Learning and Attention Issues: A Child's Invisible Struggle

Brandpoint  |  2016-03-16

(BPT) - Suzanne Lang fondly remembers asking her then 5-year-old son, Alec, what he wanted to be for Halloween.

“The king,” he said, beaming.

So they went to the craft store and picked out red velvet and white fur for a cape. Lang made a scepter out of cardboard and spray-painted it gold.

“When I put the crown on his head, he looked at me with big eyes, full of confidence and joy,” she says. “Sadly, I wouldn’t see that look again for many years.”

There had been hints back in preschool that something wasn’t right. Alec’s speech was slightly off. He had trouble in kindergarten with letters and words. But at the same time, he was very bright, creative and inquisitive.

In first grade, things began to unravel. Every day the class would spend time writing in their journals. And every day Alec would try hard but only manage to write one word - and he’d spell it wrong, too.

School became unbearable for him. He began chewing through pencil erasers. He’d come home after school yelling or crying, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. In third grade, when his school evaluated him, he told the staff he was “stupid,” even though the evaluation found he actually had a very high IQ.

“My little ‘king’ seemed so far away,” Lang noted.

Eventually, the Lang family discovered that Alec had dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These issues aren’t uncommon: one in five children struggle with brain-based issues related to reading, math, writing, attention and organization.

“Back then, all I knew was that I needed to start looking for ways to help my son,” Lang says. “But I hit a roadblock I never expected; few parents wanted to open up to me about their children’s struggles.”

It’s an uncomfortable subject, after all. It’s also invisible - no one can tell by looking at a child that he can’t read or write.

“I turned to the Internet, but it was beyond frustrating. Most websites were full of confusing education jargon. And if I found a site I liked, I kept wondering, ‘Can I really trust this information?’”

Lang spent countless hours tracking down experts, eventually finding a reading specialist named Margie Gillis.

“She helped us understand two very important things: why my son was struggling and how I could help him,” Lang says.

That knowledge marked a turning point for the Langs. They found a middle school that gave Alec the chance to meet other kids with learning and attention issues. This helped build his confidence and gave him a sense of community.

“I remember him saying, ‘I never thought there were so many people like me,’” Suzanne says.

Once he had the kind of instruction and support he needed, Alec started to make progress. By the end of middle school, he even started talking about wanting to go to college.

“Even as Alec started to thrive, a sadness came over me,” Lang says. “I thought, ‘How many other parents are out there looking for answers?’”

That’s when she embarked on a new mission - to help other parents whose children have learning and attention issues. That journey led her to join the team at Understood.org, a comprehensive resource that empowers parents of kids with learning and attention issues.

Understood was created by 15 nonprofits that care deeply about kids with learning and attention issues. Its mission is to empower parents with clear explanations and practical advice about learning and attention issues. This powerful new resource offers parents daily access to experts, personalized support and connection to other parents in a safe online community. One of the site’s interactive tools, Through Your Child’s Eyes, allows parents to experience the challenges of living with learning and attention issues, like ADHD or dyslexia. All for free.

“Understood launched in October 2014, and my greatest hope is that it becomes a lifeline to every parent who is looking for answers,” Lang says.

Alec is now a college freshman studying engineering. He’s on the dean’s list and is thinking about what he’ll do after graduation.

“I asked him when he visited over spring break if he knew what he wanted to do, having so many options,” Lang says.

While Alec doesn’t exactly know yet, he did let his mother know that he wanted to do something cutting edge - something that will “change the world.”

“He was confident, almost beaming,” she says.

Her “king” was back.


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Want to Create a Bookworm? Start Reading Early and Often

NewsUSA  |  2016-03-15

Celebrate National Reading Month with LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow.

(NewsUSA) - Sponsored News - Most parents know the best way to get kids to read later in life is to read to them early and often. But even parents' best efforts to create bookworms sometimes fall flat -- especially in today's world of lights and action best seen from a screen.

Yet, studies continue to suggest that the benefits of reading from an early age not only teach kids the rules of syntax and expand their vocabulary, but, according to one study released last year, also activate the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language.

Because of its interest in closing the reading gap among children in this country, RRKidz Inc., home of the beloved children's brand Reading Rainbow, embarked on a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2014. Through generous donations by its legions of fans, the company raised more than $6.4 million in 35 days.

As a result, Skybrary Family, the award-winning digital library of books and videos, was released. On the heels of this successful introduction, RRKidz Inc. is proud to announce the launch of Skybrary School, an educator-specific version with features designed to increase reading frequency and build literacy skills.

This new digital library, especially for early elementary school students (K-3) and their educators, offers close to 1,000 fiction and non-fiction books, all in the hopes of creating life-long readers and learners.

"Teachers devote their lives to giving students the tools needed to succeed in reading, and we want to make sure we are doing the same for them," said LeVar Burton. "With Reading Rainbow's Skybrary Family and now Skybrary School, we are offering a comprehensive solution to assist both educators and parents in providing engaging and relevant content to develop children's literacy and learning skills."

In addition, the service features more than 200 educational video field trips hosted by Burton, such as a trip to the White House, peeking inside the Mars Rover at NASA, behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil and other locations. Other benefits to Skybrary School include:

  • Working with acclaimed publishers such as National Geographic and Britannica to discover books that meet children's interest and reading level

  • Forty standards-aligned, themed lesson plans inspired by books and videos in the library

  • Instructional programs with flexible online and offline activities

  • A web-based subscription service with on-demand access to read and learn anytime, anywhere

  • New books and videos added to the service every week

RRKidz Inc. is also giving Skybrary School to 10,000 classrooms nationwide for free.

For more information, please visit www.readingrainbow.com.


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3 Tips to Land a Job After College

Brandpoint  |  2016-03-08

(BPT) - America’s unemployment rate recently hit its lowest level in seven years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that’s just in time for 2.8 million graduates with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees to enter the workforce.

However, a college degree does not always lead to gainful employment. Millennials make up 40 percent of the unemployed in the United States, according to Anthony Carnavale, a director and research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that students select a college or university with the resources to land them a job. While it is important to consider proximity, cost, accreditation and atmosphere, you also want to keep the end goal in mind - a career.

So what else should you look at when researching a school?

1. Make meaningful industry connections.

It’s all about connections in today’s job hunts, and it’s likely the same will be true for the class of 2020 and beyond. In fact, 80 percent of jobs aren’t advertised according to Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com.

A search on a university’s LinkedIn page will reveal the cities, companies and industries in which alumni work. Access to a strong alumni network will help prepare students for a career by opening doors to internships and jobs.

A network of trusted and connected professors is equally as important as a network of successful alumni. During the campus visit, students should ask about the faculty’s experience and reputation and make introductions early.

2. Gain real world experience.

Today’s employers are on the lookout for students who have found their niche and demonstrated leadership skills in real-world scenarios.

For example, students thinking about a career in engineering should look for schools with programs like EcoCAR 3, a premier collegiate competition grooming the next generation of advanced engineers trained across disciplines - from engineering to marketing. Public relations majors can participate in the Bateman Case Study Competition, where college teams create and implement a full public relations campaign to raise awareness on a selected topic. The National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition offers students interested in information assurance or computer security the opportunity to defend a commercial network against common outside threats.

“More and more we’re seeing today’s top companies request students from our program because they’ve gained the hands-on experience that the classroom doesn’t offer,” says Kristen De La Rosa, EcoCAR 3 program director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. “We give students the opportunity gain access to millions of dollars of cutting-edge technology and top industry experts to solve complex engineering and marketing challenges. For this reason, almost 100 percent of our participants land a job immediately after graduation.”

3. Position yourself close to the action.

While a beautiful campus is nice to look at, that alone isn’t enough to justify years of time and money. It helps to be close to an industry hot-spot where internship and volunteer opportunities are plentiful and easy to access.

Studying near industry hubs will help students gain access to mentors, networking events and international conferences, furthering their competitive advantage and adding value to their degree.

Tech-savvy students who dream of launching the next big start-up should position themselves near the action in Silicon Valley, Boston or Austin. For those looking to create the next head-turning design it is best to study fashion and design in New York City or Los Angeles.

Physical proximity to an industry, participation in extracurricular activities and third-party recommendations can help make a student’s dream career a reality. Parents and high schoolers should keep these tips in mind throughout the college application process to make the most of college and hopefully land that first job.


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Relax and Engage: 4 Ways to Learn On Vacation

Brandpoint  |  2016-03-08

Students at the Sailing School at Chautauqua Institution.

(BPT) - With busy schedules and jam packed to-do lists, people often view vacations as a time to simply lounge by the beach and soak up the sun. And while that may sound like paradise, when was the last time you truly pursued a passion, goal or curiosity?

Vacation is a great time to take your goals and passions off the back burner. A learning vacation can help you reclaim old interests and discover places you never knew existed. One of the best learning vacation destinations is in western New York State. Home of Chautauqua Institution and many other learning venues, it’s a place to both relax and grow your mind. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or all on your own, here are some of the best ways to learn on vacation:

Find a destination focused on education

Instead of booking a flight to your ordinary vacation spot, why not try somewhere new? Take an adventure to a destination known for learning. The Chautauqua Institution is known for its life-long and vacation learning program. This educational center founded in 1874 on Chautauqua Lake features 750 acres of historic buildings, vacation homes and cottages, the grand Athenaeum Hotel and a nine-week summer schedule filled with learning opportunities for all ages. Nearby, the City of Jamestown is home to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, the Robert H. Jackson Center for Justice and the Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy.

Go somewhere to learn a new activity

Is there a sport, activity or hobby you’ve always wanted to try? If you’re interested in birds or nature, choose to vacation in a place with recreational trails and nature gardens. If you’ve always wanted to give skiing or snowboarding a shot, find a resort like Peek’n Peak Resort in Chautauqua County with learning academies focused on winter sports as well as golf. From sailing and kayaking to fly fishing and stand up paddling, the possibilities are endless for what you can learn in western New York.

Be adventurous with food and drink

Make a point to try a dish you’ve never tasted at least once per day on your vacation. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and taste the local cuisine. Wherever you’re staying, ask for recommendations on which restaurants to check out. You could even poll some locals to find the best places to go for coffee, and any other must-visit places. Wine enthusiasts can research local wineries to schedule tours and tastings to discover a new favorite and learn how it’s made. Lake Erie Wine Country has several wineries, events and attractions to keep you informed and entertained while relaxing on vacation.

Make travel friends

Traveling gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Strike up a conversation with the couple or family next to you at lunch and you could end up making some life-long friendships. Staying in a locally owned hotel or bed and breakfast can also be easy ways to interact with new people on a daily basis. Look for dining and sight-seeing partners; you never know who you’ll meet.

Put a fresh spin on your vacation planning this year. Design a learning vacation, enjoy new experiences and return home feeling revived and refreshed. For more information and educational ideas, visit www.tourchautauqua.com.


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Fostering Your Child's Love for Science Could 'STEM' the Tide of Job Shortages

Brandpoint  |  2016-02-18

Finalists of the Young Scientist Challenge solve a problem through science.

(BPT) - Middle school is a make-or-break time for budding scientists.

The subject matter gets more difficult, test anxiety often occurs and other interests emerge. U.S. students rank 27th in math and 20th in science out of 34 countries scored, according to the latest research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That lagging interest in STEM - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - is contributing to an ongoing U.S. shortage of highly-skilled workers that may reach 3 million by 2018.

3M, a company rooted in science, understands the need for the next generation of science innovators, inventors and leaders. For decades, 3M scientists and engineers have developed products that solve problems and improve lives. A shortage of STEM-savvy workers will slow innovation across all industries.

If your child has a passion for science, encourage their curiosity. Here are some ideas from 3M science experts on how to further foster a love of science:

1. Find an after school program or STEM mentor.

A high-quality STEM after school program leads to improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increased STEM knowledge and skills; and higher likelihood of pursuing a STEM major in college according to a study from the Afterschool Alliance. Another option is to find a mentor. Teachers, college students and working professionals are often eager to share their knowledge with budding young scientists. Many universities and businesses encourage mentorship, and your school's science teachers might have some suggestions on where to find one that's right for your child.

2. Plan at home experiments.

According to 3M science mentors, taking science out of a book and applying it to real life is one of the best ways to spark an interest in science. You can find plenty of science experiments to conduct inside your home. A great resource is www.scienceofeverydaylife.com, which features fun activities that explain science principles, like how solar energy works by cooking a pizza with the sun or how chemical reactions function by making homemade ice cream.

3. Encourage exploration.

As interest grows, students are eager for more challenges. For instance, with the Summer Olympics on the horizon this year, a sport-loving student may want to explore more about the forces that impact gold medal-quality swimming, running or cycling. Linking science to another interest can further their passion.

4. Give them a challenge.

A range of opportunities exist for interested students at science-based summer camps, after school programs or fairs. If your child is already on a path of science experimentation and innovation, consider encouraging him or her to enter science challenges and competitions. Each year 3M and Discovery Education partner to develop the Young Scientist Challenge. Students in grades 5-8 can enter the contest by creating a one to two-minute video on a proposed solution to solve an everyday problem. All video entries must be submitted online at www.youngscientistchallenge.com by April 20, 2016.

5. Hit the road.

Going to an observatory or space museum is fun, but also a major learning opportunity. Before taking the trip, view the destination's website with your child and identify areas of particular interest. That will build anticipation and really amplify the visit.

Over its nine years of involvement in the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, 3M has seen the tremendous impact a parent, family member or mentor can make in a child's curiosity and confidence in science. That foundation yields strong critical thinking skills and opens the door for rewarding career opportunities with lasting benefits.


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Your Four-Step Plan to Changing Careers and Becoming a Teacher

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-19

(BPT) - What's your goal for 2016? Do you want to lose weight, learn a new skill or quit smoking? Perhaps you've decided to set goals around your career instead. Earning more money or getting promoted are common pursuits, but what if your goal is bigger than just moving up in your current career? What if your goal is to change tracks entirely? What if 2016 were the year you decided to follow your ambition and become a teacher? It's possible, and now's the perfect time to pursue the role you've always wanted. If you're sick of heading to work feeling uninspired and you're ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of teaching, these four steps can help you make a successful career transition into teaching today.

Change your priorities

Many people want to change jobs, but that desire is often overshadowed by concerns about how much money they'll earn, how they'll be seen by family and friends or their fears of trying something new. To change your career, you need to change your priorities. Make pursuing your passion your number one objective and everything else will fall into place.

Seek expert knowledge

If you're going to make a career change, you want to do it right, and that means learning from the best in the business. For example, if you want to teach, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Western Governors University's (WGU) secondary teacher prep program as the top program in the nation in terms of quality from a list of 2,400 programs. The school is the top producer of STEM teachers in the nation, making it an ideal destination for STEM professionals interested in inspiring the next generation in these important fields. To be your best you need to learn from the best so focus on what you want to do and start researching who does it better than anyone else.

Smart networking

Knowledge is essential and the right connections will make sure it doesn't go to waste. Connect with existing friends in your desired field or reach out and make new contacts through social media or conferences and join clubs that cater to what you want to do. For aspiring teachers that can include networking with principals and current teachers. Often these connections open up doors for student teaching opportunities which can lead to full-time employment following graduation. Above all, make sure you listen to those you meet instead of pushing your own agenda. Take in more business cards than you give out and you'll build contacts that will help you grow in your new profession.

Have faith in yourself

Changing careers can be nerve-wracking, but it's also exciting. This is your chance to do what you've always wanted to do so don't listen to those who tell you that you can't do it. Have faith in yourself, your research, your education and your decision and you won't regret your decision for a single moment once you're finally in the career you've always wanted.

To learn more about the programs available through WGU, visit WGU.edu.


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Honoring the Legacy of Mentorship

Brandpoint  |  2016-01-12

(BPT) - Growing up in Florida, Whitney Stewart never thought at any point in her life she would climb a mountain. That changed when she was 13 and took a trip with her local Boys & Girls Club to Colorado. At first she thought the mountains were just there to look upon, but then one of her Club staff members informed her she would be climbing one of those mountains.

“I was thinking, I’m a Florida girl, I don’t do mountains,” Stewart recalls.

Hours later, she was at the summit where she recalls a staff member telling her, “Today you climbed a mountain, if you can do that you can do anything.”

“That was said to me at one of my lowest points,” Stewart notes, “and I really took that to heart.”

Through the direction given to her by her Boys & Girls Club mentors, Stewart became a leader in both her school and community. Currently enrolled as a freshman at University of Pennsylvania, Stewart was recently given the honor of being named Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s 2015-16 National Youth of the Year.

It’s hard to overestimate how much a mentor can impact a child’s life. Through guidance and a simple unwavering belief in young people, mentors can provide the guidance so many young people like Stewart need. In fact, a recent study showed that among Boys & Girls Clubs alumni, around two-thirds remember a specific staff member who made a positive impact on their lives.

With nearly 4 million school-aged kids in more than 4,100 Clubs across the country, Boys & Girls Clubs of America‘s vision is that through providing a safe place for kids to go during out-of-school hours, all its members will graduate from high school with a plan for the future that is built on good character, citizenship, leadership skills, academic success and a healthy lifestyle.

Today, it is estimated that one in every 16 Americans is a Boys & Girls Clubs alum. This has created a network of successful community leaders and professionals in every field, from lawyers and doctors to engineers, artists and entrepreneurs.

In an effort to draw on the collective strength of this large network of alumni, Boys & Girls Clubs’ Alumni & Friends Club has been established in order to give former members an opportunity to reconnect, work together and give back to kids and families in need.

It is estimated that there are more than 11 million kids in the United States who have no place to go after school. These kids lack simple, yet important things like safety and the guidance a mentor can provide. In response, thousands of alumni have taken the opportunity to help make a change by joining the Alumni & Friends Club. The goal of this alumni network is to keep former members connected and give them a way to foster hope and opportunity in a new generation.

To join your fellow Club alumni, visit www.bgcalum.org and learn how you too can impact a kid’s life forever.


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