Here is just a small selection of DrLinda and Strong Learning’s success stories.
Baldwin had severe dysgraphia, but for some reason it had not been diagnosed by the school. By the time I met him, he was a sixth grader and was failing almost everything. Hardened by the sum total of his experiences, on test papers that required writing he had recently begun to write the following: “I’d rather get a ‘0’ than take your stupid test.”
Hard to believe, isn’t it? The zero he could deal with—the writing he could not. Did he do his homework? No. Would the issue have been resolved by continuing to push back against authoritative rules and harsh punishments? No. In fact, he did not begin his academic turnaround until he was classified with dysgraphia.
After doing some work with Baldwin, we diagnosing him with dysgraphia, and we sent our results to his school to begin the official classification. Their testing showed the same thing and the school quickly stepped up to provide our recommended help.
We worked with Baldwin further to help him learn keyboarding and word processing, freeing him from some of the mechanical parts of writing. This meant:-
- He could use a computer for written work.
- He was allowed exemption from recopying handwritten work.
- Arrangements to be made so that lengthy writing assignments are dictated to an adult. The adult can then write or word process the text. The text can then be hand copied as the final paper, if necessary.
- He fixed his learning sentence formation, capitalization and punctuation.
- Spelling was not to be counted as part of the grade.
- He now had alternatives for written assignments (oral report, clay or lego models, posters, panoramas, etc.)
- He was given alternative assessment for long written reports by school (oral report, one or more short written reports).
- Spelling would be graded separately so that the paper is not penalized for spelling errors.
- He was allowed an appropriate note taker or access to a photocopy of the teacher’s notes.
- He was able to omit assignments which require copying.
- He was allowed the use of a scribe when needed.
Not only did the extra support help, but he went on to excel in school.
We worked with Maria right up until college and helped her find the right school, too. We were able to work with her school to get her the help she needed in class, and gave her the additional help she needed out of class.
“I have dyslexia. That doesn’t make me stupid! I have dyslexia. I’ve had it all my life. That made learning to read very difficult for me. When I was in school I was so frustrated with anything involving reading that I wanted to scream. In fact, my dyslexia made school a living hell.
Teachers would give me work and say, “Do the best you can.” Duh, I couldn’t even read the directions on the top of the sheet, so I just sat there not knowing what to do. All they kept saying was, “Maria, do your work!”
One day when I was trying to read a sentence, one of the kids said out loud, “That’s the same word you just read. What are you, stupid?” And, you guessed it, the whole class heard it and laughed at me. I ran out of the room so they wouldn’t see me crying.
It was a long hard road, but I learned how to compensate—to overcome my dyslexia—so now I am able to read just about as well as normal readers. What took me even longer to learn is that I am all right, that I am not stupid. In fact, I finished college and earned a masters degree in special education. I am now a special education teacher, and I enjoy helping students who have learning disabilities.
Lynnette and her mother came to our office because her mother felt that Lynnette had low self-esteem. Lynette described herself as stupid and said she hated school. Lynnette was doing poorly in school. Her mother sat for hours each day helping her with her homework. When asked if she enjoyed sitting with her mother, Lynette said, “No, I hate it.” Her mother was frustrated with Lynette because she felt that her daughter wasn’t trying. With that, Lynnette rolled her eyes and called her mother “a pain.”
During our conversations, Lynette revealed that she loved to dance, but that her mother had withdrawn her from dancing class so she could study more.
We did some work with Lynette and after testing we diagnosed her as having a learning disability. She had difficulty processing language; therefore, school was indeed difficult for her. It was taking Lynette much longer to process information than the other children in her class. That is also why she still did not succeed even after her mother lectured her for hours.
For middle school and high school kids, like Lynette, we always speak with their teacher. We arranged to have a tutor go to her home one hour each week, and the school arranged for her to receive the additional support I included in my recommendations report.
With her mother’s encouragement, Lynnette chose to go back to dancing. This gave Lynette the opportunity to create, evaluate, plan, and organize outside of school. As she succeeded, she began to feel better about herself. As she felt better about herself, her school work dramatically improved. This was not a coincidence. Lynnette had learned important skills at dance that she could apply at school. The combination of success at dance and improvement at school boosted her self-esteem.
Elliot’s parents brought him to my office for me to help him with his study skills. As I suspected that Elliot had Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I referred him to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist wanted to place him on medication, but he and his parents were against medication.
I explain to parents that ADHD is a control issue and some kids simply can’t function. If they can function without medication and take responsibility, even though it’s extremely difficult for them, that’s great. We work closely with these kids by contacting the teachers, usually on line and acting as their personal secretaries at time.
When I confronted Elliot as to why he wasn’t doing his work, he told me the same thing, “I can’t do any work. I’ve got ADHD!” I reminded him that he was failing, and asked him, “Don’t you want to pass?” Elliot told me that if he didn’t pass it was his teachers’ fault because that meant they weren’t doing their jobs.
In addition, the school needed to provide a tight structure for Elliot. A guidance counselor began to monitor his work at school, and Mom and Dad began to monitor his work at home. But, even more importantly, Elliot realized that he had to do the work. There were times when he would need some extra support to get his work done, but he still had to do his part.
Elliot needed to accept the responsibility. Together, his teachers, his parents and I helped him learn strategies that enabled Elliot to achieve on his own. When I tutor or counsel children, I can show them strategies that will help them to learn, or to read with comprehension, or to understand a subject; and I also teach them that part of learning is taking responsibility for the learning. Once I help children understand that being taught is good but actively learning is better – they start to improve much more quickly.
Today Elliot is doing great and is helping younger kids learn how to study better.
Amy rarely finished her classwork, and what she did finish was done shabbily. Her mom couldn’t understand why her teacher referred to her as a “problem student,” so she brought her to me for an evaluation. The teacher had just told her, “I have my rules and Amy needs to follow them.”
Early in the session I asked Amy what happens when the teacher tells the class to do something. Amy told me, “When the teacher tells us what to do, she goes so fast, I don’t know what she says.” I asked Amy why she didn’t ask the teacher for help. “We’re not allowed to do that. You gotta ask three, then me.”
“What does that mean?” I asked Amy.
“You have to ask three kids what you are supposed to do before you are allowed to ask the teacher. I used to do that, but the kids would act annoyed and not answer me. I never ask them anymore because they started calling me stupid.”
By doing some work with Amy, tests found that she had a language-processing problem. She simply didn’t understand the teacher’s verbal or written instructions, and certainly couldn’t understand the children who were kind enough to attempt to help her. She needed directions explained to her, then shown to her, and then, if she was still confused, to be taught through some other method.
I sent a copy of my report to her teacher, and discussed Amy’s disability with her. She adjusted her rules to be more logical for Amy’s situation and things improved. Sometimes, as in this case, it may appear that a child is defiant, but, in fact, something else may be afoot. Amy’s case illustrates well the value of searching for the cause of an issue, and not simply focusing on the effect.
A freshman in college came to me recently with his mom. He was on probation because he could not pass the required math exam. His mom told me that the only reason he passed math in high school, was because the teachers finally passed him. He had failed every math course and wasn’t going to graduate.
After going through some simple tests, Jeremy showed above average intelligence. Achievement tests in reading, writing and math scored him above average in reading and writing but got 2nd percentile in math.
They went back to the college with these results. The college did their own testing at this point and agreed that he had dyscalculia. He is now exempt from math and they’re letting him take a computer course instead.
Suzy (Fifth Grade)
Suzy, a fifth grader, came to me with her mom in June because she was having trouble with reading comprehension. Like many other kids, her real problem was not reading comprehension. She had difficulty decoding the words and had a weak vocabulary. Due to both issues she always answered incorrectly.
I worked with her once a week during the summer on decoding and building her vocabulary. Suzy worked through my Phonics Inventory to see which phonemes she was missing. We then played the card games to practice those phonemes. In fact, her homework for the week was to play a game a night. She loved it and when she returned the following week, she had learned that phoneme.
In addition, we started reading one of the five assigned summer books. I chose Tuck Everlasting for us to read because of the rich vocabulary, metaphors and similies. We kept a running list of the words she did not know. She then wrote each word into her own notebook with the appropriate definition. At the end of each session, I shared the words with her mom.
By the next week, we’d go over the words and add new ones. By the end of the summer, Suzy was doing great. Her reading had improved because she could decode the words and her vocabulary grew. She did not come back in the fall because she didn’t have to. The phonemes she needed to learn were addressed.
She learned that if she didn’t know a word, she could ask and her parent would tell her what it meant. She didn’t have to look it up unless mom or dad didn’t know what it meant. Parents are great resources. Having to look everything up is a turn off to any child trying to read.
Jeremy (a different Jeremy)
Jeremy was here the other day. Like many 9th graders, he was getting D’s and C’s. His dad brought him and proceeded to tell me how smart Jeremy was and that his grades were poor because Jeremy was lazy and not preparing for tests. After testing Jeremy, I found that his achievement scores were average and that his basic ability was on the low side of average.
The father was totally off, he had never taken the time to research what was causing Jeremy’s problems.
Jeremy came to me two times to learn how to learn. I showed him study skills that matched his learning style. That means that his strength was writing, so I showed him how to compensate for his weak language skills and how to utilize his nonverbal skills. Since his memory was also weak, I showed him how to chunk material into three chunks, how to use various mnemonic strategies and how to manage his time so that his brain is awake and working.
Jeremy is now working with a tutor that will work on world history and English because he needs to preview both courses so that he gets more out of class. The tutor will preview and review with him weekly.