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Links to Helpful Sites

International Dyslexia Association: Guidence and support. Great message board.
The Special Ed Advocate: Learn your rights! Great site! A must!
LD Online: An interactive guide to LDs for parents, teachers and children
Council of Educators for Students w/Disabilities (504 Information): Commonly asked questions and answers about a 504
The Riggs Institute: A nonprofit organization helping chldren learn phonemic and graphemic awareness.
Overview of IDEA: Quick and to the point! Requirements and regulatory.
Overview of 504: Quick and to the point! Requirements and regulatory.
Research Grants: Looking for grants? This site has the books for purchase.
LD Teen: This site is for Ralph. You are not alone.




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On A Serious Note......

The following was written over a course of three years. I look back and am happy those days are behind us.

Some of my views have changed. I was very frustrated with teachers, I now believe that the problems in our school go higher up the ladder. We get notes, asking parents to donate crayons, glue sticks, and pencils. Fund raisers begging us to buy stuff we don't really need. They talk about teacher accountability, but look what the teachers are up against. Our kids need pencils. They also need books. The paper says they want 6 new school buildings. Not sure where computers are on this list. Well, you know what? They just signed a new football coach for $100,000.00. Is it me? Or do we need to get our priorities straight?




I love to joke and kid around, but I do have a serious side. I'd like to say something about learning disabilies. Two years ago, I got a call from the school. It was the reading specialist. She said that she was going to make a recommendation that our son be held back in the 2nd grade. My head reeled. My bright beautiful child was failing! He had decent grades, what could she be talking about? She said he was showing no progress in reading. Well, I had noticed he struggled and would fidgit so much that he would fall out of his chair. He lost his place often and when running his finger along,it seemed as if he thought the sentences ran off the page. He would move his head this way and that, as if he was trying to keep up with the words. I read an article in the paper about children with Dyslexia and ADD. They were discribing my son! We requested the school test him. I began reading every book I could get on learning disabilities. The school came back with their diagnosis that "he was just to young to learn". What they meant was "developementally delayed", I guess they were putting it in terms they thought I could understand. He was eight years old. I asked to see the tests. I had read that it was very dangerous to make a prognosis with less than 4 hours of testing. They had taken 45 minutes! We decided to take him to a learning specialist, Dr. Robert Ferrara, from A.I.Dupont Childrens Hospital. After many hours of testing, we were given the diagnosis. He was ADD and Dyslexic. I cried when I read the results. Dr. Ferarra made the recommendation that he recieve special accommodations and be taught reading in the Ortin-Gillingham method. He said that the whole word method of teaching would be ineffective. We went to the school with our findings. They were less than enthusiastic. They rolled their eyes and told us that the school "didn't want to open the door to this kind of thing." We were stunned. A friend told us, that if you don't like what you hear when you go into the meeting, take a taperecorder. We did. The results were amazing. Yes, they were willing to cooperate. But by doing this, we felt as if we had alienated the faculty. They made us feel like we were making excuses for our stupid, lazy child. He wasn't stupid, infact he had scored college levels on some parts of his tests (spatial & long term memory). The school constantly beats into your head, read a book, when it was they who needed to read. I found that a lot of the teachers had had no formal education on LDs. Worse yet, they didn't seem interested to learn. I would think that the knowledge of how to teach these children would make their job easier. I know most schools aren't this way, (thank-goodness!) but this was our experience. He was the 1st and ONLY child in the school diagnosed with these learning disabilites. These are the people we entrust to observe for possible LDs. When I told his teacher about the doctors findings, her response was, "he doesn't run around the room!" It's estimated that between 6%-20% of school age children have learning differences. What about the other children? Their way of handling it, is to fail children, when it's them failing to teach in a method the children can understand. The sad part is, when you fail a child it follows them all through school. When they play ball, "Why are you in the older league? Did you fail? Why did you get your license early? Did you fail?" Did you fail. They hear it so often they forget that failure was just an event. They feel that failure is a person. I know these things, because my brother was "held back". Those are his words. He said he would much rather have had Ds and Fs, then to be asked if he had failed. (Especially since his grades never did improve!) I knew that this would not be the solution with my son. After a year of accomodations, we decided to try Ritalin. It has been a godsend. His grades are good. He's a MUCH happier child. His self-esteem has improved. I guess the whole point of what I'm trying to say is, only you can fight for your child. No one knows them like you should. Don't be afraid to question the professionals, 'cause they might not have a clue about what's going on. If you think your child may have a learning disability, there is a lot of information and support out there. The following links may help. But to be sure, please have your child tested.The longer you wait, the more frustrated your child will become. And that leads to behavioral problems. Goodness you don't need those! UPDATE: A new Magnet School has been started in our district. The Southern Delaware school of the Arts. 600 students applied for 300 positions (what does that tell you?), and fortunately Hunter and Cody got in! The school teaches the required academia, but with a new approach. Subjects are intergraded with music, dance, art and theatre. The kids say it is a "totally awesome" school, and in their language, that's as good as it can get! They say the school is more interesting and FUN. (School fun? Could it be they don't relize they're learning!) The staff is creative, energetic and dedicated to making it work. (As with anything new and different, there have been the "nay sayers".) I have great confidence in the faculty and administration my only regret is the school only goes to grade 8. Maybe we can work on that!

Would you want to read OR could you read text that looks like this?

Apparently this is what some believe, to be an example of what a child sees that is Dyslexic. I don't know, I'm not dyslexic. Add this to not being able to distinquish phonemic sounds and you have a little bit of an idea what it's like to have this learning difference. Most people call it a disability. These children are usually very bright and it's hard to associate that with being disabled. They just need to be taught in a method they can understand. Our doctor suggested a specific sytematic phonemic method (Orton-Gillingham). I read the book "Why Johnny Still Can't Read" and the author, Rudolf Flesh, believes that the main contributing source of Dyslexia is the whole word system of reading used by Houghton-Mifflen and Riverside (to name a few). My personal experience is that schools tend to give these children extra tutoring in reading but continue to use the whole word method. If it's not working, why not try something else? When my son first starting having problems in school, I didn't know where to turn. The purpose of this page is to hopefully share what I have learned and to help someone that is experiencing that frustration of "now what do I do?". This is my second time around. I went through all this 3 years ago with another school, same district. Now I get to go through it again. Did I mention that my son is the first and only (diagnosed) dyslexic in both schools? Funny, statistics say that 1 in 5 children are. Three years ago I went to every library around. I had more library cards then credit cards. The information I could get was very limited. Now it's a whole new ball game. Reason? The world wide web. The first problem we incountered was testing We had the school test and were not happy with the amount of time taken and the small amount of tests. We felt more time was needed to make a diagnosis. Their diagnosis was developementally delayed. He's too young to learn they said. Did they gives us that brief explanation, because they didn't think we could understand what developementally delayed was? We had our son tested outside the school with the best learning specialist in the state, Dr. Robert Ferrara, of A.I.Dupont Children's Hospital. We now relize we could have requested a reimbursement from the school for outside evaluation. That was about an $800+ mistake. After we received the diagnosis of Dyslexic/ADD and the reading method recommendations, we thought we were good to go. We didn't know that the trouble was just starting. The school tried to tell us that the Riverside method that was being used was an appropiate substitute. That it was a phonics method. Fortunately, "Why Johnny Still Can't Read" contained the Ten Alibis (there is a link to your left) and I was prepared. If you are having a meeting with the school over the reading method you MUST read them. We prepared accommendations for our son under the 504 act. We did not relize that "Dyslexia is a learning disability for the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilites Act and is eligible for services under IDEA. (20 U.S.C. Section 1400)" We were lead to believe all he needed was a 504 and he was covered. Not so. You must have an IEP (Individual Educational Program) to be covered by IDEA. We thought that if you had an IEP, you would automatically would be put in the Special Education Class, a placement our doctor had warned us against. (Special Ed is commonly referred to as "The Retard Class", Resource is known as "ReRe" or "Resource Retards"). Hunter is a smart kid, that classification would ruin his self-esteem, something that we feel is very important). We did not relize that "individual tutoring, one on one, in lieu of a "Special Education Classroom" is permitted under IDEA-97, TITLE 20, SECTION 1401 DEFINITIONS, SUBSECTIONS 22 & 29". (To view Court Cases and your rights and the law go to The Special Ed Advocate at left. Check out James Brody v. Dare Co. Board of Education. It's enlightening to say the least).

Where do we stand today? It's time to have our son tested again and we hear that the school pyschologist is very good. You have to summit your request in writing, so make sure you do that. In the last 3 years of trying to get our doctors orders carried out, our son has received approximately 6 weeks in Orton-Gillingham tutoring. Six weeks in 3 years. We will be rewriting his 504, we didn't know that they only last a year. Hopefully, this time around will be much more productive. 11/11/98 Talked to a parent that homeschools and have been checking into that. I found a website called The Greenwood Institute. This organization prepares lesson plans for dyslexic children. They tailor the plans to each individual child. Kinda scared about homeschooling. I need more information. 11/18/98 Report cards came out! 3 F's and 1 C. Can't say that I'm shocked. He got a 48 in reading. I keep telling them the the whole word method isn't working. How much proof do they need? He's in the 5th grade, they've had 5 years to prove me wrong. I spoke with the principal about a study done by the California Board of Education. They monitored children in kindergarten for phonemic awareness. The children having difficulty grasping it, were given 20 minutes a day of intense phonemic instruction. The results were a amazing. They were able to reduce the Special Ed classes by 25%. Do you know what his response was? "With less special ed children, the school would recieve less money, meaning less teachers." Am I missing something here? I would think having less children in sped would be a goal. Maybe he wasn't thinking clearly. I'm contacting an advocate from the Parent Information Center tomorrow. 11/20/98 Talked with a Parent Consultant at P.I.C. She says I should have received a letter in writing confirming the testing within 10 days (I sent it a month ago, next week). She also informed me that they had 60 days to fulfill my request for testing. She suggested writing a follow up letter requesting a written summation of the services performed so far, and to also ask that they reply with 5 working days. She also instructed me to ask for an IEP meeting, and request that I be notified (in writing) of the meeting, so I could attend. Also in the letter, I should ask if the IEP would be set up at that time, and if it is going to be, request that I'd be given ample (10 days) notice. The 10 days would give me time to gather all the information I could on Dyslexia/ADD, and the proven methods of teaching a dyslexic child. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

I've been leaving posts on the IDA & LD Online Message Boards, today my mailbox was full of responses from parents expressing the same problems with schools. Seems to be pretty common. I even had one post from a teacher/parent of 2 dyslexic children stating that the bottom line is money. Schools don't want to pay for something that doesn't benefit the majority of students. (How come they get the extra money for sped students then?) I have to agree.

11/24/98 I had my letter ready to send when I got a call from the principal. He stated that the school is so busy that they will not be able to test till the end of January! I called the Parent Consultant and she said, that they were jerking me around. She suggested I rewrite my letter stating that I want an IEP meeting scheduled using the existing data, such as the outside evaluation (that no one wants to read) that states that Hunter is Dyslexic. By law, a Dyslexic child qualifies for IDEA services. She also told me to send her a copy of the letter, and to put Copy-PIC/DE on the envelope of the letter I send to the school.

The principal called today, he said that they will begin testing on Hunter today! Didn't mention a date for the IEP meeting. He said that I misunderstood him about the end of January bit. I've been spending a lot of time in Judy Bonnell's site. If you are gearing up for an IEP meeting, YOU MUST VISIT IT. It is a goldmine of information! I've been learning so much. She has a great page on learning tests and measurements. I don't know the address offhand, just do a search on her name.

Hunter had a pre-spelling test on Monday. He got 26 words out of 30 wrong. His homework assignment was to write each missed word 5 times. I watched him. He was mindlessly writing. This method isn't working, and think of how long it's going to take! Not to mention, he has other homework.

I decided to do something. I went to LD Online (great site, check out the message boards and LD in depth) and looked up spelling methods. We tried Reverse Chaining by Letter. The results were amazing! It isn't that hard either! He "got" it!. I asked him to spell the words this morning and he remembered how! I'm so excited!

HE GOT A 104 ON HIS SPELLING TEST!

Well here we go again! For Monday night's homework, he was supposed to write his words five times apiece. I told him that instead of the 5 times routine, we would do the Reverse Chaining and I would write his teacher a note explaining what we were doing. Today, I asked him what his teacher said. I thought, she would be happy that we found a method that works. The 104 was the proof. He said that she was mad. She said, we "Can't be doing that!". She suggested I have it written into his IEP. I could understand if I was requesting he do special class work, but this was homework. Does it really matter whether he writes the words 5 times? It's a waste of time and time is precious! I'm considering homeschooling. This is crazy!

I posted to the teachers on LD Online. They said, that the teacher felt as though, I had stepped on her toes. Jeez, she made it very clear at one of our meeting that she didn't know anything about Dyslexia. Seems that they aren't required to. I just thought that I was helping. I get all these things from the school saying "Read a Book", why aren't they? I asked her if she had read his learning report from the specialist, she said, she hadn't gotten around it. The parents are made to feel accountable for their children's progress, why aren't the teachers made accountable? What about the other undiagnosed dyslexic kids? They will fall farther and farther behind. Most drop out of school. Most end up on some form of government support, whether it be encarceration, welfare, or unemployment. Wouldn't it be cheaper to stop it at the source? I sent her an email appologizing for stepping on her toes.

12/9/98 Got an email from his teacher. She said that the new spelling method is working. His teachers are going to get together and start sending home his assignments on Mondays so I can work with him at home! YAHOOOOO! He's been sick the last 2 days and we went over his homework. We made a game out of learning the state capitols. His self-esteem has seemed to have taken a jump.

12/14/98 I haven't gotten any of the schoolwork, that I had been promised. I'm so tired of this. I contacted the Greenwood Institute about a pilot homeschooling program.

12/17/98 The Greenwood Institute CALLED. They want to know if we would like to be participants in their homeschooling program! They will go over his testing and plan a curriculum for him based on his learning style and achievement level. I think I'm going to do it. I'VE HAD ENOUGH!

12/20/98 We talked to Hunter about homeschooling to see how he feels about it. HE IS THRILLED!

1/15/99 Rescinded my request for an IEP. Sent a Letter of Intent, telling the school we will be homeschooling. I feel like a ton has been lifted of my shoulders! People have been questioning my decision. They say it will be hard on me. What could be worse than the last 3 years of fighting the school? I now wish that all the time and energy I had spent in educating myself about LDs and the law, had been spent on educating HIM!

1/20/99 Today would have been the IEP meeting, but we ended up going over Hunter's tests. They confirmed the tests done 3 years ago. He is very intelligent and he is dyslexic. I signed the papers. It's offical. We are now homeschooling.

2/20/99 It's been a month. Hunter is a much happier child now. I didn't relize the pressure he was under. I don't think you could wipe the smile off of this kid's face!

Delaware is a great state, visit the "Lighter Side" of our life here!

Welcome to Flat Iron Farm.....Lock Your Car Doors!: A much lighter side of our life here! Don't forget to bring yer boots! Guarenteed to make you smile!
Postcards from Delaware: Pictures of our beautiful state and links to some points of interest.