Spelling and Reading with a Poorly-state'd Child

I’ve had amazing success with bringing NLP into my tutoring practice with kids ranging from 10-19, and now I’ve encounter a child that poses a real problem to me. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

"Tim", like most of the kids I end up working with, has spent a long time being told he’s a slow learner. He’s going into 6th grade now and he reads at maybe a 1st/2nd grade level. His vocabulary is excellent.

In terms of modalities, he doesn’t demonstrate any visual distortion internally or externally, but his father’s left eye was damaged by a car battery and now it doesn’t move and is mostly blind. I think this is important. On a related note, his handwriting is not just sloppy, it’s chaotic. This is the difference that, in my experience, makes the difference. There is no discernible consistency to his letters. Ask him to write a word multiple times and you will see it in as many different ways.

I suspect there’s something strange with his auditory, and the decoding specialist he saw when he was seven, I learned, thought the same thing. He seems to be able to hear just fine, comprehending whispered commands, but his diction is horrific. He often outputs a slur of words. This suggests to me that that’s how the words sound internally.

When writing, he maintains a resourceful state, but when asked to read even very simple words, even the words he’s just written, there is no question that he regresses to a very, very young age. His physiology shifts into a fetal position, and the further I coax/encourage/demand/negotiate/etc him to sound out a word, the deeper and deeper he goes. His voice becomes childish and eventually, he sounds like little more than a baby. It is truly concerning. With easy words, this abreaction doesn’t get far before he gets the word. With more difficult words, even if I supply him with the phonetics for each part of the word (e.g. against – ag/en/st), he will go "all the way down". (A lot of kids get metaphoric problems with words like against, stupid, faggot, teacher, etc. I work with this stuff.)

Now, I make the assumption that anything I say to my students will eventually reach their parents, most especially when they don’t like what I’m doing. I won’t have the time to do any real good for Tim if his parents don’t like me bringing their kid to the edge of tears, but it’s clear that this (and the other big problem) is going to prevent any of my other instructional measure from helping at all. Obviously, his other tutors, specialists, resource teachers, etc, have done nothing to help this kid and assume it’s because of these issues.

During the sessions in which I attempt to install the spelling strategy, I have a different problem… Rage. He will refuse to even try to use the visual strategy (the father’s eye?) and then will pretend to do it. Variations of the following exchange have halted our practice each time: One time, he resisted coloring the letters, so I asked "what would be a better way to imagine the letters before you slide them into your memory?" He suggested pipes (his father is a plumber). I suggested he do it. And he output a jumble of letters that were in the word, but in the wrong order (while his regular spelling mistakes are the result of the phonetic blur I described). I suggested that perhaps pipes would cause some trouble because they have to be connected to one another in a certain way to work. I dissociated him and he told "that other kid in his class" to try bricks. I suggested he try bricks–"That won’t work for me because I don’t know anything about bricks!" but he sure does know a lot about plumbing. Every time we’ve tried it, he gets the same jumble.

He insists that he’ll never have to learn to read because he can leave all that to his rich wife and he can work in sewage "Because you don’t need to go to college and you feel like shit anyway." His father CAN read just fine (though he’s not a smart man), but he needs glasses to do it. Tim "hates the nerds with glasses in [honors classes]". Tim has perfect vision. His brother is smart and wears glasses.

I’m very careful with containing the amount of trance/nlp I bring openly into my tutoring work (work which I’m phasing out, but preferably not before I fix these last two most difficult students–the rest were a breeze and honestly, I don’t like failure).

There’s a lot that I’m aware of that I can work with, and I will in what time I have with this kid, but my time is limited if I don’t do something, soon. I had a student, "Jen", that had a much different situation, but just as inhibited with reading, then one session, finally, I put her in a trance, did a core transformation with her, and she had a major (blissful) outburst. She told her mother she wanted to marry me ("Holy shit!" was my reaction) and her mother’s reaction was a swift series of threats. The girl e-mailed me two years later. She got 95+ in all of her subjects in her freshman year of high school and she was sorry she got me fired. I suspect me getting fired acted as a convincer more than anything else.

It’s the swift series of threats that wizened me to sticking to metaphor in my tutoring sessions (and requiring that I’m not in the house alone). I work covertly, almost entirely with the metaphor of tutoring (which I discovered is an amazing way to facilitate high level change while the conscious mind is just learning to spell a word or "solve a problem"). Sometimes, if I’ve got enough nested loops, I’ll break state into a quick direct technique, suggest amnesia "like that comet on a tangent to earth’s orbit back… when was that, again?", and close a few loops.

I’ve gone through more students because of this kind of change work than any tutor I know has ever had. That said, I’ve only ever had four of these tough cases. Jen, the little jerk I quit on, and these last two. The other one I’m doing just fine with, but this Tim is by far the hardest.

Any help you can offer would really help enliven my perspective.

Spelling and Reading with a Poorly-state’d Child

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