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Getting Help for Children Who Have Reading Problems
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor

My 7 yr old who is making very slow progress in learning to read. He repeated kindergarten last year in a full-day special ed class. He is falling further behind.

He loves books. We have read to him since the day he was born. We have had his hearing tested. I have scheduled auditory processing testing this summer.

I mentioned Orton Gillingham methods to his new team at the elementary school he will attend next year. They said, "We don't do that. What can I do?

From Sue

Special ed is just a name for a budget section of the school financing plan. Special ed does not get you anything unless it is required by the IEP and there is someone at the school who can provide what the kid needs.

Your school obviously does not have a clue.

Your child has fallen behind in the special ed program. The special ed program is not helping to close the gap. Your son was closer to his peers a year ago than he is now after a year in special ed.

Get reading instruction for your child!

Contact the International Dyslexia Association branch in your state. Ask them for recommendations for an evaluator, advocate, and tutor.

After your son is getting appropriate reading instruction, you can work on getting the school to pay for the evaluation and the tutor.

You are running out of time. You have to make this happen with or without help from the school. If you wait for the school to be convinced, you will miss the window of opportunity your son has to learn to read fluently.

My advice will probably lead to a flood of e-mails that this is not the correct procedure to get an independent evaluation or an evaluation paid for by the school district. This is correct. This is not the cheapest way. This is the fastest way.

If you wait for the school to do this, you will waste time your son does not have. A school that "doesn't do Orton Gillingham" methods has too steep a learning curve.

You may be interested in Championing Children for Whom Reading and Learning Is Difficult, an article published last month in The New York Times about Pete Wright.

Pete had problems that are similar to your son's difficulties. Pete's teachers did not know what to do or how to help him so they advised his parents to lower their expectations. Fortunately, his parents did not take their advice and arranged for him to be taught by an Orton-Gillingham tutor.

What makes the story so interesting (and discouraging) is that this happened 50 years ago!

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

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