Sunday, September 23, 2012

reading woes

Aislynn,  our #7,  started the second grade this year.  She is homeschooling just like she did last year.  I enjoy teaching Aislynn because she is always eager to do her work and never complains.  By the end of first grade, however, she wasn't reading.  She struggled with simple words like "cat" and "big" and "they" -- words she learned (or I thought she learned) in Kindergarten.  Honestly, I didn't think too much of it because I had a "late reader" before -- her sister Avery -- who did not read until the end of the second grade.  But here's where I made my mistake:  I assumed that Aislynn's lack of reading was to be compared to Avery's lack of reading.  Just not ready.  No interest.  Will read at her own pace.  When really, I should have paid more attention to the differences between the two.  

Avery did not want to read.  She would let me read to her, but when it came to independent reading she would simple not do it.  She would say things like "Ugh...I don't want to."  or  "I'm not going to."  and oh wow, was she a hard student for me. She would get all of her spelling words right, but she would not read a book.  She would not read sentences. She just didn't want to and wouldn't do it. I didn't want to force her because I feared that would make her hate reading.  I figured she would read when she was ready.   One day shortly after her second grade year had ended,  she came back from a friend's house and was very upset. 

"Mom!  Jenna is reading chapter books!  She's reading the American Girl books!"
"Yea, so?"
"So I should be reading those kinds of books!  Not stupid Dr. Suess baby books!"
"Avery...I've been trying to work with you on reading!  You haven't wanted to learn.  Do you want to learn now?"
"Yes!!"

And so that summer she started reading.  By the time the third grade started, she was reading grade level chapter books. I don't know what to call that ~ reading readiness? caving to peer pressure? or just plain being stubborn?  Maybe all of the above.   But my point is that Avery read when she was good and ready to read, and no sooner.  

But Aislynn is different in that she wants to read.  She tries hard to read.  She, too, has always learned to spell her spelling words, so last year I figured she was just a late reader... like Avery.  And like Avery she would eventually start reading, when she's ready.

A few days ago I asked Aislynn to read from a book.  I watched as she struggled to read the words we had just gone over the day before.  It was a simple sentence, and we had read it quite a few times during the week.  It was as if she were seeing it for the first time.  So I spoke with her about it.

"Aislynn, what is it about these words that you don't get?  We went over them yesterday, and the day before, and the day before..."
"I know, mom!  But I just can't read them!  I'm just dumb, that's all!"

So of course my heart broke in a million pieces when she said that.  I saw a tear slide down her cheek.

"Aislynn, you are not dumb.  I promise you that.  I want to help you.  What do you see when you look at the words?"

She thought for a minute and then said, "They move."
I was shocked.  "What do you mean 'they move'?"
"They shake and move on the page."


They shake and move on the page?
I was so happy to hear that!   Well,  don't get me wrong.  Of course I don't want her to have vision problems, but at least that would explain things!  And that could be fixed with glasses!  

The next day ..... we were at the eye doctor.

Sure enough, after all the gadgets and lenses were played with and she read the letters on the charts, the result was that she was  far-sighted.  So the doctor wrote a prescription for glasses.  And I thought that was that - case solved!  Let's get home and start reading!
Not so fast.
The doctor spoke with me in private and said that the slight far-sightedness that Aislynn has should not have kept her from reading, that she should still be able to read the simple words she learned in Kindergarten.  She should still be able to retain what she learns.  She said she was going to give her some further testing, that these next tests would tell us if she has a processing problem.
Processing problem?  My world went on pause after hearing those words.  The first thing that came to mind was brain injury.  See, I am well aware of what a processing problem can entail. Audriana, due to her brain injury, has a processing problem. And it took years and years of vision and cognitive therapy to improve on that. 
So after hearing those words, my emotions got away from me.  I held it together just fine, but inside my head I was screaming... Noooooo!  Not again!  Not with this one!  She wasn't hurt in a car accident!  How can her brain have issues?
The doctor's lips were moving but I barely heard what she was saying.  My mind went immediately to Aislynn's baby years, back to 2004 and 2005.  What could have caused this?  And then I remembered that Aislynn fell off my bed once when she was about 8 months old.   Sure, we had a soft carpeted floor with padding, but still it was a hard fall.  That must have been it!   I remember she cried for a few seconds but then went about her day, crawling around like normal,  eating, playing, giggling and doing all the things she usually did.  So I didn't think too much of it at the time.  But of course now I'm thinking she must have hurt her brain!  The fall must have caused a small bleed of some sort that killed off some brain cells or interrupted her synapses .... or something!
I was trying to find a way to blame myself.  How did I fail her?  How could I have prevented this?
The doctor spent a little more time with Aislynn and had her do a few tests and drills.  When it was all said and done,  the results showed that she does in fact have some sort of processing problem.  She does not switch the letters around, so it's not dyslexia, but somehow the information her eyes take in gets mixed up in her brain and makes it difficult to read or say the word.  She also has a tracking problem and loses her place a lot.  So the plan is that she will go to vision therapy once a week and I will have drills to work with her at home.  This is all very familiar to me because this is exactly what we did with Audriana for years and years.   Audriana, of course, had many other issues related to her brain injury that kept her from reading well.   With Aislynn, it's less severe and the doctor is quite positive she will be reading at her grade level in no time at all.  That was great to hear.
I will never know what caused Aislynn's processing problem.  Perhaps her brain has always been wired this way and nothing "caused" it.  Or maybe it was that short fall from the bed.  Or maybe something else entirely different.  I will never know.  I guess it doesn't really matter.   The only thing that matters is that we do our best to fix it!
And we are.

And I must say, she looks pretty cute in those glasses!



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12 comments:

  1. She looks lovely in her new glasses! Do not blame yourself for this. It was not caused by her falling off the bed. I have a son who is borderline autistic and I have asked myself many times over the years "what did I do differently in that pregnancy?", "is it because he had a difficult birth?" "is it my fault?" and you can't keep beating yourself up like this. You have to accept that is the way they are. It's nothing you've done. Good luck and lots of love to you both on your new learning journey xx

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  2. When I was in school I always made passes at girls who wore glasses.

    But they could see me anyway.

    I'm sure she will be reading Chapter books soon.

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  3. I can't believe this post is here today, not because of any reading woes, but just because of Aislynn in general.

    Can you believe this...I had all kinds of dreams about her and her only. We met and were talking, and walking through a park together and she was telling me all about her brothers, sisters, and her family. And then, I asked her what school she went to, and before the words were all out, I stopped myself and said, "No, you are home schooled, I know your mom, I know of all of your siblings! I know of you! You are Aislynn." She smiled like she wasn't even surprised I knew and handed me a 5 stick pack of Juicy Fruit. We both opened a stick, talked about how it was our favorite gum and we kept walking.

    So weird that she is the center of this new post...

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    1. Wow, what a dream! Funny you should dream about Aislynn when it was Avery who you met and spent time with!

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  4. She is indeed very cute in those glasses. I'm glad it doesn't appear to be something more difficult to overcome. Just reading this, I can tell with Aislynn's desire to read, the therapy, and YOU, she'll be well on her way to reading on and above level in no time.

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  5. She is adorable in her specs and I'm so glad you are getting her the help she needs. Please don't beat yourself up, you are an awesome mama. p.s. My younger daughter just got cute glasses, too.

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  6. Aww, her glasses look so great! And her effort and drive will pull her through this. She's determined. :)

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  7. I'm so glad that you found this out- much easier to help when you know what's going on! And she looks darling with her glasses on!

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  8. It's so nice to have answers!! Way to be proactive and ask her the right questions! And you're right, she does look adorable! :) Stopping by from Shell's place.

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  9. I'm glad that she is getting help. I'm sure it'll work out okay. My husband is dyslexic. He struggled big time his whole life. Despite this, he makes 6 figures & we recently bought a house on by the beach in NYC.

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  10. Ps she looks so cute in her specs :)

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  11. You're an awesome mom :) And yes, she does look adorable in her glasses! - Amy

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