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The child who finds reading comprehension hard.....?? Audio or force the issue..?

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My oldest boy, age 13, has always been a many layered puzzle...we pulled him from school in 2nd grade and it has been both a joy and frustration to teach him at home... He struggles with dysgraphia among other things.. some ASD there,, some ADHD too.. We dont' medicate (long and complicated story but has to do with his metabolism and meds).. There is the background in short and sweet form..


he LOVES to listen to audio books.. he devours them! He can retell and discuss what he's listened to as well.. Writing down answers to comprehension questions is often a HUGE struggle.. and he is quite behind grade level on this.. sometimes typing is easier for him.. sometimes not. He'd prefer to do it all orally...


I'm really finding this year that having him read chapters.. then answer questions is a huge stumbling block.. He says that when he reads (not listens) the book.. all the details get jumbled and he cannot understand what is being said or trying to be conveyed.. Case in point.. He is reading Around the World in 80 Days and using a VP guide (which is grade level 6..he is in grade 8).. and it is a HUGE struggle.. often we have to re read the chapters together.. me reading out loud and pausing to discuss key points. I've tried to have him review the questions prior to reading.. so he knows what to key in on.. but that hasn't seemed to help...


When he hears the book. he gets it.. when he reads the book.. he's lost..


WHAT is going on exactly...? Does he need more read aloud practice (he hates this).. Would having him listen to audio book chapters, then reading the chapters, then answering the questions be the way to go? Just go audio and then answer the questions? Audio and Orally answer questions??


Part of me says this struggle is making it too hard for him to focus in on the meaning of what he is reading.. and that audio may be the way to go.. the other part of me says.. can't do all of life audio.. what about when he HAS to read..??


This year I had wanted to cover:

 Around the World in 80 Days

The Bronze Bow

Swiss Family Robinson

The Hobbit

Wrinkle in Time


Thoughts? Ideas? Opinions?







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I think you have to meet your student where he is.  Looking at your book list and goals, based on what you've said- what is he really going to get out of reading them? 


If the goal is for him to know the books, then audio seems to be the way to go.  If the goal is to have him improve his reading skills, then I would cut out the long chapter books and go to short paragraphs for reading comprehension practice.  Perhaps use audio for the listed books, but not do reading comprehension and teach it as a separate subject? 


Are you considering an evaluation for a visual/reading specific LD?  Could dysgraphia play a role?  Without knowing what is causing your DS' difficulty, it may be hard to fix.  KWIM? 


My DS hates to read, but he does have good comprehension when he does so.  Thus, I'm in a little bit of a different place. When he was younger though, I had him do short single paragraph and later single page readings with follow up comprehension questions.  We also did exercises to help him with eye tracking so he could keep his focus on the sentences he was reading.  Until this past year getting him to write anything was difficult.  I think the non-stimulant ADHD medication and maturity have helped with this issue.  But still, like your son he would rather speak than write. He does like using a specialized pen that is designed to be more comfortable for writing. 



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My son also has serious issues with reading comprehension, as do my sister and father, all 3 are dyslexic.  DS can actually read at or near grade level, stumbling over new words and "dropping" words occasionally.  Listening to him you would just think he was a kid who didn't get a lot of practice reading out loud.  Ask him a question about what he read and he can't answer it.  His audio comprehension is 100%, no problems.  

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I would go with audio and use something non-fiction based for reading comprehension practice. I used www.readtheory.org with my DD last year and she made improvements.


The other thing was letting her read stuff that she found fun and easier, for a fixed time each day, separate from literature study.

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We have had extensive evaluations in the past but I think most were neurological etc in approach.. trying to understand his quirks etc.. Is there a specific specialist  that can look for a visual LD?


Vision issues can be ruled out by a developmental optometrist http://www.covd.org  .  That is the first thing I'd do - get it out of the way quickly and easily.


For dyslexia, I think you'd need to see a psych (an ed psych would do).  I'm not sure why your previous neuropsych evals did not cover that - maybe they did?  It's not always clear to me which evals cover which things, honestly.  Did your previous evals include IQ testing and such?


In the meantime, I'd go with audiobooks when there is content that he *must* comprehend.  However, I would recognize the importance of not giving up on reading, and so I'd also work on reading comprehension separately.  I might look for an SLP or reading tutor who addresses comprehension issues (e.g. for dyslexics or for language processing issues more generally), but it would be best to have more info about the actual problem first.

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I would do both. Continue to use audio for longer school novels, but work on reading comprehension a little bit every day. Separate them as subjects. You can start well below grade level. I use old standardized tests for reading comprehension practice:




You can see in the upper left side there is a link to elementary tests. You can start with English Language Arts grade 3 and then move up. Some are reading and some are read to the student. Just go through a test using only the reading comprehension. Just reading one selection and answering the three or four questions won't take much time out of your day. If grade three is too easy then move up to grade 4. I am sure you can find a way to make it work for you.


You could also use the Critical Thinking Press Reading Detective, and start with the very first one. But I think those are half fiction and half non-fiction.


I think the regents tests give you a lot more material to work with and they are free

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Is your child quite visual, perhaps?  I found that my visual-spatial learner had difficulty with comprehension because he needed to be taught how to visualize in order to comprehend.  Before I started working on the issue, he would try and memorize the details to be able to answer questions.  Needless to say, that didn't work so well when reading chapters.  His comprehension of audio was much better and it was better if he read aloud too.  We started with learning to visualize sentences, then paragraphs, then chapters, and now I've let him loose on chapter books that he would have no difficulty decoding.  He is comprehending quite well now, but it took over a year for us to get there.  We started out with Visualizing and Verbalizing.  HTH

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My ASD kiddo learns well each way, but I do not. I love to listen to audio books and podcasts, but if I was tested on the material, I would flunk. I just don't take in information that way efficiently at all. If I ever go blind, I'll probably seem half as intelligent as I really am just because I am so bad at retaining auditory information. I think it's going to be less difficult over time to self-educate with auditory learning, so I think that concern is not strong enough.


I think it's fine to separate the tasks--you don't want to gain what ground he does hold with reading comprehension.


I would get a COVD exam asap. Ocular motor vision issues with spectrum kids are not unusual. Many kids with vision issues don't know it because their vision has always been this way. Kids also compensate well (and if they don't, they can actually suppress vision in one eye, etc. to compensate) and may not realize the symptoms are creeping up. Add in an ASD kiddo that is not likely to be able to verbalize subtle symptoms, and you can have quite a problem. Our optometrist found the ocular motor problem but told us it wasn't a real problem and wouldn't affect him. We did some research and realized that he couldn't see to catch a ball, etc. We went to the COVD doc to be sure, and now he's completing vision therapy for eye teaming problems. The COVD doc found stuff right away, but he was asymptomatic until a few months ago. The doctor told us and him what to look for--she said that his eye problems were bad enough that she couldn't believe he made it that long without symptoms. She said as soon as he encountered small enough text on crowded enough pages, he would start to struggle, and that's exactly what happened. So, I would seriously consider a COVD appointment with someone that has a good reputation. My son's therapy has helped a great deal with eye strain and fatigue, coordination, etc.

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I think you should allow your DS to listen and read at the same time.  Kindle has Immersion Reading for many of their books.  My DS turns on text to speech and listens with the digital voice using his 3 year old Kindle.


For story elements and analysis, maybe take a look at Inspiration software for Ipad.  It is sold for PC and Macs too; however, we prefer the Ipad because you can snuggle on the couch, read aloud together, and then stop and use the Ipad to create a mindmap/story element chart. Once done on the Ipad, resume reading.  

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