In 2007 Andrew Deysel-Morgan and his spouse became unexpected parents when his nieces aged 4 and 5 were placed in their care from an alcoholic home. This is their story.
We immediately placed them into a nursery school — they had never previously been to nursery school and we were very fortunate to find an incredibly supportive school who assisted us every step of the way. At this stage Robyn was 5 and Chanice was 4 years. It is important to note that at this stage Robyn could not colour in, in fact she did not even know how to hold a pencil correctly.
In June 2008, Robyn was in Grade 0 and the teachers called us in to discuss her mid-year pre-school report. It was recommended that we take her for an eye test and if her sight was satisfactory, they recommended an occupational therapy assessment. Both were done and the occupational therapy assessment results were shocking. Developmentally, Robyn was at 4 years of age and remedial schooling was advised. Given her background, I delayed the remedial schooling recommendation and decided to give her the benefit of the doubt as I firmly believed that it was more of an exposure issue than the suspected Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) that was suggested — despite the fact that her results were all indicative of FAS, and we immediately plunged into intensive occupational therapy from July 2008 to December 2008. At this stage the therapist agreed that we had taken the correct decision to delay the remedial schooling and to give her the benefit of the doubt and the therapist felt that while there were still problems, Robyn should be able to cope with Grade 1 provided that she continued with therapy. I met with her Grade 1 teacher and informed her of all the developmental issues and the assessment reports and we agreed to meet informally on a weekly basis to keep abreast with progress.
This is Robyn’s story:
7 January 2009
Robyn started Grade 1 at a highly academic private school despite the fact that she could only spell the first 3 letters of her name and required assistance with the remaining 2 letters.
I agreed to allow her to participate in 2 extramural activities. She chose drama and netball. She desperately wanted to be in the school choir because she loves singing, but she could never remember the words to any song. The agreement with the school was no competitive sports and I was only allowing it for the social interaction and the physical developmental benefits.
I stopped occupational therapy and rather conducted a home programme linked directly to her homework which focussed on phonics, reading, mathematics and writing.
As anticipated, my greatest fear became a reality — the cracks began to show…
9 February 2009
Robyn brought her class workbook home and every single exercise had a “not yet achieved” label attached to it and the teacher sent me a letter requesting a formal meeting with me to discuss Robyn’s forthcoming mid-term report.
It was agreed in the meeting that the greatest problem Robyn faced was her lack of spatial orientation. She was totally oblivious to her space.
I immediately climbed onto the internet in search of a solution and finally on 10 February discovered Edublox.
I established contact with Susan, discussed it with my spouse and we ordered the programme on 11 February 2009 and received it on 12 February 2009.
13 February 2009
I met with the teacher and we discussed the report. As was expected — it was most uninspiring. The teacher was thrilled when she heard that I was implementing the Edublox programme with Robyn.
16 February 2009
Robyn and I began with the Reversal Programme. Our 4-day Monday to Thursday routine consisted of half an hour “power-nap” followed by 45-minutes for homework, a 15-minute break and 1 hour on Edublox. Since it was new and foreign to her she required much explanation before conducting an exercise. I adopted the slow learner approach and increased each programme’s recommended sessions by an additional 50% and started with the Reversal Programme first.
20 March 2009
The first signs of improvement became evident and the teacher’s feedback was as follows:
* Her figure drawing had vastly improved.
* She was able to no longer draw stick figures, but true-form symmetrical figures with a neck shoulders, eyes and ears all within proportion.
* She had progressed from drawing in the bottom right hand corner to the centre of the page.
* The size of her drawings increased from 5cm to 10cm.
* She had perfected her pencil grip.
* Her handwriting improved from slanting to the right to upright.
* The size of her numbers and letters decreased from 4 lines to 1 line.
* Robyn was able to write in a slow and controlled manner rather than a swift uncontrolled manner.
* Robyn perfected her colouring in and began receiving gold stars for every colouring in exercise she was required to complete.
27 March 2009
I met with her teacher to discuss her end of 1st term report in which she achieved a “standards not yet met” result. However, the reason for the meeting was for the teacher to apologise for the report because given the progress Robyn had made to date, she felt that the report was not an accurate reflection of Robyn’s progress, but she was compelled to assess Robyn against the required prescribed standards. In the meeting which was very open, honest and frank, I explained to the teacher that I was not prepared to push her any harder for fear that the whole learning process would soon be perceived by her as a negative and destructive process rather than a fun, exciting and constructive process. In the meeting I recommended that we “take our foot off the accelerator” and allow her to develop at her own pace and allow her to repeat Grade 1 in 2010. Her teacher was thrilled at the recommendation and was very supportive because Robyn would definitely fall way behind in the 2nd term given that they would be doing weekly cycle spelling and sentence building tests for which she felt Robyn was nowhere near ready to cope with.
In addition, her teacher — who is also her netball coach — felt that Robyn will never be selected for a netball team because she cannot catch a ball and if we were under time constraints, she recommended stopping the netball practices.
We continued the programme 3 times a week during the school holidays.
20 April 2009
Robyn’s dream came true! She was selected for the school choir and has not stopped singing ever since. She could remember words of songs.
She could now write her name, surname and her sister’s name unassisted and from memory — spelt correctly, too.
7 May 2009
The teacher requested a meeting with me to discuss Robyn. My first thought was “Oh no, what now?”
The teacher conducted a spot reading test for which the pupils were unprepared in which she chose 27 sight words. Robyn scored 67% and achieved a better result than some of the achieving students in the class.
9 May 2009
Robyn was selected for the Under 8 B netball team as Goal Defence and was due to play her first match on 13 May 2009. She suddenly could catch a ball with ease.
10 May 2009
After 3 years of trying to remove the support wheels on Robyn’s bicycle, she requested that they be removed and started riding — unassisted by an adult, on 2 wheels. Perfectly balanced with no falls.
11 May 2009
The teacher requested a feedback meeting with me to discuss Robyn’s results from the weekly Friday cycle spelling and sentence writing test which started on 8 May 2009. She scored 70% and the teacher commented that the programme is clearly developing her memory and again, Robyn’s result had placed her in the middle of the class of 25 rather than her norm of being 25th.
In addition, she was able to write the sentence given to her consisting of 10 words. She erroneously spelt 2 of the words and forgot to put spaces between each word. However, we were shocked since we thought at the end of March that she simply is not ready for this exercise.
We are currently only on the second programme which concludes next week and if this is the level of progress which has resulted from just 2 programmes, I am feeling very excited and inspired to see the progress as we continue through with the other programmes during the year until November 2009.
While the decision to allow Robyn to repeat Grade 1 remains, I do believe that with the continuation of Edublox she will fully catch up on her lagging development by the end of next year. An accomplishment we thought impossible and we were starting to seriously consider remedial education for her.
Part of the success is the fact that we have kept the teacher very involved and that we have allowed Robyn to develop at her own pace and we have never stopped believing in her ability and have continuously encouraged her every step of the way. In addition, we have remained committed, dedicated and disciplined and always ensured that she completes 4 sessions per week, even if it meant that where we fell behind that we had to catch it up on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday which has also instilled in her a discipline and understanding that it is important. In fact, very often she will remind me that we have not done the learning game and that we are going to fall behind. If she has a commitment in the week or is struggling with her homework and we do not do the programme — she is made very aware that we will need to catch it up on the weekend — and she nags me until it is done. I have realised the importance of allowing your child to develop at their own pace, their own time and most of all … to be PATIENT!
Susan, my spouse and I cannot find the words to thank you enough for this brilliant programme. We have progressed from being at wits end and sheer desperation to excited, motivated and inspired and ever-hopeful! I will keep you updated as we progress through this and next year.
If any interested parent or teacher wishes to contact me, please feel free to give my contact details. I cannot stop singing your praises and believe every home should have an Edublox Programme!