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12/8/2011 10:25:26 AM
Home School Legal Defense Association
Is My Child Just a Late Bloomer?

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner Newsletter
December 2011--Is My Child Just a Late Bloomer?
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by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
HSLDA Struggling Learner Consultant

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Nobody knows better than homeschool parents that not all our children
learn the same way, nor at the same pace. So, when one of our
children has a "slow start" out of the reading gate, parents wonder if
it is just natural for this particular child, whether waiting will
bring the desired result, or if intervention is needed. One of the
most common questions we receive from our homeschooling parents is,
"My son (or daughter) is seven-and-a-half and still can't read. How
do I know if this is a 'maturity issue' or if this difficulty is a
sign of a learning disability?"

Let's explore this "maturity issue" further. I look for "red flags"
that the child is presenting to me.

1. Boy or girl.

It is common knowledge that boys tend to mature later than girls.
Thus, if I have a boy who is around seven-and-a-half who is not
interested in reading, I may just give him six more months to let his
nervous system "catch up" before I present the reading lessons to him
again.

Meanwhile, you may want to explore the many studies available on the
role of essential fatty acids in the maturing of a child's nervous
system. "The LCP Solution" by Dr. Jacquelyn Stordy and "Nutritional
Influences on Illness" by Dr. Melvyn Werbach, MD, UCLA School of
Medicine are two good sources.

Dr. Werbach reports of the fascinating studies that show that boys
have a three times higher need for these essential fats than girls.
This is one possible explanation for the "maturity gap" between boys
and girls. It is easy to include more fish or fish oil supplements in
the home setting to help aid in this maturing process.

2. Desire

Does this child have the desire to read? If the child has no desire
to read, then I would give him or her six more months for his nervous
system to mature. However, if this child wants to read, but can't
remember the sight word names, 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.

3. Early Speech

Many times the puzzling thing that parents observe is that the child
has a huge speaking vocabulary at age 3 or 4, saying things like, "I
would prefer the red crayon...". The parent expects that this child
will take off with reading as soon as the words are presented to him,
and frequently that is the case. However, when this verbally gifted
child struggles with the initial reading process, the parent is
surprised. That is a red flag, often indicative of a visual or
auditory processing problem.

If a child has a significant speech delay, that also is indicative of
a child who is struggling with an auditory processing problem.

4. Alphabet

If a child easily learns to say the alphabet, and easily learns the
names and sounds of the alphabet, but is still not interested in
reading, then I would give him another six months for his nervous
system to mature. However, if the child has difficulty learning the
letter names and sounds, or even saying the alphabet in order, I would
see this as an indication of an auditory processing issue, and start
interventions.

5. Listening to Stories

If your 6- or 7-year-old is not even interested in sitting still long
enough to listen to a good story read by mom, I would give that child
six more months for his nervous system to mature. However, if your
child loves to listen to stories read by mom, or stories on tape, that
child is showing that reading is fascinating for him, and he would
like to learn how to read himself. If he is struggling with this
process, then I would see that as a red flag and start interventions.

6. Other Children in the Family

We often hear that we are not to "compare" our children's learning to
one another. However, there generally are some commonalities in a
family. Dr. Linda Silverman, in her book, "Upside Down Brilliance,"
found that not only do we tend to marry a person who is no more than
10 points apart in IQ, our children tend to be no more than 10 points
apart in IQ. In other words, we can dispel the myth that this child
is not as "smart" as his siblings. If a family has children who tend
to learn how to read early, but one child continues to struggle with
the process, we see that as a red flag. Something is up. Let's
consider looking at interventions for this child instead of making him
wait until he has figured it out himself. Often by that time, the
child has formed an opinion about himself that is not favorable. This
can easily be avoided.

7. Reversals Longer than Siblings

It is a common opinion that reading and writing reversals are "normal"
in the learning process. However, as we talk with first grade
teachers, we ask them about the number of their students who continue
to make reversals after Christmas. If they have a class of 25, they
often say, "Oh, not more than three or four students." Thus, if
continued reversals is "normal," a much larger number would continue
struggling with reading or writing reversals.

With current brain research, we now know that when a child does not
have an established "midline", he or she must use "battery energy" to
switch around letters so they make sense when he reads or writes.
This, of course, will slow down the process considerably and often
cause this child to give up on the process. This is not necessarily a
symptom of dyslexia, but rather a symptom of a poorly established
midline that can be easily corrected.

Of course, when a child is first learning how to track his eyes left
to right in the reading process, or first learning how to make the
letters, reversals often occur. But this naturally resolves itself
after six months of practice. If this does not resolve itself, then
we see it as a red flag. Too much effort is given to a task that
should require no effort at all.

Dr. Mel Levine refers to this "learning energy leak" in his book,
"One Mind at a Time." I always take reversals seriously after age
seven and a half, and see it as a stress in the child's learning
system that I want to eliminate.

"No parent has ever said that they started interventions too early
with their child." --Sally Shaywitz, MD, "Overcoming Dyslexia"

"Reading and writing is natural, if there are no learning blocks."
--Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP, "Brain Integration Therapy"

8. A Final Thought

At times we hear parents say, "My child didn't learn to read until age
10 (11 or12) and is fine now." Do some "late bloomers" learn to read
by age 10 or 12 by themselves? Absolutely. Then why not wait all the
time? The price the child pays in lowered self-esteem can be too high
at times. The child has struggled so many years when it was not
necessary. We have more knowledge about the reasons for "late
blooming" now and the early interventions that take the chore out of
learning.

Bottom line: Learning doesn't have to be so hard!

Where can you learn about the interventions that you can begin at
home? We have many listed on our website,
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=13048 . On the first page, just
scroll down to "The Four Learning Gates." You will find checklists
that will help you determine your child's learning issues. Also,
click on the Struggling Learner Newsletter Archives
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=13050 . The newsletter,
"Understanding Reading Difficulties"
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=13049 will give you an easy
checklist to help you determine the level of your child's
difficulties, and the interventions that parents have found to be most
helpful and cost effective.

Remember that HSLDA graciously provides three special needs learning
consultants to talk with you in person, to help you determine what
would be the best course for you to take for your struggling learner.
You are not alone! We come along side and help you with these
decisions. Just contact us at 540-338-5600.

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