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Starting First Grade Without Reading Skills
Q: My son has ADHD. He will be going into the first grade this year and he doesn't know how to read. He doesn't even want to learn to read! How do I inspire him to learn? He has a "gifted" sister who is going into the sixth grade this year, but showing him what his sister can do because she knows how to read is not helping.
A: First grade is when children traditionally learn how to read, so I would not be overly concerned if your child is not going to enter the grade already reading. Do you notice any other signs of difficulties with important "prereading" skills (e.g., recognizing the letters of the alphabet, learning the connection between letters and sounds, "hearing" rhyming words)? Many children with ADHD also have other difficulties, among them learning disabilities. Has your son been evaluated to see if he might have a learning disability? He has an excellent potential for being a good reader if he gets appropriate help now.
You have a legal right to request a free evaluation by your local school district if you're concerned about your son's progress. Contact the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities at their toll-free number 1-888-GR8-MIND for information about warning signs for learning disabilities. Another excellent resource for parents is the Schwab Foundation for Learning. There are many support groups for families with children with learning disabilities throughout this country. There's a good chance that there is one in or near your community. The Coordinated Campaign for LD or the Schwab Foundation should be able to guide you to an appropriate local group that can give you the help you need.
In the meantime, have a look at Susan Hall and Louisa Moats' book, Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years. It's a great resource for ideas on how parents can help "jump-start" kids who are having difficulty with reading.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.