My Child Won’t…​

During an Orton-Gillingham training a few years ago, my instructor said something that stuck with me: if a student won't do something, it's likely because they don't know how.


Take, for instance, the student who refuses to read. They may throw a temper tantrum, ignore your requests to sit down with a book, or flat out say no. Often, there is a lot of emotion behind their refusal. Typically, these tantrums and displays hide the student's anger, frustration, or shame about their lack of ability with reading.


I keep this in the front of my mind when I'm working with particularly difficult children who declare loudly that they "hate reading" or that "reading is boring." They want to put up a wall that keeps me from seeing that this is really hard for them. They are tired of failure and would rather avoid reading than try and fail again.


I let them know that I hear them and I understand that they don't like it. And then I help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge and talk with them about perseverance and resilience.


One student of mine would run away when I arrived for our lessons. She refused to read books with more than a few words on the page, and told me all the time that she hated reading. Now, I catch her laughing, smiling, and using excellent expression during reading. She is not intimidated by pages with several sentences and I can tell she finds enjoyment from reading. She has gained many useful reading skills that have boosted her confidence, and as her knowledge increased, her protestations decreased.


I have seen similar transformations with students who refuse to use planners or check their online school portal because "it doesn't work" or "it's stupid." These same students, once I have trained them on best practices when using a planner or helped them navigate their school's portal, will use it without a second thought, telling me what assignments they have coming up and what has been turned in.


The next time you notice that your child isn't doing something you wish they would do, ask yourself if they might need more information or training before they can do what you're asking of them. If you suspect they might not know how to do it, teach them how, or find someone who can give them those skills.​