by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
Finally receiving the new curriculum for the year can be an exciting time for a homeschooling mom. After having taught three previous children how to read, moms often look forward to teaching this fourth child.
But what if your fourth child is the same age as your other children were when they were eagerly reading, but is not interested in learning to read, or is having great difficulty learning to read? Do you have this child tested? Do you wait? Will the reading just “click” at some point, if you wait long enough? How does a mother know if this is a “maturity issue” or if this difficulty is a sign of a learning disability?
As a special education teacher and homeschool educational consultant, this is how I approach the “maturity issue”. These are the “red flags” I look for in a seven-and-a-half-year-old who is either avoiding or struggling with reading:
Research shows that boys tend to mature later than girls. Thus, if a seven-and-a-half-year-old boy is not interested in reading, I would tend to just give him six more months to let his nervous system “mature” before I try formal reading lessons again.
Being a nutritionist, besides an educator, during this waiting time I help the child’s nervous system to mature using natural means. Relying on the research done by Dr. Jacqueline Stordy in her famous studies relating the nervous system maturity (particularly in males) and essential fatty acid deficiency, I will often give this child some fish oil supplements. This helps to move the maturing process along nicely (for supplement details see “Essential Fatty Acids and the Brain”, www.diannecraft.org).
Does your child have a desire to read? If the desire to read is not there, then I would allow six more months for his nervous system to mature. However, if this child wants to read, but can’t remember sight words or the sounds of the letters, then that is a red flag that there likely is a learning block that is present. I would begin interventions.
Some children have a significant speech delay and are struggling with remembering letter names or sounds. If that is the case, it would be a good idea to check into some reading intervention. An auditory processing problem often accompanies a delay in speech. An auditory processing problem can be greatly helped by using an intensive phonics program that uses more right brain teaching strategies, or tiles, or other methods that are out of the “norm” for regular reading instruction.
When a child easily learns to say and sing the alphabet, and easily remembers the names and sounds of letters, but is not interested in reading, then I would just consider this a maturity issue.
However, if your child has an auditory processing problem, learning to say or even sing the alphabet correctly can be difficult. For them, remembering the names of the letters when looking at them is also very difficult. That is when I would begin interventions.
5. Listening to Stories
If your seven-year-old is not even interested in listening to you read a story, I would first give that child six more months for his nervous system to mature. However, if he loves to listen to stories read by mom, or on tape, that child is showing that he is ready for learning and would like to learn how to read himself. If he is struggling with the reading process, then I would see that as a red flag, and start interventions.
6. Reading or Writing Reversals
We often think that reading and writing reversals are “normal” in the learning process. It is true that when children are first learning to track their eyes from left to right over the page as they read, and writing letters with the correct orientation, they may make letters backwards or read letters or words backwards. However, after six months of practice, the majority of children cease making reversals. Brain research now shows us that when a child struggles with this “left to right” process past age seven and a half, this is usually a symptom of a more pervasive issue of a poorly established midline. While this can be corrected at home using various exercises, it is important that the parent see this as a red flag and do those interventions. Without the interventions, the child likely will have to struggle longer than necessary.
When we have a “late bloomer,” we often receive much advice from other moms. Much of this is very helpful. However, we also inevitably hear the story about a child who didn’t learn to read until age 11 or 12, but is a good reader now. Do some “late bloomers” learn to read by age 11 or 12 without interventions? This certainly happens. Then why not wait all the time? Often the price the child pays in lowered self-esteem for so many years, while all others are easily reading, can be too high. We now know more about how the brain processes information, and have access to wonderful early interventions that take the chore out of learning.
Bottom line: Learning doesn’t have to be so hard.
“No parent has ever said that they started interventions too early with their child.” –Sally Shaywitz, MD, Overcoming Dyslexia
“Reading and writing are natural, if there are no learning blocks.” –Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, Brain Integration Therapy; Right Brain Reading Program
Copyright 2013. Used by permission of the author. Originally published in Arizona Home Education Journal, June 2013.
Dianne Craft is a former homeschool mom who with a master’s degree in education. Her books, The Brain Integration Therapy Manual, The Right Brain Phonics Reading Program, and her DVDs, Understanding and Helping the Struggling Learner, Teaching the Right Brain Child, Smart Kids Who Hate to Write and The Biology of Behavior have helped hundreds of families remove learning blocks in their struggling children at home. Visit her website (www.diannecraft.org) for many articles on children and learning, and to download her FREE Daily Lesson Plans for the Struggling Reader.