Happy Cheetah Reading

The Day I Wished Children Came with Instruction Manuals

When my son and I started working through the Happy Cheetah Reading System, everything was awesome. For the first time, I could see that he felt like he was having success.

In October he had an eye exam that showed that, with his glasses, his vision and visual tracking were working as they should.

After five years of struggle, we felt on top of the reading world. (Or at least on our way there.)

And then, in early December, everything sort of ground to a halt. The stories that my son could read quickly and easily suddenly started to take . . . longer. It’s making my heart pound a little, even remembering that time. My son is so good natured and patient, even when we were working through other programs with 90 minute tutoring sessions, he usually stayed pretty upbeat. But this was just so tough for him.

And it was a new low for me. The promise of success seemed like it was being snatched away, and my cheerful boy was losing the sparkle in his eye. He was struggling so terribly much.

We took a break for a few weeks for Christmas. I figured it would give his brain a chance to decompress.

But if anything it was worse after Christmas. He was plodding through material he had raced through months before.

Then we went to see Dr. Karen.

When she saw my son, she said, “What happened to him? Has he grown six inches in the last six months?”

To be honest, I had no idea. With five boys, and lots of hand-me-down clothes, I don’t ever really pay much attention to their growth patterns. Someone is always growing.

But when I thought about it, I realized that he had switched jeans in the fairly recent past. And, hmm, maybe his t-shirts were looking a little small. Huh.

It turns out, when children have a growth spurt, often their vision changes, too. Who knew that a difference in height also causes a difference in eyeballs?!

Argh! Why don’t children come with instruction manuals?! This would have been helpful information to know!

Because as soon as Dr. Karen and I started talking, I could have cried. Intellectually, I know the signs of a visual tracking issue. It looks like reluctance to come to the table, lengthy pauses between words, looking away from the book for a bit to let the eyes rest, not recognizing common words.

I know all that!

But I had never considered that just because vision was fine in October, it might not be fine by December.

I had assumed that we had the eye stuff under control, and that blinded me (no pun intended) to what was going on.

Sure enough. The eye doctor confirmed that my son’s vision had shifted enormously. His glasses prescription was fine, but he needed to add some eye exercises.

Can you imagine his relief when I told him that it was just his eyes that were making reading hard? It wasn’t him! It was fixable!

Can you imagine my relief, that we had a way forward?!

And that brings us to the present. His vision isn’t yet where it should be. But it’s better than it was in January.

And as his visual tracking starting to improve, he has started to joke around during his reading again. Yesterday he took two of the books he was reading and read a page from each, alternately. Just because he could and it was funny. A mishmash of kangaroos and dinosaurs made for quite the story.

We’re moving forward again.

But who would have thought that a growth spurt could wreak such havoc?

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