“Child Reading 7 Grade Levels Below”
How would you like to hear these words? That is what we heard from the school after years of working with the school for our son who has ADD and learning disabilities (dyslexia). He was going into 8th grade as a primer reader (first-grade reader). He could comprehend at his grade level, but could not read, write, or spell at grade level. He was good in math and all other subjects.
Our son was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 12. The evaluation determined that he was a child in the normal IQ range with a reading and writing disability. We had been working with the schools since 2nd grade when we first noticed the in his reading and writing skills — he struggled only in those areas but was good in other academic areas — and it just got worse as the years progressed.
We requested many reading and writing evaluations from the school in the hopes that the test results would help us find a solution to our son’s reading and writing issues. With no success, we sought outside evaluations (paid by the school as is our right under the law if we disagree with the results of the school’s testing). Finally, after the last test at the end of 7th grade, we were at our wits’ end. We had been working with our son at home to teach him to read and the school had a one-on-one reading tutor, but neither approach was helping him enough. We knew we had to do something else.
After the last evaluation that the school did — one which proved that he hadn’t made the expected half-year gain, we asked the team for direction and they did not have any ideas for us. A friend of mine suggested reading the book “Overcoming Dyslexia” by Sally Shaywitz. (It can be found in most libraries.) This opened our eyes to the fact that all children at our son’s ability level can in fact be taught to read with the right scientifically based program. It renewed our hopes for our son.
We contacted the IDA (International Dyslexic Association) and requested a list of reading tutors in our area that have scientifically based reading backgrounds. We were lucky to find one 30 minutes away from us. We proceeded to have this tutor do an evaluation on our son and she informed us that she could use the Wilson reading method and Alphabetic Phonics to help him and that she in fact could teach him to read. The school is obligated to provide all students with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) including teaching all students to read and write. Because they did not have anyone in the school system trained to provide specialized tutoring, they agreed to pay to have our son go to this private tutor and they provided him with transportation.
Our son excelled. He saw her five days per week for one and one half periods per day. He did this for the next six years, participating in a “social graduation” with his classmates, but continuing with the extra reading and writing for another two years. He finally graduated at age 20. (Under IDEA, students are allowed to continue their high school education through the end of age 21 if the IEP team believes the child needs it.)
Our persistence as parents paid off and our son was reading at 10th grade level by the time he was done with the Alphabetic Phonics program. He’s reading at an even higher level now. He is in college and successful. He uses a reading assistance program (assistive technology) on the computer called Read/Write Gold and that helps as well.
My advice to other parents: Do not let anyone tell you your child cannot be taught to read. He or she can learn with the right programs. Be an active and involved member of your child’s IEP team and insist upon improved academic supports if you child isn’t making appropriate grade-level progress. Don’t give up! Keep working with the school so that your child is getting the help he or she deserves under the law — whether it’s through in-school services or privately (but paid for by the school). Read up on your rights under IDEA. You are your child’s best advocate.
Sharon Lutz is the mother of three children with learning disabilities. She has 25 years’ experience as a parent who dealt with three different school systems.