Friday, September 12, 2014

Crossing the Midline: The Day that Drastically Changed our Reading Lessons

I'm sitting next to Sadie right now and I've spent the last fifteen minutes watching her work through a reading lesson on her own.  She's reading brand new words phonetically (and easily) and I have to say that in this moment I've never been more grateful for that little paper that told me a few weeks ago that she was scoring in the definite problem range on vestibular disfunction, because if that hadn't happened we very might still be struggling word by word, while she grew increasingly frustrated.

At the time I wondered if she just wan't ready to read.  We put away learning to read last year, because she was so frustrated and I let her do math to her heart's content.  I'd read that some children don't read until they're a little older and that forcing it before she was ready would just result in tears, so I decided to try it again after a few months had passed.

This year she seemed slightly more ready to try reading, but it was still obviously her least favorite part of our school day.

Then the vestibular disfunction results came back.  Vestibular disfunction affects her balance and inner ear.  It affects the way her body registers movement.

After mentioning the results of the test in a Facebook group I'm in, another mom who's kids struggle with vestibular issues mentioned that vestibular dysfunction can affect reading because kids who have vestibular dysfunction often have a hard time crossing their midline and this includes crossing their midline for reading.

I've become familiar with problems crossing the midline with Mae in the last year, but I'd never thought of how it might be an issue as she got older.  Mae doesn't like to reach across her body.  If something is on her right side she'll grab it with her right hand.  If it's on her left side she'll grab it with her left hand.  And if you ask her to grab something on her left side with her right hand she's likely to launch her body sideways to try to avoid reaching across her body to do it (although we have seen definite improvements in this area).

I thought back to the day's lesson with Sadie.  Her lesson started on the right page of her book.  She had read it easily.  Then she turned her page to do the second half of the lesson without moving the book.  The page was slightly off to her left.  And reading turned into a nightmare.  She was suddenly tearful and frustrated.  At the time I thought the lesson had just gotten more difficult as she went along.  But suddenly I wondered.

That night I watched her read on a Kindle.  She easily read every word in front of her... and the words were much harder than the words in her daily lesson.

The next day I made sure the book was right in front of her.  She easily read the lesson.  We turned the page and I slid the book over.  The  words continued to come easily.

It's such a little thing that makes a huge difference.  I'm still watching her read to herself right now.  She's easily spent 20 minutes reading, instead of breaking into tears after 5 minutes.  Her confidence is growing.  She isn't dreading reading any longer.

Many people wonder why a diagnosis can be important, why I didn't let Sadie just muscle through her reading difficulties and figure it out on her own.  She's a bright kid.  Eventually she might have figured it out on her own.

The answer  for me is that by removing this tiny barrier, by moving her book an inch to the side, I've taken a child who was growing to dread reading, who was as likely to burst into tears at the suggestion of reading a book herself, into a kid that's excited to crack open her reading book.  And that was made possible by listening to the little voice that said something wasn't quite right and looking for answers and solutions to to help her overcome the challenges she was facing.


  1. Amazing, and it also shows the importance of an observant mama.

  2. Reading is so, so important, as you know. Math skills are important, but reading and comprehension are so critical to a kid's growth. She is so bright, and now she will begin to love reading as much as she loves math. So great!
    From afar, from this side of the internet screen, it is so apparent how very blessed you are, even in your trials. It may not appear to be so now, given all the challenges you have been up against. But it is in breakthroughs like this; in that if Mae didn't have therapy coming in, you may never have questioned Sadie's struggles, but since you did, a solution is found, that to us readers of your blog we see God's manifest blessings all around.
    So glad you found this for your Sadie girl.
    God bless. ~ Bonnie

  3. How wonderful that such a small discovery could make such a big difference!

    I know you already have a lot going on, and Mae is making leaps and bounds with her current therapies, so you can take this with a grain of salt if you want, being the anonymous internet commenter that I am. ;) It sounds like your girls may both benefit from some "Brain Gym" types of exercises. A family member of my husband's has a son on the spectrum, and they have pursued many different alternative therapies. The most successful therapy they found was the same kind of thing (using cross-body movements to improve neural connectivity), although they saw an expert practitioner rather than getting their info from a book or website. Anyway, I just thought it was something you could look into if you're interested.

  4. That is a wonderful insight!

    I never thought about that kind of issue. I'm comfortable crossing my midline but this makes me think about how difficult it would be to be blocked by my system from it.

  5. That is so interesting! What a wonderful way to overcome a barrier. Awesome job, Mama! Who knows what kind of conflict you would have come across with teachers if Sadie were struggling in public schools!!


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