Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Importance of Early Hearing and Vision Screening

Almost every student we see here at The Yellin Center is given a vision and hearing screening. These are not meant to take the place of in-depth testing by ophthalmologists, optometrists, or audiologists, but are an important part of checking for anything that could interfere with a student's learning and school success. Children who can't see the blackboard clearly, who find text in books to be blurry, or who have difficulty hearing instructions from their teachers or classroom discussion, are at a disadvantage when it comes to learning. Most of the time, the students pass these screenings with flying colors -- but sometimes we note difficulties that warrant further investigation.

Our colleagues at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) note that screening for hearing loss should begin very early in infancy,  not later than the first month of life. Infants who do not pass this initial screening should have a comprehensive audiological examination not later than at three months of age. And interventions should begin by age six months, from appropriate professionals with expertise in hearing loss and deafness in infants and young children. Even infants who pass the initial screening should have the development of their communication skills evaluated at their well-baby visits starting by two months of age.

The importance of early screening for hearing issues was noted in a recent New York Times article by long-time health writer Jane Brody, who looked at the amazing technological advances in recent years that have enabled most children born with hearing loss to hear, speak, and learn together with children without hearing difficulties, albeit with extensive speech and language training and lots of hard work. The article notes that a new documentary, "The Listening Project"demonstrates the impact of technology, specifically cochlear implants, on the hearing impaired. The trailer for this film is quite compelling to watch.


Vision screening also should begin in infancy. The AAP guidelines note:
  • All babies should have their eyes checked for infections, defects, cataracts, or glaucoma before leaving the hospital. This is especially true for premature babies, babies who were given oxygen for an extended period, and babies with multiple medical problems. Another group warranting special consideration are babies with family histories of vision difficulties.
  • By six months of age - As part of each well-child visit, eye health, vision development, and alignment of the eyes should be checked.
  • Starting at about one year - Photo screening devices can be used to start detecting potential eyes problems.
  • At 3-4 years - Eyes and vision should be checked for any abnormalities that may cause problems with later development.
  • At five years and older - Vision in each eye should be checked separately every year. If a problem is found during routine eye exams, a child should see a pediatric ophthalmologist.




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tools to Inspire the Reluctant Writer

In an excellent recent article in Education Weekelementary school teacher Emily Galle-From discussed the enjoyment she got from teaching young children about writing. By encouraging her students to let their imaginations soar, to exercise their creativity, and to use a variety of ways to convey their stories - prose, poetry, correspondence, and artwork - her  students were able to express heartfelt thoughts and process complex feelings in ways that were meaningful to them.

Here at The Yellin Center, we know that many students find writing difficult. The reasons for this vary. Some students have trouble organizing their thoughts. Others find putting pen or pencil to paper - or keyboarding - problematic due to graphomotor or fine motor difficulties. Other students struggle with word finding or even reading their own work. Not surprisingly, when children find writing difficult, they are reluctant to write. However, the best way to become a better writer is to write.

We often recommend tools to help even the most reluctant writers to create and share their stories. These include:

  • Comic Creator, a website that allows students to create their own comic strips using pre-made images and speech bubbles. This writing format will allow children to express themselves outside the confines of traditional academic writing tasks and greatly reduces the amount of writing required to get their ideas out. It includes a variety of lesson tools for teachers of different grades.


  • Storybird, a free writing platform for creating and writing visual stories. This program is especially valuable for students with strong spatial skills as it includes high quality, artist-created images that young writers can use for inspiration.


  • StoryBoardThat, a storyboard platform that helps students develop visual literacy and presentation skills.


  • StoryJumper , a storybook creation platform where children can create, publish, narrate, and collaborate with friends to create a unique story.

We hope that one or more of these tools can be helpful to a reluctant writer you may know.