Thursday, April 28, 2011

She is Amazing!

My daughter is now 11 years old. She is quickly becoming my hero. I'm not even sure where to start . . .
I know I've blogged about her before, but things are changing as she gets older.

When my daughter was 3, she still wasn't talking. She had a few key words in her vocabulary like, "Phil" and, well, honestly I don't know what else. Four months before she turned 3 we moved from Pennsylvania to Alaska. I wasn't concerned about her development until 2 things happened.
1) My mother pointed out that verbally, she was way behind other children she'd been around
2) Caden, her 1 1/2 year old brother had begun speaking short sentences. Soon after, he begun speaking for Carly so she didn't have try.

We took her into the school district and had her tested for language development problems and speech therapy. They concluded that she recognized words and pointed to the proper pictures but could not say the words on her own for pictures she saw. We then waited for a contact call to enroll her into the speech therapy program at our local elementary school.

She begun speech a couple days a week for an hour. She began speaking, but was very shy, showed very little excitement for anything, and chose n0t to be social with most of the other children in her group.

She continued with speech through kindergarten (and part of first grade). She was picking up her sounds at an appropriate rate and begun reading at the end of kindergarten even. Over the summer, we noticed a quick decline in her speaking. She forgot what words to use to describe objects as simple as apple, snack, tomorrow, mouth, as well as words like that, the, it, when, etc.

She had also just begun wearing glasses for reading, the doctor explaining that her eyes were undeveloped and as soon as they grew into the sockets, the problem would fix its self. (5 yrs later and there is no change in prescription strength.) First grade rolled around and her vocabulary and reading level had drastically declined but she was close to the end of her speech therapy, as she had no problems forming her sounds. She also did NOT qualify for language help through the district, as she tested "borderline."

I asked for another meeting with the language and speech therapist as well as her first grade teacher and principal of the school. You know what I was told?
"You just don't understand how to raise a daughter."

The following year, she was entering second grade and had learned an amazing thing over the summer . . .

Yes, you read right. She learned how to hug. Not just the motion. She learned that it was a sign of affection! It DID NOT come natural to her. Previously, if she hugged, she put an arm on a shoulder or back of another and gave a pat. That made me think back to all of the other things she had difficult learning.

I remembered, she couldn't wave. To say goodbye, she put up her palm and faced it toward herself. She closed and opened her fist.

Now, you try it. What does that look like to you? RIGHT! You just waved at yourself! Slowly, I was learning how "literal" my daughter was. It didn't click at the time that this behavior followed into other areas.

She had a very hard time learning to write. Not draw! Write. Every letter began at the bottom and, though they faced the proper direction, they were all written directionally backwards. She started at the bottom for all letters. She formed every letter beginning from the END of the motion. Later, I realized it was because those teaching her to write, myself included, did so from ACROSS the table. She even held her hand in the same position, so that she was looking at her fingertips.

WHY DIDN'T ANYONE NOTICE SHE WAS HOLDING HER HAND LIKE A LEFT HANDED WRITER? I finally realized this last spring and have been working with her to correct this.

During this 1st and 2nd grade years we also begun orthodontic work to widen her upper palate. I have blogged about this before and the illness NARES that plagued her since she was 8 months old. I won't go into details again.

In second grade, she was still have problems relating to others. She had a few friends, but she had a very hard time expressing what she wanted to do or even have a conversation because she was constantly using the wrong words. Luckily, she had a close friend who didn't mind. They are still friends today, though they do go through some tough times.

Enter - grade 3. She was recognized this year as being behind in reading. She started being pulled out for ERIE, whatever that is. Someone would sit with her in the hallway and listen to her read, give her a sticker, and send her back to class. This someone was NOT trained in anyway to recognize any problems. Often she was told to "read this line" in a book. So do you know what she did? Read a line.

WAIT - understand this - She literally read a line of the story. Not a sentence, a line. NO ONE corrected this! Not only that, but she was being pulled out of other lessons to read. Often, she was pulled out of math.

So, guess what happened?! She fell behind in math and needed to be pulled out for that. What a ridiculous cycle. That poor girl was working her butt off in school to catch up. Her friends saw this and decided to help. They took it upon themselves to do her homework and class work when she couldn't.

She had a fantastic year third grade. She had a lot of fun, loved her teacher, and had all of her close friends in her class. I again, asked for help. That year I took a different rout though. I prepared to homeschool her over the summer with math and get outside help with trying to diagnose reading problems. We worked together to try and maintain the skills she had at the end of the year and still have some sort of summer life.

After speaking with a professional and testing her for Irlen Syndrome, I started reading to her more, listening to her read, and reading over her. We seemed to be making progress and catching her up to where she should be.

I had also been talking with a fourth grade teacher in the school who was confident she would be able to get Carly on track. She was right! Carly was in her class the following fall and she excelled. She made honor roll each quarter and was reading often. She was not forced to read books on a fourth grade level if they were not interesting to her. She was allowed to read picture books as long as she kept it up. She read often and tested often. She was truly doing well in language for the first time EVER! She still had her moments of clarity, but her teacher was working with her. She was teacher her techniques to help her answer questions about what she is reading. For example, it is pretty easy for most of us to look at a Social Studies worksheet and find the answers in the book. Carly had NO IDEA how to do that. Her teacher would check on her, remind her of her hints, and guide her to finding the answer. SHE NEVER sent Social Studies or Science books home with a worksheet and assumed Carly would know how to do it.

I trusted that the school system would then place her in an appropriate classroom in the fifth grade so that she would get the help and hints she needed to continue her journey to become a great student.

As my nephew would say, "Epic Fail."

She was put into a 4-5 split classroom. OK
She liked the teacher they gave her. OK
The first parent /teacher conference rolled around and we expressed our concern over her declining vocabulary and understanding of language. We expressed our concern over the HOURS of homework a night she had. We were told that it wasn't hours.
Well, it is hours of homework for Carly. Several nights a week she was coming home with a science packet (approx. 6 pages of worksheets to correspond with a chapter they read in class), social studies packet (approx 4-5 pages of worksheets to correspond with a chapter they read in class), 2-4 pages in her spelling workbook, and a math worksheet. Spelling and math were every night. Science and Social Studies were 2-3 nights a week. Then she had to complete work that she couldn't finish in class.

Many children were able to do all of their work in class during the day. Carly was not. We asked for help, possibly more testing but based on language. Months passed. Her report cards were excellent.

That's right folks. Her report cards are incredible. My daughter gets A's! You know what that says to the school? That she is doing good. That she doesn't have any problems. That she isn't struggling. How can a child who supposedly has trouble get such good grades? I'll tell you . . .

Pure and Utter Determination. Carly is my Hero. She can't form a cohesive sentence most times she speaks, but she can work her ass off to get her work done correctly and get an A!!!

My daughter is amazing. She works and works and works until she is finished and confident that she is correct. Even the teacher noticed that she is the last one finished with tests and class work. She said she thinks that it is because Carly is just a perfectionist.

Now lets talk Standardized Testing. Her TeraNova test placed her in the 30th percentile academically. 30th Percentile? Not only that, her vocabulary score was in the 16th percentile! Then, she exhibited high knowledge of vocabulary used in context. All that means is that she can get an idea from a sentence using basic clues. Take the words out of the sentence and she is clueless. It is what we have been saying for YEARS!

I am interested to see if the SBA standardized test reflects the same results. She also recently took another reading test. I have met with the school counselor to express my, well, disgust with the way her education was handled this year. I am not an observer. I do not complain about what is going on in the schools without making my face known and taking an active roll in my child's education.
May 9th, we will all be meeting to discuss the chances of Carly actually qualifying for a 504 plan before she enters middle school where she will have only 45 minutes to complete any class work or test.

Historically, 45 minutes in not enough time for her. They are concerned that she will not qualify for this because there is no clinical reason for it. There is no medical need for extra help. There is no medical reason for her not succeeding.

Well, really? So she isn't ADD or ADHD and therefor she should be able to complete her work.

The Girl Can't Read and it isn't because she doesn't try or have the skills. She can not recall vocabulary.
She, not minutes ago, said to me, "Hold on Mom, I'm trying to find the file I put that into."
She was trying to tell me something but couldn't remember what or the words to describe it.

Now I'm going to list just a few of the unique things that Carly says at the age of 11.

Yard of Graves (graveyard)
Virus Cold (cold virus)
Yesterday's Night (last night)
eleven oh fifteen (11:15)

This is an everyday occurrence. We have taught her to laugh at the off-the-wall way she says things. It will make people less judgmental we feel. When she writes, there are many mistakes to fix in spelling and wording of thought, but she is understandable and very open to learning the correct way of doing it. To speak like you or I though, is very difficult for her. Reading aloud is too. She is continually changing the into when or why. This becomes in. All of her short words become interchangeable. She does not have as much trouble reading a book silently though. She is able to piece together the idea of what is being said. She is able to make sense out a story. Don't ask her to recall facts, but feel free to ask her to recall a main idea.

What, after all of these years, is still misfiring in her brain?

This is a brief story of Carly; of how she is determined to succeed.
She is my Hero and I learn from her everyday.
I am determined to help see her through school and help her to feel as normal as everyone else.
I will continue to find ways to help her.
I will continue to support her.
I will continue to be so completely proud of the young woman she is becoming.
She will be happy when she grows up because she will know she tried her hardest.

I am so proud of her every moment of every day.


Share said...

I love my Niece! She is very special. I love that her and Bug have been staying in contact while we've been gone. She is succeeding because of her 2 fabulous parents that are always there to make sure that she is never left behind! said...

Thank you. She has also started up a blog of her own. Another way practice without it seeming like work. I appreciate that Mick helps her out too and is there for her when she needs a friend! Their relationship is so special!

Patty said...

When do you get the results back from the testing of Irlen Syndrome? Becky you are a awesome Mom with an Awesome will get her through this and she will become a heck of a woman, just like you.