My husband and I have always been very concerned about education. Although he never completed college, and my college was vocational and I received no degree, we both come from well-educated families and wanted our children to do better than we had. To that end we provided our children with a loving, secure, and stimulating environment. All of our children have been homeschooled and both of our eldest children are in college on academic scholarships.
Our third child, a girl, seemed bright and normal as a baby and toddler. I always thought of her as a late talker and I remember being concerned about this at the age of three, but as I look back over her baby book, she had a wide vocabulary by 20 months. So, I don't know which is more accurate, my memory or my records.
I used the same method with her to teach her to read as I did her brothers, but it didn't work. I tried other methods and they didn't work either. Each year I would try something new.
At about eight we took her in to have her eyes examined. The doctor said she was still far-sighted and that would make it hard for her to learn to read. He suggested that we not worry about the reading until her eyes balanced out.
I was of the opinion that kids bloom at different times so I wasn't too concerned. I knew that, according to one homeschooling leader, most children learn to read by the time they are eleven.
When she turned eleven she began to read a little. After she had been reading for about six months I took her to a school for dyslexics and had her tested. She was given a sixth grade test even though I had told them she was only reading at a second grade level. The test was totally above her reading level so obviously she could not complete the test and was diagnosed with dyslexia. The evaluation had little benefit to us, but cost a fortune.
I read everything I could find to try to come up with something that would help my daughter. With my Occupational Therapy training I was surprised that I couldn't find a way to help her. I had tried vestibular stimulation, gross motor exercises, activities to encourage crossing the midline, etc.
I was also a big proponent of teaching to the learning style of your child. And although this method worked well in giving her a great knowledge of some subjects, such as history, it didn't work when I applied the principles to teaching her to read. (I felt this had helped her older brother when he didn't catch on to reading at first but it didn't help her.
When she was about twelve, I happened across a book called the Learning Revolution. In it were many ideas for teaching reading, and I chose to try the audio-tape method in which the child chooses a story she likes and then she listens to the same section over and over on tape while reading along with it. The child does this for many days or weeks until she could read the section fluently on her own. The repetition worked! Her reading continued to improve until she was reading at about a sixth grade level, but her other subjects did not show noticeable improvement.
Another problem we were dealing with at that time was that she kept falling asleep when I tried to teach her. Even if she didn't fall asleep, her eyes would glaze over and she would "zone out". I finally took her to a medical doctor and he diagnosed her with chronic fatigue syndrome (which in my opinion is another catch-all term that means little.) He put her on some medication and the result was that she started having memories that lead us to believe that she had suffered severe trauma about the time she was four and one-half years old.
Once we started dealing with all the dreams and memories and feelings she was having, she made much better progress not only emotionally but also academically. She went up two grade levels in math during her fourteenth year.
Over the years, I have done a lot of reading to try to discern how best to help her. If the various labels can be of help, it seems that Marie also has other challenges that have affected her ability to learn. She seems to be a "highly sensitive person" and is allergic to many things, but these seem to be decreasing as she heals emotionally. She also seems to be a global learner and uses the intelligence (as described by Gardner) of interpersonal relationships. (This makes teaching math hard. But I used it to my advantage in teaching her to read.) She also falls into the category of VKA (Verbal-Kinesthetic-Auditory) as described by Dawna Markova, which is the smallest group of learners. All these are strikes against her and place her in the minority in many ways. Therefore normal methods of teaching do not seem to work as well for her.
Through it all, I never labeled her learning disabled and I always believed that she could learn. I tell her that I know she is brilliant but we just need to figure out the best method to teach her. It has been alot of trial and error, and because she has "trust" issues I haven't taken her to any learning specialists since we started dealing with the emotional health issues. My theory was that she would learn best if she felt secure and that she would feel most secure in her home environment.
Marie started the Audiblox program when she was fifteen. At this point she was a pretty good reader, maybe reading at an eighth grade level, although I am sure her comprehension wasn't that good. She had a wide vocabulary and she was excellent at composing stories, letters, and reports, but she did not have the spelling skills to write out her own work. Her biggest problems were in spelling and math. On a test preceding our work with Audiblox, she tested at second-grade seventh-month for both spelling and math computation.
On Sept. 12, 2002 we began the Audiblox program using a customized plan. Even on the very first day, Marie noticed an improvement. She said she felt like her brain was being put in order. We were faithful to the program five days per week, even though sometimes it took us an hour and a half or more to complete the exercises because she would tire easily and need many breaks. She was not used to concentrating for long periods of time.
We made adjustments to the program as our advisor recommended them. After three months on the program we took a month off for Christmas break with only a few session per week. Prior to our full return to the program in January I once again used the computerized testing program to assess her progress. She had gone up three full grade levels in math computation and one full grade level in spelling! I am thrilled with the results! In addition to the Audiblox program we have spent about an hour on math each day using the Math-U-See program and feel that has helped alot, but we have done nothing special for spelling.
Using Audiblox has not been hard. In fact Marie and I both enjoy it, but it does take consistency. She is able to sit and do a normal day of schoolwork now. She is able to attend her youth group and participate in the conversation because she understands it now. She can debate with friends because she has developed her logic skills. She even read her first novel, Pride and Prejudice, the other day!
So a lot of progress has been made so far, but we have just begun our journey. I can't wait to see how much progress she has made when school starts next year.