LS News

Open House, Parent Coffee, and Learning Support Planning Meeting


Please come to our Open House this Wednesday, August 28, 2013.  Before the ES Open House at 5pm, there will be a Learning Support Parent Coffee at 4pm at P009.  Please come and meet the team for a quick overview of our program.

CLIPART_board meeting

Next month, we will start having the LS Planning Meetings.  At the meeting we brainstorm as a team about your child’s strengths and concerns and then we set up goals for the semester.  Gather all those paperwork that you have as we begin to work together in helping your child to succeed this school year.  The more information we have the better we can move forward.

See you then!


International Day at ISM; 79 nationalities represented!

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Back to School Articles for Parents

Welcome back to school!  We hope that you had a relaxing break and are ready to start the new school year.  Here are some articles to help you start the year right : )


Six Tips for Making the Start of School Less Stressful

Back-to-School, for Parents!

Back-to-School Transitions: Tips for Parents


Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

Look Me in the Eye Book Trailer

A must-read book that provides a first-person insight into the world of Asperger’s.

Michelle Garcia Winner Workshop on Social Thinking

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On September 3-6, 2011 the ISM Community had the privilege of learning from Michelle Garcia Winner and Dr. Pamela Crooke, the leading experts in the field of social thinking.

On September 3-4, ISM, in cooperation with the USA State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools, hosted a weekend EARCOS workshop, which was well attended by professionals in international and local schools in the region.  On September 5-6, Michelle Winner and Dr. Pam Crooke had small group workshops with parents from ISM and other international schools and the ISM teachers.

See their website for more information on social thinking.



Here’s to a great start for the new school year!

Here’s an article that gives useful tips on how to prepare your child for the new school year.



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International Day

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Life Success For Students With Learning Disabilities: A Parent’s Guide

Don’t ever give up!  There’s light at the end of the tunnel. 


“LD OnLine is proud to present a guide to parents on how to help their children succeed titled Life Success for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Parent’s Guide. It was developed by the Frostig Center and based on more than twenty years of ground-breaking research on the lives of children and adults with learning disabilities. This is offered to you as part of LD OnLine’s efforts to bring you the latest research to help you raise your children with learning disabilities.

Over forty students were studied over their lifetime; when they entered the Frostig Center, when they left, ten years after graduation, and twenty years after graduation….”

Read the complete article here.


Social Competence and the Child with Learning Disabilities

The article below, written by the wonderful Rick Lavoie discusses the social competence needs of children with learning differences.  Please visit

By: Rick Lavoie (2005)

Since the inception of the field of learning disabilities in the l960s, helping professionals have concentrated their resources and energies in the remediation and improvement of academic skills. Countless hours of classroom time have been devoted to the children’s mastery of the skills related to language arts, mathematics and science. Finally, in the mid-l980s the field began to recognize the critical importance of social skills in the development and ultimate success of individuals with learning disabilities. Research and observation clearly demonstrates that individuals with learning disabilities tend to be less accepted by peers, interact awkwardly and inappropriately in social situations and are socially imperceptive. The goal for these children is to achieve an appropriate degree of social competence. Social skills are a collection of isolated and discrete learned behaviors.

Social competence refers to the smooth sequential use of these skills in an effort to establish an ongoing social interaction. There are two schools of thought related to the nature and causes of social incompetence. Proponents of the first hypothesis argue that social skill deficits are the result of the same neurological dysfunctions that cause academic problems. The second hypothesis holds that the social disabilities are caused by the child’s chronic school failure and the rejection that often results. These researchers feel that the child has been unable to practice these social skills because of this isolation.

The cause of social incompetence is far less important than its effect. School-aged children and adolescents need to be accepted and supported by their peers. Their social incompetence often prevents them from establishing and maintaining such relationships.

Consider the comments of Doreen Kronick, noted expert in learning disabilities and related social deficits:

To become a friend means to become interested in, and somewhat knowledgeable about the other person’s interests, be sensitive to their needs and feelings, compromise on activities, laugh off differences, be supportive, allow the other person freedom to interact with others and spend time with themselves, be elated by their successes, share their sorrows sensitively, be able to communicate your pleasure, displeasure and anger without such communication being destructive to either party, and change and grow as your friend changes and grows. I wonder whether many learning disabled adolescents possess the sensitivity, empathy, flexibility, maturity, and generate sufficient interest and excitement to maintain such friendships. Common questions related to social skill development.

Common questions relating to social competence

Does formalized research support the concept that individuals with learning disabilities have deficient or ineffective social skills?

Yes. The research indicates that individuals with learning disabilities:

  • are more likely to choose socially unacceptable behaviors in social situations
  • are less able to solve social problems are less likely to predict consequences for their social behavior
  • are less likely to adjust to the characteristics of their listeners in discussions or conversations
  • are less able to accomplish complex social interactions successfully (i.e.. persuasion, negotiation, resisting peer pressure, giving/accepting criticism, etc.)
  • are more likely to be rejected or isolated by their classmates and peers
  • are more often the objects of negative and non-supportive statements, criticisms, warnings and negative nonverbal reactions from teachers
  • are less adaptable to new social situations are more likely to be judged negatively by adults after informal observation
  • receive less affection from parents and siblings
  • have less tolerance for frustration and failure
  • use oral language that is less mature, meaningful or concise have difficulty interpreting or inferring the language of others

Do all individuals with learning disabilities experience social skill difficulties?

No. Research and observation indicate that some learning disabled students have a degree of social competence that is equal to or superior to their peers. However, social skill deficits create major obstacles for a significantly large subgroup of learning disabled students and adults.

What factors or characteristics may contribute to an individual’s social skill deficits?

There appears to be four characteristics that are shared by many individuals with learning disabilities who also have pronounced social skill deficits.

  • Cognitive traits: Social skill deficits are more common among individuals with certain language processing deficits or measurable cognitive limitations.
  • Severity of Learning Disability: Social skill deficiencies are more prevalent among individuals with severe or complex learning disorders.
  • Gender: Females are more likely to experience social adjustment problems than are males.
  • Hyperactivity: Individuals with ineffective impulse control tend to have more pronounced social skill problems.

What techniques are effective in the evaluation and monitoring of social skill deficits?

Before a skill can be effectively remediated, it must first be assessed and evaluated. Currently, there is no widely-accepted assessment tool that can provide the parent or professional with this critical information. There are, however, a number of techniques and strategies that can be utilized to secure a valuable “snapshot” of the individual’s social capabilities and deficiencies.

Sociometric devices. These instruments are designed to evaluate an individual’s relative popularity within a peer group. They generally consist of a survey wherein all members of a group are required to place the names of their colleagues in rank order based upon traits such as popularity and cooperation. In effect, sociometric devices use a polling procedure to determine the social acceptability of individuals within the group. These devices generally provide a valid instrument for determining social competence. However, they tend to be somewhat reactive and often reflect the constantly changing “in group/out group” dynamic that is common among school-age groupings.

Teacher-ranking systems. This strategy requires the teacher to record and measure the frequency of each child’s social interactions with classmates. Such systems can be valuable but, much like sociometric devices, provide no diagnostic information related to the quality of the interactions. Behavior-rating scales. These checklists are completed by parents, teachers or peers and are used to measure a specific child’s social behavior. They are valuable in determining the specific social skill deficits that require attention and remediation. They also provide data for a comparison of a child’s social skills in a variety of disparate settings, for example, the home, the classroom, and the playground.

Interviews. This strategy is often quite effective for students with learning disabilities as it does not require extensive reading or writing skills. It also allows for a more intimate look at a child’s social competence because it encourages anecdotes and the citing of specific situations and incidents.

Observation codes or checklists. Observation code strategies consist of highly-formalized observation measures. The examiner observes the child in a structured, social setting such as a reading group, scout troop meeting, or cafeteria, and objectively records the specific social behaviors of the child. The codes focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors, for example cooperation, self-talk, and sharing; they can be quite valuable in diagnosis of skill deficits as well as evaluation of training effectiveness.Observation checklists are conducted in a similar manner and, again, focus upon a small cluster of observable behaviors.

The social autopsy

A social autopsy is an innovative strategy wherein an adult assists a socially deficient child to improve social skills by jointly analyzing social errors that a child makes and designing alternative strategies. The accompanying video outlines the basic philosophy and procedures involved in the social autopsy process. The video format does not, however, allow for a detailed explanation of the fine points of this unique strategy.

Below are some reflections upon this field-tested and highly successful procedure. In order to ensure the success and generalization of the social autopsy procedure, the process should be taught to all adults who have regular contact with the child, for example, bus drivers, administrators, grandparents, cafeteria workers, and baby-sitters. In this way, the child will participate in dozens of autopsies daily, in a variety of settings. This intense exposure will foster growth and generalizations of target skills. Use social autopsies in order to analyze successful social interactions on occasion. When the child has been particularly appropriate in a social setting, assist him in examining and identifying the behaviors that contributed to these positive situations. In this way, he is more likely to repeat those behaviors in other settings. The success of the autopsy approach is linked to the fact that it provides the child with the three things that special needs students require in order to develop and learn:

    • practice, or drill
    • immediate feedback
    • positive reinforcement.

Keep in mind what the social autopsy process is…and what it is not:

a supportive, structured constructive strategy to foster social competence a punishment
a problem-solving technique negative
an opportunity for the student to actively participate in the process controlled/conducted exclusively by the adult
conducted by any significant adult in the child’s environment a “one-time” cure for the target behavior or skill
most effective when conducted immediately after the social error
generally held as a one-to-one session


The autopsy process is particularly effective in enabling the child to see the cause/effect relationship between his social behavior and the reactions of others in his environment. During autopsies, the child may have difficulty analyzing and identifying his own feelings and emotions. For example, the child may report that he is “mad” at his friend when, in fact, he is actually jealous. The Kline scale, developed at Riverview School by consultant Adam Kline, can be a useful tool to assist the child in identifying and classifying his feelings. A copy of the Kline Scale appears at the end of this booklet. Students with social competency problems also have paralinguistic (non-language) deficiencies that can be effectively isolated and remediated via the social autopsy approach. Among these deficiencies are:

    • Kinesics (inability to read body language of self or others). Manifestations may include: failure to respond to facial expressions of others; inability to “read” feelings and attitude of others; incorrect use of gestures.
    • Proxemics (inability to understand how physical space communicates with others).Manifestations: stands too close in social situations; stares; avoids eye contact; touches inappropriately.
    • Vocalics (inability to understand how volume pitches of voice communicates to others). Manifestations: misinterprets sarcasm; talks in monotone; talks too fast or too slowly; talks too loudly or too softly.
Excerpted from Teacher’s Guide Last One Picked …First One Picked OnLearning Disabilities and Social Skills with Richard Lavoie – 1994

Moving on and Finding a New School


Transitioning to a new country with a new workplace, friends, house, school and life is very difficult. There is so much preparation, investigation and exploration that goes on beforehand. It can be difficult to find a school that you like, that you think your children will do well in and that is close to your new home and work. When you also have to consider support for learning differences as well, things can become extremely complex. I have put together a list of things that you may want to look out for or questions that you may want to ask when you are investigating or visiting a new school for your child with learning differences. If you would like a list that is specifically tailored to your child’s needs then we can do that too.

When moving back to state school education in your home country The first thing that you may want to investigate is whether or not your child needs a formal, medical diagnosis before he or she will be able to access services at home. If you have a diagnosis for your child check that it has been verified by a clinician if it is a medical diagnosis. This will most likely be one of the recommendations on your report if you have one. It may read something like – ‘Consultation with a paediatrician or Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist or a Neurologist to confirm diagnosis of …..”. The types of diagnosis that would most likely require confirmation would be Autism Spectrum Disorders (PDD-NOS, Aspergers etc), ADD and ADHD, ODD, Anxiety Disorder, Speech Disorders or Learning Disabilities. Each country will have different guidelines about what your child may and may not be entitled to in order to support them. Please contact the Education Authority or School District that you will be returning to as soon as possible.

When moving to another international school. Again, you may want to pursue the confirmation of any diagnosis before you leave Manila or when you are at home for the holiday if you are going. This is especially true if you are moving to a country with a lack of access to good paediatricians etc. If your son or daughter takes any specific medication try to find out in advance if it is available in the country you are moving to (for example, long-acting Ritalin is not easily available in the Philippines). As far in advance as possible you should begin examining your options for schooling in the city that you are moving too. You may or may not have a choice of school depending on what is available or what your employment contract may tie you to.

 When considering the needs of a child with learning differences you may need to think beyond the accepted ‘best’ international school that everyone else sends there kids to.

• School size – Often, international schools can be very, very large. This means that it can take little kids sometimes 5 – 7 minutes to walk from their classroom to their art room or that there are up to 200 students in the playground at any one time. Try to see this world from your child’s perspective. If their exceptionalities make it hard from them to retain focus or stay in control of their impulses then a very large environment, even when the class size is small may be stressful for them.

• Class size – When your child has learning differences then you may need to consider the class size or the ratio of adults to children in the class. It is also prudent to ask about adult supervision on the playground during recess, on the school bus and in the canteen, particularly if your child has social functions issues.

• Learning Support – You can be provided with a brief summary of your child’s needs and the support structures that are in place at ISM to take with you or forward to the schools you are considering. Many international schools will only accept children with mild learning needs. While it may be tempting to underplay the needs of your child or their current levels of support, it goes without saying that the removal of supports which are required will likely have a detrimental effect on your child’s achievements in school. You can be provided with a ‘minimum level of support’ that your child will need if you are lacking in options and want to ensure that your child will have some needs met. If this is the case then please come and meet with me to discuss how you can make up for deficits in support through activities at home or in the community.

• Interventions – Will the new school be able to provide social skills/social functioning input if your child is currently receiving it or will all support be purely academic? Again, you can talk with me about ways to address these issues at home and in the community if it is going to be missing from Learning Support in the new school. If you know your child has these issues the find out some more about how the school will support your child’s transition in an enhanced way. Will there be a member of staff they can link to straight away like a counselor etc?

• In-school Supports – If your child currently has an Educational Assistant, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy or any other school based intervention then will a new school be able to provide this? Will you be able to access it locally outside or school and what will the effect be of removing this support are all questions that can be discussed with the new school and with me and the therapists. If there is no EA provided will the school let you hire your own and have them support your child in class?

• Educational Philosophy – Take time to talk to the school about this. Do they assign homework? Will this be differentiated for your child? Do they have a highly structured program or a more flowing, child-led approach? Which would suit your child best?

• Looking to the future – Continuing levels of support into MS and HS. If you are planning to stay at your next school until your child moves into Middle School then do check if the supports that may be present at Elementary School will follow into Middle School and beyond.

• Cost – Do not forget to enquire into the cost of the LS program and what is included in that cost. As mentioned, please do not hesitate to contact me to talk about these issues in relation to your specific child. I am also happy to talk with the schools you are considering if they want clarification on any elements of the current learning supports in place at International School Manila.

Scientific Process – especially for Gr. 4 parents

Today’s topic in the LD online Newsletter is perfect for Gr. 4 parents, whose children are currently learning the scientific process in their unit of inquiry.  Read the article here.


Please see this article to meet a young 12 year old man from the US with a massive IQ, a university education and an understanding of theoretical and astro physics that sets out to ‘expand’  Einstein’s theory of relativity!

Oh… and Jacob has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Everyone loves…

…a good success story.  On the back on the short video we posted here I did some more research on Richard Branson and came across this wonderful article about his life.


When Richard Branson’s granny was 99, she wrote him to say that the last 10 years had been her best. He should read the book, “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking. She had loved it. But most of all, her advice to Richard was “You’ve got one go in life, so make the most of it.” Those are words that mean so much to Richard Branson, as they go right to the heart of his belief in making it on your own. Now, head of 150 or so enterprises that carry the Virgin name, with a personal wealth estimated at nearly $3 billion, he has followed that personal dream and made the most of it. He still holds the record as fastest to cross the Atlantic ocean by boat. He still hopes to be first to circle the globe in a balloon. It is a success that was never expected for a dyslexic, nearsighted boy.

Richard Branson

Richard didn’t breeze through school. It wasn’t just a challenge for him, it was a nightmare. His dyslexia embarrassed him as he had to memorize and recite word for word in public. He was sure he did terribly on the standard IQ tests…these are tests that measure abilities where he is weak. In the end, it was the tests that failed. They totally missed his ability and passion for sports. They had no means to identify ambition, the fire inside that drives people to find a path to success that zigzags around the maze of standard doors that won’t open. They never identified the most important talent of all. It’s the ability to connect with people, mind to mind, soul to soul. It’s that rare power to energize the ambitions of others so that they, too, rise to the level of their dreams.

Ironically, Richard Branson’s talents began to show themselves during his adolescent school years. Frustrated with the rigidity of school rules and regulations, and seeing the energy of student activism in the late 60’s, he decided to start his own student newspaper. This might not have been remarkable, except that this paper was intended to tie many schools together. It would be focused on the students and not the schools. It would sell advertising to major corporations. It would have articles by Ministers of Parliament, rock music stars, intellectuals and movie celebrities. It would be a commercial success. That was the business plan that 17 year old Richard Branson put together with his pal, Jonny Gems

The had a little help. Richard’s mot her donated four pounds to help cover postage and telephone expenses. It was enough to start. They worked in his basement and scrimped on everything except the grand vision of the magazine. The first edition appeared with a cover picture of a student drawn by Peter Blake, who designed the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album cover. He also agreed to give an interview. Student debuted in January, 1968. The headmaster of Stowe, where Richard and Jonny were students, wrote: “Congratulations, Branson. I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.”

In 1970, the British government abolished the Retail Price Maintenance Agreement, but none of the stores elected to discount records. Richard Branson saw an opportunity for Student to offer records cheaply by running ads for mail order delivery. The student readers of Student spent a great deal of money on records even at full price. How would they respond to this opportunity?

It turned out that the orders so flooded in that they were more lucrative than magazine subscriptions. Richard rounded up the staff of Student and recruited them to spin off a discount music business. They found an empty shop above a shoe store and persuaded the owner to let them build shelves and move in a couple of old sofas for their first store. In lieu of rent, they promised that they’d bring so much traffic that the shoe store’s business would pick up too. Now all they needed was a name.

The first candidate was “Slipped Disc.” It had promise. It was catchy and appealed to a wider range of buyers than “Student.” Then one of the group piped up “Virgin.” Because, she said, “we’re complete virgins at business.” In retrospect, Richard says he’s happy they went with the alternate name. Slipped Disc Airlines just wouldn’t have the customer appeal of Virgin Airlines.

Virgin Airlines is very much a Richard Branson style company. Instead of getting caught in the downward spiral of chopping fares and cutting service, he’s taken a stand of reasonable fares on transatlantic flights with amenities like in-flight massages, ice cream with movies and soon, private bedrooms, showers and exercise facilities. Far from failing, Virgin Airlines is a big money maker.

In fact all 150 companies make money and Richard Branson claims no prior expertise in any of them. He has no giant corporate office or staff. Few if any board meetings. Instead, he keeps each enterprise small and relies on his magic touch of empowering people’s ideas to fuel success. When a flight attendant approached him with her vision of a wedding business, Richard told her to go do it. He even put on a wedding dress himself to help launch the publicity. His Virgin Cola is bigger than Pepsi in Europe and looking to take on Coke in the United States. Richard drove a tank up to the Coke Sign in Times Square and fired at it to launch that challenge. Flamboyant? Yes. Greedy? Well, certainly not in the sense we normally use that word. “I never went into business solely to make money,” he says. Yet, over and over again, he’s done just that.

If he is greedy, then it is a craving for turning possibilities, even unlikely ones, into raging successes. “It all comes down to people,” he remarks in an interview with David Sheff of Forbes. “Nothing else even comes close.” He writes them all, all 5,000 Virgin employees, a chatty letter once a month from his paper notebook, and invites them to write or call him with their problems, ideas and dreams. They do…and new Virgin successes are born.

For more information see

To read more stories like this go to – great site!


Speech to Text

The following video gives a quick example of some speech to text software that we have purchased for next year in school.  Youtube has lots of other videos that show how to make the most of applications that are already on your computer that will give you speech recognition or text to speech capabilities.  Jen Smith has a wonderful blog site here at ISM which highlights the technologies we use and she is always happy to answer any questions that parents have on the use of IT at home and at school.  One of our LS teachers, Jennifer Etherton recently attended training in Hong Kong on assistive technology and is now a mine of information.  Jennifer can be contacted at




Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is calling the new Documentary by Vicki Abeles

Another inconvenient Truth.”  

If you haven’t already heard the buzz about this Documentary unveiling the educational lives of American students click

here to watch the trailers. There’s a small chance that Internationl School Manila may be able to host screening. Stay Tunned!

Addressing articulation errors at home

Does your child have a speech sound error or two that he doesn’t seem to be outgrowing? By age seven or eight, children should have mastered all of their speech sounds. Some sounds, such as t, d, k, g, p, b, and f, should be produced correctly well before that age.

If you suspect or know that your child has an articulation problem, seeing a speech-language-pathologist for an evaluation is a wise first step. He or she will be able to tell you exactly which sounds are in error-there may be some that you haven’t noticed! Even if you opt to work with your child at home, the speech pathologist should be able to give you some tips and get you started. However, this isn’t the preferred option for many parents. Perhaps you can’t afford speech therapy or fit it into your schedule.

If you would like to work with your child’s speech at home, here are some guidelines and ideas.

First, pick a sound or group of sounds to work on. You may want to pick an easier sound to start with, or one that is important to the child, such as a sound in his name. Make the sound yourself and consider exactly how it is made. Where in your mouth does your tongue touch? Does the air leak through slowly, such as in an “s”? Or does the air pop out quickly, as in a “t”? If your child cannot produce the sound at all, you will have to describe this to him as well as model the sound.

First, teach the child to say the sound by itself. Model it for him. Use your finger, spoon handle, or Popsicle stick to touch his mouth or tongue in the target spots. When your child can produce it, practice. Practice, practice, and practice some more until he can produce it in isolation every time.

Then practice words that begin with the target sound, moving on to words with the sound in the middle or at the end. Blends are more difficult and should be taught last.

When your child can produce the sound in words with 95% accuracy, begin practicing in sentences. By the time sentences are mastered, you will probably hear the sound being used most of the time in conversation. This may take a few weeks or even months. Don’t expect your child to use the sound in conversation right away-it will take time before he can produce the sound correctly without thinking about it.

Make your speech practice time fun. Keep the sessions short, but practice every day. Play board games, making your child say his word 3 times before every turn. Hop across the room, repeating the sound with every bounce. With dedicated practice, you should soon see improvement in your child’s articulation skills!

Deborah M. Lott is a speech pathologist who has published the Super Star Speech series of books to help parents correct their children’s articulation errors at home.. She blogs about speech and language topics and provides additional information and free speech therapy resources at

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The Asian Math Advantage

How does the english language impact upon Math?  Is Math in English more difficult?  Do Asian’s have an advantage?
An excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s book – ‘Outliers’ (

Take a look at the following list of numbers: 4,8,5,3,9,7,6. Read them out loud to yourself. Now look away, and spend twenty seconds memorizing that sequence before saying them out loud again.

If you speak English, you have about a 50 percent chance of remembering that sequence perfectly If you’re Chinese, though, you’re almost certain to get it right every time. Why is that? Because as human beings we store digits in a memory loop that runs for about two seconds. We most easily memorize whatever we can say or read within that two second span. And Chinese speakers get that list of numbers—4,8,5,3,9,7,6—right every time because—unlike English speakers—their language allows them to fit all those seven numbers into two seconds.

That example comes from Stanislas Dehaene’s book “The Number Sense,” and as Dehaene explains:

Chinese number words are remarkably brief. Most of them can be uttered in less than one-quarter of a second (for instance, 4 is ‘si’ and 7 ‘qi’) Their English equivalents—”four,” “seven”—are longer: pronouncing them takes about one-third of a second. The memory gap between English and Chinese apparently is entirely due to this difference in length. In languages as diverse as Welsh, Arabic, Chinese, English and Hebrew, there is a reproducible correlation between the time required to pronounce numbers in a given language and the memory span of its speakers. In this domain, the prize for efficacy goes to the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, whose brevity grants residents of Hong Kong a rocketing memory span of about 10 digits.

It turns out that there is also a big difference in how number-naming systems in Western and Asian languages are constructed. In English, we say fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen, so one would think that we would also say one-teen, two-teen, and three-teen. But we don’t. We make up a different form: eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fifteen. Similarly, we have forty, and sixty, which sound like what they are. But we also say fifty and thirty and twenty, which sort of sound what they are but not really. And, for that matter, for numbers above twenty, we put the “decade” first and the unit number second: twenty-one, twenty-two. For the teens, though, we do it the other way around. We put the decade second and the unit number first: fourteen, seventeen, eighteen. The number system in English is highly irregular. Not so in China, Japan and Korea. They have a logical counting system. Eleven is ten one. Twelve is ten two. Twenty-four is two ten four, and so on.

That difference means that Asian children learn to count much faster. Four year old Chinese children can count, on average, up to forty. American children, at that age, can only count to fifteen, and don’t reach forty until they’re five: by the age of five, in other words, American children are already a year behind their Asian counterparts in the most fundamental of math skills.

The regularity of their number systems also means that Asian children can perform basic functions—like addition—far more easily. Ask an English seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty two, in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22). Only then can she do the math: 2 plus 7 is nine and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59. Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence. No number translation is necessary: It’s five-tens nine.

“The Asian system is transparent,” says Karen Fuson, a Northwestern University psychologist, who has done much of the research on Asian-Western differences. “I think that it makes the whole attitude toward math different. Instead of being a rote learning thing, there’s a pattern I can figure out. There is an expectation that I can do this. There is an expectation that it’s sensible. For fractions, we say three fifths. The Chinese is literally, ‘out of five parts, take three.’ That’s telling you conceptually what a fraction is. It’s differentiating the denominator and the numerator.”

The much-storied disenchantment with mathematics among western children starts in the third and fourth grade, and Fuson argues that perhaps a part of that disenchantment is due to the fact that math doesn’t seem to make sense; its linguistic structure is clumsy; its basic rules seem arbitrary and complicated.

Asian children, by contrast, don’t face nearly that same sense of bafflement. They can hold more numbers in their head, and do calculations faster, and the way fractions are expressed in their language corresponds exactly to the way a fraction actually is—and maybe that makes them a little more likely to enjoy math, and maybe because they enjoy math a little more they try a little harder and take more math classes and are more willing to do their homework, and on and on, in a kind of virtuous circle.

When it comes to math, in other words, Asians have built-in advantage. . .

Conference in Shanghai

Maricel San Agustin and Jennifer Etherton, together with some Middle School and High School Learning Support teachers, will attend a conference on February 24-26, 2011 at Concordia International School, Shanghai, China. The theme of the conference is “Autonomy: Helping to Create Independence For Individuals With Special Education Needs”. The teachers are looking forward to learning a lot of strategies from the conference. Some of the presenter handouts can be found here.

Now THAT is what I call a sportsday!


Our sports day video!

Elementary School Flash Mob Dance (Feb 2011)

Thanks for adding this Jennifer!  For those who don’t know – as part of our preparations for Sports Day our wonderful PE department also make sure that the kids all learn a song!  This year it is the Cha Cha Slide.  Today there was a FLASH MOB dance at playtime! View it Cha Cha Slide Flash Mob

Transitioning to Middle School

Our Grade 4 students are beginning to start to think about their big move to Middle School.

We are already starting to plan ahead to make sure that they have asuccessful and end to Elementary School and a wonderful beginning to Middle School.  Thank you to all the Grade 4 LS parents who attended our recent parent coffee.  This gave the Middle School Learning Support teachers a chance to talk about what is on offer for students in Middle School and a taste of what your son or daughter’s LS program of support will look like.

LS2 and LS3 students will be able to access the Strategy Instruction class.  This takes the place of a modern language in the schedule and provides students with small group pull out support.  In this class students will be be able to work on course work with some extra tution and the LS teacher will be directly teaching self-managment, self-organisation and guiding students in the management of their resources and their time.  Ms Abraham’s blog site is here.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s transition to Middle School then please contact the Learning Support teacher directly.

ISM’s Parent Book Club


Join the parent book talk with ISM’s guidance team as they discuss the new book Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky. There are two groups: one on Tuesdays and one on Thursdays with the first session beginning Thursday February 10, 2011. Sessions will be held from 8-10:00am in room 1057 until the Month of May.

LS Teaching Tools and Resources

The ES LS team have finished putting our orders in for next year’s budget.  When we get back after the summer we usually have a few big boxes of new resources that we have ordered to use with our LS students.  So, what do we use day to day in the LS classroom and in the general classroom with your child?  Here is a round-up of some of the tools and programs that we regularly use.  Each product name will take you to a website describing it in more detail if you click it.

Reading, Spelling and Comprehension:

We have staff trained in using the Lindamood Bell programs from the US and we are sending another 3 teachers to Taipei in April to receive further training.

We have another teacher trained in administering the Wilson Program and this is being used for the first time this year at ISM.

We also use the Scholastics Phonics Chapter Books program and Get Ready for the Code and Explode the Code among others


We usually try to support math development through the resources that are used in the classroom, mainly Everyday Math but we do have an alternative math program called Saxon Math which presents math concepts in a different way.

Basic Concepts

We work with a range of manipulatives like dolls houses, coloured counters and cars, pretend food, board games and anything else that we have to hand to develop strong understanding of basic concepts like colours, numbers, location words, same vs different.  For this we use many products from one of our favourite websites Super Duper

Tools for attention management and focus development

Where would the ES LS team be without Time Timers?  We use these with lots of students in lots of environments and they have become so popular that many of our parents are using them at home or have the iPhone application.  Next year we are also really excited about getting a couple of Motiv-aiders which will be wonderful for some of our students.


Fastt Math, Read Naturally, Model Me Kids, My School Day, Earobics and Kidspiration are just some of the software that we use daily in our team to support kids in developing skills in a fun and interactive way.  We have just finished trialling a bunch of new software for next year too.  We are looking at ways to help students access technology to make them more independent in the classroom.  This means investing in dictation software and text to speech software.  We are also looking at programs to help develop working memory.

Social Skills

We use video modelling, board games, turn taking games and visual learning in our social skills programs.  We also use a lot of materials developed by Michelle Garcia Winner in her Social Thinking curriculum.  We are having tremendous success with this and some teachers are even using lessons from ‘Superflex’ with entire homeroom classes!  We have managed to arrange for Michelle Garcia Winner and her partner to come to ISM next year to do some training on communication skills and how teachers can best communicate with students with ASD and ADHD in the classroom and we are going to offer a parents session to go along with this delivered by Michelle.

If you would like to know more about any of these programs, tools or resources then speak with anyone from the LS team and we will give you a tour of the product.

Images courtesy of,,

Children’s Musical Theater

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Looking for Learning

We would like to encourage parents to ask their children, “What did you LEARN in school today?” rather than “What did you DO in school today?”.  The aim is for the students to focus on learning, rather than on answering so many pages in a book.  Then, ask them if this was a new learning for them.  Was it easy for them?  What was difficult?  Ask them to show you what they are learning.  Let’s make ISM a learning-focused environment.

In my classroom, I put up a Learning Wall (see below, unedited except for removing the students’ names for confidentiality).  After a few lessons, I ask my students to write down what they have learned before they leave my room.  Looking for learning is increasing learning in my classroom : )

Source:  Looking for Learning



LD OnLine Forums

Research, ask questions, interact or read messages posted by parents and educators about LD and ADHD issues.

Dyslexia Resources

Dyslexia Teacher is a site sharing some of the newest research about dyslexia. It offers strategies and information for children with dyslexia as well as adults with dyslexia. There is also a message board.

Partial sums what??? I didn’t learn that in school!

Most parents get confused when their children tell them that it’s not how they do it in school.  I am talking about the way algorithms are taught in the Everyday Math program.  Partial sums, differences, products, quotients, what are those? 

To make it easier on the parents and to provide consistency in the way the algorithms are taught, please click on the tutorial.

everyday math tutorial

Learning Support and ESL

In Learning Support we often have referrals for students who are receiving English as a Second Language services in school.  This most often poses a dilemma about what type of support is going to be most effective for students who seem to be making very limited progress in ESL and there are thoughts that perhaps there is a learning difficulty or disability that is potentially being masked by their language learning status.  However, it may be part of the natural language learning process.  Every child is different and every child has a unique language background.

In these situations we have to determine how we can get the best information we can on each student’s area of need.  All of our LS testing materials are in english and many of our programs are language based.

We are trying to work more closely with the ESL department to make sure that each child is beign supported to have success at ISM.  There are many more questions for us here and I have posted a couple of articles below if you are interested in reading further.

Also take a look at our ES ESL blog

Thanks to for the articles and image.

Resources for Parents

Please visit our blog regularly to take advantage of the resources for parents found on the right side of this blog.  These  are updated regularly.  You can click on the Printables, for instance, for tip sheets for specific grade levels.  You can also visit the website for more information Reading Rockets for Parents.

Professional Development Opportunities

Some of out Learning Support staff at International School Manila have wonderful professional learning opportunities coming up in the next few months.  Rachael Huelskamp is traveling to Canada in November along with a Middle School colleague to attend an international conference on Autism

This conference is hosting a number of extremely influential and knowlegeable speakers and we look forward to the learning that Rachael will bring back from it.

Also in November the three Program Leaders from Learning Support are excited to join ‘Inclusion – Professional Conversations for Educators’.  This is a select symposiusm hosted by International School Brussels which allows Learning Support faculty from international schools around the world to come together and share learning and best practice.

We look forward to this having a very postive effect on the continued development of our own Learning Support departments.

Changes to our Manual

This week the Learning Support Program Leaders and the administration from Elementary School, Middle School and High School all got together to rewrite our LS Policy and Procedures Manual. 

The manual was written in 2006 and needed some updating.  We have decoded to streamline the manual and get rid of some of the unwieldy instruction in it.

The service will not change but the manula needs to change in order to reflect what we are delivering.  If anyone has any questions about it please feel free to get in contact with Angela (Program Leader) at

UbD Overview for Learning Support

Last Friday, the Learning Support teachers attended an in-service on Understanding by Design facilitated by Michael Rourke, ES Assistant Principal and Sam Cook, Learning Coordinator.  Most of the discussions centered on how the LS teachers can support the classroom teachers in helping the students access the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework for improving student achievement.


ES Assembly led by the Student Council at the Fine Arts Theater

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How to start the year right

Parents, here’s a timely article that I read from Sandbox-Learning on how to make the start of school less stressful. I hope that you find it useful as we begin a new school year.

Six Tips for Making the Start of School Less Stressful

ADHD/Place in class

Below is an interesting article from ‘USA TODAY’ by Liz Szabo.

Youngest in class get ADHD label

Kids who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to  be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children, according to a study  out today from Michigan State University, given exclusively to USA  TODAY.

By Stephanie Diani for USA TODAY
Kids who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children, according to a study out today from Michigan State University, given exclusively to USA TODAY.

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
Nearly 1 million children may have been misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, not because they have real behavior problems, but because they’re the youngest kids in their kindergarten class, researchers say.

Kids who are the youngest in their grades are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children, according to a study out today from Michigan State University, given exclusively to USA TODAY. A second study, by researchers at North Carolina State University and elsewhere, came to similar conclusions. Both are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Health Economics.

About 4.5 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the studies.

Misdiagnosing children can have long-lasting effects, says assistant professor of economics Todd Elder, author of the Michigan State study. In fifth and eighth grade, the youngest kids in a class were more than twice as likely to use Ritalin, a stimulant commonly prescribed for ADHD, compared with the oldest students, his study says.

While many parents say Ritalin has helped their kids, it also can have significant side effects, causing headaches, dizziness and even high blood pressure, according to the paper from North Carolina State.

The findings could influence the way that teachers evaluate children with ADHD symptoms — as well as complicate parents’ decisions about when to start children in kindergarten, Elder says.

Although cutoff dates for kindergarten vary by state, the most common date is Sept. 1, Elder says. In states using that date, those who turn 5 by Sept. 1 could start kindergarten, while those with Sept. 2 birthdays would have to wait a year.

Regardless of the date chosen, some kids in a class are always going to be a year older than others, Elder says. Teachers and pediatricians — who actually make the diagnoses and prescribe treatments — should evaluate kids based on their age, not their grade, he says.

Experts note that the new studies have limitations. Although the studies clearly show that younger kindergartners have higher ADHD rates, the studies don’t explain why, says John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Instead of younger children being overdiagnosed, Elder says, it’s possible that older children are underdiagnosed, possibly because they seem more mature than their classmates.

And Ratey notes that teachers may contribute to children’s developing ADHD by treating them differently, perhaps because they perceive some younger kids as being more disruptive.

Parents don’t necessarily need to hold back all kids with birthdays before the September cutoff date, Elder says. Parents need to consider each child’s needs.

In some cases, he says, parents can’t afford to hold kids back a year. While public school kindergarten is free, an extra year of day care or preschool can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

How our year begins…

We have a differnt start to the year to classroom teachers here within Learning Support.  Our main priority at the start of each school year is ensuring that our students have time and space to get used to their new classmates, their new teachers, environment and rules and routines.  For this reason we usually do not do any direct work with students in the first week.

During this time we try to concentrate on doing observations of students, passing information on to teachers and getting files and other documentations in order.

Once this process is underway we start to introduce ourselves to our new students and catch up with our old students.  We may also think about carrying out testing at this time.  Testing and assessing our students at the beginning of the year allows us to gather baseline data.   By measuring attainment now we are able to show evidence of how successful our interventions are or if we are not having the predicted effect and we need to look at trying new things.  These tests are not the same as Educational Psychology testing – they are usually in-house assessments that can be administered by teachers which measure attainment in the areas of phonemic awareness, knowledge of math concepts or similar.

Another vital element of our first few weeks in school is meeting with parents and teachers to collaborate in writing the student’s learning support plan and setting goals for the school year.  This takes place after all of these earlier tasks to make sure that we are as informed as possible when we are writing goals and planning programs.

The aim of all of this is to make sure that we know our students as well as we can.  Once we know them and we know their learning styles, their strengths, their areas of need, what makes them happy, where they experience success and the best way for us to support them.

New school year!

Welcome to school year 2010/2011.  This year the LS team says goodbye, good luck and thank you to Amy Egbuji.  Amy has relocated back to the States with her family.  We wish her the very best and thank you for all the meticulous work she has put into our department over the past few years.

We are welcoming a number of new members of our team also.  Jennifer Etherton is our new LS teacher.  Read her bio post to find out more about her background.  We also say welcome to Jollie, Abi and Charro who are our new Educational Assistants who will be working right across the Elementary School.

Over the summer we have  moved rooms, incorporated a dedicated Occupational Therapy area and taken possession of a large order from overseas of shiny and exciting new resources.  We are really looking forward to school year 10/11 and to staying in touch with faculty and parents through this blog.

Tumble Books

Tumble Books is a huge online resource of books which can be read or listened to online. Many of the books have quizzes and questions afterword to help explore children's comprehension of the book. To access this students must use the log-in name and password given to them by the school. Please see the LS teacher or classroom teacher for more details.

Brain Pop

Brain POP is the home of fun learning! This site offers student the chance to explore many aspects of the world around us in a lively and exciting way. To access this students must use the log-in name and password given to them by the school. Please see the LS teacher or classroom teacher for more details.

Dance Mat Typing

BBC School's Dance Mat Typing is THE place to go for the least boring way to learn to touch type! This site takes student's through basic typing skills via a host of fun songs and crazy characters. No passwork required!