Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sensory Processing Disorder & and learning to read.

     Sensory Processing Disorders & Reading.....This was a tough one.  My Michael struggled with learning to read.  In short, he hated it.  Here is why.  As I have mentioned before, kids with Sensory Issues are often behind in some maturity milestones.  Particularly frustration tolerance.  Learning to read requires a lot of patience and having to deal with frustration.

     Michael's ability to deal effectively with feeling frustrated at the beginning of 1st grade was probably about that of a 4 yr. old.  His reading level at that time was barely meeting kindergarten requirements.

     I choose not to worry about it.  I choose to work on his emotional needs first.  I felt that he needed to acquire skills such as frustration tolerance, patience, anger management, impulse control....pretty much anything that came under the umbrella of "emotional regulation".  I let his teacher know that this was my chief area of concern, so reading, writing, etc...would not be a daily part of our regime.  If Michael got through the day sitting still, keeping his hands to himself, and was able to follow rules I would be thrilled.

     About 1/2 way through the year, they did their quarterly standardized testing.....Michael came in at the 5%.  His report card reflected that he had not yet met the standards   I panicked.  I  second guessed myself.  What was I thinking?  OMG!!!, I was completely off!!! While we had made GREAT strides with emotional regulation, I had set my son up to be completely behind academically......I had failed as a parent. UGH.

     So I called one of my trusted advisers who had already been through all of this, who knew my children, and asked their opinion....Their advise seemed wise, so I took it.

     Twelve weeks later, Michael is not only reading, but has caught up to first grade reading standards.  As a matter of fact, today, 15 weeks later, he has met all the requirements outlined for the end of 1st grade.

     I was not wrong.  I had not failed.

     Coincidentally, when I discovered that Michael was so behind academically, it was at the same time that I was starting to see some real success in regards to emotional regulation.  It was time. Michael was ready to handle the pressures of learning to read.

     Here is what I did.

     I took all the 1st grade level books and tucked them away.  I pulled out all the books that he should have already mastered in Kindergarten.  "Little A & Little B" books.  Books that some three year old's were already mastering.  I did not care.  This is where we would start.  I would make it as simple/easy/stress free as on him feeling successful.  I never corrected him, never..when he stumbled on a word, I never let him struggle, I just read it for him.   Let him see that he could.....  He cried and cried through the entire first step process.  10 minutes a night.   I did this for about four weeks.  I did this until Michael was so adept at reading these books he could read them without looking at the pages.  No, Michael was not reading yet...he had memorized....but he was starting to feel successful.....

     Second stage.  I took him to books like "Green eggs & Ham".  Again, books that Kindergartner's were mastering.  Books that had lots of rhyming.  10 minutes....Lots of crying.   I just let him read.  Again, I never corrected him.  This is important.  The Sensory child is so concerned about failing, unable to move through mistakes,  that it can become a road block to learning.  So I made sure reading was an "error free" zone.

  At this point I started flash cards.  Twenty five a night..before reading.   I noticed  that flash cards were a breeze for him.  He could memorize, but did not have the patience yet for phonics.  That was okay, let him memorize....many words in early reading books are site words so I figured that  the more words he knew on a page, the more successful he would feel...can only lend itself to more success..  I also noticed that  he was extremely proficient at flash cards, when he read them one at a time.  However,  he struggled when it came to reading those same words in a sentence.....hmmmm....he was still too stressed to realize that he knew the words...that was okay, we kept going.  I eventually started putting his flash cards in five word linear groups, in sentence format.  This was a big shifted him from reading one word at a time in flash card style and got him comfortable with reading in sentence format.....and then we were off and running......

     Eventually, Michael felt successful enough to start trying to sound words out.  Phonics.

    Twelve weeks later, ten minutes a night & flash cards, report cards came....I believe the words verbatim were, "Michael has made "extraordinary" leaps in regards to reading and writing".  "I can see how hard you have been working at home, Michael is now meeting 1st grade standards".  TWELVE WEEKS....TWELVE!!!!!!  We had accomplished in twelve weeks the same skill sets that other moms have been working on since they were babies...

     Three weeks later, I checked Michael's reading levels just tonight, and found that he is meeting all reading standards that he needs to meet by the end of 1st grade...  Eight weeks left, he is ahead of the game...  Imagine what we can acomplish in eight weeks.  HA!

     Don't misunderstand, I am not bragging....My point, My big lesson learned as a mom.  While I will never undermine the importance of reading with a child, working on these very important skills that every child must master, remember that it is also very important that with Sensory children, you must meet them where they are.  Meet there own personal & unique needs first.  The rest will fall into place.

     Michael no longer cries when he reads.  He exclaims, "reading is easy!".  It makes me cry.  I am so proud of him.  So happy to see him feel proud.....

     So these are my tips....I hope they help...









  1. My 3 year-old son has SPD...and so I offer my heartfelt thanks for the insight you are providing with your blog posts.

    Best Regards,


  2. Dear Charles, Thank you for your note...It warms my heart to know that sharing my children's journey can offer some support to other's. Blessings, QAnnie


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