Advice about Learning Differences

Parent Q&A

1st grade is struggling academically - get tutoring over summer? Mar 13, 2019 (4 responses below)
What to do for a mild learning discrepancy in a child? Nov 2, 2016 (4 responses below)
  • We had parent teacher conferences today. Our K kid has tanked in his progress. Part of it was due to a verbally abusive teaching asst who was loud, coercive and shaming around my kid’s inability to do work. Said asst was let go, but kid’s progress in academics has not been significant in the aftermath. We tried to get him tested but kid was having some fun with the examiner and giving flagrantly wrong answers and giggling as the examiner squirmed. He also said “I’m stupid in the head” when he clearly is not. When asked why he says it, the reply was “because it’s easier that way”.The big issues are with fine motor/writing, letter sounds,then phonics/ blends, decoding and encoding words and even sight words. I see him spontaneously picking out words from text, but confrontation sight words he draws a blank. Teacher said he works hard, is very diligent but the progress is not happening. I suspect he is 2e like his sister who did not read fluently til mid second grade and didn’t write an essay by herself until grade 4/5. But she is also intellectually gifted. No one seemed all that concerned anout her, but we got her support,  and it was only marginally helpful. Now the sirens are blaring and hand wrenching is happening over my son’s academics in K! 

    The neuropsych examiner said to wait a year or three and retest. Stated he’s “neurologically young” and his brain is not yet online for some skills. Question is, do we do intensive tutoring over the summer? He’s in a private school so no formal intervention plan, just some pull -outs. He’ll be in BUSD northwest zone in fall. Any suggestions? We’re moving into district next month and will likely need IEPs for both kids, though unclear if middle school girl will qualify. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!

    You should have him checked by an experienced/skilled occupational therapist. The red flag is that he's trying to get out of these things instead of diving in and trying. Learning to write goes hand and hand with reading. You can't write (physically) better than you can read. Also K is still young and the standards can be high. Extra support may help and learning at home. We did the Handwriting Without Tears program at my house for my K daughter and it worked like a charm. Lots of sensory info and tricks that help the child learn. The OTs should know about it. We purchased the program and did it at home. We also used the Bob books at home to help her get the hang of reading. In a short time she started doing it more on her own. It's simple and we did it ourselves. She started reading fluently in 3rd grade and now reading is her favorite hobby.  Good luck.

    We had a similar experience. What my son needed was to stop going to the after school program and start coming home instead. Being at school from 8-6 was too much for him to handle and it caused a lot of stress. Trying to do homework after dinner was horrible. I wish that I would have understood how important it was for him to have some quiet time after school sooner. I also wish that I had been able to change my work schedule so that I could have always been the one to pick him up after school, help him with his homework, and take him to sports and other activities. I truly believe that he would be much farther along academically and a lot less stressed out. 

    I finally was able to change my schedule to be available after school and it has made a world of difference. 

    This sounds like a very concerning and alarming thing to hear, especially in light of what you went through with your older child.

    Dyslexia runs in my family, and I work with children with learning disabilities, so I fully understand your alarm and your motivation to help. I'm always on the lookout for any signs my 3-year-old is going to have trouble reading -- poor, overly scrutinized child.

    I would suggest that you may not want to overwhelm your son with work he finds challenging all summer, to the exclusion of fun - and active! - activities. That might end up just exacerbating his negative emotional response which might hurt him more in the long run. That said, as you noticed with your daughter, you have the best chance of providing effective interventions the earlier you can get started, and kids often lose skills over the summer without the consistency of school (even in the context of normal academic progress).

    It sounds like your son really suffered a double whammy: experiencing challenges in learning amongst his "sea of strengths," and being verbally berated for them by an adult who was supposed to be helping. From your description, it sounds like he really took some of the abuse and shame to heart, so turning around his narrative that "it's just easier to pretend to be dumb all around" is going to be crucial, especially for such a little guy - he's got a lot of years of school still ahead!

    You might want to consider non-intensive tutoring. Strategies for Learning has camp sessions, although I don't know what age groups they serve or how long the camps run each day. You might find someplace that has camps with work in the morning and play in the afternoon. He might benefit from getting to know other smart kids who struggle. On the other hand, he might be on the younger end of the age range, since you are so on top of this, which could be challenging socially.

    I would consider it most important for you to read together. Imparting a love for reading and keeping your son's interest in language and stories alive, boosting his comprehension and developing his inferential thinking with thought questions as you read will keep him on track for when the underlying mechanics do come online. My son has been really into audio books recently. We get CDs from the library and he gets to work the CD player himself (he's remarkably careful). Some afternoons, he will finish an Ivy and Bean book and turn around and restart it happily while I cook dinner (yes, it is glorious, and no, thankfully he doesn't understand that he is scuttling his prospects of wearing down my weekday TV ban). He asked me what an "oath" was the other day....

    Ultimately, it is a balance between intervening early to support a sense of success and mastery (and by extension heading off the self-esteem struggles), and not creating problems with unrealistic expectations. You might ask your neuropsych examiner for a little more guidance and space to discuss your concerns, in addition to seeing what his teachers recommend.

    You are clearly conscientious in wanting to support your child, which is awesome. I would be sure to consider the academic skills AND the emotional development as you decide how to proceed.

    Best of luck!

  • My 10 year old daughter has always struggled in school, in all subjects. We had her tested by our school district and privately and both test reveal she has what they are calling mild learning discrepancy but does not qualify for services. Since kindergarten she has struggled. Things that other children just absorb with no effort, frustrates her and I can see she just doesn't absorb it. Has anyone had a child in a similar situation? We want to get her help but don't know what kind. Can anyone recommend something that has worked, what kind of support? Is this just something that she is going to have bear till she's done with school. Obviously, her self esteem is low. She has not yet found something she is really good at to offset the negative affects of her academic challenges. 

    I'd appreciate any thoughts. Thank you

    If you haven't already done so please have a neuropsychologist do testing so that you can move forward in an informed direction. Then you can proceed with intervention. We started working with an educational therapist early on (wish we had started even earlier). It's well worth the investment!

    It's not clear what exactly she's struggling with and why from your post, but you could hire an educational therapist, send her to Lindamood-Bell (very expensive), move her to a private school with small class size and more attention, move her to a school specializing in LD.  It really depends on what the problem is.  Has anyone had a child in a similar situation?  Many, many, many kids are like that. Take a look at your kid's test results and see where the problems lie and plot a course from there.  If the information isn't specific you may need to do further testing. 

    I can say from my experience that hoping and worrying don't help at all, and in many ways make it worse.  If you're worrying a lot, get help for yourself.  Trust me on this.  

    For my daughter, having her enrolled in things that she did succeed at (art, athletics) helped her self esteem. Tutoring was worth every penny- we decided there was no point in saving for college if she wasn't succeeding now.  Counseling helped her with anxiety around testing, I wish we would have done more focused academic counseling, because I think there were some messages about the value of hard work, and the way learning is like a muscle that can be strengthened, a skill that can be developed, that could have been better communicated to her.  But, to have someone try to help her identify what strengths she has, and to create strengths when possible, can make all the difference.  And, there are a lot of intellectual abilities that can develop over time, with support.  Some kids just develop later than others.  Don't let her feel like she's less wonderful because she isn't moving at the same speed as anyone else.  My daughter is great with little kids, creative, loving, and has many strong friendships.  And, she can't remember math facts, or spell worth beans.  Schools are set up to work for a remarkably small subset of kids.  If you can figure out an alternative, it's worth a try!