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The Trials and Errors of Homeschooling a Child With Dyslexia

05 Jul

My daughter, Hannah, began experiencing problems in school during kindergarten. She had trouble reading and spelling, and phonics made absolutely no sense at all. She made reversals in her letters, but I wasn’t terribly concerned because it is not uncommon for children to make reversals at such a young age. Actually, it is not uncommon to make reversals through second grade. She became panicked when her teacher would call upon her to read in class. She knew she couldn’t do it and it caused such anxiety in her that she really began to hate school. It broke my heart to see her under such pressure at such a tender, young age. I spoke with her teacher and asked her not to call on Hannah in class. She agreed. Thus began our journey toward figuring out what adjustments, modifications, and remediation would help our daughter get the very most out of her education.

First grade was not much better. Hannah still had the same struggles she experienced in kindergarten. She was now experiencing problems trying to memorize her math facts. It was also not unusual for her to reverse numbers such as 3, 5, and 7. Finally, we decided to have her tested by a clinical psychologist. That was a total waste of money, other than showing us her unusually high IQ. I was determined not to give up on my little girl. I petitioned Baylor University in Texas, to have her tested. They completed a much more through testing regime than the psychologist. The testing showed the same high IQ. It also showed areas where Hannah was having problems – – including dyslexia.

My husband and I were not exactly happy with the diagnoses because we knew what a difficult time Hannah was in for. However, we were on the same page as far as dealing with it. We were both in it for the long haul so to speak. We were both willing to do whatever was necessary to help Hannah succeed. If that meant extra trips to the university, more specialized practice at home, special books, more individual attention from us… then that is what we would do. This was a family effort;Hannah was not on her own.

Unfortunately, Baylor’s education program that offers remediation for students with dyslexia was totally full. We were put on a waiting list with over 900 kids in front of her. But we still wanted to try – – we still wanted to see if this would help our little girl. Fortunately, God moves and makes a way where there is no way. I received a call from the college notifying me that they were going to move Hannah to the front of the list of 900 kids and that I BETTER have her in class every week. I was thrilled! Baylor was fantastic. Hannah made excellent progress with her teachers and I could see a difference in her attitude. Now, don’t get me wrong, she still hated school and school was still very difficult, however, she wasn’t as self-conscious as she once was. I think she knew she was going to survive this new label. She was even asked to attend summer camp for kids with dyslexia. Just when things started looking up, my husband’s job transferred us to the state of Georgia. We haven’t found any programs here that even begin to measure up to the program at Baylor.

But we were determined not to give up. We would just keep trying. First up, was private tutoring. She made no progress at all. Then we tried the Davis Dyslexia program for home use. We used the software program, the clay protocol, and everything in between. It just didn’t work very well for Hannah. I used color overlays, but she hated them. I used book markers with the thin edged color overlays, and she hated them, too. I tried books on tape–same result. We switched to cursive handwriting. That did make a big difference since you can’t make reversals when writing in cursive. We installed Ginger Software on our computer, and it is a fantastic program. It was created for dyslexics. We tried “chunking” and breaking words into syllables. It also helped at the time, but Hannah thinks she is way too big for stuff like that now.

She hates most anything and everything connected with school. However, I knew I had to find something to encourage my daughter, challenge her at her level, and help her education grow. I firmly believe I found just the ticket in an online curriculum called Time 4 Learning. At first, Hannah wanted no part of it. I had to make her give it a try. She was determined it was another “stupid program” I dug up and it was not going to work. She told me it was much too kiddish for her. I honestly think her idea was based on prior usage of Click N Kid phonics program (now called Click N Read Phonics). She thought since T4L has animation, it must be just like the other program, which was very kiddish. After lots of prodding, begging, and out-and-out pushing, she tried T4L and found out she loves it. O happy day! I’ve since found that given time, she makes progress on her own and feels good about it.

Miss independent turns 13 next week. The days of me hovering over her every move during the school day ended this year. It was a semi-gradual transition. This is a little sneaky on my part, but I allow her free time from school work to explore things of interest by searching on the Internet. I must caution parents first to go over Internet safety rules with your child before allowing this type of free reign on the computer. What is so sneaky about it? The fact that she thinks she is using free time from school is sneaky. If I assigned things for her to research, it would be school. This way, it’s her time for what she enjoys, not school work. Hannah loves this activity the very most of all. For example, she is very interested in astronomy. She takes time off and on to search for information about the ten largest stars in the universe. You might say, “Well, that’s great, but how is this going to lend itself to something productive?” Every site she visits challenges her reading skills without me having to force her to practice reading. Sweet! Also, she took it upon herself to begin creating her own science board like the ones kids make for science fairs. It is always a work in progress. I do not ever tell her she has to finish it. That would end her research and desire for learning more. She will finish it when she is ready, and if she doesn’t, well, she sure knows more about stars than she did before–all done on her own free time.

I no longer experiment with ways to help her learn. I let her figure things out by trial and error. This builds great decision making skills in her. I sneak peeks while she is learning just in case she gets stumped. It has taken forever (literally years) for Hannah to find a type of reading she enjoys. She loves fantasy fiction and reads stuff like The Hobbit, Eargon… It takes a very long time to read even a few pages, but she does it on her own and senses the accomplishment. That is something I could never give her. She has earned that feeling! I’ve finally come to the comforting understanding that Hannah WILL survive in this world. She will learn to read better and better every day because she has gotten a grip on it more this last year than ever before, and that is because she is finally interested in reading. Maturity counts for something. It is still just baby steps, but it is steps. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and best of all, she can see the light, too!

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