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?
Schools often tell parents of struggling students to wait, as this parent shared:
I need some help to decide what to do for my eight year old son. He is finishing second grade, but he has never read at grade level.
The principal wanted him to repeat first grade, but my husband and I refused, so he was sent to second grade. He has worked with the reading specialist one-on-one for two years with no improvement.
I asked his teacher last year if he could be dyslexic. She told me that was not possible. She claimed he just had a behavior issue. I disagree and feel that he lost a year because of her poor attitude.
He was diagnosed with visual acuity issues and Irlen Syndrome, but after eight months with no improvement and horrible migraines, we decided to involve our pediatrician. He sent us to a pediatric ophthalmologist at a university who said my son does NOT have a vision problem it all. His said my son has dyslexia, and he felt my son’s headaches were caused by the tension and stress of not being able to do the work.
Yet he recommended we wait until he is 9 to be tested by the school because the gap will be greater.
His school has promised they will test him for Special Ed services next year.
The problem is I don’t want the gap to get any larger. I want to help him now!
What should I do?
If you know or suspect your child has dyslexia, waiting is the worst thing you can do – because it will not go away. Your child will only get further and further behind.
Every parent who has contacted me during the past 20 years wished they had started providing the right type of tutoring sooner.
So do not wait for the school to test him. Start tutoring him now using the Barton Reading & Spelling System or any other good Orton-Gillingham based system. Tutor him every day during the summer – while the pressure of school, homework, and tests is gone. You will be amazed how much his skills can improve with daily tutoring.
And if you think that qualifying for special ed services is the answer, read on.
A school psychologist shared:
From what I see, the biggest hurdle for these students is what happens AFTER the students are placed in special ed.
This parent shared:
I have a 12 year old son who is in 6th grade.
He attended a private Christian school until 4th grade. They noticed his reading struggles in second grade and put him in a reading lab. It was worthless.
We got his eyes checked, and the doctor said he had a tracking problem. We spent more than $ 2,000 on vision therapy and eye exercises that did not help with his reading.
He has gotten private tutoring, speech therapy, and gone to a number of tutoring centers. We have spent countless amounts of money on him. Everyone told us he would either grow out of it, or he would learn to compensate.
In 4th grade, we moved him to a public school, hoping to get more services for him. He did qualify for special education due to his reading. We thought we finally had the answer.
Wrong. He is now in 6th grade, yet he is still reading at a 2nd grade level and is a horrible speller.
They work with him one-on-one in the resource room, and they allow him to listen to books so he can keep up with what his classmates are reading. But he still is not learning how to read, write, or spell. I am soooooo frustrated.
I have cried. I have been angry. I have been humbled. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. God finally gave me peace about not pushing him so much and not being too hard on him. But he is not getting any better. He studies the weekly spelling list for hours and hours, yet he forgets the words by the following week.
Yet he gets A’s and B’s on his report cards, which amazes me. Our public education system has become a joke. He is in 6th grade and can’t read or write anywhere near grade level, yet they are giving him A’s and B’s.
There must be so many other children who are also slipping through the cracks, and so many parents at a loss.
I would like to start tutoring him using the Barton System, but he absolutely refuses to try one more program or tutor – because in the past, they have all done more damage than good.
So, parents, get your child the right type of tutoring yourself – as early as possible. It makes a huge difference, as this parent shared:
Dear Mrs. Barton:
Thank you so much for helping us help our daughter. We learned about Learning Ally through you. We learned about classroom accommodations through you. And we found a great Barton tutor through you.
It has been a joy to watch my daughter grow from being a reluctant 3rd grader to an engaged 4th grader. She still has a lot of work with her tutor, and we will have many other challenges, but knowing there are resources that we can use to help her be successful is an unbelievable comfort.
And this parent shared:
Susan, I have to thank you for all you do. The support and knowledge you have shared has helped me with my daughter in so many ways.
Two years ago (after we gave up on the school) we had her tested privately and discovered she has dyslexia and ADD. That’s why she would never read out loud in class, or even to us.
That was then…..
Yesterday (after two years of Barton tutoring and appropriate accommodations) she stood in front of the entire school …classmates, teachers and parents … and delivered an amazing (and confident) speech about why she should be SCA president.
She WON the election!
I knew she was special and had many gifts, but yesterday she proved it to herself and her school. She said “challenges make you stronger and wiser” (which is what her speech was about).
My husband and I sat back last night thinking of the last two years, and we realized how hard she has worked…but she never gave up.
Kids with dyslexia are tough. I am not sure I could do what she has done, but I am glad I was there to encourage her along the way.
Thank you for all your help and guidance. We couldn’t have done it without your support!
Many children with dyslexia will not qualify for special education services during their early school years. But these days, they almost always get put into Tier 2 or Tier 3 of RTI.
One problem with RTI is how they measure “improvement,” as this mother shares:
I am the mother of an 9 year old boy. I want him tested for dyslexia. But the school says they don’t do dyslexia testing.
Instead, they gave him a test to determine if he needed special education services. But he passed the assessments and the IQ part, so they dropped it. They concluded he was just immature for his age and recommended retaining him, which we did.
Yet he still reads below grade level. At the beginning of his second time through 2nd grade, he was reading at a beginning first grade level. We are now at the end of the year, and his reading has only improve by 3 months — to a middle of first grade level.
To me, he should have improved more, given that he has had an entire extra year of PALS plus Tier 2 of RTI. Yet the school claims because he improved, he will not continue to get RTI next year.
Parents, never accept “some” improvement as good enough. If your child is not making more than one year of gain in one year of intervention, the gap is not closing. It’s getting bigger.
Another problem with RTI is that the right intervention is stopped too soon — before a student has finished the intervention program, as happened to this student:
I have been concerned about my son since kindergarten, and I have fought every year to have the school test him for a possible learning disability or dyslexia.
The school finally tested him in second grade, and although it showed some struggles, they said his scores were not bad enough to classify him as having a learning disability. Yet he struggled significantly with reading (he could not sound out any real or nonsense words — and messed up the vowels), read very slowly, and had terrible spelling.
His handwriting was so poor that I hired a private OT to work with him during third grade.
In fourth grade, he was put into Tier 2 of their RTI program. He began to get small group instruction using the Wilson Reading System, which is when he finally began to enjoy reading. Yet at the end of the year, because he had improved, he no longer qualified for RTI.
Our son is now 11 and in the middle of 6th grade at a junior high school. Although he will read if we push him hard, he refuses to read out loud any more (and he does have to read a passage several times before he comprehends it), his spelling continues to be horrible (even the simple high frequency words), and he struggles in math because he still does not know his multiplication tables.
Despite that, believe it or not, he has mostly B’s and A’s on his report card.
Yet he now resists all attempts to help him, and he has emotionally shut down.
We fear that as the demands of school increase, he will not be able to survive the challenges.
Parents, if you know or suspect your child has dyslexia but their school is not (or is no longer) providing the right type of intervention, then get it for them after school . . . by either hiring a tutor who uses an Orton-Gillingham based system or by getting the Barton Reading & Spelling System and tutoring your own child.
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.
Parents often don’t believe me when I tell them that most school psychologists have had no training in dyslexia. But I get emails like this every day:
From a school psychologist in New York:
I would LOVE to attend your Screening for Dyslexia conference.
Our number one question during RTI meetings is if there is a possibility a child might have dyslexia. This topic is vague to me even after years of reading and doing independent research.
Yet as the “expert” at these meetings, I struggle with remediation techniques that may work after I screen a student and determine deficits.
Or from this school psychologist in Colorado:
I am a school psychologist in Colorado. I agree to your notion that we have no specialty in diagnosing dyslexia, however the prevalence of parents’ requests seems to grow and grow. Unfortunately, when parents cannot afford outside assistance, we are the only ones that are left.
I have been to several workshops, symposiums, etc, yet do not feel completely educated on the subject. Do you recommend any books or specific journals on the topic? How about books that may target age groups lower than 8 years old in looking at dyslexia?
That lack of knowledge causes this:
My son just finished second grade and is dyslexic. I am sure of it. His father is dyslexic, and his father’s father is dyslexic. He has almost every single warning sign listed on your website and in many of the books that I have read.
Yet when he qualified for special education services in May, they classified him as having an “Emotional Disorder” — even though his reading scores were really, really low. The school considers “average” anything from the 16th percentile to the 85th percentile, and his reading score was exactly at the 16th percentile.
The school psychologist told me that my son’s anxiety and depression were “off the charts” and that he CAN read — but his anxiety gets in the way and he becomes “too stressed out” to read.
When I tried to explain that he was most likely anxious and depressed because he CANNOT read, the psychologist just flippantly said, “So it’s one of those which came first things — the chicken or the egg.”
They never looked at his spelling (which is horrible, with all of the classic dyslexic spelling mistakes) or asked him to write anything (he HATES to write, even a few sentences).
His IEP only lists services for emotional issues (meet with the counselor once a week). What do I do? Just let him flounder?
He won’t be able to read the board or any of the books used in third grade. Do I just let him founder with no accommodations? That seems so cruel.
He already hates himself for being “stupid and different” — his words, not mine.