A question we received about testing a child. The real question is “how can we teach him to read?”
I am Orton-Gillingham/Project Read trained and tutor a fifth grade boy. I gave him the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test. His standard score was 85, age based percentile was 14-19, and grade equivalent was 2.7. He was given Reading Recovery in first grade and taught to “guess” when reading. This boy has average ability in math.
The mother wants more help with her son’s reading/language skills from the school. Last year he attended another school in the same district and the process for special education services was started. Now that this boy is in a different school the process seemed to have stopped. How should she request this help? Does she want the school to test him for special education services?
The big question is whether anyone will teach him how to read if he goes into special ed. Several factors work against students in special ed.
* Most special ed teachers are not trained in the research based methods of teaching children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, to read, write and spell. If the teachers received training, it is often superficial or they are working with children in K-3. Most schools of education do not teach aspiring teachers to use a particular method, nor do most teachers receive this training later from their school districts.
* After 3rd grade, the focus of schooling changes from teaching a child to read to the child reading to learn.
This parent needs to ask many questions before she decides whether to allow the school to put him into special ed. Once a child is in special ed, it is often difficult or impossible to get the child out.
- If the school didn’t teach him to read by the end of 3rd grade, who will teach this 5th grader? What are the teachers’ qualifications and training? What method are they trained to use?
- How will the school measure and monitor the child’s progress? How much progress will they view as sufficient? What will they do if he doesn’t make good progress?
- Has the child had a comprehensive psycho educational evaluation by a psychologist in the private sector who has expertise in learning disabilities including dyslexia?
- If this child did not learn to read when the school used Reading Recovery, this does not mean he has a disability. It means he didn’t learn to read because Reading Recovery is a flawed program that is not effective with many children.
- What would happen if this child had daily tutoring with an OG trained tutor? How long do you think it would take for him to get up to grade level since he has fallen about 2.5 years behind his peers? (The evaluator can probably answer some of those questions).
Bottom line: We have worked with hundreds of kids like the one you describe. If he was my child, and his only deficit was in reading, I would never allow him to go into special ed. I would mortgage the house, beg the grandparents, go into debt to get him tutoring by an expert or place him in a private program with other kids who learn like him.
Pete Wright has severe dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning disabilities. The public school staff always told his parents that he was “borderline mentally retarded” and (later) “emotionally disturbed.” His teachers advised his parents that they needed to lower their expectations for him.
His parents did not accept this advice. His mother searched for a specialist who could teach him. In the process, she learned about dyslexia, the Orton Gillingham method of teaching kids with dyslexia to read and write. Ultimately, she found found Diana Hanbury King, a top expert in remediating children with dyslexia during the 1950s. Pete had one-on-one tutoring with Diana King every day after school for two years. He also went to a residential program in the summer.
Because Pete received intensive remediation by an expert from age 8 through 10, he reads faster and writes more legibly than I do. During those years, his parents were just starting their family and careers. It was difficult for them to pay for his tutoring. His mother knew they had to find a way to do this. If Pete didn’t get this help when he was young, his future was not bright. They did what they needed to do.
I am not usually this outspoken in offering advice. But I have received so much correspondence from reading specialists (not special educators) who describe their feelings of sadness and despair when a child begins to receive typical special ed services because they know that child will never learn to read fluently.
Those messages led me to do research into what colleges of education teach students who are majoring in special education to do. In most cases, they aren’t learning to teach children to read.