In last week’s post we started the discussion of how to help struggling children at home, many of whom are dyslexic (Helping Child at Home: Part I )
The case of Ruth helps further set the stage.
Ruth, a Case Study
To illustrate the experience of a child on the rough road, let’s take Ruth, an eight-year-old third grader. Ruth’s parents brought her to my office because they were concerned about her development in reading, spelling, and writing.
The evaluation that was conducted with Ruth revealed that she was not a smooth or efficient reader. When the words became somewhat more complex in the second to the third grade, Ruth started to guess the words, often with nonsense word substitutions, based on their visual configurations. For instance, she guessed “croty” for “country” or “penereer” for “pioneer.”
When Ruth read stories out loud her reading was choppy and strained. There was no fluency and her reading sounded like she was driving down a dirt road with lots of potholes in the road.
Listening to her read was painful.
By the middle of third grade, Ruth became overtly frustrated.
However, when the school district reviewed Ruth’s evaluation, they did not feel that Ruth’s problems warranted classifying her with a learning disability.
Their reasoning was that many of her scores on the school standardized tests fell in the lower portion of the “average” range. Effectively, this decision negated the possibility that Ruth would receive any extra help in reading.
Although Ruth clearly struggled in reading, spelling, and writing, her problems were not deemed severe enough to classify her as a special education student.
A Few Tough Realities
Ruth’s story highlights some tough realities that I encounter almost daily in my professional practice, causing a huge impact on children and their families. These realities may be difficult to discuss, but they are important to understand, so you can mobilize and take effective action.
First, when a child struggles in reading a “full-court press” is needed to target the deficient skills.
The more severe the problem, the more intensive the focus needs to be.
Over the decades, a great deal of accumulated research indicates that at least 20% or more of the population that enter first grade predisposed to experience mild, moderate, or severe reading, spelling, and writing issues. They can be identified with basic screening tools.
If they show any of the classic indicators, they need help. Some of them may be classified as eligible for special education later, many will not.
Like Learning a Sport or a Musical Instrument
It has long been my basic view that the processes of learning to read, spell, and write are no different than learning to play a sport (e.g., tennis, golf, etc.) or a musical instrument. Following the direct instruction, there needs to be a great deal of guided practice, so that the skills become a more automatic part of the person’s skill repertoire and are internalized
(More to follow in future posts.)
(Excerpt from “Helping Your Dyslexic Child & Struggling Reader at Home,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. w/ Lorna Wooldridge, M.A.)
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