All children learn at different speeds. Despite what the education system may have you believe, not all 6 year olds can read, not all 9 year olds know their times tables.
Our first child was a very early learner for reading and writing and speaking. Not so much for moving, mostly I think because she could point at and clearly ask for something very early on, so she didn’t necessarily need to get to it herself!
Our second child also spoke very early ( and neither of them has stopped since!) and she talked about what was going on in books with us very early too.
It took a while to dawn on us that she wasn’t picking up the idea of letters and words like her sister did. This of course we put down to all children learning different things at different speeds. No problem.
However, it has gradually become more apparent that actually she really doesn’t see words and letters in the same way, and also has trouble sequencing things, like months and days of the week. Everyone has quirks and these are hers…. they seem to fit into the criteria of what is known as Dyslexia. Several relations are dyslexic and R is following the patterns of it. It is different for each person of course, but there are certain similarities that run through for each person.
Some things which I hadn’t realised can be part of dyslexia, like being unable to process too many instructions together… and no doubt other things I’ve yet to realise. We have adapted our learning styles with R. Her brain tires easily if she has to worry about reading or writing on top of processing other information, so videos and computer programs are a good way for her to learn, also just talking, or hands on activities.
We don’t have an official diagnosis, but we do have several teacher friends who have seen how she’s doing and are sure she is, and I have been reading a lot about the subject.
A helpful book I’ve read is: The Gift of Dyslexia which totally made sense to R, and is a look at how a person with dyslexia’s brain is so amazing, and the bit that R liked…. that it works faster than other people’s!
The fact that we have removed the pressure from reading and writing for R has really helped, in fact her reading in the last year (aged 10) has vastly improved, and she is enjoying it and choosing to read, not being made to.
She is now interested in improving her writing for herself. In fact I’d be writing something out for her and she has taken it and marked my writing as not being clear or neat enough, and she is writing it out herself. A big breakthrough.
I have realised how hard school would be for her, and I think she is aware of that too. The exam system would at the moment be a disaster for her. She is working at maths 2 or 3 years ahead of her age group, but with the education system being so focussed on reading and writing, this wouldn’t show in a school situation.
There is a much greater awareness now of different ways of learning, and teachers and schools are working towards seeing these different ways of thinking – L has had homework learning tasks which have been homework projects with a choice of how to present them, making a model, a video, writing a report, etc. So there have been options for visual learners, auditory learners and kinaesthetic learning styles etc. There is also support for dyslexia and other learning differences which L says is good for a couple of her friends who are dyslexic and who have extra help or separate lessons some of the time. Perhaps the next thing to work on and change, is the exam system?
The exam system could be so different, with audio exams and computer based exams to cater for children who learn in different ways… it would be a much truer representation of people’s skills, and how useful they would be in the real world! At the moment many dyslexic children know that when it comes to exams they are destined to struggle and what they understand of a subject will not necessarily be represented by their exam results. This is so unnecessary, when simple changes in the exam system could make such a difference to so many children. In the world of work you are just as likely to have to solve a problem through meetings and discussion as having to write about it. How often are you likely to have to handwrite out a report? Obviously it depends on the job, but I would think that most jobs are more likely to be computer based if you are dealing with words.
The thing about getting a job and living your life as an adult is that you are likely to adapt your life around your dyslexia, not throw yourself into always doing something you find really difficult, you will work to your strengths. This is a simple concept to understand, but schools do not work to children’s strengths, it is always about their weaknesses.
My 10 year old daughter said to me that one of the main reasons she wouldn’t want to go to school is that if you are not very good at something then the school will make you do even more of it. This would be soul-destroying as an adult, why do we not see it as soul-destroying for children too? To take them out of a subject they may actually be enjoying and doing well at, to do even more of the reading and writing that they are frustrated with!
The over testing in our schools is a whole other topic… but the better results at the end of school in Finland compared with the UK for example, show that testing right through school is totally unnecessary. In Finland, children aren’t tested regularly like in the UK. Testing does not make children better at a subject. Unfortunately our system has perpetuated the myth that somehow testing actually improves education. It doesn’t.
Choice and freedom and a love of learning improve understanding of a subject, not learning to the test, which so much of our school system focusses on. This is not education, education is learning because you are interested and want to know more. This doesn’t have to only be reflected in how well someone can read or write. It is possible to be extremely well-educated without being able to write it all down. We need more focus and appreciation of this.
See also : Daily chat and Learning through Osmosis
For an update on R and her reading : Major Breakthrough with Reading
Try a taste of what dyslexia might feel like: Through your child’s eyes
A good link here too: Glimpsing future adult life with Dyslexia