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Jul 06, 2011 - 6 comments



tutoring dyslexic children


testing for dyslexia

A little over two years ago, I posted a journal with concerns about my son's reading skills and progression. He was in preschool and 4½ years old at the time, being taught the basics of reading such as recognizing letters, short vowel sounds, consonent blends, and phonetically sounding out three letter words and sight words. At his preschool, they taught this by activity teaching (games, drawing pictures, etc) and worksheets and booklets that took probably a total of 30-45 minutes, in intervals, throughout the day. Looking back at my journal from two years ago, here were some of my concerns and frustrations:

- He seems to see lower-case b, d, p, and q as the same. He even confuses their sounds....This also *sometimes* happens in differentiating lower-case  a  (written the "rounded way"), c, g, and h, but he's better at not mixing these letters up as much. Others he has trouble differentiating are k and x, and m and n. I realize this may be common for children learning to long does it take before they are able to definitely differentiate these letters and sounds?

- Working with putting his phonetics together to say a monosyllabic three or four letter word has been extremely frustrating for me. He knows all the sounds of the letters, and quite a few blends (when he's not confusing the b and d sounds, etc, anyway). But he *never* wants to finish sounding out a word--he always says the first two sounds and then starts throwing guesses for the word out there that have those first two sounds, expecting one of them to be verified as the correct word for him.

Fast forward two years and a few months later to today. He will be seven years old in November and starts 1st grade the first week of August.

- He has learned to read fairly well, but he's still struggling with these exact same issues, and a few others. He still confuses the lowercase b, d, p, q, m, and n practically each time he tries to read them.

- He is ALWAYS (no exaggeration) writing numbers and letters backwards, even if I have him write them repeatedly--a few minutes later, he writes them backwards again. The main letters and numbers he writes backwards are 3, 5, 6, 7, G, D, S, b, and d.

- He consistently reads short words backwards, particularly on, no, was, saw, bed, now, won (and confuses now and won with own), to name a few.

- He still "shuts down" when I ask him to sound out a word, even if it's a word he knows. He just starts throwing words out there, sometimes nonsense words, based on the sound of the first letter of the word, or the illustration he sees, hoping he'll eventually get the right word, instead of making any effort to sound out the word. He does this with words that are 2-5 letters long and I know he knows the words if he would only READ them--they're sight words or words that are easily sounded out if the effort is put forth. If I cut him off from guessing and tell him to look at the letters and make the sounds to figure out the word, he gets EXTREMELY frustrated and starts shouting more guesses, still not making the effort to use phonetics.

This is a frustrating battle that he and I fight each time I sit him down to practice reading each day. I try to stay very calm and take things one letter at a time, one word at a time, but getting him to cooperate and make any effort to'd think I was threatening to rip his fingernails out or something!
Another concern is his handwriting. It's not illegible, but it's sloppy--it seems he puts about the same amount of effort into writing as he does reading. His letters are consistently over or undersized, sinking below the line or floating above it, and he doesn't complete writing letters like a (written the "rounded way"), b, d, g, h, n, p, and y.
I actually didn't have a concern about his writing until a couple of weeks before he graduated kindergarten. I was invited to a Mother's Day morning event, and the kids had made cards and drawings for their moms. The cards had notes written by the kids. I could barely read what my son wrote and had to ask him what he wrote--his words were all over the place and his spelling made no sense based on how he speaks (which is how they taught them to write; phonetically). I will admit I looked at the other kids' cards displayed around his table (he had a small class of 12 other kids), every single card that was within my vision, which was probably 10 out of the 12 other students, and every single one of them had nice, neat handwriting, and recognizable words. Yet my son's writing looked like he started kindergarten a week ago. I felt a bit irritated with the teacher at that moment because I had raised concerns to her a couple of times over the course of the year about his behavior and lack of focus, and her feedback was not at all concerned--she seemed to have excuses at the drop of a hat--"It's not just him, it's all the kids--we've been rained in for recess alot and they have too much pent up energy," and "He is making progress."
Well, he may have made progress, but for as much money as I paid for him to be in that private school, in a small class, maybe I expected too much...but noticing that nearly every single student in his class seemed to have advanced much better than he did as far as handwriting and writing phoenetically made me irritated.
Another issue is his reading comprehension. He could ace the reading tests in kindergarten if I read him the books sent home--he's got an exceptionally good memory. But toward the last month and a half of his kindergarten year, I was making him read more of the books on his own, and helping him along the way with words--needless to say, I generally read most of the books. However, the more I demanded him to read on his own, the more his reading comprehension test scores dropped. The last four tests he took before the school year was out, he failed completely. These were simple books with simple words and the stories were very short. I could have him read the book on his own three or four times (as recommended before testing) and it would seem he'd have the book memorized, review it with him in the car on the way to school, and he'd still score badly or fail the test. Yet if I read him the book three times, reviewed it with him, and sent him to test--he'd ace it.
He's been out of school since May 25, and he had a recommended reading list and book list sent home for the summer, encouraging parents to work with their children each day for short periods of time to keep them up to par before returning to school for the next grade level, because without practicing their reading and writing for 2½-3 months has statistically shown regression of up to three or more months by the time they start the next grade level. So, I bought him a first grade workbook and have him do 3-6 pages each day, I get him library books and have him read one or two a day, I make him flash cards from the list of 1,000 words that were sent home in one of his school packets (I make a set each day), I have him write in his journal about once a week which only has to be 2-4 sentences written phoenetically, and I read to him every night from a devotional book, Harry Potter, and library know, ALL those things that parents are encouraged to do. I make sure we do it. Education is held in extremely high regards in my family, so instead of just blowing off all the recommendations and letting my kid have a completely carefree summer of nothing but fun and boredom, then sending him back to school regressed three or more months, I'm enforcing about 30-50 minutes of schoolwork and reading a day and making sure to read to him each night before bed.
But it's a battle and I'm getting really concerned as to why this is such a challenge for him.
I am so frustrated, wondering if he's stuck, wondering if there's something wrong...I've had concerns about his extremely active behavior and reading/comprehension skills since he's been about two years old. I don't want to seem like I'm TRYING to find something wrong with my son, but something just seems off and has for awhile, and the only reason I haven't pursued testing is because nothing seems quite "bad enough" according to most other people who say he's acting like a normal boy his age should. I don't want to seem like I'm not practical with my expectations of him because I feel like I am well within my bounds of expectations. I am not an overbearing, overachieving, ultra competitive mother. I just want my child to be at ease learning, and it seems more difficult for him than it should be.
I've looked up signs of dyslexia and here are the symptoms he shows:

-Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level. (he is at grade level, but barely, and it didn't come with ease)
-Isn't "behind enough" or "bad enough" to be helped in the school setting.
-Hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
-Talented in art, **drama**, music, sports, **mechanics**, **story-telling**, sales, business, designing, **building**, or engineering. (the ** are where my son's talents lie)
-Seems to "Zone out" or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
-Difficulty sustaining attention; seems "hyper" or "daydreamer."
-Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids.
-Confused by letters, numbers, words, sequences, or verbal explanations.
-Reading or writing shows repetitions, additions, transpositions, omissions, substitutions, and reversals in letters, numbers and/or words.
-Reads and rereads with little comprehension.
-Spells phonetically and inconsistently.
-Has extended hearing; hears things not said or apparent to others; easily distracted by sounds.
-Trouble with writing or copying; pencil grip is unusual; **handwriting varies or is illegible.**
-Has difficulty telling time, managing time, learning sequenced information or tasks, or being on time.
-Computing math shows dependence on finger counting and other tricks; knows answers, but can't do it on paper.
-Excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations, and faces.
-**Extremely disorderly** or compulsively orderly.
-Can be **class clown,** trouble-maker, or too quiet.
-Had unusually **early** or late developmental stages (**talking,** crawling, walking, tying shoes). (My son was speaking two-word sentences by 8 months old).
-Strong sense of justice; emotionally sensitive; strives for perfection.
-Mistakes and symptoms increase dramatically with confusion, time pressure, emotional stress, or poor health.

This site in particular had much more information, SO MUCH of which applies to my son--it's amazing.

So I'm just wondering--are my expectations for my son's academics, especially over the summertime, way too high? Am I creating a problem for my son and myself because I'm not being realistic that he's just a 6½ year old boy?
Or should I get him tested for dyslexia as soon as possible? Especially before school starts...or should I wait and see if his new teacher has any concerns to tell me? (although I haven't gotten any concerns from the last two years of teachers he's had--all of whom maintained "he's right where he should be" academically, even through all the concerns I've expressed. I DO NOT expect my son to be at the top of his class at each grade level, as lovely as that would be, but good grief, I don't want him struggling just to meet minimum requirements and that be good enough for the teachers to pass him).

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184674 tn?1360860493
by AHP84, Jul 07, 2011
Any thoughts? Advice? Experiences?
Sorry this is so long, but I really could use any of the above to determine whether or not to wait these issues out or wait for a teacher to tell me something after the school year begins, or seek testing for dyslexia as soon as possible.
If he does have it...I don't think it's severe since it hasn't held him back so far, but I don't know if this could be something that gets worse over time.

326352 tn?1310994295
by lhughes, Jul 07, 2011
First off I've got to ask WHEN do you have TIME for all the things you do with him?  I'm AMAZED!  We have very little time in the evenings to do much of anything.  And we regularly forget to read things and have the girls practice their reading and writing even during the school year.  

Kathryn has some of the same issues that Trev has.  She also was last in her class on reading.  She writes those same things backwards continually, gets the same set of letters backwards or forgets entirely what they are/sound like.  She also has some of the same characteristics except she's a girl.  Maybe it's just our "first kids"????  

Kathryn's teachers assure me that she is while last in the class she is not behind where she should be.  Kathryn had a hard time "getting it" when the reading started.  This year I have seen more progress after Christmas than I did in the previous years.  She is getting much better but it is SLOW.  We have tried VERY hard not to push and let her guide herself to understanding.  And we try very hard not to get frustrated and make HUGE deals over the littlest of improvements.  But coming from 2 educated computer people, the parents are very not happy that she's just not getting it like the rest of her class.  I asked about the dyslexia to both her K4 and K5 teachers, too.  I still think sometimes she might be dyslexic or have some learning/reading issue that we have not pinned down.  But they both assured me that what she is going through is typical.  She's behind her peers in some ways but in their opinions she is not dyslexic or anything else.  .

And one more thing you are going to experience soon that we are now ... and it frustrates Kathryn to no end... Lauren can read just as good if not better than Kathryn.  Lauren "got it" immediately.  Lauren is a much stronger student and VERY competitive.  That has been a hamper to Kathryn's learning and her confidence.

I'd say he's probably "ok" just like Kathryn.  One thing I will recommend that we've had to retrain ourselves with is to back off from pushing so hard.  Kathryn seems to do much better when we let her guide what she wants to read, how much she wants to read, and then pick out what she wants us to read to her.  We also trade off who does what child's reading (can't do them together because of the competitiveness and Kathryn will just shut down).  So one night I get Kathryn, then the next time I read with Lauren.  

184674 tn?1360860493
by AHP84, Jul 07, 2011
That is so reassuring to hear! Seriously...I've felt kind of alone in this struggle since two years ago because everyone tells me he's "normal" and "where he should be for grade level," etc., yet I've watched literally EVERY classmate he's had over the last two years seem to "get it" and progress faster, or at least with more ease, than he has. I desperately want him to do a little better--have it a little easier, you know? For two years, I've made efforts to work with him at home as often as I can to keep him at the level he is, or to HOPEFULLY improve, and over his kindergarten year, I've cracked down on my committment to that. It's not just something I do with him a few days a week anymore--I try to work with him every single day for at least an hour at a time.
And it's just such a struggle, a challenge, a battle! I get so frustrated sometimes because for as often as we repeat and review, as patient and creative as I try to be in tutoring's like it never sinks in!!! HOW is that possible?!

I don't feel that I pressure him too much with schoolwork--that's one thing I have learned, acknowledge, and respect with him is that he has a very short attention span. I can't expect him to sit down and do a full hour of work, or even 15 minutes of reading, without cutting it into intervals. And I try to let him have freedom to make decisions whenever possible for his own learning so that he stays interested--such as I let him pick out which worksheet he wants to do next, and a bunch of the library books are ones he chose himself (I do pick out some because otherwise, he'd get a bunch of books I know he can't read himself), and I try to be as innovative in teaching him as possible to keep him from getting bored. I probably should rearrange some of my techniques, though.
I did try letting him have the "do your own pace" thing, but he loses all motivation. If he doesn't have to do it, he won't, and yet he somehow works it to seem like he's doing it on his own--that symptom of "Hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies" deal. I don't even know how to explain in words what he does to achieve this, but he does. It's actually pretty amazing, lol.
Finding the time to keep up with all this is undoubtedly a challenge in itself, lol. Sometimes, we do skip a day here an there because we just lose the time to do it among other things going on. But as crazy as this sounds, Brandon and I actually made a written schedule of the hours of each weekday when we are home, and scheduled things into time slots--household chores, time with the kids, and Trevor's homework. We try to stick to is as strictly as possible but it doens't always work.
During the days while I'm at work and Brandon is at school or work, my 16 year old sister stays at our house and watches Trevor. I set aside his worksheets and a library book for the day before I leave in the morning and she has him do them before I get home. I review them with him when I get home, make dinner, get the bedtime routines done for the boys, and then read with Trevor before bed--granted we have the time for it. Sometimes we don't due to him having a taekwondo class that evening or errands...or I'm just too tired, lol.

I still am not sure whether I should pursue testing for him before starting 1st grade or just wait this out a little longer, though.

326352 tn?1310994295
by lhughes, Jul 07, 2011
I think you should quit beating yourself up over this.  YES IT'S HARD not to beat yourself up when you see something you should fix!  You might not pressure him, but he knows you are pressuring yourself to get him up to level (or that's probably what he thinks).  I know this because Kathryn told me this about me.  She's also told me I make her nervous and sometimes daddy does too.  

184674 tn?1360860493
by AHP84, Jul 07, 2011
Well, I don't think I'm necessarily beating myself up, lol. But I will admit that it is HARD to just let things be or let things go when I genuinely feel that something is not right with his reading skills. Something is just "off" and my main goal is to figure out what it is and pursue a way around it, have a method to work with, so learning to read and write doesn't have to be the challenge that it appears to be for him, and to calm my concerns and frustrations when I have to help him. Right now, he reaches points of zoning out, breaking down in frustration, and losing all focus barely after getting started more than half the time--like, less than two minutes into trying to read a book or complete a worksheet that has simple handwriting exercises--things that should realistically take him 5-10 minutes to complete with ease.
I don't want to push him so hard that he hates academics, and I can confidently say I am not doing that. I also don't want to just let this go and only have him read a book or do a worksheet from time to time--I strongly feel that this should be a daily thing for him just like school, but with much less demand as far as time and pressure. Like I said, I don't want him going back to school having regressed to being less than halfway through a kindergarten level at the rate he seems to retain anything that has to do with reading and writing.
I probably do make him nervous from time to time because I know my frustration shows now and then, and sometimes I will admit, I express my frustrations to him. That does help get his focus back on track and he is more motivated to work, but I don't like when we end up reaching that point even if it does get the job done. To avoid this happening--and I go to GREAT lengths to avoid this happening--I am sure to give him LOTS of breaktime intervals, praise, rewards, and goal incentives. Most days, this all works, and we get through it. But it's ALWAYS a struggle for him and I just feel that after four to five months of reading independently and the last 2½ years of handwriting practice, SOME progress should show for all the effort my poor boy makes!
He's not a slow learner with hands-on learning--he's so intelligent. And his vocabulary and capacity to use it is well ahead of most kids his age. I just think reading and writing shouldn't be as difficult for him as it appears to be...
But maybe I'm missing something on the spectrum of what's "normal" and my expectations are too high--I keep coming back to that and feel insecure about seeking testing for him because of it. I am not looking for something to be wrong with him, I just want to make this an easier process for us.

I did end up calling the local dyslexia center and left a message for them this afternoon, so I guess once I get a call back, we'll go from there. Hopefully, I can get a bit more insight and/or direction for this issue. :-)

184674 tn?1360860493
by AHP84, Aug 01, 2011
Just wanted to update. :-)

I called the local dyslexia center the day I wrote my last entry and left a message on their voicemail, indicating that I'd like to learn more information about dyslexia, their clinic, and possible testing because I had concerns about my 6½ year old son.
I never got a call back.
However, about a week after making that call, I made an appointment to get his eyes checked--something I intended to have done before he starts school next week anyway. Turns out, he is red/green deficient (color blind), slightly farsighted and needs glasses (but not a strong prescription), and has focus ability issues so he was referred to vision therapy.
He had his first vision therapy appointment as an assessment last week and they've determined that he has almost no ability to track with his eyes back and forth or up and down--instead of moving his eyes to track, he moves his whole head. He also has very limited ability to focus from far to near--not so much the vision being blurry as it is, to the best of my understanding, that re-focusing is not processed correctly from the eye to the brain from far to near. The therapist noted as well that for his age, he should recognize printed and written letters and numbers as facing the correct direction most times he sees them, but he is significantly behind. He CONSISTENTLY writes letters and numbers backwards, even if he is looking at them printed in front of him, and he does not recognize if letters or numbers are backwards if they're printed something like over 80% of the time, which is significant. Based on this, the therapist thinks he might be dyslexic, but can't determine that until further appointments, which he'll need twice a week for 18 weeks at least. She would also like to refer him to an occupational therapist for developing his handwriting, which she described as "sketchy" and too light, making it difficult to read, as if he isn't using the proper muscle control in his hand when he writes.
I cannot express how relieved I am to have my concerns verified by a professional medical team of eye doctors and vision therapists. I've noticed for two whole years that something just didn't seem right--something was off--but I was too insecure to really follow through with finding out much. I didn't want to seem like I was trying to find something wrong with him or expecting too much at an age where he was too young. I've questioned people for two years, asked for advice and opinions, and almost always was told not to worry, he's normal, right where he needs to be, and "he's just being a typical six year old boy."
I wanted to believe it all, I really did. But day after day, the problem just got more pervasive, more frustrating to deal with for us both. I couldn't take it anymore because it was like every time I'd try to help him learn something, he wanted to learn it but everything would turn into a battle just to get him to complete anything or retain anything. He was clearly starting to hate schoolwork and reading, and I was beginning to hate helping and making him do it.
It should NEVER have to get to that point. I am so glad I finally got over feeling inadequate and insecure about pursuing testing for him and didn't just let this go. The vision therapist told me if we hadn't caught this issue now to begin working his vision into recovery, he'd be visually disabled by third grade, no doubt, and much, much more difficult to rehabilitate. I'm glad I listened to my gut instincts...just wish I would've done it a little bit sooner...but I'm glad he'll be going into first grade a week from today with every advantage and benefit he can get to progress with the ease that every other kid has. :-)

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