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Case Study: Overcoming Memory Problems, Reading and Math Disabilities

Meet Naeleigh, a 9-year-old American girl adopted from China at the age of two. Her parents soon realized that Naeleigh battled with memorization and continued to struggle with reading and math despite hard work. Naeleigh and her mom Ashlyn started their Edublox journey on September 24, 2021. Read the story below, as told by Ashlyn, and visit this page frequently for progress updates:

Naeleigh’s story before Edublox:

Naeleigh is nine years old. She is a wonderful daughter with so many strengths. She has a heart of gold and a desire to work hard and do well. She is a good listener but often forgets what she is saying in the middle of a sentence. When she is asked to do a sequence of tasks, she often remembers the first or last but forgets the middle.

Naeleigh reading before starting Edublox 1

She was adopted from China at the age of two. She was born an estimated 8-10 weeks early and spent her infancy in an orphanage. Upon our arrival at home, we began noticing issues with her memory. It took two years to teach her colors, numbers, and the alphabet. Naeleigh would guess color names but rarely get them correct. It was only after much repetition that she mastered them. Numbers were a little easier; however, she struggled with the concept of “before” numbers. She could always say what came next but had difficulty going backwards. Naeleigh was quick to name the letters and sounds, as long as the sound corresponded with the name of the letter. For instance, ‘B’ said “buh” but ‘W’ said “duh.” Naeleigh is homeschooled, and it took all of preschool and kindergarten to master the difficult letters like w, y, u, g, and x.

Naeleigh continued through her first, second, and third grade years of school constantly struggling with number sense, place value, skip counting, understanding time (days, weeks, months, years), memorizing facts, knowing left from right, spelling, and reading. And yet, she was able to complete seemingly difficult tasks such as subtraction with regrouping. She would frequently forget how to begin; however, once she got started, Naeleigh could subtract and regroup independently. We were able to help her subtract using the counting up method instead of counting backwards.

Naeleigh reading before starting Edublox 2

As the school years have passed, we have noticed Naeleigh having difficulty with changing letters and numbers around. The numbers 12 and 21 were incredibly challenging, no matter how many times we made the numbers using base ten place value blocks or place value charts. At the end of her third grade year of school, Naeleigh could do double digit multiplication one day, and then not be able to tell you the difference between multiplication and division the next day. It was almost as if the daily skill was able to be completed, but any new information was not able to be learned, and it would all get “jumbled” in her head. She would say that 3 + 0 = 3 and that 3 x 0 also equals 3.

The letters b, d, p, and q are confused on a normal basis. Although she has never been professionally evaluated, we feel like she has at least a mild form of dyslexia. We have tried different reading programs, even ones that promise to help with dyslexia, and she is currently reading at a first grade level. The words “of, off, and for” are a continual problem when reading. Naeleigh will guess at the word instead of reading it.

Naeleigh’s writing

As her mother, I assumed that her little brain just was not ready for the concepts that we were learning throughout our school years. That she would eventually “get it” and we could move on when her brain was ready for more abstract concepts. After several years of struggling and “treading water,” I called my friend crying because she also has a daughter with the same struggles. She recommended Edublox and praised them for the progress her daughter has made in 11 months using Edublox. We are excited to begin this journey and look forward to the day when we can have less frustrating school days!

Naeleigh’s mom,

September 24, 2021:

Naeleigh worked with Susan on numeration. Counting strategies using her fingers were discussed and implemented. Naeleigh loves Susan and is very encouraged after her lesson. We also discussed doing the direction activity every day to help with Naeleigh’s b and d, p and q reversals. Naeleigh also completed the letter sounds through the letter “s” with Susan. Following her lesson on Friday, we continued with her Development Tutor through the weekend, and even did the math and letter activities on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, we went through the homeschool plan Susan set up for Naeleigh and completed the Development Tutor (1 lesson). Naeleigh seems to get extremely tired after doing the Development Tutor activities back to back. We decided to split them up throughout the day and that helped her.

September 27, 2021:

Naeleigh enjoys working through her homeschool program that has been organized for her. She completes the following exercises every day:

  • Development Tutor to improve her cognitive abilities.
  • Directionality (left, right, up, down).
  • Alphabet sounds — Naeleigh reviews her basic alphabet sounds.
  • Reading — Naeleigh is shown words and reads them aloud.
  • Spelling — Naeleigh listens and spells words.
  • Addition — Naeleigh practices her “counting on” strategy, recalling facts (some automatically).
  • Number sequencing — Naeleigh is given a number and must tell the numbers that come before and after the number given.
  • Counting by 1’s to 100 and by 2’s to 100.

October 1, 2021:

Naeleigh is on level 2 words with Nina, her tutor. The beginning of the lesson was pleasant as Naeleigh got to know Nina and vice-versa. Naeleigh struggled with reading the word “can.” She pronounced it “cane.” She also did this with “Sam” and “Tim” (same, time). This was unusual as Naeleigh typically reads “can” correctly. Spelling went a little better. Naeleigh spelled “can” c-e-n, which was again, not a typical occurrence. Naeleigh also read sentences using the level two words. She read these very well.

Naeleigh is getting faster with the directionality exercise. She is saying left, right, up, and down more quickly every day.

Naeleigh read “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss today. She is reading the small words very quickly. I have never heard her read so fast. She used to sound out almost every small word (with the exception of the, and, in, etc.) Naeleigh was very excited to read this book all by herself.

October 5, 2021:

Naeleigh and Nina worked through level 3 words and introduced level 4 sounds. The last 10 minutes of the lesson, they did spelling. Naeleigh made the following errors during her spelling lesson:

  • Youum — yum
  • tem — Tim
  • ven — van
  • yack — yak

Later on, that afternoon, I reviewed these words with her and she spelled them all correctly.

October 7, 2021:

Naeleigh counted for Susan 1-100 by ones and 2-100 by twos. She did so well. Naeleigh is still struggling with remembering what comes after the end of each family…39, 40. She will still confuse counting by 1’s and 2’s at times.

I’m noticing something WONDERFUL happening when Naeleigh is reading. She is tapping her left hand when she sees the letter “b” and her right hand when she sees the letter “d!” She continues to occasionally confuse the two letters; however, I am seeing this error happen less and less. This is great progress!

October 12, 2021:

Naeleigh has consistently remembered how to spell “van.” We spelled it every day for five days. She’s trying to learn the “floss” spelling rule with her tutor. Today she spelled the word jazz like this: jass. She is also learning to spell words with th, sh, ch, and wh. She frequently forgets the “h” when spelling “wh” words like when. She spelled when like this: wenn. She was trying to apply the “floss” spelling rule to the word when.

Naeleigh’s counting has gotten better. She still struggles to remember what the next family of numbers is, for example, 29, 30. But she will get it if given a few seconds. Her adding facts are coming along nicely. She is consistently using the counting on strategy instead of starting from the number 1 every time. This is a great improvement. I am also impressed by her ability to quickly recall some of her facts.

October 18, 2021:

Naeleigh did really well on her exercises today. She counted well, including transitions into each new number family! She FLEW through her counting by twos. This is something she was unable to do four weeks ago. The strategies she is learning are helping. We have changed to a different directionality chart. Though she struggled last week with this new chart, today she went through the chart with only a couple mistakes. Naeleigh also read her words with speed and accuracy today. Spelling is still a concern for her. She is getting better but it is happening slowly. Remembering to spell “doll” correcting with two “L’s” is difficult. But her tutor gave her a spelling rule to remember to help her. She spelled the words well, will, mess, and jazz correctly today, only missing the word chess. She spelled chess with only one L. I am hoping she will commit this new spelling rule to memory in the coming week. 

October 22, 2021:

Naeleigh is reading and remembering so many of her word cards. It is impressive to see her reading the words quickly. The biggest improvement this week has been her b/d, p/q consistency. She has is now able to read words like “bed” and “bad” without tapping her left and right hands. The charts from Edublox have helped Naeleigh be able to recognize left from right automatically; therefore, b/d and p/q are not confusing to her anymore. She still makes errors from time to time; however, I am seeing growth in this area. 

We are moving through her math flashcards where she has to memorize her addition facts. She was having difficulty remembering some of her facts, so we have decided to slow down and stop adding new facts. We will only be practicing the current cards. It is so refreshing to show her the doubles cards (e.g. 7 + 7) and have Naeleigh answer automatically!

November 3, 2021:

I am thrilled to report that Naeleigh did something wonderful in her spelling lesson today. She spelled when and which correctly. These words have been so difficult for her to remember, but after daily practice, she is able to spell them!  

Naeleigh also remembered the “floss” spelling rule and spelled mess, spill, and sniff correctly! I also gave her the word “yak” which she struggled with at the beginning of our Edublox journey, and she spelled it accurately as well. 

November 11, 2021:

Naeleigh is progressing through her Edublox program very nicely! I have two pictures showing her spelling from today. We worked on several different kinds of words: review of easier words, silent e words, and our floss rule words (short vowel, ending in f, l, s, or z — double the final consonant). I was very impressed that Naeleigh remembered how to spell many of these words. She did forget a couple of her simple words. She originally spelled “off” as “of” and “yak” as “yac.” 

Naeleigh also began counting backwards this week. We started counting up to 10 and back. Then we went up to 20 and then up to 30. Here is a video of Naeleigh counting up to 30 and then backwards. My child has never been able to count backwards from anything other than 10. She is so excited and I couldn’t be happier!

November 30, 2021:

Naeleigh is reading sentences without having to stop constantly and sound out words. She is so proud of herself and she’s surprised that she can actually do it. I am not surprised because I knew she could do it with the correct teaching strategies. Edublox has helped Naeleigh to unlock the visual part of her brain that she was not using when she tried to read before. She used to sound out almost every single word. Now, she can actually read instead of just blending. 

Naeleigh has also been working on reading words with silent e with her reading tutor, Nina. Silent e has been difficult for Naeleigh to grasp but we are diligently practicing and we are seeing progress!

Naeleigh has also been working so hard on counting backwards. We have been going up to 50 and back for several days now. I wanted to see how she would do with going up to 60 and back. She only made a couple of mistakes at her first attempt! 

She was unable to count forward and backwards to 20 when we began Edublox. Now we are at 60! 

December 8, 2021:

When Naeleigh began Edublox, she was blending almost every word and constantly having to stop and sound out words. Now Naeleigh is able to read words in just a few seconds! I am constantly encouraged by her progress.

Naeleigh is now able to tell me what numbers come before and after any number I give her from 1-100. She was not able to do this skill a couple months ago. Look at her white board from today’s lesson. 

January 20, 2022:

Naeleigh took a two week break from Edublox for Christmas. I was interested to see what she would be able to remember. I was pleasantly surprised at all the information she retained! Naeleigh was able to remember her counting and addition facts. This shows me that she is finally storing information in her long-term memory. We have struggled with this for years! She had to have some review of her reading and spelling words; however, after our first week back, she was back on track. Below you will see a video of her reading during her morning lesson. Notice how she only pauses a couple of times! She is reading more fluently with every passing week.

February 11, 2022:

Here is an update on how Naeleigh is doing this month. I am starting to notice some great things happening! Numbers are making sense to Naeleigh now. For example, every day, she has to ball up eight pieces of paper to help with her fine motor skills and improve her handwriting. She does this twice daily. This morning, she said, “Mom, I use sixteen pieces of paper every day!” This made me smile because she automatically knows that 8 + 8 = 16 now, with the help of her Edublox tutoring. 

When she was doing her addition and subtraction facts, she was shown 6 + 5, which she knows really well. The next card was 7 + 5 and she mentioned that she knew that the sum would be twelve because that’s “just one more.” That may seem simple, but I have tried to teach this concept to her many times.  But she is now understanding and applying this knowledge. We are very pleased!

The photo is of Naeleigh working on spelling and reading the words “where” and “were.” Naeleigh’s reading tutor, Ms. Nina, suggested Naeleigh write the sentence “Where were you?” on her whiteboard to help her distinguish the difference between these words. She spelled them both correctly in this photo! We are still working towards mastering these words.

May 27, 2022:

Ashlyn summarizes Naeleigh’s progress thus far in a video:

March 31, 2023:

Naeleigh has been working so hard on her Edublox lessons since our last update. I am so impressed with how much she has learned and retained these last months. I have seen improvements across the board. Even her handwriting is getting neater. Naeleigh knows her multiplication tables up to the 6’s, she can count 1-100 and back, 2-100 by evens, 1-99 by odds, by 5’s to 100, and 10’s to 200. That last one has always been tricky for her. When she got to 190, she did not know what to do. But she is getting it! She can also multiply 2 digit by 2 digit numbers. She often confuses which number to carry when multiplying and adding but that is usually when she is rushing.  

I am also proud to say that my little girl no longer confuses b and d or p and q. Through diligent practice, she has learned the differences between those letters. 🙂

She is still struggling with getting her words confused from time to time. Yesterday she said that “could” was “cloud.” This has happened with many other sets of words where the letters are the same, but in a different order in the word. We will keep working on that.  

Her spelling has improved. On her birthday this year, we played cafe and she took my order. She wrote the word “EGGS” on her paper. Naeleigh usually does scribbles when playing … she pretends to write.  I was so proud of her!

This is the box where we keep all the words that Naeleigh can read by sight, without stopping to sound them out. It’s pretty incredible when you look at that stack of words!

Edublox offers cognitive training and live online tutoring to students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and other learning disabilities. Our students are in the United States, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. Book a free consultation to discuss your child’s learning needs.