Rosie is in third grade and about to turn nine; Dash is in first grade and just six years old. When Rosie was six, she was in kindergarten and was having all sorts of issues adjusting to public school. She wasn't paying attention in class, she was pestering her classmates, she wasn't finishing her in-class work, and overall was having trouble focusing or making bad decisions and was very hard to motivate, so her teacher put her on a behavior contract. So, it's three years later and apparently, she's an ideal student! She's adjusted well, is polite, keeps to herself, works independently, gets her work done, is testing well, and the only complaint that the teacher could manage was that she wasn't keeping her desk tidy. I'm totally okay with that.
The conference with Dash's teacher was another experience altogether. The teacher started out with, "I'm really concerned about our little guy." Never the greatest opening, but I'd prepared myself given all the extra reading stuff he's been coming home with. The reading, or lack of progress in reading skills was really of most concern to her. She expressed that Dash is a very hard worker, super polite, well-liked by all the other kids and plays well with them. He's more of a people-pleaser than Rosie ever was and wants to finish his assignments and get the answers right. He seems to be having a retention problem? Or a recall problem? He has difficulty answering back facts you throw at him, or memorizing lists, data, or naming words. Flash cards are not getting him anywhere.
I was noticing this when I was trying to help him study for his karate test. I'd tell him, "Dash, 'hiza geri' means knee kick and 'mae geri' means front kick, okay? Now, can you tell me what 'hiza geri' means?" And he'd answer, "Side kick?" This would be after practicing these words for half an hour with him, at least once a week for the past four months. I was pulling my hair out. It could be that he's just a young first grader, with a June birthday — some of the kids in his class are as much as nine months older than him and most have surpassed him. Or, it could be an actual learning disability. What's amazing, though, is that if you read him a book or a short story, he'll have perfect recall on all the details in the narrative. He's also incredible with his recall for details —names, vocabulary, colors — in certain TV shows and movies, down to if you hear a random song playing in a grocery store, he can tell you what movie soundtrack that he'd heard it played on.
He's not just having trouble with reading, he's struggling with writing as well. Here's an example of the writing he's been doing in class. I'm sure there's an elaborate story here with incredible amounts of detail, because that's the sort of story he tells, but I can't decipher the strings of letters. After a quick scan, I think he's talking about going shopping with me at Target for all the toys he wants for Christmas, but that's a shot in the dark. Mrs. S told me that her heart went out to him on this one! He was working incredibly hard to express himself.
He's so charming, sweet, and obviously intelligent that the teacher and I are at a loss. We'll just keep doubling up with intensive reading and writing work at home and at school and hope that it sinks in. Maybe he just needs time and attention, like his sister. If he does need some outside help, we'll find it for him. Anyone out there reading this, does what he's experiencing sound normal? common? treatable with therapy?
What I'm actually hoping for is that things work out for Dash they way they did for Rosie. We struggle for a bit, let him know that he needs to work at this(skating along is not okay anymore) and when he's nine, this issue will be long gone. Exciting new issues will arise to replace them, no doubt!