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Fifth grader is reading at 2.7 grade level. Should he be tested for Special Ed?

by Pam Wright

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 are working against him in special ed.

* Most special ed teachers are not trained to teach children to read. If they have training, it is superficial or they are working in K-3. The colleges that turn out special ed teachers do not teach them any particular method, nor do most teachers get training later from their school district.

* 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, is almost impossible to get the child out.

If the school didn’t teach him to read by the end of 3rd grade, who will teach him now? What are their qualifications and training? What method will they use? How will the school measure and monitor his progress? How much progress will they view as sufficient? What will they do if he doesn’t make good progress?

Has he had a comprehensive psycho educational evaluation by a psychologist in the private sector who has expertise in learning disabilities including dyslexia?

If he didn’t learn to read when the school used Reading Recovery, that doesn’t mean he has a disability. It means he didn’t learn to read because many children who are not disabled don’t learn to read with RR.

What would happen if he 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 is now about 2.5 years behind? (The evaluator can probably answer some of those questions).

Bottom line: We have worked with thousands of youngsters 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 like him.

Pete has severe dyslexia, dysgraphia, and several other learning disabilities. The public school staff always told his parents that he “wasn’t college material” and that they needed to lower their expectations for him.

His parents did not accept this. They searched for a specialist who could work with him and found Diana Hanbury King. Diana King was the top expert in remediating children with dyslexia in the early 1950s and later founded the Kildonan School in Amenia NY. Pete had one-on-one tutoring with her every day after school for two years. He also
went to a residential program in the summer. Because he received that intensive help when he was young, he reads faster writes more legibly than I do. At that time, his parents were young, just starting their family and careers. It was difficult for them to pay
for this tutoring but they knew they had to find a way do it. If they didn’t, Pete’s future was not good. So 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 tell me how sad they are when a child goes into special ed because they know that child will never learn to read.

Those messages prompted me to do some research into what special educators are taught to do – and it isn’t teaching children to read.


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118 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tracy 01/11/15 at 6:26 pm

    What a horrible interpretation of SPED and of SPED teachers. I have my Master’s in SPED and I was taught explicitly how to teach reading. That’s what we do! We teach basic skills. If there are SPED teachers out there that don’t then shame on the universities that allowed them to graduate. I have to admit, that when I get a student teacher they are often times not prepared at all and when that is expressed to college mentors, nothing is done. (Maybe that’s why I haven’t had any for a long time.)
    As far as never getting your kid out of SPED. That’s ridiculous. The parent makes that decision and can do so at any time.
    Our goal is not to label kids, we should be trying every intervention possible before we place a student in the SPED program. Personally, I know some incredible SPED teachers, so don’t throw us all under the bus.

  • 2 Maria 01/08/15 at 5:23 pm

    My child is in 6th grade and he was overdosed by the school district 2 times his adhd medicine

  • 3 Bil 12/27/14 at 12:00 pm

    Just read your 2008 answer to a parent who asked about having a child evaluated for special ed. Yes, as some people responded, your blanket criticism of special ed teachers is a tad unfair, but I’ve worked with the families of dyslexics for 16 years, and almost all who have come to the ExWyZee Remedial Reading Program were, or had been, in special ed, and those kids’ conditions were consistent with your remarks. eg: All, no exception, had deficits in Decoding By Parts of multi-syllable words. Further, I did some demonstration tutoring in a charter school for several months. It was difficult to hold my tongue when seeing a college elementary ed student, or a teacher’s aid, coaching a student to SOUND OUT the word “mastodon.” Bill

  • 4 Lori 12/21/14 at 12:29 pm

    My son is in 6th grade and is dyslexic. He is in special ed. classes and he hates it. What I have seen so far especially with the special ed. teacher. She picks on him. Uses him as an example in the front of the class. Have talked to counselors, teachers, and even the principal. Getting ready to go to the board. I agree, since in middle school, I am not pleased with the system. I cannot afford a tutor. I am going to try to tutor him myself, I fear if he does not get confidence and positiveness from the school system he is going to end up dropping out of school.

  • 5 alison 12/14/14 at 12:43 am

    I am a middle school RS teacher with 1-6th grade readers in my classes. I try desperately to find the time to teach them to read, and without a reading program…it’s a shame they got this far–I have my aide teach them phonics daily and focus on reading the most with them,…any advice is helpful, because they are my responsibility and I want to do right by them…

  • 6 Kelly 12/02/14 at 11:04 pm

    In my experience as both a regular ed teacher and a parent of a special education child……special ed is BABYSITTING!

  • 7 RAMSHEEDA 12/01/14 at 4:03 am

    i am so happy to read all these matters that happens to special kids.
    i have a question
    ie , i have a student in my class of age 11 whose IQ is only 58% and a mild MR . I WANT TO KNOW HOW CAN I HELP HIM AS A TEACHER ?

  • 8 Terry 10/14/14 at 7:19 am

    This has been a rough year. I have a group of 8th grade students whose math skills are between 2nd-4th grade and reading skills between the 2nd and 5th grade. I am unsure what to do at this point. They do not know how to add, subtract, multiply or divide with confidence so we are taking two weeks “off” to learn multiplication facts.

  • 9 Kate 10/08/14 at 12:19 pm

    I have a 5th grader who reads between 2nd and 3rd. I meet with him four or five times a week and it’s a painful experience, for both of us. I’m at a loss beyond what I’ve already done, the usual sounding out words, sight words, reading aloud, reading silently. Will this student ever progress? And how can I help him to make progress?

  • 10 Elizabeth 09/21/14 at 3:34 pm

    Studies have shown parents who don’t read produce children who can’t or don’t read. Children don’t learn the love of reading in school, they learn it at home. School offers skills and help in the process but telling a child how important reading is, is a poor substitute for showing them. If you enjoy reading your child in most cases will too. That is not to say that some kids with LDs won’t struggle with reading, just that if we want to show kids the joy of reading we need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Even kids who struggle will be encouraged to want to keep trying if we prioritize reading at home. I read aloud to our kids long after they were old enough to read alone, I loved it and so did they. They are all readers now although some more so than others, but they all can read on level.

  • 11 Barb 07/23/14 at 4:07 pm

    The issue is that there is such a huge variance in the training received by both reading teachers and learning specialists. Both MAY be very capable of teaching a child with a print disability. But not always. We went through multiple rounds of school testing, worked extensively with the school reading specialist, learning specialist and speech pathologist. I questioned dyslexia and none of them thought it was a concern. Finally went to an outside testing center who tested and pointed to his non-existent phonemic awareness score and confirmed exactly what we had seen but didn’t understand — that, despite normal to high scores in many areas, he had almost no ability to segment words into phonemes. His only true learning issue apparently is dyslexia. We’re currently remediating privately with Orton Gillingham.

  • 12 Nan 07/01/14 at 12:52 pm

    Pam, you are lumping all Sp.Ed. teachers into a “can’t teach reading” category, which is totally not fair! I am a middle school teacher in a rural California community & I teach the Susan Barton Reading & Spelling Program to our Sp. Ed. & school-based students. This program has been highly successful for our students. I also disagree with the “once in Sp.Ed., always in Sp.Ed.” remark. It is our duty to find the appropriate placement for all our students throughout their learning experience. It is my goal to mainstream as many of my Sp.Ed. students, as possible, by 8th grade. This does take administrative & staff support, with much collaboration by everyone. One foot out the Sp.Ed. door!

    Another goal is creating a confident student (understanding their difficulties, as well as their strengths) so they can be their own advocate for life.

  • 13 ErinHanna 06/30/14 at 10:26 am

    Such a shame that you have not worked with competent Sp.Ed. teachers. They do exist and do have alternative prescriptive methods to help students read. For a child who needs help getting through public school, especially with the inappropriate testing that is going on and upon which graduation depends; Sp. Ed. is a way to get support anonymously and free. Some parents don’t have a house to mortgage.

  • 14 Kelly 05/02/14 at 2:54 pm

    Sharla I find what Pam is stating to be true. In my state certain schools are doing a pilot project. Only certain cities were selected for this and teachers are being trained. There was a law that just passed in Ohio for this. So yes she is right. It’s the universities that are not training teachers properly to acknowledge or know what and/or how to teach a dyslexic child. Or what tests need tp be administered to find out if the child is dyslexic.

  • 15 Sharla 04/05/14 at 7:20 pm

    Pam, I have been a special educator for many years and have had a great deal of success with teaching reading to my students. Obviously, your research was completed in the wrong areas. I am now working at the university teaching students how to teach reading!

  • 16 Vickie 03/12/14 at 9:25 pm

    Some offs are both… The reading specialists Nd the sped teacher
    And I agree they never let a good sped teacher out to help reg. ed. The demand is too great and and sped teachers are greatly under- appreciated as well as the numbers of students grow larger and larger every year!!

  • 17 Jessica 12/13/13 at 1:28 am

    A standard score of 85, is considered low average. If he is truly 2.5 years behind in reading, then that score should be much lower. Something does not sound right to me. If the process was started before he left, then it does not stop because he goes to a new school. They need to continue with the process and pick up where the old school left off. That actually happened with one of my students this school year and I contacted the new school and informed them where I was at in the process of testing.

  • 18 SadieMae 12/12/13 at 7:22 pm

    My son has an IEP and in the Resource Room for most subjects including reading and decoding. I pay for tutoring by a 13 year trained teacher of Orton-Gillingham. He goes 2x wk. He has only made progress with the Orton-Gillingham tutor. He is in 5th grade and testing at 2nd grade reading level despite all this help which began 1st grade. He has been tested by the school and independently by a Neuropsychologist. His diagnosis said normal IQ with delays in Language and Speech. He has what appears to be dyslexia and ADHD.( ADHD is controlled with meds.) He’s getting the help he needs from the school, tutor, and right program. He’s still really struggling. Next year is Middle School and I have no idea how he will survive the amount of reading, memorizing, and math. I’m unsure what to do next.

  • 19 Morning 07/10/12 at 10:41 am

    GiGi Abd Sharon L,
    I wish we could sit down for lunch and talk about our experiences. I, like Sharon L, was able to get FAPE for my child who is now an older dyslexic student. It was not easy as I did not initially know the law years ago. My child is now in middle school. I have found that collaboration is better than screaming the law at the school officials. GIGi, I know what your school is doing–they have filled the spots for the program and your son does not have a spot. Ask them for their qualifying guidelines and the data that shows that your son does or does not qualify. Schools must provide FAPE but you must use Wrightslaw resources to get such for your son in a way that builds collaboration. Sharon, like you, I had to educate the district and find certain resources for them to pay for to provide FAPE.

  • 20 Sharon L. 06/09/12 at 10:36 am

    GIGI – First of all I never heard of anyone not qualifying for Wilson reading. It is not a program that you test into. It is another way of teaching people how to read along with many other methods like Alphabetic Phonics, etc. The school is obligated by law (FAPE) to teach your son to read. Whatever methodology that is required to do that must be done & if the school does not have someone that can teach your son effectively they must find someone. My son has dyslexia. Wilson was used for awhile & then he did well on Alphabetic Phonics. The school did not have a person trained in these methodologies so we found a certified tutor in our area through the international dyslexia web site & the school paid for transportation and 5 hours of tutoring per week.

  • 21 GIGI 06/08/12 at 8:57 pm

    My 7th grade son has been in resource room special ed since 3rd grade. He was just tested. Reading on a 5th grade level. In 3rd grade I was told he needed wilson but the schoool’s requirements to get into the program were so strict he wouldn’t qualify. 1. Can they do that or are there standard requirements that all schools must follow? 2. If he needs a program that they do not offer, are they required to pay for it? 3. How far behind does he have to be to get a research based program? We live in NY. He is 12, has ADHD and auditory processing deficits.

  • 22 Morning 05/29/12 at 7:58 pm

    Wow….you are doing a great service to your students. How do you fight the system? I feel, as a parent, I am a change agent via my child. When I question IDEA, have the district enroll kids in bookshre, or even listen when I talk about best practices –then I know I am making a difference. I cannot change a whole system but I have made more staff members aware of my child’s needs and as a result they advocate for other kids. I cannot fight the system, but I can advocate for my child and his rights unde IDEA.

  • 23 Marilyn 05/29/12 at 11:59 am

    I am a special educator with 30 years experience. I teach in a Resource Room setting. I use an Orton-Gillingham based reading program (Barton Reading & Spelling System) with my students. However, administration is not always in agreement
    that I should meet with my students 1:1 because it is not the “best use of my time.” How do you fight the system?

  • 24 Jessica 05/24/12 at 5:09 pm

    I totally agree with this article. We had my son privately tested at the beginning of 2nd grade, after a year in reading recovery with no improvement. The neuropsych evaluation revealed dyslexia. We finally got an IEP (though we still have not signed it, because it’s no good). We could quickly see that the sped teacher (though well intentioned) didn’t have a clue what she was doing, and the school refused 1 on 1 help – instead they have him in a group of 4 children, for a half hour 5 days a week. We got so fed up fighting the school, that we got a private tutor from Landmark School (a school for dyslexic children) to tutor him 2 days a week. It has been expensive, but worth it. Fortunately, my son is making incredible improvements, we are so impressed with our tutor! Unfortunately, our school is taking all the credit.

  • 25 Morning 05/13/12 at 9:32 pm

    Re: Teacher Training – I think some teachers are feeling attacked reading this blog. The truth is that many of the college curriculums for teacher training has little to do with teaching kids to read–the data and research on this is very clear, please review it for your state. Do research!! Also, teachers are not getting the instructional support necessary for them to teach struggling readers. I warn parents with older dyslesic kids to carefully monitor to ensure that the expectations are kept high for your child during the middle and high school years. Carefully monitor each IEP goal and know that many bright LD kids are walking across the high school graduation stage with 2nd grade reading levels. Many parents are placing their kids in private schools that specialize in LDs that are in New England.

  • 26 Deb 03/22/12 at 1:22 pm

    Debbie and Paula your comments are thought provoking and help us parents understand that indeed there are teachers that are trained and capable of teaching children symptomatic of dyslexia. If I may add on, there are many cases where children are not getting the appropriate remediation and parents must ‘push’ or often we feel ‘fight to get the correct instruction. I speak on behalf of my son, who was pulled out for 240 hours of special instruction, his second year in kindergarten and yet was still severely behind his grade mates in regards to literacy. After tutoring with a OG, research tested program, he is now surpassing the school’s expectations and with some literary assessments – above average. Two years and plenty of resources were lost. The emotional toll is heartwrenching. My son’s story is not unique or rare.

  • 27 Debbie 03/22/12 at 12:27 am

    This is the biggest bunch of bull I have ever read. As a special ed teacher, I can not tell you how many kids I have taught to read. My children love coming to me because for once they are beginning to feel good about themselves. I use systematic approaches to reading that include…read naturally, explode the code, Edmark and Language. As to getting out, why wouldn’t I want them returned to general education? How ridiculous! I guess it is better to call your kids stupid, rather than special. You think that because they sit in general education that nothing is wrong. Poor kids…I feel so sorry for them.

  • 28 Paula 03/02/12 at 1:56 pm

    WOW! The comment about colleges NOT training their students who are going to be Special Education teachers in the methods of teaching a child to read! REALLY!?? I think you missed the mark on that one. I have been teaching Special Education for 22 years. I can honestly tell you that I have taught numerous children to not only “word call”- read the words but also to comprehend what those words mean in context. So, I am shocked that you feel that way! I, however, would never have told a parent that their child was not college material just because they have dyslexia, dysgraphia or other learning issues. As a matter of fact, I tell them to keep working hard and it will pay off in the end. I guess it depends on who you are as a teacher. So, maybe you should be more careful about “generalizing” all of us into the category of a few.

  • 29 Vickie 02/22/12 at 11:08 pm

    I am certified as sped, reading specialist and ESL
    I want out of sped to teach regular eduction students but most districts will not let a good special ed teacher out of sped!! And the numbers keep going up along with the behavioral challenges of the students!

  • 30 Sharon L. 02/05/12 at 4:13 pm

    Lori – You say you and your staff are “trained” in ortin gillingham and wilson”. What do you mean by “trained”? How much training do you and the others have? This is a concern by parents seeking reading success for their children. I have 3 boys who all had various degrees of reading problems. I have dealt with 3 different school districts. They were not wilson trained or any other specialized reading program. We had to seek outside professional tutoring for our sons which the school paid for since they could not provide it. I believe it would be a better use of tax dollars to train in-house staff than to pay more money for an outside tutor. How did this get started at your school? It sounds like you have an exceptional situation?

  • 31 Sharon L. 02/05/12 at 3:56 pm

    Deb You are welcome and good luck.

  • 32 Lori 02/04/12 at 4:43 pm

    I completely disagree with your statement that special educators are not trained to teach reading. I am a special educator and teach mostly 4th and 5th grade students through inclusion and resource. I am trained in teaching using the orton gillingham approach as well as wilson reading. Our entire special education staff from k all the way through high school is wilson trained. I do agree that once a child is in a grade higher than 3rd grade and is behind in reading, it is very difficult to catch up but it can and has been done at our school with collaboration between regular educators and special educators. Truth is…blanket statements about all special education teachers, programs, and students with disabilities should not be made.

  • 33 SusanB 02/02/12 at 8:08 pm

    Where have we been? In the trenches of special education for our own children & children of others. As an advocate for my own children & for families of other children with disabilities, I have worked with some really great educators, who do “get it” & know how to teach reading, however, unfortunately they are few & far in between. I am always disheartened when I speak with a teacher responsible for teaching reading (special ed & regular ed) who do not know the difference between phonemic awareness & phonics. It is not their faults, the universities where they received their post secondary education did not give them the tools they need in order to help many kids. Some good reading, anything by Louise Moats and the report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, “What Education Schools Aren’t Teaching about Reading.”

  • 34 Deb 02/01/12 at 11:21 pm

    Sharon L. – thank you for your response it means a great deal. I am more than excited to have my son in this free program funded by a grant. I will continue to work with the school, administration and the board for future help and remediation that is less myopic. I am also pushing through via ‘the community’ and our legislators. The story should and needs to be heard. Thanks!

  • 35 Laurie 02/01/12 at 7:45 am

    It is NOT “Once a child is in special ed, is almost impossible to get the child out.” Are you kidding me? All the parent has to do is say no. Take my child out.
    And, I resent your comment that “Most special ed teachers are not trained to teach children to read. If they have training, it is superficial or they are working in K-3. ” Again, are you kidding me??? where have YOU been these past few years?

  • 36 Sharon L. 01/31/12 at 4:18 pm

    Deb – Alphabetic Phonics was the only program that worked for my son. My son tried & tried all of the reading programs they threw at him. When we found the tutor that actually taught him to read it was because she used alphabetic phonics. My son was so discouraged prior to this but is now in his 3rd year of college. My son does not understand why the school’s cannot teach everyone in this manner as it made so much sense to him. He started it at beginning of 9th grade 5 days a week for one class time & through summer as compensatory time to help him catch up. The school paid for all of it & the transportation.

  • 37 Sharon L. 01/31/12 at 4:15 pm

    GGIRL – I used the standardized test scores to force their hand & proved that my son was not making progress (FAPE). My son’s triannual testing was completed at the end of his 7th grade & showed his progress. We completed the usual year end IEP & he started 8th grade in the fall. February of his 8th grade I requested a reading, language arts and speech re-evaluation to compare it to the results of the testing from the previous year. I always put my request in writing & send certified & make sure I sign their consent form. They did the testing in the 60 day timeframe which put us around end of April beginning of May. This along with previous testing & a previous outside testing paid for by the school proved he was not progressing. I suspect that paying for tutoring was cheaper than a lawsuit which I believe we would have won.

  • 38 Morning 01/31/12 at 12:50 pm


    I was able to get a program for my child who is dyslexic through ESY. ESY is not just for the summer but can be part of the extended school day–that is how my school district justified giving my child a tutor specializing in programs in dyslexia during the school year and summers. A child with dyslexia needs that intensive remediation. You need data–get an IEE. That will give you the data you need along with the school data to justify ESY, tutoring, etc. What data has the school presented to you concerning your son’s reading deficits? Use your State Dept. of Education to get clarification. Also, checkout the website by Shawitz at Yale Center for Creatviity and Research. My child is a success story. We did not use due process just an IEE and Dept. of Education resources.

  • 39 GGIRL 01/30/12 at 3:38 pm

    SHARON L – Thank you for your response. I will check out the book at my library. My child has never been diagnosed with dyslexia, although I have suspected that might be part of the problem. Can I ask you how you went about getting your school district to provide your son with tutoring? There is no way my school district would just turn over services of that magnitude. Did you have to go through due process? I am just curious. Thanks again!

  • 40 Deb 01/30/12 at 12:32 pm

    Sharon L – Can you please let me know how your son responded to Alphabetic Phonics? My son is 7 years old and has an amazing opportunity through a community grant (outside of school) and will be starting alphabetic phonics this month 3x per week at 1 hour sessions. The program is for 3 years. His tutor has gone through the 2 year training and has taught at the center for over 4 years.

    The school is working to their limited ability, he receives 1:1 tutoring 5x per week w/ Recipe for Reading. This is a scripted manual that is followed and the Sped teacher does not have any training. The professional development for our district’s reading teachers is disappointing but hoping for change.

    Your comments on the program would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • 41 Sharon L. 01/29/12 at 7:48 pm

    GGIRL My son was in 8th grade reading at pre-primer level. He was on an IEP for his entire school career. The school told us that he was unteachable however he comprehended at grade level. I read a book ” Overcoming Dyslexia” by Sally Shaywitz, (you can get this at the library) & it helped me immensely to see that my son could read at grade level if taught by the right method. I had my son re-evaluated & it proved that he was not progressing in the school. The school was failing him. I found a tutor in our area through the International Dyslexic Assoc on line. The school paid for her from end of 8th grade for 6 yrs because they did not have a program or person that could teach my son like she did. She used Wilson and Alphabetic Phonics. He is now in college with supports/use of technology & is successful.

  • 42 adenike 01/26/12 at 4:40 pm

    i did help i am in 5th grade please

  • 43 Nita 01/23/12 at 6:59 pm

    Special educators teach children to read just like regular educators do. The difference between special educators and regular educators is that one differentiate for students according to their needs while the other doesn’t. If a child hasn’t learn to read he or she has obvious missed something along the way and needs to pick it up to fill in those gaps. There are many special education programs where students make progress and are exited out of the program. It really depends on the teacher, the school and the special education program. Yes reading specialist have had extensive training in teaching children to read, but there are some that see children week after week and the child still doesn’t progress. It all depends on the teacher and her passion for teaching! Don’t lump everyone in one category. It offends people!!!!!

  • 44 Morning 01/22/12 at 5:24 pm

    As parents, we need to hear from teachers like you to gain perspective. For us, we see our children fall behind and trust that the system is working. When we realize that it is not working— we have to find answers, research and become advocates. I value teachers. But, I have seen the system fail for many reasons that are beyond a teacher’s control. In some cases, teacher’s are not allowed to do their jobs. I am impressed by your focus on literacy and reading. Your students are in a good position to have you as their teacher. Thanks for your perspective.

  • 45 Sharon L. 01/22/12 at 4:16 pm

    Brandy – Glad to hear there are teachers as dedicated as you out there and it sounds like the school supports what you want to do. It has not been my experience with my 3 sons that there are teachers like you in our school district or if there are they have their hands tied.

  • 46 GGIRL 01/21/12 at 3:00 pm

    To Brandy: What advice would you give to the parent of an 11th grader whose reading fluency is at a grade level 4 with college level comprehension? You sound like a really great teacher and I wish you were in my district. I have tried year, after year to get the school district to help my child with reading. If a child cannot read quickly, what will happen to them in college, if they get to college? My child’s dream is to go to college! My child was reading on grade level in 6th grade. Why do schools and teachers get so defensive and then refuse to help at all? I know how angry I must sound, but that is after 5 years of getting nowhere this is what is left. My child used to love school and now hates it. I have been told by high school staff my child has no future. They refuse to see the person. They only see the disability. How sad!

  • 47 Brandy 01/20/12 at 4:06 pm

    Making blanket statements that special education teacher do not know how to teach reading is very unfair. I am a special education teacher, and have been for 13 years. The majority of my students have learning disabilities in reading and I spend most of my day teaching this subject. My students average 2-3 years growth in a school year. I also happen to be certified as a reading specialist. I chose this career because I want to educate students who have learning disabilities. I’m sure there are some sped teachers who do not do their job, but not all of us. I agree with one statement that was made in this response. It is true that just because a student isn’t making progress it doesn’t mean they have a learning disability; they may not be receiving adequate instruction. In that case the particular school system needs to be reviewed.

  • 48 Morning 01/17/12 at 11:52 pm

    Mary, I am happy to hear from a teacher. I agree that with training, the right curriculum,, etc. that teachers can succeed and students will learn. I have seen it. The is so much out of the teacher’s control. See Liz G’s comments. Parents,some, have no choice but to become defensive–especially when they realize that the school district is not progress monitoring and allowing kids to fail. But, I know that a lot of dynamics are at play and parents have to be very strategic. If you come across as adverserial to the school district, it may work against your child and you. There are ways to not “fight” but to collaboratie. The end goal is for the chid to progress. Please keep adding to this chat. You give me hope.

  • 49 teri 01/17/12 at 10:35 pm

    Pam – YOU ARE 100% CORRECT! My child cannot read and I am sad. She is now in 6th grade and has been in Special Ed. since 1st grade. She is Dyslexic and has ADD, I had her tested outside the district. The school gave up on her, they now just read everything to her; tests, homework, everything. She is lost and confused in her classes. I have read all your books and followed your advice but the school will not budge. She is now withdrawn and angry and does not want to go to school. My heart breaks for her everyday. I can’t believe right here in America this is happening to so many children.

  • 50 Mary 01/17/12 at 8:04 am

    As a special education teacher who has taught in a self-contained class for learning disabled elementary students for 13 years I find this advice so heartbreaking. I consider myself (and my team of SC teachers) a reading specialist and have done direct instruction in small group settings with great progress. If this is not happening in other districts then it is due to the approved curriculum and class size. The challenge needs to be there. If teachers have the appropriate support and materials I do believe their goal is to get children out of special ed if it is possible. It is sad when parents are taught to fight against appropriate placements when the alternative is often devastating to the child.

  • 51 Sharon L. 01/14/12 at 12:13 pm

    Nichole, You need to have your parents/guardian request a full multifactored evaluation in writing to the school and then go in and sign the consent form so that the school can test you and get the results back in 60 days. You and your parents need to read up on the laws, how to negotiate IEP meetings, etc. Wrightslaw has a wealth of knowledge in the books they offer. My son was diagnosed dyslexic and had the same problems as you are having and he is now 22 years old and in college and successful. This only happened because he was tested, put on an IEP and was given the proper instruction, help in reading and math. It was not easy but it can be done.

  • 52 Morning 01/11/12 at 4:48 pm

    Testing is the primary way for your sister to get help and to determine her needs. The school staff wants your sister to get tested but the parents are refusing–a tough problem. In many ways, we read on many blogs how the school personell refuse testing–this is the opposite. In many cases, parents refuse testing for a vareity of reasons –one may be denial or not wanting their child labeled. Or, they do not want their child grouped with “special ed. kids.’ I dont know why the parents are refusing that the child gets tested as school district staff members seem very concerned. I don’t know what to say as teachers are reaching out to your parents. I congratulate the teachers. I applaud you for caring enough to put your concerns in this forum.

  • 53 Nichole 01/10/12 at 11:19 pm

    I am in fith grade and have a 2.1 reading level I see stuff in werd ways is this bad is there a disorder or something for this also I don’t get math a t all not one bit it is not fair I am scared to read outloyd and when I do I get teased for a very long time is there hope for me?

  • 54 Janet 12/14/11 at 5:13 am

    Hello I have a sister who is in the seventh grade who is struggling in school. The subjects she struggles with are science, social studies and English. She is in Reading help but they say she is reading at a 4th grade level. They recommended that we get her tested but my parents refuse. What can we do to get her reading and writing level up? Do you have any programs you could suggest? we live in NY.

  • 55 Morning 12/08/11 at 8:28 pm

    I applaud teachers for trying. Remember, as parents we have more access to information, advocates, etc. Data does not lie–our children are not being taught to read. As parents, we are our kids’ advocates. We now understand how to interpret data and, with help, challenge the system.

    But. I know teachers are overwhelmed. One teacher cannot teach everything. I have sat in many classrooms as an employee. Some dyslexic students need specialized individual help–not small group cookie cutter programs. The teachers are under a lot of stress. Please do not take anything as an attack on teachers and we should applaud them. Their jobs are very hard. As parents, our job is to insure that our children make progress. Sometimes, the teachers cannot carry out their jobs.

  • 56 karen 11/11/11 at 1:28 pm

    I have a 17-yr-old with a 26 credit requirement and only earned 4 credits so far, and just took the TABE test for Mo Options to study for GED and he didn’t qualify. Had 10th grade level Math, but 4.9 Grade level in Reading… now they don’t know what to do with him because they can’t shove him on over to take the GED. The No CHILD left Behind hasn’t worked for him, because ever since his IEP in 2nd grade, they’ve just shoved him up to the next level without having to Teach him and now at 11th grade, the school is saying Sorry, you need 26 credits and you have 4. There’s a box on IEP for Credit Requirements Waived, but evidently they’ve “never done that before.” My boy needs the credit requirements waived here!!!
    Also, your experiment with Sight Words didn’t work! PHONICS! (shouldn’t need a pic to read!)

  • 57 Sharon L. 11/05/11 at 2:05 pm

    Fifth grader is reading at 2.7 grade level. Should he be tested for Special Ed? by Tammy W Yes he should be tested. Request a MFE (Multifactored Evaluation) from your school by sending them a letter listing your concerns & give them 5 days to respond. Contact them to meet to sign their consent form for the testing. They are supposed to get the testing done in 60 days (this timeline varies in some states). Once they are done, you should request a DRAFT copy of the test results so you can discuss them with your doctor or other professional so you understand what they mean. You can request test scores as grade level equivalents as well. If you do not like the results, or do not believe what the school wants to do will help your son, you can request an outside evaluation at their expense. The school may give you a list of recommended evaluators but you are not required to use people on the list.

  • 58 Tammy W 11/04/11 at 8:56 pm

    I need of advice to help my son who is in 7th grade and reads at the 1st grade level. I don’t know how he’s made it this far. He can read but he still sounds out words as he did in first grade. By the time he’s done reading, he has no idea what he read because all his energy went into sounding out the words.
    He had lacrosse encephalitis from a mosquito bite when he was 10. The scarring from seizures affects his comprehension and reading worse than before.He will have seizures the rest of his life from this disease – they are controlled with meds.
    He struggles to keep his grades up. He wants to go to college and at this point I don’t know if he can. We spend 2-3 hours 3 nights a week just to help him make C’s. Please help me help my son.

  • 59 Morning 07/30/11 at 9:20 am

    I agree. But, my child is learning to read even with a late diagnoses of dyslexia. It has been a journey with the school district and not easy. I did get an IEE but when my child was a teenager. The road is not easy..but I press for parents to not give up as teenagers can learn to read BUT it will be a long hard process as puberty, dating, rebellion, etc. will serve as major DISTRACTIONS. But, it can be done.You will have to set boundaries, get mentors for them. Most of us are on this site because our children are older and past that age of proper remedation but the teenage years presents some great learning opportunities for remedation. We cannot give up. Children want to read and technology is here to help. Do not give up..home is a great resource with tutors, LEXIA. Public schools, most, cannot teach teenagers to read.

  • 60 Liz G 04/10/11 at 9:27 pm

    I am a certified teacher in Connecticut with a Masters Degree and a 6th Degree in Reading. As a Reading Specialist in public education, I have become frustrated by the lack of expertise Special Education teachers have in teaching at-risk students how to read. Pete’s story and my experiences have confirmed that I need to become an advocate. I am leaving public education to help parents and students who are not receiving appropriate services.

    Do you have advice about the steps I need to take? I would appreciate it. As a classroom teacher and specialist, I have used your books and website for years. Now I will be on the other side of the table with the knowledge to expect more. When students have gone through the RTI process, many parents and teachers tell me that the child is better off with me in Reg Ed.

  • 61 grammie1 02/22/11 at 10:51 am

    My grandson was just tested for his 3 yr evaluation. He was put into a LD class in 2nd grade because he couldn’t read very well. At that time, he was doing math fine. Now he can read, but they say is academically at a very low place. But he is very intelligent. Has an IQ of superiour to genius. Said he will never be able to read above a 6th grade level. He is in fourth grade and reads according to the tester, at a second grade level. Phycologist said do not see many children with an IQ this high, but academicall low. What to do to help him.

  • 62 Sharon L. 02/12/11 at 11:38 am

    Fifth grader is reading at 2.7 grade level. Should he be tested for Special Ed? by Laura

    It wouldn’t hurt having him tested again. Maybe the results will be different. If you have a teacher on your side that is great. If you don’t agree with the test results, you can opt for an outside evaluation from a professional at the school’s expense. Outside testing is usually better because there is a long list of recommendations that schools don’t include in their evaluations.

  • 63 Laura 02/10/11 at 11:21 am

    I need help. One of my twin boys is behind in reading. We were overseas in Japan for preschool and kindergarten. He did first grade in Germany. He was always in an international school that taught in English. When we came back to the States for second grade he was tested at a DRA level of 8. The school district put hiim in English as a Second Language (ESL). By the end of second grade he moved up to a DRA level of 20. Currently he is in third grade and we are entering the third quarter. My son is still at a DRA level of 20. We had him tested for Special Education at the beginning of third grade, but he was denied services. Now, entering the third quarter of third grade, his third grade teacher is pushing for Special Education. I don’t know if this is the right action to take. Any advice would be great.

  • 64 maria 12/06/10 at 11:32 pm

    My daughter receives special education services at her school, her report card reports that she is doing very well in her reading but her dibles report the opposite, I help my daughter read a lot and frustrates me that the school is not doing it’s part as I can see that my daughter needs to learn read better.

  • 65 SusanB 11/30/10 at 8:45 pm

    PAM, What is level N and L? Before you do anything you need real information about where your kid is in reading, a standardized test telling you exactly where he is as compared to his same age peers. Better yet, I would want to know specifically what his deficit areas are, for example, does he have a comprehension problem, a decoding deficit? You should be able to find this info in his most recent eval. His IEP goals for reading should be SMART, S-specific, M-measurable, A-action words (containing), R-realistic, T-time specific. How is it measurable to say he will move from level L to N? What kind of reading program is being used? How does it address his deficit areas? Once you know what those are, it is easier for the IEP team to write goals and find a program to meet his needs.

  • 66 Vicky 11/30/10 at 2:05 pm

    This was very helpful. My daughter has struggled since she started having seizure activity in the 1st grade. Seizures are leaving her now, but she is still reading on a 3rd grade level and she is in the 9th grade. I want to help her read on her grade level. How do we get this accomplished. She has had a tutor for approximately 1 1/2 years and evidently it isn’t helping.

    Any and all suggestions welcome……..

  • 67 pam 10/13/10 at 9:21 am

    My sons Iep said he completed level L and was on level N last year. His “special” teacher is having him read level L books a year later. Should we take him out of his special reading class. I do not feel it is as affective anymore?

  • 68 larry 06/14/10 at 3:27 am

    I have a 12 year old who is in special ed, my child is not retarded but he is a little slow his reading level is second grade at best yet he is going into the seventh grade… can this be ??? I have my child every summer…last summer i had him tutored and he went from not being able to say his ABC’s to a second grade second month reading level in less than three months…this summer he cant do the work from last summer and has actually went backwards in what he knows…please help

  • 69 John 05/17/10 at 12:25 pm

    Our son recently received his reading comprehension test back from school, the results was 4.75 in all areas. The child is in the 10th grade. His teacher said this is an inprovement from his score of 4.25, me and my wife don’t believe her. Our biggest concern is how will he function as an adult with the reading ability of a 6th grader when he is an adult. We were also told he has an Mi Md disorder. How can we help him once he graduates??? Can he function as an adult with just a 5th or 6th grade reading level ????

  • 70 KP 04/29/10 at 1:36 am

    To the teachers who are offended, you have to understand that your perception of how you are teaching a child might be different from a parent’s perception of same. Everyone told me how “wonderfully” my son was doing in “Resource” (as they refer to it here), yet the discrepancy between his scores and his peers scores kept increasing (his scores going down, peers scores going up), despite the fact that his IQ tested out in the high 130s. Just because his overall score increases does not mean he is doing well. He was still below grade level. I gave up and home schooled him one year and his year end test scores went from basic to advanced. He was back in the top 10% for his peers for all the other tests. The school all thought he was doing great there, they thought it was a FAPE, but it wasn’t really if he could do so much better.

  • 71 Jennifer 04/28/10 at 4:26 pm

    Orton-Gillingham-based systems work. I have personally used the Texas Scottish Rite and the Barton systems. Interventionists in my school have implemented these programs even with children who aren’t diagnosed, and we are seeing progress. It does take intensive intervention, and the rate of progress does vary, but they work. In addition, the Barton system is designed for anyone, not just educators.

    If the school is considering testing a child for special education because of reading failure, that school MUST prove that response to intervention has failed. I would not ever test a child without extensive proof that the school has done everything possible to increase reading ability.

  • 72 Juan 04/27/10 at 8:34 pm

    I’ve gone through a Due Process, due to my own disability (phsyical) a week before the Due Process I requested a continuance. The IHO refused the County Attorney had no problem with it. I filed a complaint with the Executive Secretary of the state Supreme Court. Who is the entity who assigns IHO’s on grounds that he unilaterally narrowed the issues and his professional demeanor was bias. I could not introduce the most important issues such as failure to provide a written notice of the intent of providing ESY. Our son Joshua is entering 6th grade at a 2nd grade reading and math level. I’ve complained to every department of the state DOE I finally reached out to DOJ. We relocated and have seen the same approach. We insisted that he receive OG and ESY. They are still trying to wiggle around the issue. Your site helped.

  • 73 Karen 04/27/10 at 12:59 pm

    I take exception to the statement regarding Sp.Ed. teachers. I’ve been one for 25 yrs. I am trained in Alpha. Phon., Herman, Project Read, Spalding, Math Their Way, Touchmath and have used Saxon (phonics and math) and TEXTEAMS/North Carolina Math. Currently, I am searching the net for free or low cost accredited training in MSLA so I can take the test for Dyslexia Therapist Certification. I don’t know where some people get their information, maybe just skewed perception!

  • 74 andrea 04/20/10 at 7:12 am

    I am a special education teacher at the high school level. I taught early childhood regular education for 14 years and have been teaching spec. 5. You are right. Spec. teachers except maybe for the recently retired SLD teacher at my school. I have had numerous students tell me that she taught them to read at the high school level. I would love to be able to teach my low readers how to read, but it is nearly impossible or it is impossible because we no longer have resource classes. We must be co-teaching and no, we cannot teach them how to read when we are in a class of 35 11th graders. Maybe talk about context clues, etc. I am fully aware of the reading problem but as you well know, teachers do not make the decisions on what we teach; government does.

  • 75 Sharon 03/22/10 at 1:01 pm

    d.warner – Our son has dyslexia and stopped progressing with reading at 2nd grade. We tried everything with the school and only had success with Wilson Reading program and Alphabetic Phonics. MY son did not get into the proper reading program until 9th grade and had low self esteem issues. Don’t make our mistake. Get him evaluated by an outside psychologist at public expense and get together with the school to get an alternate reading program. All children can read with the proper program. Read the book “Overcoming Dyslexia”. That helped me a lot.

  • 76 d. warner 03/21/10 at 2:01 pm

    My third grader had a speech disability. In all areas of phonics. He has stopped progressing in his reading. He hasn’t made any improvemnet since first grade. He goes to a speech therapist at school, his teacher reads with him several times a week and he also has seperate class time with another reading specialtist. I’m really worried about him. Could it be that were trying to teach him to read wrong? He is taught by cueing and looking at the picture for clues. What skills can i teach him beside that. I have tried flashcards of sight words and it helps a little. I get mixed messages from all his teachers and feel as if they are giving up on him. One told me his sucess stops with me. Help…
    Thank you

  • 77 JOANNE 03/13/10 at 3:48 pm

    I have also heard these same types of stories. They also want to put my child in SE class too. She is in first grade, has a visual perceptual problem or it could be dyslexia like her grandfather. The school said they don’t test for it because she is too young. I think before I put her in anything, I need to take her to a developmental pediatrician or get a psychological evaluation.

  • 78 brenda 01/21/10 at 11:26 pm

    Actually, the comment that Pam made about special educators not being taught to teach reading is horrendously incorrect. I have been teaching special education in the elementary system for 9 years in the same school. I began as a third grade teacher for five years at the same school. The reason I took the special education position is for the very fact that I have specialized training on how to teach children to read who have extreme challenges. As a matter of fact, I taught students to read that the Reading Recovery Specialist was unable to teach. When the students were referred and brought into special ed., they began reading successfully over a period of one to two years. One young man that I had as a student when he was in second grade actually “graduated” from the special education services in sixth grade. Pam needs to researc

  • 79 vaishali 11/14/09 at 2:58 am

    my child is a fifth grader,and does not read independently.he also does not understand the matter of his books if read out to him.he is too lazy to write.what do i do?

  • 80 Kelley 10/20/09 at 9:18 am

    I just went to a emergency IEP for my son who is in Spec Ed because he is in 4th grade reading at a 1.5 grade level. Considering he was not reading in 3rd grade at all this is some progress, which they conclude it is. I don’t think it’s enough considering how far behind it is. I was told I should not expect much more then a 1 year progression in reading since he is so far behind, which is their fault to begin with. He is in a inclusive class with PDD kids which is not appropriate placement for him but he is so far behind his peers would be moving him be wise? He can not keep up with the work but he is being unchallenged and not even following grade level material just what they think his ability can handle.

  • 81 Amanda 10/15/09 at 1:42 am

    I have an 11 year old Autistic child who has been in SPED for the last 4 years we have done nothing but battle the system for appropriate placement and services. He continues to test below proficient in every subject in state test scores TCAP. I am preparing to file an Administrative Complaint in which I will site lack of sufficient preformance and inability to follow through with his IEP already in place. I want to know what recommendations you have as far as services for reading and math. My son can learn and his IQ is right at 72 so I know that teaching him is possible with the right techniques and approaches. Please advise me regarding appropriate services to request. He does have defecites in both receptive and expressive language which I believe complicates his abilities. He currently only receives 1 hour of Language therapy a week.

  • 82 Constance 10/13/09 at 11:51 am

    My 13 yr old son with autism (PDDNOS) was “tested” and is reading at pre-primer level for comprehension and 3rd grade level for sight word. He’s in the 7th grade! He has been in sp ed since kindergarten. He CAN learn and has learned. I have a meeting with reading specialists and sp ed teachers on 10/19. Are there any reading programs that I should ask the specialist to consider? Are the any specific questions I should ask of the teachers and the reading specialist? Is there any hope for my son?

  • 83 Robbi 09/02/09 at 1:59 pm

    We had our 3rd grade dyslexic son admitted into special ed. My reason for opting this route was mainly done to enforce my sons right to FAPE, and his rights to equal access to the curriculum. In Texas we have something called a Dyslexia Handbook created by the state board of education and it governs what types of interventions must be implemented once a child, in 504 OR Special ED, has been diagnosed with Dyslexia.

    I believe that IDEA, as it applies to special ed, is instruction that meets the child’s individual needs. That is what I am now advocating for my son, nothing less than he is entitled to receive. If the teacher in special ed is not trained to properly administer a program or the school does not have an appropriate program in place, that is not my son’s problem. His rights will be my fight!

  • 84 Jamie Jones 04/16/09 at 7:46 pm

    I am very surprised about all of the comments about special education teachers that are not able to teach students to read. I don’t know if this information is an eye opener for me or it is just innacurate. I am a Special Education Teacher and in my 14 years of teaching I have always, as well as my colleagues, been effective in teaching students to read. Furthermore, myself and colleagues have been sent to many reading training programs including the newest , research based reading programs.

  • 85 Lucille 04/02/09 at 12:49 pm

    Pam, You hit the bull’s eye! I have been using O-G to teach adults and children since 1986. Like you, I use Orton-Gillingham method – explicit , tactile, direct, structured instruction. . Neuroscience proves that reading instruction should start in the formative years. I propose Slingerland reading instruction starting kindergarten; This will reduce assignments to special education classes for learning differences. (an estimated 70%). At the same time, colleges should serve teachers appropriately by acknowledging the evidence of neuroscience, and prepare accordingly. Schools will then be in compliance with NCLB, and also, conform to the recommendations of the National Reading Report 2000. A little critical thinking when combined with action can save anguish and taxpayer dollars by preparing a literate population.

  • 86 Kathy 02/11/09 at 12:53 pm

    As a special education teacher of over 20 years I find your comments offensive. I’ve found teachers of today are not taught the same way I was taught or given opportunites because of budgets, to explore reading and it’s instruction to it’s fullest. Do not assess all of us by only your experiences. You need to further explore backround of teachers for your argument to be valid.

  • 87 Jennifer 01/27/09 at 8:49 am

    This is an old post that I am replying to, but Pam’s commments touched a nerve with me…I was a trained advocate before becoming a Sped. teacher. Pam hit the head on the nail when referring to Sped. as a black hole. I swore when I entered the field of special ed. that I would be the exception–& I am, but it’s at a cost. I love working with my students; I love testing them to prove progress, collecting data, & really teaching them the skills they need to be successful–like study skills–what a concept! What I have traded for bringing advocacy to my students is to constantly fight against the public school system idea of special ed.–I have to fight to keep my spirits up; to not feel overwhelmed; to remember that I am one person & am trying to rectify years of poor teaching for my students. I refer parents to Wrightslaw all the time!

  • 88 Wrightslaw 12/16/08 at 8:05 pm

    Kristy: There is overwhelming evidence that RR should never be used with kids with learning disabilities. After you read these articles, come back and share your thoughts.

    1. “Experts Say Reading Recovery Is Not Effective, Leaves Too Many Children Behind” – An Open Letter from more than 30 Reading Researchers

    2. “Reading Recovery for First Grade Children with Reading Difficulties”

    “What does independent research show about using Reading Recovery for students who are having difficulty learning to read in first grade?”

    3. Letter from Cameron James about what happened when the school insisted on using Reading Recovery with his son Joe, who has dyslexia.

  • 89 Wrightslaw 12/16/08 at 7:52 pm

    Katie: You can revoke consent for your child to receive special ed services. On December 1, 2008, the Department of Education announced changes to the IDEA regulations.

    Parents have the right to revoke consent for their children to receive special ed, without fear that the school will request a due process hearing against them. Parents must make this request in writing. Section 300.300(b)(4)

    After receiving a revocation of consent, the school is required to provide the parent with prior written notice. (see Sec. 300.503)

    Please read the revised regulations and commentary at:

    HOWEVER, if you revoke consent for your child to receive special ed, you need to have a plan to remedy the problems you describe in your post.

  • 90 Katie 12/16/08 at 4:15 pm

    Our 8th grader is on an IEP and receiving pasted-together curriculum in reading. He is still decoding at 3rd grade level. We have been fighting hard for research-based curriculum for two years, with no success. We are now asking to drop special ed because it is turning him against school. The district refuses–they say his decoding disability is so severe that they can’t let him go for fear we’ll sue. Somehow they aren’t afraid we’ll sue over their refusal to do whatever it takes to teach him to read–including changing curriculum and instruction methods. If I could do it over, I would bring a lawyer when he started kindergarten, rather than a plea to deal with his already-obvious deficits. And I would yank him from special ed after 4th grade and get the job of teaching him to read done by professionals rather than bureaucrats.

  • 91 Kristy 11/04/08 at 6:21 pm

    It is an acceptable reading strategy to teach a child to guess when determining an unknown word; however, after guessing, the student must stop and think about three things:
    1. Does it look right?
    2. Does it sound right?
    3. Does it make sense?

    If the answer to any of these questions is no, then the student must use another strategy. There are many.

    I am a special ed teacher and teach reading quite well. I did not learn how to teach reading at the University of California, Riverside where I received all my degrees. I learned at conferences and the best was from a former Reading Recovery teacher.

  • 92 stacy 10/29/08 at 5:35 am

    My son is in 4th grade and reading at a first grade level, I recently took him out of the resource room and bought him the Hooked on Phonics master reader. He is doing great! I only hope it is not too late – he enters middle school next year and I am very nervous.The guilt I have is overwhelming. I should have researched about special ed a long time ago!!!!!!!!!!

  • 93 flem98 10/20/08 at 9:56 pm

    I have also received training in the teaching of reading, and have benefited from the conferences and trainings offered by my district. I do admit that there are many districts who do not take proactive stances when it comes to addressing the complex needs of their students. However, to infer that ALL SPED programs are inherently useless is dangerous. The family of the child who serves as the subject of this blog needs to look at the following:

    a) WHY their child is two+ years below grade level in reading?
    b) HAS the child had an assessment for a disability?
    c) WHAT programs are available at the school or district that can be used to target the difficulties he is having with reading?

    Remember, research shows that not ONE sole reading program can foster improvements in reading: a balanced reading instructional program is key.

  • 94 flem98 10/20/08 at 9:50 pm

    I find Pam’s comments to be inflammatory and flat-out disrespectful to the thousands of hard-working SPED professionals who are devoted to improving the academic (including reading) skills of their students. Pam’s comments seem to suggest that SPED is a useless by product of archaic education laws when in actuality, the purpose of SPED is to help children acquire the skills they lack. MOST students who receive SPED services have disabilities that negatively impact their reading and writing skills, so one would assume SPED teachers would have some knowledge in this field. Why have a website devoted to the dissemination of SPED advocacy strategies if you believe the system is inherently flawed and incapable of helping children at all? Why is Pam biting the hands that feed her?

    Had to correct my spelling errors . . . must be dyslexia!

  • 95 Dale 10/16/08 at 1:45 pm

    I am a special education teacher and am very offended by the comment. I am trained in Orton Gillingham, Sonday and Read 180. In addition to supporting students in the classroom I offer afterschool tutoring. I feel that one major benefit of a special education class is that these students who struggle become unmotivated, give up and become ridiculed by other peers in the regular education setting who “catch on” a lot faster than these students. In addition to just decoding the words, we teach comprehension strategies that struggling readers don’t “just get” like good readers do. I would recommend to ask good questions and look at the goals and objectives being created for your child and well as the measurement strategies. Consider your child’s self confidence as well.

  • 96 SusanB 10/13/08 at 7:33 pm

    As parents we need to push for scientifically research based reading instruction in the general ed classroom. This instruction must include the 5 components put forth by the National Reading Panel that an effective program should include and is mandated in NCLB, Reading First. Hopefully, with IDEA using the RTI verbiage in the 2004 regulations we will be moving toward this. But right now, many school districts are still not doing it. My school district is still using “whole language” as their core reading curriculum. In my research on how kids learn to read and in talking with many teachers, both regular and special ed, I have learned that more educators than not really believe that whole language works, it’s like a religion. Good articles for all: Whole Language HiJinks & Whole Language Lives On by Lousia Motes, a reading guru.

  • 97 Karen 10/12/08 at 7:28 pm

    This is all very interesting. I don’t know how it took me so long to relaize my son is not going to learn to read with the public school. They had him in one program for a long time and I had two mediations to get him out of it and try an Orton Gillingham…the first was Wilson. After thee years, he still reads at a 1.8 reading level. We had an independent eval and she said he must be in a school for children wityh dyslexia. The closest one is 3 hours away and is more than we make, so we are trying to battle the school.

    I just found this site and it is eye opening! I am very disheartened and know that his only chance is to go to the special boarding school. I just ekpt believing the school when they said he was making progress. They tested him with different tests and it makes it look like he wasn’t as bad as he is.

  • 98 Linda C 10/11/08 at 3:35 pm

    As a special education teacher I will tell you i was taught to teach reading. The district where I teach is also very proactive in this area and we have had extensive training using the Wilson reading appraoch. it is very effective. I can also tell you that special education does not mean a “life sentence’ as described here. Our goal is to service these children and help them move on. He may need classification for him to receive the extra reading support he needs. I am willing to bet he struggles in Science and Social Studies as well due to his reading deficits. Bottom line – get the district to do their job, get him tested and push them to get his the sipports he needs.

  • 99 Suzan 10/10/08 at 1:18 pm

    My 11 year old regressed in reading. I had to fight to keep my son on campus, fight about his reading program, fight to keep him included & not self contained,,,continue to fight for a reading program like the Herman Method or Orton Gillingham, for 5 years.went through mediation; finally, the district is piloting a reading program very similar at my son’s school. They trained my son’s general & special ed teacher. I feel at least some battle success. As a parent & a teacher, I advocate for parents. Sometimes the professionals I work with aren’t happy, but that’s because I know the law & student’s rights. Know the law, understand it & don’t be afraid to quote it!!! Unfortunately, if districts think they can save a buck at the expense of students; they do. I know, I taught 15 yrs in the ISD my son attends.

  • 100 Suzan 10/10/08 at 12:55 pm

    I had graduated with a degree in Historoy & Sociology, secondary certified. I had gone back to get my special ed cerification. In 1984 I got a job my second year at a small rural school; 7-12 all subjects. My 7th a& 8th graders read at maybe a 2nd grade level. “They” said teach them how to read; I said, “I have no clue how I learned how to read,,, help!” I was lucky. I was sent to learn to teach reading with Renee Herman. It seemed weird, but I was determined to have an open mind. I incorporated the program into my classroom. In 1 year my students jumped at least 2 grade levels, some more. I am a general ed & special ed teacher. These reading programs discussed work! We just need to teach the program as it was intended. If I had my way, every school would have this reading program for ANY child that needed it, period.

  • 101 Kimberly 10/07/08 at 11:45 am

    I just want to let you know that my son is severely dyslexic. I would not accept the school letting them do their interventions. I got them to put on his IEP that he needed the Wilson Reading program. I found out he was having trouble in the 1st grade and would not budge until they put in writing what he needed. I provided a tutor until they put it on the IEP. He is now in 3rd grade and goes to a tutor for 2 hours a day. He is a fluent reader and very confident of himself. He does not see the special ed teacher only his tutor. He still has trouble with his dysgraphia but, I know every year I have to explain to the teachers his situation and what I expect of them. It has not been an easy road and I have 2 other boys with dyslexia. I have a scheduled IEP meeting for my second son in two weeks. I will never stop advocating.

  • 102 jeanne 10/07/08 at 9:27 am

    hi my name is jeanne. i have a 9 yr.old son in the 3rd. grade. my son has a iep. i feel exactly the same way. it seems to be that because my son has a iep ,the school is not teaching my son at a 3rd. grade level. and the school is allowed to do that because he has a iep. i wanted to sign off of the iep, because he is reading at a 1.5 grade level, i thought with a iep the school had to teach him at his grade level. i thought that is what fape is. it seems to me, he is being left behind, and they are useing my sons iep, by saying ,thats why he has a iep. i had a iep review meeting with the school. i pulled out the same exact school work that he did last to page, to show them he allready did that work, he needs to be challanged. they said do you want him to have a iep? i said yes , but taught at grade level, you are giving him old

  • 103 Lisa 09/15/08 at 9:46 am

    I am a special education teacher, I agree with Pam.

    My students struggle and I am looking for training and/or a different program not more of the same. My district won’t support training, I would have to pay. I am expected to continue Reading Recovery with kids once they qualify for services. If it didn’t work when did Reading Recovery with a highly trained reading specialist, how will it work with me teaching a watered down version?

    I care for my students and want to see them succeed. I feel I don’t have the training or expertise needed to help them progress. None of these families could afford a highly trained specialist outside of school and shouldn’t have to. The only thing I provide for my students is advocacy and a desire to help them be the best they can be, since I’m not trained to teach them.

  • 104 Jennifer 05/20/08 at 6:32 pm

    Today after a year of struggling with the school district to get special education services for my son he was found to be eligible. My son is a 12 year old fourth grader with adhd. His strengths are math and science, but he struggles in reading and language arts.
    At a previous meeting to determine whether or not my son would be evaluated. The superintendent told me that my son would not get the intense level of education in special education that he was currently getting. My son was in a class that provided various accomodations and interventions that he was not responding to.
    My son is on a 3.2 grade level in reading and a 4.4 grade level in math. What can I do to ensure that my son goes forward and not backwards?
    In my opinion the interventions do help and I do see improvements academically but just just not enough to where he is passing. I know it sounds strange that I do see improvement but I don’t see passing grades. Any suggestions, please help.

  • 105 Jody 05/20/08 at 7:43 am

    I also have an 8th grader that reads at 5.2 GE level and reading comprehension is -2 SD on WISC IV and WIAToutside eval.

    We just had IEP 4/11/08 and IEP Team said they have no programs or services for reading comprehension disabilities.

    Do I create the school program for reading comprehension services at school for them? It effects all core and elective classes as well, since not being able to understand what you have read, results in failing/poor grades (even w/accomm and modif.) on tests, quizzes, homework. Example: Foods and Nutrition elective class has written assignments, labs, and tests, my son failed it!

  • 106 Lyn 05/17/08 at 8:52 pm

    I just re-read the posted story about the 5th grade child with the 2.7 reading level. It got me thinking about what I should do for my son. If you do not live near a dyslexic school (closest three hours away), would home-schooling using a OG tutor work (50 min. away) just as well? What are the advantages of the dyslexic school setting verses a model with home schooling or limited school participation combined with an OG tutor perhaps 2 hours a day?

  • 107 Lyn 05/16/08 at 12:04 pm

    Yikes! I have a severely dyslexic son and have filed for due process last month and I went to the district in 2006 and demanded Linda Mood and was turned down. I had spent about $36,000 on Linda Mood already! I asked for a tutor and noted Special Ed had not helped for 5 years and he needed outside help… We were turned down. In 2006 my son was 2 deviations off in reading, writing and math. In 2008, after more of their “great intervention” he is 4 deviations off his grade level. After reading this blog – I have a better understanding of the problem.

    Our situation looks like the Draper case we have read on this website except our son has an average IQ. The problems we have is the district not keeping records, hiding them, shredding some, and then even manipulating normed testing results and reports…This was clearly done to hide the districts lack of progress and also to hide our son’s additional auditory processing disorder. We can use any help with due process we can get. We are concerned with the cost of experts, but we have several that have assessed our son.

  • 108 Louise 05/13/08 at 3:11 pm

    In your question you say, “Does she want the school to test him for special education services?” I’m at the beginning of this process and my daughter (kindergarten) has been tested and I do not yet know the results but I do know that she has impulse control problems and fluid reasoning deficits. Does testing which leads to creating an IEP that will address discipline and motivation efforts by the teachers automatically mean special ed? When you say special ed are you talking about actually being in the special ed classroom? How do you create specific goals when what you need is a classroom atmosphere that helps the child feel calm and successful so she can learn? The teacher this year is very good but the one for next year is inclined to deny recess etc. if behavior is not appropriate.

  • 109 Wrightslaw 05/07/08 at 11:50 am

    JW – Thanks for your post and for going back to school to update your knowledge and skills. You gave a roadmap to other teachers who realize that the training they received in college was not sufficient – if you can do it, they can too. ~ Pam

  • 110 Wrightslaw 05/07/08 at 11:45 am

    Stacia – I’m glad the article helped. I wish your situation was unusual but it’s not. You will find several excellent articles about teaching children to read in Doing Your Homework by Sue Whitney Heath:

    mykids: I don’t have enough information about your child, his history, or his situation to give you any specific advice. If children are not reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade, at least 80% will never be good readers. There are several reasons for this – the focus on school changes from teaching children to read to children reading to learn, there are fewer teachers who have expertise in teaching reading, the child feels like a failure and gives up.

    Take care ~ Pam

  • 111 mykids 05/06/08 at 9:41 pm

    Do I understand this right? If your child who is past 3rd grade is having difficulties in reading (not at grade level) you should not even bother to work with the school on getting extra help thru special education?
    What if the child had difficulties in all subjects due to processing speed issues and memory issues?
    Do you suggest an after school tutor instead of special education within the school?

  • 112 JW 05/06/08 at 5:58 pm

    I am an ESE certified teacher, and the University of South Florida ESE teacher training program does (or at least used to….) include several courses about teaching reading. I discovered, though, that I didn’t have what I needed to teach reading to my middle school students. So….back to school for me. I am now also reading certified, and teach reading all day, mainly to ESE students but also to struggling students without an ESE label. I am lucky to have support from my district, primarily because of the success I have been able to demonstrate. My students who come to me in 6th grade with reading comprehension below 3rd grade. Most of the students with various learning disabilities make growth averaging 3 years in one school year. By the time they finish 7th grade, most are reading at a 6th to 7th grade level. Not perfect, but high enough to allow them success in regular academic classes. Even my students with low cognitive abilities – those the state classifies as having mental retardation – are learning to read to a 3rd or 4th grade level. I agree with you about needing to investigate not only the certification of the ESE teacher, but what specific programs are available. There is no single program that works for all students. The secret to my sucess is a good para, and the ability I have to choose from several research-based programs to find the program with the best fit for an individual student. Before allowing a student to be placed into ESE, make sure you know exactly what the education will look like – even within one district, there are large variations between schools. Then, once your student is placed, insist on regular assessments, at least once a year, to measure growth.

  • 113 Stacia 05/06/08 at 1:53 pm

    I cannot thank you enough for this article. We have found ourselves in the same situation with our 4th grade daughter-and had I known then what I know now, I would never have put her in Special Ed. Where I thought she would receive and individualized program with intense work in her deficit areas, instead she was dropped through the cracks and shelved. And that is with nonstop advocating on my part trying to right the boat and have her taught to her ability. You give me hope that the daily tutoring, intense summer program and our belief that she can and will do it worth all of the doors we have had to break down to have her educated with her peers up to her ability.

    Thank you,

    Stacia Irons

  • 114 Wrightslaw 05/06/08 at 1:13 pm

    Karen: I agree with you.

    It’s my understanding that only a handful of colleges and universities teach teachers what you learned at the University of Oregon. This is a problem that’s been discussed for years (decades?), no change. Colleges (or college teachers) don’t want anyone to dictate what they teach. Do you know other colleges that have a similar approach to the U of Oregon? ~ Pam

  • 115 Karen 05/06/08 at 12:52 pm

    I would say it would depend on the university that the SPED teacher went to. I graduated from the University of Oregon. They are very serious about teaching teachers how to teach reading.
    All graduates are trainned in Direct Instruction Programs and cirriculum and as a teacher, I have taught hundreds of children how to read. My third grade special ed students out performed their regulary ed peers in reading and math.

  • 116 AS 05/06/08 at 10:38 am

    I wanted to write to tell you how helpful the Wrightslaw site and books have been to me and my son. My son is in the fourth grade and has dyslexia. (Diagnosed in third grade by an independent evaluator.) Thanks to the information I learned from Wrightslaw materials, I am able to attend IEP meetings as a knowledgeable team member. I have been able to argue using fact as opposed to being just an emotional parent. At our most recent meeting, I was able to obtain a dyslexia appropriate Orton-Gillingham influenced program that will be taught to him during the school day. This is huge! Previously, school staff would not even use the WORD dyslexia, preferring to call it a Specific Learning Disability. We still have many issues to iron out, but without the knowledge I gained through Wrightslaw, we would not be this far along our path to success.

  • 117 Wrightslaw 05/04/08 at 9:01 pm

    I would not agree to put a first grader who is having trouble learning to read in special ed – in fact, that’s the last place I would expect him to learn to read.

    From talking with hundreds of reading teachers, reading specialists, and special educators over many years, very few special ed teachers have learned to use any research based reading methodologies as they are intended to be used. As a result, few kids learn to read in special education.

    Read these articles – they should help:

    Many reading teachers have problems related to having too many students to provide appropriate services:

    You need to know exactly what training and certifications a teacher has in a multi-sensory research based reading program. Being a certified special education teacher doesn’t mean that teacher is qualified to teach a research based reading program – and that’s what your child needs. He doesn’t have time to waste.


  • 118 KG 05/04/08 at 8:04 pm

    When children get put into Special Ed do they then have to read grade level? My son is in 1st grade, he is reading at a level 4 and should be 12. The school is recommending him for Special Ed.