I'm concerned about my husband. He's in his mid-thirties, has at least average intelligence -- and reads and writes on an elementary-school level.
He has a good job but it doesn't involve much writing, which he tries to avoid. He does try to read things that interest him, but when he reads he always looks through one eye and he often can't spell the same words he can read.
I don't know whether he reads poorly because he never finished school or because he has a learning disability.
I have been frustrated in my search for information. I have contacted the county literacy group through the public library; a local university; a literacy action group and a private school for learning disabilities. I have not been able to get any help.
His poor reading skills has left him with a very weak self-image. I think he could get a G.E.D., but since he doesn't think so, I hesitate to encourage it. I don't want to make him feel inadequate if he couldn't, but I think getting a G.E.D. would really change the way he thinks about himself. It also would improve his chances for job promotions. If my husband improved his reading skills, he would be less dependent on others and less timid.
Tutoring almost always can improve reading and writing skills -- often dramatically -- but first your husband must find out whether his problems were caused by poor instruction or by learning disabilities.
A literacy tutor will help if he was poorly taught but she probably won't look for a learning disability. He needs a different kind of teaching if that's the cause.
Learning-disability experts say that most adults with poor reading and writing skills really have learning disabilities, since children who have average intelligence, go to school regularly and have good, consistent instruction can master reading and writing in the first few grades. Most even can learn to read when the teaching is sloppy.
If your husband is l.d., the brain may be sending the wrong message to his eyes, so he can't always decode symbols -- like the ABC's -- or to his ears, so he scrambles the sounds he hears or he can't discriminate them well enough to spell words right or it's sending the wrong signals to his hand, so he reverses letters or writes them in the wrong order. You can get information about these problems if you send $2 to the Orton-Dyslexia Society, 724 York Rd., Baltimore, Md. 21204.
Research shows these disabilities often run in families. They are probably caused by an abnormal development in the brain, but doctors say allergies and inner-ear problems -- so common in dyslexics -- should be treated, and the eyes should be checked, because these problems may make disabilities worse.
Whatever the reason, your husband needs to get individual tests from a diagnostician at a center for learning disabilities (such as the Lab School in the District) or a reading center in a university. His writing, speech, cognitive development and achievement levels will be appraised and, if the problem seems very severe, the diagnostician will arrange to give him more oral tests, including the Weschler intelligence test. Total cost: $500-$600.
A tutor will then design a program that works around his disabilities and teaches to his strengths.
The teacher probably will group him with three or four other adults, each with their own programs, working with them two or three nights a week to improve their skills, get their G.E.D.'s and especially to realize that they're smart enough to learn. She knows that nothing batters the ego quite so much as a learning disability.
She may also help them get into one of the many colleges with l.d. programs, where students can tape lectures or let others take their notes. These schools are listed in Colleges With Programs for Learning Disabled Students by Charles T. Mangrum and Stephen Strichart (Grune), available by sending $24.50, plus $2 for postage, to P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, N.J. 98540-0008. And if they still have trouble reading, they can have text books taped free by the Recordings for the Blind in Princeton, N.J., if they document physical, visual or learning disabilities and provide two copies of the book. For more information, call 800-221-4792 or write 20 Roszel Rd., Princeton, N.J. 08540.
If your husband is too fearful to follow this route, he still can listen to audiocassettes of books, usually available from a public library for a small fee or free from the Talking Books Library of the Library of Congress, if a physician certifies him learning-disabled.
An electric typewriter or a home computer with a speller in it should make many writing problems improve and he'll feel better if he joins an adult literacy support group, so he can talk with others in his predicament. This is one place he won't be timid. Questions may be sent to P.O. Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.