26 April 2010 01:59 PM

Daughter Has Reading Difficulties

by Dr. Rick

A few days ago a mom contacted us here at the Dr. Rick Blog with concerns about her eleven-year-old daughter, “Phoebe.”   Phoebe was diagnosed with “auditory-linguistic and visuospatial reading disability.”  She also has ADHD, but not surprisingly she can read on grade level.  There’s some difficulty with writing skills.  She’s in a special reading class in school.  Phoebe can talk about what she wants to write but “can not put it on paper.”  Do I have any suggestions?


Yes.  Here’s what I told Mom.


I recognized that she certainly has her hands full.  Phoebe reads on grade level, which is a good start, but what about comprehension?  Mom didn’t mention it, but focusing on comprehension is appropriate – it’s the very reason we read.  If Phoebe doesn’t understand what she reads, that may be an underlying factor in her difficulties.  (Reading comprehension can be assessed.  Sylvan can help.)

  1. Consider strong routines for Phoebe.  Her ADHD will benefit with fairly rigid routines for study time, bedtime, mealtime, homework time, play time, etc.  Plenty of breaks will help with her restlessness.  You will need to monitor these routines.

  2. Make sure her vision is routinely checked and corrected.  Her "visuospatial reading disability" can be assuaged by regular check-ups.

  3. Have her write daily.  You can write with her.  Keep a daily "gratitude journal," a diary, responses to school events, sports, stories you've read together, favorite TV shows, or other things important to her.  Let her feel comfortable with writing, without having to worry about spelling or grammar or mechanics.  Those are important skills, of course, but you can work on those later.  For now, let her get comfortable with writing, without the stress.  Make it fun, a routine.  Start by having her "dictate" to you, then, slowly, let her take over the writing role.

  4. Consider the one-on-one tutoring at Sylvan.  It can raise her confidence.

  5. Consider specialized help from organizations like Lindamood Bell or Orton Gillingham.  Their websites are helpful.

ADHD kids often are helped with specific techniques that allow them to move about while they’re learning.  Train her to find ways of moving about without disturbing others in class – crossing her legs and bouncing her foot that is off the floor, rolling a pencil between her fingers, squeezing a large rubber eraser, doodling on a piece of paper.  All done quietly, of course.


Taking frequent breaks while studying at home, using highlighters for main ideas in notes, writing in the air to study spelling, or drawing pictures to help her memory are all excellent tips from students with Phoebe’s learning style.


Phoebe will need constant monitoring, support, encouragement, praise, and motivation, as Mom knows.  The more adults in Phoebe’s life who can provide this reassurance, the better.




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