Originally Written Last Year ~ Senior Kindergarten Year*
When Johnny came home from school and we opened his school bag he was eager to look in his backpack. Johnny was looking for the next reading book that he gets to bring home from school every week. He is so excited about learning to read.
Johnny’s Senior Kindergarten class began to read in October. In late September, I met with his teacher she told me she wanted to try out reading with him. She was worried that visually the books with their big pictures and simple sentences in small font might be a little overwhelming for him. He might not be able to focus on the words and learn to track with his finger as he read (finger hop) and would have to be prompted a lot. On the other hand she thought that since he is a visual learner it was a great opportunity for him to master a skill because the words would be connected with the picture and provide descriptive expressive language ideas.
Every week Johnny would bring home a little book and we would have him sit with us and we would read it with him first with our finger touches each word and them we would do hand over hand and have him touch each word as first we modeled it and then he said it after us. Then we would begin the book again a third time and have him try to do it independently. By the end of the week he was able to read the book to us. The only prompting he needed was a gentle reminder to “finger hop” and touch each word as he said it. Our private OT felt that tracking with his finger was an unnesscary demand on Johnny because he has fine motor challenges. The teacher is adamant that this is how the children will show her that they are reading and that she is building a skill for the future. The only thing is when you teach an Autstici child how to do a new skill you break the skill down into smaller steps then what you would do with a neurotypal child so they can learn it more successfully. We explained to Johnny what his teacher’s expecation is but he continuted to slide his finger somewhat which she did not want but we felt that she was not accepting that this was part of his disablity. For us if he is reading even by rote what is in front of him then that is what matters. Let’s not let other things get in the way.
What a difference a year can make. Johnny is still eager to learn to read but we are trying to figure out how he learns and what is the best way for him to be taught to read and what is best for him. He is now trying to tackle phonological awareness and sound out words. This can be very frustrating for all of us but we are slowly building a little reader. We are not teachers but to become a teacher. What I try and remember is like all tasks we teach Johnny, it is always better to break it down into manageable pieces or chunks then to try and push him to try and accomplish things at the same pace or level as his peers. He will get there eventually but at his own pace and that’s okay. When we stopped to adjust our expectations then he surprised us by surpassing them. I get the feeling sometimes that even the teachers right now are not sure they are still trying to figure it out. I have to remember that hasn’t been talking for very long really only two years. So the fact that he’s opening a book and trying to read it out loud is huge in itself.
Now we just have to figure out how to motivate him when he says “I will do my homework tomorrow night Mommy. ” Sigh.