Empower Your Child’s Journey: With Our Special Wellness Counselling Services

Is your child or teenager facing challenges that seem impossible?

 At The Workshop Reading Centre, Demi Olivier offers special wellness counselling services specializing in empowering young individuals to navigate life’s complexities with confidence, resilience, and joy.

 Child and Teen Counselling: Growing up comes with its own set of hurdles, from navigating family changes to coping with social pressures and academic stress. Our child and teen counselling services provide a safe and supportive space for young individuals to express themselves, explore their emotions, and develop the skills they need to thrive. 

 Support for Young Adults: Transitioning into adulthood can be overwhelming, with new responsibilities, expectations, and uncertainties. Our counselling services for young adults offer personalized support to help navigate this pivotal stage of life, addressing issues such as career decisions, relationship challenges, and personal growth.

 What Sets Us Apart: 

Engagement with Teenagers and Trends: We understand the importance of staying connected with the evolving world of young individuals. By engaging with teenagers and staying informed about the latest trends and perspectives, we ensure our counselling approach remains relevant, relatable, and effective. 

Collaborative Approach: We believe in the power of collaboration. Our counselling sessions involve not just the individual, but also their support network – parents, caregivers, teachers, and mentors. Together, we create a unified team that provides unwavering support and guidance. 

Holistic Approach: We take a holistic approach to counselling, addressing not only emotional concerns but also physical, social, and spiritual aspects of well-being. By nurturing every dimension of life, we promote overall wellness and equip young individuals with the tools they need to thrive in all areas of their lives.

 Interactive and Fun: Counselling shouldn’t feel like a chore – it should be engaging and enjoyable. That’s why we incorporate interactive activities such as art, music, and storytelling into our sessions. By making counselling fun and interactive, we create a positive and empowering environment where young individuals feel comfortable expressing themselves and exploring new possibilities.

 Ready to Empower Your Child’s Journey?

 Contact us today at demi@the-workshop.co.za to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards unlocking your child’s potential. Together, we’ll navigate the challenges of youth, celebrate their successes, and empower them to embrace a future filled with happiness, fulfilment, and resilience. Empower your child on their journey with counselling; their path to a brighter tomorrow starts here. 


Demi Olivier

 Specialist Wellness Counsellor 

ASCHP: SWC23/1903

Visual and Auditory Processing and Reading Comprehension

Reading isn’t just about knowing words on a page. It’s a mix of different brain tasks like seeing and hearing and being able to process this input in the brain. Being good at seeing and hearing helps you read better and understand more. If we understand how these things work, we can help our kids learn to read even better.

Two fundamental tasks in the brain are visual processing and auditory processing, and these processes help us learn to read efficiently. 

What is Visual Processing?

Visual processing is the brain’s ability to interpret and make sense of visual information from the environment (different from visual acuity which measures how sharp your vision is at distance). In the context of reading, visual processing involves recognizing letters, decoding words, and understanding the spatial arrangement of text on a page. Good visual processing is necessary for these important reading skills:

  1. Letter Recognition: One of the fundamental skills in reading is the ability to recognize letters. Efficient visual processing allows individuals to quickly identify and distinguish between different letters, which forms the basis for word recognition.
  2. Word Decoding: Decoding involves translating written symbols (letters) into their corresponding sounds to pronounce words. Efficient visual processing facilitates rapid and accurate decoding, which helps to read fluently.
  3. Visual Tracking: Reading requires smooth and accurate eye movements to track text from left to right across a page. Strong visual processing skills help to maintain focus and prevent skipping or repeating lines while reading.
  4. Visual Memory: Remembering and recalling visual information, such as the shapes of letters and words, is essential for building vocabulary and comprehending text. A strong visual memory enables readers to recognize words encountered previously which helps us to read fluently. 

Here are some important foundations of visual processing abilities:

  1. Visual Discrimination: being able to recognize the differences and similarities between objects, symbols or shapes (in this case letters).
  2. Visual Memory: being able to remember what something looks like, which helps remember letters, sight words, and spelling rules.
  3. Visual Form Constancy: knowing that letters can exist in different contexts and being able to identify them across contexts.
  4. Visual Sequential Memory: being able to understand the sequence of order of words after viewing them. This helps with spelling and decoding words (ordering letters in a particular sequence). Difficulties here can result in meaning of words being changed and impacting understanding. 
  5. Visual Figure-Ground: ability to distinguish and find a particular object (or word) which helps with scanning text to find a particular piece of information.
  6. Visual Closure: being able to recognise a word when only a part of it is shown which helps to recognise a word without having to fully decode it each time it is encountered.

What is Auditory Processing?

Auditory processing is the brain’s ability to interpret and make sense of sounds. In reading, auditory processing skills are important for skills in phonemic awareness, understanding spoken language, and recognizing the letter-sound correspondence. Efficient auditory processing is necessary for these reading skills:

  1. Phonemic Awareness: Phonemic awareness involves the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Good auditory processing skills enable children to identify subtle differences in sounds, which is crucial for phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.
  2. Letter-Sound Correspondence: Understanding the relationship between sounds and written symbols is fundamental to learning to read. Strong auditory processing skills facilitate the association between spoken sounds and their corresponding letters or letter combinations, which aids in recognising and decoding words.
  3. Oral Language Comprehension: Reading comprehension relies on the ability to understand spoken language. Effective auditory processing enables individuals to extract meaning from oral language, which translates to improved comprehension when reading written text.

Here are some important foundations of auditory processing abilities:

  1. Auditory Awareness: ability to detect where a sound is coming from
  2. Auditory Discrimination: ability to detect differences in specific sounds. This helps to identify differences such as /th/ and /f/.
  3. Auditory Identification: ability to attach meaning to particular sounds which aids in having good letter-sound association.

How can I support my child’s processing abilities in reading instruction?

We can support our children’s visual and auditory processing abilities through targeted strategies, for example:

  1. Multisensory Approaches: Incorporating activities that engage multiple senses (e.g., sight, hearing, touch) can reinforce visual and auditory processing skills at the same time. For example, using manipulatives for letter-sound associations or employing multimedia resources for reading comprehension tasks.
  2. Explicit Instruction: Providing explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary development helps strengthen auditory processing skills essential for reading success. Providing levelled instructions with ample opportunities for practice and feedback is important for reading development.
  3. Differentiated Instruction: Recognizing individual differences in visual and auditory processing abilities, we can adjust our instructions to meet diverse learning needs. Providing accommodations such as audiobooks, visual aids, or assistive technologies can support children with specific processing challenges.

By addressing the connection between visual and auditory processing abilities in reading instruction, we can empower children to become proficient readers. Through supporting our children’s processing abilities, children can unlock the full potential of their reading skills, paving the way for academic success and lifelong learning.

-Caitlin Sassen

How to Foster Listening to Develop Reading and Writing Skills

“Listening is the first thing children learn but it is the last thing taught, if at all. We emphasize reading and speaking in our schools, but listening skills traditionally have not been taught at all. That is changing some what because people are beginning to realize the importance of good listening skills.”

What are good listening skills?

Good listening skills are important in effective communication, and understanding. A good listener doesn’t just hear words but actively engages with the speaker. They do not interrupt, which allows the speaker time to articulate thoughts and feelings. Good listeners aim to understand not only the words spoken but also the emotions underlying them.

Good listening skills include:

– Maintaining eye contact

– Giving full attention to the speaker

– Facing the speaker

– Waiting for their turn to speak

– Knowing not to interrupt

– Asking questions and seeking clarification (this encourages critical thinking and deeper understanding)

How does this aid reading and writing development?

When children actively listen to stories or instructions, they absorb vocabulary, sentence structures, and narrative patterns, which enriches their own writing. Children grasp the subtleties of language, such as tone, mood, and figurative language, which they can then incorporate into their own writing to make it more engaging and expressive. Additionally, by listening carefully to others’ perspectives and ideas, children gain a deeper understanding of various topics and viewpoints, which can inform their writing and help them craft more well-rounded arguments or narratives. Moreover, when children listen actively and ask questions for clarification, they strengthen their comprehension skills, which in turn enhances their ability to interpret and analyse texts when reading.

Overall, good listening skills provide a strong foundation for the development of proficient reading and writing skills by fostering language acquisition, comprehension, and critical thinking abilities.

How to foster good listeners?

– Lead by example

– Create opportunities for communication

– Set clear expectations of how to be a good listener

– Practice active listening

– Giving instructions at home

– Reflecting on emotions: discuss your child’s feelings if they are having a bad day or if something exciting has happened

– Ask questions to clarify what was said

– Engage in turn taking activities: such a Storytelling Hot Potato where people take turns to add a sentence to create a story based on what the last person has said

– Use visual cues if necessary: these include pictures, written instructions or gestures

– Provide feedback and praise

– Limit distractions in their environment

– Be patient and supportive

How to create engaged listeners in reading:

– Read aloud bedtime story or homework books with your child

– Read and discuss the characters and plot of the story, as well as asking your child what they “think” a story might be about before reading, or what might happen next

– Ask open ended questions and encourage your child to discuss more than simple answers

– Active listening games

Storytelling Hot Potato

Simon Says with reading instructions e.g.“find a red book” or “find a word that starts with /b/

– Make reading enjoyable

In order to be a proficient reader, a creative writer and a critical thinker, children need to engage in the world with good listening skills. This allows their brains to absorb information more than just existing in the world.

-Caitlin Sassen

Nurturing Connection: Engaging in Heartfelt Conversations with Your Child on Time to Talk Day 

Time to Talk Day 1 February 2024

Time to Talk Day serves as a special occasion to initiate meaningful conversations about mental well-being, and what better way to celebrate than by engaging with your child? It’s not just about talking at them; it’s about creating opportunities for genuine dialogue, fostering connections, and dismantling any stigma associated with discussing mental health from a young age.

The Impact of Conversations on Your Child’s Well-being: Engaging in conversations with your child is a powerful way to build a supportive foundation. By creating an environment where your child feels comfortable expressing themselves, you provide an essential outlet for their emotions. These open discussions help in breaking down any societal stigmas early on, fostering a sense of belonging, and reducing any potential feelings of isolation. By actively listening and encouraging your child to share their thoughts, you contribute to building a strong support system within your family.

Ways to Encourage Conversations on Talk Day:

  1. Start a conversation: Initiate discussions with your child by asking open-ended questions. Show genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Share your experiences: Open up about your own experiences with emotions and mental well-being. This can create a safe space for your child to do the same.
  3. Explore Together: Take the opportunity to explore resources on the Time to Talk website designed to facilitate conversations with children. Time to Talk Day Website
  4. Share moments on social media using #TimeToTalk

This Talk Day, we encourage you to actively engage with your child, creating an atmosphere where they feel heard and understood. It’s about more than just talking; it’s about fostering a two-way dialogue. If you’re unsure about where to start, a simple ‘how are you feeling?’ can be a powerful way to open the door to deeper conversations. We hope you have a wonderful Time to Talk Day, and we look forward to hearing about your experiences. Let us know by commenting below, sending us a message, or sharing our post!

Embark on a journey of well-being with the Workshop Reading Centre. Beyond fostering literacy, we offer dedicated counselling services for both children and adults. Our center is committed to providing a comprehensive approach to mental health, ensuring that individuals of all ages have access to support and resources. Join us this Talk Day, and let’s nurture connections together. Share your experiences and explore the transformative possibilities of open communication. Connect with us by commenting below, sending us a message, or sharing our post!

-Demi Olivier

Time for lift off into 2024

The beginning of the school year can be an exciting but daunting experience, especially for those starting a new school. Even more so, for those who have difficulty in communicating and interacting with other children.  

School can be hard so keep in mind your child’s well-being and allow them to discuss their feelings, help them to label their emotions and ensure they feel reassured and supported. 

Here are some tips and tricks to build on important areas of development and skills needed to succeed at school. 

Play simple games such as Simon Says, sound recognition games (e.g. I Spy) can aid development of attention, listening skills and phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in words. All of these skills are vital in learning to read and write which is one of the more important skills learnt in the early school years. 

Other ways to develop phonological awareness is to clap syllables in words, singing nursery rhymes

and sounding out new words. When sounding out words it is vital to use the letter sounds (e.g. a for apple), instead of the letter name (e.g. a in ape). Pre-literacy skills can be encouraged before even going to school by reading bed time stories with your children, letting them turn the page and talkingabout characters or what’s happened in the book. Talking about what they think will happen before reading the book encourages imaginative thinking. This is a fun bonding activity that you can do, no matter what age your child is!

Children are required to sit and listen, and to follow instructions for longer periods of time. You can help your child to focus on listening by calling their name to get their attention and getting down to their level when giving them instructions. It can also be helpful to give your child rules for good listening, such as staying quiet when someone is talking to you, looking at the person talking and listening to all the words. Social skills are vital in making friends and developing connections. Set up play dates with other children, engage in turn taking games and board games with your child or cooperative tasks such as baking a cake.

Your child needs your support in order to feel nurtured and allow them to grow and learn to their best ability! We are here to help along the way.

If you notice your child is having difficulty with communicating their feelings, needs and wants, as well as speech and language difficulties or preliteracy, reading and writing skills are difficult, please get in touch with us!

We have the following services on offer:

  • Remedial reading: assessment and intervention on solidifying foundational reading skills and fluency, as well as comprehension skills and developing confidence in reading and writing
  • Speech Therapy: assessment and intervention for speech, language, fluency and voice difficulties.
  • Cellfield Reading Program: focusing specifically on the treatment of reading disorders
  • Counselling: supporting individuals of all ages on their journey to well-being and personal development. 

Contact us today to book an assessment or to discuss your child’s needs.

-Caitlin Sassen

Reading Jargon


Jargon: those words that have tremendous meaning for some and absolutely no meaning for others. Speaking with an ISP (an Internet Something or other) earlier this week reminded me of how we all fall into the trap of using terminology that is as plain as day, but only to some. And sometimes, it can take a while to realise that many of the words being said are actually meaningless, because we understand the gist of what is going on. Besides, no one is going to give us a test on it later. Except our children. They will bring something home – that they will be tested on – and ask for help. Sometimes this brings about a big, fat gulp.

While the ‘Internet Something or Other’ will remain a mystery to me – and I don’t really mind if I’m honest – here are some Englishy terms that may be useful to know:

digraph: two letters next to each other which make a new sound. There are consonant digraphs such as |ch| and vowel digraphs such as |ea|

magic e: also known as ‘bossy e’ and ‘fairy e’, this letter occurs at the end of a word and changes the vowel sound to its long counterpart (consider the different vowel sounds in cap and cape)

syllable: the smallest component of a word that has a vowel, and may or may not have consonants; children often learn how to ‘clap out words’ – this is really handy when spelling long words

phonetic: the sounds that make up a word (not the letters) for example |sh| |ee| |p| – also handy for spelling in the earlier years

parts of speech: the components of a sentence (every sentence has to have a noun and a verb)

figures of speech: the figurative phrasing, such as similes, metaphors etc that makes literature so interesting (many children would wish me to eat those words).

Hopefully this little armoury of words can alleviate some initial panic when faced with the next round of English homework, or meeting with the English teacher.

Dyslexia Awareness


October is Dyslexia Awareness month. A month dedicated to the harder work that Dyslexics have to put in to read and understand a text. Here are a few things Dyslexia is not:

  • muddling up b and d
  • reading words backwards
  • laziness
  • being unfamiliar with phonetic rules
  • a reflection on intelligence

Often the term Dyslexia is associated with reading, however, it permeates through writing and spelling. Often it is the difficulty with reading that is first identified, and it also tends to be the first that improves. As greater lengths of writing are expected, the difficulties in writing and spelling come to the fore. Many variations of “Really?!” are expressed because it appears as though just when one thing is getting better, something else comes along; those somethings were there all along.

As times passes we get a better understanding of what Dyslexia is and isn’t, and as can be seen from the diagrams below the definition has become more complex.

Of greatest importance in the 2002 diagram, is the impact Dyslexia – indirectly – has on comprehension. It is also important to note that the “vocabulary” refers to reading and not necessarily spoken vocabulary, which may even be superior.

A paper written by G. Emmerson Dickman entitled “Dyslexia – What is it Really? Personal Reflections and Scientific Fact” has a wonderful recipe for assisting someone with Dyslexia:

Remediate, Compensate, Accommodate, Promote

Four steps which may happen consecutively, all at once or in a circular fashion (which is most likely) is “all” that is needed to make learning easier (yes learning; the reading, writing and spelling is likely not going to become as automatic as breathing). Unfortunately, many get stuck in the remediation phase. Let these four words become your mantra if you or a loved one has Dyslexia: compensate and accommodate where you can, and never forget to promote their strengths!




The see-atey essaytey on the ematey.

This is not a new language, this is what comes from young children who learn the names of the letter before the sounds.  When it comes to names, think of how an adult would recite the alphabet.  Sounds, on the other hand,  are just that: the individual sounds heard in a word. Using sounds, children are better able to come to the words that make up the sentence The cat sat on the mat.

But “the” and “on” were written the same in both examples?

These are sight words, perhaps a topic for another day, which are expected to be recognised without the need for sounding out.  Indeed some of these words cannot be sounded out at all (once, for example), which is a common criticism for using letter sounds.  As true as this may be, it is our opinion that learning the sounds to start to read, far outweighs this criticism.  The alternative is to learn whole words which as described in a previous article leads to a limited number of words being retained at a time.

In addition to letter sounds benefiting early reading, it facilitates early spelling.  Consider the confusion of the u and w when trying to spell using letter names.

If we think about it, reading involves a bunch of squiggles on a page – help your emerging reader to make sense of those squiggles using sounds.  You can follow this link to hear the correct pronunciation of each sound.

-Delia Tranter

Who Does What?


This topic was sparked by a conversation with a mom questioning whether or not an auditory processing difficulty could be picked up in our reading assessment. I may get into a bit of hot water with some professionals with this one, but I think it would be worth it.

In the briefest of nutshells, an auditory processing difficulty means a child hears something different to everyone else, even though the ears have all picked up the same waves; the reason is poor coordination between the ears and brain. But this is not a newsletter on processing difficulties. It stemmed from the question on whether an assessment of reading could pick up the difficulty or if the mom should take her daughter to an OT. The answer is “no” on both fronts.

Our assessment covers six areas of reading namely, single word reading, decoding, comprehension of silent and out loud reading, as well as speed and accuracy of reading. This gives a profile of a child’s reading age and points to possible causes of the perceived difficulty with reading (which is a very broad term). If we do an informal spelling assessment, we may suspect a complication in auditory processing but certainly cannot diagnose it.

In a similar vein, the primary function of an OT (occupational therapist) is to develop gross and fine motor skills – not auditory processing. And no, a speech therapist is not the right avenue either as their role is to develop the articulation of speech sounds – not auditory processing.

There is of course a degree of overlap across the professionals listed above: a child who says /w/ for /r/ may attend speech therapy to correct the tongue placement, occupational therapy for the broader muscular difficulties that resulted in the poor articulation and remedial therapy to correct the spelling difficulty that occurred because “ring” and “wing“ sound the same when the child says it and therefore are spelt the same. Incorporating spelling – that involves the /r/ – into speech and occupational therapy sessions is a means of consolidation.

While there may well be overlap, it is always best to consider the primary function of the professional your child may be seeing. The mom mentioned above was referred to an audiologist who uses specific equipment to determine how information is heard and processed.

-Delia Tranter