Comprehensive Treatments for a Range of Needs

At Possibilities, we have always offered an integrated and scientifically supported approach to the assessments we provide. The same goes for our treatments—including treatments for learning difficulties like Dyslexia. Learning challenges often exist with Attention Deficit Disorders, like ADD or ADHD. Learning difficulties can exist without attention problems, too, but it’s common to find Learning Disabilities and ADHD occurring together. Among students with Learning Disabilities—or challenges with learning that do not have a formal diagnosis—difficulties reading can be quite common, especially difficulties sounding out words. Scientifically supported interventions can make a difference! Our intervention program Rewire 4 Reading is aimed at strengthening sounding out skills in readers.

Here are questions we are asked often about reading, and our Rewire 4 Reading program, along with our answers.

Rewire 4 Reading is a scientifically-based program that exercises brain circuits for reading. Just like exercise, repeated practice improves reading speed and accuracy. Strong reading skills are the foundation for life-long learning!

Yes! Sounding out letters alone, and then in words, is a critical first step in becoming a reader. Once the brain has “cracked the code”—and knows how letters and sounds work in words—a reader is off to the races! Decoding is the formal term for this amazing sounding-out skill. A brain that decodes well can read more and more—and even more after that! Strong decoding skill makes for a well-oiled brain that reads fast and accurately.

Yes and no. Yes, every child who learns to read will struggle to sound out words—at first. Learning any new skill is hard! But when sounding out words is hard—and slow—year after year, that could be a sign of a learning difficulty that needs support. So no, after a certain point in learning, all kids do not have trouble sounding out words.

Dyslexia is a term used widely in many countries and by many educators and clinicians, especially in the United States. In Canada, psychologists who diagnose Learning Disabilities typically use the term Reading Disability—or a Learning Disability in Reading—rather than Dyslexia. Challenges sounding out words is considered the core challenge in Dyslexia. So yes, if a student struggles significantly to sound out words beyond early elementary grades, then Dyslexia may be the reason. A comprehensive Psychoeducational Assessment would need to be done to determine with certainty if Dyslexia is present. But here’s the good news! With the right intervention, at the right time, lasting brain changes can happen that can improve sounding out skills significantly!

In early grades—especially in Grades 1 and 2—a big part of reading instruction is learning about letters and sounds. These are the basic building blocks of reading. So Cs early on in English could signal that it’s been difficult for your child to develop critical reading skills. In later grades, Cs in English could signal challenges in different aspects of reading—like comprehension or getting book reports done. Consider having your child’s reading checked by an expert if you’re not sure if there are problems.

By the end of Grade 2 reading should be solid to avoid big frustrations and challenges around books and other reading work. In Grades 1 and 2, students are learning to read. By Grade 3, students are reading to learn. This distinction is important. By Grade 3, reading is expected to be solid—and that means students are expected to learn many things independently by reading on their own. Students who struggle to read in Grade 3 are going to fall behind quickly.

You are going to hear different answers to this question, depending on who you ask. Some clinicians and educators suggest waiting to assess for learning challenges, at least until Grade 3. They argue that all students learn at a different pace, and that it’s best to see how learning settles before assuming something is not developing as expected. We do not share this perspective at Possibilities. Given our training in neuropsychiatry and neuropsychology, we will always approach diagnoses and treatments from a brain-based perspective. Brain science shows that the best time to change a brain to develop better reading skills is before Grade 3, not after. Research from psychologist Dr. Keith Stanovich also makes it clear that gaps in skills widen the longer you wait, making it harder to create change with tutoring later on.

No. If your child is struggling to sound out words compared to classmates, start reading intervention now. You do not need a diagnosis of any kind to begin a program to strengthen reading. The sooner you start trying to boost reading skills with scientifically supported strategies, the better!

No! Children who are a bit slow in sounding out words can benefit, too. With reading, small gaps early on can grow into bigger gaps. So giving your child’s reading skills a boost with intervention can help prevent gaps from growing. If you’re not sure if your child needs support, enquire about Rewire 4 Reading at Possibilities. In the first appointment, we’ll do an assessment of current reading skills to see if your child fits into the program. If your child’s decoding skills are at grade-level, no sounding out intervention will be needed!

Rewire 4 Reading refers to the reading intervention program we offer at Possibilities that targets sounding out skills. Direct Instruction—a formal curriculum with solid scientific support for its effectiveness—forms the foundation of our approach. Information is presented to the brain consistently—in organized and structured lessons—with the right amount of repetition to help emerging skills “stick.” Students do not move forward in these lessons until the skills they have learned earlier are learned very well. This approach ensures a solid footing going forward, so strong skills can build even stronger ones.

When highly structured reading lessons are presented in a very systematic way, brain circuits for sounding out words can change, making sounding out skills easier and more accurate. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize its structures and functions in response to input it receives. When the brain receives reading lessons that address gaps in decoding, neuroplasticity enables the brain to change—in lasting and meaningful ways—so reading improves! Changing brain circuits for reading is like rewiring the electrical circuits in a house. At least that’s one way to think about it! Hence the word “rewire” in our program name. The 4 in Rewire 4 Reading stands for 4 key processes built into our program that help make students stronger readers. ABCD is a helpful way to think about these 4 steps:

A = Analyze reading gaps first to identify skills that are lagging

B = Build lagging skills with structured programming to ignite brain changes

C = Consolidate (solidify) emerging skills with repetition and practice to strengthen sounding-out circuits

D = Develop skills further with challenge activities to improve reading speed and accuracy—like reading bigger words, more books, and a variety of written material

Strong readers typically activate a circuit in the left hemisphere of the brain when they sound out words. This left-sided circuit is impressive. It can read just about anything—even fake words like panderastoric—because it is super skilled at decoding! But struggling readers typically show activation in the right side of the brain, much more than the left. This alternate route is a problem, because the right-sided circuit isn’t designed for sounding out. Instead, it makes a whole lot of guesses. So panderastoric might be read as panda, though the right-sided circuit is trying its best! The evidence-based programs we use in Rewire 4 Reading can turn down the volume of the right-sided circuit and boost the activity of the left-sided one, priming the brain for reading. When this physical switch in brain functioning happens, it’s turned on for life, and reading improves dramatically.

Yes! Brain imaging studies before and after reading intervention provide strong evidence for rewiring. In these studies, brain activity is measured with imaging technology as children try sounding out made-up words. In struggling readers before a reading intervention, the brain’s right hemisphere is more active than the left—a pattern typical in Dyslexia. With this pattern of activation, sounding out skills are slow and inaccurate. After reading intervention—like the kind we offer in Rewire 4 Reading—the left hemisphere becomes more active and the right hemisphere becomes less active. The result? Sounding out words becomes easier and more accurate!

There can be many reasons why a student is not responding to academic treatment. When a Reading Disability is severe, it can be much harder to budge brain circuits to improve sounding out skills. However, more often the treatment is the reason for minimal change, not the learning problem itself. Most tutoring interventions for reading are not intense enough to make meaningful and lasting change in brain circuits happen. The programs we use in Rewire 4 Reading have the highest intensity, with lessons delivered in principled ways that are supported by science, to increase the likelihood that the brain will rewire and increase its capacity to read.

No, we don’t. Currently the research evidence is not strong enough for us to offer these approaches. What is clear from research in the neuroscience of learning is this: the brain must do exactly what is hard for it to do in order to make specific gains. So, to improve reading, the brain must read. To improve writing, the brain must write. To improve spelling, the brain must spell. To improve math, the brain must calculate. General programs that exercise the brain don’t take this approach to improve academic skills—but the reading programs we offer in Rewire 4 Reading do.

Yes! The Direct Instruction programs that form the foundation of our approach are structured with lots of built-in review. They also require quick and spirited responses quite often! Instructors trained in this approach are very skilled at engaging students in lively back-and-forth interactions that build practice into each lesson. For some children, though, significant challenges with focus can make even the most structured and fast-paced lessons difficult to manage. In ADHD, research shows that successful treatments are integrated—which means functioning improves the most when there are different treatments combined and working together. For some students, ADHD medication that brings neurotransmitters to optimal levels helps the brain become better focussed and more effective at learning letter-sound associations.

Research shows that intensive reading programs work best when they are delivered frequently and consistently. When there are long-standing learning difficulties, despite extra help at school, the brain needs more input to see patterns that can help it perform better academically. Our reading intervention program requires at least two sessions every week, since frequent exposure to letters, words, and blends is necessary to help change brain circuits for decoding.

Yes! Generally when it comes to any interventions, the sooner you treat when you begin to see problems, the better. However, it’s not always easy to see difficulties early on. Some students work really hard to earn high grades, or they are bright enough to do well, until work becomes unmanageable. Then challenges become more obvious. Getting a comprehensive assessment that looks at attention, learning, and mental health can be helpful to pinpoint the reasons for learning difficulties at any age. Then a tailored Treatment Plan can be made. Even adults can benefit from solid programs that develop reading skills in systematic ways.

Our reading programs start at 6 years of age, so readers in Grade 1 can begin to receive scientifically supported interventions to improve sounding out skills.

Yes! We will require some background information to get us started, including a copy of the Psychoeducational Assessment report, to help us formulate a personalized Treatment Plan.

We offer principled intervention programs from the Direct Instruction curriculum to improve writing and spelling skills, too. Currently, we do not offer math interventions. A focused and repetitive approach is critical for success when addressing gaps and building skills. So, we don’t introduce too many separate programs at once. Our Treatment Plan for your child will specify what programs we think should be started first, when new programs should be introduced, and how programs can be coordinated effectively if we are combining multiple interventions like reading and writing.

Yes! Our academic interventions can be offered over secure video sessions.

Yes! Our central office is in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. However, we offer our academic interventions to clients across Canada and the United States through secure video sessions.

Provincial health plans like OHIP generally do not cover educational treatments. Academic interventions may be covered by private insurance plans. If psychology oversight is required for insurance coverage, a psychologist with expertise in learning can collaborate with your child’s tutor in developing and supervising the Academic Treatment Plan. Currently, while our Rewire 4 Reading is available across the United States and Canada, our psychology oversight option is only available to families physically residing in Ontario during the tutoring sessions. 

For more information about Rewire 4 Reading, please contact us at info@possibilitiesclinic.com or call 1-833-482-5558. You can also get started right away by completing our Child and Adolescent Intake Form. Once this form is received, our Care Coordinator will review your needs, match you to an appropriate instructor, and get back to you with booking options.

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