The Characters: Mom and dad of seven year old starting second grade after Dr. Selz has evaluated their seven year old child and reviewed some of the findings.
Setting – Sitting around a table somewhere in South Jersey.
Parents: So, what do we do? Where do we go from here? What does he need?
Dr. Selz: Look, it’s not talked about very much as I’m going to explain it to you, but here’s how I see it. Your son is at a key time in his development. A lot of kids around him (especially the girls) are going to be reading chapter books. You need to get your kid over what I call “the decoding hurdle.” He’s not over that yet.
Parents: What’s that? What do you mean?
Dr. Selz: About 70 % of the kids going into second grade will soon be over the “decoding hurdle.” It’s a term I made up. If you are over the hurdle it means you can read and handle big words pretty easily, like – fabulous- pretend – porcupine – mechanic. For kids over the hurdle, reading those words is no big deal.
Parents: Well, we keep hearing that everything is comprehension and that if we just read to Oliver everything would be fine. We’ve been reading to Oliver since he was a baby.
Dr. Selz: It’s just erroneous information. That’s not the issue for him at the moment. In the testing, Oliver read a simple sentence, “On hot days we got together…” as, “On a hot day we got together.” That’s a small example, but the meaning is changed the way that he read it. His comprehension is altered and the meaning changed entirely. Not to mention the significant substitutions he made. For example, the text read, “We liked to pretend…” He read that as, “We liked to brend…” “Brend” has no meaning. How can Oliver comprehend? Oliver is struggling.
Parents: Well, does he have Dyslexia?
Dr. Selz: At this moment that is not the most important question. We’ve already identified what I call “red flags” of concern that suggest dyslexia, but let’s see how he does once we give him what he needs. Whether we call him “dyslexic” or not at the moment, there are specific things that you can be doing at home to help Oliver. Let’s see how he does when we give him, good sensible remediation – the right stuff.
Parents: What about medication? Would that do anything?
Dr. Selz: Let’s say your child was one of the weakest swimmers in his group and the swim teacher said, “You know what will do the trick? I think you should try medication.” Would that make any sense to you? Of course not. Swimming is a skill that can be taught, learned and practiced. So is reading. That’s what the focus should be.
Perhaps Oliver may be put on medication one day. Maybe he will be considered “dyslexic.” But for the moment as the parents leave they understand that their mission is to focus on getting Oliver over the “decoding hurdle,” and to watch the “red flags” closely.
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