Last week we did an assessment on a bright, enthusiast, polite, smiling, happy 6 year old girl. This assessment has affected me like none we have done so far.
Her parents told her teacher that they were concerned about her lack of progress with numbers, letters, colours and other seemingly simple tasks for a child her age. Lucky for her she is in a small independent school with small class sizes. Her teacher listened to the concerns of the parents and agreed that her progress was not where it should be. This teacher had heard of the work we do and contacted us to see if we could shed some light on this issue. The parents agreed to us doing an assessment on their daughter.
We met her early in the morning at her school and were introduced to her by her Mom and younger brother. Like we always do with our assessments we assured her that this was not a test and there were no right or wrong answers, we were just there to see what she was good at and what she needed help with. We did our regular testing procedures with letters, colours, numbers, cause and effect, word families, etc. It soon became obvious to us that she had quite a few Dyslexic issues, which we had expected after speaking to her teacher. What affected me so deeply were her reactions to the exercises we had her do.
As I have said in earlier articles, I am not Dyslexic but I am very right-brained. I never had problems with words or numbers but I did have trouble with tasks that were explained unclearly and I always need the big picture explained, still do. So I wasn’t ready to experience the fear and anguish this young girl experienced doing our exercises. Anything that had to do with individual letters, the alphabet, counting numbers, copying letters were all tasks that she absolutely hated. She threw the paper on the floor and refused to do the tasks, she was polite but adamant that she couldn’t do the work. In earlier assessments I had experienced students who were a little older and had already started making their own accommodations to these learning tasks. Yes they had issues but were starting to understand some of the abstracts involved in learning their school work. This little girl was stalled, she was at a wall that she was not going to get over or around without some drastic changes in her schooling.
The co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online, Karen Hope, has experienced this degree of difficulty with Dyslexia with her own children. In her books she even states that some Dyslexics just don’t understand the abstractness of our language and numbers and time and directions. She says that many Dyslexic kids won’t get it till they get to the second or third grade or older. Having experienced the anguish the young girl went through I now know what that looks like. There really is no use in trying to teach abstracts like this to Dyslexic children at such an early age, at least not with the common methods being used in schools today. Where we live in Canada there is a push for literacy skills called “Success by 6”. I’m sure it is an achievable goal for most kids but not for the ones we work with.
I know I have rambled a bit but the point I am trying to make is more of what we keep saying. These Dyslexic individuals learn differently than the majority of students. I saw how ineffective regular teaching methods were for this child. This is not a blog just about things that don’t work though because we did make progress with her during that single session.
There is a specific 14 step program Karen created for teaching Dyslexics how to spell and read using their particular learning strengths. One of the steps involves turning a word into an image that the child can visualize. It works very well and our young client responded to it almost immediately. With just a few minutes of training she was able to spell and print three age appropriate words that were impossible for her to do earlier that day using traditional methods taught at the school. We had other success with her too. She is really fortunate because the school she attends understands that students learn at different rates and we are going to work with those teachers and create teaching methods that work for her.
Go to our website and try our book “Teaching the Dyslexic Student: Spelling and Language Arts”. It contains the 14 step method and other Dyslexic appropriate teaching tools as well. Actually, these teaching methods work very well with non-Dyslexic student too.
If you have questions please email me at:firstname.lastname@example.org