The first time Daniel complained of a stomach ache, he was allowed to stay home from school to rest. But when Daniel’s stomach started to hurt almost every day, his mother Sharon began to suspect that it was more than just a “bug” or a virus going around.
Hoping to find out why her friendly, bright fifth grader no longer wanted to go to school, Sharon began doing some research. She scoured the Internet for information on stomach aches, asked her pediatrician if there were medicines Daniel should take and tried to gauge if other moms were having the same experiences.
She asked Daniel if there was anything he wanted to talk about. Daniel said everything was fine — he just didn’t want to go to school. Finally, Sharon reached out to Daniel’s teacher who said Daniel seemed to be having trouble keeping up with his peers.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone it was too hard.”
Daniel felt stupid admitting he needed help, so he didn’t say anything or ask questions when he wasn’t sure. During Social Studies, Daniel struggled to read the text fast enough; there were just too many words he didn’t know.
He didn’t know how to sound out the word “colonization,” let alone what it meant… so how could he write a five paragraph essay on it? Daniel was ahead of the class when it came to math, but the rest of his days were filled with long chapters he couldn’t really read and questions he couldn’t really answer.
It was easier to just feign a stomach ache and avoid all of the frustration and embarrassment.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
For students like Daniel, it’s important to determine the underlying cause of school challenges. Daniel has difficulty sounding out new words and every time he sees one, he has to begin the laborious process over again. A cause of difficulty in establishing sight words and contextual fluency is difficulty in visualizing letters in words. This is called weak symbol imagery.
A significant number of students—even those who have well-developed phonemic awareness—have difficulty with rapidly perceiving sounds in words, and are slow to self-correct their reading errors.
Being able to comprehend what you’ve read is a separate skill and can be difficult for students with or without decoding challenges. A primary cause of language comprehension problems is difficulty creating an imagined gestalt. This is called weak concept imagery.
This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole. Daniel often misses jokes or forgets what his teacher has asked him to do as a result. It’s also hard for him to remember what words like “colonization” mean, as he is unable to create mental imagery for new words or concepts independently.
Unlock Your Child’s Potential
At Lindamood-Bell, we believe that all students can be taught to read and comprehend to their potential. We start by identifying strengths and weaknesses that may be affecting school performance; our instruction is based on an individual’s learning needs. The school year is a great time to address those learning needs — helping your child develop the underlying foundational skills for reading and comprehension will ensure that they don’t start to miss curriculum-based content because they’re unable to decode or comprehend it.
For a student who has fallen behind, the way to close the gap is often intensive instruction. Click here to learn more about how we’re able to make years of gains in weeks of our research-validated one-to-one instruction. Students can do instruction in one of our learning centers or online from their home or school.
Hear from Lindamood-Bell co-founder, Nanci Bell, about how instruction in our learning centers is a Magical Learning Adventure — and one of the most important gifts you can give your child.
To learn more, contact your local Learning Center or call (800) 300-1818.