“Camron is, and always has been, an intelligent child with a deep thought process. He always asks thoughtful questions that seem beyond his years and his thought process amazes me. He has always been aware, alert, engaged and thoughtful. So when he began Kindergarten two weeks after his 5th birthday we were excited.
The next 3 years for us and for Camron were hard. Camron struggled. As parents of 2 older children who did not struggle in school, it was a learning curve for us all. Cam had trouble recognizing letters, sounding out words (decoding) and if he could sound out the word quick enough to actually piece the sounds together it was a miracle. Reading daily with him was stressful. He couldn’t tell B from D. He read so incredibly slow that it put me to sleep. I am sure he dreaded reading as much as we did.
Camron received “tiered” instruction his entire kindergarten year but it wasn’t enough. He was retained and it hurt us all even though we knew he couldn’t push forward. His second year of kindergarten was a little better but not much. When he did start progressing and performing at grade level, the school pulled his “tiered” instruction. His scores quickly dropped and he fell behind again. He worked with tutors in addition to what the school provided. We met with teachers and curriculum instructors and every one told us he would come around. They reassured us that he was not having behavioral issues in addition to his learning difficulties. He was an engaged student, he asked questions, he volunteered information and he did well in math, as long as it didn’t involve word problems.
As Cam’s year in 2nd grade progressed, it became evident to the school that he wasn’t improving, and they requested a meeting with us. At that meeting they shared that they wanted to have Camron evaluated. We agreed. The next couple of months following his evaluation were some of the most frustrating on this journey. The results of Cam’s evaluation told the school that he had a learning disability. When we inquired as to how we should handle this, the school didn’t have many answers that seemed to be what Camron needed. I have never felt so frustrated. It was hard sitting in a room full of professional educators with years of experience , and feeling like they couldn’t seem to understand that they way we all had been teaching Cam for the last 8 years of his life wasn’t the answer for him. The school wanted to continue with the same programs that he had been taking. Programs that were not working for him. I knew that Camron could not be alone in his struggles and was discouraged that our education system didn’t seem to have the answers for him and children like him. It was disheartening. Camron could learn he just needed a different teaching style.
I spent the next month researching our options beyond what the school had to offer. I asked anyone and everyone I knew and respected if they knew of any programs that could help someone like Cam. When I found The Morris Center I was a bit nervous. I had heard that they had great programs, but I might have to pay the cost of a nice vehicle. Our budget was limited, but our hope for Cam was limitless!
When we met with Dr. Conway I was impressed. It seemed to make logical sense that the movement of your mouth and the feel of your mouth has so much to do with reading! I felt silly for never realizing this before. I had never realized how much I watch other people’s mouths when they speak and how much my 2 year old had been watching me speak for the first years of her life. I went home and continued my research. I tested it out with our “baby”, I was impressed when she struggled with a word, if I asked her to watch my mouth, she quickly could correctly pronounce the word.
We took a well researched risk and signed Camron up for tutoring with the NOW! program. Over the next 5 months, Cam met once a day for an hour with his tutor. The progress was slow, and I was nervous. For our family, this was a big commitment and it was hard to judge whether or not it was working at first. We had decided to place Cam on an IEP at school. We requested that the school test him at the end of the first 9 weeks of 3rd grade against the end of year expectations for 2nd grade. His data was exciting when compared side by side! His accuracy rate, his decoding of real words vs. non-sense words and his fluency had all improved significantly. What stood out the most was the fact that Cam’s decoding of non-sense words equally improved. The results told us that Cam was applying the strategies he was learning.
While this data was important, Cam’s outlook on reading is what really told me that our investment was paying off. Over the summer, I read The Hatchet to Cam, because for the first time he asked me to read to him. He was eager to be read to and was finally enjoying time spent reading. As he progressed in the NOW program, he began to show initiative and wanted to read. When school started back in the fall, I would come home to find him reading on his own because he said he wanted “to be recognized at school for reading more minutes than other students”. While driving to school one morning he pulled his book out and started reading without me having to ask him to read- This too was a first for Cam. He even reached over and turned the radio off that morning. My heart soared and I took a picture to send to his teachers past and present, his tutor at NOW and my husband. For most people these would seem like insignificant moments but for Camron these were monumental moments worth recording! Then, within a couple of weeks of that while we were on vacation at Disney, Cam told me “He used to hate reading” and when I asked why he told me “because it used to be hard.” I almost cried. He had even began trying to read signs aloud as we drove! These small things, more than anything, solidified that something had changed! I attribute these changes in Cam to the NOW program, as it was the only piece of his educational instruction that had changed. The NOW program helped our son become a better and more confident reader.
My fear that Cam will struggle his entire life with reading are not completely gone. Cam is reading better but his fluency is still a concern. He is continuing to build his fluency with daily practice and I expect that his comprehension will improve. I am comfortable that the skills he has learned with the NOW program are something he can utilize for the rest of his life, and they will help him. He may never be a fast reader but he will be able to read.”
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