“He’s only six!”
“He’s a boy and would rather play outside than sit inside and read.”
“She just can’t remember nursery rhymes. I’m sure she’ll learn them eventually.”
“He’s just a late bloomer.”
“She’s reading. She’s memorized lots of books!”
When parents finally come to see me in the admissions office, they’ve often heard these statements from other parents or even teachers. There is the belief that children are pressured to be engaged in reading readiness activities too early. Parents also have heard that children’s academic readiness develops at different rates (true) and that everyone will be reading at the same level by grade 3 (not true). Lots of folks can cite examples of children they knew who suddenly blossomed into strong readers after learning to read at a rate much slower than their peers.
While these anecdotes may be true, the likelihood is far greater that poor readers will never catch up to their peers. A longitudinal study published in The American Educator, by J.K. Thorgesen, found that “children who are poor readers at the end of first grade never acquire average-level reading skills by the end of elementary school.” These children typically enter a “downward spiral” from which they may never recover. School becomes a frustrating experience, and these poor readers suffer greatly in self-confidence and their sense of self-worth. They often become the victims of bullying, becoming increasingly socially isolated. But sometimes teachers are reluctant to talk with parents about their child’s learning struggles. It can be a daunting task to tell an eager young parent that there is something “wrong” or “different” about their child’s learning profile.
In my own experience, parents go through stages, not unlike the stages of grief, when coming to terms with their child’s learning differences. My husband and I were almost angry with our tester because we thought the tests were wrong. Surely she had misunderstood our child! There couldn’t be a learning problem here. With the dyslexia diagnosis came anger and denial.
The next stage we entered was one of fear and grief. We wondered what would become of our sweet son. His life, which had seemed so full of promise, now seemed like a dark mystery to us. What would he ever become? Would he ever learn to read? How could he be successful if he couldn’t read?
Finally, through much support, we came to accept his diagnosis, and we looked for ways to find help. We were very lucky that his teachers recognized his learning issue and suggested testing when he was only five. They didn’t recommend waiting to see what might develop. He was spared that downward spiral that so many children experience.
I always tell parents that if you think there’s an issue, there probably is. Don’t wait to get testing. The psycho-educational evaluation will always give you a great deal of information about your child’s learning profile. Even if you find that there is not an issue, you will know so much more than you did before.
But if you find that your child is dyslexic, please don’t wait to get help. Another year of kindergarten or first grade won’t help him be successful. Late bloomers are exceedingly rare. Waiting will only delay your child receiving the intervention she so badly needs.
Be proactive in becoming educated about your child’s learning profile and save him from the downward spiral that children can enter when their remediation is delayed. Make sure your happy child remains a happy child!