by Cas Faulds
At the beginning of this year, my son started his third year of school.
He could not read.
His school and his teachers were aware of this. They had realised this by the end of his first year of school. His school offered a reading recovery program for children in the second year of school who need extra assistance with literacy.
He was not considered for that program.
His teacher claimed that she thought maybe he could read, but he was too stubborn to do so out loud. His teacher said that it was too hard to put him into the reading recovery program because the person responsible didn’t have any experience with autistic children.
He went to a specialised school, and then he went to a different specialised school.
Still, he could not read.
At the beginning of this year, we quit school. I say we because it was a joint decision made for our mutual benefit. I could no longer deal with any more meetings to discuss my son’s difficulties. I could no longer deal with people who only viewed him as a series of medical reports. He could
no longer deal with the trauma of being in a place where he was not accepted. I don’t use the word ‘trauma’ lightly. It was traumatic for him. He is still recovering from his time at school.
We registered for home schooling. Home schooling nay-sayers will be pleased to learn that home schooling is very, very regulated by our state.
We spent some time recovering.
We tried various things, and every time that he said to me “I can’t read,” I reminded him that he was learning to read. I presumed competence. I didn’t “presume competence” in the way his former teacher had by saying that he could read without actually doing anything to help him acquire
the skills to read. I presumed competence by believing that he could read with the right support.
We made it a joint goal. We worked on it together.
We played board games – lots of them. What do board games have to do with reading? They can assist with working memory, and they’re a fun way to figure out words in the instructions. We turned the captions on for our TV. We followed a multi-sensory reading program which I further adapted to suit his needs. This was not an easy task for me because I taught myself to read at an early age. I have no idea how I learned to read, so
trying to break the process down to suit my son required me to put in time and effort, but it was worth it.
Now, he can read.
He needed to learn how in a different way to many children, but more than that, he needed someone not to give up on him simply because he’s autistic.
We have to believe that our children are capable. More importantly, we have to get others to believe that our children are capable because they are. When people focus on our children’s limitations without acknowledging their potential, it’s easy to get discouraged. When people give up on our children, it’s easy to give up too, but persistence and presuming competence pays off.
Now, he can read…