Starting off our first year of big boy school my son was extremely excited. Finally he would ride the bus and he would finally learn how to read. Quickly that excitement dissipated into stress because no matter how hard we tried he just couldn’t catch on. Sight words are evil in my house. For those who don’t know what sight words are, it’s the new way they teach kids to read. No longer are we using phonetics and how to sound out a word, no now we teach to memorize. Every week we got a new packet of sight words and every night the struggle continued. I saw my once happy excited little 6 year old shut down and even cry. We would trace the one word; repeat it and so on down the sheet. By the time we got to the second word he had forgotten the word he had worked on before. Of course I had no idea what was going on and I will admit at times I did get angry with him but then I saw how hard he tried and just couldn’t retain the information. At that point I knew something was wrong, that gut feeling, a mother’s intuition.
After much back and forth I got the school psychologist to test him. His results were just heartbreaking. They administered the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V).Where is was above average in his verbal comprehension, visual spatial, fluid reasoning and processing speed, he well below average, “very low” in working memory. The working memory index measures a child’s ability to register, maintain and manipulate visual and auditory information. Low scores point to visual or auditory problems, difficulty in the working memory processing or general low cognitive functioning. Another test given to him again he was above average in the same areas and again low in auditory short-term and working memory as well as his visual working memory. His test on the CTOPP-2 showed his phonological memory was well below average as well. I sat hearing this in a room with his teachers, counselor, principal and I was just filled with anger. I told them all year something wasn’t right and he didn’t need to just “try harder” he’s a smart perceptive kid.
There are two types of working memory, visual and auditory. Think of it like a tv show. Visual is of course what you see and auditory is what you hear. Kind of like a playback option for later. Kids with weak or low working memory tend to have a difficult time remember all they read or what they teacher has said and have less to work with. They tend to have a harder time remembering instructions. I remember how frustrated I would get when he couldn’t remember multiple step directions. I know have to do in small steps. We did have an incident when he would get off the bus. In order for him to get across the street to his driveway in our neighborhood required close to ten steps. Poor thing just couldn’t remember all of them even though he did it often. What should have been an easy process for a child has turn traumatic where other bigger kids would yell, the bus driver would yell and in turn he would cry. This again is another example of his low working memory. We continue to work on this but he still forgets, just like his sight words.
Role of working memory in Dyslexia also causes issues between the association of verbal working memory and trying to read. Your working memory is responsible for many skills we use to learn to read. Our auditory memory helps us hold on to the letter sounds and helps us learn to sound out new words. Our visual memory helps us remember what those words look like. Because of his low working memory he has a hard time remember those sight words. When we will read a book the first page will start off he will… and so on and so on. After the first page he will remember the he will part and glance at the picture to see what it illustrates. However with his weak working memory he will forget by the middle of the book and just start guessing. Sometimes you hear that dyslexic children have a hard time with the middle of the story. They will know the beginning and or the end. Just like their speech they tend to leave the middle part of words or words out of sentences. They just don’t have the working memory to process it all together correctly. I believe we are seeing a rise in this mainly because they don’t teach like they used to. I remember having to learn to sound out the words not memorize them. Looking back I think if they did that with me I would probably have the same struggles as my son. If I could get where I am and accomplished what I have then I know he will be ok. He has me to help him and together we will get through our struggles. I tell him every night he’s not dumb he’s dyslexic and some of the smartest, most successful people are too. Albert Einstein to Walt Disney. It’s not a disability it’s a gift be proud and to own it.