Tag Archives: reading disability

Best day ever

Oh happy day.

Seriously. Neither of my children has homework today. It might just possibly be the best day ever.

This morning I had a meeting with Dash’s teachers, because they wanted to talk to me about some observations they’ve made about his reading and his vision.

And after we’d talked about that, and agreed that I should make a new appointment with the eye doctor because the teachers are convinced that a lot of his reading hurdles are still vision-related, I mentioned that homework is always a battle, especially the reading portion of it.

They instantly said “Well, what can we do to fix that? Can he stay on here and do it after school? Can he do it during the day? You should have told us sooner.” I was flabbergasted. I had been meaning to mention it at our parent-teacher meetings next month, but I didn’t seriously think they’d be able to take the burden of the 20 minutes of reading, cornerstone of homework requirement, away. Just like that, they did.

They still want him to do a little homework, for the executive functioning reason of developing a habit of getting out your work, checking what you need to do, and doing something at home. But if he can do the 20 minutes of reading, so much the sticking point for us every night, at school instead, our quality of life will be enormously improved.

This evening was so peaceful. Mabel happens to have no homework this week either, though her homework is not a battleground, but it was just the icing on the cake.

I mean, she still didn’t get out of the bath the first ten times I politely suggested she should, and nobody’s asleep yet, but as evenings go, I’d like more of this sort.

Dash on his new bike

No homework? Time to get up some speed on your new bike.

 

New school blues (or not)

So, Dash, how’s the new school?

He’s probably sick of being asked, so I’ll synthesize his recent comments for you.

There are lockers, which is probably the most exciting thing.

And desks that have lids, so you keep your stuff inside them. Those are also the most exciting thing.

And on Friday afternoons the school gets together and has races and things, divided into houses just like in Hogwarts, and each house has a chant and a secret handshake and Dash was put in the house he really wanted to be in because it has the coolest symbol. Which is a dragon.

Nothing could be better than a dragon, obviously. The other houses are just sissies, with their eagle and unicorn and whatever the other thing is.

Also, instead of art they have “makers’ class” where they get to make things and use glue guns and saws and other dangerous implements. Dash is now planning to build an extension to his room so he can play his ukulele without annoying us.

Yes, they are learning the ukulele, which is great because Dash already has one. He has been strumming it non stop since Friday afternoon now, and he doesn’t know any chords yet. We are all slowly going insane.

Some of us faster than others, actually.

So those are pretty much the salient points of Dash’s new school. As for reading, well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. They’re still getting to grips with all that.

 

Dash update – what next?

So as not to bury the lede: Dash is going to a new school next year.

Some time after Christmas I bumped into someone who asked me how he was doing and told me about a great school her daughters go to. It’s specifically for bright kids who have reading difficulties, or similar — just like Dash. I looked it up online, and on a whim I decided to go along to an open house one morning and see what they had to say. Mostly, I thought I might get some guidance, maybe a few names of tutors in my area or ideas about what we should do next.

At the open house, they showed us a video of interviews with students — and oh, the pathos — these sweet, bright, super-articulate children told the camera about how they’d felt stupid, they’d cried over homework, they’d hated school; and now it’s all turned around. As an ad for the school, I have to admit it worked like a charm. I don’t think Dash feels stupid, or hates school; but it may be only a matter of time before that starts to happen, and I’d really rather it didn’t. He’s certainly only getting the great grades he gets thanks to his unlimited time to finish things accommodations, and his school is not able to provide any sort of remediation that’s helping his reading get better. (It’s not their fault. They don’t know what to do with him. And they have a lot of kids to help – kids with bigger problems, who shout louder (literally) and cause more trouble.)

So I applied for this other school, since its application deadline for the year was just coming up. I thought, what the heck, if he gets offered a place, then maybe it’s meant to be. The other element, of course, was the financial one, because private schools like this are not cheap. We’d need to qualify for financial aid as well.

Fourth grade is their intake year, so he had a better chance of getting a place this year than any other, with a whole class (of 10) to fill. Also, not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good at filling in forms where I get to describe my children. Then they called us up and said that they’d like to invite him in for two days of school, to shadow a student and do some testing and generally see the lie of the land, to see if he was a good fit for them, and them for him.

I hadn’t planned on telling him about it at this early stage, when it was such an uncertain thing, but obviously he couldn’t spend two days there without knowing what it was about, so I did. He really rose to the occasion. I couldn’t have been prouder of him: he took the information on board and went along with a twinge of nerves but an optimistic outlook. I brought him in and dropped him off, and by the time I picked him up at the end of the school day he had made some friends, the teachers knew him by name, and he had had a great time. I think they liked him, too. The second day, he was happy to jump out of the car and head on in.

Since then, he’s been really sanguine about the not-knowing that was driving us crazy. He’d be happy to go there, but he’d also be happy to stay where he is. For all his rigidity in some ways – food, for instance – he’s amazingly flexible when it comes to the bigger picture, and he has a great ability to go with the flow.

He was offered a place, but we still didn’t know about the financial side of things. My laid-back “what will be, will be” attitude was taking a bit of a beating. The more I thought about it, the more I felt we owed it to him to make this happen, no matter how happy he is at the local school and how easy it makes our life to have two kids leaving the house at 8:45 every morning and sauntering up the road to school.

Yesterday we got word that it’s happening. He’s going to the other school. Come September I will be complaining about traffic and early mornings and trying to bilocate (or call in favours) in order to be in two places at the same time for school pickup – but Dash will be somewhere that’s exactly right for him, with teachers who know how reading works and who see how his brain works and who show him tools to get around learning when reading is extra hard, and with friends who have similar challenges. Even if we can only swing it for one year, it’s going to be a good thing.

Dash is excited about having a locker, like in the Arthur cartoons. He’s disappointed he won’t get to play the trombone in fourth grade, which he’d just signed up for (but who knows, maybe the new school has trombones too). Mabel is annoyed that she won’t be able to wave to him in passing in the hallways any more.

I’m relieved. I think this is called doing your best for your children, and if I have to get up early and hit the beltway morning traffic to do it – sure, we’ll give it a go.

Next steps

We had the IEP meeting at the school on Thursday. (If you need catching up, here’s the background.)

The real reason I like being on the PTA board and taking an active part in the school is not so that the staff will say, on occassions like this, “Oh, Dash’s parents are pillars of the local community; we’d better do right by him.” It’s because when I end up in a meeting like this, I’m familiar with at least some of the faces around the table, so I’m less intimidated and more comfortable.

So we were there, Dash’s parents; and the school counselor and the school psychologist and the special ed teacher and two more special ed teachers and the principal and Dash’s classroom teacher. Everyone had read the report but only three of them knew Dash at all. I tried to describe how Dash reads, and at everything I said his classroom teacher was nodding and doing the finger-to-nose-point-at-the-person-who-gets-the-right-answer thing. So we were all on the same page as far as that went.

I suppose what I was hoping for was that they would say “Ah yes. In these cases, we do A and B and C and then they progress wonderfully,” but of course they didn’t. Dash’s case is not so typical – most kids with reading difficulties need extra help with decoding, but his decoding is fine; he needs work on fluency and automatization, which is not so clearcut because it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why he lacks these things.

But they will pull him out every day to work on that with a specialist, and continue to give him the accommodations he currently has under his 504 plan (based on his vision assessment last year) to do with sitting at the front of the class and getting a printout where necessary to minimize having to look from the board to a page and back. He’ll still get extra time when needed and will also have shortened assignments if that makes sense rather than the extra time, which can eat up so much of the rest of his school day. The counsellor will check in with him regularly to see how he’s feeling about it all.

He won’t get an IEP, because you have to be performing below grade level to get one, and he’s not. But the 504 will do what we need, for now, and it’s easier to administer too, so I think it’s okay that we have that and I don’t feel the need to fight for anything more at this time. He might qualify as TAG (Talented and Gifted), but that’s decided mostly at county level and won’t happen for a while yet. The school will submit his private evaluation at that time and they’ll take his scores into account along with everything else. If he’s TAG as well as LD, then it would make him 2E or “twice exceptional,” which sounds so very elitist that I don’t even like to say it, but I suppose it serves a purpose in identifying people with needs at both ends of the scale simultaneously.

It’s time for me to start doing some research, though. I did borrow The Dyslexic Advantage electronically from the library, but even though the library says it’s checked out to me, it hasn’t appeared on my Kindle and is apparently going to just float about in the ether above my head for the next three weeks, which is feck all use to me.

 

Dislecsia

Many times in the past couple of years I’ve thought, “Well, at least he’s not dyslexic.” Because when you think of dyslexia – or at least when I did – you think of kids who mix up d and b, who can’t tell tab from bat or din from nib. When we had Dash’s vision assessed back at the end of first grade, one of the tests was to read words just like that. When the eye doctor went over the results with me, she said “This is one they’d use to identify dyslexia, for instance.” He did fine on that one.

But “dyslexia” just means a learning disability focusing on reading. Some people with dyslexia do see the words moving around on the page, and are liable to read them backwards just as easily as forwards – but Dash’s dyslexia is not like that. I think if it was, we’d have come to this particular label sooner. (Label. Labels are good. They help people get the help they need. I’m all for labels.)

Dash’s test results (this time) indicated that he processes things slowly, including reading. His lack of fluency in reading might simply stem from this, or there might be something else at work, maybe. The “Reading Disability” and the “Learning Disorder, NOS” due to slow processing are two diagnoses, but one probably influences the other.

He’s really good at decoding words and applying the rules. But too much of English doesn’t follow the rules. (We wondered if he’d be “less” reading disabled if we spoke Spanish, or Russian, or anything with fewer irregulars.)

It’s not just speed, though. He doesn’t have any sight words, or hardly any. He’s not recognizing the shapes of words as a whole the way most of us do. He reads every word as if it’s new to him. He hasn’t “automatized” the reading process, which is the stage that just comes for most people with a little practice. We’ve been waiting and waiting for it to just come, and it just doesn’t.

Of course, some people are just slow readers. There’s more going on here: when there’s a clear disparity between their intelligence in some areas and their abilities in others, you begin to look for a specific cause. This is what’s happening here – just to brag/antibrag, let me quote a couple of his results:

On the Verbal Comprehension Index, Dash scored in the 99th percentile. On the Working Memory Index he was in the 91st. On the Processing Speed Index he was in the 2nd.

In both the Listening Comprehension and Oral Discourse Comprehension tests he was in the 99.6th percentile, but his Oral Reading Fluency was at the 0.3rd percentile.

And so on. Of course, some of his scores were right in the average domain too, but it was interesting to see the huge “scatter” (as it’s called) in his abilities. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but the report said this was a bigger span than most kids his age.

Some of the bits of the report I particularly noted were:

  • D presented as a well-groomed child. (Heh.)
  • He easily separated from his mother. (Take that, AP deniers!)
  • He was sometimes tangiental in his thinking. (Ahem.)
  • While D took his time to provide his answers, the responses that he formulated were articulate and complex for his age. (There you go.)
  • D often made unique connections or had ideas that were outside the box. But he often had difficulty producing the simplest, most logical response. (Yes.)
  • He read words such as “photograph” and “equipment” accurately, but he sounded out all the words including such basic ones as “cow” and “they”. (Yup.)

We have an IEP meeting set up for next week. In the meantime, if you’ve any resources to recommend, books I should read, whatever – have at it in the comments.