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Encouraging Stories


A 14-year-old came to get help for the last term of his 4th form year (now year 10). His mother said that at the parent teacher interview his teacher could not remember him as he was so quiet. She was also told there was no way he would be able to pass any subjects of his School Certificate! His main problem was reading accurately (especially the small words in questions), spelling, organising a composition and remembering what he had heard.

He practised writing down a word or main point for each sentence I read to him, building up to four paragraphs at a time.

He wrote stories about his hunting and whitebaiting. (I learnt a lot about whitebaiting)

For School Certificate he passed three subjects, including English.

The next year we studied maths through Correspondence School. He passed, I wouldn’t have passed! He eventually went to university, and later became a conservation worker.

Another 14-year-old had similar problems, I took him for year but the family then left for Australia where his father was to be the principal of a school.

I met the father again some years later at a reunion where he thanked me as his son had just gained a 2nd grade degree in physics, saying it would never have happened without my help.

The third 14-year-old I was taking at the time - by the by, they were all very tall, quiet boys, towering over me, had very severe problems. Luckily he had reasonable vocabulary and listening comprehension skills. If he could not spell the word ‘can’ – it could be ‘cna’- then I knew he was having a bad day and I could not teach him new things; we just did revision.

The first improvement his mother noticed was his trying to do homework for the first time ever. He eventually found a job in a petrol station because luckily he was good at maths.


A few years ago one of my ex-students brought her young son to be assessed.

I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was an artist. I’m sure my mouth must have fallen open in surprise!

 When I was tutoring ‘her’, we spent a lot of time playing cards (once she could tell a ‘spade’ from a ‘club’), and looking at shapes and drawing them accurately, as she had a severe visual perception problem.

A ten-year old boy came to me with a 13-year-old reading and spelling age but an auditory age for numbers and comprehension of 6 years.

In just over 2 years – his reading comprehension had improved by 4 years.

We had spent a lot of time doing dictation and other memory skills.

When I last saw his mother he had been to university and become a high school teacher specialising in physical education. One year after taking

 seminars for SPELADD, a mother, who had attended because of her younger son, asked if I could help her older son.  He was in year 10 at high school doing mostly year 11 work. However, his science teacher told him he could not mark some of his work because he could not read it!

So for one term I took this teenager for handwriting. His delighted mother wrote and thanked me as his teacher was now able to read her son’s writing. What helped was the son’s determination to improve and the fact that he did the homework practice I gave him every week.

Two children – a girl and a boy – were both extremely good with auditory memory but had visual memory problems. They both slowly learned to read but had great difficulty with spelling.

I remember the girl disliked using the computer! The boy was a great talker. At high school he was made head boy.

About a year ago, a voice behind me called out, “Hello Mrs Manson”, but I didn’t recognise the caller. After all it was probably over twenty five years since I had last seen him.

He was a fifteen year old when we first met. He “sparkled” despite the fact of being highly dyslexic. Luckily he had very good auditory skills and spoke well.

I was his reader/writer for his school certificate exams. We missed by a few marks the first time but succeeded the second time. In those days no practise was given. Using a reader/writer is quite a skill and certainly needs practising. However, this young gentleman was quite a natural at giving dictation and I believe we both enjoyed the process. I hope the marker of his English essay enjoyed my attempt at spelling “Tutankhamun”.

About fifteen years later he rang up asking if I could give him some “brush up” lessons.

At our last meeting he told me that after many years in Kiwi Rail he had become the union representative.

Asian Boy

One of the greatest mysteries I had to help with was about a boy who was too rough with everybody and couldn’t understand why other children cried from that roughness.

Then his mother told me that he had a broken arm, but he didn’t tell her till after three days of falling of his bike that his arm was a little bit sore! He is one of a group of people whose part of the brain that senses the feeling of pain, was barely present. Because he felt little pain, he presumed others would feel just as little.


A friend’s daughter was to begin her University Entrance year. Her main problem was poor studying skills and organising her time to get work handed in on time.

Luckily there was a good book in our substantial library which helped me (not a good studier myself) help her.

During the last school holidays before her exams, she went skiing, fell and broke her thumb on her writing hand. Luckily, she was up to date with her all her work. One large assignment was completed in rough copy and was accepted in that state. Big sighs all round as she was granted her U.E.


Some families have more than one child needing help. One family had two boys with totally different problems, one was good at remembering visual shapes but not what he heard, while the other had poor visual skills but was very able at remembering what was said.

One mother we knew very well because we had helped three of her children, rang to request help, saying he is my youngest child, it’s his turn now.

Finger Painting

Quite a number of people who came for help from SPELADD have organisational problems. Sometimes they can’t tidy up anything. Give them a system to tidy up.

Do they like colours: pick up the red things first. Then the blue – then green etc.

Pick up items like: - dirty clothes – then clean clothes: - then toys – then books.

Most people who come for help need strategies for something.

These strategies have to be taught. On most occasions they need to be shown a strategy and gradually take over an ever increasing amount of the activity.

If it is something really hard and/or boring for them, rewards usually work well.

Social skills – learning to make friends – is the most important for all of us.

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