When Kids struggle with comprehension it is interesting that often there is an overlap in “real life,” that is in the way the child interacts in his personal world. In this era of quickly labeling and pathologizing behavior automatically as “ADHD,” this overlap is something rarely considered, but I think it is worth reflecting on its implications.
Here’s an example.
12 year old Liam is a boy who recently got into a lot of trouble when he used inappropriate language (along with other inappropriate behaviors) on the bus. When the bus driver tried to correct him, Liam doubled down and got mouthy and defensive.
In other words, Liam showed a lot of bad judgment.
Compounding this, when Liam’s parents attempted to discipline him, rather than become low-key and contrite, he became belligerent, melting down while punching walls.
(I know, everyone’s pulling out their, “ADHD cards” and quickly putting him on medication, but I’m not so sure. We need to dig a little deeper.)
Upon meeting Liam, he comes across pretty straight-forwardly and readily admits he has a problem managing anger. Particularly noteworthy, Liam felt bad about what happened. He regretted his behavior.
So, what’s the connection with reading comprehension?
When I evaluate Liam in different areas, something that jumps out at me is how little time he spends reflecting on questions asked of him and how weak he was at forming an inference while reading.
In other words, he jumped to conclusions based on very little data and he wasn’t oriented toward being reflective or considered in his approach to the reading process, just like he wasn’t being thoughtful on the bus or with his parents.
Liam needs to learn to “read the signals,” to slow down, to consider and evaluate. I also understand that’s a lot easier said than done.
When reviewing the assessment with Liam and his parents in pretty direct terms (with a hint of a New York accent), this is what I said:
“Look, Liam, here’s the deal. We need to work on your inferencing skills – that is, we need to help you pay attention to the clues or to ‘read the signals.’ Like on the school bus, you started to act out to try and get everyone thinking you were funny and you didn’t think it through. You didn’t assess the consequences.”
(Believe it or not, Liam is actually taking it in and nodding. He gets it, so I continue.)
“Since you didn’t think it through or consider what you were doing, you got in a lot of trouble. You were furious with your parents even though they were 100% right. Here’s the funny thing, when I tested your reading skills, you did the same exact thing. Like when I asked you questions that did not have a straightforward or direct answer, you had no clue. How come? Because you weren’t reading the clues, just like on the school bus. This is stuff we can work on. You can get better in these skills. Finally, we can work on helping you manage your anger better, since you readily admit you have problems with it.”
Liam felt good about what was said to him and his personal “battery” was recharged, since he was told these were skills he could improve. He was determined to start “reading the clues.”
There may be a connection as to how a kid behaves on the school business, manages emotions and reads a book. Look for common themes.