Also - I had all 3 of my boys tested for my peace of mind - they were/are fine - just a few paces off from the normal 'path'.
Exactly -- testing may show NO issues, and that is very useful information to have. As the mother of three boys, I agree with all those writing that some difficulties are just "boy issues" of trying to fit into school that isn't always set up for them.
However, while I used to be in the "relax and let them grow up" frame of mind, with hindsight that only is good advice if there are no issues. I did that and that's why my oldest son wasn't tested until 10th grade -- he never "hit his stride", but did OK until he got to a really tough school and began floundering.
So, now I think it is a good idea to test early. If you find that there are no real issues, that is good information to have and you can make a plan accordingly. If you find that there ARE issues, then that is also good information to have and you can make a plan accordingly. Those plans would look very different from each other, though, and there is no way to know which plan is best suited to the child unless you get more information.
I second the suggestions for a neuropscyh evaluation, one who specializes in education related difficulties. My 10 year old HATES to write and his handwriting is still abysmal. The neuropscyh eval turned up a grapho/motor issue. Son is not lacking in things to say, he's very bright and creative, it's just so hard to get them out of his brain, to his hand and onto the paper that he cannot express himself well and fluently when writing by hand. The school has a before school typing class, for kids with similar problems, and he's been going to that. School agrees that he can type ANYTHING and they have computers around the school for kids to use. Yes, everyone needs to be able to do basic handwriting, to write a check or something, but there's really no need to suffer through endless hours of penmanship instruction and practice anymore, especially if the act of putting pen to paper is so difficult that it holds you back in other areas and interferes with academic production.
I so wish I'd had that luxury in lower school/middle school. I have horrific handwriting, and if you look at my parents' penmanship, I truly come by it honestly. But for four years, I had a handwriting tutor, and I hated every minute. Woman drove me nuts. I purposefully would not follow her rules for print handwriting. All this nonsense about "candy cane f's." My only saving grace was my passable cursive handwriting, which I'm told now nobody does anymore.
To the OP, you have gotten great advice. I have nothing to add other than to keep in mind that not every teacher/classroom works for kids. Kids find their stride in their own time (as well as their own motivation; parents only have so much influence. My parents found out I'd do anything to be around a horse, so you bet I'd sit for hours and do homework). When I was seven, I had the reading comprehension of a 9th grader, but in class where we switched activities every 20 min? I never completed anything in that time frame and looked like an idiot. Intelligence comes in different forms.
Excellent suggestions. I also favor getting your own testing done, and getting the vision checked by a professional, not just the school nurse. I was 7 years old and sitting in the front row and still couldn't see the blackboard. No one believed me until one winter day I commented to my parents that on the way home I thought I saw a child's sled coming down the road toward me, and at the last minute I realized it was really a car. My brother had the same issue, but with him it turned out to be the beginning of lazy eye. He couldn't see the apple on the table in the test. The professionals at that time wouldn't issue corrective lenses for that, and he went through elem, secondary, and college only being able to read or study for 20 minutes at a time without becoming tired. With prisms implanted in his lenses, he is now reading complete books in one sitting for the first time.
If it becomes unsolvable at this school, I would also look into transferring him to a school that actually believes in outdoor recess at lunch time for their students. Just being able to run some of the energy off may help immensely. Good luck!
Hey OP I hate to admit I didn't read the rest of the post's but wanted to give you hugs from the "stupid kid" in my family.. me
I have an extraordinarily high IQ but I'm dyslexic... it's kind of a paradox if you ask me. Learning SO easily I was labeled as ADD, everyone thinks that all kids are ADD, give me a break! The difference is kids are all hopped up on sugar and meds by the time their 9 instead of being responsible for something (pet, garden, lemonade stand, etc) kids need "work" in my opinion, exercise and chores. Oops that was a rant... maybe i am ADD... :P Anyway, Figure out what your son likes, My parents took me hiking and between each tree I had to spell a word.. no spelling, we didn't go anywhere. Something I used to help my boyfriend through college was a white board. This really helped me because it took spelling and writing from a jumble of letters and rules to a muscle memory activity and rote memorization. Good luck with him he sounds like a sweetie and I feel like he needs encouragement and a self esteem boost, something school doesn't always do...
First off, do get his vision and hearing checked. Next, find out if your son's school has an RTI (response to intervention) process. In most states, when a child is struggling, the school is required to implement the first tier of RTI. The team (teachers, parents, admin) then comes up with a few strategies that are implemented over a period of time. The teachers collect data based on those strategies. If kiddo shows improvement, we know we're moving in the right direction. If not, we move up through the tiers. Tier 4 is a formal I.E.P. and participation in classes with learning specialists who accommodate and adjust the learning style/model as needed. Tiers 2 and 3 are between....a student in GA has to move up to tier 3 before they are tested by the school psychologist.
Your child's teacher should be able to provide some strategies that will help your child. Sometimes it's tough to find the strategy that clicks, but both you and the teacher have to be willing to work together. When you try something, you must be consistent with it and try it over a set period of time. You can't decide after 2 days that it's not working.
If your child were in middle school, I might be able to offer some specific help (boys hate to write in middle school, too, I'm sad to say). With the right tools in their arsenal, though, students can find success. The key is building the toolkit.
As others have already said, insist on an IEP immediately.
DD had a complete melt down a few weeks into 2nd grade. It was impossible for us to even have her pick up a pencil, never mind complete an assignment. I made multiple 'surprise' visits to the classroom (with the principal's permission) so that I could understand the dynamics of what was happening. Two issues needed to be addressed immediately (a teacher that had no classroom control and a bully that had run of the class.)
IEP testing gave us the last missing piece of information. DD was extremely verbally oriented; however the flip side was that her silent comprehension was non-existent (e.g. you couldn't hand her a piece of paper and tell her to read the directions and complete the assignment.) That part of her brain had not yet developed. The easy solution was to be sure that any directions were read aloud to her, or have her read the directions out loud. Once it was verbalized she could do whatever was asked. It took some time for her brain to develop, but DD is now high honors in an accelerated program.
My mother was a 1-2nd grade teacher who specialized in reading. What she did with me and what she taught me was that most kids, boys especially, are started on book work, reading, etc. much too early. Those kids need to be doing things with their parents, like the old fashioned farm kids would have been doing. and gradually worked into the book work as they get older. She could see I was not ready to start reading and writing until I was around 8-9, I remember doing mirror writing and not being able to see the difference. I remember struggling with ordinary phonics and not being able to understand it. But by 13 I was buying my own college technical textbooks.
Start em too young and they will have difficulty for years, wait till their mind is ready and they will take off with it.
Paddy's Mom - I talked to my boyfriend about your description of your son (he's a teacher, and loves education theory) and he thinks you might look into seeing if your son's a kinesthetic learner. If he is, that means translating his work into movement will help. Some ideas he had with regard to the math and writing issues were:
(1) Hopping arithmetic and other math problems;
(2) Acting out a story he's reading;
(3) Acting out a story as he writes it;
(4) Using his hands/arms to form the shapes of letters as he writes; and, most importantly
(5) Get him exercise. Martial arts is my default recommendation, because it adds discipline and structure to exercise while still being fun and rewarding, but anything he enjoys should be good.
Definitely look into all the psych evals and eyesight and hearing ideas in this thread, too, but these should help if he is a kinesthetic learner.
I have not read the other posts but I will say this:
I have been there with my daughter. She struggled with second grade and we almost held her back. She had trouble reading left to right, hated school and essentially at times just sat there without doing anything. We had special education for her about once or twice a week after getting her evaluated.
She struggled and got better by 5th grade. By junior high she had hours and hours of homework and would just cry. By mid 7th grade she became my bright hard working daughter. Something clicked, she is now an honors student in highschool. Things just changed for her and she is amazing in school.
I have cried over many parent teacher conferences. Hang in there, not every child progresses in a linear format.
I'm a kinesthetic learner, fwiw, and I never had an issue learning in school. (Keeping my mouth shut when I thought someone was an idiot, yes, though a few severe punishments taught me to keep teachers out of that category even when they were.)
I would, before automatically looking for someone to give him a learning-disability label, test his hearing and visions, and seriously consider whether he's just not mentally and emotionally ready for the grade he's at. Holding a child back a year is not a crime, not at that age will losing the "friends" in that grade do any lasting damage. My neighbor's daughter repeated kindergarten last year, after a "bad teacher" who thought she was 'slow', and behavior issues, after they discovered she has a hearing problem. She wasn't really ready for kindergarten PLUS she was having trouble hearing, and the teacher was fed up with what she thought was misbehavior when it was just she wasn't able to handle it yet. Last year (2011/12), she was a totally different kid-happier, much more talkative, always ready to tell "neighbor lady" (me) all about school. Social promotion is not a good thing when it means kids who really haven't gotten the material and/or aren't emotionally ready for the grade are left struggling and labeled as 'learning disabled' or 'troubled.'
I didn't read all of the posts, but as a teacher, this is VERY normal, especially with boys. A lot of parents hold boys back a year when they are younger. Kids are like horses--they develop abilities at different paces, and your son is just on a different track. It sounds like his teacher doesn't have enough experience to know how to explain this to you and what you can do.
I deal with middle schoolers, and there's a huge jump in thinking ability that happens about that age where some just CAN'T do it. Also, some people never will. I am not a linear thinker and never did great in math. You need to think in different learning styles and find out where he's weak and strong, strengthen the weak areas, and capitalize on the strong. Think of learning by listening, looking, speaking, writing, AND doing. When you incorporate all of those learning styles and go through them on the same thing, most people will be able to learn.
It's not a judgment. It's an assessment. You need to understand accurately where his abilities are before you can do something to improve them.
OK I am calmer after a ride on my horse (which might have involved some crying at the walk). All done crying.
To answer some questions:
He had a physical with his pediatrician in July with a hearing and vision test.
He is involved in outdoor sports - soccer, baseball, Friday after school sports group - one activity at a time - and runs around outside a good amount.
He has no trouble manipulating a mouse or keyboard or itty bitty Legos or iPod.
He actually reads and comprehends what he reads pretty well.
Math problem worksheets, he sometimes does not notice if it is addition or subtraction and does the wrong operation. Also, he does not get counting change and I have not been able to help him get that yet. I did teach him how to add and subtract two-digit numbers - he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing. He loves adding dice, telling time, reading temperatures, and those kind of math problems.
He often makes "9", "3", and "N" backwards.
The example of writing the teacher told me about was a journal they have to write in daily. There is a question or subject and she wants him to write 9 sentences for the topic by the end of the year. His journal entries thus far are one sentence or he has skipped the entry entirely. I asked him why he doesn't write more and he said he does not have time to complete it.
I think one of you described the situation well.
He can verbalize faster than he can write and it frustrates him.
The teacher agreed with this.
She said he raises his hand, answers questions, is polite and well-behaved, does not fidget.
She said that sometimes they will be writing and she will be giving them directions and is upset that he doesn't make eye contact so she can't verify he is listening to her.
Also, he needs time to shift from one activity to the next, which I told her before school started.
Another poster mentioned processing things better when aloud. He definitely comprehends things better when read aloud than to himself.
My dad is dyslexic, for what its worth.
OK I am going to read through these posts again and try to formulate a plan.
I hope you all know how much your kind words and suggestions mean to me.
I need to copy some of my webpage for you so I don't have type it all again. On this page I'll put something that might help you understand his thinking.
Remember, your child is growing, and so is their brain. They don't have all of the connections there yet, so some things aren't working at an adult level. This is useful to remember when they don't seem to be able to do something in a certain way.
For example, they may truly understand something, but when you ask them to explain it, they can't do it verbally. They may be able to write it down, though. Or, they may be able to explain it to you verbally, but what they write down doesn't even come close to that. Sometimes when you ask them to read their writing out loud, they won't read what they wrote. These kinds of things show you where they are weak and where they are strong. One of the things to strengthen these connections in the brain is to go back and forth between listening, seeing, writing, and speaking orally, so they are constantly having to do the same thing in different ways.
As a parent, you can really help them with this. If their writing is not seeming to be quite right, ask them to read it out loud. If they change what they wrote or can't do it, you can see the problem. Have them stop and think and verbally explain it to you and clarify until it is really clear. Then have them write down what they said. Do they do that? They don't always. Have them read what they wrote and see if they can see it's not the same as what they said. This going back and forth between different ways of communication is really helpful in strengthening their weak areas and helping them truly master something. (You can't truly master something if you only understand it in one way.)
"In a baby, the brain over-produces brain cells (neurons) and connections between brain cells (synapses) and then starts pruning them back around the age of three. The process is much like the pruning of a tree. By cutting back weak branches, others flourish. The second wave of synapse formation described by Giedd showed a spurt of growth in the frontal cortex just before puberty (age 11 in girls, 12 in boys) and then a pruning back in adolescence.
Even though it may seem that having a lot of synapses is a particularly good thing, the brain actually consolidates learning by pruning away synapses and wrapping white matter (myelin) around other connections to stabilize and strengthen them. The period of pruning, in which the brain actually loses gray matter, is as important for brain development as is the period of growth. For instance, even though the brain of a teenager between 13 and 18 is maturing, they are losing 1 percent of their gray matter every year.
Giedd hypothesizes that the growth in gray matter followed by the pruning of connections is a particularly important stage of brain development in which what teens do or do not do can affect them for the rest of their lives. He calls this the "use it or lose it principle," and tells FRONTLINE, "If a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hardwired. If they're lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going to survive."
Work In Progress - Adolescent Brains Are A Work In Progress | Inside The Teenage Brain | FRONTLINE | PBS
"A key theme in the adolescent development literature is that knowledge is constructed. We build our brains through our learning experiences. The nature of the learning experiences we undertake will dictate how the brain develops and the connections that are pruned. Some of the key skills students must develop in order to learn through experience are how to:
reflect on learning
link new knowledge to existing knowledge
establish what is true and accurate
challenge what knowledge is untrue and inaccurate.
Giving students opportunities to be reflective improves the quality of learning, since learning with understanding is more likely to promote transfer of knowledge than rote learning or memorising information. New knowledge needs to be relevant to the learner and linked to their current knowledge base.
Knowledge that is delivered in a variety of contexts and through a range of learning strategies is more likely to be applied or transferred broadly. Organising information and making explicit links between concepts help students to store and apply their knowledge. As students specialise, they need to have an in-depth grasp of the relationships between concepts and the way knowledge is organised within a discipline, as well as factual information related to the subject."
Closed for construction - adolescent brain development in the middle years
More cool sites I found:
Parents League of New York: Publications » Selected Review Articles » Helping Children Learn to Pay Attention
Improving Reading For Children and Teens (Child Development Institute)
A Brain Boost - Developing a Child's Mind Through Food - Back to School Headquarters Articles - Children Today
This is my philosophy on journal writing. I make it a timed game for a reason.
The ONLY thing they are graded on is writing the correct amount. So, even if they don't write about the correct topic, it's OK (though the purpose is to learn to do that and they SHOULD be trying.)
The ONLY rules for journal writing is AT LEAST 20 minutes of writing NONSTOP. The first quarter I expect a minimum of 250 words, about one page. Each quarter it will go up 50 words and 1/2 page. If they do this as directed, they will easily be able to get much more written.
As the year goes on, I should stop seeing them trying to "fill" a page by making a really big heading, large margins, big writing, or really big spaces between paragraphs. (Yes, I'm aware and make comments as such according to their ability.) They should not stop at a page or number, but keep writing the 20 minutes.
Also, if they're not doing the requirements in 20 minutes, they need to keep writing until it's correct.
The reasoning behind this is to teach them to write and not worry about having it perfect. This is a problem with a lot of kids who get "stuck" in writing and won't put anything down until it's perfect. This forces them over that until they can learn to just start writing. It teaches them they actually DO have something to write if they just sit down and do it. It also strengthens their hand and increases the speed of their writing. Students will note how much faster they can get things down very quickly if they do as I direct.
If they are really stuck, or you notice them not keeping the pen moving, they need to write ANYTHING. The can write, "I don't know what to write. I don't know what to write." You'd be surprised how quickly they will figure out something to write if they just keep moving the pen. If they need to do that, that's fine.
PLEASE write in pen. I read every one so I can assess and make comments so they know I am reading. Pen is MUCH easier for me to read, and since being perfect is not encouraged here, mistakes are just fine.
Everyone is working on different skills. Hopefully, as their skills increase, it becomes easier and easier to fill the page, and they are not only doing that, but writing better. As they year goes on, I start trying to get them to focus more and more on writing in paragraphs by topic, using suggestions from WAGS in their writing, improving their voice, experimenting with different styles of writing, etc.
I think one of you described the situation well.
He can verbalize faster than he can write and it frustrates him.
The teacher agreed with this.
I think maybe it was me - I mentioned buying our son one of those little tape recorder machines for recording meetings and such (like $20), and letting him talk into it then go back and write it down. That pause button saved a LOT of tears in our house.
It sounds like a good school and your son sounds like a really sweet boy. I bet if you have him tested you will find he is smarter than average (average IQ runs between 90 and 110). Reversing common letters and numbers like N, 9, d/b, happened at our house too. Again, it was a product of his brain outpacing his handwriting. Even as a senior in high school, DS's handwriting makes me cringe. I keep trying to tell myself maybe it means he is going to be a doctor!
I'm glad you are feeling calmer. There are a lot of nice people with great ideas and knowledge on this thread, hopefully it helps and things are smoothed out for you guys soon! Good luck to you and your boy.
For the homework - is there a topic he's really passionate about? That can be the key. One teacher I heard of had a student who just didn't work until she realized he was obsessed with World War II. Then she put everything into World War II terms - math problems, writing assignments, everything. Presto, he learned, because she tapped his passion. If he likes reading, you could get him to read a lot and then have him try to write stories about his favorite characters (that worked for me).
I WAS THAT KID!
I made b's and C's with the occasional D. I was a big daydreamer. This is what helped me; My teachers, tutors or my mom would relate everything to horses; division with feeding horses, multiplication by setting fence distances. My mom set up a little box with cool things in it like gel pens, gum, erasers, etc. Cheap things but things that kids think are cool. I had to complete every homework assignment and study for all my quizzes and tests for a week and I got to pick one thing out of the box.
To be honest I was pretty rocky mainly in elementary school and some middle school. I went to an arts high school from grade 8-12 and did better there making A's and B's. I had to maintain a 3.0 gpa to stay in the school so I had a reason to keep up my grades.
I would eventually go to a competitive university and make mostly all A-s with the occasional B.
I had good and bad teachers. Some thought my artsy side was inventive, others said I was distracted by it.
One other thing that I feel the need to share because I've seen it several times on here. An IEP is not an automatic thing. There are criteria that a child must meet in order to qualify for an IEP...they truly must have a disability that impedes his or her learning. Many children simply develop at a different rate than his or her peers, or they are an overall slower learner than average. This doesn't mean they have a disability of any sort, and they won't qualify.
In Georgia, the process of qualifying for an IEP takes a considerable amount of time, testing, data collection, analysis and discussion to determine if the child truly has a disability that prevents him or her from being able to participate in the curriculum.
The goal of teachers and schools is to challenge every student and to give them the tools to succeed in those challenges, not to move those children who struggle into an IEP. Most truly don't need it if we can find some key strategies that help make the content more approachable. Alas, with 30+ kids in the classroom, differentiating to 30 different children is a challenge.
My daughters struggled at times in elementary school. They got a lot of extra help, including a reading tutor for one in second grade. One year, the school math teacher met with the second daughter every day before school for 30 minutes of tutoring. We were lucky to have a small, private, school where the experienced teachers knew they could make every child succeed. One daughter is now a DVM, the other a PhD engineer.
Get your son the tutoring that he needs to be successful. If you need to change schools, do it.
Side note, writing in journals can be really hard for kids! My oldest son often wrote nothing, because he didn't even know where to begin. The school they attend now has second graders write back and forth to 8th graders. It is much easier to answer questions your really cool older pen pal has asked you, and to ask them questions in return.