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When Learning Doesn’t Come Easy
From the moment we learn we are expecting, our minds and hearts are overflowing with hopes and dreams for them. My child will be the prettiest, brightest, most talented little person to ever walk the earth, right? And they are for each of us!
But sometimes we discover that there is a “problem”. The last thing we want to admit is that there is something different or wrong with our child. It’s a hard thing to do. Not that we love them less! But let’s be honest, we’d rather sit with other moms and share how our 4-year-old can read a book of chapters, do multiplication at 6, and paint like Rembrandt at 7. Not to mention that they are also on their way to the Olympics in two different sports. Or at least that seems to be the case when you’re the one quietly listening to all the accomplishments of other people’s children!
So, let’s get this straight… Chances are those other moms are exaggerating just a little bit! And there is nothing wrong with your child! Even if your child has a learning disability. She or he simply learns differently from the mainstream! And really, it’s pretty cool!
However, I did not always feel this. After struggling to teach my daughter to read for 3 years with little progress, I was quite frustrated and so was she. Every school session ended in tears and some days started in tears at the mere mention of reading. She had always loved books and being read to and was excited to learn to read on her own. So why was it such a struggle? Was I just a bad teacher? Was she too easily distracted and not motivated enough?
We finally decided to take the tests when we were 7 years old. I had noticed a lot of letter and word inversions when reading and writing as well as in math. She complained of headaches and eye pain while reading (and a vision test revealed she had 20/20 eyesight). I needed to know what was holding us back. I knew she was extremely intelligent in many ways, but we were hitting a brick wall. Since we homeschooled, we decided to have her tested by a private therapist. It took 4 hours to complete and upon completion we were told she had visual and auditory processing disorders.
I then went into mom search mode! And as I read and searched the internet and the library, I became more and more confused and overwhelmed! There didn’t seem to be a really helpful book or website and the ones I found seemed to tell me different things! We decided to go for vision therapy, which of course is not covered by insurance, are any of us surprised? But we thought it was worth a try and worth it. In therapy, she worked on relearning phonics using A Time for Phonics. We also did assigned therapy at home. After 6 months she was done and I could definitely see a huge improvement! We didn’t do hearing therapy with the therapist because of the cost, but I used a program called Earobics for the home. I also found The Out of Sync Child and When the Brain Can’t Hear very helpful.
My search continued to find other ways to help her learn in a way that matches her learning styles. You see, processing disorders and dyslexia need not be an obstacle! There are so many ways to learn. The moment I realized this was when I found a book by Ben Foss, The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. I encourage everyone to read it! Also check out his website! I hate the word housing. It gives the impression that you need extra or special help, a bit like being allowed to cheat. There should be no shame in learning differently. Figure out what your child’s strengths are and tap into those skills. Don’t focus on the standard way most children learn to read. I was so incredibly grateful that we chose homeschooling because my daughter didn’t have to compare herself to others or be labeled in any way. But even if your child is in a public or private school, remember that your child is not broken, but the system can be. Ask your child to have the resources they need to excel and feel connected.
What resources can you use? Oh, there are so many! This is where I was captivated! I will list some of the resources that I thought were the best. But look around and explore the options available!
– Audiobooks are your friends! Don’t delay learning because you can’t read the material fast enough! If your child learns well by listening, try Audible. Amazon also offers audiobooks, as does your local library.
-A reading concentration card. You can make your own or buy one. Also try to print your pages on yellow paper, or try colors other than the usual white.
-Use a text-to-speech app like Speak It or Talk to Me, as well as a text-to-speech app like Dragon Dictation. Another useful application is Prizmo, users can scan any type of text document and the program reads it aloud, which can be a great help for those who have difficulty reading.
-I love Snapwords to learn sitewords! There’s also an app for Snapwords now!
-Fonts and background colors: Software regularly used in schools, such as Microsoft Word, is a good resource for fonts and background colors. Changing the background color to green, for example, can help with reading, as can wearing green glasses. Fonts can also enable reading and understanding; teachers can download free specialty fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, which are free and can run on Microsoft software.
-All About Spelling, this program is great for all kids but the multi-sensory approach based on the Orton-Gillingham methods clicked with my daughter! We haven’t tried All About Reading but I’d bet it’s a good option.
-We used Rocket Phonics after completing vision therapy. It was developed by a dyslexic man, and it’s fun! There are many games involved and interesting stories to read, not the usual boring books that are your typical easy read.
-Mathematics was a struggle for us as well as reading. Memorizing facts is a challenge. I found a math program that uses associative learning, employing fact and process mnemonics called Semple Math.
– GET PRACTICE! Use clay, paint, blocks, magnets, etc. to practice letters, spelling and sounds. Learn to write the letters correctly first in the sand with your index finger, then move on to writing with a pencil. Have fun! Use all the senses!
-To play games! Some we’ve used and enjoyed are Sum Swamp, What’s Gnu?, Scrabble, Very Silly Sentences, Boggle Jr. even card games like addition war (lay down two cards each and add them up) or Alphabet Go Fish (you have to say letter sounds), search Pinterest and the internet for fun games to practice math facts and letter sounds or word spelling and sight. Even if your child is older, there are fun, multi-sensory, hands-on ideas
Moms (and dads), my purpose in writing this is to give you some starting points. And to let you know that you are not alone! I know it can be disappointing at first to learn that your child is struggling in some way. But it can also feel like a weight has been lifted on how your child learns and that there are ways to support and empower your toddler. I know that if you are in a school setting, you will need to explain to your child why he may go to a special class or take tests differently from other children. You have to trust yourself to know how to talk to your child. There are children’s books that talk about dyslexia and learning problems in a positive light, such as Merci, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco, The Alphabet War by Diane Robb, and for older children May B by Caroline Rose or Niagara Falls, Where is it? By Henry Winkler (yes, Fonzie from Happy Days!)
Try to emphasize his strengths and affinities and don’t just focus on his weaknesses and difficulties. Remind your child that he can learn, but he learns in a unique way, and that’s okay! We are all unique and have our own strengths and weaknesses. Love your child for who they are and hope they find the right tools to get their learning off the ground!
I never thought I would see the day when my daughter’s favorite activity would be reading! Run, keep hooking up, relax and have fun, and love them no matter what!
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