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No Quick Fix

IMPORTANT: There is no quick fix or silver bullet for dyslexia. It can take from 1 to 3 years to get a dyslexic child reading and spelling at grade level, depending upon their level of severity, the frequency of their tutoring or intervention, and other issues.

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Here's what three experts say:

Susan Hall: Questions & Answers

Questions:
Answer:

Beware of the developmental lag excuse for several reasons:

Reading researchers say the ideal window of opportunity for addressing reading difficulties is during kindergarten and first grade. The National Institutes of Health state that 95 percent of poor readers can be brought up to grade level if they receive effective help early.

While it is still possible to help an older child with reading, those beyond third grade require much more intensive help.

The longer you wait to get help for a child with reading difficulties, the harder it will be for that child to catch up. If help is given in fourth grade (rather than in late kindergarten), it takes four times as long to improve the same skills by the same amount.

To see what else Susan Hall, coauthor of Straight Talk About Reading, has to say, click here.

Patricia Vail: Get Help Immediately!

If your child has trouble in the early levels of school, get help immediately! Do not wait to see if the child will grow out of it.

Prevention is always easier than remediation, and learning differences don't disappear spontaneously.

If you worry that receiving extra help will make your child feel different, forget it. Your child already feels different by virtue of what he can and cannot do.

Patricia Vail is the author of 9 books on learning disabilities.

Dr. G. Reid Lyon: Summary of Recent Statement to Subcommittee on Education Reform

This is a summary of Dr. Lyon's recent statement to the Subcommittee on Education Reform:

Can Children With Reading Problems Overcome Their Difficulties?

Yes, but only if they are identified early and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies.

Early identification, coupled with comprehensive early reading interventions, can reduce the percentage of children reading below the basic level in fourth grade from the current national average of 38% to less than 6%.

Are Certain Early Intervention Approaches More Effective Than Others?

Yes. The National Reading Panel found that intervention programs that provided systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, repeated reading to improve fluency, and direct instruction in vocabulary and reading comprehension strategies were significantly more effective than approaches that were less explicit.

Will Proper Reading Instruction Reduce the Need for Special Education?

At least 20 million school-age children suffer from reading failure, but only a small fraction of these children receive special education services.

By putting in place well designed, evidence-based early identification screenings and early intervention programs, the number of children suffering from reading failure would be reduced by at least two-thirds.

Dr. G. Reid Lyon is the former Chief of the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health.

Testing

No Single Test

Important: Dyslexia cannot be officially diagnosed using one single test. That's because dyslexia can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound.

Also, dyslexia can impact many different areas.

That's why a professional will use from 10 to 12 tests to investigate every area that might be impacted by dyslexia.

Why Test?

If you're already convinced that your child (or a student) has dyslexia, do you have to get them tested? No.

But I do recommend it—even if that child is being home schooled—and here's why:

Although dyslexia is the most common reason a bright student will struggle with reading, spelling, or written composition, it is not the only reason. And until you know for sure why a child is struggling, you won't know the best way to help.

For instance, the programs you use to improve the skills of a child with dyslexia are quite different than the ones you use for a child with a Non-verbal Learning Disability, often called “NLD.”

So the most important reason for getting an accurate diagnosis is to help you pick the right tutoring program to help that child—a program that is supported by rigorous, independent, scientific research.

That way, you won't waste precious time (and money) on the wrong type of tutoring, program, or therapy.

Also, a well-written diagnostic report will contain the test results and legal language needed to justify having a public school issue a 504 Plan with needed classroom accommodations, as well as a list of the specific accommodations that child needs.

When to Test?

A child can be professionally diagnosed with dyslexia as early as 5½ years old.

Although most public schools are reluctant to test children before third grade, and often encourage parents to wait and see if their child will “outgrow” his or her reading, spelling, or writing difficulties, research shows that waiting is the worst thing you can do.

If it's dyslexia, a child will not outgrow his or her difficulties. And it takes less time to fix the reading and spelling difficulties when dyslexia is discovered at age 6 than when it is not discovered until age 9—or 19, or even older.

Early Intervention Programs

Assessing Reading Difficulties in Kindergarten and First Grade

Dr. Joseph Torgesen, an NIH reading researcher and author of “Catch Them Before They Fall,” has a detailed article titled “Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children,” written for Special Education Teachers, Resource Specialists, School Psychologists, and other professionals on the best ways to assess reading difficulties in Kindergartners and First Graders.

To read this excellent article, click here.

How to Test First Graders for Phonemic Awareness

NIH research has proven that lack of phonemic awareness is the core and causal factor separating normal readers from disabled readers. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and identify each sound within a word, as well as the ability to substitute sounds, to delete sounds, and to blend sounds. Ninety-two percent of children who lack phonemic awareness at the beginning of first grade will fail to learn to read—except by memorizing words. Lack of phonemic awareness is the best predictor of children headed for reading difficulty.

You can test a child's phonemic awareness even before you try to teach him to read. A test designed for 5 and 6 year olds was released in July 1999. It is normed and standardized, can be given in approximately 30 minutes, and provides a clear statistical profile of a child's phonemic awareness.

You can purchase the CTOPP (Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing) by Torgeson and Wagner from Pro-Ed, 800-897-3202 or 512-451-3246, or visit their website at www.ProEdInc.com. This test is item #8930.

The package also contains a version of the test designed for people aged 7 to 24.

Track Progress Using DIBELS

How would a kindergarten or first grade teacher know a child was falling behind in essential early literacy skills? By using DIBELS—a free screening tool designed by one of the NIH research teams.

DIBELS stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. Years of scientific research have led to quarter-by-quarter literacy benchmarks for students in kindergarten, first, second and third grade.

If a regular education teacher (or her aide) gives the screening each quarter, she'll know which students are not meeting the benchmarks—and she can then provide those students with more intense instruction to get them back on track.

DIBELS is free. Download it—and the research that supports it—at dibels.uoregon.edu.

Who Should Test?

To receive a free list of testers and screeners in your area, or a list of questions you should ask before you hire someone to test your child, click here to go to the Contact Us form, then fill it in being sure to add a checkmark to “List of testers and screeners.”

Who Should NOT Test?

Parents, please be aware that using the right tests is only half the battle. A person who is not an expert in dyslexia may give the right tests but may not know how to correctly interpret the results.

That's why testing should be done by a professional who is an expert in dyslexia, and who has also received intense, specialized training in how to accurately give and score the tests, and to interpret the results.

Unfortunately, most school psychologists have not had that type of training. To find out, ask them this question: “What specialized training have you completed that qualifies you to test a child for dyslexia?”

In fact, you should ask that question before you hire anyone to test your child.

Should the School Test?

Many people know that public schools are required to test children who live in their service area, whether those children attend that public school or not.

But you may not realize that most public schools do not test children for dyslexia. They test them to find out if they are eligible for special education services.

There is a huge difference between eligibility testing and diagnostic testing.

Federal education law does not require public schools to test children for dyslexia. Schools only have to test to find out if a child is eligible for special education services, and if so, under what category. If a child with dyslexia is eligible, they will be placed in a category called Learning Disability.

So before you allow the public school to test your child, ask them this question: "Will you be testing my child for dyslexia?" You may be shocked at their answer.

Some public schools will give one of the following excuses for not testing a child for dyslexia. They might say that:

Not one of those statements is true. If you hear comments like that, do not allow them test your child for dyslexia.

Testing Process

A testing professional must have enough evidence of dyslexia ahead of time to justify putting a child through the testing process.

So the tester will meet with the parents for at least two hours to gather a complete genetic, developmental, and educational history on the child. The tester will want copies of the child's report cards, as well as reports from any other testing that may have already been done. They'll also want to know if the child has received any type of tutoring or speech therapy.

The tester will also ask to see samples of recent school work to see if it contains the classic mistakes that people with dyslexia make.

As a last step, the tester will ask what the child is really good at because dyslexia is an unusual combination of both strengths and weaknesses. So the tester will want to find out if a child's strengths and gifted areas also match the dyslexia pattern.

If the tester uncovers any issues during the interview that are not related to dyslexia or ADD/ADHD, the tester should stop the process and refer the parent to a neuropsychologist for a complete evaluation.

Only if there is enough indirect evidence of dyslexia at the end of the parent interview would a professional tester agree to test the child.

Which Tests?

There is no single test that can prove or disprove dyslexia. Dyslexia can vary from mild to moderate to severe to profound, which is why a professional will use a combination of 10 to 12 tests to investigate every area that could be impacted by dyslexia.

It is more important that every area be investigated than the names of the specific tests. Many tests have been developed that can be used to investigate each of the following areas:

Tests for Memory

Dyslexia makes it very difficult to memorize a sequence or to memorize random facts (like multiplication tables).

To test this ability, the child will be asked to write something that requires memorization—either the child's address, the alphabet, the days of the week in order, or the months of the year in order.

Tests for Auditory Processing

Many people still believe that dyslexia is due to a visual processing problem. Yet research has proven that most of their difficulty is due to auditory processing problems.

That's why tests of phonemic awareness, auditory memory size, and word retrieval—the ability to quickly and accurately retrieve words from auditory memory—should always be given.

A weakness in one or more of those auditory processing areas is a hallmark of dyslexia.

Tests for Phonics

Phonics is not the answer for children with dyslexia. They can learn phonics in isolation, but they are not able to use that knowledge to sound out an unknown word.

Phonics teaches children to associate letters with sounds. But to be able to use phonics, a child must be able to memorize and have good auditory processing skills to be able to hear each sound within a word. Both of those areas are weak in people with dyslexia.

That's why “symbol-to-sound” and “sound-to-symbol” tests should always be given. Those two tests will find out if a child can look at printed letters, letter pairs, or vowel teams and make the sound they represent. And if, when presented with a sound, they can write down the appropriate letter or letters.

Children with dyslexia have great difficulty on symbol-to-sound and sound-to-symbol tests despite being exposed to phonics for many years.

Tests for Reading Individual Words

Some people still think that a child with dyslexia cannot read at all. But that is not true. People with dyslexia can read up to a point. But they usually hit a brick wall in reading by third to fourth grade (if not sooner) because their dyslexia forces them to use very different strategies when they read. Their unusual strategies will start to fail them by third to fourth grade.

Yet children with dyslexia are so smart that they can fool you for awhile. They get very good at using picture and context clues, plus a predictable story line, to guess at the words.

That's why if you take words they can read in a story and put them on flash cards, they often will not be able to read the words. That's also why they can read a word on one page, but they won't recognize the very same word on the next page.

Even if they've been taught phonics, they can't use it to sound out an unknown word. That's why they hate hearing you say, “Sound it out.” In fact, the inability to sound out an unknown word is a classic warning sign of dyslexia.

So the best way to check their reading ability is to ask them to read a list of words—and nonsense words—out loud, simply because a list of words does not contain any pictures or context clues.

When reading a word list, people with dyslexia look at the shape of a word instead of looking carefully at the letters. So when they make a mistake, they often:

But you'll only hear those mistakes if they read the word list out loud.

Tests for Reading Fluency

People with dyslexia usually read much more slowly than everyone else. To test this, a professional tester will check their out-loud reading rate, which is sometimes called oral reading fluency.

They will ask a child to read a story out loud for one minute. It will be a grade-level story, but one that they have never seen before, and the story will not have any picture clues.

The tester will compare the number of words the child can read correctly in one minute to the published reading fluency benchmarks. Children with moderate to severe dyslexia will usually have a reading rate that is much lower than the benchmarks listed on the DIBELS website.

The tester will also calculate the percent of words read accurately. If their accuracy is below 90%, the child will not be able to comprehend the passage.

Tests for Dysgraphia (copying from the board)

“Dysgraphia” is a fancy word for extreme difficulty with the physical act of handwriting. Most people with dyslexia also have dysgraphia.

People with dysgraphia:

In fact, another important test for dyslexia is having a child read something that's on the board, then watch while they try to copy it onto paper.

Due to their poor visual memory for printed words, a child with dyslexia will have to glance up at the board every one or two letters, then look down and stare intently at what they are writing. Their head is constantly going up and down while they are copying.

When they look back up at the board, they may have a hard time figuring out where they left off. They sometimes lose their place, and make mistakes even when copying words that they can read.

They often have trouble with near-point copying as well—copying something from the top of the page to the bottom of the page.

Use of Writing Samples

A writing sample is just three or four sentences that a child composes and writes without any help or feedback.

Written expression is the weakest skill of all in someone with dyslexia because it requires them to integrate many weak skills. Children with dyslexia usually hate to write, and it often takes significant coaxing to get them to write anything.

Their writing sample will usually reveal their difficulty with spelling. But some children hide their spelling difficulties by only using simple one-syllable words that they're sure they know how to spell. In that case, you'll notice that their sentence structure is quite repetitive. Each sentence may start with the same phrase, such as “I like to paint. I like to draw. I like to play soccer.”

Or you may discover that they don't yet understand the concept of a sentence. They may run 3 or 4 sentences together without any punctuation to break them up. Or their sentences may start with lower-case letters, end with the wrong punctuation, and may be fragments instead of complete sentences.

You may also notice that the words they write down are much more basic, or less sophisticated, than the words they use when they talk.

That's why a writing sample is so revealing, and why it should always be included when testing someone for dyslexia.

Cost of Testing

Testing done by the public school system is free, but as you may know, most public schools do not test children for dyslexia. A parent will have to hire a professional to do the testing.

The cost varies tremendously from state to state. You'll have to call the professionals on our referral list and ask what they charge.

Since dyslexia is not considered a medical issue, testing for it is not covered by medical insurance. Nor will the school pay for it because in most states, schools are not required by law to test or screen children for dyslexia. Thankfully, this is starting to change.

Parents should be prepared to pay for the testing themselves. It is the best investment parents can make in their child's future.

To receive a free list of testers or screeners in your area, or a list of questions you should ask before you hire someone to test your child, click here to go to the Contact Us form, then fill it in being sure to add a checkmark to “List of testers and screeners.”

Reading Methods that Work

Which Reading Programs Work

“If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten.”

Helen Bernstein

For a child with dyslexia, independent, scientific, replicated research supports the use of a reading system that is simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative, with direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, followed by synthetic and analytic phonics with intense practice.

This approach was originally created by Doctors Orton and Gillingham, and it is commonly referred to as an Orton-Gillingham system.

Research-Based Reading Programs

Excerpt from Testimony to the Congressional Committee on Education and the Workforce (pgs. 66-67)
Linda Butler
Education Resources Information Center

Lessons from the NICHD Early Interventions Project in DC public schools

Research has confirmed beyond a doubt that good instruction can prevent or limit serious reading and writing difficulty. Most children will learn if instruction includes critical components beginning in kindergarten. Referrals to special education will decline if children are properly screened and taught in the regular classroom beginning in kindergarten and grade one. Struggling children will be more likely to maintain momentum if they are placed in tutorials with trained specialists even before a special education referral occurs. When schools abide by these principles, very few children fail to read. Policymakers can help schools focus on the issues, and can provide the necessary support for effective teacher preparation and professional development.

More information:

Reading Instruction That Works

Research shows that 95% of reading failure is preventable—by using appropriate reading systems and well-trained teachers.

Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham developed a unique method and sequence to significantly improve the reading and spelling skills of children and adults with dyslexia way back in the 1930's.

All the latest scientific, independent, replicated reading research supports using the Orton-Gillingham sequence and methodology when teaching reading to students with dyslexia. And yet most teachers, reading and resource specialists are not exposed to even one of the Orton-Gillingham-based systems during their years in college.

Here are links to some of that research:

Orton-Gillingham Method

Intro to the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method

The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method was developed in the early 1930's by Anna Gillingham and a group of master teachers. Dr. Samuel Orton assigned Anna's group the task of designing a whole new way of teaching the phonemic structure of our written language to people with dyslexia.

The goal was to create a sequential system that builds on itself in an almost 3-dimensional way. It must show how sounds and letters are related and how they act in words; it must also show how to attack a word and break it into smaller pieces. And it must be a multi-sensory approach, as dyslexic people learn best by involving all of their senses: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.

The Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method is different from other reading methods in two ways:

To watch a 20-minute demo, click here.

What is taught

  1. Phonemic Awareness is the first step. You must teach someone how to listen to a single word or syllable and break it into individual phonemes. They also have to be able to take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change sounds, delete sounds, and compare sounds—all in their head. These skills are easiest to learn before someone brings in printed letters.
  2. Phoneme/Grapheme Correspondence is the next step. Here you teach which sounds are represented by which letter(s), and how to blend those letters into single-syllable words.
  3. The Six Types of Syllables that compose English words are taught next. If students know what type of syllable they're looking at, they'll know what sound the vowel will make. Conversely, when they hear a vowel sound, they'll know how the syllable must be spelled to make that sound.
  4. Probabilities and Rules are then taught. The English language provides several ways to spell the same sounds. For example, the sound /SHUN/ can be spelled either TION, SION, or CION. The sound of /J/ at the end of a word can be spelled GE or DGE. Dyslexic students need to be taught these rules and probabilities.
  5. Roots and Affixes, as well as Morphology are then taught to expand a student's vocabulary and ability to comprehend (and spell) unfamiliar words. For instance, once a student has been taught that the Latin root TRACT means pull, and a student knows the various Latin affixes, the student can figure out that retract means pull again, contract means pull together, subtract means pull away (or pull under), while tractor means a machine that pulls.

How it is taught

The Orton-Gillingham Approach and I.E.P.'s

If your child has an I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan), this description of a reading program should be on the I.E.P.:

“Independent scientific, replicated research supports the use of a reading and spelling system that is simultaneously multisensory, systematic, and cumulative with direct and explicit instruction in both synthetic and analytic phonics with intense practice.”

Yes, you can get methodology onto an I.E.P. Click here to learn how.

Research that Supports the Orton-Gillingham Approach

Orton-Gillingham Systems

These are the most well-known Orton-Gillingham based systems:

Barton Reading & Spelling System

Watch these free videos about the Barton Reading & Spelling System:

Tutoring

How to Find a Tutor

The most important decision a parent must make is hiring the right tutor. Anyone can call themselves a tutor, but not everyone knows how to effectively teach an Orton-Gillingham-based system.

So before you hire anyone, be sure to ask: “Which Orton-Gillingham-based system are you certified in?” If they don't know what Orton-Gillingham is or means, they are not the right tutor for your child.

If they are not certified, you won't know if they've been properly trained or are using the materials effectively. That's because anyone can buy the materials. But it takes special training to learn how to use them appropriately. “Certified” means the tutor has gone through special training by the developer of the program, and has passed their rigorous testing process.

Research has shown that the single most important factor in a student's educational success is the knowledge and skill of his or her teacher, and that fact is even more significant when the student has a disability. It doesn't matter so much which Orton-Gillingham program they're using as that they are certified.

How to Hire a Tutor

If your child is struggling with reading, and your child doesn't have an IEP (or the Special Education teacher is not certified in an Orton-Gillingham-based method), then hire a private tutor.

To receive a list of certified tutors in your area, click here to go to the Contact Us form, then fill it in being sure to add a checkmark to “List of Certified Barton tutors.” We will send you a list.

Having spent years as a professional tutor of dyslexic children, Susan Barton highly recommends holding a telephone interview with a potential tutor and asking the following questions. No professional tutor will be offended by them, and you'll learn quite a bit.

The following checklist, “Questions to Ask a Potential Tutor,” is from the book Straight Talk About Reading (see recommended books on our More Info page.)

  1. Please describe your background and training.
  2. Do you use an Orton-Gillingham system? (If they don't know what you mean, run for the hills.) Which one? Are you certified in that system? How long have you used it?
  3. How long have you been tutoring children in reading?
  4. Approximately how many students have you tutored over the past 5 years?
  5. Do you spend any of the session helping the student with homework, or do you concentrate only on remediation?
  6. Will I be expected to work with my child at home between sessions?
  7. How do you interact with the student's school?
  8. How often will you provide feedback to me on my child's progress, and in what format?
  9. What is your hourly fee? What happens if my child has to miss a session?
  10. How many sessions per weeks do you recommend? (Twice a week is minimum for a dyslexic child.)
  11. Would you give me the name and telephone number of several parents of students you are currently tutoring?
  12. Could we schedule a free consultation so that I can meet you and see your office?

If you like what you hear, ask for a free face-to-face visit so that you can see the tutoring environment. Take your child with you and see how he/she interacts with the potential tutor. Make sure the tutor has lots of experience working with dyslexic children.

To receive a list of certified tutors in your area, click here to go to the Contact Us form, then fill it in being sure to add a checkmark to “List of certified Barton tutors.”

Successful Tutoring Needs These 5 Things

Susan Barton advises parents to seek professional one-on-one tutoring for their child outside of the public school system. That's because to bring the reading, writing, and spelling skills of a child with dyslexia up to grade level, you need these 5 things:

  1. The right system
    (an Orton-Gillingham system)
  2. The right tutor or teacher
    (someone who is well trained and certified in that Orton-Gillingham system)
  3. The right intensity level
    (at least twice a week, for an hour each time)
  4. The right setting
    (one-on-one tutoring is best; one-on-three is maximum)
  5. For the right duration
    (until the student's skills are at or beyond grade level)

Most public schools cannot provide those five elements. So parents should either:

  1. Send their child to a private school for dyslexic children,
  2. Hire a private tutor who is certified in an Orton-Gillingham system,
  3. Get trained in an Orton-Gillingham system and tutor their own child, or
  4. Start an early intervention program at their school using well-trained parents as volunteer tutors.

The Barton Reading & Spelling System is perfect for options 3 and 4. For more information, either watch this free video: Intro to the Barton System or visit this website: www.BartonReading.com.

While a child is receiving one-on-one tutoring, he or she will also need classroom accommodations until their skills reach grade level.

Special Education

Special Education Basics

Everyone is Frustrated with Special Education

Frustrations of the Resource Specialist

Excerpt from: “Inclusion Threatened by Poor Teaching Conditions & Practices”

Bruce Marlow, Teacher Education Professor at Johnson State College in Vermont

CEC Today newsletter, October 2001

While there are numerous openings for special educators, few want these jobs because of the enormous disincentives. These include:

In addition, many feel that the job requires almost daily compromising of one's integrity. Special educators often must choose between protecting the financial interests of the school (upon which their jobs depend) and the educational needs and civil rights of the students on their caseload.

More fundamental issues, however, are also at stake. Imagine, for example, being rushed into the emergency room on a gurney. Your heart is beating irregularly, you are flushed, sharp pans shoot through your chest and left arm. Soon, a cardiologist arrives on the scene. The doctor says, “This is a serious heart attack. You know Edith, who volunteers upstairs in the flower shop? We better have her come down and help. I've got some Medicaid forms to complete.”

Sound crazy? As Richard Lavoie aptly observes, this parable depicts special education as it is practiced today. All too often, the most highly trained special educators wallow in a sea of paperwork while well meaning, but under-trained and under-paid aides or classroom volunteers provide direct service to the nation's neediest students.

Licensing more special educators or aides will not solve the problem. We need to make sweeping changes so that professionals can spend most of their time working with students. So let's hire paralegals to take care of the enormous volume of paperwork.

“Help Wanted” Ad for a Principal

Wanted: A miracle worker who can do more with less, pacify rival groups, endure chronic second-guessing, tolerate low levels of support, process large volumes of paper, and work double shifts (attending meetings at least 75 nights a year). He or she will have carte blanche to innovate, but cannot spend much money, replace any personnel, or upset any constituency.

Frustrations of a Parent

Excerpt from: a talk given at the “National Summit on Shared Implementation of IDEA”

Al Blixit, a parent of a child with a disability

Held in Washington, DC June 20-23, 2001

Reported in the CEC Today newsletter, August 2001

Unlike a special educator, being a parent of a child with a disability is a role you did not choose, did not plan for, and cannot change.

You live in a confusing tangle of emotions, ranging from guilt to anger to despair to hope.

You constantly struggle between hope and acceptance of the child's limitations.

There's terror in not knowing how to help.

And there's an incredible sense of urgency. As a parent, you don't have time to wait for the system to improve. Your child needs help now.

All of these emotions influence how you interact with the school system.

To be a more effective advocate for your child, Susan Barton highly recommends the new book, From Emotions To Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide, by Pam and Pete Wright. To learn more about this book, click here.

Crisis in Special Education

Summer 2001 newsletter of CARS

This is from the cover story of the Summer 2001 newsletter of the California Association of Resource Specialists (CARS):

Large classes and caseloads have dramatically reduced program quality for our most needy students.

According to a recent survey of their members, over 50% of resource specialists in California exceeded their caseload limits. The article continues:

We are no longer teaching, but warehousing students. Speech and Language Therapists are also looking at huge numbers, over 100 plus. These numbers indicate an alarming trend in caseloads for both Special Day Class teachers and Resource Specialists.

Special education has lost the ability to be an effective program for thousands of children with special needs. It is not possible for a teacher to implement the new California Content Standards in classes spanning a number of age and grade levels. General educators have one grade level standard to teach, yet special educators have to span 3 to 6 sets of content standards with more students. It is preposterous! Large classes and caseloads have dramatically reduced program quality for our most needy students.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of complaints filed at the California Department of Education, with “failure to implement the IEP” as the number one complaint.

July 2001 newsletter of the Council for Exceptional Children

This is from the cover story of the July 2001 newsletter of the Council for Exceptional Children:

The need for qualified special education teachers has reached a state of crisis.

We need more than 30,000 special education teachers in the United States today. In our rural and urban areas, nearly half of the special education positions are filled by individuals who are not qualified to teach children with disabilities. With these shortages, more than 600,000 children with disabilities receive instruction daily from teachers who are not certified.

Research has shown that the single most important factor in a student's educational success is the knowledge and skill of his or her teacher, and that fact is even more significant when the student has a disability.

These are just a few of the many reasons why Susan Barton advises parents to seek professional tutoring outside of the public school system. To learn more about the five things needed to bring the reading, writing, and spelling skills of a child with dyslexia up to grade level, click here.

President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education

Excerpt from: Executive Summary of the report from the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education

U.S. Department of Education

Finding 1:

The current system often places process above results, and bureaucratic compliance above student achievement.

Finding 2:

The current system uses an antiquated model that waits for a child to fail, instead of a model based on prevention and intervention. Too little emphasis is put on early and accurate identification of learning problems, and aggressive early intervention using research-based approaches.

Finding 4:

When a child fails to make progress in special education, parents do not have adequate options and recourse.

Finding 6:

Many of the current methods of identifying children with disabilities lack validity. As a result, thousands of children are misidentified every year, while many others are not identified early enough or at all.

Finding 7:

Children with disabilities require highly qualified teachers. Teachers and education officials desire better preparation, support and professional development related to the needs of serving these children.

Finding 8:

The current system does not always embrace or implement evidence-based practices.

Finding 9:

The focus on compliance and bureaucratic imperatives fails far too many children with disabilities. Too few successfully graduate from high school, achieve full employment, or receive post-secondary opportunities.

To read the full report, click here.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

Fight for Your Child's Legal Rights

Warning Parents About “Blind Trust”

Excerpt from: “A School Psychologist Warns Parents about ‘Blind Trust’”
WrightsLaw.com

I am a school psychologist and find parents' blind trust of “the professionals” frustrating. When a parent tells me that they aren't educated…, I remind them that they are the advocate for their child. I encourage them to read and understand their rights because they are the protectors of their son or daughter.

Too often, the results of my testing show the child has deficits that require specific remediation. But after the child enters a special education program, nothing happens—except regression.… If only parents knew the stories that are shared in IEP meetings about test results!

Please continue to educate parents.… More and more often, I ask myself how can I continue to work for a system that has such a negative impact on children.

To read the entire letter, click here.

Become an Effective Advocate for Your Child: A Success Story

Excerpt from: “A Success Story”
Susan Bruce
WrightsLaw.com, 2007

After years of struggle and failure, my son Blake finally qualified for special education in fourth grade. But after a year of special education services, his reading had not improved at all. The school told me it took about 3 years to see any progress for children in Resource.

I bought that—hook, line, and sinker.… Blake repeated 4th grade to “catch up.”

Then a parent told me about the book, Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. After reading it, I was convinced Blake was dyslexic.

I requested an IEP meeting. I took the book with me. I highlighted everything that applied to Blake. The school said they had only seen one true dyslexic child in 15 years, so they dismissed my concerns.

I continued to research dyslexia. I also attended a workshop on IDEA offered by my state's PTI (Parent Training and Information Center).

The more I learned, the more angry I became. I felt betrayed. I had trusted the school staff. They were supposed to be the experts, not me.

I decided what I must do.

After visiting WrightsLaw.com, I sent an email to Pam Wright—ranting about what I considered the school's blatant disregard for the law. Her response surprised me. She said, “You are going about this the wrong way. Stop playing the victim and being an overly-emotional parent.”

I read their book, From Emotions To Advocacy, and followed their advice. I learned about the system and how it really works.

I learned how to turn things around.

I learned how to turn my anger into something else—advocacy.

To read the entire article, click here.

10 Things for New Parent Advocates to Learn

Here are 10 things that parents who advocate for children with IEPs should know how to do:

  1. Gather information: Educate yourself about the child's disability and special-education law.
  2. Learn the rules of the game: Know how decisions within a school district are made and by whom.
  3. Plan and prepare: Get ready for meetings, create agendas, write out objectives.
  4. Keep written records: Take down what was said and by whom. Make all requests in writing.

These were drawn from a list published on WrightsLaw.com. To read the entire list, click here.

From Emotions to Advocacy

Excerpt from the book From Emotions to Advocacy
Peter and Pam Wright

If you are a parent with a child in a public school, you have probably already met the “Gatekeeper.” The Gatekeeper's job is to limit the number of children who have access to special education services, and to limit the services children can receive.

A Gatekeeper may tell you that your child is not entitled to:

The Gatekeeper's job is to say “No.”

Gatekeepers will often make outrageous (and illegal) comments, such as:

—or—

—or—

As a parent, you must learn why Gatekeepers say no, and how to persuade them that your child's situation is different and needs a different approach.

Educating Schools About Dyslexia

If your child's school denies that dyslexia exists, try to educate them on the latest research. Either give them a copy the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, or have them go to the Dyslexia section on the Reading Rockets website.

The Florida Center for Reading Research published a detailed report on dyslexia in an effort to educate the schools and legislators in Florida. To download and read that report, click here.

Also, the Government Affairs Committee of the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) recently created a step-by-step guide that includes effective ways

…and much, much more.

The IDA has also launched a website on which you can connect with others in your state who are passionate about creating new laws or improving existing ones. To read their new guide online, register your support, and get involved, click here.

To request a speaker on dyslexia for a staff meeting, in-service training, or a dyslexia information session for parents and teachers, click here.

Get Methodology into an IEP

From Reed Martin, J.D., Special Education Attorney and Advocate

Question from a parent:

At my recent IEP meeting, I wanted to discuss the educational methodology that would be used with our child, since we had such great success with one particular methodology. The special education director told us methodology cannot be discussed at an IEP meeting.

Answer:

Wrong. Methodology must be discussed.

In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Board of Education v. Rowley, stated that at the IEP, “the primary responsibility for formulating the education…and for choosing the educational method most suitable for the child's needs was left…to state and local educational agencies in cooperation with the parents or guardian of the child.”

If you have to choose the method most suitable, then you have to discuss methods and compare them. If you have had great results from one approach previously used with your child, then the school must document why another approach would be more suitable. The IEP committee, according to the U.S. Supreme Court in Rowley, is not allowed to settle for second best.

If the school district still insists on another approach, they must give you “Prior Written Notice” explaining why they insist on that approach and are refusing your proposal. That notice must explain, in writing, every evaluation, test, record or report that the school uses to justify their position.

If the school says, “We do not have anyone to evaluate, or use, the approach you are suggesting,” then point out that they have a Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) by which they acquire and disseminate promising educational practices. So, if your local district is not familiar with the approach you want, they must contact the State for assistance.

This is just one of many useful tips in the book Ask Reed. Reed Martin has authored several useful publications on 504 Plans and IEPs.

To read similar information on the WrightsLaw website, click here.

Research Support for an IEP

If your child has an upcoming IEP, and you need to present research supporting the teaching of phonemic awareness, followed by an explicit systematic approach to phonics, you need the following report.

In 1997, the U.S. Congress asked the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, a division of the National Institutes of Health) to convene a national panel to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches, to teaching all children to read (not just dyslexic children).

This new publication presents the findings and determinations of that 14-member panel, which included leading scientists in reading research, representatives of colleges of education, reading teachers, educational administrators, and parents.

You can order this free report by calling (800) 370-2943., or you can read the report and results online by clicking here.

Great Website for Advocacy Information

Whether you are a professional advocate or a parent going to your first IEP meeting, the advocacy information at the WrightsLaw site will prove invaluable. Here's a sampling of recent articles on their site:

Click here to visit the articles section of the WrightsLaw website.

Myths about Special Education

Myth: Schools test children for dyslexia

Fact: Most public schools do not test children for dyslexia because federal education law does not yet require them to diagnose why a child is struggling.

Most public schools only test to see if a child is far enough behind to be eligible for special education services. There is a big difference between eligibility testing and true diagnostic testing.

Most children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services.

Myth: Public schools do not admit that dyslexia exists

Fact: Some public schools still try to deny that dyslexia exists—despite more than 30 years of independent, replicated, scientific research that has been conducted on dyslexia by the National Institutes of Health and other researchers around the world.

But as more parents, teachers, and administrators are becoming aware of that research, and the fact that dyslexia impacts 20% of children in the United States, states are starting to pass statewide dyslexia laws.

The dyslexia laws in some states require public schools to screen children for dyslexia, for free, during kindergarten, first, or second grade. The dyslexia laws in other states require teacher training colleges to offer courses on dyslexia—and to require teachers in schools to get in-services on dyslexia.

To see which states have dyslexia laws, click here.

Myth: Teachers are not allowed to say the word dyslexia on campus

Fact: Some schools are reluctant to use the “D” word.

The entire Winter 2008 issue of Perspectives is devoted to demystifying the “D” word—why and how the term Dyslexia should be used. It contains many outstanding articles written from many different viewpoints, ranging from Diana Hanbury King (whose first mentor was Anna Gillingham), to Jack Fletcher and Reid Lyon.

In the opening article, Louisa Moats (the theme editor of this issue), states:

In some circles, especially some public school environments, dyslexia is such a contaminated term, associated with what are perceived as unreasonable demands by zealous parents or advocates, that its use is discouraged or banned.

The most revealing article was written by Ed Steinberg and Daphne Pereles who both work for the Colorado Department of Education. Ed Steinberg is the Assistant Commissioner of Education, and Daphne Pereles is a supervisor with the Exceptional Student Leadership Unit.

In their article, entitled Disconnect, the Real “D” Word: A School Practitioner's Perspective on Dyslexia, they shared many important points, including:

…we ascribe the lion's share of responsibility [for the disconnect] to the schools and the practices around services for students with learning disabilities. Indeed, disputes and controversy over the term dyslexia seem to us to represent a smoke screen obscuring the real issues in the education of students with LD. Hiding behind the smoke screen is the inordinate emphasis the system has placed on eligibility for special education services, with eligibility being the big event in the educational life of the student.

It has been our experience that much of the up-front controversy surrounding dyslexia (i.e., dueling evaluations, schools' refusal to accept a dyslexia diagnosis) serves to obscure the stark reality that our schools have strayed so far from a focus on a systematic, explicit approach to teaching reading and remediating reading disabilities that, in reality, we often do not know what to do after a student is staffed into special education with dyslexia.

Our experience is that the vast majority of special educators have not been trained, either in pre-service licensing or post-employment experience, to teach reading in this way [research based, explicit, systematic, cumulative, and structured] to remediate dyslexia.

Adding to this is the lack of focus surrounding many school districts' professional development programs, (i.e. the “smorgasbord” approach in which teachers can choose what they want from an array of offerings rather than receiving instruction in what they need.)

Coupled with this scenario is a culture in many schools in which teachers resist implementing evidence-based reading programs with comments such as, “It's too prescriptive,” “I don't like canned programs,” or “I have a different philosophy.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Members of the International Dyslexia Association can read and download all of the articles from the Winter 2008 issue of Perspectives (and other issues, as well) on the Members Only section of the IDA website: InterDys.org

Myth: If a child is not eligible for special education services or an IEP, the child does not have dyslexia

Fact: Dyslexia comes in degrees, ranging from mild to moderate to severe to profound.

Only children who are severe or profound are eligible for special education services under the category of Learning Disability or LD.

That's why most children with dyslexia do not receive special education services.

Yet even children with mild dyslexia will “hit the wall” in reading development by third or fourth grade—and they will have extreme difficulty getting their wonderful thoughts and ideas down on paper in acceptable form. Not only will there be many misspelled words (even high frequency words such as because, friend, and does), but they will not capitalize correctly (not even consistently capitalizing the first word in each sentence) and they won't consistently put periods at the end of their sentences.

Myth: Most reading and resource specialists are highly trained in dyslexia and its remediation methods

Fact: Sadly, that is not true.

Not even recent graduates with a Masters degree in Reading have had a single course in dyslexia, its warning signs, and appropriate remediation methods.

Further, most literacy coaches, Reading First coordinators, and Resource Specialists have had no training in dyslexia or appropriate remediation methods.

Myth: Most teachers know the warning signs of dyslexia, so they would warn a parent if their child had symptoms of it

Fact: Most teachers have had no training in dyslexia or its classic warning signs.

New Study: Most Teachers Don't Know Symptoms of Dyslexia

Excerpt from: “No To Failure”
Xtraordinary People
EducationGuardian.co.uk

Supported and funded by the United Kingdom's Department for Children, Families & Schools (DCFS), this unique “No To Failure” project has united all the leading charities and specialists in this field (in the United Kingdom) to create maximum impact.

Did you know that 1 in 5 children continue to leave primary school each year unable to read, write or do math properly? Many of these children are dyslexic and may not be receiving the help they need. However, if supported by dyslexia trained teachers, these children can succeed.

NUT research found that…

Additional Resources

Myth: Most reading specialists know the latest research on dyslexia, can tell who is dyslexic and who is not, and use research-based reading programs that work for dyslexic students

Fact: Colleges don't prepare teachers.

New Study: What education schools aren't teaching about reading

Excerpt from the Executive Summary of the study “What Education Schools Aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers Aren't Learning”

Kate Walsh, Deborah Glaser, and Danielle Dunne Wilcox

National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2006

Over the last 60 years, scientists from many fields including psychology, linguistics, pediatrics, education, neurobiology, and even engineering have been studying the reading process. This science of reading has led to a number of breakthroughs that can dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become functionally illiterate or barely literate adults. By routinely applying the lessons learned to the classroom, most reading failure could be avoided. It is estimated that the current failure rate of 20 to 30 percent could be reduced to the range of 2 to 10 percent.

To do so, elementary classrooms must incorporate certain research-based practices, including:

Regardless of social class, race, or income, roughly a third of all kindergartners require this explicit, systematic approach to learn how to read.

Yet the resistance from many educators to change has been palpable.

So the National Council on Teacher Quality decided to examine what aspiring elementary teachers are learning about reading instruction during their formal undergraduate training. Our analysis provides the most comprehensive picture to date of what elementary teacher candidates are learning—or failing to learn—about the teaching of reading.

In our final sample of 72 colleges, after examining the syllabi and textbooks of 223 required reading courses for students who aspire to teach kindergarten through fifth grade, [a few of] our findings include:

Finding #1: Most education colleges are not teaching the science of reading
Finding #2: Even courses claiming to provide a "balanced" approach ignore the science of reading

The notion of “balanced literacy,” which many colleges claim to promote, was developed in the 1990s. This approach was an effort to retain the best practices of the whole language method (presumably preserving the important role of good literature) while injecting greater emphasis on decoding (phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency).

However, our analysis revealed this balance is rarely achieved. Only 9 percent of the courses described as teaching “balanced literacy” devoted lecture time to teaching the science of reading as one of several approaches that teachers might need to know.

That means 91% of professors who say their intention is to provide a “balanced” approach never acknowledge that there is a science of reading.

Finding #7: Many courses reflect low expectations with little evidence of college level work

College professors make too few demands on their students. Research papers that encourage or require aspiring teachers to present anyone's perspective other than their own are a rarity. In a randomly selected subsample of 75 syllabi, only eight (11%) call for the students' own feelings and observations. The most common assignment is a “literacy memoir,” which asks students to reflect on how they themselves learned to read as young children.

Further, no effort to develop practical application of knowledge is evident. Students rarely have to demonstrate their knowledge by writing and delivering lesson plans that apply the tools of reading instruction in a classroom setting.

Among the study's many recommendations are:

To read all of their findings and recommendations from the study of the National Council on Teacher Quality, click here.

Retention Does Not Work

A Parent's Perspective

Excerpt from: “Dyslexia: The Hidden Learning Difference”
Jayne Matthews
The Baltimore Times, April 22, 2005

It did not seem possible, but my son's second year of first grade was even less successful than his first. When my son still could not read words like “cat” and “ball,” I knew there was something seriously wrong.

His kindergarten and first grade teachers had given me many reasons for his inability to read: he was not paying attention in class, he chose to guess at words instead of taking the time to sound out the letters, and he was a “slow” learner with a poor memory.

These explanations were puzzling to me. Outside of the classroom, he was very capable of focusing his attention on creative activities such as designing complex buildings with blocks and Legos. Before starting school, he was a quick learner with an amazing memory for people and places.

I totally disagreed with the idea that his guessing at words was a choice. Guessing seemed to be the only way he could read because he could not make the connection between the letters in a word and how it was supposed to sound. He spent so much time struggling with the mechanics of reading, it got in the way of his comprehension, which in turn, made him appear to be a slow learner.

To read the entire article, click here.

Professionals' Perspectives

Grade retention does not improve academic performance.

The bad effects of retention have been clearly established. Study after study shows that retention leads to poorer academic performance, higher dropout rates, increased behavioral problems, low self-esteem, and higher rates of criminal activity and suicide. Research on high school dropouts indicates that students who do not graduate are more likely to be unemployed or hold positions with little or no career advancement, earn lower wages, and be on public assistance.

Senator Paul Wellstone

Through many years of research, the practice of retaining children has been shown to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children who are academically delayed.

National Association of School Psychologists

Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to an educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they give to preventing failure in the first place.

American Federation of Teachers

Neither social promotion nor retention is appropriate for students who do not meet high academic standards.

U.S. Department of Education

The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does NOT produce higher achievement.

National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD)

To learn more, click here.

Research Shows Devasting Effects

Research shows that these are a few of the devastating effects of retention:

Studies of academic achievement and socio-emotional adjustment between retained students and similarly under-achieving but promoted peers, reported in 19 studies during the 1990's, yielded significant negative effects of grade retention across all areas of achievement and socio-emotional impact. (Jimerson, 2001)

For links to these studies, click here.

Social Promotion Does Not Work

If retention is so harmful, what will happen if you send a struggling fourth grader on to fifth grade?

That child will struggle even more.

What the experts say:

The harm of social promotion is compounded for children who make a slow start in school. If we promote elementary school students who have not learned to read, saying they will "catch up," they are likely to fall more and more behind until, by the time they reach middle school, catching up is nearly impossible. Will they feel good about themselves when they sit in class, as sophomores or juniors, unable to follow what is going on? If they hang around long enough to get a high school diploma, have they any hope of getting a permanent job that pays a decent wage? We are not doing these students a favor by passing them, even if they have not learned the work; we are cheating them.

American Federation of Teachers position paper

Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to an educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they give to preventing failure in the first place.

American Teachers Federation President Sandra Feldman in her article, Two Wrong Solutions

Neither social promotion nor retention is appropriate for students who do not meet high academic standards.

U.S. Department of Education, in an 85-page report entitled Ending Social Promotion.

Neither repeating a grade nor merely moving on to the next grade provides students with the support they need to improve academic and social skills.

National Association of School Psychologists, Position Statement on Retention and Social Promotion

A Better Option

Find out WHY the child is struggling

Dyslexia is the most common reason a bright student will struggle first with spelling, then written expression, and eventually with reading.

Most schools do not test children for dyslexia. Schools only test to see if a child is eligible for special education services.

There is a big difference between testing to diagnose dyslexia and eligibility testing. 90% of children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services, or are never even sent for testing.

School psychologists are often taught not to diagnose, but rather, to describe the child's weak areas. Some testers outside the school system do this, too. To see a list of what the weak areas of dyslexia are often called, click here.

Very few professionals test for dyslexia accurately and write a diagnostic report that parents and schools can understand. For a free list of testers and screeners in your area, click here to go to the Contact Us form. Fill it in being sure to add a checkmark to “List of testers and screeners.”

For a list of skills that should be tested, click here.

Dyslexic students need a tutor who uses an Orton-Gillingham-based system

Students who are already behind in spelling, writing, and/or reading will make the fastest progress if they get one-on-one tutoring from a tutor who is certified in an Orton-Gillingham based system.

Summer Tutoring

Summer is the perfect time to be tutored—because there is no school and no homework. But do not sign a child up for “intensive, four-hours-a-day” tutoring. Students with dyslexia are exhausted after just one hour of tutoring. Instead, sign up for one hour of tutoring each day—as many days a week as possible. One hour every day is ideal.

If you have not yet signed up for summer tutoring, do it now. There aren't enough tutors certified in an Orton-Gillingham based system, so their summer hours fill quickly.

Barton Reading & Spelling System

The Barton Reading & Spelling System is one of the best Orton-Gillingham-based systems.

Negotiate with your child's school

If the school wants to retain your child, negotiate.

Ask them to delay making their decision until a week before school starts. Promise them that you will get your child the right type of tutoring, at least 3 times a week, between now and September. If you do that now, your child's skills will greatly improve by September.

Have the school recheck your child's reading in August, one week before school starts. When they see how much your child has improved, they may allow your child to go on to the next grade.

Here's what a parent who did that last summer shared:

Last May, when our son was at the end of first grade and the school recommended we retain him, you advised that we negotiate delaying that decision until just before school starts and tutor him during the summer using the Barton System.

I have been working with him for about an hour a day, 5 days a week, using your system. We breezed through levels 1 and 2, but learned lots of great tools—especially for b-p-d confusion. When we reached level 3, we spent two months working through it, and his improvement is phenomenal.

As far as the school, they gave him a reading test on August 20, and much to their surprise, he is at a level 16—right where he should have been at the end of 1st grade! His comprehension and ability to sound out words is amazing. They were also amazed at how well he was able to sound out words when they dictated a sentence. He heard every sound, a huge improvement over 2½ months ago.

In fact, my son mentioned one of the spelling rules to their Reading Specialist. She asked me about it, so I explained some of the spelling rules to the school officials, and they were really impressed—so much so that the reading specialist wants to take a look at your system. They actually thought I had an education background after talking with me, but no, I am an accountant at heart—a far cry from a teacher.

The assistant principal agrees that what I have done has helped, so she is now willing to let me come to school to work with Sammy two times a week during his normal “reading specialist” time so that he can continue on the same path. I have gotten them to understand that the “whole language” approach was not working for him. This from a school which is completely focused on the whole language approach.

So in the end, we have decided to send him on to second grade. He is on the right path and everyone is pleased.

Allison Nucerino, Hamilton, Ohio

If tutoring continues during the school year, at least twice a week, and the school provides classroom accommodations, children with dyslexia can and will succeed.

To learn more about classroom accommodations, watch this free video: Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students

Or Switch Schools

If your child's school insists on retention, please switch schools—so his classmates will not know he is repeating a grade.

States with Dyslexia Laws

The dyslexia laws in some states require public schools to screen children for dyslexia, for free, during kindergarten, first, or second grade.

The dyslexia laws in other states require teacher training colleges to offer courses on dyslexia—and to require teachers in schools to get in-services on dyslexia.

States with Dyslexia Laws

As of April 1, 2014, the following states have statewide dyslexia laws. To read their laws, just click on the state:

Legislatures currently considering Dyslexia Laws

The following states have dyslexia laws making their way through the legislature:

Issued Statewide Dyslexia Handbook or “October as Dyslexia Awareness Month”

The following states have either issued a statewide dyslexia handbook, or else their governor has declared October as Dyslexia Awareness Month.

Self-Esteem

Accepting Dyslexia

Process of Discovery

Excerpt from: “The Process of Discovery: Finding Out Why Your Child is Struggling”

Karen J. Foli

LDOnline.com, 2002

Recently, a parent described her feelings to me. She said that at her child's birth, she believed her child was healthy and normal. But as the years passed, she discovered her child's delays, difficulties, and struggles. She confessed that it would have been easier to know there was something wrong when the child was born. Somewhere along the line, she felt that fate had played a trick on her.

She conveyed so many of the emotions that parents of struggling children feel. Bewilderment and confusion as you try to make sense of what is happening. Fear of the unknown. Guilt that something you did or did not do caused the difficulty. Sadness at what the child has to experience. Gratitude that this child can teach you so much and offer you real joy. Perhaps a little denial mixed with fragile hope. Anger at the impact on your life and the system's inefficiencies. And finally, exhaustion.

But no matter how hidden or overt the struggles, the child we hug, the child who sits next to us at the kitchen table, hasn't changed from what he or she always was. The difficulty was there. We just didn't know about it. What we have is the real child, the child who is loved and needs help. The child who overwhelms us, pushes us to the limits of endurance, and challenges our definition of love. For me, it was a child who taught me what mattered in life. But that realization only came with time.

To read the entire article, click here.

Don't Ignore It

Excerpt from: “Dynamic Duo: A Father and Daughter Who Share LD”

David Sharpe

GreatSchools.org

We men tend to want to “fix” problems, but we can't fix or cure LD. What we can do is learn about LD and get our kids the help they need to succeed.

If you watch your child stumble and fall at the playground, you'd naturally run over to help. If you watch your child struggling in school, you should intervene in the same caring manner. Don't ignore it and hope it will just go away.

To read the entire article, click here.

“My Son is Struggling Just Like I Did”

Excerpt from: “Mackenzie Thorpe's Art ‘from the Heart’”

Mackenzie Thorpe

GreatSchools.org

Mackenzie didn't discover he was dyslexic until his younger brother was diagnosed in 1972—the year Mackenzie left school. But knowing you have it and accepting it are very different things.

When his own son was identified with dyslexia, Mackenzie found he couldn't face the problem. “He had just started school, and they were already calling him lazy and stupid—just as I had been.”

“I felt like such a failure,” he remembers. “I married a beautiful woman, she gave me a beautiful child, and I made him dyslexic. So I buried my head in the sand.”

Luckily, his wife had a different reaction. “She saw, ‘My son has a problem. I'm going to help him sort this out.’ So she went in there with both guns blazing and got things done.”

To read the entire article, click here.

First Person Account from College Student

Excerpt from: “First Person: Creative Journey”

Mark Williamson

LDOnline.com

Seeking treatment for completely unrelated migraine headaches included a trip to see a neurologist. During a routine exam, he noticed something that had eluded educators and my parents for years. After a battery of tests, he asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you are dyslexic?”

Those nine words changed my life forever. Suddenly, I was not alone. I had an invisible community of millions of people living with the same challenges. That knowledge was very liberating. I could confidently stand up in my classroom and say, “I have a problem with how this information is presented. I'm having trouble comprehending it. Can we take a look at it my way for a minute or two?”

For the most part, teachers responded positively to this approach. Why wouldn't they? Teachers are in their profession because they want students to learn. If someone has the courage to say, “Please explain this to me differently,” most of them will respond positively. I learned never to be afraid to speak up.

To read the entire article, click here.

Interview with Jonathan Mooney

Excerpt from an Interview with Jonathan Mooney

Author of Learning Outside the Lines

My mantra as a little kid was, “You're stupid, crazy and lazy.” This tape ran in my head constantly. In speaking with kids who have learning differences, and their parents, I find this is an almost universal mantra for kids who struggle in school.

By high school, I was able to repress that mantra, but it was still there lurking in the background.

As I worked with my mom and teachers who understood my learning difference, a more positive foundation began to form. My mom and some of my teachers told me, “This isn't your problem, Jonathan. It's our problem. You don't need to be fixed. It's the broken educational system that needs to be fixed.”

Susan Barton comments:

Jonathan Mooney used his anger at the system to beat it—graduating with honors from Brown University with a degree in English Literature. He then received a Truman Fellowship for graduate study in the field of learning disabilities and special education. I highly recommend his book, Learning Outside The Lines. His story is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. He wrote the book to share the tricks he used to succeed in college—despite reading and spelling at an elementary school level.

The book is available in paperback from Amazon.com.

Showing Acceptance of Your Child's Learning Disability

Excerpt from: “Showing Acceptance of Your Child's Learning Disability”

Carla Bach, a parent of a child with dyslexia and AD/HD

GreatSchools.org

“Your daughter is deeply depressed,” said the therapist.

The words flooded me with heartbreak and anxiety. My ten-year-old Catherine has both AD/HD and dyslexia. She had endured years of social rejection by the other kids and their taunts that she was “stupid.” (She's not; her IQ is above average.) Although she had been in a school program for kids with LD, the teachers hadn't been effective in helping handle peer difficulties.

But peers weren't the big problem, the therapist told me. The main feelings Catherine had revealed during therapy were about me.… I knew Catherine had become increasingly defiant and moody at home, but I thought that was normal for kids with AD/HD and dyslexia. I didn't realize how large a part I might be playing in the problem.

To learn how the author changed her behavior, and the impact it had on her daughter Catherine, click here.

Help Your Child Understand LD

Excerpt from: “Helping Your Child Understand LD”

Betty Osman, Ph.D.

GreatSchools.org

Although parents are often reluctant to talk to their child about their learning problems, in my experience, children are the first to know a problem exists.

The more intelligent the child, the more intensely she may feel the frustration of learning differences. She can't understand why she can't perform as her parents and teachers expect, and she is likely to feel isolated and alone with her problems.

The child's fantasies about why she has a problem tend to be far worse than reality. Keeping it a secret only increases the mystery and reinforces the idea that the problem is too terrible to talk about. This, in turn, fosters a sense of shame.

To read the entire article, click here. To learn how to talk to your child about learning disabilities, read Dr. Betty Osman on Family Issues, part of the “Expert Answers” series produced by the Schwab Center For Learning.

What It's Like for a Child

Excerpt from: “First Person: Finding My LD Pride!”

Liz Bogod

LDOnline.com

This is the story of how I came to accept that my learning disability is nothing to be ashamed of.

Through a long, painful journey, I have come to know my many strengths and to find skills I did not know I possessed. I offer my story to other LD children in the knowledge that, if they can come to the realization of their own true abilities and talents, then like me, they can shed the sense of shame which all too often leaves LD people feeling dumb, stupid, and altogether incapable.

This story begins where all stories must begin… at the beginning…

I was six years old. It was September. When I got to school, something was not right. I was returning to the same classroom and the same teacher, but none of the same students. I was in Kindergarten again. My parents told me that my birth date was in the wrong month, which meant I could not go into grade one. At the time, I accepted this explanation.

I did not know that the real reason was because I could only count to ten while my classmates were counting to one hundred. I could not tie my shoes, and I could not write my own name.

Later, I was moved into a Special Education class. I wondered what was so special about me. I was just a normal kid who wanted to fit in, do well in school, and make my parents proud of me. But somehow, my inability to do math and spell seemed to make me special. So this special kid went into special class with seven other special kids with other special problems. I felt different and abnormal.

To read the entire article, click here.

To learn the warning signs of dyslexia, click here.

Parents: Build Your Child's Self-Esteem

How is Your Child's Self-Esteem?

Excerpts from: “How is Your Child's Self-Esteem?”

Self-esteem is a feeling—not a skill—that is necessary for, and a consequence of, academic and social success. With careful observation, you can determine your child's self-esteem.

A child with low self-esteem will:

It is up to parents and teachers to build a child's self-esteem. How? Read on…

How a Parent Can Build Self-Esteem

This is a brief summary of an excellent article from LD Matters, a free newsletter from the Schwab Foundation for Learning, which is now run by GreatSchools.org.

The article was written by Fellissa Richard, a parent whose child wasn't diagnosed with dyslexia until he was 13. Despite special education support, her child felt stupid and wanted to give up.

Here's what she did:

  1. Talked to her child about dyslexia: She let him know that many successful people have learned to manage its challenges. She discussed dyslexia frankly yet positively, and let him know how common this condition is. It affects 1 out of 5 people.
  2. Focused on how smart her son is: Every chance she had, she let her son know how smart he was.
  3. Identified his strengths: She worked hard to appreciate everything that her son did well. She found his gifts and made them an important part of his life.
  4. Celebrated his successes.
  5. Became his advocate: She knew her child better than any expert. She became his greatest advocate, as well as his cheerleader.
  6. Served as a role model: She worked hard to demonstrate that she had complete confidence in her son and his abilities. Through her own actions, she also demonstrated how to handle disappointments.

It Takes Someone Special To Be a Dad

Excerpt from: “It Takes Someone Special to Be a Dad”

Richard D. Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed.

E-ssential Guide Fathers of Kids with LD by GreatSchools.org

September, 25, 2007

In our society, Dad is expected to “fix things”—the leaky faucet, the worn wiper blades, the loose railing. When a child has a learning difference, Dad often attempts to “fix it.” These efforts are often fruitless and frustrating. Dad may feel powerless, ineffective, and even irrelevant.

Dads also have a tendency to deny the existence of the problem. They are often responsible for the long-term goals and activities of the family—the mortgage, their job, the family finances. Mom is left to deal with the day-to-day issues. As a result, Dad may not have an opportunity to view the cycle of failure and frustration that the child faces every day.

As a father once told me, “I denied Tommy's problem for years and felt that my wife was overreacting. But I was home sick one day and saw Tommy when he got off the school bus. I had never seen that pain and sadness in his eyes before. I realized then that I had to help him.”

The child needs one thing from Dad—unconditional love. She needs to know that you will accept and love her fully and without reservation. She recognizes that her behavior will, at times, be a source of puzzlement and frustration for you, but you must always communicate that your love for her is boundless and inexhaustible. Tell her so.

And let your daily interactions with her reflect this. Praise her often and show genuine interest in her activities. Be available to her, and take pride in her successes and her small victories. Compare her only to herself. Focus on the positive aspects of her personality and life.

To read the entire article, click here.

Rick Lavoie is a superb writer and speaker. To read other articles by Rick Lavoie, visit his brand new website: RickLavoie.com.

Mom's Perseverance Helps Young Man Overcome LD

Excerpt from: “Mom's Perseverance Helps Young Man Overcome LD”

Interview with Jacob Sanders

GreatSchools.org

You've described your mother as a walking miracle. How did she help you manage your LD?

Jacob Landers: After my parents divorced when I was seven, my sister and I lived with my mom. Being a single parent is tough, but I know it was even harder for my mom because I really struggled in school and didn't believe in myself. By high school, I was still doing poorly in school. I discovered alcohol and illegal drugs and got into trouble. Through it all, my mom believed in me and fought to get me the help I needed. She carried me for many years and held out hope when I couldn't. She never gave up on me.

When did you first realize how hard she was fighting for you?

Jacob Landers: I nearly failed fourth grade at a private school. My fifth grade teacher thought I might have a learning disability. Mom agreed to have me tested, and my LD was confirmed. Mom transferred me to a public middle school that had a “special program” for kids like me. But once I was there, my grades didn't improve. While my mom appreciated what the teachers were trying to do, she felt they weren't addressing my specific needs. She was always setting up meetings with the vice principal and teachers to try to figure out why my grades were still low and why my attitude was still negative.

It took years to get me into the right school. Despite my mom's belief in me, I gave up on myself. When I was kicked out of high school, she was angry with me. But she was angrier at the school district for not providing the help I needed. Through it all, she reminded me that I was not stupid, that I just learned differently. She kept pushing forward and eventually had me placed in a private continuation high school, where I succeeded.

The interviewer also asked:

To read the answers to these questions, click here.

Book Excerpt: The Ingredients Every Child Needs

Excerpt from the book The LD Child and the ADHD Child: Ways Parents and Professionals Can Help

Suzanne Stevens

Published by John H. Blair, (336) 768-1374

Suzanne Stevens has written an excellent book, The LD Child and the ADHD Child: Ways Parents and Professionals Can Help, for parents and teachers. In Chapter 11, she discusses the following:

First and foremost, children with ADD and/or a learning disability are children. They have exactly the same hopes and needs as any other human being their age. They want to be warm and fed and cared for. They want to feel that they are important. They want to feel happy and safe. Here are the necessary ingredients that parents can provide:

1. All children need love.

From the words, actions, and attitudes of others, children need to feel that they are loved. Not only the simple expression of affection, but through a genuine interest in the child and their activities, a willingness to give them time and attention, and the patience to try and understand—all of these are expressions of love.

2. All children need to feel accepted.

Children need to feel that those near them think they're okay, even with all their imperfections. They need to feel that others are glad they're around.

3. All children need success and genuine praise.

To become a “can do” person, children need to be successful in at least some of the things they attempt.

4. All children need to be protected.

As much as possible, children should be made to feel safe. They should be able to trust that others will take care of them when they are not able to take care of themselves.

5. All children need freedom to learn and grow.

Children learn from experience. It's in the process of solving real-life problems that mental development takes place. Parents should encourage their children's natural tendency to be curious and venturesome. They should allow them to discover and pursue their interests and talents. And equally important, they should allow them to take reasonable risks and make mistakes.

6. All children need healthy outlets for their energy and creativity.

Youngsters need free time to explore, develop outside interests, amuse themselves, and play with friends. They must be encouraged to devote time to hobbies and other activities they enjoy. Fun and success in such activities puts a spark in their eyes and a bounce in their step. Life must include more than just school, chores, and TV.

7. All children need discipline.

Youngsters need to live in a world in which there are definite limits on their actions. The objective of discipline is to keep a child safe and to teach him/her to be considerate of others. The ultimate hope is that they will develop habits of reasonable behavior and maintain them through self-discipline.

8. All children need responsibility.

When youngsters are given duties that they are capable of handling on their own, they develop a sense of responsibility, a feeling that they are helping, and that they belong.

The parents of a child with a learning disability often center their thoughts on how their youngster is different from other children. But the youngster is a child first. The learning disability may be a complication. The attention deficit may be a challenge. But the youngster's basic needs remain the same.

To obtain your own copy of this wonderful book, just call the publisher, John H. Blair, at 336-768-1374.

Parents: Motivation, Self-Esteem, and Encouragement

Building My Son's Self-Esteem

Excerpt from: “Building My Son's Self-Esteem”

Fellissa Richard

GreatSchools.org

Throughout the past three years, I've tried to figure out what motivates my son and what doesn't. This hasn't been easy, but I now know what I need to do to support my son on those days that don't go smoothly for either of us:

Talk to him. I often talk to my son about LD. I show him examples of the many successful people who've learned to manage its challenges. I let him know he's not alone.

Focus on how smart he is. Every chance I get, I let my son know how smart I think he is and what I believe he can accomplish. Because I believe in him, he's learning to believe in himself.

Identify his strengths. I try to appreciate everything my son does well. I often remind him of his many talents. He's an outstanding artist and musician.

Celebrate his successes with words. My son gets constant reminders that I'm proud of him. He knows he has my support. I try to recognize his small successes as well as his big achievements.

To read the entire article, click here.

Parenting a Child With Learning Disabilities

Excerpt from: “Parenting a Child With Learning Disabilities”

Jan Baumel

GreatSchools.org

Ways to Support Your Child

To read the entire article , click here.

Praise is Good, Encouragement is Better

Book excerpt from: The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child

Richard D. Lavoie

There are significant differences between praise and encouragement.

Basically, praise works … but encouragement works better.


To purchase the book from Amazon.com, click here.

Build a Child or Break a Child

Excerpt from an article published on ADDitudeMag.com.

What you say, and how you react to a child who struggles, can either build them up or break them down. You can choose to:

Parents: Find Your Child's Passion

Helping your child find a passion: One mother's story

Excerpt from: “Helping Your Child Find a Passion: One Mother's Story”

Melinda Sacks

GreatSchools.org

If you have a child with dyslexia, chances are someone has given you the same advice I've been hearing since our son first struggled with reading. “Just find his passion,” teachers, counselors, and tutors would tell me.

But such advice is easy to dole out and less so to follow. Our son did not excel at sports or music. He struggled with almost everything.

It took years for our son, Alex, to find his own passions—golf and playing the drums.

These aren't necessarily activities that will win him scholarships or public recognition.

But what is more important is that he is reasonably good at them—and he enjoys doing them for relaxation and pleasure.

To read the entire article, click here.

There's More to Life than School

Excerpt from: “There's More to Life than School”

Nancy Firchow

GreatSchools.org

As an adult, you know there is much more to life than school. But kids have trouble seeing beyond the school routine. You can help your child gain some perspective, and give him a boost to his self-esteem, by guiding him toward activities that play to his strengths and offer opportunities for success.

To read the entire article, click here.

Help Your Child Choose a Career and Find a Job

Excerpt from: “Help Your Child Choose a Career and Find a Job”

Dale S. Brown

LDOnLine.org

Academic achievement is important, but it should not be the most important part of your child's life. It is only a means to an end.

During adolescence, your child should be developing his strengths. He might be athletic, academic, attractive, good with his hands, or socially adept. Whatever his strengths, effort and encouragement can help them to grow.

His career choice will be based on his strengths.

Can he fix items so they can work? Can he wash small, delicate items without breaking them? Coordination and mechanical ability is useful in many careers from car mechanic to dentistry.

Has he always been expert at knowing which parent to approach first to get what he wants? Can he charm grades out of his teachers? These skills are also important for many jobs, from salesperson to diplomat.

To read the entire article, click here.

Excerpt from The Misunderstood Child

In this paragraph, from the book The Misunderstood Child (see recommended books on our More Info page), another parent echoes a similar strategy:

The way I relate to Danny affects the way he sees himself. If I allow his problems to scare me, he too becomes scared. Communicating to him that he is worthwhile and lovable, and that I have hope for him, enables him to face his future with hope and courage. This places a great responsibility on me, but it is the only chance any of us have for a good life. If we have hope for Danny, he will have hope for himself.

Teachers: How to Build Self-Esteem in Dyslexic Students

Dr. Robert Brooks

Dr. Brooks is an expert on self-esteem, resilience, motivation, and family relationships. He is a clinical psychologist who has worked with special needs children and their families for over 25 years. Dr. Brooks is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, is author of “The Self-Esteem Teacher,” and stars in the PBS Video, “Look What You've Done! Stories of Hope and Resilience.”

How to Help Students with Dyslexia

The following are highlights of the points Dr. Bob Brooks included in his keynote address at the recent International Dyslexia Association conference.

These are just a few of the many practice suggestions made by Dr. Bob Brooks. You can sign up to receive his free monthly e-newsletter by visiting his website, DrRobertBrooks.com.

Classroom Accommodations

Classroom Accommodation Basics

Need for Accommodations

While a child is being tutored using an Orton-Gillingham-based system, that child will also need Classroom Accommodations.

Accommodations are not a change in the curriculum. Instead, they are a slight change in the way a regular education teacher:

These accommodations allow dyslexic students to master the same curriculum as everyone else and prove their knowledge—even though they are not (yet) reading, writing, or spelling at grade level.

Free video

Watch our free video called “Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students.” It's an ideal way to educate teachers and parents on why accommodations are fair, which ones a dyslexic student needs, and how to implement them without making the child feel different.

To watch that video now, click here.

Common Classroom Accommodations

Here are the most commonly requested classroom accommodations that will allow your child to demonstrate his/her knowledge even though your child is not yet reading, writing, or spelling at grade level:

Accommodations on State Standards Tests

In addition to classroom accommodations, any accommodation your child will need to pass the high-stakes state standard tests, and to pass the high school exit exam, must be in writing on your child's IEP or 504 Plan—along with this wording: “These very same accommodations will be offered on every district-wide and state-wide test.”

Technology Tools

A child should also be allowed to use any technology tools that a parent is willing to buy to work around their weak areas. To see Susan Barton's favorite technology tools, click here.

How to Get These Accommodations

Any (or all) of the above accommodations can be added a child's existing IEP or 504 Plan. Or a parent can meet with their child's teacher and ask the teacher to try the most critical 3 or 4 accommodations for 60 days to see if they make a difference in their child's ability to learn or to show what he or she truly knows.

“Parable: The Animal Story” by G. H. Reavis

Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of the "new world," so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make the school easier to administer, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming, better in fact than his instructor, and made passing grades in flying. But he was very poor in running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to stay after school. He also had to drop swimming to have time to practice running. This was kept up until his web feet were badly worn, which made him only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that—except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class, where his teacher made his start from the ground up, instead of from the tree top down.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but he insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel who could swim exceedingly well, and also run, climb, and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

How many of us, like the duck who is excellent in swimming and good in flying, spend a lifetime running—only to wear out our feet and in doing so, neglect our true gifts?

Education's Most Damaging “Urban Legend”

Excerpt from: “Education's Most Damaging ‘Urban Legend’”

Richard Lavoie

LDOnline.org, July 2005

No urban legend is more untrue—or damaging—than the one that I often hear as I walk the halls of America's high schools:

Teacher to student: “I can't give you extra help or time. You won't get that type of help when you go off to college next year.”

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Many of America's high school teachers seem to be unaware of the extensive services available to college students with learning problems. These students will “get that kind of help” when they go to college. The belief that the struggling college student is “on his own” is outdated and untrue.

 

To read the entire article, click here.

Texas Study on Accommodations

McKenney, Texas Courier Gazette

December 5, 2005

University of Houston researchers conducted a study on the effects of allowing accommodations for students with dyslexia on the third-grade TAKS reading test. The results showed “a significant increase in the passing rates for students who received an accommodated administration.” The passing rate was 41 percent for those who received accommodations, versus 9 percent for those who received none.

“What they also found is other students who are average readers, not identified with dyslexia, did not perform any better,” Foster said. “It seems that they've isolated those particular areas that are difficult for kids with dyslexia by these accommodations so that we're really getting a better feel of what they can do minus the negative impact of the disability.”

The study has been expanded to middle and high school students, and could lead to a new study by summer 2006.

“These accommodations level the playing field for students with dyslexia,” said Victoria Young, director of the TAKS Student Assessment Division.

504 Plans

Great New Book: Section 504 and Public Schools by Tom C. Smith and James R. Patton

Finally, a short book written in everyday language that explains the value of a 504 Plan—to provide classroom accommodations for students who are not in the special education system—and what public schools need to do to ensure compliance now that parents and attorneys are becoming more aware of the requirements of Section 504.

This is an essential tool for all independent testing professionals—and for parents who want to use outside testing reports to obtain a 504 Plan at a public school.

ADA Amendments Change 504 Plans

On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA) into law. This new law overturned and reversed many former Supreme Court rulings which had narrowed the ADA's scope of protection.

The reforms apply to both the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which took effect on January 1, 2009, and had the following effects:

The House and Senate legislative history also makes clear that merely because someone with a specific learning disability can perform well academically does not mean that he/she may not also be substantially limited in the major life activities of learning, reading, writing, thinking, and speaking. Of course, the person still needs to establish that he/she is substantially limited in this manner and that he/she needs reasonable accommodations.

The Office of Civil Rights is already holding conferences to inform school districts and their 504 Coordinators of these sweeping changes.

To learn more about the changes, download and read the following articles written by various special education attorneys:

Opting Out of State Standardized Testing

High-Stakes Testing

What is High-Stakes testing?

In most states, children in public school take statewide achievement tests at the end of every year. The results of these tests are used to monitor school performance.

But at the end of certain grades, those test results can also be used against the student. That's why they're called High-Stakes tests. In California, for instance, the statewide achievement tests become High-Stakes tests at the end of third grade, eighth grade, and high school.

To learn more about High-Stakes Testing, click here.

What happens if my child fails a High-Stakes Test?

Some states have a “mandatory retention” policy. Any child who does poorly will automatically be forced to repeat the same grade.

Other states require mandatory summer school. If the child still can't pass at the end of summer school, it means mandatory retention.

Yet retention is a failed educational policy. It has never worked. No research supports retention as a way to improve academic achievement.

Instead, the best predictor of which child will drop out of high school is who has been retained.

High-Stakes testing and school administrators

Every principal, and most teachers, know that any parent can prevent their child from taking any test—even a High-Stakes test—if the parent objects in writing.

Yet many State Boards of Education have instructed principals and teachers not to tell parents about this option. Why? The administrators want every child to take the test, so that the administrators can rate the performance of the school.

Susan Barton would not object to this—if they did not use the results to punish children through mandatory retention. Better a school receive zero scores for children whose parents object in writing than for those children to carry the life-long emotional scars of retention.

Emotional ramifications

As one mother said, “I was held back in third grade. I will never forget the humiliation of standing at the bus stop with all my former friends, who moved on to fourth grade, while I stayed in third. Every morning I was embarrassed and felt even more stupid. I wish I could say that repeating third grade helped me to learn. Maybe it did for the first month or two. But soon I was behind the rest of the class—again! It wasn't until high school when I began to get the kind of help I needed that I could finally keep up.”

Many children with dyslexia and/or ADD suffer from extreme test anxiety. So they do not test well.

How can I prevent this?

If you, as a parent, feel that your child would suffer unnecessary emotional stress from this testing, or would not test well, you can opt out—exempting your child from participating, by writing a letter to the principal. Send a copy to his teacher(s) and any involved resource specialist(s).

In the letter, just state that you do NOT want your child to participate in the state standardized testing program. Tell the principal that you will either pick up your child from school during the testing times, or that you'll work with your child on homework in the library.

Write that letter today. The testing will begin very soon.

8,652 Failing Schools

July 1, 2002: U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced that students in more than 8,600 schools will have the option to attend a higher-performing school in their school district if the school they currently attend failed to meet state academic standards for two consecutive years.

For more details, click here.

No Child Left Behind

Excerpt from: “U.S. Education Agency Challenges California Policy”

San Jose Mercury News, August 1, 2002

Strapped for experienced teachers, California is skirting the nation's new education law by insisting that 50,000 rookies without full credentials are “highly qualified,” federal officials say.

The “No Child Left Behind” law passed last year requires teachers in every state to be “highly qualified,” meaning fully credentialed by the end of the 2005-06 school year. But teachers hired this school year on campuses serving low-income children must already be “highly qualified."

So the California Board of Education has come up with a definition of “highly qualified” that includes teaching interns and novices with emergency permits.

This week, the U.S. Department of Education said that won't do. California must staff its schools with teachers fully licensed by the state. “You can't define your way out of the problem. This is about letting parents know who is standing in front of their children six hours a day, and what their qualifications are,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller, an architect of the new law.

Numerous studies show that a high-caliber teacher is the single most important factor in raising student achievement.The federal government, which will provide $5.4 billion in education money to California this year, could withhold funds if the state balks at its directive.

Yet the federal requirement poses an enormous practical problem for a state where experienced teachers are in short supply. If California follows the letter of the federal law, schools in low-income communities will be unable to hire enough teachers this fall, state officials said. That could push some class sizes up to 50 or more students.

High School Exit Exam Can Be Optional

Excerpt from: “Exit Exams Can Be Optional If You Plan Ahead”

Suzanne Whitney

WrightsLaw.com, February 1, 2003

This spring, thousands of high school students will not graduate with a high school diploma. The students took the required courses and received passing grades.

How is this possible?

The students will not graduate because they did not pass their state's exit exam. They spent at least twelve years in school. Obviously, they learned something—they have the credits and the grades to prove it.

Do students HAVE to pass their state's exit exam before they can graduate with a high school diploma?

No—not if you plan ahead.

Private school students do not have to pass state exit exams. Home-schooled students do not have to pass state exit exams.

To read the entire article, click here.

Foreign Language Waiver

Students with dyslexia have an extraordinarily difficult time mastering a foreign language. That's why many colleges and universities are starting to accept American Sign Language as fulfillment of their foreign language requirements. In several states, ASL is mandated by law as acceptable in fulfillment of high school foreign language graduation requirements.

Myths about Classroom Accommodations

Accommodations are free, no-preparation-time-needed things that regular teachers in regular mainstream classes do to give students with dyslexia a chance to learn the same curriculum as everyone else, and to prove their knowledge, despite not yet being able to read, write, or spell at grade level.

Here are common myths regarding classroom modifications:

Myth: Only children who have an IEP can get classroom accommodations

Fact: Children who have 504 Plans can receive the very same classroom accommodations as a child who has an IEP.

Teachers can also provide classroom accommodations to any child who needs them—whether or not that child has an IEP or a 504 Plan. In fact, that's why classroom accommodations are often listed on a literacy improvement plan or on the recommendations page of a Student Study Team.

Myth: There is not enough money in the budget for accommodations—or to send teachers to special training

Fact: Most classroom accommodations do not cost anything, and they do not require any special training.

Myth: Teachers cannot accommodate because they cannot change the curriculum

Fact: Accommodations do not mean changing the curriculum.

Accommodations are either a slight change in the way the teacher presents information, a slight change in the way she has students practice new skills so they can master them, or a slight change in the way she tests students to determine if they have mastered the skill.

Myth: Accommodations are a crutch, and the student will become lazy

Fact: No student wants to be different. No student wants to receive accommodations. No student wants to have dyslexia. They would much rather be able to do the very same assignments, the very same way, as everyone else. But until they have had the right type of intervention or tutoring, they can't.

So accommodations are meant to be temporary. They will only be needed until the student has had enough of the right type of intervention or tutoring—and can now read, write, and spell at grade level.

But until that point, accommodations are absolutely necessary.

Myth: It isn't fair to do something for one student that you don't do for every student

Fact: Fair does not mean treating everyone exactly the same because we are not all the same. We never have been, and we never will be.

So one-size-fits-all education works no better than one-size-fits-all pantyhose.

Fair means providing each student what they need to have a chance to succeed. If the student grabs hold of that chance, and works very hard, then that student can succeed in your class.

But if the student does not grab hold of that chance, or does not work hard, then that student will not do well.

So providing an accommodation does not mean a student will do well in your class. But it gives that student a chance to succeed.

Myth: If a teacher gives a shortened assignment, that student cannot get an A because he did not do all the problems

Fact: If a teacher gives a shortened assignment to a student who reads and writes slowly, or who still has to count on his fingers to figure out the answers to addition and subtraction problems, and that student answers all of the questions correctly, then that student has earned an A.

A student's grade should be determined by calculating the number of questions answered correctly divided by the number of questions given—not the number of questions given to everyone else.

Myth: If a teacher does not count off for spelling, then that student will never learn how to spell

Fact: Children with dyslexia cannot learn to spell the traditional way. Their spelling will not improve just because a teacher marks a word wrong.

It will not improve if the teacher writes the correct word in red.

It will not improve if the student writes the correct word 100 times.

It will greatly improve once they have been taught spelling using a very different approach—an Orton-Gillingham approach.

Until then, their essays, in-class assignments, and answers to questions on tests should be graded on content only. Ignore the spelling.

Technology Tools

Dragon NaturallySpeaking™

Naturally Speaking is voice recognition software. You talk into its microphone, and the software types what you said into the computer—spelled correctly. The software will then read out loud what it typed in. If you want to change anything, just grab your mouse and edit it—as if you had typed it in yourself.

Finally, dyslexic children and adults can get their wonderful thoughts onto paper without first having to learn how to type and spell. They can even use this software to send and receive email. When a new email arrives, Naturally Speaking can read it to them. They can then click on Reply, talk in their response, and click on Send.

Summer is a great time to install and learn to use Naturally Speaking. Then, when school starts, they will be able to do much more of their homework independently.

To learn more or purchase it online, click here.

Intel® Reader

The Intel® Reader has added and improved so many features since it was introduced that Susan Barton now strongly recommends it.

This fairly small handheld device, which runs on rechargeable batteries, contains a high-resolution camera that allows you to take pictures of handouts, articles, or even textbook pages—which are instantly converted to text that you can see on its screen, and listen to them being read to you—out loud or through earphones.

You can choose from a wide variety of voices, and you can change their speed.

Learning Ally

You can also connect the Intel® Reader to your computer's USB port and download audio textbooks in DAISY format from Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic)—and any WAV or MP3 files, or ASCII text files.

Or you can download an App so you can listen to their books on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

Learning Ally works with leading publishers to make their books accessible to more than 270,000 individuals with visual disabilities and dyslexia. Learning Ally members can use the Intel® Reader to access and enjoy its entire collection of 62,000 digitally recorded, DAISY-formatted textbooks, and literature titles. Learning Ally's digital library—the largest of its kind in the world—provides current editions of state-adopted texts, ensuring that students who struggle with reading can learn from the same versions as their classmates and enjoy educational success.

Livescribe Pulse™ Smartpen

At Stanford University, incoming freshmen who have dyslexia or other learning disabilities that make taking notes during lecture classes difficult, are encouraged to get and use a Pulse SmartPen.

That's where Susan Barton first heard about this new technology tool. Susan purchased one, tried it, and absolutely loves it.

It is very easy to figure out and use. It is the first practical, affordable—and really cool—solution to taking notes, whether you're in a classroom, a lecture hall, a business meeting, an interview, or even an IEP eligibility session.

Word Processors

It goes without saying that once you can type, your most important technology tool will be any word processor that has a good spell checker.

NEO Keyboard

This less-than-two-pound portable, battery-operated, virtually indestructible keyboard with a small display provides an ideal way to take notes in class or at meetings IF you know how to touch type.

It has a built-in spell checker

You can print to any printer with an infra-red port

Or when you get home (or back to your office), start your personal computer (Macintosh or Windows-based PC), open your favorite word processor, plug in the Neo (formerly the AlphaSmart Pro), and watch your typed-in words fly into in the document. This is a lifesaver for people with dysgraphia.

Type to Learn

Most children with dyslexia also have dysgraphia—extreme difficulty with the physical act of handwriting. For them, handwriting is slow, tedious, and painful (from using too much pressure)—and it is difficult to read their handwriting.

One solution is to get rid of as much handwriting as possible, and allow them to type their work. Typing will allow them to produce written work faster, and the results will be much easier to read. But it will take a dyslexic child longer to master typing than most children because it requires two weak areas: memorization and directionality. So start teaching them now. If they practice typing 10 minutes a day during the summer, they can become a decent typist by September.

Susan Barton's favorite typing program is called Type To Learn, published by Sunburst Software. It runs on both a Mac and a PC, and it is not expensive. You can purchase it at most computer stores, or directly from Sunburst Software by clicking here.

To prevent a child from looking down at the keyboard, you might also want to purchase a removable key-cap cover, which costs about $5.

Most students will be able to type at least 25 words per minute by the time they've gone through the lessons a second time. At that point, a child with dyslexia should be allowed to type all school assignments.

For in-class assignments, they can use a NEO keyboard. These battery-operated keyboards weigh about a pound, fit easily in a backpack, are very sturdy, and cost only about $169. To learn more, click here.

Recorded Books

Students with dyslexia can learn what's in the textbook, even if they cannot yet read at grade level, by listening to the textbook.

Kurzweil 3000: The Reading Machine

This combination of scanner and software does more than just read any book, magazine article, or set of notes to you. It is a fantastic study tool. It will read definitions of words to you (or show you synonyms and antonyms), allow you to highlight text in 4 different colors (just like you highlight a real textbook), put post-it notes on a page, and even extract a study guide.

Many colleges have Kurzweil 3000 “Reading Machines” available for students with learning disabilities to use at no cost. Innovative high schools and middle schools which own the Kurzweil 3000 Professional Version often hire someone to scan their textbooks during the summer. Those schools then give those scanned textbooks on CD to parents, so that parents only have to purchase the much-less-expensive LearnStation software.

Math Tools

Susan has evaluated many packaged math programs.

Addition and Subtraction

TouchMath is good for teaching adding and subtracting without having to memorize.

You do not need to buy their expensive full-color workbooks. Instead, just get their Demo DVD. Once you watch it, you will see the logic of their approach, and you can put your own dots on existing math worksheets. Plus your student will not need the dots for very long.

Touchmath also offers Touch Money and Touch Time.

To learn more, click here.

Multiplication and Division

Children with dyslexia have such a difficult time memorizing “random” facts that even after years of practice with flashcards and worksheets, they almost never manage to memorize all of their multiplication tables.

Finally, there is an outstanding product that works quickly and effectively for students with dyslexia: Times Tales by Trigger Memory Systems.

Times Tales works by turning each multiplication problem into easily remembered story. Numbers become consistent, familiar characters that come together in different combinations, each time with the multiplication fact hidden in the story. First the child learns the stories, then, step-by-step, the story elements are peeled away. Finally, the child is left with a basic multiplication fact but his mind is triggered to recall the story involving those characters, thus revealing the answer to the problem.

In addition to the “trick” of using mnemonics, their stories add a fun visual element that is easily remembered due to their simple black and white drawings that have no detail other than what is necessary to reinforce the story.

The best news is: all of the training comes on a DVD with excellent animation. So you don't have to hire a tutor or learn how to teach it yourself.

And it only costs $29.95.

Does it work for children with dyslexia? Yes, according to several Dyslexia Consultants who have used it with their own children. One recently emailed Susan Barton and said:

I want to share the great results we have had with Times Tales. This method of memorizing multiplication tables was mentioned at your Diagnosing Dyslexia course, and after seeing my daughter fail her first multiplication test—miserably—I ordered it and gave it a try. Within 20 minutes, she had all the upper times tables memorized.

We practice them nightly now, just so she can recall them quicker and quicker.

I love this product. It really worked for us. I will recommend it to other moms with kids who have difficulty memorizing multiplication tables.

April McMurtrey, Dyslexia Consultant, Manteca, CA

To learn more about this product, which is only $29.95, click here.

Attorneys and Advocates

It is very difficult to find a well-trained Education Rights Attorney or Advocate. These three organizations list attorneys and/or advocates:

College

Picking a College

Students with dyslexia are often more successful in college than high school—if they pick the right college, schedule their courses properly, and get necessary accommodations.

Scholarships

Here are two lists of college scholarships and financial aid available to students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities:

Classroom Accommodations

College students with learning disabilities are also entitled to accommodations, but 504 Plans work differently in college.

College students taking medications for their ADD/ADHD face additional challenges.

Adults and Work

Job Accommodations & the ADA

Adults with dyslexia often discover their strengths and gifted areas, and get jobs at companies that need people with talent in those areas. But if they have never received the right type of tutoring, adults with dyslexia will need some accommodations on the job.

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” to enable people with dyslexia (or other disabilities) to perform the tasks associated with their jobs.

Here are two great articles that share the types of accommodations that may be needed—and how employees can request them.

ADA & Dyslexics: How to Keep a Job

Excerpt from an article by Irv Richards

The Resource Directory: Dimensions of Dyslexia, 1995

I am a graduate of the University of Nevada and have been a Professional Personnel administrator for over 27 years. A few years ago, I learned that I am a member of a “protected class” of persons that employers may not discriminate against.

I am dyslexic, not too severely, but I'm clearly dyslexic—especially when I'm tired. Over many years, I learned to compensate. My co-workers never knew I have this disability. I was always a competent employee, and I don't “look” disabled.

To read the rest of his story, click here.

Job Accommodations for People with Learning Disabilities

Excerpt from an article by Dale S. Brown

LDonline.org, 2008

You can request accommodations even if your employer has fewer than 15 workers on the job. It is to your supervisor's advantage to help you be productive.

Even people with learning disabilities who work for themselves need to think about how to incorporate accommodations into their work routines. They must identify their areas of strength and figure out how to get around areas of weakness.

The following can help you determine what kind of accommodations might be useful to overcome difficulties in the workplace.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Job Accommodation Network

The U.S. Department of Labor has free Job Accommodation consultants available by phone for both employers and employees. Once these consultants understand the situation, they will search their database of over 200,000 possible accommodations to find some practical no- or low-cost solutions.

To talk to a Job Accommodation consultant:

Job Accommodations in Britain

Excerpt from: “Dyslexia: When words are not enough”

Nadia Damon

PersonnelToday.org, April 22, 2008

In Britain, adults with dyslexia are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act as well as the Disability Equality Duty for companies operating in the public sector.

Disclosure of dyslexia is not obligatory for employees. Some choose to keep the condition to themselves for fear of discrimination. Often, dyslexia is not considered until things reach a disciplinary level.

Yet dyslexia solutions can be very low-tech and inexpensive.

To read the top ten tips that help dyslexic employees succeed, click here.

What Won't Work

Watch Out for Snake Oil

There is no magic bullet to quickly fix or cure dyslexia. Your child was born with dyslexia and will die with dyslexia.

Orton-Gillingham-based tutoring can fix the reading, writing, and spelling failure so often associated with dyslexia. But these methods take time; anywhere from one to three years.

Watch out for any method or product that costs lots of money and promises 4- to 8-week “cures.”

Controversial Therapies

A method is considered a “controversial therapy” if:

Before signing any contract or purchasing any product that sounds too good to be true, ask to see the independent research papers that support their claims. Also ask for local references. Talk to professionals in the field about the method. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Click here to see a list of what won't work.

Vision Therapy

Excerpt from: “Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision”

American Academy of Pediatrics, July 27, 2009

While vision problems can interfere with the process of learning, vision problems are not the cause of dyslexia or learning disabilities.

There is no scientific evidence to support the use of eye exercises, vision therapy, tinted lenses or filters to directly or indirectly treat learning disabilities, and such therapies are not recommended or endorsed.

Visual difficulties related to dyslexia, such as faulty directionality and abnormal saccadic eye movements, are symptoms rather than causes.

There is no valid evidence that children participating in vision therapy are more responsive to educational instruction than children who do not participate.

Ineffective, controversial methods of treatment, such as vision therapy, may give parents and teachers a false sense of security that a child's learning difficulties are being addressed, may waste family and/or school resources, and may delay proper instruction or remediation.

This policy statement, which summarizes and quotes many research studies on vision therapy and dyslexia conducted over the past five years, was jointly issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the American Association of Certified Orthopists.

It also sets out recommendations for identifying and treating dyslexia, a language-based disorder.

To read the entire article, click here.

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