HELPING DAVID LEARN: A GOOD “IDEA.”
by Caryl Harvey
I can’t remember squat. Neither
can my nine year old. Mine has to do with age. We’re not certain what causes his. He reads at a first grade level. He
can’t remember words he sounded out minutes before.
But the school is required to help
him learn. That doesn’t automatically mean they will—
YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR
It’s like this conversation
I had with my adopted son’s teacher.
SHE: David is having trouble reading.
Can you read with him at night?
Yes. I do.
SHE: Because I think if someone
reads with him every night, the repetition will help him—
ME: I do read with him. But he
gets frustrated. He can’t remember the words he sounds out.
SHE: And if you could read these
books, he will get credit on them for the reading program this semester.
ME: That’s a fifty page chapter
SHE: He gets a point for each book
he reads and—
ME: Fifty pages. That’s three
SHE: Surely there is time to help
David with his homework?
ME: What about the other kids?
What about David’s brother’s algebra?
SHE: David does algebra?
ME: Not David. His brother. What
about his brother?
SHE: Well, if you don’t have
the time, I suppose David’s brother could read with him, but…
ME: No. David’s brother doesn’t
have time to read with him. I read with David, but he needs some help from the school. There is a problem—
SHE: Yes, I’ve noticed David
has trouble reading. Maybe we could schedule him for summer school.
ME: And they would evaluate him
SHE: Evaluate? No, I don’t
think they could evaluate him, but someone there would read with him every day.
Can you see the problem? The teacher
has thirty other children to consider. She has an agenda—a singlemindedness of what she thinks will help David. His
problem MUST arise from my lack of involvement.
I, on the other hand, have an agenda
too. David has a problem, and it is not my fault. I don’t know how to help him.
Our stumbling block is LACK
I asked David’s first grade
teacher to get a BOCES ( Board of Cooperative Educational Services) evaluation for David. She told me that takes time. She recommended holding him back a year. I agreed. The second year of first grade,
David got an IEP (an individualized educational program which entitles him to special needs education.) Keep in mind, David
is not slow. He has a learning disability of some kind.
When he started second grade, I
asked his teacher to set him up for an evaluation. She assured me she would. Four months later, it still had not been done.
A call to the resource teacher—the one in charge of the special needs program—netted me nothing. She had to talk
to his teacher first.
Social Services, at my request,
asked for an evaluation. Nothing happened.
FINALLY, I CALLED BOCES MYSELF.
I made a nuisance of myself. I
I read up on the rights I had as
a parent in Colorado.
Finally, I got my evaluation. It was a long, drawn out procedure that left all parties stumped. BUT AT LEAST NOW THEY ARE AWARE THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM AND IT IS NOT MY LACK OF INVOLVEMENT WITH DAVID’S EDUCATIONAL
PROCESS. THERE IS A CHALLENGE TO THEM.
They are going to try a new approach
to reading—using audio books with written material—to see if it helps David’s retention and skills.
I don’t know—it may
come down to helping David learn to compensate for his reading deficit by using audio text books and teaching assistants who
read the material to him. David may struggle with this his whole life. And reading is the key to most other subjects. THE
SCHOOL MUST MAKE ACCOMODATIONS FOR A LEARNING DISABILITY.
There is a federal program (Law)
which requires schools to identify and assist special needs children. The acronym for this is IDEA ( Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.)
IDEA gives states federal funds to help make
special education services available for students with disabilities. It also provides very specific requirements to ensure
“free appropriate public education” for students with disabilities. FAPE is the
protected right of every eligible child, in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
From the definitions of terms page
under this law:
Specific Learning Disability: A disorder in one or more of the
basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest
itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. The term includes
such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
The term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental
retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Parent Training and Information
Centers. Every state has at least one Parent Training and Information
Center (PTI). These centers are a required part of IDEA. Their primary purpose is to provide parents with timely information
about special education, including state specific information, so that they may participate effectively in meeting the educational
needs of their children. In addition to the PTI, many states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC) that are designed
to serve the needs of low-income parents, parents of children with limited English proficiency and parents with disabilities.
This URL will help you locate your state PTI
Teachers often attempt to alter
teaching methods for challenging students before referring them for other intervention. Often, it is difficult for them to
admit that what they are trying isn’t working. But many school districts have established procedures for working with
children whose impaired abilities—or whose behaviors—make traditional learning difficult. These procedures are
called PRE-REFERRAL INTERVENTIONS.
Your child’s teacher may have discussed
some of these support methods with you at conferences. If not, and your child is struggling to learn, APPROACH THE TEACHER
ABOUT PRE-REFERRAL INTERVENTION.
always have the right to request a formal evaluation if you don’t believe your child is making adequate progress through pre-referral approaches.
If your child is having trouble learning, it doesn't necessarily mean
that he or she has a disability, such as a specific learning disability. A learning disability may be one possible source of the problem, but there may be others:
The school's approach to teaching basic academic skills like
reading may not be achieving adequate results for all students.
Your child's previous learning may not have prepared him
or her sufficiently for the lessons the teacher is presenting.
Cultural and/or language differences might present a barrier
to communication with the teacher or prevent access to the learning materials.
Another condition, such as attention difficulties, poor hearing,
or vision, may be affecting learning
Whatever the problem, it is your right as a parent to request services for your child.
Don’t wait for the teacher to respond to your child’s frustration. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND THE RESPONSIBILITY TO
ADVOCATE—THEY HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO RESPOND.
See the website below for more information: