Suppose your child does seem to have a little difficulty, at time, with reading questions. You know in your heart that your child read early, writes reasonably neatly, has no real history of mirror writing and does not appear to have any apparent speech and language problems.
You also know that sometimes children have problems with visual perception. Of course you have had your child’s eyes tested – but you are still sure something is wrong. You are now decisive and want to make decisions – and make things happen. What can you do?
A test of visual perception has many forms. In an elementary mode your child will be presented with a series of geometrical drawings consisting of a circle, a cross, a rectangle and a diamond in a vertical position. Present the drawings on a neutral background. Then cover the drawings. Show the circle – but do not say that the shape is a circle – and ask your child to `make this’.
Your child is then shown the cross, rectangle and diamond – and asked to draw them in turn.
As the drawings are being made, look to see where your child starts the drawing, is the direction from left to right or right to left? Does your child draw a continuous line or are there reversals and changes of direction? Are the drawings of a consistent size? Are the drawing presented neatly – or is the work scattered over the page?
This may seem to be a remarkably simple test for your bright eleven plus child to work through. What you are doing, however, is collecting evidence for yourself. After all if you thought that your child had measles you would gather any symptoms before asking the doctor to look at your child. You would be aware of the sensitivity to light, the runny nose, the temperature and the general irritability.
If you felt that your child was not seeing the correct shape and pattern of words – and was also having difficulty with shapes you could, but may not, discuss these symptoms with `Your Doctor’. Your medical doctor may be interested in what you have to say – but hopefully will not offer you any medication! It can very difficult for a doctor to be able to justify a consultation with a specialist.
One to one teaching can not guarantee that your child will look at words and pictures more accurately – and will pay more attention – but could help your child to understand how and why he or she is making the mistakes. In the same way patience with your own child around the kitchen table could help to build awareness and reduce the number of mistakes.
Misreading or interpreting some words and pictures in an eleven plus exercise does not automatically mean that there is a problem.
Do you remember King Canute who tried to stop the waves to prove to his courtiers that no one had real control? I can see a picture of him now in my mind – standing there with his arms out stretched saying to the incoming tide: “Halt! I am the King. Stop there!”
Can you visualise yourself with your head on your arms crying softly? “Please, for all that is good in you, please read the question carefully!”