Mouth Agape

I’ve written before about how in one moment you can be elated for a giant step and in the next moment you can be depressed all over again as you take a step backwards.  Our journey is filled with hand in hand moments.  I believe I’ve characterized it as two steps forward one step back.

Also, in an earlier blog, I spoke about the annual (March, 2018) Lindamood-Bell evaluation of our son, which was quite fascinating.  What it showed was that his phonetic level was through the roof but that he had a rather keen visual breakdown.  He is unable to memorize sight words, prefixes or suffixes as an example.

The consequence of this visual breakdown primarily impacts his spelling.

Now, I don’t give two hoots if he can’t memorize sight words since that’s a “balanced” literacy approach, meaning a “compromise” between Whole Language and Phonics.  In truth, there is no such thing as sight words.

Anyway, the school evaluator finally listened to what I was saying and agreed to test his orthographic processing.  That agreement was made in mid September and as of this week we have the addendum to the FIE, which contains the orthographic processing results.

“Student X’s overall orthographic ability falls within the poor range compared to his same age peers.  Student X scored below average in the areas of spelling speed and spelling accuracy.  Although his scores in the area of conventions falls within the poor range, his punctuation was average.  It was his ability to identify abbreviations that significantly impacted his overall score.  As Student X is identified as a student with a learning disability in the area of basic reading with the condition of dyslexia, it is likely that his difficulties in orthography impact his reading at the word level.  For example, he struggles with reading words in isolation because he is decoding the word each time he reads it, instead of retrieving it from his stored knowledge.  The time it takes him to decode at the word level also impacts the rate at which he reads.  His weakness in orthographic processing also correlates to his difficulties in spelling and his ability to memorize and retrieve how a word looks.  Overall, orthographic processing is considered to be a weakness for Student X.”

Even though I expected this, I knew this, I still cried.

Why can’t this poor kid get a break?!?!

Then I took a step back and tried to shake it off.  I reminded myself (rather firmly) that I already knew this and the scores shouldn’t surprise me.  Also, information is power and the ability to SHOW this to his educators, empowers his and my advocacy.  This HELPS us get him the right accommodations and assistive technology.  This helps us guide his learning through his tutors.  This helps us better understand his strengths and weaknesses in a way that we are better able to empower his learning.

So, that was Tuesday morning.  Now fast forward to Tuesday night.

For my son’s private tutoring we use the Neuhaus method and a Neuhaus approved tutor.  The Neuhaus program is taught through 3 books with each book taking approximately 1 year to complete for a total commitment of about 3 years if you follow the program to fidelity which is 4 days a week.

We’ve never followed the program to fidelity as 4 days of tutoring on top of his school and our work schedules, and our desire for him to still be a child and experience the joys of childhood, plus the fact that at roughly $50 / hour (varies by tutor) the difference between 3 days a week and 4 is a BIG difference.

Anyway, we started the program in August of 2016.  After two years he’s only recently moved onto book 2.

Now, considering a few particular people who will read this, I also have to elaborate on the delay just a bit more.  If you’re not interested in the back story,  move forward to the end of the section below which is separated with lines.

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First, we have had slight gaps in tutors when we’ve had to switch, through no fault of anyone (I truly love each tutor we’ve worked with!).

His amazing and beloved first tutor sadly had a devastating heart attack roughly 5 months into working with our son.  Neuhaus was wonderful and stepped up in this unprecedented situation and helped not just myself but the other 5 families who were working with her to find new tutors.  I think overall we had a 3 week gap between our first and second tutors.

Then come summer 2017 when he went to camp for the first time and came home very run down.  It was brushed off as allergies but we stacked up a lot of missed tutoring sessions until lo and behold it turned out to not be allergies but full blown pneumonia.  We decided to take a much needed rest and not do anymore tutoring over the summer, let him fully recover, and pick back up with the new school year.

Through the blessings of modern medicine we were able to return to our first tutor that August, but for only a short amount of time.  Sadly in October the doctors declared a heart transplant was necessary.  With love we cried with her, prayed for her and by a major blessing last December she received her new heart.  It’s one year later and I’m so proud to report that she’s just recently met her donor family and is still going strong.

After her doctors made that declaration, we briefly had our 3rd tutor, who came to our house (win! win!).  She was a laid off oil field (patch) worker, and having worked in oil and gas myself, I did not begrudge her when she was able to land a job back in the patch.  I think overall we had a 2 week gap from tutor #1 to tutor #3 who worked with him from October, 2017 to January, 2018

So when tutor #3 left us, we returned to tutor #2 and with the help of some dear friends who happened to have a dyslexic son the exact same age in the exact same school who used the exact same tutor, we worked out a tutor / shuttle schedule so that we could manage 3 days a week, which was the maximum available given her already existing schedule.

We persevered.  We stayed with tutor #2 and we were good over the summer 2018, with the exception of his time away at camp and at his grandparent’s house for his regular summer visit.  Shortly into the new school year, at LONG LAST, he started book 2 in the Neuhaus program.

He had some rebellion in the transition work, and we all had to have a talk with him about how he was shutting down and refusing to do the work.  I made a new friend, who is also a CALT, and she tried to talk to him too and it was immediately evident how he was shutting down and she didn’t want to push him.  However, one night he did exactly what his tutor asked him to do, and he figured out that what she was asking made sense, made the task doable, and made him successful at the thing he was resisting.

BREAKTHROUGH!!!!!!

So things have been moving along well.  He’s showed more confidence since that night.  One morning in the car he spoke about how he couldn’t read in 2nd grade and how he hated the books he had to get during reading time and how much he hated the whole thing, but now how he was so happy he could read and how much easier things were getting.

BREAKTHROUGH!!!!!

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So things were trudging along nicely in book 2, and this catches us up to Tuesday night’s phone call from his tutor.

During his past few lessons he’s been saying “I know that concept already;” so his tutor skipped to the end of the book and tested him on the phonics portion.  Guess what?!  He scored a…drum roll….100!  He was not tested on the spelling or writing components of book 2, but that’s near the end of the book.

So we’re at a conundrum, but this is a conundrum I like and can definitely cope with.  If he’s really mostly done with book 2, how do we incorporate what he hasn’t yet mastered (which hasn’t been tested yet) and bridge to book 3 while we switch tutors?

Oh, I forgot to mention that?  Yes, our amazing tutor got a job with Houston ISD starting with this school year.  See, HISD is one of 10 districts in Texas to get a $1MM grant specifically for dyslexia services.  Both Neuhaus and I wrote recommendations for our tutor and she got one of the job openings.

This is an amazing opportunity for her and this specific program will enable her to complete all of her training, get her practicum hours in and qualify to sit for the CALT or CALP exam (I can’t remember which) after 2 years.  She’s over the moon with joy because this is a BIG DEAL and an amazing opportunity!  Couple this with her youngest son being a senior in high school and this is one very busy woman, thus she’s going to stop tutoring privately effective Christmas break.  She was amazingly kind though and FOUND US a tutor (#4) before she even told me she was going to resign.  We start with the new tutor in January.

So I’ve had an inverse of my norm which is forward then back.  This time we went back then forward, and we took two steps forward, because….

I got home last night and my son jumped out of his chair and proudly held this up for me to see:

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With bright eyes, enthusiasm and joy he exclaimed how he borrowed this from his teacher and how it’s 510 pages long and he wants to CHALLENGE himself with this book.  His goal is to read 100 pages before Monday, when he is planning on returning it to her, to see how well he does.  I stood there, mouth agape, staring in wonder at this amazing child who never ceases to blow my mind.

Naturally he didn’t start the book last night, but I’m anxious to see how this goes.

It does warm my heart to see the joy.  It makes me happy that he tells me how much he loves school.  I realize this is a rare occurrence.

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