A processing disorder, either an auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder or sensory processing disorder, are caused by a deficiency in a persons ability to effectively use the information gathered by the senses.
When my younger son was seven years old he was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. The external symptoms of his processing disorder were that he took longer than average to complete his school tasks, found learning to read more difficult than the average learner of his age and had difficulty in implementing a list of tasks.
I was not unduly surprised when Michael’s grade 1 teacher told us that she thought he had an auditory processing problem as I had already noticed some of these symptoms. It was not immediately obvious with his reading ability as Mike was able to learn short and frequently used words off by heart. As a result he was able to hide his difficulty in sounding out words and interpreting complex sounds in the early phases of his learning to read. By the middle of Grade 1, however, the reading expectancy had increased and he was no longer able to get by without being able to unpack and interpret complex sounds in words. Michael’s writing was also slow and laboured. He could easily grasp and understand a story and could answer easily and efficiently in a verbal form but he struggled to write answers to questions down quickly and accurately.
Michael is now eleven years old and his reading, while fairly slowly paced, is at the average level for his peer group. He has very good comprehension skills and I was very proud when he achieved an average of 78% on his first ever English cycle test a few weeks ago. Michael’s writing has also improved together with his punctuation and spelling. It seems to me that a fair number of children struggle with these processing problems and so I thought I would share some of the steps I took to help Michael with his reading and writing.
- We moved Michael to a much smaller, remedial school. Michael’s self confidence was suffering in his previous school due to his struggle to finish his tasks in the allocated time. His previous school was very good about providing remedial and occupational therapy support outside of the classroom but, I found, that the extra time allowance did not make its way into the classroom. I can fully understand this as, with a class of twenty five children, the teacher didn’t have time to give my son private attention and extra assistance with tasks. Michael is now one of a class of fifteen children and this, together with his home teacher and reading therapy teacher, who are both trained remedial teachers, together with the other supporting therapists has helped teach Michael how to manage his academic challenges better. Changing schools is not an option for everyone but I think it is one of the best things I was able to do for Michael;
- I encouraged Michael to listen to audio books so that he could enjoy stories and books at his comprehension level and not at the level of his reading ability. We enjoyed a large number of wonderful books in this way including classics such as Children of the New Forrest, Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet. Michael also listened to all the Roald Dahl books and all the Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton. I believe that this encouraged a love of books and reading in Michael and he now reads books on his own. We are currently reading some of the Classic Starts collection of abridged classic stories for children;
- I made flash cards of frequently used words and Michael and I went through these often. We also used the flash cards to play games so that it was a bit more fun that just plain rote learning;
- I encouraged Michael to write down his lovely little stories about Sir Chocolate and his friends. Michael enjoyed doing this and he practiced his writing and spelling. We eventually converted his stories to the rhyming verse books that comprise the current Sir Chocolate Series of Books; and
- Finally, I have always, and still do, read with Michael six nights a week. We choose books that Michael wants to read and that are a bit of a challenge for him. He reads one page and I read one page. That way, he gets to practice his reading and also reads a book that he enjoys. I get to move the story along a bit quicker and it is a bonding session for us. I also read to Michael most nights unless we run to late with other homework.
I am sure that there are lots of other ways a parent can help a child overcome a processing disorder. I have listed the five methods that have worked the best for me and my child. I have definitely seen excellent progress with Michael in both his reading and his written work and he is enthusiastic to read. I see that as a big success.
Robbie and Michael Cheadle are co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series.
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