Advice for Parents Who Are Getting Started

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My extremely intelligent son is dyslexic. Without help from your web site about how to deal with the school, he would still be ignored. The school would still be telling us parents that he’s lazy, needs to apply himself, etc. I have some advice for other parents who are getting started.

Document Everything, Create a Paper Trail

The most important advice I can give parents is to document and make a record of EVERYTHING.

woman writing at computer

Most schools have e-mail. E-mail creates a permanent record. Depending on state law, phone conversations may not be recorded without both parties agreeing. Email is more convenient and creates that “paper trail.”

Note from Wrights: In general, we agree. But emails can create problems, especially if you need to use them as evidence. Emails can be altered or destroyed. This is why we advise parents to write short notes to document events, conversations, agreements, and disagreements. Yes, it takes a little time – but typing a quick note doesn’t take much longer than typing an email (you can write an email, print it, and send it by snail mail). The advantages? You have copies of all notes you wrote on your computer and you have print copies in your child’s file. You have peace of mind.

Record IEP Meetings

Always tape record IEP meetings, even if there are not obvious problems. I’ve had to refer to sections on a tape later to prove that the IEP team said they were going to provide a service.

Learn What Your Child’s Test Scores Mean

Parents need to understand their child’s test scores. When I started studying tests and measurements, I was surprised that I could learn it fairly easily. With your new WebEx program, Understanding Your Child’s Test Scores, it’s even easier to learn.

Because the program is recorded, I can refer to it whenever I need to. I used it as a refresher course before the last IEP meeting.

Learn to Create SMART IEP Goals to Measure Progress

Parents need to learn how to create measurable IEP goals where their child’s progress is measured with objective tests.

When I compared test scores from three years ago to recent scores, I discovered that my son had REGRESSED in over half of the areas tested. I also discovered that the school psychologist didn’t complete parts of several tests.

Jaws dropped at my son’s IEP meeting when I used their test scores to show that their program was not appropriate. The school psychologist was so rattled that she walked out of the meeting.

The staff at my son’s school never bothered to look at his test scores to see if he was making progress. I have to assume they don’t care.

Note from Wrights: It’s tempting to assume that school staff who don’t look at a child’s test scores don’t care. I don’t think you can make that assumption. Most teachers receive little or no training in tests and measurements. Teachers complain that the information they receive in psycho-educational evaluations is not useful.

School personnel tend to rely on the school psychologist to provide information from tests. After evaluations are completed, they are often filed away. The school psych may never look at earlier testing to see if the child is making progress or regressing. When confronted with evidence from school testing that the child regressed, the school psych is often embarrassed and defensive.

  1. My child was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and is going to SDC kindergarten. We have privelege for him to be tested at Kaiser’s Autism Clinic. During my conversation with the doctor, she advised that if their evaluation results are different, say less severe than the school district’s evaluation results, the district might remove all services that my son receives now. The school district may use Kaiser’s evaluation results since we signed a consent for the school to review his medical records.
    Is that true? If yes, what will happen to his IEP goals and objectives? Will they cancel the IEP soon? What should we do? Should we take the risk? He is doing fine academically, but needs assistance and a structured class. We know this because we enrolled him in a private preschool and this wasn’t successful.

  2. DYSLEXIA – To my knowledge there is not one specific “test” for dyslexia. It is based on the “clinical judgment” of a psychologist, by the way a child tests on a battery of tests. The first thing you need to learn is how children learn to read (I mean REALLY learn to read, not memorize and word call). Read anything by Jeanne Chall and Louisa Moats (Google their names). Then look at your child’s test scores. Questions to ask yourself: Has my child received adequate reading instruction? Where are my child’s deficits in reading? Does the program being used address those deficits?
    Many teachers do not know how to teach children to read, especially children with dyslexia whose needs are different. Don’t assume a teacher knows how to teach all children to read. The National Council on Teacher Quality found that only 11 out of 72 colleges of education actually teach TEACHERS the components of the science of reading!

  3. @Ann, yes, you’re finding out the difference between eligibility for services (a legal decision) and need for intervention (a psychological and educational decision).

    For many twice-exceptional (gifted and disabled) kids, the two are very different — a gifted dyslexic kid is likely to be compensating well enough and using enough test savvy and general knowledge to make it into the low average range of achievement. Thus, although technically the child *could* be provided services (and there are some legal opinions supporting this), and some school districts are willing to do so, most will not find the child legally eligible.

    Private assessments are really useful (more useful than school-based assessments) for understanding 2E kids’ needs, but then parents typically need to provide services themselves. I agree, it’s not fair.

  4. I too have a highly gifted son with ADHD, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia (writting). In the middle of his K year we had a private evaluation and found all of this out. We asked the school for a meeting to discuss an IEP. Two months later they met with us. The psychologist had not even read his eval. They told me the only thing they could do was monitor his handwriting by counting his words per minute weekly. I was horrified. I asked them why they wouldn’t address his Dyslexia. They said “because he is reading above grade level”. Our psychologist explained that his ability to memorize words was enabled by his giftedness. The school wouldn’t agree with my phrasing but agreed we were talking about the same thing when I said, “so we have to wait for my son to fail the average standards before you will help him!?!” It’s a real shame. Private school next $$ ouch!

  5. I have a daughter with Down Syndrome..she is doing very well in school, and so faar we have been given what we have requested. My son is ‘typical’, however has a learning disability. It took me years to prove it, and now he is in 5th grade and in Resource Room, he has the most problems with reading and writing..I am curious about do i go about having him tested? What type of Dr can do this?

  6. Hello. My son is 11 yrs old and is high function autism. I’m having a hard time with the school. They are not letting my son have recess because they only have two teachers and it is only 10 minutes long. They put too many students with special needs on the playground at one time and the regular teachers can’t handle this problem. So the school has asked for my son to give up his recess. I don’t feel this is right. What should I do?

  7. I have been told by an attorney, a probation officer , and my child’s school that if my child is tested for ED she could be ‘labeled’ and this was not good. Can someone tell me why since their answers didn’t make any since to me concerning what is best for her. I was told that she wouldn’t be able to join the military, and certain jobs. Is it so bad that this label will follow her the rest of her life even when she grows up and becomes an adult? What other ways will this impact her? I’m so confused!!

  8. I agree with everything that you have said! We have “fought” and “won” (without ever going due process, mediation, etc.) a private placement, private counseling and services with folks of our choosing in the community as well as, multiple other accomodations and services (delivered in our home).

    Two things that were super helpful to us are: Scan every document and keep it on a jump drive on your key ring. Write a thank you letter after every single meeting and ask them to place it in all locations the IEP is stored – send it to all team members. Scanning documents allowed us to show patterns by cutting, pasting, and reorganizing to show patterns on one page. This also allows you to keep your originals nice and safe and eliminates the need to go through them constantly. We organized those into plastic hanging file tubs by year.

  9. I’m having the most difficult time, trying to have the school start teaching my child standard-base goals, instead of extend goals. My argument to the school is that she is an 5th grader who is currently on a kindergarder level, why is this because according to previous I.EP, and progress report she has surpass all previous work?

  10. Thanks to the help and training I have received from reading “From Emotions to Advocacy” I am now charting my son’s regression to use as evidence in a special education complaint. I am wondering if I can mix different tests that measure the same areas evaluated when doing this and still obtain a legitimate result? Thanks!

  11. May I ask who or what factored into the NJ 90 day period for an evaluation to be completed? You can “loose” a child in 90 days. If they are in need, then why does it take 90 days during which they may fail or seriously decline in a subject.
    I just don’t understand the reasoning behind this rule.

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