Dealing With Different Learning Abilities, by Cheryl

Aidan has been an easy child to teach. He learned to read quickly; he picks up math naturally; he is highly focused and capable of working independently. He gave me the confidence I needed to homeschool.

He also gave me a false sense of what a child should be able to do.

I knew he was “ahead” so when Lilly struggled with reading, writing, and math, I did not have a good gauge of when she was on track and when she was “behind.” She asked to learn to read at age four. Aidan learned at four, so no big deal, I can teach her! But there were tears – from both of us.

We tried many reading programs but nothing worked consistently. We’d take one step forward and two steps back. It was frustrating for both of us. One day I came home from the grocery store and was greeted by a very excited six year old – she had written the numbers 1-10 on the white board, in the correct order! In perfect mirror images of the letters.

I started to notice other things – constant reversals of letters (b,d,p,q), mix ups of other letters (i,j), and reading whole words backwards (was and saw). I checked out a book on dyslexia from the library. As I read, it was like the author knew my daughter and was writing this book about her! In the middle, I found a list of signs for dyslexia. I checked off almost everything on the list. She was a late talker; she struggled with rhyming; she reversed sounds that she heard (we said “sandwich” and she said “swandich” every time). I spoke with a friend who had knowledge of learning disorders, and she gave me more books to read.

Here is one checklist.

Further research led me to new reading curriculum and a neuropsychologist for educational testing. The wait for testing was almost 6 months. I did not want to wait that long to start interventions if she was dyslexic, so we started doing school as though she already had a diagnosis of dyslexia. I obtained a copy of All About Reading – we moved very slowly, but it was working! I saw steady progress. It was still a struggle, but the concepts were sticking with her.

In December we finally had her testing appointment. Yes, she is dyslexic. She also has either ADHD or a sleep disorder that is causing focus issues. The doctor said that her dyslexia should not cause her to be as far behind as she is – if we can get her focused, she will be able to work through the dyslexia. She did not recommend medication, for several reasons – she is only 7, she is at home so I can easily accommodate her attention span, and we need to look at her sleep issues before we medicate.

Through my research and the discussion with the doctor, we have begun implementing a few things in our home and our homeschool to help deal with Lilly’s learning differences. So far, these seem to be helping.

1. We have switched to All About Reading. We take it slow. We started in late September and now, in late February, we are not yet to lesson 20. It doesn’t matter though; she is starting to read and has confidence in her ability!

2. While her brother does written narrations for our history, she draws pictures. I give her lots of free art time as well.

3. Sometimes she does school sitting on a yoga ball. The constant bouncing drives me crazy, but it keeps her focused.

4. Sometimes we do school in the recliner.

5. I give her breaks. Aidan could sit and do all of his school work straight through. He still prefers to do it that way. Lilly just cannot. This has required a big change in my teaching methods.

6. We school 3-4 days a week, and she will do school year round instead of on a “normal” school schedule. Long breaks in structured work send her backward in reading and math. We get three good days at home each week with a little bit of reading and math practice everyday. She will not take three months off from those subjects.

7. We have started diffusing lavender in her room at bedtime, and her dad has seeded lavender for the garden so we can make a satchel for her pillow. It doesn’t help her get to sleep faster, but she seems to sleep better.

8. We have been working to change her diet, mainly breakfast. She does so much better if she starts her day with an egg! We have always done cereal or bagels, but the high-carb/low-protein breakfasts left her crashing mid-morning. A good protein-filled breakfast makes our whole day better. (This has been the hardest change to implement, and we are still struggling!)

9. I try to get her swimming, to the park, or running in the backyard as much as possible. We are cutting back television and video game time with the exception of Reading Eggs.

10. We bought a Reading Eggs subscription. The visual and aural elements of the program combined with fun games seem to be reinforcing what we do with AAR.

We still have a long way to go, but I am so pleased with her progress. Even more importantly – I love to see the joy she has when she reads now.

Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

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