Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I feel like such a flake. I haven't posted in about a week! I have too much going on. We finally got the definite diagnosis of celiac disease for Holland. With school, meetings, doctor appointments and Holland's first ceramics class, my life was just too blurry. We also had three straight nights of soccer games and practices, too.

I also took Holland to a language evaluation last week. It's crazy how God lined all these things up. I had to go to school to become an interpreter; then get tendonitis from interpreting; then go back to school and get my degree; then go to graduate school for the deaf education program. While doing my student teaching, I was paired with a teacher in Washington who became a good friend. We've stayed in contact over the years and she referred me to this language expert. It was the most amazing evaluation I've ever been to. All she had to do was listen to his speech, see the way he held his pencil, watch him draw a picture of a fox and a farmer, see that he left out vowels when he wrote to come up with methods for me to use to improve his reading and writing. I went out and bought a digital recorder a few days before so I could tape the meeting. I knew there was going to be so much information and I didn't want to miss anything. I'm so glad I did! I transferred the recording to my computer and have been listening to it and taking notes on things.

She said he has auditory processing issues. He hears perfectly, but his brain doesn't transmit the sound into meaningful information. Phonics mean nothing to him because he can't differentiate between sounds. He has pictures in his head of words that are meaningful to him. That is how he writes; if he has a meaningful context for a word, then he can remember how to write it. But movement actually makes the pictures drop off, so as soon as he tries to write something, he loses that information. It's a crazy thing. I also had concerns of FAS (fetal alcohol spectrum). I sent her an email prior to the appointment just so she'd be aware of my concerns, but not wanting to talk about them in front of Holland. She said based on his ability to recall information and the way he drew details in his pictures (big fluffy tail on the fox; big teeth, pointy ears) that she did not believe that FAS was part of his learning differences.

He also left out vowels in words which she said is a huge indicator in auditory processing disorder. Vowels are not important because the consonants give more meaning to a word. He wrote "frm" for "farm" but he was able to read back what he wrote so she knew he understood the story. She also pointed out that while he was reading, when he came to a word he didn't know, he would insert a word that made sense. So he was making logical predictions about the story. She said this would not be happening with an FAS child. It feels so good to know this because now I have some tools to help him with his perceptual patterns.

The other interesting thing she did was to 'bubble' the words on a sheet of paper with squares set up for a picture dictionary. She would write the word he needed/wanted to know and then create a bubble around the entire word. This is a bit different than what I was doing before. When I was student teaching in Washington, the teacher I was with was a very visual teacher and would 'outline' words for the kids. It would look like you were drawing squares around the letters, but it would all be connected. This really seemed to help some of the kids who, being deaf, are obviously more visual learners. They could see the shape of the word. This method didn't really seem to stick for Holland. The language evaluator told me he needed an even more precise outline of the word. She showed me a sample sentence written entirely in bubble words. The letters were not written, so Holland was just looking at the entire shape of the word. She asked him to read the sentence and he didn't even flinch! It was so amazing. A meaningful pattern was now attached to these words.

The most important thing for me to do now, is to read him a story, have him draw what we read, write sentences to match the pictures and then read back what he wrote. I asked if I should correct his spelling while he was writing. As a teacher trained fairly recently, the rage was to let the kids do "inventive spelling". Let them use their phonics skills to sound out words and write how they believed the word to be spelled. Well, since Holland has no phonics skills, it makes no sense to let him sound out words. She said it takes an average of 40 times to write a word the correct way after learning it incorrectly and know how to spell it. Teach a child the correct spelling the first time so they do not have to "unlearn" it later.

1 comment:

Laura and the family said...

I have a 1st grader student who attends a mainstream class for "So Simple" class. This class is based on Phonic in spelling. Well after three weeks of school, I realized that it meant nothing to him either. One of the examples, "Go" he would say "drive the wheel" as for Go instead of using the sign for "go." Thus, I had to pull him out and use the shape of the word. Also, it is the same thing for my student and Holland to work on practicing spelling repeatedly.

Don't the patience runs out on you. The rewarding will come in your way after you work hard with Holland. Hang in there.