I sat with Andy on the couch, the two of us; Joey tapping at his computer looking up moon phases. We had just finished another Encyclopedia Brown mystery; he had read most it if himself. Now he had to write abut the main idea. A sentence of two, that was all. He looked tired. Reading is hard work for Andy, because he has to keep his eyes carefully focused. I still catch him cheating a little, guessing at words instead of reading them. Sometimes its because he's tired and can't focus anymore, physically forcing the convergence of his vision. Sometimes he can't do any more processing. And sometimes, I wonder if he isn't dyslexic, and has just learned to fake it.
"You read it better," he sighed, though he seems proud after reading the solution. He almost got it right. He was on the right track, which I think is awesome.
"I practice all the time." This is a sort of scripted answer, one I use as a reminder to both of my boys that things don't come easy. Skills don't come easy. As if they didn't have to work at every little thing, all the time, far more than the kids around them.
We manage to get the sentence down. One sentence is all he can write, and you can see the fatigue- the letters are everywhere, and I watch as he uses strange strokes to create them. I have to spell most of the words for him. Words like "police", "tricked", "left." He got a zero on his last spelling test. Not a single one right. They were long words. He mostly left out vowels.
He sets the paper aside.
"How did you like the story?" I ask. I have done it on purpose. I don't have long to wait, and here it comes. The torrent of words. He retells the story to me. Sometimes he half-whispers the last word or two of a sentence under his breath, before going on to the next one. Then he starts talking about his favorite bits. That part is a bit of word and sentence salad, but cohesive enough for me to follow if I pay attention. He giggles over the solution, a little detail that made the whole clear, he thinks he'll be able to solve the next one.
"But you read the next one," he says, looking at me uncertainly. "I remember it better when you read them."
I know this is true. If I read it, there is less word salad after. The ideas are clearer, so long as I don't ask him to write them down. I wish I could make it easier. I wish there were some better programs out there to capture speech- one that wouldn't balk at his tongue-thrusting, lisping speech; one that could keep up with the furious tumble of words. Amidst that word salad, there are some great ideas, solid thoughts, keen observations for a 9-year-old.
He finally realizes homework is done, and he can play his Minecraft. As he bounces off, I know what my plan of action is.
Buy more Encyclopedia Brown.