Over the last month, I've discovered what I presumed to be true. My child has dyslexia. My blog is dedicated to these wonderfully different learners. I marvel at their creativity, out of the box thinking and their infectious need for humor. This is a journey of our discovery process and our journey homeschooling with what works. I hope you will find encouragement along with helpful advice in teaching your right brain learner in this left brain world.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Learning to write his last name

One thing that I was embarrassed about during testing, was that Big Brother didn't know how to write his last name. He's known how to write his first name since he was about 4. I was going to make sure by the end of the year that he knew how to write his last name, his address (we recently moved, he knew his old address), and his phone number. I guess this gave me a push to do what needed to be done. This is what a visual/spatial does after learning how to write their name. They do what else...turn it into block letters. Sometimes he writes words like Speed like it is moving in the wind. I'll have to find that one. It's pretty cool.

The Visual/Spatial Learner

During our testing, we discovered that Big Brother is a visual/spatial learner. He scored in the superior range for visual/spatial abilities. I found this article by Linda Silverman, and I think it's fascinating.

The Visual-Spatial Learner:
An Introduction
Linda Kreger Silverman. Ph.D.

Many teachers try very hard to accommodate the various learning styles of their students, but this can be an overwhelming task, as some of the learning styles inventories and models are quite complicated. As a former classroom teacher myself, I know that there are a limited number of hours in the day, and even the most dedicated teacher cannot plan for all the different learning styles and intelligences of his or her students. Take heart! There’s an easier solution.
The visual-spatial learner model is based on the newest discoveries in brain research about the different functions of the hemispheres. The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented. The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space. We only have two hemispheres, and we are doing an excellent job teaching one of them. We need only become more aware of how to reach the other, and we will have happier students, learning more effectively.

I’d like to share with you how the visual-spatial learner idea originated. Around 1980, I began to notice that some highly gifted children took the top off the IQ test with their phenomenal abilities to solve items presented to them visually or items requiring excellent abilities to visualize. These children were also adept at spatial tasks, such as orientation problems. Soon I discovered that not only were the highest scorers outperforming others on the visual-spatial tasks, but so were the lowest scorers. The main difference between the two groups was that highly gifted children also excelled at the auditory-sequential items, whereas children who were brighter than their IQ scores had marked auditory and sequential weaknesses. It was from these clinical observations and my attempt to understand both the strengths and weaknesses that the concept of the “visual-spatial learner” was born.

Visual-spatial learners are individuals who think in pictures rather than in words. They have a different brain organization than auditory-sequential learners. They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details. They are non-sequential, which means that they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach. They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so “show your work” may be impossible for them. They may have difficulty with easy tasks, but show amazing ability with difficult, complex tasks. They are systems thinkers who can orchestrate large amounts of information from different domains, but they often miss the details. They tend to be organizationally impaired and unconscious about time. They are often gifted creatively, technologically, mathematically or emotionally.

Parents can tell if they have one of these children by the endless amount of time they spend doing advanced puzzles, constructing with LEGOs, etc., completing mazes, counting everything, playing Tetris on the computer, playing chess, building with any materials at hand, designing scientific experiments, programming your computer, or taking everything in the house apart to see how it operates. They also are very creative, dramatic, artistic and musical.

The Results Are In

Thursday I went in for the results of Big Brother's testing. He is severely dyslexic, but I wasn't so upset about that. I knew his strengths and weaknesses, and the tests captured them accurately. I was upset that they tested him on things that I haven't even taught him yet. I was a little embarrassed, and because I'm his teacher, I felt like a failure. I cried....right there in the office in front of the psychologist. I couldn't hold it in. I explained that I was upset because they tested him on things that I haven't even taught him yet, and that made me feel like a failure. When I said that we were doing 1st grade curriculum at home and some of these things haven't come up yet, the psychologist mentioned that my homeschool curriculum was "too light". (In defense of Heart of Dakota, it is not light. It doesn't follow Florida's FCAT standard, and if you live in Florida, you know that Florida schools are failing miserably and the FCAT is making it worse)I asked what he suggested, and then my mouth hit the ground, he suggested a curriculum that is for the auditory/sequential learner. It is traditional school to the Nth degree, implementing worksheet after worksheet without any multi-sensory input.

I've done a lot of reading on dyslexia lately, and all the scientific research shows that children with dyslexia need to learn with a multi-sensory approach, not more of the same repetition and drill like what he suggested. What help was he? I felt I already knew more than he did and he's the psychologist. So, now I was mad. I sent him an email detailing my thoughts on his curriculum suggestion. I asked if I was missing something he was trying to tell to me, because his suggestions on curriculum were contrary to the current research on how dyslexics should be taught. He did reply that his recommendation was just one of many options I could use.....blah, blah, blah. The psychologist was full of contradictions. He suggested I use the Barton system, but then wondered why my son wasn't writing in sentences. The Barton Reading system doesn't implement sentences at this stage. We are listening to sounds in words at this point. He liked Handwriting without Tears, he thought it was one of the best. When I told him that in Handwriting without Tears they are still forming letters at this level he seemed confused. I think the problem is that he follows a public school model. We don't follow a public school model, don't want to, don't need to, don't ever care to. That is one reason I homeschool. Public school may be able to teach children what a noun or a verb is in first grade, but they don't seem to be doing a great job when it comes to teaching children how to think critically.

Some good did come out of my little tiff with the psychologist. I think I may have been a little lax in some areas, I figured Big Brother was only six. So now, I will step it up a bit, but I will continue to use my current curriculum, because I know it reaches the heart of my child, and we will continue on teaching him to read with the Barton System. It's working and my son is finally enjoying school.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Testing Begins

On Monday this week, I went to speak with a psychologist that specializes in psycho-educational testing. He asked me lots of questions about Big Brother's developmental growth, his social skills and behavior. He looked at Big Brother's art work, school samples and my current curriculum. I was happy to hear that he was impressed with my curriculum choices. He believed we were on the right track with his curriculum. On Tuesday, I was to bring Big Brother in for his testing portion.

On Monday night, I started to prep Big Brother as to where we were going and why. Per the doctor's request, I told him we were going to see someone who would find out how Big Brother learned best, so I could teach him effectively. That seemed to go over alright, so early the next morning we were off to see the doctor. A little apprehensive at first, Big Brother seemed to really open up after just a couple of minutes, and I knew he would be fine. His siblings and I were right around the corner and the door was made of glass.

After 2 hours, Big Brother emerged. Hmmmmmmm, this wasn't the bleary-eyed child that I usually see after 30 minutes of "doing school" He was happy and enjoyed the whole experience. He informed me that he wanted to come back, but on the ride home, he let me know that he didn't need to do anymore school work for the day.

Still needing to be reassured that there IS some learning difference going on, and it wasn't just my poor teaching skills, I asked the doctor if he saw any of the things I was noticing, and he agreed that yes, he was seeing everything that I saw. He didn't say much more. We still have one more session, and I'm sure everything will be noted in an official report.

Naturally, I don't want things to be more difficult for my son, but I relieved to know that I wasn't crazy and it wasn't my overactive imagination. I wasn't happy that something was wrong only that we are finding out what it is and how we can help Big Brother succeed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How do you know if your child is Dyslexic?

This is probably the first question I asked when I started to wonder if there was a problem. The thing that is so hard for me is that technically my son is not behind. I just had a gut sense that something was going on. It was a combination of things, his utter panic when we sat down to do his phonics lesson, the short term memory problem that was becoming more and more apparent, the continual reversals of letters and mirror image writing all coupled with his uncanny ability to see and visuals things beyond even my ability.

So, I did what any other concerned mother would do, I googled Dyslexia, and there before my eyes were some of the early warning signs that described my son. Although not all of the signs fit, because again my son isn't behind, most of them did. The more I read, the more the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together for me. For example, his not talking until he was two years old, his stuttering problem, his ability to draw fairly well, his large vocabulary, his confusion with up/down, in/out, before/after, and his cute mispronunciations were all signs that he might have Dyslexia, and here is the kicker. All children have a 50% chance of having Dyslexia if one of the parents has Dyslexia. So, I guess all my children have a 50% chance of having Dyslexia, because my husband also possesses that wonderfully creative and visual mind. He's very mechanically inclined, and he too struggles with reading and spelling.

Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic. So how do I know if he has Dyslexia? I don't, but a lot of signs cause us to suspect it. Next week, we are having him tested. Hopefully, this will point us in the right direction to help educate him.

If you suspect your child has a problem, I encourage you to click on the Bright Solutions website on the left side of my page.