Then there’s young George, age five a kindergarten child who is one of the 40%.
George is a five-year-old master Lego builder. Proudly building 300 – 1000 piece designs, he was the king of preschool through most of kindergarten – that is, until the curriculum ramped up and they started teaching kids to read.
While those in the 60% group were making quick strides connecting letters with sounds and reading common words, George felt a sense of panic. “How come we aren’t playing all the fun stuff anymore like we used to in school,” he thought to himself. “I can barely write my name,” George thought, after the teacher asked the children to write about the big winter storm. (George’s name did have a lot of vowels.)
The girl sitting next to him looked at George with scorn as he worked on his name while she was almost done the real writing about the winter storm. The girl thought George was so dumb – it was so easy writing about the storm. “What’s his problem,” she thought.
George’s mother decided to have him tested.
When I meet George, he jumps out as one of those exceedingly cute, irrepressible types – “I’m the best in my class at Legos,” he tells me proudly and quickly.
While he zips through the tasks that are nonverbal in nature, George doesn’t do so well on some other tests.
Much of testing of the kids who are in the 40% zone involves looking for some of the “culprits” of learning disabilities, the factors that are seen as common contributors to difficulty.
I ask George to write his name. “Ugh,” he groans, “It’s so hard,” as he tries to grind out his name after much effort.
As part of the cognitive testing, George is asked different types of questions.
One of the questions is “Who wears a crown?” “Who wears a clown,” he responds, “A clown??? I don’t know who wears a clown.”
George heard “crown,” as “clown,” which confused him.
“How many sounds are there in the word ‘flip?’” George answers. “one.” He doesn’t understand what he is being asked.
By the end of the testing it is clear that George is solidly in the 40% of those who are likely to be struggling in first grade and beyond.
Among other things, Lego master George, can’t distinguish sounds all that well and he’s not connecting the letters to their sounds. Writing anything is painful and overwhelming to him.
At this young age there are signs that George is finding school distasteful, something to avoid.
When you’re in the 40%, it doesn’t get any easier. Don’t wait around. Once the “culprits” are identified, seek help.