Pauline’s son, Lucas, experiences difficulty in reading and writing. He needs to read sentences a few times before he can comprehend them. Also, he needs a quiet environment in order to focus on his work and not be distracted. When tackling writing tasks, he is unable to leave proper spacing between words and spelling is a big challenge for him.
Focus on the Family caught up with Pauline to understand more about how she helps him on a day to day basis.
1. It must be tough playing the teacher’s role on top of everything else you have to do as a mum to 3 boys. How do you help Lucas with his daily learning and homework?
For one, I try to split up his assignments as he is unable to focus for long periods. Many times when he’s doing his writing, I have to actually be physically beside him to show him specifically where to leave a space.
It helps when I write out for him so he can see how the sentence should look like. As for spelling, I try to transform the word into a pictorial form or make up rhymes using the words so that he can remember better.
2. Pictorial form? Can you share some examples of how that works?
It’s a bit like word art, or word story.
For example, for the Chinese character, wan ju (which means toy), I’d just make a story about the character ju, describing that Lucas and his 2 brothers are in the house, and the three lines symbolise each of them. At the bottom of the character are two dian, and I’d say something like they are happy.
For English, let’s use the word “paddle” as an example. I’d draw two oars extending out of the two d’s. I find that simple visuals and stories like these help him to learn and remember better.
3. That’s really interesting. So some creativity and fun definitely helps in the learning process. Can you share with us some of the struggles that you’ve encountered in the process of helping Lucas?
Firstly, I had to deal with my own guilt. I blamed myself for not discovering his learning difficulties earlier. It felt really terrible seeing him try so hard and yet only achieve a fraction of what others are achieving.
It’s not because I expect better results from him, but I know he feels upset and discouraged that after all the hard work, he is still “not as good” in the eyes of many.
To overcome this, I have to constantly remind myself and Lucas that we are all precious and uniquely designed. I try to help him see the things that he is good at. We’ve also learnt to set realistic targets and balance study-time with time doing things that he enjoys, like drawing, singing, and building with Lego.
I’m proud of him as he is learning to enjoy the little successes and steps of progress. I remind him to compare only with himself. Every week, he can be better than the previous week. He does not need to compare with others and feel lousy in the process.
I remind him to compare only with himself. Every week, he can be better than the previous week.
4. What small successes have you witnessed along the way?
He’s definitely grown in confidence. Today, he often creates his own comics as it allows him to express himself through drawing and he is not afraid to write simple sentences even if not all the words are spelt correctly.
He has also grown more fluent in English and Mandarin, and is comfortable conversing with others, even if it’s not perfectly structured or pronounced.
He also knows that the family loves him and will always be there for him so he can embrace the challenges with courage and confidence. He’s definitely come a long way.
He also knows that the family loves him and will always be there for him so he can embrace the challenges with courage and confidence.
5. What advice would you give a parent with a child who’s struggling at school?
I would say, “Don’t be discouraged. Focus on being your child’s greatest encourager. Your belief makes a real difference to him.”
As a practical step, I’d also suggest speaking to the child’s teachers at school. This helps the teachers to calibrate their expectations, and it also helps us to be in sync in terms of teaching and interacting with the child. He will then be able to learn at his own pace in a safe environment where he will not be scolded or ridiculed.
6. How do you keep yourself going during the tough moments?
I’ve learnt to take breaks without feeling guilty. I’ve also learnt to tell myself “That’s enough for today” when things get really tough.
I also try to plan rewards for Lucas and myself so we can both see ourselves as a team. Knowing that we are both working towards the same goals and we have each other is so assuring – for him as well as for me.
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