Apr / 24

How to Recognize the Signs of a Learning Disability like Dyslexia with Cathy Johnson [IEP 025]

IEPcontent Podcast 0

Reading disabilities like dyslexia are varied and appear in different children differently, so it’s important to understand and be aware of the signs of these learning disabilities.

We’re joined by licensed speech and language pathologist, Cathy Johnson. When Cathy discovered her young daughter was having difficulty learning how to read, she wanted to ensure her daughter received the attention and help she needed. Not finding much assistance out there, Cathy traveled all over the US seeking training in how she can better help children with learning disabilities.

She later founded the Johnson Academy, which offers an alternative to the one-size-fits-all learning approach. Cathy also runs the Speech, Language, and Learning Center.

Full show transcript at the bottom of this post.

What We Discuss in This Episode:

  • What are some signs to look for in your child to see if they have learning disabilities
  • How it’s easy for a child to fall behind in school because of lack of awareness by teachers
  • The importance of awareness, assessment, and research
  • The percentiles and averages that determine deficiency
  • Why the interpretation of scores and the data is crucial (and often done incorrectly!)
  • Statistics around dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities
  • What the most effective way is to address vocabulary and reading deficiencies
  • How to use the “Notes” app on an iphone for students who struggle with written expression
  • There three basic types of dyslexia

Resources Mentioned:  


Learning Ally


The Neuropsychology of Reading Disorders 

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz

Contact Information:



The Speech, Language, and Learning Center

The Johnson Academy

Thank you for listening! Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the show to receive every new episode delivered straight to your podcast player every Tuesday.

If you enjoyed this episode and believe in our message, then please help us get the word out about this podcast. Rate and Review this show in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or Google Play. It helps other listeners find this show.

Be sure to connect with us and reach out with any questions/concerns:




IEP website

This podcast is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice specific to your circumstances. If you need help with any legal matters, be sure to consult with an attorney regarding your specific needs.

 Full Show Transcript

Vickie Brett:                      Welcome to the Inclusive Education Project. I’m Vickie Brett.

Amanda Selogie:              I’m Amanda Selogie. We’re two civil rights lawyers on a mission to change the conversation about education, civil rights, and modern activism.

Vickie Brett:                      Each week, we’re going to explore new topics which are going to educate and empower others.

Amanda Selogie:              And give them a platform to enact change in education and level the playing field. Welcome back, projectors. There you go, Vickie.

Vickie Brett:                      We’re using it, yes!

Amanda Selogie:              You guys asked for it, and here it is. Today is our pod with our special guest, Cathy Johnson, a speech linguist pathologist and structured literacy teacher. You wanted to know more about dyslexia, you wanted us to talk about it, so here we go. Thanks for coming on the pod today.

Cathy Johnson:                 Hi ladies, so great to be here today.

Vickie Brett:                      Thank you for making the trek out of south county to us here in, I don’t know where I was going with that.

Cathy Johnson:                 We’re in central county.

Vickie Brett:                      Central county, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 I had to get my passport out, but I’m good.

Amanda Selogie:              I was going to say, “I wonder if it’s warmer here,” but south county is probably just as warm today, huh?

Cathy Johnson:                 It’s toasty.

Amanda Selogie:              We’re definitely skipping right through spring and heading right into summer. For those of you listening, we are midweek and we’re in our week of 80-degree weather here, mid-April. Although actually it’s still beginning of April.

Cathy Johnson:                 The beginning of April.

Amanda Selogie:              Oh man, crazy.

Vickie Brett:                      Cathy, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself? Obviously we indicated that you’re a speech and language pathologist, I know you’ve been doing that for a minute, and also, tell us a little bit about the Johnson Academy.

Cathy Johnson:                 Absolutely. I’ve been a speech and language pathologist for about 27 years, the first 10 years of my career focused a lot about on autism. However, my daughter in kindergarten was starting to struggle with reading, and she is now 21 years old. At that point in my career, I took a little U-turn, and nobody could help her with her reading. She has a brother who’s just one year older, who took like a duck takes to water, took to reading, and it was just a completely different thing. I basically took it upon myself, because I was just getting no help for her, so I took it upon myself to travel basically the United States to get trained in various programs, so that she could learn to read.

Fast forward, got her reading, and then when she was in 5th grade, which was about I guess 11 or 12 years ago, I started the Johnson Academy because she said, “I’m not going to school anymore, and you can’t make me,” because she was tired of just struggling along. Opened the Johnson Academy, 12 years fast forward, here I am sitting with you two lovely ladies.

Vickie Brett:                      That is incredible. I wanted to kind of go back, you had mentioned that in kindergarten, as early as kindergarten, you had kind of seen, and you had probably just gone through it with your son, so you were like, “Oh wait, I’m kind of now noticing you’re not getting it.” What were some of the things, if you can remember and kind of share with parents? Because one would think like, “Oh, kindergarten, you know it’s still pre-academics,” but now with common core, I mean there’s so much literacy within that, just as little as kindergarten, that maybe that’s what you were kind of seeing.

Cathy Johnson:                 That’s exactly it. You know, I had the son who was just a year older, she couldn’t remember her letters, she couldn’t remember sounds, B, D, letters were backwards, her name is Kira, and she was writing her name K-R-I-A and A-R-I-K and all kinds of different ways, and it was very pronounced. She is more severe, so it was very stand out, but the teacher’s answer was to put her on ADHD meds. It was like, “Okay, well just if she pays attention more doesn’t mean she’s going to be able to read.”

Vickie Brett:                      Right.

Cathy Johnson:                 It was just basically against anything that seemed logical, and I took her to the public school. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do. You know, and they were like, “Well, why don’t you take her out of private school and we’ll watch her for six months?” I’m like, “Watch her what? Watch her struggle for six more months? No thanks.” At that point, like I said, I went, got trained in all the [Linamood Bell 00:04:26] programs, fast forward, and just kind of onward from there. It was very, very obvious, and she was seated next to the girl, the girl that sat next to her was probably the smartest kid in the class, and I just remember her saying, you know, “I can’t do it,” this little gal did. It was just heartbreaking.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, that’s got to be hard, I mean and I’m sure a lot of our listeners can relate to that feeling, you know when the kids become cognizant about having challenges, and if the schools are not taking the steps to address it early on, that social-emotional effect, the self esteem, I mean it can really take a toll on these kids, and it sounds like it definitely did for her, “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” It’s not just about the learning, but the realizing that they’re not achieving at the same level as their peers are.

Cathy Johnson:                 Absolutely, and especially when you have average intellectual ability. She’s an average smart kid, her reading was so clearly discrepant that her intellectual and her literacy abilities were so far discrepant, but nobody came up with that until I brought her to a good friend of mine who worked in literacy and made the diagnosis.

Vickie Brett:                      That was with dyslexia?

Cathy Johnson:                 Correct.

Vickie Brett:                      Oh, okay.

Cathy Johnson:                 Well, and actually at that time, she was not officially diagnosed as dyslexia, we had to call it “reading disorder”, because the deficits that she was having, we didn’t know all we know about phonological processing, that was her problem. She had significant deficits in phonemic awareness and rapid naming, which put her in the more severe category of dyslexia. We didn’t know that back then, so it was called reading disorder, but my friend, who is an expert in literacy as well, she said she’s dyslexic, but that was kind of off the cuff.

Vickie Brett:                      Right, and you know oftentimes what we see in our line of work is a kiddo with average cognitive ability, starts struggling in kindergarten, same type of issues that your daughter is having. Then we get into 1st, 2nd grade, and might start seeing some behaviors, and then 3rd grade, we start getting more homework, font gets smaller, now you’ve learned how to read, so now you’re reading to just learn, you’re reading to learn history and science and all these things. Oftentimes, sometimes these kiddos, if they get an IEP early on, maybe in kindergarten or 1st grade, by the time they’re in the 3rd grade, they get pushed into special day classes.

Then what ends up happening is, you know in a regular third day classroom, you know and it’s great, they’re saying, “Oh, they’re going to learn, we’re going to work on reading, the remediation is going to be there,” but they get further and further behind, and then you get a junior in high school who’s reading at a 3rd grade level, and they have average cognitive ability, so there should be, there’s nothing cognitively speaking that should prevent them from reading at grade level, but we see them fall further and further behind. I’m sure you see that and prevent some of the kiddos when they’re at the Johnson Academy from getting to that point. What are the types of programs that you think you guys do different? Is the focus on the phonological awareness?

Cathy Johnson:                 That’s an excellent question, because what’s different is that it all starts with assessment, okay? I just had this situation this morning, I had a fellow speech pathologist calling me, and the public school had done a really good grade assessment, but they were calling all of the skillsets in phonemic awareness and phonological memory and rapid naming in the average range, because the child was in the 16th percentile. Some of them were a scaled score of 88, which is a little bit below the 90 mark. If they’re calling 88 “average”, we now know that in phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, phonological memory, rapid naming, we know now that, and this comes from [Joe Torguson 00:08:30], one of the co-developers of the CTOP, that if a child has anything below that 25th percentile mark in any of those areas, that is a tell-tale sign for reading problems.

When you’re calling something in the 16th percentile “average”, it’s not the evaluation that’s gone wrong, it’s the interpretation.

Amanda Selogie:              Right.

Vickie Brett:                      How are they able to do that, how is an evaluator able to call that? Because we’re looking at the scaled score, then the percentile, and then the interpretation through the CTOP, how are they able to just call it “average”? Because to me, that makes it seem like, “Oh, I could call the 5th percentile average at a certain …”, right? I mean, that’s what it-

Amanda Selogie:              Is it that they’re using qualifiers like, “Oh, well you know we hear this a lot. Well, the test shows this, but we don’t believe it’s a true testament of their abilities, so we’re just going to round it up and say that it’s average,” or are they legitimately thinking that that qualifies as average range, or is it like they’ve been taught like, “Oh, these are best practices.”? Like, what’s the discrepancy there?

Cathy Johnson:                 You know, that’s the $5 million question.

Vickie Brett:                      Right? Yeah.

Amanda Selogie:              Darn, I thought we were going to figure it out here.

Cathy Johnson:                 Well, I think I have some good information, because okay, you ladies are much younger than I am, you were educated in a different era. I’m in my 50s, I’m in a different era than people that are in their 60s or 70s. When I was in school, we were taught below the 25th percentile was in the below average. However, I don’t know what you folks were taught on the bell curve, it’s somebody’s interpretation of what that means. I believe, doggone it I don’t have the book with me, of course, [Stanislas Stahain 00:10:14], in his book, he goes very very in depth in the neurological processes, phonological processes specifically, and truly even at the 30th, below the 30th percentile-

Vickie Brett:                      Wow, wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 You can say that a child is deficient in phonological processing. I have a child right now that I just evaluated, probably one of the most intelligent kids I’ve ever evaluated, his IQ is in the 95th percentile, okay?

Vickie Brett:                      Wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 Very smart.

Vickie Brett:                      Very smart.

Cathy Johnson:                 He’s got a five-year discrepancy in his reading rate versus reading accuracy. Nobody would ever think that he’s having an issue, until you really delve into doing the GORT, and his phonological memory, he was in the 37th percentile, matches up with his reading rate exactly, and that’s average, 37th percentile. However, with that verbal IQ at 95th percentile-

Amanda Selogie:              You have to do that comparison, you have to rate all factors.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’m not good in math, but I think that’s like a 60-point discrepancy.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, it’s huge, it’s huge.

Cathy Johnson:                 In terms of percentile rank. Anyhow, I can’t remember what the initial comment was. What is Johnson Academy doing different? What we’re doing different is that we’re doing grade assessment, we do drill-down assessments on phonemic awareness, and we’re doing good interpretation using evidence-based and research-based information. Because if you’re not starting with a good eval, how can you come up with good therapy?

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, and I often get parents who come to me with concerns that that the IEP isn’t addressing what needs to be addressed. The first thing that comes out of most parents’ mouths is, “We need an IEP,” and I go, “Well, hold on, let’s look at the evaluation.” More often than not, like you said, it’s not the actual scores, it’s not the testing, it’s the interpretation or the lack thereof. I can’t tell you, if I had a dollar for every assessment I read that had, “So-and-so’s score is this, so then they’re in this percentile and it means that they’re in the average or below-average range,” and then they move on, and don’t have any analysis, I would be so freaking rich right now, it’s unbelievable.

Cathy Johnson:                 We wouldn’t be here.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, exactly. I have these school psychologists that claim they have 30 years of experience, and the evaluations are still 90 pages or 60 pages or something like that, so that everyone thinks in the district, “Oh, it’s such a good evaluation,” but I go, “Where is the analysis, where is the interpretation: Here’s the score, like here are the other factors, the circumstances that this kid has, and how is it having an impact on this kid? How is it having an impact on their learning to read or reading to learn?” We’re missing that component, so then when other people who are not school psychologists go to try to figure out, “How are we developing this IEP?”, we’re having that missing piece, that missing link.

That’s what’s so frustrating oftentimes, is parents will ask for something and they go, “Well, you know …”, and I have very bright parents that come to me and say, “I don’t understand how they can say, ‘We don’t need a goal in this area,’ because the score is showing below average,” but then you look at the assessment, there’s no interpretation. The assessor found a score that was low, but then didn’t take the step to do the interpretation to say, “Oh, well then there is a deficit, we need to do …”, you know and then they missed that. It’s like, why is it that these assessors are not taking that step of the interpretation? Do you have any opinion on why we get that so often?

Cathy Johnson:                 Absolutely have an opinion, and I believe it’s fairly accurate, because I work with a lot of school districts, and I’m working with a school district right now who is actually referring to me as their “dyslexia expert”. I won’t say the name of the district, and they’re actually far ahead of any other district in the area. The problem is what we were just talking about, is that if you don’t know that phonemic awareness and rapid naming are the biggest contributors to reading disorders, specifically dyslexia, then they get the scores, even if they do get a below average score, but they gloss over it.

It’s a sad state of affairs that the research that’s been done at Yale, Tufts, UC-San Francisco is very clear, but it takes between 10 to 20 years to get to our schools. I’m very fortunate that I’ve been able to travel to all these universities to get the information firsthand, but we need to get it into the hands of the right people. You know, like I said, this school district I’m working with has been just phenomenal. They’ve taken this information, and now they’re finally giving the CTOP, and they’re making that interpretation, and you know what? I honestly, I’m very excited for what’s going to happen with this district, because I believe they are going to transform their special education system, just based on giving better assessment, better interpretation. Because if you have that, then you can figure out the evidence-based interventions that are going to work to address those issues.

Amanda Selogie:              Well, you know if we can get these school districts to do that, and early on recognize and provide the right intervention, then we’re not dealing with a five-year gap that’s going to require intensive, intensive, and very expensive intervention. I mean, that’s the biggest thing we always talk about, a big problem with denial of services is cost. Well, if we can start out in kindergarten using the right approach, it’s going to be very much more minimal.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’m mouthing right now to you-

Amanda Selogie:              Oh, sorry.

Cathy Johnson:                 To say, “Ask me how to do that.”

Amanda Selogie:              Oh, yes.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’m beyond the moon excited about this. I’m working with the American Academy of Pediatrics right now, there’s a pediatrician who has written a grant, it’s called the Catch Grant.

Vickie Brett:                      Okay, nice.

Cathy Johnson:                 She received those funds.

Vickie Brett:                      She did? Oh, great.

Cathy Johnson:                 We are trying to get, right now, okay … I’m sorry, I just want to cry-

Vickie Brett:                      No worries, no, I love it.

Cathy Johnson:                 This is so great.

Amanda Selogie:              We need to know this!

Cathy Johnson:                 We want to screen every single child at five years old. If we can screen every single child, we can catch them at five, before they’ve ever struggled, before they’ve ever had an anxiety or depression. Let me tell you that if we get a child that just came from Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University, just a front-runner in dyslexia, was at Tufts, she’s currently at Stanford, and I hear she’s coming to UCLA.

Vickie Brett:                      All right.

Amanda Selogie:              Awesome.

Vickie Brett:                      Love that, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 And maybe even Chapman.

Vickie Brett:                      Wow, amazing.

Cathy Johnson:                 That’s the word on the street, so but if we get a child before 3rd grade, we have a 90% chance of remediating their reading disorder commensurate with their intellectual ability. However, if we wait ’til after 3rd grade, decreases by half.

Amanda Selogie:              That’s insane.

Cathy Johnson:                 The school is currently waiting for the child to be two years behind.

Amanda Selogie:              Right, right.

Vickie Brett:                      100%, 100%. Why are we waiting? Because the resources are out there, and nobody’s grabbing them. Like you’re teaming up with, like no one would think, “Oh, a pediatric …”, and we do presentations for pediatricians all the time, because there’s only so much that they can do, right?

Cathy Johnson:                 Right.

Vickie Brett:                      We get this all the time, “Okay, well I’m just going to do ADHD,” because that was the go-to of your teacher, “Oh, well if you just gave her medication, she could focus in.” A lot of times, we’ll see kiddos get speech and language impairment on their IEPs, three years old. By the time they get to five years old, we’re still seeing areas that are below average, and just slightly below, but they’re like, “Oh, well they don’t have any more problems.” I think because I’ve had a client with severe language processing issues that also affect their reading of course, and everything, math, especially with the core curriculum and there’s so much, I mean there’s word problems now, it’s insane, it affects everything.

Those kids that were at least kind of getting along because it was just numbers, and even though numbers can be confusing as well, they were getting a little bit of self esteem, but now with so much wording, and where I was going with that is, the language processing component, then their IEP … Because they can talk, their expressive is fine, and they can talk, and then an IEP will be taken away. There’s just so many different layers where if we could just screen every child at five, that would be great.

Cathy Johnson:                 Yes.

Amanda Selogie:              I mean, it takes the knowledge I think and understanding of that, because I mean we see that, what Vickie was just explaining all the time, because we get a lot of speech pathologists that, unfortunately I don’t think that they understand language processing to the extent that they need to, so they’re creating goals for pragmatic and articulation, and then they meet those goals and they no longer have an IEP, even though because they got it at three, they went through preschool, the expectations for literacy still very low, it’s not until they get into 1st grade where we notice a severe … Then it’s like, “Okay, we’re going to bring that back.”

We’re seeing a lot of schools now trying to do like their SST meetings or RTI, response to intervention, those types of strategies for all kids, and they go, “Well, we are addressing, we’re screening all kids because we have reading groups,” but it’s not enough, because they’re placing two kids that probably maybe have dyslexia or some other reading disorder together in a group, and they’re like, “Oh, well they’re commensurate with their group, so they’re making progress,” and that’s how it’s delayed.

Cathy Johnson:                 Well, let’s roll out some statistics to your group here.

Amanda Selogie:              Yes.

Cathy Johnson:                 I love stats. If you look at ADHD, only 5% of our population has ADHD, it’s a very low number, that’s not going to be your first go-to. Guess what the biggest learning disability is? Language-based learning disability such as dyslexia, 17.5%, essentially one out of five.

Vickie Brett:                      Wow.

Amanda Selogie:              Wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 When you have a child who has a speech and language problem, guess what? That 17.5% goes to 60% chance, so any kid that’s had a speech or language IEP, you know these regional center kiddos, speech language crosses the board, those kids automatically need to have the full testing, because they’re at three times the risk of the general population. The fact that they get this great speech and language therapy and they’re remediated in speech and language, but guess what? There’s an underlying phonological or rapid naming problem. It’s sad that they just don’t know, and speech pathologists don’t realize they hold the key to literacy. I didn’t know it until I had a kid, we are the most trained in language.

Amanda Selogie:              It is speech and language.

Cathy Johnson:                 Yes, they are different, they are separate.

Amanda Selogie:              Yes. It drives me crazy when I feel like they miss that component, or a student has goals for language like vocabulary or something, but the speech therapist is the only one that’s responsible for that goal. Why is the rest of the team not … I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure language has everything to do with everything else going on in the classroom. I have a 6th grader where they have goals in vocabulary and language processing that the speech therapist is responsible for, the child’s not making progress in these areas, but yet the team, the resource teacher, the ed specialist, the gen ed teacher, none of them are on it and none of them are working on how we’re addressing it in the classroom.

Cathy Johnson:                 Okay, so this is another favorite statistic of mine, is that, this came from [Sally Shaywitz 00:22:07] at Yale University, when a child reads 20 minutes a day, they are exposed to 1.8 million words per year.

Vickie Brett:                      Wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 When a child reads five minutes a day, they’re exposed to 282,000 words per year. This is referred to as the “million-word gap” per year, so when a speech pathologist is solely responsible for the vocabulary goal, guess what? The most effective way to address vocabulary is by getting the kid to read. Hello?

Amanda Selogie:              What a concept.

Cathy Johnson:                 What a concept, 20 minutes a day. But see, teachers know to push 20 minutes a day, but they don’t know why.

Vickie Brett:                      Exactly, and so we’ll see that all the time, “Well, her only homework is to read 20 minutes a day.” When a parent who, you know this could be their first kid, and maybe they didn’t read 20 minutes back in the day, so they’re just like, “Oh, okay we’ll just skip that.”

Cathy Johnson:                 “Gloss over it.”

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah, and I mean with technology and the iPads and everything else, I mean do you have any experience with the assisted technology aspect? Yeah, she’s like shaking her head yes.

Amanda Selogie:              Where do you want to start?

Cathy Johnson:                 This is my new baby, I am like so excited about so many things with technology. Learning Ally is just something that everybody needs to know about, because [Ben Foss 00:23:29] from Stanford University … Well, he’s not from Stanford, but he went to Stanford. His big thing, if you ever get a chance to listen to him, his big thing is, “Oh, I read at the 5th grade level, but I graduated from Stanford with an MBA and a law degree.” Ben’s big deal, many big deals, is that he invented the intel speech processor, because he says, okay, and you ladies went to law school, you guys are the smarty-pants in the room, you know what it takes, the level of literacy.

His mother had to read everything to him.

Amanda Selogie:              Wow.

Vickie Brett:                      Unbelievable.

Cathy Johnson:                 Wow. He invented the intel speech processor, so and now technology has advanced since then, but basically Learning Ally, you can get any book, I mean I work at [Jay Cera 00:24:18] Catholic High School with high school kids, I get them on Learning Ally so that the book is being read out loud to them, so it speeds it up. I just came across this scanning pen, this is the coolest thing ever, I should have brought it, darn it. Okay, you’ve got to have me back, okay?

Vickie Brett:                      Yes.

Amanda Selogie:              We will.

Cathy Johnson:                 What it does is it scans the text for you, it reads it out loud to you, and guess what? If you’re not so smart like me, you can scan the word if you don’t know what, I don’t know what a hard word is, deoxyribonucleic acid is, so it can scan it and say it for you, and look up the definition.

Amanda Selogie:              Oh my God, yes.

Cathy Johnson:                 This is a game-changer, and okay, my favorite part is, it can scan the text, and you can load it to your USB cord and send it to your computer to make, what are those flash card s that all the young kids are doing now? You know what I’m talking about?

Vickie Brett:                      Oh my gosh, yeah yeah yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 I can’t think of what they’re called, on your-

Vickie Brett:                      I know what you’re talking about.

Cathy Johnson:                 Sorry, my daughter’s probably … If she listens to this, she’ll be like, “Mom, you know what those are called.” Anyhow, there’s so much technology, and then if y’all get out your iPhone right now, okay, let’s get out our iPhones, and this is a fun thing.

Amanda Selogie:              Or Android.

Cathy Johnson:                 Or your Android, whatever. Okay, go to your notes section, and I’m going to go grab mine.

Vickie Brett:                      Okay.

Amanda Selogie:              I think I have notes.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’m going to go to my notes section, and then what you do is you, this is a great resource for kids with dysgraphia, kids who struggle with written expression, so you get them to go on your notes, and then you push that little square with the pencil in it, you’re going to pull up a new note, and then you go on the bottom left and you push on the microphone. Then if I am doing a report on dinosaurs, I can say everything I know about dinosaurs, there’s pterodactyls, there’s stegosaurus, I don’t know, they’re big, they’re extinct.

Vickie Brett:                      They’re extinct, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 Okay, they supposedly became extinct because maybe-

Vickie Brett:                      A meteorite?

Cathy Johnson:                 A meteorite hit the Earth and they became extinct, okay? Now, think about a kid having to spell all those words.

Vickie Brett:                      Oh my gosh, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 You’re dead at “pterodactyl”.

Vickie Brett:                      Thank you, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 Then you stop, and then you can send this to your Gmail account, then put it in grammerly.com, and it will fix all your grammatical errors, and then you have started your report.

Amanda Selogie:              Wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 This is a game-changer.

Amanda Selogie:              100%.

Cathy Johnson:                 Schools don’t know about all this technology, they can’t keep up on all this.

Vickie Brett:                      No, they can’t. I was recently at an IEP meeting where we had a child with dyslexia, and the district was talking about the different multisensory, you know per the California law that we had discussed originally where, “Here’s the list of places,” so read naturally was on there, someday, you know a couple different ones, obviously the Cadillac that everybody recognizes in this area is [Orton Gillingham 00:27:15] and the Barton program. We were discussing how Barton is a particular type of program where Orton Gillingham is the type of learning, is like the overarching.

Linamood Bell, for instance, uses Orton Gillingham strategies and things like that. We always get districts that say, “Oh, our teachers are trained in Orton Gillingham.” If you’ve ever spoken to the [inaudible 00:27:40], like the levels with which one would need to know and train in, it’s not like a four-hour seminar by any means.

Cathy Johnson:                 Which is what these districts give their teachers.

Vickie Brett:                      But I mean you’re working in a district where you’re the go-to expert. How are you helping shape what that district or what you have in mind moving forward, when we’re dealing with these programs? Because for us, you don’t get the brand name, you get that, you know we always say back in the day, the rally supreme court case in the 80s, it was like you don’t get the Cadillac, you get the Pinto. We’ve tried to update that, I say, “Okay, you don’t get the Tesla, you get the Ford Fiesta,” and I had a Ford Fiesta, so I can say that. That’s a decent car.

Amanda Selogie:              That is such a gap, I think you increased that gap, Vickie, with your new comparison.

Vickie Brett:                      The Ford Fiesta is a good, reliable car, the Pinto I don’t know so much about.

Amanda Selogie:              The Pinto to Cadillac and [inaudible 00:28:38] as the Tesla I think is a little bit higher than a Cadillac.

Vickie Brett:                      Well, yeah. We try to explain that to parents and we try to give them that. When we’re advocating, you know it’s a very fine line, because it’s for the individualized need of the child. Sometimes we’re able to get those services, maybe they’re the brand name, maybe they’re a generic, but as long as we’re able, but oftentimes we hit a brick wall because they’re saying, “Hey, well the CDEs approved this, so we’re going with the Re-naturally.” What are your impressions just of what it is that a program may need, for instance, but it depends on the child I guess. I just answered my own question.

Amanda Selogie:              Well, I mean maybe to be comparable, because like we get districts all the time that will say like, “Oh, well we can find a comparable program,” but there are programs that are so unique and so different that it wouldn’t be comparable, I mean especially for some of our differential learners.

Cathy Johnson:                 Well, I think in a sense we’re missing the forest for the trees here, because if you talk to the top researchers, [Famico Hafte 00:29:39] from UC-San Francisco, Sally Shaywitz from Yale University, Maryanne Wolfe from Tufts, it’s not the program. Guess what? People deliver programs, and that’s the bottom line, because you can be trained in Linamood Bell, I’m trained in all the Linamood Bell programs, I’m trained in [Ravo 00:29:55], trained in Fast Forward, Read National. I’m trained in all these programs, and I can tell you I know each and every one of them inside and out. It doesn’t come down to the program, it comes down to the person delivering the program, and that’s the problem.

Because a lot of these programs will train anybody. I was fortunate enough that I had my master’s degree, and I had a fair amount of understanding of language, because I got trained from my kid, but now think about a mom or somebody else getting trained. They will train anybody, okay? That’s good, but it’s bad, because if, and we screen all of our folks at Johnson Academy, we screen them to make sure that they don’t have phonemic awareness issues, because if 17.5% of the population has it regardless, tall, short, wearing pink, purple, blue, whatever, so you have to make sure the person delivering the services number one, doesn’t have phonemic awareness issues, and number two, is trained in the program, not only trained in the program, but has delivered it to thousands of children, because guess what?

I’ve evaluated over 20,000 kids in my career, and they’re all different. One kid might have high phonemic awareness and low phonological memory and issues in rapid naming or ADHD or non-ADHD, or maybe have some high functioning autism or maybe have underlying auditory processing disorder. If you’re trained in one program, how can you say that? Dyslexia, there are mild, moderate, severe, to profound, it’s not a one size fits all.

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah, that’s right.

Cathy Johnson:                 If I have a child who is in 1st grade, and I’m picking between Linamood Bell or Barton or Ravo, those are all three excellent programs, but there’s one that’s going to be the best fit for that child, that’s where the problem is.

Amanda Selogie:              Can you make us a chart? I’m just kidding. Like all the programs and the different definitions-

Cathy Johnson:                 Actually, that exists.

Amanda Selogie:              Okay, so if we put the kid, and we say, “Okay, the kid has X, Y, and Z,” it would tell us which of these, and then we could say, “It is,” but it’s about the person that’s able to-

Cathy Johnson:                 Yes.

Amanda Selogie:              Okay.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’ve got to get the name right now, he’s in my head somewhere. He has a book, and I believe it’s called The Neuropsychology of Reading Disorders, and his name, he is the developer of the FAR, and I know a lot of people are using the FAR, the [Feiffer 00:32:14] Assessment of Reading, he has a book and he refers, I’m pretty sure, because I went to his presentation and I have it in my notes somewhere, about which programs will be the most beneficial given the type of dyslexia. Because we have three basic types of dyslexia, we have dis-phonetic, dis-edetic, and a mixed dyslexia, and there’s even controversy over how to name those things.

People who are listening saying, “Well, I’ve never heard of mixed dyslexia,” some people call it “surface dyslexia.” Even that is controversial. Bottom line is that these different programs have different overlays or philosophical bents that are going to serve the type of dyslexia, so there’s not a one size fits all, it’s too diverse.

Amanda Selogie:              Ugh.

Cathy Johnson:                 I know, I’m exhausted.

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah, I know, but that’s what’s difficult for us and having to be, you know there’s 13 eligibility categories, I’m going to tell you right now there is way more than 13 disabilities or learning differences out there.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, the combinations thereof.

Vickie Brett:                      Or combinations thereof. I know we were talking earlier, oftentimes we’ll see an ADHD with autism diagnosis of kiddos, and I just in the last 10 years, just being this realm, I can’t tell you how quickly ADHD is just given that diagnosis, so that the parent can take it to the team, and so the team is just like, “Well, we don’t know, or it’s not affecting his education,” you know but just to get the foot in their door. I know, I know, and it’s just one of those things where I think sometimes doctors get into grooves, and not because they’re not seeing it, like obviously they’re seeing these different things, but when you’re not parceling things out, it kind of all gets lumped into one.

These one size fits all classrooms, you know the autism-specific classrooms may not be appropriate for that high-functioning kiddo that just needs social skills training, you know and even the reading component … You know, I know you were talking to us earlier about nationwide, what the percentages are for people with reading disabilities, and it’s one of those things where I think California a couple years ago, and I’m not going to even remember it’s AB-whatever that had passed, you know we had had those statistics of where California kids were at in reading. It was so low, and you’re thinking, “How is this possible, like what are we not doing?”

What you had said earlier, the research is there, it’s 20 years old, but the move to actually educate the children in a way that is beneficial is what hasn’t been given to the educators, which is sad.

Cathy Johnson:                 It’s coming.

Vickie Brett:                      Okay, good.

Cathy Johnson:                 With AB1369-

Vickie Brett:                      Thank you.

Cathy Johnson:                 Passing a few years ago, it’s coming. Again, you ladies are much younger than I am, in the 80s, we didn’t know what the heck was going on with autism.

Amanda Selogie:              Right, that’s true.

Cathy Johnson:                 Why autism has come so far so fast is because of moms, and dads too, okay.

Amanda Selogie:              Absolutely, yeah.

Cathy Johnson:                 Okay, think about these moms, and also you can see autism, it’s very obvious. Dyslexia, you cannot see.

Amanda Selogie:              No.

Vickie Brett:                      No.

Cathy Johnson:                 It’s coming, we need to get the words out to these moms, so that they can advocate, so that they become, essentially they have to become the experts, because the public school, I guess unless they get sued enough, then they’re not going to get onboard. It’s sad to say, but you know I want to just read this out loud, I’m on this amazing, I don’t know if it’s a blog, it’s an email, I don’t know what I signed up for, but this is an amazing statistic. Massachusetts, because of the work that Maryanne Wolfe at Tufts University, many of the surrounding schools in the greater Boston areas are using Ravo. It is transforming their education, and they are number one in ELA, number one.

Vickie Brett:                      Wow.

Cathy Johnson:                 I believe California is in the bottom 10, and I might be off on that.

Amanda Selogie:              Yeah, I think that’s about right.

Cathy Johnson:                 Here’s the stat. The best state in the United States, Massachusetts, has 50% of the students not proficient in reading. If they’re the top, and they only have 50% of their students not proficient in reading, what in the heck is going on here in California? I want to add that literacy is not only the most important predictor of academic success, it is now the most predictive of life success, because why? We are constantly on our phones, we have to read things quickly, we have to respond quickly, we have to be able to take a one-paragraph text and translate that almost immediately. We are no longer reading voluminous pieces of information, we have to get very quickly. These kids, their feet is to the fire in literacy, yep, terrifying.

Amanda Selogie:              Sounds like we have a long way to go.

Cathy Johnson:                 Possible.

Vickie Brett:                      But you know what? Yeah, and that’s why we were so excited, I know it took awhile, guys, but this is why, because we really wanted you to come on, because we know the work. We had actually met Cathy when she had presented to one of the Help Me Grow’s connection café, shout out to Help Me Grow, and just the amount of information, I love statistics as well, but just your demeanor, how casual you were to speak about your own experiences, and then clearly the passion for which you have in this area, we were just dying. We were like, “We need to get her on the podcast.”

Cathy Johnson:                 Thanks.

Vickie Brett:                      Thank you so much for coming down this way. We had a lot of information that I’m sure we’ll try to get as much of it as we can in the show notes, but I just kind of wanted to give you this opportunity to maybe tell people how they can reach you, or know more about the Johnson Academy.

Cathy Johnson:                 Sure, and actually I’m going to give a couple more really good tools to parents. Overcoming Dyslexia is probably one of the best books written by Sally Shaywitz on dyslexia, again from Yale University. Her movie that she has co-produced with Richard Branson, who is dyslexic, is The Big Picture, I highly recommend it, it’s an HBO documentary. I actually take that movie to schools all in Orange County to help educate teachers in dyslexia. Johnson Academy, we are in San Juan Capistrano, and we take 36 kids per year, our class size is no larger than six. We use all evidence-based interventions, such as the Ravo and Linamood Bell programs.

I just, you know what? I love all things dyslexia, and if there’s any way I can help any of you with your school or your child, I just would love that opportunity, and I appreciate the opportunity you two ladies have given me today, so thank you.

Amanda Selogie:              Of course. What’s the best way for them to reach you?

Cathy Johnson:                 Cathy@ocsllcinc.com, or our phone number, again, that’s Cathy at Orange County Speech, Language, and Learning Center, so it’s Cathy@ocsllcinc.com, or our phone number is 949-487-5251. We’re also known as the Speech, Language, and Learning Center, so we have two different entities that we serve for our communities, so thank you.

Amanda Selogie:              We’re so glad to have you finally.

Vickie Brett:                      We could keep talking, we really could.

Amanda Selogie:              I know, seriously, but you’ll be back.

Vickie Brett:                      Yes, yes, the speech pen thing.

Cathy Johnson:                 I’m going to bring my scanning pen, you guys are going to die.

Amanda Selogie:              Oh my gosh, we’re going to try it live on the air.

Vickie Brett:                      I can’t wait.

Amanda Selogie:              We’ll do a Facebook Live, that’ll be awesome. Of course, there’s so many things we could talk to you about. For our listeners, we will definitely have her back, and thanks for listening, hope you guys are enjoying this spring weather.

Vickie Brett:                      Not if you’re in a state where it’s snowing.

Amanda Selogie:              Sorry guys.

Vickie Brett:                      Just know that we’re trying to send you sunshine.

Cathy Johnson:                 We’re sweating here.

Vickie Brett:                      Yeah, we’re sweating here. California problems, California problems. Well, thanks for listening, and we will talk to you next week.

Amanda Selogie:              Thanks, bye.

Vickie Brett:                      Bye.

Leave a Comment