Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Learning Disabilites and Fortunately For You Books Part 1

How is it possible that the youngest child of a family that has homeschooled for 16 years could get through 6th grade and be dyslexic and no one ever have a clue? I offer this article realizing if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. What I had seen with Jesse (12 yr. old youngest son) over his school years were problems I could pass off with different reasonings or excuses. Spelling was a huge source of frustration. Writing, well you have read some previous posts on how hard it was. Reading, always seemed stressful and not quite the joy the other children had. I reasoned that I was somehow neglecting him in some areas...or that he didn't try hard enough...or care enough ( thankfully, I never voiced those thoughts to him!)....or that some of the years I focused extra hard on highschool with the older kids, I had made him a bit behind in his grade level. Several things were eye openers for me: when I realized that Jesse could not sit and read the Spiderwick series alone, when his spelling showed no remembrance of vowel rules or patterns(6th grade and I was STILL repeating the two vowel rule), and when I realized how fantastic an oral/visual learner he was. These things started my investigation and learning that possibly Jesse was a mild to moderate dyslexic. My limited knowledge of this disability was evident in that I thought it was just kids reading words backwards. I had no idea of the many symptoms this disability could be revealed. I could spend all day writing about this, but I am still learning myself and will share more as I learn more. I am still in the humbled stage of realizing that even as a veteran homeschooler, I still missed something so huge in my child and if I had known earlier, would have saved Jesse from frustration and difficulty. I do not want to lessen my responsibility and blame, but I also do not want to think that as homeschooling parents we will ALWAYS have the ultimate knowledge. I do believe that timing is of the Lord, and for some reason it was now that it was revealed to me how to help my son in a more productive way. Maybe I wasn't listening before, maybe He wasn't leading before. Either way, I am now thoroughly humbled yet in awe of this one thing: The curriculum and tools Fortunately For You Books has been working so diligently on for the last 3 years is an excellent tool for children with learning disabilities. I know I should not be surprised to know this, but to think that three years ago the Lord laid something on our hearts that would turn out to the tool that MY child needed, well, that is just downright awesome!
Let me explain. I ordered the reading program The Stevenson Method and sure enough, within days a significant improvement was seen. Now four weeks into this program and virtually all stress from spelling is gone, reading is fluent (not grade level yet), and comprehension is perfect. I recommend this program for any child, with or without learning disabilities. It is a wonderful way to get phonics rules in a way that recall is immediate. So now that we had reading on track, and he is picking up books and now I don't want to say anymore, "Jesse, that is going to be too hard for you to read alone"........He is picking up books and excited that maybe he can read this alone, but I am afraid he will be making up words because he can't break them apart and sound them out yet. I am afraid he will read and read and not understand what he is reading. I am afraid that he will read this whole book, NOT get it and then the book will be lost to us for pleasure and enjoyment as he will not want to read it again! So I handed him the book and I handed him a POCKET of TIME that went with the book. The POCKETS used the same elements of design that Stevenson's Method recommends: a break up of activities in short amounts of time....there is reading, coloring, cutting, and then placing in order. Never one long process that loses the mind. When I gave him the book, I sat at the table with coffee, waiting. He came back not too long afterwards, showed me his order of cards placed in the pockets. I was thrilled that every one of his colors was in order. He was obviously able to read with enough fluency that all his attention wasn't going to just reading, but remembering details as well. And so it went. And with these pockets, I will know the moment reading becomes difficult again.
While Pockets of Time were not originally created for children with learning disabilities, they are certainly beneficial for them. For children with dyslexia who can read, this is a way to let them read independently and be assured of their comprehension without pages and pages of tests and fill out worksheets.Nothing screams torture for a dyslexic child than pages and pages of worksheets! For dyslexic children who are still struggling to read, the best thing you can do is still read TO that child on their grade level or above. While they are reading themselves below grade level, it is imperative that they be read aloud in their appropriate grade level. You can do this using our Pockets of Time. This will increase and develop the comprehensive thinking and evaluation skills. They can prepare and handle the cards as you read and place into the pockets in order as they happen.
I had no idea when we sat at a kitchen table three years ago and burned with a desire to develop these tools and curriculum to help homeschool families, that the mind of the Lord was directing us with something that my own child would need to give confidence and independence with reading. I am so thankful and in awe about that.
I am going to continue writing several articles about this subject as days go by. I am afraid there is too much on my heart and this post would be miles long if I wrote all I want to now!!! Come back soon as I am on spring break and hope to do a lot of catch up on the blog.

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