Press-Republican

September 12, 2013

Book advises parents on reading disabilities

Ebook advises on advocating for kids with literacy problems

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — When it comes to advocating for a child who struggles with reading, Dr. Gary Brannigan believes no one is better for the job than an informed parent.

“The more knowledgeable they (parents) are and the more active they are in the whole process, the better their kids will be served,” the SUNY Plattsburgh psychology professor said.

In Brannigan’s experience, however, many parents of children with reading disabilities simply aren’t well informed about what they can do to help their child.

That’s why he and Dr. Howard Margolis, professor emeritus of reading disabilities and special education at Queens College of the City University of New York, teamed up to author “Reading and Learning Disabilities: Five Ways to Help Your Child.”

“We wanted to give parents some ideas that they could look at very quickly to maybe get started and realize that they can make some early decisions for themselves that can make a big difference in the life of their child,” Brannigan said of the short e-book, which was released on Amazon.com last fall and is available for Kindle for $1.99.

‘EARLIER IS BETTER’

The publication serves as a prequel to Margolis and Brannigan’s 2009 book, “Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds,” which is available in print on Amazon.com and takes a more in-depth look at the subject, as well as special-education law.

Though “Five Ways” focuses primarily on reading disabilities, Brannigan noted that much of the information it provides can be applied to other learning disabilities, as well.

“Typically, when kids have learning disabilities, the vast majority of them have reading problems,” he said.

Of course, the first way to help a child, according to the e-book, is to determine whether he or she has or is at risk for a reading or other learning disability.

Signs of a potential problem can be present long before someone is actually learning to read, Brannigan said.

For example, he noted, if children are having difficulty with speech early on and are not able to pronounce words correctly, they could have difficulty trying to attach those spoken words to printed ones as they get older.

“If you’re finding that’s happening, the earlier the better, to try to get some help with that,” he said.

COMPREHENSION

“Five Ways” provides a list of sample questions to help determine a child’s potential for reading difficulties, which, Brannigan added, may also result from issues with attention and motivation.

He explained that even children who are able to read may have problems with comprehension, as struggling with even a word or two can cause a child to lose sight of the meaning of a paragraph.

“Comprehension becomes a bigger issue, a more noticeable issue, as kids get older, and that’s why sometimes kids may not be noticed as quickly. And parents could identify some of these things earlier and get them the services so that they become stronger readers who maybe won’t have as much problem with comprehension,” he said.

After all, many individuals who are not successful in reading and learning, according to the e-book, are at risk for emotional distress or illness, unemployment, homelessness and even incarceration.

‘ASK QUESTIONS’

To avoid such devastating outcomes, “Five Ways” suggests, in part, learning as much as possible about a child’s disability and his or her teachers and school.

Being familiar with special-education laws, how schools operate and the vocabulary used by professionals, Brannigan said, is critical to getting the proper services.

“Five Ways” also provides tips for finding expert assistance and having a child’s disabilities properly evaluated.

“Sometimes, people may not be as knowledgeable as you think they are in terms of your child’s special needs and so forth, and you may need to go outside and get greater expertise in particular areas,” he said.

In addition, the book lists sample questions to ask in order to influence the focus and nature of the evaluations conducted.

“It’s important to know where your child stands and to ask questions,” Brannigan said. “It demonstrates your knowledge. For example, knowing what your child’s independent reading level is as opposed to his instructional level and frustration level.

“If you can ask good questions and hopefully recognize what are good answers, then you are better able to get the kind of services that you need for your child.”

FIVE STARS

With the school year just getting underway, he noted, now is an especially good time for parents to address any potential learning disabilities, so their child can begin getting the proper services and support.

“I think early in the year is the best time,” Brannigan said.

Both “Reading and Learning Disabilities: Five Ways to Help Your Child” and “Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds” have received five-star ratings on Amazon.com, where people can view reviews of both, as well as purchase them.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com