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Thread: Reading Difficulties: where do I start?

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
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    Default Reading Difficulties: where do I start?

    Hi Brice,
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me. Our daughter, 14 and home with us from China for 4 years, is entering 8th grade. She has been receiving ELL services in school, which have varied from year to year. It has become clear that needs more intervention for reading help than the average ELL student; in 6th grade she was placed in the reading lab for a period each day; this seemed somewhat helpful but her reading scores did not really improve (she was at a second grade level). In 7th grade, a new reading teacher pushed for her to have one on one WIlson tutoring, which the school was not able to make part of her school day and so she stayed after 4 days a week. Finally she is showing some signs of progress, moving up to a 3 to 3.5 grade level.
    It seems to me that she needs to continue the Wilson tutoring, but she has enough other homework (all of which is a struggle because of her reading level) that the extended school day makes things difficult. She also has signs of developmental trauma disorder; is easily shamed and becomes discouraged thinking something is wrong with her, which is part of the reason I have not pushed for an IEP before (the focus on her performance and intensive evaluation will be extremely difficult for her to tolerate).
    I have a meeting with the principal and her guidance counselor (who has been helpful, but doesn't have any power to change the curriculum to make room in her day for a reading tutor). Where do I start? What do I ask for? Do I need an advocate with me, at this point? Thanks so much, Chris

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    27

    Default

    Chris,

    Thank you for your questions.

    My impression from your questions is there are four potential problems that we need to resolve.

    1. The tutoring and the extra time your daughter has spent in extra reading help has not helped her make enough progress to say to us that she will progress at a better rate without some kind of different or more effective intervention.

    2. Whether there is an underlying condition or cause that explains her lack of appreciable progress in her reading skills.

    3. Whether your daughter has some degree of developmental traumatic disorder – and if so – what are the adverse educational effects it creates for your daughter.

    4. What degree of social and emotional problems are now present and how do we help your daughter deal with those problems.

    If my impression of your question is reasonably accurate, then there are several ways you can go about finding a way to help your daughter.

    The first thing I suggest is that you find out what you can do to help your daughter learn to read without any additional help from the school. That sounds a little absurd, so let me explain.

    Once you figure out how to help her without any help from the school you will be in a much more powerful position to deal with the school. Why? Because you will know your daughter will get the help she needs regardless of what the school decides. If you can figure out how to help your daughter you can assume the school can also figure it out. And, your daughter needs help right away – the school procedures can grind on for months and sometimes years.

    One way to tap into workable programs and resources is to contact home schooling groups or individuals. Home schooling parents generally know what programs are available and what works. You can also find virtual classroom programs for reading. Some that I know of are affordable and effective.

    The second thing to consider is whether your daughter is eligible for a free appropriate public education under Section 504. The evaluation procedures for determining eligibility are less intensive than are the IDEA evaluation procedures. In fact, a 504 committee can review what information is in the education records and existing evaluation reports from your private physicians and other evaluators and make an eligibility determination without additional evaluations. The definition of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is the same as the definition under the IDEA. This change came about with the 2008 amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 504 can be a powerful and effective way to get services and specialized instructions through the public school.

    The social – emotional aspects of your daughter’s life are critical. She is at the age in which social acceptance is of paramount importance. It may be so important that this one part of her life (as she perceives it) may override the importance of all else. The school’s counselor should be helpful here. I suggest that you have a private conference with the counselor to talk about how to build your daughter’s confidence and perception of her self-worth.

    For your meeting with the school principal and guidance counselor meeting I suggest that you work out your meeting agenda and talking points well before the meeting. Know what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what questions you want to ask. This will keep you on track and on topic.

    You asked what questions you should ask during the meeting.

    I suggest that you ask why questions: Why isn’t my daughter making satisfactory progress in reading? Why did my daughter progress only a half-year from a reading level of grade level 3 to grade level 3.5 after an entire academic year of extra instruction?

    Also, ask how questions: How does the school expect my daughter to be successful in school if she cannot read at grade level? How can the school help her with the social-emotional effects of her not being able to read and perform at grade level in her classes?

    Ask some opinion questions: In your opinion, how can I help my daughter cope with the social-emotional problems her grade deficiencies are causing? In your opinion, how can we work together to give her a meaningful educational benefit from her classes? In your opinion, should we consider giving her a 504 plan?

    Asking questions instead of making declarative statements will force the school principal and guidance counselor to give answers instead of giving you empty responses to statements that you would ordinarily make during a meeting.

    Answer questions the principal and school guidance counselor ask with a question. For example, if the principal asks you what (or why) you think your daughter should have additional tutoring during the school day, answer by asking, why you (the principal) think your daughter shouldn’t have the additional tutoring.

    You can practice this question and answer technique with a friend a day or so before the meeting. If you do, treat the practice seriously. What I mean by that is be yourself, speak in your normal voice. Don’t allow your friend to mimic a “snooty” voice or style when that person’s role in the practice is the principal or the counselor.

    Getting organized and planning for meetings with the school beforehand will give you more confidence and give you the opportunity to control the conversation during the meeting.

    One last suggestion: Ask the school for access to your daughter’s education records. Because of the FERPA rules, you might not have time to do that before your meeting. You still should make the request in writing and review the records after the meeting. You might be surprised what you find in those records. If you need some help with how to do a record review, get in touch with me by email and I will send you some suggestions.



    I hope this helps.

    Brice
    brice@shoreham.net

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Posts
    3

    Default Follow up questions

    Hi Brice,
    Wow! Lots to think about. For now, I have some followup questions....

    1. About the reading, I should mention that she only had the one on one instruction from mid Feb until the end of June, and I really did feel that for the first time I could tell that her reading improved. How do I know if she is dyslexic? If she is, doesn't this require a different approach? Do the schools test for, or even acknowledge dylexia? Should I have her tested on my own? When I suggested to her reading instructor that I have her evaluated by Susan Barton, she said "because they focus on dyslexia they will say she is dyslexic" . But then, who would I find to test her? Are these tests different than the evaluations that the school already does? And, shouldn't they be paying for the testing?

    2. Developmental trauma. There is no question in my mind that she has this, but we do not have a professional diagnosis. The most effective intervention that we have found is therapeutic parenting, as she has refused to participate in any kind of talk therapy. And she has actually come a long way in learning to trust both of us, especially me. This is where it gets difficult. She has the usual teen age fear of being embarrassed by her parents, compounded by the deep inner shame and feeling of "badness" that goes along with developmental trauma. Our biggest conflicts in the last year have been over her idea that I am "interfering" with her school and embarrassing her (by asking her teachers to work with her capabilities); yet we would have nightly meltdowns over homework that was inappropriate for her level of reading or understanding. How can I advocate for the school to do more for her, when she sees that advocacy as a betrayal of trust (which triggers shame and anxiety, and all rational discussion of this topic goes out the window)? I realize that this may not be an answerable question, but I want you to realize what I am dealing with.

    3. Socially, yes this is important, and the counselor has been working on it over the past couple years, but given the reality of middle school girls, I don't think there's much they can do. She is not being bullied or shunned, she simply doesn't have much in common with the other kids. So while they are nice enough to her, and will talk to her, this doesn't develop into relationships outside of school. But our daughter can be controlling and bossy, and this doesn't help.

    4. Homeschooling. I kind of see what you are saying, but if I pursue an option that is available for homeschoolers (say, a reading program) how will she have time to do that unless we homeschool her? And how will I know if it is effective unless we try it out?

    5. 504. This sounds great, would it carry over to high school? Because honestly, that is my big looming concern. I know we can get through 8 th grade with lots of homework support from me, but this isn't going to fly at the high school level.


    6. ELL. I know that they are going to say that she gets services by being under the ELL umbrella (though by those standards she is much further along than the other kids and gets very little help). Does being ELL preclude having a 504 or an IEP?

    Thanks so much for your great advice for talking to the principal, and for all your input! Chris




    Quote Originally Posted by Brice View Post
    Chris,

    Thank you for your questions.

    My impression from your questions is there are four potential problems that we need to resolve.

    1. The tutoring and the extra time your daughter has spent in extra reading help has not helped her make enough progress to say to us that she will progress at a better rate without some kind of different or more effective intervention.

    2. Whether there is an underlying condition or cause that explains her lack of appreciable progress in her reading skills.

    3. Whether your daughter has some degree of developmental traumatic disorder – and if so – what are the adverse educational effects it creates for your daughter.

    4. What degree of social and emotional problems are now present and how do we help your daughter deal with those problems.

    If my impression of your question is reasonably accurate, then there are several ways you can go about finding a way to help your daughter.

    The first thing I suggest is that you find out what you can do to help your daughter learn to read without any additional help from the school. That sounds a little absurd, so let me explain.

    Once you figure out how to help her without any help from the school you will be in a much more powerful position to deal with the school. Why? Because you will know your daughter will get the help she needs regardless of what the school decides. If you can figure out how to help your daughter you can assume the school can also figure it out. And, your daughter needs help right away – the school procedures can grind on for months and sometimes years.

    One way to tap into workable programs and resources is to contact home schooling groups or individuals. Home schooling parents generally know what programs are available and what works. You can also find virtual classroom programs for reading. Some that I know of are affordable and effective.

    The second thing to consider is whether your daughter is eligible for a free appropriate public education under Section 504. The evaluation procedures for determining eligibility are less intensive than are the IDEA evaluation procedures. In fact, a 504 committee can review what information is in the education records and existing evaluation reports from your private physicians and other evaluators and make an eligibility determination without additional evaluations. The definition of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is the same as the definition under the IDEA. This change came about with the 2008 amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Section 504 can be a powerful and effective way to get services and specialized instructions through the public school.

    The social – emotional aspects of your daughter’s life are critical. She is at the age in which social acceptance is of paramount importance. It may be so important that this one part of her life (as she perceives it) may override the importance of all else. The school’s counselor should be helpful here. I suggest that you have a private conference with the counselor to talk about how to build your daughter’s confidence and perception of her self-worth.

    For your meeting with the school principal and guidance counselor meeting I suggest that you work out your meeting agenda and talking points well before the meeting. Know what you want to say, how you want to say it, and what questions you want to ask. This will keep you on track and on topic.

    You asked what questions you should ask during the meeting.

    I suggest that you ask why questions: Why isn’t my daughter making satisfactory progress in reading? Why did my daughter progress only a half-year from a reading level of grade level 3 to grade level 3.5 after an entire academic year of extra instruction?

    Also, ask how questions: How does the school expect my daughter to be successful in school if she cannot read at grade level? How can the school help her with the social-emotional effects of her not being able to read and perform at grade level in her classes?

    Ask some opinion questions: In your opinion, how can I help my daughter cope with the social-emotional problems her grade deficiencies are causing? In your opinion, how can we work together to give her a meaningful educational benefit from her classes? In your opinion, should we consider giving her a 504 plan?

    Asking questions instead of making declarative statements will force the school principal and guidance counselor to give answers instead of giving you empty responses to statements that you would ordinarily make during a meeting.

    Answer questions the principal and school guidance counselor ask with a question. For example, if the principal asks you what (or why) you think your daughter should have additional tutoring during the school day, answer by asking, why you (the principal) think your daughter shouldn’t have the additional tutoring.

    You can practice this question and answer technique with a friend a day or so before the meeting. If you do, treat the practice seriously. What I mean by that is be yourself, speak in your normal voice. Don’t allow your friend to mimic a “snooty” voice or style when that person’s role in the practice is the principal or the counselor.

    Getting organized and planning for meetings with the school beforehand will give you more confidence and give you the opportunity to control the conversation during the meeting.

    One last suggestion: Ask the school for access to your daughter’s education records. Because of the FERPA rules, you might not have time to do that before your meeting. You still should make the request in writing and review the records after the meeting. You might be surprised what you find in those records. If you need some help with how to do a record review, get in touch with me by email and I will send you some suggestions.



    I hope this helps.

    Brice
    brice@shoreham.net

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    27

    Default

    Christina,

    Thank you for your follow-up questions.

    You asked how to know whether your daughter is dyslexic.
    This is precisely the right question to ask. Too many times parents as well as school district IEP team members make decisions that have long term consequences on assumptions, improper evaluations, and iffy information.
    Here is an example of iffy information and an assumption:
    You said in your question that you asked the school’s reading instructor about a specific evaluator, and the reading instructor responded by saying -
    “[b]ecause they focus on dyslexia they will say she is dyslexic."
    We could visit together for days on the implications of the reading instructor’s response to you. Instead, we can say –

    Some school district people have their biases and preconceived notions, and
    Some parents also have their biases and preconceived notions.

    For any decision we make about a student’s special education and case management, we must relentlessly try to find the truth. This principle applies to what the statement of present levels of academic achievement and functional performance includes in a child’s IEP as well as whether the IEP or an evaluation is factually true.
    One credible place to begin learning about dyslexia is the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Go to http://www.ncld.org/parents-child-di...g-for-dyslexia for a wealth of information that will help you begin making informed decisions.

    Even though you did not ask a question in your discussion about developmental trauma I think there is an implied question there. Stated simply, I think the implied question is -

    (1) What Can You Do About It?
    Find an advocate who is competent with Section 504. Find one that has had real life experiences with 504 and school age students. Find one that has had their nose bloodied a couple of times. When you find that advocate ask the advocate to educate you about what 504 can accomplish and what its limitations are. In my opinion, part of the responsibility of being an advocate for parents and children is teaching a parent advocacy skills so they can be their child’s best advocate.

    2. Diagnosis of developmental trauma
    Don’t guess about whether your daughter is diagnosable as having developmental trauma. Get a diagnosis from someone who is licensed to make that kind of diagnosis and is willing to put their license on the line to make a diagnosis. The school district will not pay any attention to your saying your daughter is suffering the effects of developmental trauma.

    3. Behaviors
    Either persuade the school district to have a comprehensive behavior analysis conducted by a board certified behavioral analyst (BCBA). Many school districts have one or more certified people on staff within the district. If you cannot persuade the school district to do a comprehensive behavior analysis, find a way to get an evaluation without any help from the school.
    Once you have a rock solid analysis, a behavior intervention plan then can be written and implemented by the school.
    For clarification: When school district’s talk about behaviors, they are talking about what a student does the school does not like. That is not the definition of behavior. I realize that you have said your daughter will resist an evaluation. I cannot advise you on that other than to suggest that you consult with your pediatrician.

    (4) Bullying and shunning
    Bullying and shunning can be silent. The trick is to detect whether passive bullying and shunning is happening. You know your daughter better than anyone. And again, a good behavior analysis by a BCBA will also help with your daughter’s controlling and bossy behaviors.

    (5) Time for a self-directed remedial reading program
    I cannot answer about how you will find time to do a remedial reading program at home. I don’t know what your family schedule is. From my experience with other families with a similar problem, they were able to pull it off. There are many self-directed remedial reading programs available. One or more of them might fit what your daughter and your time constraints.

    (6) How long will it take to remediate your daughter’s reading deficiencies?
    A reading program that will remediate your daughter’s reading difficulties will take time. Whether she is at grade-level in reading by the time she finishes this school year and she transfers to the 9th grade is probably not a reasonable expectation. Even so, she will still need how to learn to read well for the rest of her life.

    (7) ELL and the IDEA and Section 504
    A quick answer to whether a student in ELL is automatically not eligible for an IEP or Section 504 plan is no.
    ELL does not give your daughter a right to a free appropriate public education under either the IDEA or Section 504. It is not unusual for an ELL student to also have a disability and have an IEP or 504 plan.
    I hope this helps.

    Brice
    brice@shoreham.net

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thank you, Brice for all your time and input. You have been very helpful, and I appreciate it.
    sincerely, Chris




    Quote Originally Posted by Brice View Post
    Christina,

    Thank you for your follow-up questions.

    You asked how to know whether your daughter is dyslexic.
    This is precisely the right question to ask. Too many times parents as well as school district IEP team members make decisions that have long term consequences on assumptions, improper evaluations, and iffy information.
    Here is an example of iffy information and an assumption:
    You said in your question that you asked the school’s reading instructor about a specific evaluator, and the reading instructor responded by saying -
    “[b]ecause they focus on dyslexia they will say she is dyslexic."
    We could visit together for days on the implications of the reading instructor’s response to you. Instead, we can say –

    Some school district people have their biases and preconceived notions, and
    Some parents also have their biases and preconceived notions.

    For any decision we make about a student’s special education and case management, we must relentlessly try to find the truth. This principle applies to what the statement of present levels of academic achievement and functional performance includes in a child’s IEP as well as whether the IEP or an evaluation is factually true.
    One credible place to begin learning about dyslexia is the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Go to http://www.ncld.org/parents-child-di...g-for-dyslexia for a wealth of information that will help you begin making informed decisions.

    Even though you did not ask a question in your discussion about developmental trauma I think there is an implied question there. Stated simply, I think the implied question is -

    (1) What Can You Do About It?
    Find an advocate who is competent with Section 504. Find one that has had real life experiences with 504 and school age students. Find one that has had their nose bloodied a couple of times. When you find that advocate ask the advocate to educate you about what 504 can accomplish and what its limitations are. In my opinion, part of the responsibility of being an advocate for parents and children is teaching a parent advocacy skills so they can be their child’s best advocate.

    2. Diagnosis of developmental trauma
    Don’t guess about whether your daughter is diagnosable as having developmental trauma. Get a diagnosis from someone who is licensed to make that kind of diagnosis and is willing to put their license on the line to make a diagnosis. The school district will not pay any attention to your saying your daughter is suffering the effects of developmental trauma.

    3. Behaviors
    Either persuade the school district to have a comprehensive behavior analysis conducted by a board certified behavioral analyst (BCBA). Many school districts have one or more certified people on staff within the district. If you cannot persuade the school district to do a comprehensive behavior analysis, find a way to get an evaluation without any help from the school.
    Once you have a rock solid analysis, a behavior intervention plan then can be written and implemented by the school.
    For clarification: When school district’s talk about behaviors, they are talking about what a student does the school does not like. That is not the definition of behavior. I realize that you have said your daughter will resist an evaluation. I cannot advise you on that other than to suggest that you consult with your pediatrician.

    (4) Bullying and shunning
    Bullying and shunning can be silent. The trick is to detect whether passive bullying and shunning is happening. You know your daughter better than anyone. And again, a good behavior analysis by a BCBA will also help with your daughter’s controlling and bossy behaviors.

    (5) Time for a self-directed remedial reading program
    I cannot answer about how you will find time to do a remedial reading program at home. I don’t know what your family schedule is. From my experience with other families with a similar problem, they were able to pull it off. There are many self-directed remedial reading programs available. One or more of them might fit what your daughter and your time constraints.

    (6) How long will it take to remediate your daughter’s reading deficiencies?
    A reading program that will remediate your daughter’s reading difficulties will take time. Whether she is at grade-level in reading by the time she finishes this school year and she transfers to the 9th grade is probably not a reasonable expectation. Even so, she will still need how to learn to read well for the rest of her life.

    (7) ELL and the IDEA and Section 504
    A quick answer to whether a student in ELL is automatically not eligible for an IEP or Section 504 plan is no.
    ELL does not give your daughter a right to a free appropriate public education under either the IDEA or Section 504. It is not unusual for an ELL student to also have a disability and have an IEP or 504 plan.
    I hope this helps.

    Brice
    brice@shoreham.net

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