Thursday, January 29, 2009

History of a Learning Disability, Part 3. Finally.

Read History Part 1 here and History Part 2 here. Then you'll be caught up and know what we're talking about.

Abbie had her psycho-educational testing in late December and early January, and we were finally able to meet with the psychologist to get the results.

What an eye-opener.

Some things were no surprise, like the fact that she has plenty of intelligence. No lack in that area. But for her to hear it from a professional did Abbie a world of good. In most tasks, she scored from average to sky-high above average, especially when it involved pictures. In one test, the doctor showed her a complicated geometrical drawing involving all sorts of random shapes, lines, criss-crosses, squiggles, and dots and had her draw it. Ok, fine. Then 30 minutes later she said, "Remember that picture you drew a while ago? Draw it again. From memory." And Abbie was able to almost perfectly (and to scale) reproduce it. Amazing. Show her a picture of a bunch of things and she can remember all of them, where they were, what expressions people had on their faces, and can tell you what's missing from a replication of the picture.

Tasks that used her auditory system were a breeze for her. She remembers everything she hears, even long-term. We used to help her memorize Bible verses for AWANA by singing them to familiar tunes.

But anything that involves the reading of small symbols, letters, or numbers is a huge struggle for her. Her processing speed in that area drops to the fourth percentile, and even below the first percentile on one test. It blew my mind. It's not an inability to see--she sees fine. It's not an inability to read--she reads fine. She does math fine. It's the processing of the information that slows her down. Her brain's perception of those small symbols somehow doesn't work right. She can do anything anyone else can do, it just takes her much, much longer. This is not something that can be "fixed." We may be able to improve her processing speed slightly with various therapies, but basically it's just part of who she is.

So where do we go from here?

We look at compensatory strategies--what we can do to help her in her weak areas and take advantage of her strengths. We can get her textbooks on CD so she can listen to them. She can record lectures and listen to them again at home. She can use notecards that have very short blips of information on them, rather than long, detailed paragraphs. I can study aloud with her. We can get longer test times. She can use spell-check.

On the bright side, she has plenty of strengths. She is a wonderful musician and a gifted artist. Her people skills are outstanding--everyone loves her. Her character will take her a long way.

There is no doubt in my mind that Abbie can succeed at whatever she wants to do. And now that she knows she is just as smart as the next person, she has great hope.

Be thankful ~



Anonymous said...

I always thought it, and now I know it, Abbie is so much like me!! I too struggled with schoolwork yet flourished in art and music. I remember taking a bunch of learning disability tests and such. I don't remember the exact names for all the things they labeled me with, but I would bet they are probably the same ones as Abbie. I think your compensatory strategy is a good one!

crosie73 said...

I completely understand your situation. My 15-year-old son has a similar difficulty involving the processing of what he hears. No hearing problem, and he's very smart, but things just take him a lot longer to finish. We found this out between 3rd and 4th grade. The comment that stuck out when I read your entry was "now that she knows she's just as smart as the next person." After trying many different programs to mitigate my son's problem, something(One)prompted me to share the psychologist's report with him. When I showed him his IQ score and how most of the areas he was tested in were well above grade level, a smile crept onto his face. He said, "You mean I AM smart." I didn't realize that he thought he wasn't smart because it took him so much longer than the smart kids to finish some tasks. I wished I could have read his mind before that day. But his knowing that has made all the difference in the world.

Thanks for sharing your story.