Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meeting with a Reading Specialist

I had a meeting yesterday with an amazing lady who specializes in reading. Her specialization isn't just teaching kids to read it's teaching kids to read who have other issues like dyslexia or vision problems. She's familiar with the type of vision problem my son has, which is great! And, since she also works with people (not just children) with dyslexia it was great talking to her about that. From the beginning of this journey, I've been wondering if Capt. N might have some form of dyslexia. But, after reading the many signs to look for I still haven't come up with whether I think he has it or not. Some of the signs he has, but a lot of them he doesn't. And, quite honestly once I found out he might have a vision problem I looked into that first simply because that test was a hell of a lot cheaper than the dyslexia test. After talking with this woman, I'm still not sure of the answer, but she's going to help me find that answer.

From the things I told her, she's a little perplexed about Capt. N's reading problems. The vision doctor sent this woman the report they'd sent me on all the tests they'd done on Capt. N. This was the only thing this woman knew about Capt. N. When she saw a couple of the things he's been reading, particularly the Develop Reading Fluency Using Poetry, she was shocked to hear that he could actually read the words in the poems. She was also shocked to hear the words I've been giving him for his spelling tests. In her opinion, at first, both these things were too hard for him. She was really under the impression that his phonetic awareness was not great. But, that is not the case. She gave me a couple tests to do to double check this. I think she actually may think I'm stretching the truth a bit about his abilities. But, she also said I know him, and obviously she doesn't. I'm not stretching the truth. Last night I even went back and listened to a story he read the other day. He records every story he reads in Raz-Kids. So, I was curious and listened to one. And, nope, I'm not delusional, he really can read slightly difficult words and can use his phonetic awareness to sound out the few he didn't know. And, he's great about catching himself reading something wrong. Something in the report, though, is keeping her apprehensive. Something is telling her his phonetic awareness isn't great. After he does the tests she gave me, she will look over the results and let me know how to best help him next.

She did give me some great tips, based more on the vision problems than the reading since she's not yet sure if he does have a problem with phonics. Here's a few of her suggestions:
• Whenever I photocopy things for him to read, print it on light blue paper. That helps the words "stay" on the page.
• When looking for reading material use stories with large print & much space between the lines.
• Pay attention to which kind of lighting he prefers to read in.
• Take a story/paragraph at a 3rd grade level and give him one word at a time. If he can read most of the words, then most likely he has a major vision issue, not so much of a reading problem.
• For the same reason, retype a story from Raz-Kids in large print on blue paper and see if he can read it at a quicker pace than reading the small print on Raz-Kids.

She also gave me these other bits of advice:
•When he's PRACTICING reading, make sure he only reads things that are easy for him. This will build his fluency and his confidence.
•When he's getting INSTRUCTION, this should be at whatever level he's at to challenge him a bit. She hasn't figured out yet, in our case, where this level is.
•When he's doing COMPREHENSION work it should be challenging. We don't want his comprehension to slide, just because he's reading easier books.

And, a few other misc. things we discussed:
• She's wondering if there's a glitch in his wiring somewhere that makes it difficult for what is in his brain to make it out his hand onto the paper when he's writing. I told her about how he seems to be able to spell things better out loud, than writing the words out. That's something I'm going to look more into. It makes some sense since his handwriting isn't great and he tends to not write in a straight line. She asked me if he has difficulty doing copywork. And he does. He's incredibly slow and it's quite sloppy, even though I know he's trying so hard for it not to be sloppy. I told her about the various copywork I have him do for his lapbooks. I asked her if I should have him stop doing those for now. She right away said yes. That is a vision problem and it is hard for him. We need to be focusing on making things better, not giving him yet another difficult task.
• She was impressed to hear I already have him learning keyboarding/typing. She said that may be his life-line later. If he gets to the point where it's quicker for him to type than to write things out it will be important that he knows how to do it correctly. Right now, I don't put a lot of emphasis on that subject. I decided he should learn it simply because he likes to work on the computer & I didn't want him learning to type wrong. He's been practicing his keyboarding twice a week. I think I may up that to three times. She suggested we work on it daily, but I'm not sure I want to add another thing to his daily tasks.
• Her other concern is that he gets distracted so easily. She asked if I thought he had ADD or ADHD. The truth is, I don't know. It's possible. I've never looked much into it. He is antsy-pantsy and he does get distracted while doing his work. But, he can also focus on things when he puts his mind to it. He loves all the science & social studies work we're doing and can stay focused on those things. He did an excellent job making the tessellation, even though it took him a long time. She said he will always be slow if every little thing makes him stop his work. He may not even be aware that he's doing it. She suggested we get a little timer and every time he gets distracted he's got 10 seconds to get back to what he's supposed to be doing. The timer buzz will remind him to get back on task. She also suggested getting him some music with earphones. I like that idea & I think he would do well with that. But, most of the distractions come when I'm actually trying to teach him, not when he's doing his quiet work. It's because I'm in the room that his brother and sister come in. It's because he gets distracted that I'm looking at something and he wants to know what I'm doing. While I'm teaching, I don't want him listening to music. On the days when he does most of his quiet, independent work it's when the 2 other kids & I are not home and he does quite well getting his work done.

So much to think about. I talked with this woman for 2 whole hours. I decided I better write out the most important things from that meeting before I forget them. It's a bit overwhelming, but I'm happy to hopefully be on the right path to helping him.

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