Learning Disabilities: Isaac Petrucka

by Christi Petrucka

Isaac had been struggling with reading and expressing himself for so long, that by the time I heard about the NACD in May 2012, when he was 16, I knew that I was quickly running out of time to help him.

It’s not that I hadn’t done anything up to this point. His difficulties were obvious early on in elementary school; and by the 3rd grade an evaluation indicated that he had trouble processing verbal and written communication. As a public school teacher I was very familiar with the stigma that is associated with special education, so I elected to forego the label and work with Isaac at home.

What followed was year after year of consistently doing homework with him, reading with him and to him, making sure he understood what he was reading, summarizing for him, and having him write in a journal. Despite all of my efforts, Isaac still tested at a 4th grade level on the 7th grade state reading and writing assessment. Both Isaac and I were discouraged but did not give up.

During that summer and the following school year, I continued to consistently work with him on school assignments and also hired an experienced special education teacher to tutor him in reading and comprehension. In 10th grade Isaac transferred to a charter school with a good, positive environment and small class sizes. He still struggled. The work load was almost unbearable—having to read novels for both English and History was overwhelming and unmanageable. So I had him tested again. Had anything at all helped him? Was there anything else I could do, I wondered.

An April 2012 Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test administered by the school psychologist revealed that Isaac scored at 4.7 grade equivalent in Oral Language, 7.3 in Basic Reading Skills, 7.7 in Broad Reading, and 8.7 in Broad Math. No wonder he could not keep up with 10th grade reading and writing assignments—he was still stuck in 7th grade!

The lady who conducted the test knew of my diligent efforts to help Isaac academically and could see my frustration. Being familiar with NACD, she recommended it for Isaac, and I am so glad she did!

We started the NACD program in June 2012. The first six months were a huge struggle to get Isaac to cooperate, as well as to fit his customized program in with family life, siblings’ activities, and his regular schedule once school started. But we were consistent in following the program; and when there were not enough hours in the day, we creatively used homework to fulfill program activities. Eventually, Isaac realized that everything he did for fun was contingent upon completing his program assignments, and he began to take personal responsibility for his NACD activities.

Isaac’s NACD evaluator had been confident that he was making progress, but frankly I was skeptical. Of course she wanted me to see improvement in his scores, I thought. Here I was paying membership dues to an expensive “gym” and was intensely training my son’s brain. Surely, I needed to see results in order to justify my expenses and effort. Then, after almost a year on the program, Isaac took the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test again. The assessment, completed independently of NACD, confirmed that Isaac was indeed progressing quite well. This time he scored at 9.6 grade equivalent in Oral Language, 11.9 in Basic Reading Skills, 9.3 in Broad Reading, and 10.7 in Broad Math. In less than a year on program, Isaac had jumped more than 2 academic years in math and reading and five years in oral language! The results are more than satisfactory.

There are other changes in Isaac as well. He is more outgoing and confident, which was quite obvious when we visited several universities recently. As an award-winning origami artist, Isaac is excited about pursuing higher education, investigating art careers, and further developing his talents in three-dimensional relations. Most importantly, he doesn’t shut down under pressure as often anymore because he can express his thoughts better. His vocabulary is increasing, as is his endurance at doing difficult things. For instance, he just took the ACT, and although he did not do quite as well as he now knows he can, he surpassed my expectations. Certainly, the NACD program has helped Isaac tolerate a test of that length while sitting and focusing for hours.

We began the NACD program with the specific objective to help Isaac read and speak at grade level. I am pleased to say that we have almost reached this goal. For years we couldn’t accomplish this using other methods, and I’m glad that we discovered NACD. I only wish we had found it sooner.

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