Tuesday, May 18, 2010

One Step Forward, One Step Back

***all names are changed except my own***

I knew from the moment I met Tyrone that he was slippery. For one, the child could barely stay in a chair. Five seconds was all he needed to toss his pencil skyward, crawl under the desk to fetch it and, en route, untie his neighbour's shoes. Perceptive, charming, happy and infuriating: all these things were Tyrone. Unfortunately 'literate' did not rank among them.

Now you may be thinking, he's five: since when is reading an expectation at such an age? It is and it isn't. No one expects the average kindergartener to be reading Harry Potter, but after nine months of being drilled on the alphabet and each letter's respective sound, most can decode a three-letter word that follows the basic phonemic rules. While I suspected Tyrone was still struggling, I couldn't be sure. Were his inaccurate responses due to inattention? Impulsivity? Poor phonemic awareness? Impaired memory? All of the above? Lucky for both of us, my exams finished last week and I had a sudden influx of something more precious than gold: time. I offered to work with Tyrone one-on-one to which the classroom teacher agreed. This moved Tyrone from Tier 2 up to Tier 3 intervention: one step closer to special education.

During our first session I quizzed Tyrone on his letter names and sounds. His score: 10 out of 26. I was stunned. How was this possible? I suspected difficulties, but nothing this tragic. He'd almost slipped through my fingers. Almost. When Mouse was one-year-old she nearly fell out a window at the Chateau de Chillon. I'd been sitting beside her at the time and had looked away. Clearly there was a grave difference between potential illiteracy and that moment, but they shared a similar element: my own culpability. Mouse didn't fall; neither did Tyrone. My judgement, however, would be honed forever by both incidents.

Tyrone and I have had three sessions and already he's showing improvement. We'll continue until next Wednesday when I'll have to bid all my Echo's good-bye. It will be a tough day.

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