Flop or Flob? The power of speaking it out…

I was watching one of my students write the other day, and noticed countless problems with her seated position, her pencil grip, and how she was obscuring the sentence with her hand as she wrote. The effort was enormous on her part. As I was thinking of how to help her writing, posture, grip etc., it occurred to me that this girl would be fine if she was speaking her ideas aloud and recording them. She is prolific with imaginative stories and has an extensive vocabulary double her chronological age of seven.

We were doing dictation at the time, from that very trusted source: “Alpha to Omega, The A to Z of teaching reading, writing and spelling.” Having spent six months working out how to write the letters in the correct direction, we were now onto the business of reading, writing and spelling.

Well, I saw the mistake I was looking for. Instead of writing ‘flop,’ as the sentence required, she had written ‘flob.’ What a gem! This now told me that processing sounds was still a problem for my student. (So many things to sort out….but, luckily, vocabulary was not one of them).

My student looked at me and said “I can’t always distinguish between the ‘b’ sound and ‘p’ sound,” her little face looking so serious. To my eye, she was a very talented young person frustrated with her inability to spell correctly, and always concerned as to whether she heard correctly when taking dictation.

It occurred to me in this technology-driven era that, whilst machines, such as word processors, can be used to help with spelling and writing sentences, nothing can generate ideas as well as the human brain. This student was a shining example of just that.

So, this blog is based on how to separate problems and see the talent that is your child with learning difficulties. It’s not just Dyslexia, as these problems can occur in many different learning difficulties.

Think about what they can do well, not what they cannot do. If they have good ideas when they are telling you a story, then it shows certain skills sets of vocabulary, imagination, memory and emotional intelligence.

Then there are the story-telling skills themselves: the timing, the sequence and the impact it has on the listener. This is all skilful stuff. Think of when you yourself may have given a presentation. Did your ideas flow as well as your child’s? Did someone stop you in the middle and ask you “I bet you can’t spell that word!”? Definitely not, because when you are having a bad day, you have word processors to keep you on the straight and narrow. Clearly, it is good to know, and a distinct advantage, to be able to spell but, let’s face it - we are all sloppy with spelling at times.

Recently, I discovered Audible®. Audio books have never been so popular. (If you have not tried it, it is free for a month). When you are driving, cooking or the lighting is just too dim to read without glasses, turn on your book and simply enjoy the story.

Going back to my young student, I decided to prepare a list and give it to her parent so she could see how to divide the tasks her daughter did exceptionally well in, and to separate them from the really difficult stuff.

I have now encouraged my student to record what she wants to write on her mum’s phone. This is now being done every day whilst having her hair combed and being driven to school. She thinks it is a real hoot listening to her own voice and trying to write what she wanted to say.

It has really encouraged her to look up words she can’t currently spell and has created a curiosity for spelling words that was not there before.

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