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Dear Learning Success Coaches

by Victoria Kindle Hodson and Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis

Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches,
In the fall I will be home schooling my seven-year old son, and I need a reading program for dyslexics. He was given this diagnosis after many hours of testing by a neuropsychiatrist. This year he is using the Abeka program in a private school, and next year it will be way too advanced for him. Four times a week he has phonological processing therapy, yet his progress is slow. Lately, when he’s frustrated in class, he puts his jacket over his head and cries. At home he gets so upset that he yells and cries there, too. I’m confused, frustrated and at a loss for a solution. What do you recommend?

Thank you so much, Marlene

Hi Marlene, 
This is a difficult subject because we have been conditioned to evaluate how “smart” or capable our children are based on their ability to learn to read (as well as write and do arithmetic) at early ages. It is our experience that most children who are labeled “dyslexic” get the label because they are not yet ready to learn to read or they are picture learners and/or hands-on learners.

Ready or Not?
Developmentally, a large number of children between the ages of four and nine or ten years old are not ready to consistently perform the complex reading-related activities we expect of them in school. They need more time to mature naturally, at their own paces.
We weren’t born to read in the same way we were born to walk or talk. A very complex integration of different parts of the brain and the senses makes reading possible. If we follow our children’s lead and introduce concepts and activities in very small doses when they show interest, it is likely that they will feel successful every step of the way. 

Celebrate Your Child
Have faith in the unique, capable, and brilliant person your son is. Right now the focus of the school is on your son’s reading skills and you are feeling concerned and afraid because he doesn’t measure up to their expectations. This pressure will be greatly relieved in the fall when you are able to home school him. To restore your perspective of who your son is as a person -- not just a reader -- make a list of everything he does well—natural talents, skills, and abilities. Include the things he loves to do, what he’s passionate about, and what he would do all day long if he didn’t have anything else to do.

Learn More About How He Learns
If learning is making him cry and yell there is something wrong with the teaching, not with your son. Find out more about your son’s learning style. It is possible that he is a visual-picture learner or hands-on/whole body learner and needs an approach to reading that takes this into consideration. There are many ways to launch a child into the world as a reader, and it isn’t a race to see who can get there first. The more you learn about how your son learns, and the more you learn about how to be his coach and create successful learning experiences, the more relaxed and confident you will feel.

Read to Him
Read to him every day. Make this a special time to reconnect with each other, enjoy the magic of a wonderful story, and relax. This is not a time for him to read to you or for you to stop the story and ask him comprehension questions. Bring stories alive with animated discussions about what you’re each enjoying, confused about, or thinking will come next. 
By accentuating what your son does well, finding out how he learns best, and reading to him daily, you will take the pressure off the present situation and establish coaching habits that lead to more success in reading and all areas of life. So, relax -- back off from having a “reading program” and observe the wonderful changes that will occur in your son.

Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches,
Our daughter, who is 5 years old, can say her ABC’s one minute then the next minute she gets them all jumbled up like she has never heard them before. She does the same thing with counting. Also, sometimes she can read a short word but when she sees it again she doesn’t recognize it. She is very active and doesn’t like sitting still for learning activities. She wants to do everything her own way. Is this normal?
Thanks, Paulette

Dear Paulette,
Your daughter is taking in new information about many different aspects of life at a very rapid rate. Every day she is attempting to make sense of a barrage of sensations, information, and concepts. It is perfectly natural for letters, numbers, and words to go in and out of focus and order for a long time.

Get To Know Your Child 
This is a wonderful opportunity for you to let go of expectations and judgments about her progress and “get to know” your child as a learner. You can relax and simply observe what she says and does with numbers, letters, and words. It is helpful to have lots of simple, self-teaching, interactive materials she can “play” with so that you don’t have to “teach” a lesson. Listen and watch carefully rather than direct her. Just be with her, somewhat like a friendly bystander. Let her know that you are there if she has any questions, then watch what she does on her own. Notice the kinds of activities your child is drawn to naturally. Notice the kinds of things she avoids or puts off. 

Follow Your Child’s Lead
It sounds as if she may be a hands-on learner and might want to do very active things like stacking plastic letters or numerals to make a tower. She may do this over and over for days. You might think she is wasting time; however, she is actually conducting her own experiments and learning about the shapes of letters. She may put the letters in her own order and ask you to read them. She may enjoy hearing the sounds of the silly words that she “wrote”. She might put together puzzles of letters and numerals and recite or sing the names of the letters and numbers she knows. She may want you to name some of them for her. It’s okay. She is leading the show, collecting new information and making sure that she is on ground that is appropriately challenging and comfortable for her every step of the way. You will be surprised one day to find out that your daughter has learned all of her numerals and letters in this casual, playful way.
______________________

Victoria and Mariaemma each have more than 20 years’ experience as teachers, trainers, and consultants. Victoria holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Mariaemma, in Special Education. Together they have developed materials and programs that help ensure successful learning experiences for every child. Their innovative way of viewing all children as gifted and their methods for building on kids’ strengths and interests, and tracking successes rather than failures, has earned them the title, America’s Learning-Success(tm) Coaches. They are the co-authors of the bestselling book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, and co-founders of the Learning-Success™ Institute.
Copyright 2004 by Victoria Kindle Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
Send your questions to Victoria at P.O. Box 24346, Ventura, CA 93002 or email to v@learningsuccesscoach.com For more information about us go to www.learningsuccesscoach.com, 805-648-1739