Sally Wilcox noticed that her son Mac was becoming increasingly frustrated with writing and spelling when he was in grade 5.
In Mac’s words, it was very simple - he hated writing.
Thinking back, Sally recalled that the early markers were already appearing in grade 1 when Mac had difficulty following instructions.
On deeper investigation, Mac was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder. At first Sally was told that this was developmental and that Mac would grow out of it, and to some extent this was true. Yet the problems persisted and Sally knew that something else needed to happen.
Eventually she found the Fast ForWord programs, and that’s when things started to change for the better. Fortunately Mac was very receptive to resolving his issue, and his teacher was also familiar with auditory processing disorder.
This combination helped Mac make significant gains at school with his academic results. He also increased his self confidence and became more willing to try.
In this episode of Learning Capacity Podcast Sally shares Mac’s story.
- Auditory Processing Disorder
- Learning Difficulties
- Self confidence & self esteem
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Episode 42 of The Learning Capacity Podcast
Mother Sally Wilcox shares her son's successful journey with Fast ForWord
Colin Klupiec: Sally, thanks for joining us.
Your son, Mac, has been working through the Fast ForWord program for the last 18 months, so, a couple of years now.
If I can just take you back to the beginning, what were some of the presenting issues that made you realize that something wasn't quite right with Mac's progress and something had to happen?
Sally: Yes, I guess, it would have been back in the grade five he was becoming increasingly frustrated. Then in the summer school holidays and he had to write a birthday card for his friend and I said, "Here you go, just write happy birthday, all the rest of it."
He got the words wrong and the spelling wrong and he got incredibly upset, incredibly frustrated and he just said, "I hate writing."
And I thought, "Gosh, if this is what he is experiencing on holiday when there is not the pressure at school, what’s going on when he is at school?"
And I knew English and writing and spelling were not his strong point. But he was really strong in Math.
So I guess, when you look at primary school ages, you think, kids do things at different stages and it would all come good. Going back further to grade one, I know he experienced some difficulties following instructions. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the classroom to actually witness his inability to carry out a set of tasks and know how to commence the task.
And from that I took him to see a speech pathologist and to get his hearing checked. He was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. I was assured it would developmental and he just needed some assistance and he would grow out of it, which he did to a degree. He managed to follow instructions. He is a good kid and complies. He did not act out, he didn't have issues along those lines.
But his frustration was growing. And then in grade six when his spelling and writing still hadn't improved greatly - he would be a C or a B on his reports - and he stated he hated writing and did not want to do any sort of writing in the holidays, I thought, we've got a problem here.
A friend recommended Fast ForWord
Sally: I discussed it with a friend who had similar issues with her son, and she had found Fast ForWord. She said it was worth a go. It helped her son.
I discussed it with Mac, "Is this something that you think you might like to do to help your spelling and your writing?"
And he was extremely happy to try it. I think, giving him a tool, a structure, to help him improve himself gave the power back to him. So he could then control how he was going to develop and how he could manage this issue.
So I think it was pivotal in getting him to continue on with the program. He could see his own progress, and his own success.
Colin: So, just going to say, that's quite an incredible personality characteristic at that young age, to say, "This can help me. I'll take ownership of that."
Sally: And that's what he did. Then for the next couple of years, he did that program every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 on his own. I reminded him a few times initially. But, it's actually credit to the program because I didn't have to sit with him or I didn't have to nag him. I knew little about the program.
I could see things flash up on the screen and I would think, "Oh, that looks complicated, but he's working it out."
It was the interactivity of the program, the way it was presented, the passion and characters, the words, and others things like that. It kept him engaged well.
Colin: So just coming back to the original comment that you made earlier where you said that he had an outburst and he hated writing, and then you had a couple of assessments done and someone says to you, "Your child has a mild auditory processing condition, and well, we think, it’s developmental, we think, he will grow out of it.
But you knew something is not quite right. You knew there is something you've got to do. I'm imagining as a parent, and I'm a parent of a young child myself, that sinking stone in your stomach feeling.
When Mac started the program, when there was that initial positive reaction to doing Fast ForWord, doing something that would help him, was there a corresponding sigh of relief, "I think this might work"?
Sally: Absolutely and I think, it's like anything, when your child starts refusing to go to school, to eat their vegetables, whatever it's, it's like, "Okay, and how are we going to get around this?
He is just got to learn this, he has got to learn that, and it's better for them, it's good for their health, they can't just eat white bread sandwiches, and all the rest.
You try different angles and I think of course when someone says there's something wrong with your child, it's like, "Oh, my God, what have I done? You know, is it my fault as a parent? Did I not read to him? Did I not teach his alphabet?"
You look at what you may have done, or not done. But the actual fact is it was just him and that was his challenge. Kids face different challenges on different levels at all sorts of different times.
So that was his at that time, and I said, " I realize this is really a problem for you. You're really not enjoying reading and writing, and it's a big part of school."
So we needed to find something that was going to help him get around it and learn to deal with spelling, comprehension, and writing.
Colin: When he had the diagnosis, did you talk to him about that? Did that make any sense to him?
Hard to follow instructions in noisy classroom
Sally: Yes, we simplified it and we said to him, "Look, sometimes when people are talking to you and there is a lot of background noise, you struggle to understand what is being said. So in a class full of noisy ten year olds, it was really hard for you to find the three instructions from the teacher.”
We said, "Obviously this is a problem. This is what the teacher needs to do, and this is what you need to do. You need to sit at the front of the class, and you need to not listen if other people are talking and the teacher is talking, you really need to focus on the teacher, and also to say, 'I didn't hear that or I don't understand that,’ and put your hand up."
Colin: And he was okay with that?
Sally: He was. He had a particularly understanding, lovely teacher and she was great with it all. I explained to his new teachers and said, "Look, this has been a problem in the past, should this reoccur. But it hasn't. He's only just continued to improve.
Colin: I'm curious. Was Mac's teacher surprised when you used the words "auditory processing disorder?" Was that something that the teacher was familiar with?
Sally: Yes, she was, and also with the fact that he needed to sit at the front, and not sit near a distractive child, or anything like that. And they place kids strategically in the classes anyway, so it was just something we did at the beginning of the year. We said, "Look, this is an ongoing issue, we're definitely with this program,"
And one of his teachers sent home extra spelling words and that was more: write it out, see one, write one, listen to one, memorize one, or whatever, and that was just boring.
He didn't show much interest in that - 20 words a week in repetitive writing. It was tedious, that system, tedious for him. So yeah, that was never going to engage him in learning, basically.
Colin: Then Fast ForWord seemed to catch his interest in a way that perhaps no one had really expected, I suppose.
Sally: Absolutely. Look the fact that I never had to nag him. It was never a chore. I would say, "Have you done your program this morning?" If he said, "Oh, no, I haven't."
I said, "That's okay, we can do it tonight."
And even over the school holidays, he goes, "Oh, I haven't done it three days, should I be doing this?"
And it's like, "Well, you are allowed to have a break, It's okay," But he would often then do it throughout the holidays as well.
Colin: So you really had the trifecta, didn't you, of good things happening? So you found the program, he was enthusiastic about doing it. You had a great teacher, and I guess the third part is that you had a teacher who was aware of auditory processing disorder as a condition and that certain things needed to be done to address that. So you had three things working together.
Sally: Yes, for sure.
Colin: That must have made you feel much better about the whole journey.
Sally: Oh, look absolutely. I mean, he could have easily had said, "No I don't want to do that." And just completely refused. But fortunately, whether or not he thought that was going to help him, or that he felt better about learning words in a different way, I don't know, I have never really asked him. I've never really asked him to be honest.
Colin: Yeah, it's a good point that you make, because, you could have...I mean, we could be at a situation now, where he can write and he can understand instructions but he just thinks, "Well, I don't want to write,"
Sally: That's right, I don't like it.
Colin: So I guess not everyone likes to write. But I guess that's another plus in this situation, that not only has he switched from, I hate writing to, I can write, but I can write and I like to write.
English & Spelling now improved
Sally: Yes. Yes, that's right and he is actually...his grades have been, I can only say, impressive. His last year's English and spelling grade was As and Bs, so I can't ask for more than that.
Colin: Yeah, I wanted to ask you a little bit about his report card from the last year. I'll do that in a moment. Perhaps, if I could ask you at this point, did you have any idea when you started that this would become a multi-year commitment?
Sally: You know, I don’t think I did. You got to give these things a decent amount of time, and I think we signed up maybe for three months at a time with a view of thinking, "Look I'll give it six months and let's see if this is going to work, if he is going to comply, if things are going to improve," And I didn't really envisage that we were keep going on for a couple of years.
Colin: Has it been worth it?
Sally: Absolutely. So pleased that we did. And Mac himself wanted to do it, and he was in the routine. When he was starting in grade six, we said, "We will still carry on with the program, you're happy to do that?"
And he said, "Oh, yeah." It wasn't much of an issue to really keep going and things were improving, so I thought, "Well, you're on a good thing, you stick to it.”
Colin: People often say that when they are doing something that they don't particularly like to do, and someone says, "How long have you been doing that?"
And they say, "I've been doing it for six months but it feels like a lifetime." I'm getting the impression from you that it's been a couple of years but it seems to integrate pretty well into family life.
Sally: Yeah, it certainly has. I'm lucky, both my kids are early risers. I don't have to drag them out of bed kicking and screaming. They're both up at 6AM, so there is plenty of time to fit in home work, reading, and instrument practice before they even get to school.
They are not night owls, either, so most jobs can be achieved when they're fresh in the morning.
Colin: Let's come back to that report card for a moment. The envelope that arrives a couple of times a year or maybe it's via email now, these days ,and the parent sort of nervously goes, "I wonder what I'm going to find in this report?"
And the child goes, "I don't know if I want my parents to read this." I'm sure, there are few of those tense moments along the way. Last year was apparently quite good. So going back to 2015. Can you tell us more about that?
Sally: Yes, I guess, the beginning of the year, you know, he is average kid, tries hard always. Putting in efforts, and he is not disruptive, and all the rest of it.
In the first semester was nothing astounding. He was getting Bs and Cs, and the occasional A here and there. And then towards the end of last year, I think his lowest mark was a B, and his lowest marks in English was a B+ and he had As, and for comprehension and spelling and things like that. So you know, the humanities and all the writing, the writing subjects.
Maths he's always been quite good at. But, the ones where you have to write and say, do some analysis. And he won a public speaking competition. He wrote the speech himself, so, yeah, lots of improvement and just confidence.
To be able to give your child some confidence rather than them thinking they're no good at something or they're not going to it enjoy, because they're going to get picked on, or anything like that, it's heartbreaking to watch as a parent, and so to be able to give them the skills to just have that bit of confidence, and think "I'm actually okay at this."
Colin: And no doubt the corresponding effect on self-esteem as well.
Sally: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.
Colin: So very solid results there on the report card.
Sally: Yeah, and watching his confidence grow in writing and spelling and just able to give things a go rather than, I can't do it. I'm no good at it. So I'm not going to even try.
He now has the confidence to stand up and address his class. He’s got the confidence to try.
Colin: So he has done most of the Fast ForWord programs but there is still a little bit more that he could do. What are the next 12 months looking like?
Sally: I did ask him at the beginning of the year, what about your program. Do you want to keep on going? And he said he would like to try without it.
So we will give it a break. He can always go back to it if he feels the need, now the foundations are built.
Colin: So it's a great news story. So thanks very much for your time.
Sally: My pleasure.