Let’s say you have a child in third or fourth grade, or even tenth grade, who reads at the first grade level. You know in your bones that your child is otherwise very bright, so for the life of you, you can’t figure out why reading and learning is so difficult.
Or maybe your child already has an official diagnosis of “learning disability.” You say to your child’s school, “My child needs help.”
What does the school do? Well, if the school is equipped to help students with dyslexia, visual processing challenges, auditory processing challenges and the like, then you’re in luck! Your child will probably receive the help he or she needs.
If the school is not equipped, which is true for many of our public schools, then please be prepared for an uphill battle. Many of you are in the midst of that battle right now. My heart goes out to you.
Of course, we have the whole IEP (Individualized Education Program) process. Or perhaps it’s a 504 plan for you. Either way, your child’s teachers and administrators list the ways they can TRY to help. They write their plan in the IEP. Perhaps they even follow through with the IEP.
You think, “Okay. I advocated for my child. Everyone seems to be on the same page. We’ve got this.”
So then what happens? Months go by. No progress. You check in with the teacher or the school. They say they’re following the IEP. You say we need to change the IEP.
While some schools are quite willing to make adjustments, the most common story I hear is that parents simply get the run-around. “We can’t change anything right now. You’re asking too much. It’s too expensive.” I’m pretty sure that no administrator would confess to that last excuse out loud, but it’s likely part of the equation.
Don’t get me wrong. I love teachers. I love school administrators. They work their tails off to meet the needs of their students. So. Many. Students! If those needs fall outside the scope of their understanding, which many learning differences do, then the all-too-common response seems to be… “Well, we tried. That’s all we can do.”
Why Our Struggling Learners Don’t Receive Proper Intervention
So here’s a disturbing research finding for you. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the number 1 cause of reading problems involves what they call neurological deficits.
Don’t worry. If the word deficits scares you, just know that brains can be retrained and rewired. Neurological “deficits” can be overcome. That’s not actually the disturbing part of the finding, by the way.
What’s not so easily overcome, apparently, is the number 2 cause of reading problems. Want to know what that is? Fair warning: if you’re prone to letting your blood boil over injustices, then perhaps you don’t want to know. Here’s the list:
- Inadequate pre-service teacher education on reading instruction and problems
- Lack of district commitment to proven instructional methods
- Lack of district commitment to early identification and intervention
- District “remedial” methods that don’t actually remediate
Parents in the midst of fighting the good fight, and those who’ve been in the system for a while, will probably say, “Well that’s obvious. We didn’t need a research study to tell us that.”
But did you know that another study found 74% of children identified as disabled in third grade remained disabled in ninth grade? (Francis et al., 1996)
Neuroscientists do offer a bit of promising news for us. One study suggests we may be able to use fMRI scans to identify reading difficulty before reading even begins. (Z. M. Saygin et al., 2016) If we can identify children at risk for future reading struggles before they enter kindergarten, then we can implement effective strategies to prevent any reading difficulties from happening in the first place. Amazing, right?
But wait. Oh yeah. There’s that lack of district commitment thing again. How will that bit of encouraging news help us if no one is willing to intervene?
Should You Stop Fighting for Intervention Services?
To fight or not to fight your child’s school for intervention services, effective ones, that is, is a personal decision only you can make.
If you decide that your energy is better spent taking matters into your own hands then please keep reading.
I offer online parent training designed to help remove the limits to your child’s learning.
If you’re a concerned and dedicated parent (or educator) ready to roll up your sleeves and help your child overcome learning difficulties (a.k.a. disabilities) please begin with free training here.