Numbers

While the news about the writing is exciting, I think that its only fair to R to point out that she is far from being a one trick pony. Her literacy has been preoccupying me recently primarily because we already know that she is numerate, indeed that she has an aptitude for numbers.

We discovered this entirely by accident.

We made the move to suburbia in time for R starting school. We had been living in a flat on the top floor of a beautiful Georgian tenement. This, of course, meant stairs. Lots of them. F and EB had to change schools. EB found herself in a very able class, which had been covering the curriculum much faster than at her previous school. Worse, we had taken our eye off the ball with EB, who started school the very week that R was diagnosed. EB was bright enough to work out very quickly that there was absolutely no need to learn number bonds or times tables when these decorated the walls of every classroom in her old school. In the new school, the lack of these basic skills meant that, despite being good at maths, she began to fall behind.

We started practising number bonds at the dinner table. Before long, we noticed that R pulled a face every time EB made a mistake. Sometimes, she was definitely scoffing. G said – confidently – that this was because R was good with numbers and knew the correct answer. I said that this was impossible – she hadn’t done counting at school, probably didn’t know what the numbers looked like and certainly hadn’t done arithmetic. So G tore up a piece of paper into rough squares, wrote a number on each and tested her, giving her a choice of two options each time. R looked at the correct answer, again and again.

We told her teacher the next day. She tested her – and again R got every question right. By the following night, R had maths homework.

Things have progressed slowly here too. In part this has to do with R being unwell for most of the last couple of years. But its also in part to do with the need to repeat the sums many times more than you would with a verbal child, just to be sure that R isn’t just getting them right by chance. (No one has told R about probability. Sometimes, when she is feeling contrary, she will deliberately get every single one of her homework questions wrong. She doesn’t know that 0/12 is just as good as 12/12 on a two alternative forced choice task and we are not going to be the ones to tell her. At least not any time soon).

R has been feeling a bit better over the last week or so (I am nervous typing that). Her success with writing stands as evidence to this. Still rather giddy with this success, we attended R’s parents evening this week. The SLT – who is, I have to say, now fully on board – and I have been discussing ways to allow R to make choices in a low pressure environment. In common with most girls with Rett, R gets stressed very easily. When R is stressed, she is unable to make even the simplest of choices. I suggested recording her responses so that her teacher could assess her performance off-line. The SLT has come up with a couple of templates for her Tobii – one for maths and one for reading comprehension – that the teacher can easily modify for homework. R was not thrilled by this news; she cast the SLT the blackest of looks. But we are excited. The picture is not great, and you will have to take my word for it that she didn’t just get lucky, but here is R, rather reluctantly, trying it out.

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