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When Learning Doesn’t Come Easy
From the moment we find out we are pregnant, our minds and hearts are filled with hopes and dreams for them. My kids are going to be the most beautiful, smartest, most talented little people on earth, right? They are to each of us!
But sometimes, we find that there is a “problem”. The last thing we want to admit is that there is something different or wrong about our kids. It’s a hard thing to do. Not that we don’t love them anymore! But honestly, we’d rather sit around other moms and share how our 4-year-olds read chapter books, do multiplication at 6, and paint like Rembrandt at 7. Not to mention, they’re also headed to the Olympics with two different sports. Or at least that’s how it seems when you’re the one quietly listening to all the accomplishments of other people’s kids!
So, let’s get something straight… Chances are other moms are exaggerating a bit! And your child will have no problem! Even if your child has a learning disability. She or he learns differently than the mainstream! Wow, that’s kinda cool!
However, I don’t always feel that way. After trying to teach my daughter to read for 3 years with little progress, I became very frustrated and so did she. Every class ends with tears, and some days start with tears at the mention of reading. She has always loved reading and being read aloud, and is excited to learn how to read for herself. So why is there such a struggle? Am I just a bad teacher? Is she too distracted and not self-motivated enough?
We finally decided to complete the test at age 7. I notice a lot of letters and words being reversed in reading, writing and math. She complained of head and eye injuries while reading (vision tests found her to have 20/20 vision). I need to know what is holding us back. I know she’s very smart in many ways, but we’ve hit a wall. Since we were homeschooling, we decided to have her tested with a private therapist. It took 4 hours to complete and we were told she had a visual and auditory processing disorder when it was done.
Then I went into mom research mode! As I read and search the internet and libraries, I become more and more confused and overwhelmed! There don’t seem to be any really helpful books or sites, and the ones I’ve found seem to tell me different things! Are any of us surprised that we did decide to get vision therapy, which of course is not covered by insurance? But we think it’s worth a try and worth the money. In therapy, she uses A Time for Phonics to relearn her phonics. We also had assigned therapy at home. 6 months later she is done and I can definitely see huge improvements! We didn’t do auditory therapy with a therapist due to cost, but I do use a program called Earobics at home. I also found the books “The Out-of-Sync Child” and “When the Brain Can’t Hear” helpful.
My search continued to find other ways to help her learn in a way that suited her learning style. You see, processing disabilities and dyslexia don’t have to be disorders! There are many ways to learn. I just realized this when I came across a book by Ben Foss, The Dyslexia Enhancement Program. I encourage everyone to read it! Check out his website too! I kind of hate the word accommodation. It sounds like you need extra or special help, kind of like you’re allowed to cheat. There should be no shame in learning differently. Find out your child’s strengths and use those skills. Don’t focus on the standard way most kids are taught to read. I am so grateful that we chose to homeschool because my daughter doesn’t have to compare herself to others or be labeled in any way. But even if your child is in public or private school, remember that your child isn’t broken, but the system might be. Advocate for your child to have the resources they need to excel and feel connected.
What resources are available to you? Oh, there are so many! This is where I get overwhelmed! I’m going to list some of the resources that I think are the best. But take a look around and explore the options available!
– Audiobooks are your friend! Don’t fall behind in your studies because you can’t read the material fast enough! If your child learns well by listening, give Audible a try. Amazon also has audiobooks, and so does your local library.
– Read key cards. You can make your own or buy one. Also try printing your pages on yellow paper, or try using a color other than the usual white.
– Use text-to-speech apps like Speak It or Talk to Me, and speech-to-text apps like Dragon Dictation. Another useful app is Prizmo, where users can scan any type of text document and have the program read it aloud, which is a great help for those who struggle with reading.
– I love using Snapwords to learn site words! Now there’s also a Snapwords app!
– Fonts and background colors: Software often used in schools, such as Microsoft Word, is a good resource for fonts and background colors. For example, changing the background color to green helps with reading, like wearing green glasses. Fonts also promote reading and comprehension; teachers can download free specialty fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, which are free and run on Microsoft software.
-All About Spelling, this class is great for all kids, but the multi-sensory approach based on the Orton-Gillingham method has been great for my daughter! We haven’t tried All About Reading yet, but I bet it’s a great option.
– We used Rocket Phonics after completing our vision therapy. It was developed by someone who is dyslexic, and it’s a lot of fun! There are plenty of involved games and interesting stories to read instead of your typical lighthearted boring books.
– Math and reading are both a struggle for us. Remembering the facts is a challenge. I found a math program that uses associative learning, using fact and process mnemonics, called Semple Math.
– let’s do it! Practice letters, spelling, and pronunciation using clay, paint, blocks, magnets, and more. Learn to write correctly in the sand with your index finger first, and then with a pencil. Make it fun! Use all your senses!
-play games! Some we’ve used and loved are Sum Swamp, What’s Gnu?, Scrabble, Very Silly Sentences, Boggle Jr. and even card games like Addition Wars (drop two cards per card and add), or Alphabet Go Fish (you have to Say the letter sounds), search Pinterest and the internet for fun games to practice math facts and letter sounds or spelling and sight words.Fun, multi-sensory, hands-on ideas even when your kids are older
Moms (and dads), my goal with this post is to give you some starting points. And to let you know you are not alone! I know it can be disappointing at first to learn that your child is struggling in some way. But knowing how your child learns and how there are ways to help and empower your child can also feel like a heavy lifting. I know that if you’re in a school setting, you’re going to have to explain to your kids why they might be in a special class or take a different test than the other kids. You have to believe that you know how to talk to your child. Are there books for kids that talk about dyslexia and learning issues in a positive way, like Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco, The Alphabet War by Diane Robb, and May B by Caroline Rose or Niagra Falls, or can it? By Henry Winkler (yes, Fonzie from Happy Days!)
Try to emphasize his/her strengths and similarities rather than simply focusing on his/her weaknesses and difficulties. Remind your child that he/she can learn, but that he/she learns in a unique way, and that’s okay! We are all unique, with our own strengths and weaknesses. Love your kids for who they are and hope they find the right tools to make learning fly!
I never thought I would see a day where my daughter’s favorite activity is reading! Cheer up, persevere, lighthearted, love them no matter what!
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