Parents ask why I often state that private schools (such as Montessori, Waldorf, Christian, Catholic or Jewish schools) can be better places for children with dyslexia than public schools.
Private schools often do not know any more about dyslexia than public schools, but they are much more willing to provide free simple classroom accommodations — which are as critical as the right type of tutoring.
A parent of a child in a public school recently sent me a BCC of this email that she sent to her child’s teacher.
Dear Mrs. Smith:
It is 1:45 a.m. and I am not sleeping . . . again.
I am frustrated and hoping for your help.
I waited a few days since Lynn’s IEP meeting before writing this.
I do not want to come off as unreasonable or angry. But I cannot help but feel like the last 2-3 months of the school’s assessments were a massive exercise in futility. I came into the IEP meeting assuming that we were finally going to get Lynn some help and put some modifications and accommodations in place.
Instead . . . well, you were there. We simply restated what had already been established 2 years ago: Lynn is a bright little girl who does not qualify for special education help. I get that. I got that 2 years ago. My question is: what next?
I have spent countless hours and thousands of dollars getting Lynn officially diagnosed. I am paying to have her tutored after school by a Certified Barton tutor. I just need a 504 Plan put into place so we can get some simple free classroom accommodations.
I have been requesting that since the first day of school. It is now March. March !!!
I am more than willing to do my part. I will redouble my efforts to find support outside of school. But how do we get some classroom accommodations?
Compare that to this email from a parent whose child attends a private Christian school.
My son was formally diagnosed with moderate dyslexia in third grade — after a teacher at his private Christian school suggested dyslexia might be the cause of his struggles.
Timmy has hated school with a passion ever since he started Kindergarten. He would wake up every day crying, banging his pillow, and begging not to go to school, saying the work was “just too hard.”
Daily homework assignments went on with hours, and I mean hours, with temper tantrums, constant tears, anger and frustration beyond the roof as I am sure you can imagine.
Before school, Timmy’s personality had always been quiet, content and a deep thinker. You can imagine my horror to see his wonderful demeanor turn into such anger and frustration as each school season progressed.
He had all the early signs of dyslexia, but of course, we never knew what we were looking at. He went through school as this very angry, frustrated child, until finally, his third grade teacher recognized a very obvious problem, and led us to what he so desperately needed.
I am so thankful that he goes to a private school. Although legally, they do not have to provide accommodations or intervention, his school feels a moral obligation to provide both.
I am starting to see Timmy’s anger and frustration level drop as his reading and spelling is getting better, thanks to his Barton tutoring.
Homework time has become a million times better, thanks to the accommodations he is entitled to when needed.
His creativity is also flourishing. I am blown away by what he understands or creates out of his own observations.
He also has an amazing maturity well beyond his years, and his incredible insight to see and understand things is jaw dropping.
Parents, if your child’s public school refuses to provide accommodations, consider moving your child to a more flexible private school.
This is why Dyslexia Awareness Month is so important. Please share what you know about dyslexia with other parents — to prevent this:
I am just beginning to realize my son has dyslexia.
It saddens me that I have spent so many years trying to beat information into my son, fighting with him about why he did not understand, frustrated when he did not get it.
Year after year he would tell me, “Mom, I promise I’ll try harder,” yet his grades would still be D’s and F’s and me, of course, letting him know my disappointment.
I feel so very bad about some of the things I have said to him. I even fought with him about why it so hard for him to tie his shoes. “It’s so simple. Why don’t you get it?”
I want to warn other parents so they will understand what I did not. So they will avoid pushing their child to do things they just can’t do, to stop listening to others who claim your child is just being lazy, or who advise “If you take away his favorite sport, I bet he’ll change.”
What hurts me most is that I could see he was such a bright child, very athletic, very creative. Yet every evening, homework turned into fights with me saying things like, “Your brother gets it. Why can’t you?” His self-esteem was already at a low, and all I was doing was making it worse.
It took a huge fight between me and my son late last year, that had us both crying, when I asked him, “Tell me what it is that is so hard for you in class,” and he answered, “I can’t read the big words. I just can’t, and I feel stupid compared to the rest of the kids.” That started me doing an internet search for reading problems, which lead me to dyslexia, which led me to your website. He has almost every classic warning sign of dyslexia. It was as if you had a camera in our house.
I am now going to be the strongest advocate for my child. He is a caring, loving, wonderful soul who wears his heart on his sleeve. He does not deserve the emotional pain that my ignorance caused him.
Can you connect the dots . . . and see the cause and effect this has on our children?
First I received this email from a reading specialist:
In December I will graduate with a Masters of Education in Literacy and a reading specialist endorsement. Despite an otherwise excellent program, guess what I have not learned… how to teach students who struggle to learn to read.
But I have a dyslexic son, so I know the programs exist. Question is, will I be allowed to use them and actually help struggling students?
Then I received this email from a parent:
My son started struggling in reading in kindergarten. He worked with a Reading Specialist at school who used Reading Recovery with little or no lasting success.
He was promoted to first grade but was put in Tier 2 of RTI (Response to Intervention) at the beginning of first grade. We also hired a private tutor to work with him after school.
That is in addition to spending up to 3 hours a night on homework. He is the hardest working kid you will ever meet. He never gives up — despite only passing 2 spelling tests in his entire life.
He was diagnosed with dyslexia during the summer after first grade. I then did a foolish thing. I presented the results to the school and assumed they would take over from there and provide him with the right type of help.
But he is now in third grade, and despite having a 504 Plan in place, he is still reading at a first grade level (even after spending last summer going to a Sylvan center). Yet he is very bright. He gets an A in science and social studies because the tests are read to him.
My son is getting frustrated, and he is tired of reading the “babyish” books.
The teachers in our schools need to be educated on how to teach dyslexic children to read — and so do I.