A Student Cannot Remember…What Could be Wrong?

The Question:
I have a student who is repeating Kindergarten.
One day, the student may be able to name 5 letters..the next, none.
He guesses at almost everything. He was tested last year and was told he “didn’t qualify.”
I have tried everything from sign language, to dancing, to songs, to multi-sensory projects…you name it.
Does anyone have any experience with this?
What else can I try?
I do have a special educaton background, but this child is so unique.
The Answers:
Vision therapy. I just learned about it last year. it’s really neat and helps correct a convergence of the eyes that leads to difficulty reading. It saved 2 of my kiddos last year from going the special ed route.
I need to follow this thread.
I have a tracing book I do with each child who does not know 40 upper/lowercase letters. I have them trace everyday. They trace and say the letter and then a picture for the sound. I usually only do this for about the first month of school.
I had a friend a few years ago who had a child like this in her class. I don’t know what she did, but she was frustrated too. It has something to do with short term memory…
Just keep doing what you are doing… exposing him to as much as possible in the early years. Sounds like this child will probably qualify for special Ed in a couple of years. At least that has been my experience. I had a student with similar learning difficulties. He did not qualify till 3rd grade. Now this student is in a functional life skill program in middle school and his reading level is only at first grade. Wish there were better ways to determine if a child is LD in kindergarten. All slow learners are not developmental delayed.
We use Imagine It and it assigns a physical action to every letter. It has worked great with students that are struggling and also students that are special ed.
I have a kiddo like this. I take the most recognizable letters, and drill those every day. Then I have him match those lowercase letters to the capital and drill, drill, drill.
You might consider Visual Phonics or Sounds in Motion. If it’s an auditory processing issue those approaches may help, but I agree with the others that it might be more involved.
One of my teacher believes strongly in vision therapy, too. May be the next thing…
I had a child like this in 1st and 2nd grade….sometimes it’s not necessarily a learning thing. This child did not have an easy/stable home life and it weighed heavily on their mind. There was a great NPR episode about how children with difficult backgrounds are sometimes unable to learn, retain, or focus on information because their brain is literally overtaken by stresses and other thoughts….I don’t know the answer…some have suggested teaching strategies to kids of how to clear their minds, focus, control their impulses etc.
A scientific method used in special ed is called discrete trial training, it breaks things down into minuscule bits and uses errorless teaching. Here’s a link for more info

You can do it by showing 2 letters; touch B, etc… until he can consistently identify the letters. Then do the same for sounds, etc.
I used Zoo Phonics and had great success with my kiddo who had the same issues
I agree with Rebecca-remember Maslow’s hierarchy – kids need to have basic needs (food, shelter, etc. met before they can go up the pyramid to higher levels like learning.
Has he had his eyes and ears tested?
Stephanie I have about 4 kids in my class with this short term memory issue and it is driving me nuts!!!
Has he seen an optometrist? He may need glasses.
Dissect who did the testing, what the circumstances were that may have contributed to better than expected results, and considering retesting by a different neuropsychologist (or using a neuropsychologist if you did not use one the first time). Take into account also what supports there are at home and the parent’s ability to advocate for the child.
I had a child like that a few years back. I put him back in child study to be reevaluated. They decided he had memory/recall issues and was later placed in a self contained SpEd class with a very modified first grade IEP that was set for Pre-K- K goals.
Could it be an attention issue or language issue? Have him evaluated by the slp and if attention is also an issue maybe ask for permission to do a Conners.
 I use Jolly Phonics. It has songs and actions. My kiddo knows his letters now but can’t read at all. Same thing, one day he may know a few sight words, next day…zip. Moved up to first grade so my kiddos are expected to be reading fluently by the end of the year. I’m worried about this little guy. Any suggestions are always accepted.
 I have a similar experience. The child is very intelligent and mildly autistic. He has been taught the letters over and over with all the various methods but still will not consistently retain any other than those in his name!!!! Let me know if you find something that works!
 Sounds like the child should b tested again….parents should get involved with district and push.
I commend all of you teachers so much! Do you know it makes my eyes water that you care so much? Teachers are so important. thank you for your devotion. : )
Reading all these ideas with great interest! Comfort in knowing others have similar concerns and care enough to help!
 ZooPhonics assigns an animal and motion to go along with each letter, it really helps most kids who come into school with little or no knowledge of letter names or sounds. I assessed one students yesterday who knew 1 letter and 2 sounds on Sept. 8th (our 4th day of school) and she only knew 7 upper and lowercase letter names, but she knew 21 letter sounds.
 A complete physical work up may find something. A seizure disorder could cause the short-term memory issues you describe.
I had a child last year that sounds very similar. He moved out of our district and I worry about him so much. He had a very unstable home life…I really believe that impacted his ability to retain anything. He didn’t even know that he was 6 on his birthday…it was so sad.frown I like all the suggestions…need to to some research for some that I have this year.
 Compass Odyssey.  You have to purchase the program but it is well worth it….it tracks each student’s progress and develops lessons based on your curriculum and standards. It lets you go back in and reassign if they do poorly on in a different way than the first time.  My district purchased it for is this year and it is wonderful. They have it for reading, math, and science too.
 I had a similar student and followed him up to first grade. During his first grade year, we got a dyslexia and adhd diagnosis. After 2 years in Kinder and half of First, he still was not retaining letter knowledge consistently. After the diagnosis, he started to thrive and has made leaps and bounds. Still not on grade level in 2nd, but so, so close! smile
Jolly Phonics are on YouTube…plug him in..
With only a little information and not knowing home or family history, I would wonder about drug or alcohol effect. I could be way off base, but the “here today, gone tomorrow” part was the red flag for me. Also, coming from a sped background, I’m thinking he was tested for Learning Disabled, which is super hard to qualify for in Kinder. Maybe a developmental delay test would qualify him? It depends on state regs. in AK where I live, kids can qualify Developmentally Delayed until 9 years old.  Maybe a direct instruction, one on one program like “teach a child to read”?
 Knowing 5 letters one day and none the next (assuming you are testing the same letters) is classic DD behavior. Especially if it is a repeater who has already had the exposure.
 I’m so tired of “doesn’t qualify”!!!!!!!!! Whatever happened to early intervention? Grrrrrr
 I had a kid like that. Try Incremental Rehearsal…Youtube it. My kid wound up being diagnosed adhd and once on low dose of meds started to be more consistent. Good luck!
I have had two students with similar issues in the past four years. Both had success with letter/sound recognition using a “personal alphabet” that was created for them. Each letter had a picture hook with a personal connection to the student (sibling’s name, Grandma, pet’s name, favorite food, sport, etc). Then we made two sets of flashcards, one for home, one for school. We’d go through the cards every day, chanting using the sound-picture-letter chain (b-b, Ben, glasses. Both students fairly quickly learned letters and sounds using this method, in addition to being tutored over the summer between K-1 using the Orton-Gillingham method. The now third grader also had vision therapy between K-1, at our suggestion, but mom didn’t buy into it and stopped after just a few sessions. He is now reading at grade level.
 You might talk to his parents about having him tested for visual tracking difficulties beyond an eye test.
I would say his working memory needs to be tested.

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