Can I Get the School to Provide an Appropriate Program?
son Paul began special education in second grade. He is now in fifth grade.
When he entered special education, his reading level was 1.3.
After 30 months of special education, his reading level is 2.3.
He is falling
further behind, not closing the gap.
done a great deal of research about the components an appropriate reading
program for learning disabled children. I requested that the school
use a program that is structured, systematic, sequential, repetitive
and phonologically based.
The school insists that Paul’s strengths are “reading in context” and
“employing a variety of different strategies to decode words” (i.e. picture
cues, context cues) and have focused on this. Despite this, test scores
show that Paul is falling further behind.
education supervisor attended the last IEP meeting because I refused to
sign the IEP. She said our school district recently purchased the
Wilson Reading System
for all resource classes in our district. Wilson is a great system
– it’s based on Orton-Gillingham principles of remediating dyslexic children.
I was encouraged
by this - until I discovered that the resource room teacher knew little
about the Wilson program. The
IEP says Paul will receive 45 minutes of “pull out instruction” a day.
His teacher says she will use the Wilson Reading System twice a week.
On the other three days, she will put him in a reading group where she
teaches “alternate reading strategies.”
When I asked that Paul receive Wilson Reading System instruction five
days a week, the principal said they were “trying to meet me half way.”
She said I was “not entitled to dictate the method they chose to use to
remediate my son.”
additional time to review the IEP and did not sign it. We agreed to meet
again in two weeks. Should I sign the IEP and be grateful for two days
of Wilson? I am tired of fighting with them. I feel like giving
up but my son is too important.
* * * * *
* * *
right – your son is too important. You can’t give up.
description, it does sound like your son has dyslexia. After 2.5 years
of special education, he made 1.0 year of progress in reading. The fact
that he made so little progress is evidence that the reading method being
used with him is not working.
culture often prevents school staff from realizing that sometimes,
parents really do know what their children need.
Your Game Plan
Private Sector Evaluation
To get your son the help he needs, you need to have an independent expert
evaluate your child. The evaluator should attend the IEP meeting to explain
that your child needs a reading program that is “structured, systematic,
sequential, repetitive and phonologically based,” and needs to be taught
be a teacher who is trained in this method. Most IEP teams give outside
experts credit for knowing what children need.
Your independent expert should be a child psychologist or educational
diagnostician who specializes in reading disorders. To find an expert
who understands the educational needs of children with dyslexia and other
language learning disabilities, go to our Reading
Library and scroll down to the Database
of Service Providers.
Strategy: Use IDEA
IDEA-97 places schools under increased pressure to use educational programs
that work, i.e., that have a track record of success. “What works” for
dyslexic children are research-based reading programs based on Orton-Gillingham
principles. Learn more about research-based
Use No Child Left Behind
You can also
use No Child Left Behind:
"A primary focus of this law is the requirement that school districts
and individual schools use effective research-based reading remediation
programs so all children are reading at grade level by the end of third
grade. The law authorizes funds 'to provide assistance to State educational
agencies and local educational agencies in establishing reading programs
for students in kindergarten through grade 3 that are based on scientifically
based reading research, to ensure that every student can read at grade
level or above no later than the end of grade 3.' (20 U.S.C.§ 6361)"
(page 73, Wrightslaw:
No Child Left Behind)
Print several copies of 4
Great Definitions about Reading in No Child Left Behind and give them
to members of your child's IEP team.
Strategy: Dealing with Resistance
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Unfortunately, your experience with the resistant teacher is not unusual.
If your son’s teacher was trained in whole language, she may not know
how to do anything else. It’s better that you know this.
You need to write a polite letter that documents the resistance you encountered
from the teacher and your attempts to resolve these problems. When you
put your concerns in writing, this often causes school administrators
to realize that they have a serious problem and must take steps to deal
with it. Wrightslaw:
From Emotions to Advocacy has lots of sample letters that you can
adopt to your circumstances.
Visit the Advocacy
Bookstore on our web site. We asked attorneys, educators, and advocates
to recommend their favorite books for the Bookstore. Here are some recommendations
about reading, dyslexia and learning disabilities:
Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early
Years by Susan Hall, Louisa Moats, and Reid Lyon
a Struggling Reader by Susan Hall and Louisa Moats
Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Overcoming Reading
Problems at Any Level by M.D. Sally Shaywitz (Author)
to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers by Louisa Cook Moats
Theory & Practice of Remedial Instruction by Diana Brewster
Clark and Johanna Kellogg Uhry
Dyslexic Scholar by Kathleen Nosek.
find other good books about education in the Effective
Education section of our bookstore.
* * * * *
* * * * * * * * * *
your advice. I contacted organizations that could recommend evaluators
who understand the needs of dyslexic children. Paul
was screened at a school in Seattle that uses the Slingerland Method
of Instruction. Slingerland is one of the organizations I called
about recommendations for an independent evaluation.
I also called
every resource teacher in our district to find out what methods they use
to teach dyslexic children. Most of them use different programs.
It is up to the teacher to decide what method to use or whether to use
any curriculum at all.
I had some
success. One school uses Slingerland for their resource students.
Another school uses the Wilson Reading System. I will try to move
my son to another school if I cannot resolve the IEP issue.
I have done
a great deal of reading from your web site. I
am trying to maintain a good paper trail. I made a chart
of my son’s progress based on the test results on the Woodcock-Johnson
Psycho-Educational Battery-Revised for the past three years. I have kept
copies of all paper work sent to the school by me and received from the
I hope we
will be able to resolve these issues, but I want to be prepared if we