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Help, my 8 year old is not reading


Guest charlenemc
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Guest charlenemc

We've always homeschooled. I'd consider myself a classical unschooler because we do soooo much project learning. We started out very classical, but since my son was having such a difficult time learning to read and it was causing nothing but frustrations for everyone, we backed off.

 

We have still done lots of more traditional/classical schooling at times, but just laid off on the teaching of reading after 2 years of waaay too many struggles. I decided in such a literature rich home, with so much other academics happening, the reading would come, albeit, later than I would have liked to see.

 

Now my sone is 8.5 and has not seemed to progress at all since he was 6. He knows his letter sounds and most of the phonics rules and can really struggle through and read most words, but has absolutely no fluency. I'm at my wits end and don't know what to do.

 

I will not force him to sit and struggle through something he hates and to force him to feel like a failure, but need to do something to help him. I fear he may have some sort of learning disability. He is very, very bright, but reading is just not clicking for him.

 

Does anyone have suggestions for how I might help him or how I might get a diagnosis to help me help him? Please don't just suggest a curriculum. We have tried just about every darn curriculum/learning idea that is out there! But many someone has some insights or had a kid who progressed similarly and has insights other than curriculum to suggest.

 

thanks!

charlene

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I will not force him to sit and struggle through something he hates and to force him to feel like a failure, but need to do something to help him. I fear he may have some sort of learning disability. He is very, very bright, but reading is just not clicking for him.

 

 

I would have him evaluated by a professional who can determine if he does have a LD. Are there dyslexics in the family tree? There are websites you can look at that will give you things you can look for yourself to see if an LD is probable.

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Yes, an evaluation by a developmental optometrist would be a good place to start. Also, the book Overcoming Dyslexia has lists of symptoms. Also, you might want to post on the Special Needs board as well. The folks over there are the reason my dyslexic son knows how to read (well and with enjoyment, I might add!).

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Charlene,

 

Well, I can tell you that my son did eventually come along :)

 

Repetitive reading made a HUGE difference and I wish I hadn't been so resistent to it when the kids were younger. So...I would do a LOT more of that. I would also consider a curriculum like Tampa Reads (or make one up using another phonics program). I think the "beating his record" part of that would have made it fun. Also, it takes SO little time. I would have no problem "forcing" that little of time (we were very much like you in style for young children).

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My youngest dd was a late reader (second grade) so I understand your concern. I did most of the things the other posters have suggested.

 

First, I took both girls to have their vision checked and ironically, the younger one was fine but the older desperately needed glasses. After her prescription arrived she kept looking around saying 'oooh', I felt terrible. :tongue_smilie:

 

Since younger dd's vision was fine I took her to a Brigance evaluator (academic, one on one evaluation). The evaluator talked to dd and tested her so that she could point out exactly where the issues were. In our case, the evaluator said she could read (knew sounds, blends, etc) just wouldn't. Since she was not willing to sit and read she was not developing any fluency. The evaluator suggested that I get a basket of easy readers and let dd read to dd's pet cat.

 

I remember thinking I had paid for wierd advice, but it worked. I guess the cat was enough audience to keep dd going but didn't comment on mistakes. :lol: Once she was willing to try she caught up quickly. You could not tell today which girl started reading at 4 and which at 8.

 

Good luck, I hope you find a solution that fits.

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I would like to chime in with those who have suggested a Dev.Optometrist. I think if you can determine whether a vision issue is at play FIRST then you can move on to whether or not there is another type of LD issue involved. Some kids have a few issues layered.

 

I can relate to your issues as my dd was not reading well at age 9. I was a flexible sort of mom and wasn't going to push her, but at the same time we had gone through various reading curriculum and nothing was working really well. Spell to Write and Read worked best. My dd knew her phonograms, knew words on sight, could read difficult words individually with ease. However, putting it all together? She would read in a jerky manner and seemingly forget something she just learned! AFter taking her to a Dev.Opt. (something her regular optometrist was against because after all she had 20/20 vision, so clearly that wasn't at the root of reading issues!:tongue_smilie:) we found that she had a convergence and tracking issue. After working with her for over a year she is reading at grade level and ENJOYS reading and does so spontaneously. Two things she was NOT doing before.

 

Above all, DO NOT PANIC. Take hope at others in the same position and know that you CAN and WILL get help! There are answers out there!

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Children should read their first language with fluency before that age. It's probably not a curriculum-related issue, but it might be some kind of learning disorder (albeit probably a minor one, if it's the only thing he has a problem with). I'd suggest you to take him to a doctor and/or a psychologist to see what's the problem...

 

... But first, may I suggest a possibility that you simply didn't insist enough? You say yourself that, seeing he had a problem with reading, you kind of "let it come" rather than insisted on mastering it when he should have. You don't specify how much time you dedicate to reading and what methods are you using, but is there a possibility that you've simply been too lenient with him?

If he can't read, how have you been studying the other subjects so far? If you haven't been insisting on working with the text and written instructions, maybe he's simply not accustomed to it to an extent he should be.

 

My daughters thankfully both learned to read basically on their own at early age, but I in my childhood had similar problems with reading Hebrew (not my first language though) - it wasn't that I wasn't able to read, it was that I wasn't accustomed to read (because nobody insisted enough, thinking it would come naturally), so I struggled through the words just like your son. Then one day they decided they've been too lenient with me and decided to push it - they made me write down tons of text every day (literally copying from some book, and then later through numerous dictations), and continuous writing actually helped me the most with reading. I read Hebrew as fluently as a child my age should have in a matter of weeks after they took such an approach (though they went on with it for a few months) and decided to force it every day until I'm fully comfortable with it, regardless of how I feel about it (I wasn't really thrilled about it, of course, but later I was glad).

 

Another thing I'd suggest is reading silently. That helped me a whole lot with Hebrew too. When one is forced to read aloud, one can be under stress and perform worse than they actually can. And if your child reads only aloud, that can overall hinder the process. So another thing they did with me was giving me a text and as much time as I wanted to go through it on my own, and then talking about the text, occasionally asking me to support my claims showing them parts of the text I was mentioning. I think such a practice is much better than reading aloud individual words/sentences, as it connects those in an overall meaning.

 

The next thing which may be the cause of problems is - phonics. Now, I'm not saying anything against the phonics, it's an approach which works for many, but the thing is, the more rules you know, the less intuitively you grasp certain material, if you can't get the rules out of your mind (some children can't, which is why we don't teach them rules first, but allow them to get the regularities on their own). Ideally, you would learn through the rules and then get them out of your mind to function naturally - but not all children function that way. I mention this because you mentioned your son "knows all the rules" yet can't read fluently. Maybe the phonics approach simply doesn't work for you and your son? Maybe he can't read because he obsesses the rules while trying to read, so it doesn't come naturally (I know what I'm talking about - the same thing was my Hebrew in childhood... I was blocked when I had to read because I was obsessing the rules about the vowels and dagesh and whatnot)?

 

I'm just throwing random suggestions, obviously, as a mother I never faced that problem, but I'd consider these possibilities before thinking it's a learning disorder, cause honestly, if it were some of the common ones (e.g. dyslexia), you probably would have recognized it by the "symptoms" in his writing.

 

But yet, do seek medical and professional advice, they can probably help you more than we can. Good luck.

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Here are some great websites that helped me figure out what was going on with two of my kids:

http://www.dys-add.com (my favorite dyslexia website, lots of free videos)

http://www.mislabeledchild.com (info on a broad range of LDs)

http://www.visualspatial.org

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/

 

Some good books:

The Mislabeled Child (written by MD's who homeschooled their own children, includes lots of practical information)

Right Brained Children in a Left Brained Children

Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner

The Everything Parents Guide to Children with Dyslexia

The Upside-Down Kids: Helping Dyslexic Children Understand Themselves and Their Disorder

The Secret Life of the Dyslexic Child

The Gift of Dyslexia (a quick and interesting read, but imo only applicable to a small subset of dyslexic children)

 

Good yahoo groups for parents whose kids struggle with reading:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HeartofReading/

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HSDyslexicKids/

 

I agree with the advice to have your child's vision and hearing tested if that hasn't already been done.

 

Did your son have speech delays? That sometimes goes hand in hand with reading challenges. My 8 yo who is barely reading cvc words had severe articulation deficits.

 

About 70-80% of dyslexia is caused by auditory processing problems. My kids had an evaluation for auditory processing disorder before they had a comprehensive educational evaluation. It was covered by insurance, although many insurance companies don't cover it. It is done by a specially trained audiologist, and it includes a hearing test that is more precise than a normal hearing test.

 

When I finally decided to have comprehensive testing done, I went with the Psychoeducational Clinic at NCSU. I was very pleased with the results and the cost was much less than a private practitioner would have charged. If you have a university nearby, you might check on whether they have a similar clinic. At NCSU, the clinic is part of the psychology dept.

 

A quick and free way to get some idea of what's going on is to give your son the student screening at this link: http://www.bartonreading.com/students_long.html#screen. There are links that give specific curriculum recommendations based on which parts of the test a student can't pass. For ex, if a student can't pass part 3, this indicates a phonemic awareness weakness and LiPS (Lindamood Bell Phonemic Sequencing) is recommended. This program will run you up to $10k if you go to a Lindamood Bell Learning Center, but you can buy the clinical kit for $340 and do it at home. It's a unique program that focuses on the oral-motor position and movement associated with each sound in the English language.

 

ETA: Since he knows phonics rules, something that might help with fluency is to have him listen to books on CD while following along in the book. Also, I think Rewards by Sopris West is a curriculum that specifically works on fluency.

 

I hope something here helps.

Edited by LizzyBee
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If he knows the rules are can apply them and is still struggling with fluency than I would suggest getting a passage of words that is a little (you notice I said a little) bit difficult and have him repeatedly read it until his fluency is better. The first time, have him read the passage and time it (you don't even have to tell him) and count how many words -- minus word errors he reads in a minute. Now, he needs to start practicing the passage until he can read it with expression with few to no errors. You are aiming for about 120 words per minute.

 

If he knows the rules but can not apply them, which is why he isn't fluent, than you still need to help him learn to apply the rules in which case you can work with him on how to apply the rules -- using one of the phonics programs you already own or getting a rule - based one if you don't already have one.

 

You might want to talk to him about his difficulties, if you haven't done so already. Let him know that it isn't his fault that he's struggling with reading. Let him know you are going to teach him some strategies and that you and he will have to do some work in order to get his reading on track. Telling him that his brain is wired a little differently than his siblings might help him feel like less of a failure and give him the self-confidence he needs. He does many other things well -- just not reading. I've watched several students struggle later in life with self-esteem issues because no one told them it wasn't their fault they struggled with reading.

 

If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

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I was a child with tracking issues. I would avoid reading because my eyes would jump around on the page. I think my DD avoids things that she finds difficult too. At 8 it is important not to wait too long to figure out what is going on. If he was younger you could wait to see.

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Have your child tested by a dev. optometrist. My ds could read small, individual words, but as soon as they were strung together, his eyes would skip words and even entire lines.

 

Also check how well your child understands individual sounds, and retreives words. English has many, many words that sound very similar. If a child can't hear the difference between bit and bet, it's hard to determine the different written words and their very different meanings. Most people are surprised to realise that the ability to understand the spoken word affects the ability to read.

 

There may be other LD's also, but I'd check developmetal vision and language skills 1st in that order.

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In addition to visiting a Developmental Optometrist to rule out any issues there, you might want to read up on Auditory Processing Disorder and see if anything there fits. It was a perfect match for my DD, who has that PLUS vision tracking issues. Our vision testing also included a section on auditory processing, and her numbers there matched her tests at the audiologists.

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I will not force him to sit and struggle through something he hates and to force him to feel like a failure, but need to do something to help him. I fear he may have some sort of learning disability. He is very, very bright, but reading is just not clicking for him.

 

thanks!

charlene

 

Apart from any diagnosis, have you let him pick books he wants to read? My kids reading took off once I let them have at the books they wanted. Now for every book I make them read, they pick one they want to read.

 

Secondly, and I say this with all compassion and understanding of exactly what you are going through-your son will feel more like a failure in ten years when he still doesn't know how to read, then sitting down and struggling with it now. Learning to read is hard. It is a blend of many, many functions and it's not something that we understand naturally, we have to be taught.

 

I felt the same way you do, now, when my little guy (then 7) cried and cried when it came to reading. I hated making him do it. So we halted everything for a while, me thinking that a little more maturity might help, and it didn't. It was even worse the second time around.

 

My husband and I discussed it, and he convinced me I was doing more harm than good in delaying reading. I didn't want to see my son stumbling over four syllable words when he was in his 20s (how embarrassing would that be for him?-mortifying, I'm sure). I had never truly considered the future impact of my delaying his learning to read. So, with renewed vision, we started again. All the way back at phonics. Just the basics, not all the rules. After three-four weeks of doing that I threw him in the water so to speak. Easy readers he chose, then onto harder ones.

 

I didn't even attempt spelling for a year, because that is a different skill set. Anywho, now he reads like a pro. Anything and everything, multi syllabic words I didn't teach him. He LOVES the magazine Scientific American, and he reads National Geographic cover to cover. He's going to be 10 in a few weeks. The really good thing about his age is that he'll make it all up so fast it could be like there was never a problem.

 

It's never too late to start, and I know you don't want to make him feel ike a failure, but how much more will he feel like one when he gets to a job and can't read a simple contract? How much more will he feel like a failure then? The good thing is that one of the people who loves him most in the world is teaching him, and you can guide him through this rough patch with the compassion and understanding a stranger wouldn't have. You can teach him that just because something is hard, and even though he's struggling, he is NOT a failure. That if he doesn't learn to read, he will be one, though and he'll act that out for the rest of his life.

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While you're waiting for results from evaluations, maybe some of these ideas will help at home.

 

I agree with the suggestion of his reading along with audio books. Or, you can get two copies of the same book (preferably one that interests him), and you read aloud as he follows along.

 

This technique made an enormous difference with my second son. He was quite similar to your son at the age of almost-8. Reading aloud was no fun at all for him -- just a lot of work and stress. A chance to read-along-with me rather than TO me, was just what he needed. It took the pressure off, made it a lot more fun, and got him reading some great stuff.

 

Also, you may try reading paragraphs/page/sentences/entire books (whatever seems appropriate to you) to him, and then having him read it back. This, like the read-along-with technique, takes some of the pressure off, and can really help build fluency.

 

It sounds like you've done a lot of good phonics instruction, so it may just be that he'll need lots of supportive, unpressured practice to put it all together.

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Your ds's problems may be due to lack of exposure, but he has been delayed a lot already. I would't waste anymore time by trying more intense instruction only to discover when he's 9 yo old that he struggles with reading because of LD's. I'd get him evaluated now. You can still try more intensive teaching, but testing now will answer any ligering questions. And if he does have problems, he can start therapy now before his self-esteem and likes/dislikes take too big of a hold. Unfortunately by 8 my ds's confidence had already taken a major hit. At 15 we're still dealing with it.

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Does your son struggle with language or memory in other areas of his life? If so, instruction will need to be incremental, thorough, and logical. I prefer synthetic phonics (now the national standard for reading instruction in the UK) because it emphasizes teaching all through the English code ("In these words, this letter(these letters) spell the sound /__/") and accurate all through the word blending and doesn't emphasize spurious rules. OG programs such as Barton are also quality programs.

 

If he doesn't have problems in other areas then you can do some detective work to figure out what his stumbling block is.

 

How is his word reading? If you give him a list of mixed words, does he read comfortably? Is it only when the words are in context that he struggles?

 

If his word reading is choppy and full of errors then you need to work on the components of reading: left to right, all through the word blending, "phonics" - that is, the possible sounds for a letter or letter group, and for longer words, and seeing the meaningful chunks such as prefixes, suffixes, and roots. English requires some flexibility of thought. If your first sound choice doesn't work, try a different sound for a letter. A good program would be Abecedarian if he doesn't have memory issues, as this program presents information in big chunks.

 

The "rules" of many programs are difficult to implement in connected text for several reasons: they are often wrong, or the process to analyze when to use them (If this and this but not this use this) is so laborious that it is a detriment rather than a help.

 

Reading Reflex, Phonics Pathways, OPGTR, and Spalding all have decent lists of correspondences--the sounds that go with a letter or letter group. Check that he knows these and can use them on a word level before asking him to read connected text.

 

If he only struggles when reading connected text, then working on some visual tracking and rereading can be extremely helpful. Using a line guide and forcing him to say each sound once all through the word before reading the word (or using a notched card thus only showing one letter or letter group at a time) can help him practice smooth left to right tracking.

 

Rereading to full prosody--that is, till he can read a passage with appropriate or even exaggerated emotion--will increase his fluency over time. Start with small passages and gradually increase the length.

 

I know its frustrating. I purchased more than a dozen programs and reviewed a bunch more before I was successful teaching my daughter to read using a program of my own invention. My daughter did not read her first easy chapter book till she was 9, after 4 years of instruction (1 year of intensive). By the time she was 10 1/2 she was reading at college level. This was because I gave her incremental, logical, and thorough instruction. Some kids--even bright, articulate kids--just need it that way. They don't intuit the complexities of English very well. I'm sorry this is a bit of a jumble of advice. Perhaps you could write back when you get a sense of what his slow step is and we could give more specific advice.

 

Blessings,

 

Melissa

Minnesota

Reading Program Junkie

dd(11) dd(7) ds(5) ds(1)

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You might want to talk to him about his difficulties, if you haven't done so already. Let him know that it isn't his fault that he's struggling with reading. Let him know you are going to teach him some strategies and that you and he will have to do some work in order to get his reading on track. Telling him that his brain is wired a little differently than his siblings might help him feel like less of a failure and give him the self-confidence he needs. He does many other things well -- just not reading. I've watched several students struggle later in life with self-esteem issues because no one told them it wasn't their fault they struggled with reading.

 

 

I think this is so important. In my area, the homeschooling community in general tends to shy away from "labels" as if they're evil. But one of the most enlightening things I read about LDs is that kids WILL apply labels and it's important to give them the correct ones; otherwise, they use words like stupid and dumb. I really saw this with my middle child - I was heartbroken when she began pulling her hair and calling herself stupid, usually during spelling. I think she was about 11 when I told her I thought she had dyslexia, and her eyes actually lit up!!! She would much rather be dyslexic than stupid.

 

I've explained dyslexia as the brain simply being wired differently so that she has a different set of strengths and weaknesses than her older sister, for ex. I've also explained that LD is a misnomer because people with LD's are not incapable of learning, but they don't learn best by using the curriculum and methods that are typically used in schools.

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If you've tried a fair number of sight words in the mix of programs and things you've tried, that may be making the phonics harder to learn and causing difficulties.

 

While I have never tutored a remedial student who totally lost their ability to read because of sight words, my students were all harmed to some degree and had trouble learning to read. Here is a case of a girl who totally lost her ability to sound out words after too much work with the Dolch sight words:

 

http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2008/02/sight-words-case-study.html

 

You can give the MWIA level I and see, here are some reading grade level tests and the MWIA, it compares the speed and accuracy of reading sight words vs. phonetically regular words that are not sight words.

 

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Reading/readinggradeleve.html

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