Tag Archives: screening for dyslexia

The problem with RTI

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.

Emotional Disorder or Dyslexia?

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.

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