Our SN area is not a substitute for expert advice. While many Mumsnetters have a specialist knowledge of special needs, if they post here they are posting as members, not experts. There are, however, lots of organisations that can help - some suggestions are listed here. If you've come across an organisation that you've found helpful, please tell us. Go to Special needs chat, Parents with disabilities, SN teens, SN legal, SN education, SN recommendations.

Don't think DD will ever learn to read

(55 Posts)
IndigoBell Sat 01-Jan-11 09:35:48

I am in a really bad place right now.

I don't think DD is ever going to be able to learn to read or survive academically. Up to now I always thought she just needed a better teacher / better learn to read method - but this holiday it has really hit me.

She is a bright, articulate, charming girl with a perfectly normal IQ and no special needs of any kind - besides the fact that her working memory is so poor and she has such slow cognitive processing that she appears not to be able to learn.

She is in year 3 but is still working at reception level. Able to slowly and labouriusly blend 3 letter words. But not able to read 3 letter words fluently.

I don't want to give up on her - but I have totally run out of ideas. I don't think she has the cognitive ability to ever be able to read - despite bring of perfectly normal intelligence.

I'm totally out of ideas and am so worried for her. I think she's going to have a totally shit life and there's nothing I can do to prevent it / alleviate it.

silverfrog Sat 01-Jan-11 09:54:19

Oh, Indigo sad

I can't really help much, sorry. From talking to you before, you have certainly explored more learning to read options than I have.

Have you worked on her working memory/processing issues? (silly question probably)

Yr3 - so she is 8ish? (sorry, dd1 is in a school where years don't count, and dd2 too small, so I still haven't got my head around the age correlation). I htink dd2 is supposed ot be in Yr2, and she is 7 this academic year...

What we are currently doing for dd1 is a mixture of sight reading/baby phonetice (the general feel is that dd1 will nt learn initially by blending/sounding out, so concentrating on sight recognition, at least for now)

so, we use a mixture of phonic Ipad apps, spelling puzzles and games (dd1 is still at the point where correct recognition of single letters is really motivating for her - she is beginning to find letters in her environment all the time), and the Peter and Jane series (I know they are awfully stereotyped, but very good for building up word recognition).

dd1 uses the P&J books in 2 ways: jsut readign through with her teacher, and also, her school have made up a work activity for her.

They have copied the pictures, and laminated (wouldnt be a SN school without laminating grin), and ahve the words on PECS card type sqaures. dd1 has to build up the sentence for each picture.

They ahve also done this with pictures of us in various poses around familiar places, so it is easy to vary the sentence that needs to be built (so dd1 cannot just rely on her memory, which is excellent)

so two pronged, really: building up her recognition of common words and names of family members, and work on her building simple sentences (which are well within her langugae capabilities)

One thing I would say is that even 6 months ago, this was hopeless with dd1. she knew her alphabet and single phonics, but absolutely could not progress further.

whether progress now is due to concentrated efforts on this, or "just" becasue she has matured sufficiently for this now to be a possibility for her is impossible to say.

purplepidjbauble Sat 01-Jan-11 09:54:32

Read and support sent, unfortunately no useful info sad

silverfrog Sat 01-Jan-11 09:57:42

I would just add:

with dd1, it soetimes benfits us to pitch work at slightly beyond where we think she currently is (ie building up sentences, before being able to decode).

she finds the task ahrd, but enjpys the challenge, and with enough support can manage it.

and we often find that what she takes away form the task is what we had been banging our heads against the wall trying to teach her previously - so she fills in the middle bit herself

<not really going to work for this example, I shouldn't think, but has definitely worked for OT issues, and previous SALT issues etc>

Spinkle Sat 01-Jan-11 10:04:22

Phonics such as are taught now in schools are probably no use to your dd. I would suggest whole word recognition using pictures to help. Look at the shape of the word, group rhyming words together. Learn to write the word first.
Has she been screened for dyslexia? Poor working memory is part of it.

Al1son Sat 01-Jan-11 10:04:45

Have you had her assessed for dyslexia?

borderslass Sat 01-Jan-11 11:21:08

DS who's 16 has complex learning difficulties reading and spelling is one of his biggest problems we where finally told a year and a half ago that it wasn't dyslexia but auditory processing disorderand that he'd never read in the same way as others.His memory though is fantastic and once he has learnt a whole word doesn't forget it he can't spell but recognises words.I'd go along with teaching her whole words not sounds.

PipinJo Sat 01-Jan-11 11:33:03

sounds like what borderlass said.

For ds leapfrog and flashcards reading were fab.
|I saw an amazing advert on shopping channel last night must have been after a cartoon channel finished and it taught children to read with the flash cards/video/audio...so i.e the word is 'clap' so a flash card, video of child clapping and an adult saying 'clap' so hits the brain in all 3 processes and teaches hundreds of words...you could do it yourself...i.e video dd clapping, do flash card and say word as you present it and keep on the same word until mastered then move on to next word. It looked fun for the child on the Ad and that helps to

IndigoBell Sat 01-Jan-11 11:57:48

We have tried every learn to read program under the sun. She knows how to read - she just can't do it. It is just too hard for her.

Or rather she can read 3 letter wods - it just doesn't appear that she will ever be able to read them fluently.

She has no memory and definately can't learn whole words rather than phonetics. In her IEP last year (Year 2) she was to learn 20 of the 45 reception words over 6 months - and she failed. Even though she had 1:1 every day working on them.

She really cannot learn.

It is not ADP. I think it is ADD - Predominantly Innatentive with Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. But it will take a year or so to get a diagnosis.

But will a diagnosis hope her learn to read?

The problem is like I said - An incredibly poor working memory, and incredibly slow cognitive processing.

And the problem is - is there is no cure / treatment for either of those problems.

Lougle Sat 01-Jan-11 12:02:14

Practically speaking, Leonie, your DD is going to survive. I promise you smile

Have you tried focussing on a love of the written word, rather than reading? So I am thinking, all PCs using MS Windows have adaptive technology built in. You can use the control panel to adjust the settings, so it will even read mumsnet aloud, for example.

Is her number recognition good? What about verbal sentence formation? Thinking again about MN, as a tangible example, she could write a post using the speech recognition software, then all she would have to recognise is that she uses 'number 3' to post. She wouldn't even have to be able to read 'post'.

You could get her books with accompanying audio CD, so that she could listen and you could trace the story with her as the words are said. She would start to see how the words demarcate, which is all part of pre-reading skills.

We only read and write because it is a useful way of exchanging information. These days there are so many ways of doing that, mostly using computers, that using your eyes to decipher text isn't the most important thing in the world.

How many blind people are there in the world? I haven't seen Wannabe post for a while, but she was absolutely prolific in her posting on MN, and she was absolutely blind, IIRC. She used software such as Jaws to post and 'read' MN.

What your DD can't survive without is communication skills. Sentence construction, getting her thoughts across to other people, understanding other people's thoughts. I reckon that is the thing she needs most of all smile

Lougle Sat 01-Jan-11 12:04:35

"The problem is like I said - An incredibly poor working memory, and incredibly slow cognitive processing.

And the problem is - is there is no cure / treatment for either of those problems."

I reckon there are things you can do to enhance those.

What about 'matching pairs' - familiar pairs, just practice over and over again, to get speed up. Build confidence.

Reading is essentially a big game of matching pairs.

silverfrog Sat 01-Jan-11 12:12:40


when you say she had daily 1:1 input for learning the key words - how was that help delivered?

we have approached teaching dd1 the key words by way of a matching exercise.

you say your dd has near normal IQ. I am assuming, therefore, she can do basic matching/sequencing activities?

(I mean REALLY basic - red square matched to red square; toy frog matched to picture frog; sequences to complete such as doll, frog, doll, frog, doll, ?)

how is her number work? again, matching/sequencing ok?

school has started dd1 off by using visibly different words (mum, dad, dd1 name, dd2 name) and getting her to match them. obviously saying the word as it is handed over, and saying again as she matches it correctly.

then they threw in the odd key word (you know, the "filler" ones - and, is etc)

if your dd can do the matching/sequencing for other objects/pictures, there is no reason why she can't for at least basic, key words. she may not end up reading fluently, but it would make everythign easier if she could recognise/read some things.

have you looked at the Marion Blank programme? they run a couple of different ones, the most intensive being a few thousand pounds, but you get monthly tutorial help, and all materials for that (aimed at non-verbal ASD children, to give you an idea of the types of issues they are looking at overcoming)

a bit like Pippin said - the intensive programme blasts all the senses at teh same time, using toy aids and props to highlight meaning, etc.

silverfrog Sat 01-Jan-11 12:15:26

x-posts with Lougle smile

reading is essentially a big game of matching pairs, especially the way we are teaching it to dd1!

and that is what the Marion Blank programmes focus on too, I think.

But seriously, there really is a way to teach this.

dd1 used to not be able to match 2 coloured blocks together.

Not because she didn't know her colours, but because she didn't understand the task, simple as though it seemed to us.

we worked on matching skills with ehr for a good year. and sorting, and sequencing. these are the basic building blocks of most learning.

IndigoBell Sat 01-Jan-11 12:28:03

Thanks everyone.

Marion Blank looks interesting.

KATTT Sat 01-Jan-11 12:37:29

She sounds like my daughter. the school keeps trying to teach her c-a-t and it just doesn't work.

I'm looking into trying to get mine into a school that's set up specifically to teach dyslexic children.

My daughter is 10. somewhere down the line you realise that's she's never going to be a fluent reader. At that point what you need to do is to make sure her confidence isn't beaten down by schooling. Focus on all the things she's good at. There's a great book called 'Upside down brilliance' which goes through all the differences between our exceptional children and those boring 'sequential learners' that our education system thinks are brilliant.

Also google Ken robinson - he's got a great take on how our schools only value one type of learner.

amberlight Sat 01-Jan-11 13:04:00

Indigo, this may not help in the slightest, but we have millionaire clients who cannot read. Absolutely can't. Not the foggiest idea. Failed school completely.
Didn't stop them. It's amazing what some brains can learn to do to get round problems, if the person is determined enough.

amberlight Sat 01-Jan-11 13:06:14

(I think they learned that other people can read for them, and had the cheek to keep asking them to do so!)
(same as the Billionaire businessman that owns Virgin can't understand figures - so he found people who did)

It's also how I cope. So much I can't do, so I find people who can do it. And I do stuff for them that they can't do.

IndigoBell Sat 01-Jan-11 13:13:50

Again, thanks everyone.

You guys have cheered me up and given me enough energy to keep researching and keep fighting.

She may or may not ever learn to read properly and efortlessly - but know I really am doing everything that could be done for her.

Luckily her confidence is still sky high. I'll take her out of school the day it starts to deteriate.

ommmward Sat 01-Jan-11 13:55:23

Lots of internet access can be really helpful for learning to read - just help when asked, and give child free rein with starfall.com and pbskids and nick junior and cbeebies. You can put icons on the bookmark bar or whatever it's called, so they get there by recognising the image. So many of those games trick you into learning literacy when you thought you were just playing a game. The US sites are particularly good for those who are allergic to synthetic phonics. and poisson rouge is lovely too.

Also, playing DVDs with closed captions on. No big deal about it; no need even to talk about it, but it provides an opportunity to combine spoken and written language.

[I know many children - HEed not schooled, obviously - who have learned to read without having a clue about the process by which they learned to read, and without ever having had a literacy lesson of any kind, just having people read to them when they needed to decode text, and gradually picking up how it works. For autonomous HEed children, the age at which they start reading fluently and independently varies enormously, from 3 to 15, say. The problem with being a completely normal person but a late reader in schools is that so much of the school experience is predicated on children reading independently from very very young.]

IndigoBell Sat 01-Jan-11 13:56:53

Just tried the first session of the Marion Blank program with her and she hated it.

Also the lesson was way too long for her attention span.

So I don't think forcing her to do it every day is going to be the way to go....

(Given how many other learn to read programs we have already done...)

I'm talking to the SENCO about how we can improve her memory when school goes back - but the slow processing I think really is an impossible problem to overcome.

(Not that I actually think her memory problem can be overcome either - but I concede we haven't tried absolutely everything yet)

TheArsenicCupCake Sat 01-Jan-11 14:00:52

Indigo... when I was young I just couldn't read.. I remember not being able to read when everyone else seemed to find it so easy!
The whole word thing just didn't click!
I pretended to read school books by listening to other pupils read out loud the same book... Remembered it and said it out loud too.
I learnt a copleletly different way.. There was never
c a t is cat thing more I eventually saw the shapes of whole words.. And the shapes inside the word ( how round they were, sticky up bits or hangy down bits).. And that shape made that word..
But I got through to secondary without it even being noticed.. Then I was just a scruffy spider writer with bad spelling... Still no help at all... I flooked my English gcse!

When I went onto college it was easily picked up.. Although no- one could teach me.. Because it just didn't make sense...
What I have done since is just build up my 'bank' of word shapes and meanings and patterns you need on a keyboard to make those shapes ( hope that makes sense).

Its weird really and if there is a word that I don't know I ask and then I study the shape until I get it.

Ds1and 2 are both dyslexic and I have taught them to read the way I do .. School intervention hasn't helped, because the people teaching who are using Reading programmes to teach all seem to come from people who can read the conventional way!

Future wise.. Well I have a degree, a career and I ask if I don't know...
Ds1 .. Because he learnt shapes at a younger age.. You probably wouldn't know he doesn't read conventionally... He's doing fab at school ( gcse year).. Has already been accepted to sixth form.. And wants to go to a redbrick medical school.. And I have no doubt that he will do so.

Ds2 has suddenly began to learn last year... Prior to that he was years behind... But the shape thing has no just clicked... He will also be fine.

The biggest thing is loving books and thaetre ... Poems and film and audio stories!... And using speech recognition.

I think what I'm trying to say is it's about finding which way round your dd is going to do things... What makes sense to her... Rather than conventional ways of Reading...
And that her life will be okay with the technology now available! There is always a way round it.

mrz Sat 01-Jan-11 14:24:40

Sorry really don't want to be negative but learning to read by the shape of the word is limiting as so many words have identical shapes but different letters "post" and "past" have the same shape as do "cat" and "eat.

silverfrog Sat 01-Jan-11 14:29:37

mrz, obviously they do have a similar shape, but it is not just the overall shape that is important.

out of interest, ow would you go about teaching a child who ha had access to all the usual hep in learning to read, can do all the base level bits (identifying single letters, by name and by sound), is beginning to blend, but cannot read?

moondog Sat 01-Jan-11 14:30:33

Indigo, did you try out Headsprout?

The results from our ongoing research are amazing and I work with children who have much greater diffculties than yours.

It costs about £100, is fun and engaging (my youngest child now doing it as did my eldest) and is based on watertight research and rigorous field testing.

It is hard to teach reading unless you know what you are doing and the danger is that you dablle in a mishmash of approaches that will depress you, confuse her (and turn her off even more) and leave you in a deeper hole.

From what you say, I can tell you with more or less 100% confidence that she could be reading fluently very soon-with the right input.

TheArsenicCupCake Sat 01-Jan-11 14:41:15

Okay with regard to shape.. It's not really limiting tbh.. Because post and past are two completley different shapes... You have the outer shape .. And you have the inner shape .. So they are different.

I'm a visual learner and thinker therefore shapes make sense to me... But.. You maybe a touchy feely learner.. So being able to feel and hold the letters of the words might help that person.. Maybe a sandbox with foam letters in etc.. I think this is where you need to know what type of learner your dc is so that you can find out the way around it.

as asd is different for everyone.. So is dyslexia and this IMHO is why Reading schemes to help won't work with everyone... You have to find out what floats your boat and makes sense first and then use it.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now