Question:I think my child may have a learning disability but I'm not sure how to describe to the school exactly what I want assessed.What should I do?
If it is hard to verbalize your concerns, bring your child's work samples with you to the school to show what is hard to articulate. A full psycho-educational assessment should provide you with more complete answers.
Before going elsewhere, you might want to find out exactly what services the school system could offer you and when. If the time-frame or suggestions for providing needed services are unacceptable to you, there are independent educational testers that you can go to privately. The following articles will give you an idea of what to expect from the testing process:
- Special Education: Evaluation
- Stages of the Assessment Process
- Your Child's Evaluation
- 10 Steps in the Special Education Process
There are several national organizations that can help you through this process and provide referrals to local professionals. You can contact the International Dyslexia Association or the Learning Disabilities Association. LD Online has a Yellow Pages service, Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate psychologists, educational diagnosticians, consultants, therapists, tutors, and advocates in your area. Browse their comprehensive directory of parent training and information centers for more resources, or to find educational consultants and advocates to help you through the process locally.
You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state, or look in your local phone book for “educational testing” or “psycho-educational testing” for someone close to you.
Be a good consumer in this process. Ask potential testers, tutors, and consultants about their experiences and specialization before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose is a good match for your child.
Question:I suspect my child might have dyslexia. What should I do?
It is important to address reading problems early so you can begin getting your child the appropriate help. You can use our Target the Problem activity to get a general idea of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. More comprehensive information can be found on the article page.
The following articles describe specific characteristics common to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. You may find it helpful to read these articles to determine whether you see similar characteristics in your child:
- General Information About Dyslexia
- Common Signs of Dyslexia
- Dyslexia: Beyond the Myth
- How Do You Know If Your Child Might Have a Learning Disability?
- What Are the Early Warning Signs of Learning Disabilities?
If, after reading these articles, you still suspect your child is showing signs of having a learning disability, it is within your rights as a parent to request a free educational evaluation through your public school. Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how best he learns. The following articles describe the steps involved in the evaluation process, including your rights as a parent:
After this process is complete, you can use the information from the evaluation to help you make a decision about the next step in your child's educational path.
Question:I feel as though my child's skills are regressing. What should I do?
It is alarming to feel that your child is no longer making progress and may even be losing skills, but it will benefit him if you recognize this early and intervene.
Speak with his teachers about your concerns and share any samples of his work that reflect these concerns. Together, you can decide which step should be taken next. If you and his teachers feel that the level and amount of services and accommodations your child is receiving need to be revisited, then an IEP meeting should be convened.
You may also consider asking that the concerns you have about your child’s academic progress be discussed at the school's next local screening meeting. At this meeting, you and the other members of the local screening committee will decide if further evaluation for your child is warranted.
At both meetings, it is important to discuss the possible reasons for your child's current struggles to help determine the next course of action. For example, perhaps your child was able to compensate for his disability before, but now that he is getting older and the schoolwork is getting more challenging, his ability to compensate is being strained and the achievement gap between your child and his peers is widening. His apparent regression may also be signs of stress from knowing that he is falling further behind. It is imperative that the emotional component of your child's educational experience be addressed.
The following articles illustrate how to make the most of these meetings and include information about your rights as a parent throughout the special education process:
- Advocacy in Action: You Can Advocate for Your Child!
- Some Common Sense Steps to Resolving Disagreements Between Parents and Schools
You and your child's teachers should be able to work together to develop an educational program that will meet his needs and help him reach his academic potential.
Question:My child's school says that my child is very bright, but they want to hold him back because of his poor reading skills. I want him tested for a reading disability. What should I do?
Because your child is bright yet still struggles with reading, it can be challenging to offer the right support. You can refer to the following articles to see the characteristics that some children with learning disabilities exhibit:
- Gifted but Learning Disabled: A Puzzling Paradox
- Early Warning Signs of Learning Disabilities
- Dyslexia: Beyond the Myth
- General Information About Dyslexia
- A Conversation with Sally Shaywitz, M.D., Author of Overcoming Dyslexia
- Having Your Child Tested for LD Outside of School
- Giftedness and Learning Disabilities
If you recognize your child's reading struggles in these articles, voice these specific concerns to professionals at his school and request that your child receive an educational evaluation. This evaluation is free and within your legal rights as a parent to request. This article will give you an overview of the evaluation process:
The article below has suggestions on how to be your child's most effective and informed advocate for his educational needs:
Whether or not he is found eligible for special services, the evaluation will help determine your child's academic strengths and weaknesses and how he best learns. This should guide you in supporting your child academically and emotionally in the years to come.
Because your child is bright, he may currently be able to compensate for his learning difficulties. But as he gets older and the reading material in school gets more challenging, it may become increasingly difficult to compensate, and he may fall further behind as a result. But the earlier the cause of his reading weaknesses is determined and addressed, the better chance your child has of truly reaching his academic potential.
Question:How can I get my child with LD motivated to read more?
Any reading struggles that your child is experiencing may help explain why she chooses not to read. From a child’s perspective, it is less painful to give up than it is to try and fail. These articles may help you and your child work through some of these issues of motivation:
Question:My child has a learning disability and I'm concerned that the reading program her school uses is ineffective. Can you recommend a reading program?
Although we don't review specific reading programs, the following articles outline the elements that all effective reading instruction contains. From these articles, you can see how your child’s reading program compares:
- 9 Components of Effective, Research-Supported Reading Instruction
- 12 Components of Research-Based Reading Programs
- A Scientific Approach to Reading Instruction
- Multisensory Structured Language Programs: Content & Principles of Instruction
This next article also lists characteristics of effective reading programs for students with learning disabilities and includes information and worksheets to help determine the quality of a specific reading program:
Also, we recommend a report from the American Federation of Teachers called Building on the Best, Learning from What Works: Five Promising Remedial Reading Intervention Programs.
Have a meeting with your child's teachers so that you can share your concerns. Any reading remediation that she receives should be individualized to her specific needs, because no pre-packaged programs are able to address every child’s areas of weakness, strengths, and the instructional methods with which they learn best. You and your child's teachers should work together to ensure that her specific needs are being met. This may require an IEP meeting to develop a new IEP with more skill-specific educational goals and objectives. If you are concerned that the school is not interpreting your child’s IEP correctly, here are some steps to take.
You may also be interested to know about Learning Ally and WordTalk, two programs designed for students with LD, ADHD, or visual impairments. Providing accommodations in the form of read aloud or dictation software can lessen some of the burden experienced by struggling readers.
Question:What can I do at home to help my second grader who struggles with reading?
The following articles will give you ideas for fun things that you can do with your child to promote literacy at home:
- By Car, Train, or Bus! The Sounds of Language On the Go
- Reading Tips for Parents(babies through third grade)
- 25 Activities for Reading and Writing Fun
One of the most helpful things you can do to foster a love of reading is to read with your child, promote literacy through everyday activities, and be a good role model of a reader. These are gifts that you, as a parent, are the best equipped to provide and are ones that will stay with him throughout his life. Here are some articles to assist you:
- How Can I Improve My Childs Reading?
- Encouraging Your Child to Read
- Fun Reading Tips and Activities
- Reading with Your Child
- Tips for Sharing Books
- Helping Your Child Become a Reader
The following article, although geared toward teaching students with LD, provides good information that can be useful to all parents:
Question:How do I find a tutor for my child with dyslexia?
There are several national organizations that may be able help you through this process and give local professional referrals. For instance, you can contact the International Dyslexia Association, or the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA). In addition, you may wish to contact your local school district to learn of any free tutoring services offered, or a local university that may have a list of teachers who also tutor.
Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy has a useful nationwide search tool. Use it to locate tutors and other professionals in your area. You can also contact the Parent Educational Advocacy Resource Center in your state for more options.
Also, LD OnLines Yellow Pages service and LD Resources section have a great deal of helpful information. Search by state for organizations, or find a parent advocacy group near you.Lastly, you may be interested in Eye to Eye, a national LD/ADHD movement that pairs students with LD and caring, knowledgeable mentors with similar experiences. The mentorship program provides a fun and safe environment for children to realize their potential as learners.
You may also want to ask the teachers and guidance counselor at your childs school for suggestions for a tutor, since they will be familiar with his/her specific strengths and weaknesses. Local schools often know of great tutors located in the schools neighborhood.
Remember to ask potential tutors about their experiences and what they specialize in before you choose a provider. You want to make sure that the person you choose will be a good match for your child.
Question:I am concerned my child's school is not really following her IEP. What can I do about this?
Share your concerns with the IEP team at your childs school immediately. The following articles from LD OnLine have information about parental rights and the IEP process that might be useful to you.
- IEP: The Process
- SMART IEPs
- How Parents Can Be Advocates for Their Children
- Documenting Communication with the School About Special Services
- Advocacy in Action: You Can Advocate for Your Child!
In addition, you may wish to explore LD OnLine's directory of Parent Advocacy Resource Centers.
Lastly, if your childs IEP is still not being followed, contact an educational advocate or special education lawyer. LD OnLine has a Yellow Pages directory that might be helpful to you and the Wrightslaw website has useful information. Remember to listen to your instincts and trust that you have tremendous insight and knowledge about your child.
Question:How can I prevent my child with LD from developing low self-esteem?
Self-esteem is dramatically impacted by academic struggles. Childrens sense of self-worth is tied to how successful and accepted they feel at school. It is important to nurture your childs perception of herself as a learner. The following articles address issues of self-esteem:
- Tips for Developing Healthy Self-Esteem in Your Child
- Stress Management for the Learning Disabled
- Practical Tips to Help Your Child Learn Better and to Value Education
The support and encouragement you provide your child will give her tremendous comfort. Assure her that she is not alone in her academic struggles that many other children have difficulty learning in school, and that you are there to support her.
Question:My son's school would like to place him in a self-contained classroom. I don't agree. What can I do to make sure my child has the best possible learning environment?
School districts are required to educate students with disabilities in regular classrooms with their non-disabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, to the maximum extent appropriate. This is commonly referred to as the least restrictive environment (LRE).
To become more familiar with the law, check the following sites for information about the legal aspects of Special Education.
If you believe the school's decision is not in the best interest of your child, you may wish to contact one of the following organizations specializing in advocacy and legal rights of parents. These organizations can provide advice for your specific situation.
Question:My daughter is reading below grade level. What can I do to help her become a good reader and get to a point where she enjoys reading?
Beginning readers need lots of practice reading it takes time, practice, time, and more practice! Work with your daughter's teacher to learn exactly at what level she is reading. Then, go to the library and load up on books written at that level and below. Provide her with time each day to read and reread those below reading level books. You'll want to build up her confidence and fluency with those books. Then, support her reading by reading her the books at her instructional level. Prompt her to sound out words that can be sounded out (and just tell her the ones that can't or are too tricky). Praise her efforts and reread each book multiple times over the course of a week or two. Finally, get some terrific children's literature written above her reading level. Model lots of good expression and let her hear what good, fluent reading sounds like. Check Reading Rockets' Books & Authors section for some great titles!
Do everything you can to provide a fun climate for reading. If a book is too hard, put it away. Reinforce her efforts and continue to work closely with your school and teachers. If she continues to struggle, talk with them about additional testing and some one-on-one supervised tutoring.
Question:As a parent, I feel like I know my child's strengths and weaknesses better than her teacher. For example, my child is a very visual learner, yet her teacher rarely teaches to my daughter's visual strength. What can I do to encourage my daughter's teacher
Talking to a teacher about his or her practice is a tricky issue indeed. The teacher may have more or less opportunity to tune teaching to individual students, depending on the number of kids in the class, whether there is a mandated set of lesson plans, and other issues. You haven't mentioned your daughter's age, but that is also an important factor. A first grade teacher is more likely to think that she should change her teaching style to accommodate your daughter, whereas a high school teacher may feel that your daughter is old enough to start learning to adjust to her teachers.
So, what should you say? If a teacher senses that a parent is trying to tell him or her how to teach, the conversation seldom goes well. Keep the focus on your daughter, and keep it specific. Describe what you see as aspects of the class with which your daughter is struggling. Invite the teacher's opinion; that is, make it a two way conversation. Also, be open to ways that you can solve the problem with manageable changes your daughter might make. For example, if you think that the teacher talks too much and ought to write things on the board, could your daughter jot down instructions as she hears them?
A final thought. I would be open to the possibility that teachers may know things about our sons and daughters that we don't, for the simple reason that children may act differently at school and at home. And while we, of course, know our children intimately, the teacher has had experience with scores or hundreds of children at that age.
Question:What role do parents play in the RTI process, including when do they become involved, are they on the decision making team, and where can they learn more about RTI?
First, an observation: we conducted a national study involving some 60 elementary schools and their implementation of RTI. Those parents were uniformly complementary about the improvement in their children's education as part of RTI. They gave examples such as, well, they felt like they were more aware of what was happening in the schools, they felt like there was better communication among the school's staff and with them about the activities involving their youngster — their youngster's progress, and they felt like they were more connected to that academic program with more engagement. Which in turn, was translated into the students feeling like they were more engaged in school as well. Parent involvement in planning of RTI, that seemed to be another part of your question, that is, how do we involve.
My hunch is I'd want to involve parents very early as my district and as my school are moving to implementation, because I want to hear the parental concerns. What are those concerns about our current delivery of education that parents would like to see improved? Parents can be involved in helping us develop the language around response to intervention because heaven knows screening and progress monitoring and tiered levels of services may not be too familiar with most parents. Parents also are important for building the support for the change, the system enhancement that's going to be part of RTI. I can think of four studies that linked parent involvement to the school's effectiveness in implementing a reform and I can think of one study that linked the lack of parental support and that reform effort's failure to get implemented or to be sustained in the schools. If you stop and ask yourself, "How many bond issues do we get passed without parental support?" you think, "I don't know of any where that played out," so parents do have an important role in that development of that RTI model.
When it comes to that planning and working for implementation, when would I involve the parents? More formally, after we've got the RTI model implemented, well, parents are going to choose to be involved in varying levels, but as a school person I'd encourage parents to be involved as we look at the results of our screening whether we're screening annually, or maybe even three times a year, when we're looking at those academic benchmarks that would indicate how well a youngster is performing in class and then when we're conducting the progress monitoring so that students who are part of more intensive interventions will have their progress monitored, or will conduct those formative assessments to inform us how well that intervention is working. And I'd certainly want to involve them as well when we consider next steps. That is, what do we think of as being an appropriate placement for a youngster? Whether that's maintaining the current placement or current level of performance in a tier or changing that.
One of the resources that parents might find helpful is a booklet we prepared a couple years back called "The ABCs of RTI for Parents." This short booklet is available free, it gives parents a description of RTI and includes the description of those components of RTI such as screening and progress monitoring but also includes questions that parents might bring to a school staff when you're reviewing the results of screening or progress monitoring or a student's participation in different tiers or levels of services so that they get a better sense of dialog about their child's participation within the school. Another advantage of the booklet is that it helps educators understand what the expectations are from a parent's perspective, this helps you explain roles and responsibilities of what those expectations might be as well as an opportunity for the school staff to describe the procedures, that is, share with them about the workings — the steps — of RTI within the school. A different document that's available from the National Center on Learning Disabilities is called "A Parent's Guide to RTI," this booklet is also available free of charge, it can be downloaded from the internet, and provides another view — a little different framework — about implementation of RTI and how a parent might be involved in that implementation as well. The booklet is a good resource for parents as they consider the schools implementation of RTI framework.
— Dr. Daryl Mellard, University of Kansas
Question:I’m a special education teacher in primary school. How do you temper some parents’ desire to attempt “everything” at once at home? Some parents are over-doing the work at home and ultimately hurting their child’s self-esteem and progress.
An important question. At times, parents who care so much worry that they must fill in every moment of a child's day and evening fixing the problem. While this laudable, my experience with highly successful adults who are dyslexic indicates that a recurring theme is that these folks were greatly benefited from finding and pursuing an activity in which they could find success and a sense of mastery. It doesn't matter what the acclivity is — basketball, piano playing, skateboarding, drawing, rock collecting, soccer, doll collection — as long it brings a sense of satisfaction to the child.
In my book, Overcoming Dyslexia, I included a very important chapter, Protecting and Nourishing Your Chid's Soul, to help parents find ways of supporting and developing their child's self-esteem. I thought this issue so important that I also included an epilogue, giving examples of well-respected, highly successful people who were dyslexic and how they succeeded. Invariably, they had an interest that helped sustain their self-esteem: for the writer, John Irving, it was a love of, and success in, wrestling; for writer Stephen Cannell, it was football; for financier Charles Schwab, it was golf — each had something that they enjoyed and in which they could experience success.
— Dr. Sally Shaywitz