Teaching Every Child to Read: Never Give Up!

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“Never give up” is an essential motto for parents of children who have difficulty learning to read.

I know. My son was seriously behind in reading skills throughout his early grade school years.

Typical in most schools by the end of third grade, I knew his school district would stop providing individual reading instruction. I could not let that happen! Kevin was making “good progress,” but he was falling further and further behind his age mates in reading skill.

I used the Wrightslaw technique of graphing scores to demonstrate this gap. Pete is right when he says it’s a skill all parents should master

The evaluation results gave me the data. Graphing the data helped me convince the CSE team that research based reading instruction (RBI) needed to be included in Kevin’s IEP.  That instruction continued for the next several years.

Yes, it took several years.  However, I never gave up. Kevin did learn to read fluently!  Kevin just finished his first semester as a full time college student with a 2.8 GPA.

Reading – A Basic Skill

Reading is such a basic skill.  Having others read to you cannot substitute for this skill. Using assistive technology to read for you cannot substitute.

If we teach a child everything BUT reading through all the years of public school, when he leaves school, his chances are limited. However, if we teach him nothing BUT reading, when he leaves, the whole world is open to him.

The understanding of how a child learns to read has expanded enormously over the past ten years. We now can teach virtually every child to read.  Never give up!

  1. Many parents are hard pressed to find proprly trained teachers in Wilson. Wilson is a great program. I have called their helpline to help the special education supervisor understand how the program was not being impellemnted with fidelity in the district. He listened and sent teachers for training. But, Wislon is a packaged program to school systems. They offer training opportunities to school districts but they sell the program regardles if the school system uses the training opportunities or note. Wilson was a great program early on for my child. For some older kids, Wilson may be very laborious for both student and teacher. We dropped Wilson this year and she is making better progress with anotherb SBRI program. Age and grade were determining factors and a need for something different for an older student

  2. Parents of children with print disabilities will also want to learn more about Bookshare, an online accessible book library.

    It’s free for U.S. students who qualify and they can download two reading technologies.

    K-12 and post-secondary educators and school administrators should know about this quality book repository.

    It’s partially funded by OSEP – Office of Special Education and our tax dollars. Recommend getting individual membership as well as asking school principal to get an organizational membership for textbook access. Do it!

  3. These are the things that helped me as I have reflected over the last year or so with working with the school district, etc. These are only my reflections and are not meant to dismiss anyone’s experiences. My son is dyslexic, athletic, etc. and in 7th grade:

    1. I stopped placing blame on school district, etc. and became action focused and data driven concerning his needs. At the end of the day, I know that teachers did their best with the resources that they had.
    2. My goal, despite any “knots”, was to collaborate with the school district–even with an advocate. I never did let it become adverserial.
    3. Being realistic–older struggling readers may not want all the extra help. Some do not like the “pull-out” and may prefer help outside of school. This is something to note as we can forget their needs.
    7. AT is the key

  4. GB – Try Alphabetic Phonics. My son was at pre primer reading level and fluency in 8th grade. The school ended up paying for a tutor that was certified and taught Alphabetic Phonics and Wilson reading because we proved that the school was not providing FAPE. He was able to learn to read and is more fluent to a 10th grade level. He is now in college and he belongs to Learning Ally that has books you can download from the internet. We got him qualified for this because he is a diagnosed dyslexic and our physician filled Learning Ally’s paperwork. He downloads the college books and has read/write gold read them on his computer while he reads the book at the same time. This helps him as well as actually being able to read fluently.

  5. I just saw all these comments and I had to add one of my own. I am working part time for a company who focuses on reading instruction using research based Orton-Gillingham methods done online. Some of you may be interested in learning more about Lexercise. It can be hard for families to find OG trained instructors and the traditional method does not always offer the intensity needed for more efficient progress. Check out the website if you are interested.
    I agree you should never give up when it comes to such an important life skill and joy. Using technology in diifferent ways, learning about what technologies can help are all important…..I hope this post is helpful.

  6. Dear GB,
    They are working on fluency with my son. I congratulate your son for such a high comprehension level. You may want to research some IPAD apps. There are several that I hear about that some people praise but do your own research and see what my work for you. Are they using assistive technology with him? If not, many Assistive Technology Centers will have the latest devices and software available to help dyslexsic students, low fluency readers, etc. Look up AT centers in your area. I am beginning to wonder about fluency issues. Some educators focus on fluency and some on comprehension or some both. It is a mixed.bag. Good luck. Keep us updated as knowledge is power.

  7. Dear Heartbroken, I think your school district is wrong but they do not want to offer something such as language therapy because it DOES WORK and it outside of the box of their “boxed” programs. And, their reasons for stopping the program could pertain to legal issues, union concerns, state mandates, etc. Or, it could be political reasons. I have seen it all. It is all a game. I am finding that the students are the lowest on the totem pole. However, I encourage you to think outside the box and find other ways to service students–even if after school hours. I would have loved to have someone like you available to my child. Indeed the school day is the best time to service students but do not give up. Consider this an open door.

  8. My child is in the 11th grade this year and has had documented problems with reading fluency since Kindergarten. Reading fluency testing places my child at the beginning 4th grade level, but reading comprehension is college level (age 21). Despite ongoing help with reading (tutoring, RTI), nothing has helped with fluency. School wants to continue RTI, but that has not worked for fluency. Does anyone know of any programs that help with reading fluency? My child wants to go on to college and we are afraid low fluency levels will make it extremely difficult. Thanks!

  9. I am so glad that you didn’t give up. I am in training as a academic language therapist. Most people call it Dyslexia Therapy. I just started my second year of training. Today I was told that I could no longer give the therapy in our district during the school day. I have to offer my services after school hours. I have been teaching for twenty years and for the first time in twenty years I feel like I truly have something to offer my students and the district won’t let me use it. There was absolutely no reason for this. I was not trying to charge anyone any type of fee or anything else. There are six teachers in our district getting this training. We were all told to stop giving any therapy during they school day. Our students are suffering because of this. This is breaking my heart.

  10. Michelle, your comments and story are important for parents and educators to hear. I agree with you– not everyone will read proficiently. I would not have thought this 2 years ago. But, I look at my son and realize that he needs to focus on technology as he has high comprehension and is very intelligent. He is living in an age of technology. Your comments is making me change my thinking. We need to listen to our kids. My son is enjoying the use of assistive technology and is accessing grade level material. But, I am listening to him more after reading Michelle’s comments. Teenagers have voices and we need to hear them. I look at all of his abilities and realize that he may not be the best reader but his other talents compensate for such. His IEP is crafted around technology and remediation and he is happy. Thank you Michelle.

  11. I realize that there are some educators that believe that everyone will be able to learn proficiently. I held this belief too, until I watched my son and began looking at the research. My son has had excellent OG and fluency instruction for 7 years (3 hours a day including 1:1 tutorial). We have consulted with experts in the field (Tufts, Mass Gen, MIT), he has had IEE’s. He is very bright and motivated. Yet, after all this his reading is below the 5th grade level. Thankfully his comprehension is above the 90th percentile.

    So, at age 14 we crafted an IEP that focuses on technology that will allow him access to material at his cognitive level. This is what he wants – he is done with reading remediation. He loves literature, but hates to read. AT will help him build on his strengths and interests and get him ready for college.

  12. Michelle, This may help when it comes to determining if your child will learn to read or can learn to read. When my child went to a neuropsychologist for the IEE, I was told that he would be reading at grade level if he as remediated. An IEE will determine such for most students. But, I do understand your viewpoint. The neuro also gave specific recommendations to get that reading level up to or near grade level, and it is working. I think parents need that IEE from a trained and expert neuro to see if the child can learn to read so they do not give up BUT AT will always be needed in order for them to keep up. It was a hard pill for me to swallow when the neuro told me that. But, the school district is following the recommendations and my child is reading. But, that IEE is key. Parents should not wait but get it done. It is key

  13. Michelle, you are realistic and I am doing the same thing. However, my child’s school district is doing a lot to help with the recent IEE, AT, etc. My child attends his PPTs to inform them that he plans to attend college, etc. His reading is improving with two research based reading programs, etc. He is a teenager and puberty is changing him and his desire to read as it impresses the girls.It is a huge motivator. It is working. Afterschool activities are huge for him. Is his brain changing at puberty to read better, I don’t know. I do know that Bookshare, Learning Ally etc.–all we started using in the fall of 2010 with a laptop is the key along with Read out Loud and Write out Loud. Technology is key for him. The school district is trying–it is not easy as many districts are not fully aware of the research concerning dyslexia.

  14. Michelle – My son is very profoundly dyslexic and we also had many years of failure for him to read. At the beginning of 9th grade he was reading at 1st grade level (shame on our school) and we were ready to give up until we discovered two programs that worked. Wilson reading and Alphabetic Phonics. After 6 more years he is now reading at 10th grade level. There are professionals that are certain that everyone who is of normal intelligence can learn to read. It is just a matter of finding the right program. Sometimes reaching puberty can also help the brain change. Just a thought.

  15. My son is 14, very bright and profoundly dyslexic. On most measures of word reading and fluency, he scores below the 10th %. On tests of phonological processing, vocabulary and comprehension he generally scores above the 90th percentile. He has enjoyed a quality placement at a well known and respected school for children with dyslexia.

    After 7 years of intensive remediation we are switching gears. Our goal is to maintain current skill level and become proficient with technology. One might say we are giving up.

    There is research that there are a subset of individuals that do not respond to current reading remediation programs. While my son has not had the MRI to determine if he falls in this group, I would bet my house and more that he does. (for more on the study http://gablab.mit.edu/node/486).

  16. I think “Never give up” should be every parent’s motto.

    One of the quietest moments in an IEP meeting came about when I asked where the staff thought my son would be in a few years. No one would touch that with a ten foot pole. The lack of vision from the people responsible for charting his education was astounding.

    The only folks with the vision are the parents. If we give no one is going to step up and help our kids out.

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