* Early concerns, part 2

In an earlier post, I shared my concerns that Stacey, a kindergarten student, might have both a reading and language disability.  I have also wondered if she is on the high end of the autism spectrum.  Although I have not completed an informal evaluation yet, I did have a window of opportunity to explore a few of the red flags I’ve seen.red flags

One red flag has been her repetitive behavior which has been resistant to intervention.  “We” were playing a computer game, which means she is repeating the same sequence of events over and over, ready to yank the device from my reach if I start to speak.  I have been well trained not to touch ANYTHING.  She usually tells me to close my eyes, and surprise!  She has created the same image!  I’ve already tried to coax her into new pathways, but she has not been interested.  This past Saturday, I suggested she try another color and expected her to ignore me or pull away.  Instead, Stacey stared at the screen and then looked at me.  I could tell that she did not understand what I had said, so I broke my suggestion into two shorter sentences.  Stacey still didn’t know what “gold” was so I tentatively pointed toward the gold.  She actually tried my suggestion!  (And not knowing “gold” isn’t a red flag.)  Bottom line: I still have concerns about her ability to process verbal information but she was willing to leave a well-worn path.  Given the instability in her life, this “rigidity” could be a defense and even a comfort to Stacey.  Perhaps she is now feeling secure enough to vary her behavior?

A related red flag has been Stacey’s apparent unresponsiveness to verbal interactions if they aren’t paired with actions or in a familiar context.  Stacey wanted to hang some pictures on the door and struggled a bit when asking me for assistance.  I tore off a strip of tape but left the roll with her because I knew she’d want to experiment.  She called me, frustrated with the tape.  I showed her how pulling straight down was too hard, then showed her how to tilt the tape while pulling.  Stacey got it instantly!  That is a skill even older kids can’t manage.  Way to go, Stacey!

Still to come: Stacey has broken the alphabetic code!  Woohoo!


* Early concerns

Early identification of disabilities is huge.  The sooner a child can receive specialized instruction, the better their chances for academic success.  Here’s a situation I’m facing, disguised a bit because of confidentiality.  Perhaps this scenario might help you decide whether your child deserves a closer look at their developmental needs.

I have been in contact with an adorable kindergarten girl we’ll call Stacey.  After spending some time with Stacey in an informal setting, I am concerned that she may have both a reading and language disability.  The other concern is whether she is on the autism spectrum.  Here are the red flags:

  • She cannot rhyme and becomes anxious when asked to play rhyming games.
  • She does not notice any significant features of printed words, such as beginning or ending letters.
  • Stacey primarily uses noises, gestures, and actions instead of verbal communication.  She also repeats phrases almost endlessly if she has received any positive feedback from a peer or adult.
  • She makes unusual grammatical errors and has difficulty copying any corrections in both speech and grammar.  She is especially weak in changing the ending sounds of words.
  • Stacey is very rule-oriented and repeats these rules to peers and herself.
  • Stacey strongly prefers repetitive activities and is unwilling to try new patterns of interacting with materials or games.
  • She told me that kids call her a “brat” at school.
  • She has a strong family history of dyslexia and autism.

There are mitigating factors.  She has grown up with an autistic brother in a bilingual environment.  Family trauma is another issue, which can cause children to regress in many areas.  And at times, Stacey is able to communicate effectively.

Next steps for Stacey: An informal reading evaluation to rule out unusual phonological weaknesses and to determine that she is learning the alphabetic code as appropriate for her age.  I will also see if she can sequence some picture cards and describe those events and will collect an informal language sample for future comparison.

red flags