Monday, July 6, 2015

Struggling Readers

I am often amazed by the countless, well meaning, people who share all their secrets & techniques for struggling readers. It’s not that I’m amazed there are so many struggling readers out there, not in the least.  Rather that each person who has the “ultimate” answer forgets to mention the most crucial step in helping a struggling reader: checking in with a professional first. Now I know there are those who will shake their head & adamantly disagree with me, but I ask you one very sincere question: Have you ever really had a struggling reader before?

There’s a huge difference between a child who isn’t interested in reading & a child who physically can’t accomplish the task. I know there are many many different ways for a child to struggle & that our situation is not unique to the masses out there, nor is it the only way for a child to show struggles. I know there are many many reasons why a child can be struggling. Still, I’m left scratching my head by the countless, well meaning people, who presume that parents are simply doing it wrong, & the countless companies & people who endlessly share the idea that we're doing it all wrong. 

We’re offering the wrong books. We’re offering the wrong sized book. Stop bribing your children. Remove electronics. Require your children to read longer. This last one, this one really gets me. Every. Single. Time. It makes me shake my head & want to wag a finger in the speakers face.

A true struggling reader isn’t going to improve if we require them to read longer.  A true struggling reader is overcome with emotion & frustration every step of the way. They avoid books, not because they hate what’s inside of them, but because they hate how they are made to feel when they try to read! Do you regularly attempt to do things that embarrass you? Publicly? 

Did you know that children with Irlen Syndrome have no more to give? Did you know that requiring them to read for 5 more minutes could not only put them in sensory overload, but cause a complete shut down? Did you know that a person with Irlen Syndrome isn’t using the excuse that they are thirsty to get out of reading? That 5 more minutes you demanded from them set their brain into overload, literally, & now has them three steps past dehydration. They will now, most likely, complain of headache, stomach ache, & eye pain which will, in many cases, last the remainder of the day. In short, you just caused ultimate burnout. 

If you started your day with reading, & pushed too far, every other thing you want them to do, everything they wanted to do in the day, is now going to be an absolute struggle.

No ultimate list of resources, perfect books, or techniques will cure the problem. Children who struggle with Irlen Syndrome aren’t alone in this phenomenon that many people can’t understand. Asking a child with dyslexia to give it one more go, to try just a little bit harder isn’t going to make them see any clearer. In fact, again, you’ve just pushed them to a point of sensory overload.

It’s not that I begrudge people their ultimate lists; their well meaning advice. I don’t. I’m sure there are a great number of people out there who can benefit from that advice. The question is, are they the ones reading the articles? Are they scanning anything they can to find that one solution that will take their child from a struggling reader & turn them into a strong reader?

Yes, my defence mechanism may be on high alert right now, but remember: Great advice is worthless unless applied to the right situation. 

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