When learning is not easy

From the moment we know we are expecting a child, our minds and hearts are filled with hopes and dreams about them. My baby will be the prettiest, smartest, smartest little man ever to walk the earth, right? They are the same for all of us!

But sometimes, we find that there is a “problem”. The last thing we want to admit is that our child is different or at fault. That’s a hard thing to do. We love them no less! But let’s be honest, we like to sit around with other moms and share with our 4 year old how to read a chapter book, multiply at age 6 and paint like Rembrandt at age 7. The Olympics are two different sports. Or at least when you are quietly listening to all the achievements of other people’s children!

So, let’s get straight to the point … most likely those other moms will exaggerate a bit! And there is nothing wrong with your child! Even if your child has a learning disability. She or he learns differently than just the mainstream! Of course, it’s kind of cool!

But I did not always feel that way. After struggling to teach my daughter to read for 3 years, I was quite disappointed after making little progress. Every school session ended with tears and some days started with tears mentioning reading. She always loved books and loved to read and was eager to learn to read on her own. If so, why was it such a struggle? Am I just a bad teacher? Was she easily distracted and not self-motivated enough?

We finally decided to do the tests at 7 years old. I have seen many letter and word reversals in reading and writing as well as in mathematics. She complained that her head and eyes hurt when reading (and a visual examination revealed that she had 20/20 eyesight). I wanted to know what was stopping us. I knew she was extremely intelligent in many ways, but we hit a brick wall. Since we were going to school at home, we decided to check on her with a personal therapist. It took 4 hours to complete and after that she told us she had visual and auditory processing disorders.

I then went into mom research mode! As I searched the internet and the library, I began to get more and more confused and overwhelmed! There was no really useful book or website and what I found seemed to tell me different things! We decided to go for ophthalmology which is not really covered by insurance, would any of us be surprised? But we felt it was worth the effort and worth the money. During treatment, she re-learned phonology using A Time for Phonics. We also did homework assignments. After 6 months she is over and I can definitely see a big improvement! Because of the cost we did not do the hearing therapy with a therapist but I used a program called Earobics at home. The books The Out of Sync Child and When the Brain Can’t Hear were also very helpful to me.

I continued my search to help her learn in a way that suited her learning styles. You see, processing disorders and dyslexia do not have to be a roadblock! There are many ways to learn. I realized this when I found a book on Ben Foss’ plan for dyslexia empowerment. I encourage everyone to read it! Check out his website too! I hate the word accommodation. It seems that you need extra or special help, you will be allowed to cheat. Don’t be ashamed to learn differently. Find out what your child’s strengths are and use those skills. Most children do not pay attention to the standard method of teaching to read. I am incredibly thankful that we chose home school because my daughter did not want to be compared or labeled in any way. But even if your child is in a public or private school, keep in mind that your child is not broken, but the system can be so. Advocate for your child to have the resources they need to excel and get involved.

What resources can you use? Oh, there are so many! This is where I was overwhelmed! I list a few resources that I feel are the best. But look no further and explore the available options!

– Audio books are your friend! Do not hesitate to learn because you can not read the material fast enough! If your child is learning well by listening, try Audible. Amazon has audio books as well as your local library.
– A reading focus card. You can make your own or buy one. Try printing your pages on yellow paper, or try colors other than plain white.
-Use a text-to-speech application such as Speak It or Talk to Me and a text-to-speech application such as Dragon Dictation. Another useful application is Prizmo, where users can scan any type of text and read the program aloud, which can be of great help to those who struggle to read it.
I love Snapwords for learning site words! Now there is an app for Snapwords too!
-Types and Background Colors: Software that is regularly used in schools such as Microsoft Word is a good resource for text and background colors. Changing the background color to green, for example, helps to read like wearing green glasses. Literacy and comprehension can also be enabled; Teachers can download special fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, for free, and run them on Microsoft software.
-All about the spelling, this syllabus is great for all kids but with my daughter the multi-sensory approach based on the Orton-Gillingham method I clicked on! We haven’t tried everything about reading, but I believe it is a good option.
-We used Rocket Phoenix after the visual therapy was over. It was developed by a dyslexic man and is fun! Includes lots of games and interesting stories to read, not the usual boring books that are your usual easy read.
-We have a struggle to read math as well. Remembering facts is a challenge. I found a math program called Semple Math that uses learning, facts, and process memories.
– Take it! Use clay, ink, blocks, magnets, etc. to practice spelling, spelling, and sound. First learn to spell in the sand with your index finger, then write with a pencil. Make it fun! Use all the senses!
– Play! Sum Swamp, What is Gnu ?, Scrabble, very stupid sentence, Boggle Jr. Search Pinterest and the Internet for fun games to practice collecting war (put two cards together) or Alphabet Go Fish (spelling sounds you have to say), math and spelling or spelling and visual words. Even if your child is an adult, there are hands on fun and multi-sensory ideas

Moms (and dads), my point in writing this is to give you a few starting points. To let you know that you are not alone! I know that knowing that your child is struggling in some way can be frustrating at first. But knowing how your child is learning and having ways to help and empower your little one can feel like a burden to be lifted. I know that if you are from a school background, I know that you will have to explain to your child why he or she is going to a special class or doing different tests than other children. You need to trust them to know how to talk to your child. There are books for kids who speak in a positive light about dyslexia and learning problems, namely, Thank you, Mr. Patricia Polaco’s Folker, Diane Rob’s War of the Alphabet, and Caroline Rose or Niagara Falls for Adults, or Do It? By Henry Winkler (Yes, Fonseka on Happy Days!)

Try to emphasize his / her strengths and friendships, not focus on his / her weaknesses and difficulties. Remind your child that he / she can actually learn but that he / she is learning in a unique way, that’s right! We are all unique and have our own strengths and weaknesses. Love your child for who they are and hope they find the right tools to enhance learning!

I do not see the day when reading my daughter’s favorite activity! Go upstairs, keep plugging in, relax and have fun, and love them no matter what!

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