Hesti Geldenhuys’ Testimonial
Karla has always been a dreamer who liked playing in her own fantasy world, but she was also an obviously intelligent infant, who was able very early to sing many songs and to recognise shapes and colours. When she started Grade 0, her teacher complained that she was unable to focus her attention on and complete tasks. I wondered whether she was ready for school, and had her assessed at the University of Pretoria. She did very well on the tests, and on some of the tests scored as high as a nine-year level, although she was only five at the time. They assured me that she was intelligent and ready for school, although they also remarked that her work speed was rather slow. After a discussion with the school principal and the Grade 0 teacher, I decided to let her start school.
In Grade 1, however, the situation quickly became worse. She almost never finished her work and often had to stay behind to complete tasks; the teacher complained that she did not pay attention in class. Once more I had her assessed, this time by an occupational therapist, who identified various developmental problems. We started occupational therapy, once per week. The therapist advised that she should jump on a trampoline, and I bought one. I forced her to jump for at least ten minutes every day. We followed a home program and had to do home work on the days that she did not receive therapy. And she still sat every afternoon with all the unfinished work of the day, sometimes up to one and a half hours.
In Grade 2 there was no improvement yet. There was more homework, and although it was still a relatively small amount of work, it took her a long time to finish, in part due to the fact that she is perfectionist and puts lots of detail into her drawings. I discontinued the occupational therapy, because it had become extremely boring and had made no change whatsoever in my child's learning speed. I spoke to the teacher and explained the problem to her, and she faithfully sent all the school books home, so that I could help her to complete her work in the afternoons.
In Grade 3 I put her into another school. At parents' evening I spoke to the teacher and she complained that Karla worked extremely slowly and did not complete her work. In December 2005 I read in the You magazine about children who were incorrectly diagnosed as ADD and who actually had an eye condition. This seemed to me to make a lot of sense. Karla had all the symptoms that were mentioned. I phoned the lady in Somerset West and made an appointment for the following week. They assessed her and diagnosed a binocular instability, which meant that she had difficulty focusing in class, and then lost interest. A program of eye exercises was worked out for her, and we were sent back to Gauteng with a whole knapsack full of work to do. We worked harder than ever, because I believed that we had finally arrived at the right answer. Eye exercises three times a day; it was terrible. After about a year we found out about the Visual Therapy Centre in Pretoria – and there we go again. Again she got assessed and they said that some things had improved, but there was still a lot that needed improvement. Now it was eye exercises once a day and once a week at the centre. After a further year I gave up. There was still not much of an improvement.
Of course everybody had an opinion on what I was supposed to do, from Ritalin to reading machines. When I saw the advertisement of the Reading and Learning Clinic, I immediately felt that this might work. I thought she had simply never learnt to concentrate, and in the class set-up she simply got lost.
Her marks had always been average, but to achieve that we had to work extremely hard. I had to sit with her every afternoon for hours to complete unfinished work. Test weeks were a veritable nightmare. I had to teach her everything orally because her reading was so poor. All the story books that I had bought for her stood on the shelf, or else I had to read them to her.
Imagine my surprise when she came home with her first report this year. After the first few sessions at the Reading Clinic her marks moved up to above average, and we started doing a lot less work in the afternoons. She manages to finish all her work now and easily learns by herself for her tests. This has made an incredible difference. Another important aspect is that she enjoys these sessions. She looks forward to going, whereas previously she was already so bored with doing the same eye exercises over and over, this is now something different and she enjoys it it does not feel like therapy at all.
Many thanks, Reading Clinic, for all that you do for Karla.
Note: At the end of the school year, Karla was awarded a gold certificate for academic achievement.