A mom came in this week to talk about young Caroline, age 7, a second grader.    The mom had a stack of material to show me.  There was the math worksheet filled with word problems with the red 34% at the top of the page, with all kinds of ‘X’ marks throughout.

Benchmark reading assessments were also in the stack, suggesting various comprehension problems (although I wasn’t so sure the issue was “comprehension”).  Then there were the pages and pages of writing samples.  Spelling problems were everywhere.  There were no complete sentences. Teacher comment such as, “needs to follow directions,” and  “needs to pay attention,” were sprinkled on different samples.

Caroline did not have an attention problem.

The problem was that she couldn’t handle the work being given to her.  The work was clearly at Caroline’s frustration level.

There are three levels to pay attention to when it comes to reading/writing.  These levels  include the following:

Independent level: the level where it is easy for the child and no assistance is needed to perform the task. Think of lifting weights. This would be the level that is easy and very doable-no sweat.  (“I can lift those weights, no problem.”)

Instructional level: the level that is somewhat challenging, but pretty manageable. Within this range the child can mostly perform the task, but needs a degree of assistance. With the weightlifting analogy, the child can handle the weights fairly well, but starts to get winded after some repetitions.  (“I can lift these mostly, but they may be a tiny bit difficult.”)

Frustration level: within this level the work is simply too hard. The weights are too much to lift – no can do. (“Wow…you want me to lift those???  No way.”)

Caroline was being asked to lift weights that were too hard for her on a regular basis.

Becoming increasingly frustrated, Caroline was also showing signs of increased anxiety.  “She dreads going to school in the morning,“ said her mother.  “It’s such a shame.  She used to bound into school.”

No one likes to do things that are frustrating and overwhelmingly difficult.  You might try once or twice to lift the heavy weights, but soon you just stop.  It’s too much.

What’s the answer?  Certainly providing Caroline with good, remedial instruction will be essential.  But in the day-to-day of school, the material being given to Caroline needs to be monitored.

Seven year old’s should not be dreading school, nor feeling overwhelming stress.

If the weights are too hard to lift, then they need to be lightened up.



Tag:  dyslexia, learning disbality, frustration