Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary
and Secondary School pamphlet was just published by the US Department of
Education, Office of Civil Rights. It’s available at the following link
From Emily Gibbons at The Literacy Nest
FYI- This is an opinion post based on working with dyslexic children for 16 years and speaking with hundreds of teachers who work with them.
Weekly spelling tests are great for kids with excellent rote memory. You get your words on Monday, you practice all week, cram on Thursday night and test on Friday. The cycle starts all over the next Monday. We don’t create successful spellers in this cycle. And if you have dyslexia, you need a structured approach to phonics and spelling that focuses on one pattern, rule or skill at a time. Too many lists go home that teach TOO MANY RULES. It’s difficult to teach spelling skills for mastery when there are too many skills within one list.
This is another rite of passage in many classrooms as is the weekly spelling test. Kids need practical strategies that will help them build flexibility and fluency with their math facts. Rote memorization of facts is a source of stress for many children with dyslexia. Anyone under stress knows one thing: learning will not happen with fear. Give tools, practice things like skip counting and looking for patterns in multiples, instead.
When I was a classroom teacher, I was guilty of giving out the Monday packet to be completed and turned in by Friday. There is a great debate going on about giving homework at all. Cutting the quantity for a dyslexia child is leveling the playing field when you consider the amount of time and mental energy it takes to get through a single homework assignment, especially after a long school day. For older students, cutting quantity might be easy to do when you have been assigned a report. But the pathway to get there can be reformed with assistive technologies.
Let’s be clear. SSR is NOT the same as structured independent reading time within a literacy block. SSR is futile if a child is reading a book that is too challenging or abandoning books every day. No one wants to see a struggling reader left out to pasture in a manner of words. Teachers need to assist children with appropriate book choice and then check in with them through mini conferences or use of a sticky note or reading log. This should happen more frequently for dyslexia readers. Dyslexic readers should have access to audio books as much as possible.
I see this happening a lot with dyslexia kids. Listen, they know they have a hard time with spelling. Circling a bunch of spelling errors in red or purple or marking them down will not help them improve. I will say, however, as an O.G. teacher that holding kids with dyslexia accountable for the lessons that have had explicit phonics instruction is a good thing. We teach for mastery in O.G. If my student has mastered the FLOSS Rule, then I will expect them to try their best to apply that rule in their writing. The key is to have accountability in spelling in small doses, not overwhelmingly long lists of rules.”
Below is a great letter written by JM Lawrence of Grapevine, TX to help a parent respond to an email from a teacher about her child’s behavior during a language art activity. The teacher indicated that she knew the child had difficulty with reading and spelling. The child also said, “this is only easy for people who can read”. Some of the laws she references are specific to TX, but it’s a great letter that I thought needed to be shared. Thank JM!
Dear _______, _______, _______
I am sorry to hear from your email that X continues to struggle with reading and spelling, which causes her to act out. Her disability, dyslexia, is at the root of the issue and it is time to protect her access to the education offered her peers. Emotionally, you can see that X would rather “look” angry and defiant than “stupid” to her classmates. She is NOT choosing this behavior, it is her protection mechanism that has developed in your building, in response to teachers and administrators choosing to delay appropriate instruction to teach her to read using methods scientifically developed for students with the characteristics of Dyslexia. While our district is not choosing to participate in the Pilot for Act 69 Early Dyslexia Screening and Intervention, it does not mean that our school does not have the obligation to do the right thing and assess my daughter for Dyslexia and provide Free Appropriate Public Education including reading instruction that meets her needs.
John King’, US Secretary of the Department of Education, used these words in his testimony before a Senate committee, “But, the IEP team would be expected to address the screening for Dyslexia as a part of the assessment of the needs of a student who is struggling.“ This is Secretary of education acknowledging that IEP assessment teams should reasonably be administering testing instruments that can be used to identify Dyslexia? As the voice of the federal department of education, he is voicing support of for my daughter who struggles to read, being identified, for her disability and then being “taught to read.”
I am requesting that the district follow federal disability guidelines and provide my daughter with “Dyslexia” testing because her characteristics are those of a student with Dyslexia, whether or not she qualifies for Special Education, our school has the federal responsibility to help her learn to read. If the school does not have a person that is qualified to identify Dyslexia, then I am requesting an Independent Educational Evaluation of my daughter with a credentialed Dyslexia provider.
Please respond to this request in writing within the next 5 business days. Until the district chooses to follow the law and provide X an appropriate education for a child who can be identified by section 504 ADA laws, when an assignment requires her to read and write, at grade level, please send her on an errand to a place where she can be helped through the assignment.
I look forward to hearing that you have received this correspondence and how you will be addressing my daughter’s needs for FAPE.
The following is from Kyle Redford, Dyslexic and Educator.
To see Kyle’s story watch “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dylsexia”.
it screams of shame. Additionally, if it’s a secret, it’s also scary.
The Privacy Dilemma
by Kyle Redford
As a teacher, I have encountered many parents who feel that sharing information about their child’s learning challenges will hurt their child’s self-esteem or diminish their chances of being successful in school. The truth is, when students see their teachers and parents whispering and being discreet, it screams of shame. Additionally, if it’s a secret, it’s also scary. It is human nature to fill an information void with worst-case scenarios. Ironically, a decision made to protect a child can often breed shame and fear.
It is understandable why parents choose to whisper and hide their child’s academic challenges; they don’t want their sons or daughters’ potential to be limited by low expectations.
Many parents also fear that the information or diagnosis will land in the wrong hands or in some file that will follow the student around and ultimately hinder his chances of getting into an elite school or college somewhere down the line. The problem, however, is that fear can prevent the student from getting access to key remediation or accommodations from which he/she would benefit.
The reality is, students don’t grow out of their dyslexia. Despite the legitimate excitement that results from a “good year” or a learning breakthrough, dyslexic students carry their unique challenges and strengths with them through the grades. Certainly their specific challenges will morph over time. For example, decoding words and spelling are a main obstacle in the early school years; in secondary school, keeping up with the volume of reading and writing is the central challenge. Over time, dyslexic students normally become more adept at dealing with their academic soft spots, but special support is critical to helping them achieve their full potential. The truth is, information about a student’s dyslexia needs to follow that student around. Instead of worrying about what is in their child’s file, parents should make sure that crucial information is shared among their child’s teachers.
I cringe when I think of all the instructional time I have lost with certain students while trying to second-guess what is impeding their learning in the classroom. With the right information, teachers are able to develop an academic plan to help dyslexic students minimize their weaknesses and maximize their strengths. For example, using a computer for tests and daily assignments can often be critical to a dyslexic student’s success. The computer’s “spell-check” and standard font allow ideas to be more readable and help to eliminate many mechanical obstacles that can hinder expression of ideas and understanding. Additionally, teachers can offer dyslexics extra time to read class novels and texts, as well as give them advance syllabuses so they can get a head start with required reading over the summer. Spelling mistakes stop looking like “careless errors” and Franklin Spellers and computers help bring students’ editing skills in line with the quality of their ideas.
Educators often indulge the privacy myth without confronting it, thus reinforcing the idea that there is legitimately something to hide. If asked to defend a decision to keep academic information from teachers or students, few will. Most educators say that their discretion is a way of respecting the parents’ wishes, but they would rather be given the permission to speak openly and honestly with students and other teachers. Unfortunately, teachers usually remain silent on this point when parents ask them to keep information private. To challenge parents on a decision to be private takes a lot of courage and conviction.
Another reason parents embrace secrecy is that they want to protect their child’s sense of his own potential. They worry that access to information about their child’s academic profile will make their child feel inferior or deflate his/her ambitions. However, with few exceptions, most students crave candid conversations about their academic strengths and weaknesses. These conversations help students understand how they learn as well as devise thoughtful strategies to overcome their challenges. An honest dialogue also helps students develop the language and vocabulary necessary to advocate for themselves in school.
Offering students specific information helps to demystify their academic anxiety. It helps them understand that just because one thing is hard for them does not mean they will struggle in all areas of school.
Case in point: until a fourth grade student of mine had her test results explained to her, she was privately terrified. Being assigned a new special reading teacher and witnessing hushed conversations between her teachers and parents had confirmed her worst private fear: she WAS stupid.
I could sense her confusion and anxiety as she shifted from being the queen of class commentary into someone who rarely paid attention and turned off during critical instruction. I convinced her parents that she needed to have someone explain her learning evaluation to her. They were reluctant to allow me to use the word dyslexia, but I managed to convince them of the benefits of giving her school struggles a name.
It was amazing what our conversation did for this student’s confidence. Once she was able to have someone explain why reading and writing were hard for her, she admitted that she had been hiding her school difficulties for years. This admission, however, came only after she learned that the same tests that identified her dyslexia also indicated that she had very strong higher-order thinking skills. I was able to reassure her that, as she got older, school would become more focused on the things she was good at, such as abstract thinking, and less on the things she struggled with, like mechanics. Most importantly, our discussion gave her permission to see herself as something other than a poor student. It infused her with the confidence that allowed her to put her school challenges in perspective.
And despite her parent’s fears, this student had no trouble with the dyslexic label. She immediately started using it to describe herself, even with her classmates. I am convinced that if parents could witness the relief and hope that wash over students when they are presented with clear information about their learning profiles, they would never choose the secrecy option again.”
This is a great overview by Dr. Tim Odegard, the new Chair of Excellence
in Dyslexic Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.
It’s a thoughtful overview of dyslexia in less than 10 minutes.
This fall, my friend Sara and I taught a community education class on Dyslexia and received many positive comments from those that attended, so we decided to do it again.
Here are the details:
Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment
Dyslexia is a learning challenge facing many children. Come learn about dyslexia and other learning difficulties. The main objective of the class is to discover tools and attitudes that will empower students with learning struggles. This is a great survey course for parents and instructors.
Classes are Monday evenings at Ordean East Community School on Feb 22th, 29th and March 7th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
Click here to sign up.
I will also be hosting a community education session:
Struggling Learners – What a Parent Should Consider
Is this year hard for your child? How can you help your child be more successful at
school? Homework takes hours and we’re still in elementary school, should it be this
hard? We’ll talk about reasons why kids struggle, how to help and how work with his/her
This class is Tuesday, Feb 9th at Lincoln Park Middle School from 6:30-8:30pm.
If your child has been diagnosed with Developmental Coordination
Disorder (DCD/Dyspraxia) please consider sending SKastner@princeton.edu
an email requesting that you be added to the next round of individuals
that will be sent the survey. We have very little information that is
being shared in the field of education.