Several years back, my babysitter for my children introduced me to a woman who lived down the street from us. She was a sweet and beautiful grandmother who was just welcoming her daughter back home to stay with her for a while. Her daughter had two children, 5 and 11, both girls. The five year old was diagnosed with Austism at the age of three. She didn't speak much and didn't speak at all from the time she was a baby until about three or four. Her mother said to me, "Jennifer, I don't know what you can do, but at this point, we have done all we can to help her learn."
When we began our sessions, I wanted to see what she already knew. By the end of Kindergarten, a child can usually at least recite their abc's and connect their sound to each individual letter. They begin sight words and reading simple sentences. This sweet and pleasant little girl only recognized about 5 out of 26 letters and that didn't include the sound associated with it. I suspected her knowledge base wasn't going to be much, but it was much less than what I expected. "Where do I begin?" Even the beginning would be very difficult for her. Not only that, mom mentioned that if the struggle was too hard, my student would begin to act out and show signs of stress. I had to be very careful as to how hard I pushed her.
"A taste of success," I would tell myself and so simply then I broke down the alphabet to where she could feel confident in understanding it. First, we started with the letter name, associating pictures and words that contained it. We drew pictures, sang songs, even danced to create repetitive practice. She loved this! She had a musical dancing beat throughout her. We worked diligently over the summer, and by the time first grade began, she could name and associate sounds for all 26 letters of the alphabet! I continued working with her over the course of the next year, until it was clear that after her grades were consistent A's and B's, 'she could let go of her training wheels.'
This young lady is now in the fourth grade, maintaining A's and B's, and has been student of the month several times over the past four years. Not only that, she sings, dances, acts/entertains, and has been noticed by talent scouts in New York. It is because of this family that I strongly believe in two of the statements in my profile; 1) that any child can learn no matter where they start. 2) If a support system is in place for a child and if that child wants to succeed, then anything is possible for them in their lives.