Many children with dyslexia will not be eligible for special education services – not even if a parent brings in a diagnostic report.
In that case, fight hard for classroom accommodations – and get the right type of help after school.
This parent did not do that – and regrets it.
Dyslexia runs in my family tree. My father, who is 60, can still remember being in second grade and having the teacher call him up to the front of the class to read out loud. The teacher would force him to stand there and “do it until you get it right” – despite him crying in front of the entire class.
I have a degree in Elementary Education, but we never had a single solitary course – not even a single lecture – on dyslexia.
Yet when my daughter struggled in kindergarten, her teacher suggested the possibility of dyslexia because:
- On DIBELS, she was not meeting benchmarks in nonsense word reading
- She had terrible spelling and could not retain her spelling words — not even the high frequency words like “some”
- She already had 2 years of speech therapy for R’s and L’s, but was not improving
- She constantly confused left and right
- And she still could not tie her shoes
At end of first grade, I asked the school to test her for a possible learning disability. The school said they wouldn’t test her until at least 3rd grade.
So during second grade, when she was not making progress in Tier 2 of RTI, I hired a highly qualified private professional to test her. She was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dyslexia.
But when I shared that report with the school psychologist, he stated that dyslexia does not exist, that Susan Barton’s website was not a valid resource, and we could not even get a 504 Plan because he felt our daughter did not need it. He claimed she displayed no difficulties and would prove to be a good student.
Her teachers and even the principal were at that meeting, and they went along with the psychologist’s assessment – leaving us to wonder if we really knew what we were talking about.
We were so confused that we decided to follow the school’s advice — and regret it.
Our daughter is now at the end of third grade. Despite another year of phonics instruction and more RTI, she still struggles with spelling, sounding out longer words, and cannot comprehend her science textbook when she reads it herself. (But she has no trouble comprehending it when I read it TO her.)
The school did eventually test her, but her scores were not low enough to qualify for Special Ed services. And her report card grades are not too bad. She gets low B’s or C’s.
We have shown our daughter’s diagnostic report to other dyslexia professionals and organizations, and they have all agreed that she definitely does have dyslexia.
So what do I do now?
One mother’s journey to help her son
by Debbie Copple
Shared with her prior written permission
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. Don’t worry. He just needs to work harder,” she reassured me.
My bright boy, who had eagerly waited for the day he could go to school to learn to read, had begun to tell me that reading was stupid, and school was stupid.
“Could it be dyslexia?” I asked my son’s first grade teacher. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He just needs to work harder,” was again the response that I received.
This was after he had become so frustrated one evening that he cried, “Reading is stupid. It makes my brain hurt,” and “I am stupid.”
I sought help for my son and was told that Vision Therapy was what he needed. Over $6,000 and 1 year later, he was even further behind. “Could it be dyslexia?” I asked his Vision Therapist. “No, it’s not dyslexia. He could do better, he just chooses not to,” she told me.
In second grade, Casey attended a public school. His teacher told me that he was reading on a Kindergarten level. I was shocked. “Could it be Dyslexia?” I asked the teacher and the reading specialist. “No,” was their reply.
Meanwhile, my bright boy was struggling, his self-esteem suffering, and he had behavior problems at school. Casey was heartbroken to see the U’s on his progress reports.
“Do you test for dyslexia?” I asked a psychologist. “Yes,” he told me. While waiting for the results, I searched the internet for information about dyslexia. I found a very knowledgeable woman, Susan Barton. She told me what areas of weakness (indicators of dyslexia) I should look for in his testing report.
When the psychologist shared the results, the weaknesses – the indicators – were there. I asked if my son had dyslexia and was told, “Dyslexia cannot be tested. Dyslexia is an all-inclusive term for learning disabilities.”
I stopped asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” I knew the answer. With God as my guide, I learned to tutor my son using an Orton-Gillingham based system, the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Casey’s grades quickly improved from U’s to A’s and B’s. His DIBELS scores improved from “High Risk” to “Above Average.” After only 4 months of tutoring, he was reading at a third grade level. Reading and spelling finally made sense.
Dyslexia is NOT determined by how great a parent you are, how much education you have, or how much money you have. Dyslexia does not discriminate.
Parents, you must listen to your gut instinct and listen to your child. Professionals can be wrong. They may have a big heart and a higher education degree, but they can still be wrong.
For professionals reading this (teachers, doctors, principals, reading specialists) my hope is that you will take the time to learn more about dyslexia, so that you too can spot the warning signs.
It is NOT my intention to discredit any of my son’s teachers, private schools, or public schools. My intention is to increase awareness. We need to do more to recognize and understand dyslexia.
Parents, if you have ever found yourself asking “Could it be Dyslexia?” the answer is “Yes, it could be.” Please do not wait another moment to get them help. It is their life, their future, their self-esteem.
Many schools use DIBELS for progress monitoring. But by the end of first grade, DIBELS only checks reading fluency – which means reading speed. But children with dyslexia, even after their reading skills have greatly improved, may never read as fast as the other kids.
And focusing solely on fluency can cause teachers to miss the big picture – as this mother shared in a recent email.
Our daughter is starting 4th grade. She is in Level 5 of the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
The school she attended last year was terrific. But we moved, and the 504 team at this new school has NO CLUE about dyslexia. It is so painful and frustrating to have to continually fight their ignorance.
We explained that she has been professionally diagnosed with dyslexia, and that due to our paying for the right type of private tutoring, her phonemic awareness and decoding skills are now above grade level. So is her reading comprehension.
But they are focused solely on her reading speed (fluency), which as you know, may never completely “normalize.” Who cares?
My daughter says that when she tries to read as fast as the teacher wants, she then has no idea what she read. So what’s the point?
On the state standards test at the end of last year, she scored ABOVE grade level in reading comprehension, science, and writing. And she scored AT grade level in math and in 4 of the 5 strands for reading. The only thing she scored low on is reading fluency.
Yet without our knowledge, this new school pulled her out of Chorus and sent her to the “reading intervention room.” My daughter said there were about 15 other kids in the room. Many could not read at all. They handed her crayons and told her to color a book cover.
After about 10 minutes, my daughter went to the teacher and asked her what they would be doing. The teacher said, “Testing kids.” My daughter replied, “I already was tested, and I should be in Chorus now.” The teacher insisted she had to stay in that room so that the teacher could account for all of the students.
She then handed my daughter a piece of paper, which she brought home. She was supposed to fill in the following blanks. “My name is _____. I like ______. I love ______. I feel ______. I need _____.” After showing it to me, she crumbled it up and cried. I cried, too.
She’s 11, her IQ is probably higher than the teacher, and she does not belong in that class – so we pulled her from it. The school totally disagrees with our decision and warned us, “If she tanks, we’ll be back at this table again.”
A parent recently sent me this email:
My daughter, Karen, is 8 years old and in third grade. She is full of life and so much fun. She makes friends easily and enjoys having a good time. But she is struggling in school.
She started struggling in Kindergarten. She had a tough time staying in her seat and was always in trouble for pestering others during nap time. She struggled with sight words and reading, and she missed the DIBELS benchmarks. But her teacher said Karen just needed to mature a little more and that she would be fine.
But in first grade, Karen was way behind in reading. She has always been a “social butterfly,” and she still had a hard time staying in her seat. So her teacher allowed her to get up move around a bit and then go back to work. That seemed to help.
Spelling tests were very tough for Karen. Reading comprehension tests were also tough because she couldn’t always read the questions. However, she could orally tell you all about the book. Her handwriting was poor, but legible.
In January, her first grade teacher suggested retention. But by the end of first grade, the teacher claimed Karen had caught up in reading. Karen was just a little immature, but she would grow out of it.
In second grade, Karen was about a semester behind in reading, and she sometimes swapped b’s for d’s. Her handwriting was (and still is) really hard to read at times. She did okay in math. But she often failed the spelling tests – even though we practiced every night and tried all sorts of things when practicing those spelling words.
This year, her third grade teacher knows all the “tricks.” Spelling tests are multiple choice. Karen has to circle the one that looks right, and she gets 95% or higher on that type of spelling test. But she cannot spell any of those words the following week.
Vocabulary tests are given with a word bank, so most weeks, Karen scores 85% or higher.
In math, she is allowed to use scratch paper and her fingers because she still has not memorized her adding and subtracting facts. Now they are starting multiplication. Yikes. Her class recently started to learn to tell time. Karen is struggling in that as well.
The school says Karen is at the 2.5 grade level in reading – but she should be at 3.4. Karen is doing better with being attentive in class, except during reading time. She loves to be read to, but she gets frustrated when she tries to read.
Her teacher doesn’t seem alarmed, but I have this feeling that something isn’t quite right.
Karen started cheering this year. She struggles to memorize the words and motions of the cheers. She often goes left when the group goes right, lifts her left hand when the group raises their right, etc.
She has a hard time memorizing Bible scriptures in her Bible classes. Scriptures that she memorized a week ago, she can no longer recite.
Do you think she might have dyslexia?
Many people are still not aware that dyslexia is inherited. It strongly runs in family trees.
That lack of awareness causes this:
After 3 years of trying to figure out my daughter’s learning challenges, I am now convinced that she is dyslexic.
I am sick to my stomach that although I knew my husband is dyslexic, I never made the connection. I did not know it is an inherited condition.
My very bright daughter will be entering 6th grade soon, reading 3 years below her grade level.
And it causes this:
I am dyslexic my father was dyslexic my older son is dyslexic. could my 9 yr old son be dyslexic.
we have been trying to get an IEP sence frist grade (he in 3rd now) we where told unless he has failing grades for 2 consexative years no IEP.
i cant help him with his school work.
im afraid thay are pushing him through school and he will end up an out of control teen — like me.
Parents, if you know dyslexia runs in your family tree, and your second or third grader has terrible spelling when writing sentences and stories, and is a slow inaccurate reader who cannot easily sound out unknown words, take action now.
I just found your website today. I am the mom of a second grader and I think he may be dyslexic because my son’s father, aunt, and grandmother are all dyslexic.
I questioned his kindergarten and first grade teachers about dyslexia. Each teacher assured me he was age appropriate in his learning.
But towards the middle of first grade, he scored below the average on the DIBELS test and qualified for reading intervention. I signed him up for it, thinking it would help.
I also worked with him all summer in an attempt to get him up to the same level as his classmates.
Despite that, his second grade teacher expressed concern about his reading, writing, and spelling on his progress report.
So I took him to a center for an assessment. He scored low on phonemic awareness and fluency, but very high on comprehension. He puzzled the assessor because even though he did not read the passage very accurately, he was able to answer the comprehension questions. He also scored high in listening comprehension.
Yet reading, spelling, and writing are so exhausting to my child that it is painful to watch. He wants to read, he is motivated to read, but he isn’t reading the words. He does seem to know some sight words but he mostly scans the page looking for clues and guesses at reading.
I am very interested in learning how to teach my child. My background is not in teaching, but I am more than willing to work hard, and I am very motivated.