I have been fortunate enough to work with many youngsters over the past few years. Many have been academically able and highly motivated and have achieved outstanding results at school. Many have lacked self-belief and have needed encouragement and backing, in order to progress to levels they would not have believed possible. So I have decided to share some of these stories with you and hope to add new case studies on a regular basis.
Do you have a gut feeling that (s)he is not ‘doing fine’?
We are constantly told by mothers who bring their youngsters for assessments that they really regret not having listened to their hearts and trusting their own judgments (often from a year or several years before), rather than listening to those who tell them that their children are ‘doing fine.’ One such mother was 6-year-old Zach’s mother.
Yet when Zach’s mother brought him to me for an assessment, she told me that he didn’t know his numbers beyond 10, and that he didn’t know the 45 high frequency words he had to know in reception year. She tried to help him at home, but didn’t have the expertise and knowledge to do so effectively. Little or no support was given by the school. His mother said the following: “I find it hard to put on paper what I feel in my heart. When I came to see you with my son Zach, I was so worried about him, yet his teacher said that he was doing fine.”
I tested Zach’s reading and discovered it to be at least a year below what it should be and he didn’t understand the concept of calculations in maths. He could count from 0 to 10, but not from 10 to 0, and he couldn’t recognise the difference between 13 and 30.
I decided to concentrate on his reading, and to teach him how to learn and work independently. One of the most striking things was his poor retention. For example, to login onto our computer programmes, children must type in their name with a capital letter and then press “enter” to start. In one lesson, a child can do up to 3 computer based activities which requires the child to follow the same login procedure. It took Zach 8 lessons to remember to do this without waiting for the teacher to prompt him. And I think that this was partly due to his poor memory and partly his over-reliance on adults (parents and teachers).
So, where are we now? Zach’s reading age has improved by 18 months in just 14 weeks, he is able to answer comprehension questions in simple sentences and he is reading more fluently and with expression. He comes to lesson and gets going without being told to, and asks for harder work. His mother can’t believe the transformation and he now holds his head up high. He says that schoolwork isn’t hard anymore. He believes that he can do anything if he tries.