens: 00:40:01.809
Well, you are an expert in your own realm so we can tag team, but. So counting on fingers, yeah, I see that a lot even 4th, 5th, even with 6th grade. So using more manipulatives because the student isn’t what I call– they’re not subitizing. They don’t understand rapidly quantity. Their number sense is poor. I know Demme Learning has a good intervention, the AIM, which maybe you can talk about, Gretchen. But playing lots of games using dominoes, using an abacus, using cubes. I’m sure this is stuff you’ve done a lot of. But part of equipping minds, we use a number line, and we’ll do the cubes. And then we also do something called number hunt and we play games. And we’re teaching them very explicitly well, if five plus two is seven then– and then we use a lot of language.
Faith Berens: 00:41:20.882
And so we’re using language, we’re using manipulatives. If five plus two equals seven, then five plus three must be? And so we’re teaching logic, right? And then also we’re having them not only write the facts with numbers, but write it out using words and reading it. So we’re doing a lot of input. It’s auditory input, the visual input, the language input, and the multisensory. So using a really good program, Math-U-See, RightStart. There’s several, but the AIM program that Demme has is great. And I also like a lot of the resources that Ronit Bird has at ronitbird.com, for dyscalculia and for kids with learning struggles with math. But time repetition.
Gretchen Roe: 00:42:20.698
Absolutely. The only observation I will make for Natalie is that when we count on our fingers, math is sequential and cumulative. And the more you have to count to answer a question, the more often you have to actually step out of the process of answering the question to account for the facts. So with a 5th grader, there would be merit in pausing and getting more proficiency. Does that mean you get to 100% of proficiency every time? No. But if you can move the ball even 25% so that the student’s counting 25% less of the time, that’s 25% more of the time that you get to remain engaged with the math. And I think that makes a tremendous amount of difference for children.
Faith Berens: 00:43:16.246
Yeah. Got to get those math facts down. But for some people, dyscalculia, I still didn’t have all my math facts down. But I knew how to get to them. And when it came time to take a test, I would literally dump facts and formulas down on the paper because I couldn’t hold it. You said it interrupts the process, right? It’s working memory.
Gretchen Roe: 00:43:40.634
Faith Berens: 00:43:42.141
So even using a chart, if they can’t get– I mean, there’s merit. We want to try to get them to learn all those facts, for sure. Because if it gets to automaticity, then it doesn’t interrupt the process, like Gretchen said. But some people may never get the facts. But don’t hold them out of higher math. Give them accommodation give them a chart, a reference chart, a calculator, teach them how to get around. So they can still take higher maths. Don’t hold them back, and don’t give them a pass that you don’t have to take this, or you can’t. You can. You just might need more time. And you need some accommodations and support.
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:23.195
And see what our audience doesn’t know is I paid you to say that, so. [laughter]
Faith Berens: 00:44:27.785
You and I have talked about this so many times.
Gretchen Roe: 00:44:31.852
Oh, my goodness, haven’t we, though? Yes. The truth is we don’t want to set the bar so low that our kids believe they can’t. And so we want to continue to encourage them to remain engaged. And just like you said– I mean, when we talked last week, you said, “Hey, I’m going to have to take statistics for this PhD program.” And you’re not shrinking back from that. So we want to be able to take that kind of mindset of, “Okay, I might have to work harder. I might have to work a little bit differently. But I can still make it work.” And I think that’s the message we really want to give to our children. You had said in the process of our conversation in preparing for this, one of the things that you had said was that time estimation, steps in a process, those are things that are really, really difficult for kids both with APD and dyslexia. So can you talk about maybe some accommodation because several of our parents have said, “Jeez, I’m really struggling trying to teach my child to manage themselves.” So can we talk a little bit about how we could make that easier for kids?
Faith Berens: 00:45:53.912
Yeah. I brainstormed a list of different things to do and things that I usually when I consult with families. Because I was just dumping ideas on the paper, so I’m going to talk off the top of my head. Using checklists and charts is really helpful, visuals. Overall, I was just thinking ways to manage themselves: pictures, first steps in a process; setting things to music. There’s actually – it’s called reauditorization – where you can teach them to walk themselves through a process. There’s a man named Christopher Woodin who’s actually a dyslexia specialist. Now, he teaches kids to do this, who have dyscalculia but also kids with auditory processing language, processing, then, math can be really difficult for them. He teaches them to not only walk it, speak it out, but they walk it out. So with long division, they’ll put tape on the floor and the numbers on the floor. And then they walk through. And they talk through the steps in the process. And they explicitly teaching them the vocabulary for math or for steps in a science, let’s say, like the scientific method or whatever.
Faith Berens: 00:47:28.655
Color coding, these are all things that can be helpful for learning, teaching them to rephrase information and use Cornell Notes Taking message, which is two-column notes. And you can find on Amazon, journals, little notebooks that are already made that have the template for Cornell Note Taking. That’s utilized widely, particularly at landmark college and universities for students with disabilities so rephrasing information, summarizing, doing quick sketches, pictures, teaching them to chunk, do things, and short steps, and then chaining. Once they have the first step down, they’ve got that automatically. Okay, now let’s add the second step. And that gets solid. So we’re kind of layering things on.
Gretchen Roe: 00:48:31.163
I think one of the things that we sometimes do as parents is we make a mistake of assuming that time management is an automatic process, and it’s really not. I mean, we have to teach our children incrementally how to manage their time. And I think it’s important for us as parents to be able to recognize that not every child learns to manage at the same speed. I don’t know if you found this with your children, but my eldest son couldn’t be left alone to manage a single math problem until he was 17 years old. And so it took me a long time to recognize that, but when I finally did recognize that, I knew that when he was going to do math, I needed to be there literally next to him and available to him for that process. He needed me to be there so he could remain engaged. And it wasn’t an obedience. He almost needed that coworking environment to be able to maintain that. I have a daughter who’s 28, who needs that coworking environment for some of the tasks that she does now as an adult. And she says it just makes all the difference in the world just to have someone there attentive to what she’s working with when she’s working through something. So I think, as parents, it would be great for us to recognize that.
Faith Berens: 00:50:08.155
Yeah. I think that’s like we need to be more of a mentor, a coach. We’re coming along side of them for reassurance and reminding, but also redirecting because if we’re alongside of them, we can help them. Okay. Coach them, go back and check that. I noticed something isn’t right. We can call them to self-monitor. Boy, you were really close. I see one little calculation error, or I see two letters that you have all the right letters, but two are mixed up. Can you check it? Can you find it? So we’re coaching them or calling them to redirect and to make changes, much like, I mean, you’re a swimming coach or a golf coach would do with their swing or their stroke or something. So I really think we have to be available to give them the scaffolding and the support they need. It may be I have to demonstrate and model two problems to them.
Faith Berens: 00:51:20.239
Okay, now this one we’re going to do together. I’ll do the first step. Now you take the– more back and forth, you take a turn. I’ll take a turn, or you read a page, I read a page, where we’re doing a lot of modeling and coaching. We’re doing this together. Okay, now I want to see you do the first two lines by yourself or the first step of the problem by yourself. And give them some time to do that. And then I’m going to assign you one problem or two problems and set the timer when they’re ready, and you think they can do that. And then you let me know when those problems are done. And then I’ll come back and check. But it might take a while to get to that point and to be able to set the timer and let them work on their own, independently.
Gretchen Roe: 00:52:07.930
Right. And one of the reasons that I was so excited to have this conversation with you is I knew that that is part and parcel of your philosophy of how you approach working with families. So before we move into this final ten minutes, I wanted to find out from you, how does a parent know if their child would benefit from sound therapy? What are some of the things that you would ask a parent to look for if they’re evaluating whether sound therapy would be helpful for their student?
Faith Berens: 00:52:45.991
Sure. Well, I mean, if they have a history of speech and language problems, if they had a traumatic birth or they were premature, certainly if it’s a child that comes from a traumatic background, either adoption or fetal alcohol syndrome, they could certainly benefit, attention deficit, anxiety difficulties, if they do have tinnitus or lots of those ear infections, if they’ve struggled with learning to read, if getting that sound symbol down has been hard for them, so phonology.
Gretchen Roe: 00:53:32.616
Faith, how does your practice– so in the show notes, we’ll have your website and how parents will be able to reach out to you directly, but how would you be able to come alongside a parent and help a parent walk through that process with their student?
Faith Berens: 00:53:54.541
Yeah, so they would contact me. We would have a consultation. We have a notebook, and we have checklists for parents to do. So it is individualized. We have some rating scales, checklists. It will be a conversation. And then we would tailor it. They could certainly go to the sound therapy international website where there’s lots of research studies. Many parents are interested in is this research-based. They can download. We have white papers, like the science of sound therapy for auditory processing. How does it help for students with speech and language therapy? So these are all available, dyslexia and sound therapy. And there’s lots of lists of research papers that have been done by outside researchers. So it’s something I’m considering looking at, too, for my thesis. But they could contact me through the website. We’ll do the checklist. We would do a personalized consultation, and then if they decide to do sound therapy, I would place the order and give them their device and set up a listening schedule for the student.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:17.851
And Faith, can you give families your website so they’ll know where to find you?
Faith Berens: 00:55:23.798
Yes. It’s just faithberens.com, with a capital S, capital B, faithberens, B-E-R-E-N-S dot com.
Gretchen Roe: 00:55:32.167
Absolutely. I have to tell you, this has been such a rewarding opportunity to have this conversation. Sound therapy was a total game changer for my fifth child. He’s my diagnosed dyslexic. He didn’t learn to read until he was almost nine and a half. He had vision issues that needed resolution before reading could begin, but he also was hyper auditory. He could not tune out anything around him. So sound therapy helped him learn to attend to a singular thing. And man, I’m telling you that was enormous. I can’t say enough good things about sound therapy because I’ve experienced how it changed that kid’s life. And I think it’s something that it’s definitely worth pursuing if you have a child who learns differently, who is struggling with the things that Faith and I have discussed this afternoon. I can’t believe this hour has gone so quickly. Faith, what would you have in the way of closing comments to the parents who have joined us this afternoon?
Faith Berens: 00:56:46.282
Closing comments. Just bless you. You can do this. You know your kid better than anyone. You love them more than anyone. Be a keen observer of your child. They’re fierce, cheerleader, and advocate. Keep knocking on doors and searching answers. My belief is God is faithful to lead us to the right solutions and helps and people to come alongside of us. And just don’t give up, persevere, but also just teach them that we grow through challenges and God often uses our weaknesses to help other people. Nothing is wasted. And they can do it. He has good plans and purposes for their life and to just keep working through the challenges because hard is good, as my friend, Dr. Carol, would say, hard is good. And teach them to struggle well, to learn through the struggle, as she says. So those are just some–
Gretchen Roe: 00:57:55.361
I love that. Hard is good. That’s a good word for all of us, regardless of whether we struggle or not, recognizing that hard is good. Thank you so much for joining me today. It has been my very great pleasure to host you. We’ll have to have a conversation as you get closer to your PhD when you decide what you’re doing. Let’s come back and have another conversation about that because I think we’ll all be able to learn even more from you. I’m really excited about that. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. Thank you all for joining us. You’ll find the show notes and be able to watch a recording of this at DemmeLearning.com/Show or on your favorite podcast medium. Be sure to rate, review, follow, and subscribe wherever you find this, where you may be hearing it, especially if you’ve enjoyed the content we’ve shared with you all today. Thanks again, Faith, for joining me. I look forward to our having a conversation again soon.
Find out where you can subscribe to The Demme Learning Show on our show page.
We spoke about the benefits of sound therapy in helping students with an auditory processing disorder and related learning challenges. Faith emphasizes that parents with children who struggle with dyslexia and related disorders need to be the most ardent observers of their children and learn to remediate their challenges, accommodate their learning differences, but continue to encourage and exhort them to be their best selves.
Faith is available for private consultation with families who desire a more in-depth understanding of helping their different learners succeed.
Faith also provided us with this terrific document as a resource for parents about auditory processing issues.
We spoke of several resources for parents during the event:
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)
National Institute for Learning Development (NILD)
The Cornell Note-Taking System
Equipping Minds (Dr. Carol Brown)Ronit Bird (Dyscalculia Specialist)
Faith encouraged us to remember Dr. Carol Brown’s words, “Hard is good.”
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