It is a very frustrating challenge to look for someone to diagnose your child for dyslexia when you expect the schools to do it. If you have a relative or spouse with dyslexia, you recognize the same symptoms: words are spelled incorrectly, missing letters, added letters where they don’t belong, writing barely make sense, reading is so low that you can’t understand why your child can’t sound words out or remember words. Months of the year and days of the week are other red flags. Not being able to rhyme is another.
My Passion to Help Dyslexic Students
I have been passionate about helping our dyslexic population for seventeen years. I taught the same struggling readers in math and noticed the reading intervention offered was barely making a dent. I found I was always pulling together best practices to help these students. Now there are some great Orton Gillingham reading programs out there, but they are expensive and they must be taught with fidelity, which simply means, they must be taught 5 days a week, 45-60 minutes a day, to really retrain the brain. The dyslexic child is reading from the wrong side of the brain. In my research, I addressed the Corpus Callosum and the Left and Right Angular Gyrus as the brain areas to retrain. Brain scans (FMRIs) reveal (while students are reading) the language center of their brains does not light up.
The Plasticity of the Brain
Some authors of curriculum for dyslexia state that brain does not light up in the dyslexic student, whereas in the non-dyslexic student, the brain lights up in the right side primarily and also on the left side. The plasticity of the brain is amazing and dyslexic students’ brains can be retrained. The great thing about teaching a multisensory reading program is that students do not regress 9lose what has been taught (over the summer months or vacation periods.
So the question remains, who assesses for dyslexia? School psychologist are supposed to, but they refer parents to doctors. Some doctors do but generally, they refer parents to the schools. Independent Education Evaluator do, but there are difficult to find. That’s why I am purchasing the curriculum and insurance so that I may help our families and diagnose dyslexia. For such a time as this was I made.
I have two earned Master Degrees and a Doctorate, several years of documented hours assessing students which qualified me to be a member in good standing with the Association of Education Therapists. I am a Parent Advocate, Board Member of the International Dyslexia Association for the Tri-County Branch in California., author, speaker, and teacher trainer for S.P.I.R.E. What is important to ask is what does our legislation require?
National legislation mandated that schools assess and provide for dyslexia. California lags in diagnosing dyslexia and providing intervention. The schools refer to doctors. The doctors refer parents back to the schools. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it first hand when I was the Special Ed Teacher at an IEP (Special education student’s Meeting).
The procrastination results when no one knows who’s on first. This was my past experience and why I resigned from the unified school district. The school psychologist deferred the assessment of dyslexia to the Special Education Director, who deferred to the school principal. The principal deferred to the assistant principal who did nothing until the last week of school. And what did he do? He asked the psychologist to ask me who I felt may be dyslexic. Really? I’ve been telling them all year!
AB 1369 is the California Assembly Bill, passed in October 2015. The mandate was to be implemented in the 2017-2018 school year. So why are our schools out of compliance? Someone explained it to me this way, “There is a law to wear your seatbelt, but do people always wear them?”
Funding for AB 1369
Well, the mandate didn’t come with funding so what motivates schools to be in compliance? Parents are getting informed and lawsuits are bringing school districts to conform. Did you know that the ADA (funding per student) is twice as much for Special Education students as for General Education students? If dyslexic students qualifying under Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) were remediated, they could exit from Special Education. That would save our taxpayers millions of dollars! Not only in school remediation, as Governor Newson points out, but in medical expenses and how mental health impacts our communities and prisons.
Dyslexia impacts the student/adult, society and the economy at large. It causes difficulties in reading, writing, speaking, and spelling which affects academic success, self-esteem, and social-emotional development. When it goes untreated, it impacts our crime rate, drug and alcohol abuse, and prison rates. It also impacts homelessness, joblessness, and poverty rate in our communities.
California Governor Newsom shares about his dyslexia and the likelihood that his two children have it. He wasn’t diagnosed until fifth grade. He is passionate to help our low-income dyslexic kids. He recently pledged $100M to assess and provide intervention for dyslexia. The task force meeting in April in Sacramento that wants to have dyslexia assessed for the low-income kids in kinder or first grade just as hearing and vision are tested. We all know the earlier the better. In the past, students aren’t really considered for Special Education services until third grade. God help us! What about all these kids we could have been helping over the years?
So our schools are not taking the reins and properly diagnosing dyslexia. Only when a parent seeks an advocate or lawyer and sues a district will they do something. Research shows that one in five students has dyslexia so we need more classes and teachers for remediation. Schools need to hire and/or train more staff to accommodate the assessment load. Sadly parents have to put their trust and faith in the assessments of school psychologists and teachers who are not sufficiently trained to understand and recognize dyslexia. Well, those who are informed, much like yourself, do something else.
Research says that 85% of students with SLD eligibility have dyslexia. Parents want them remediated and exiting Special Education! Our psychologists work extremely hard, but they are not trained to be the experts in dyslexia. Their primary role is to complete the psychoeducation testing. The Special Education Teacher does the academic testing and collaborates with all the teachers, the Speech Pathologist, and others who know about the student. The Speech Pathologist does Speech testing. Education staff members’ plates are so full. How do they have any time to learn about dyslexia?
Chapter 11 of AB 1369 is the key to advocating for your child. Chapter 9 addresses who will assess. (Go to page 54) It reads, “The decision to make a special education referral is the responsibility of the individualized education program (IEP) team or intervention team and the parents or guardians of the student.” (https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/ac/documents/cadyslexiaguidelines.pdf)
When a student with dyslexia that isn’t identified, they will not receive the additional services they require for intervention. Without a diagnosis of dyslexia, 300 minutes a week are missing. The student requires sixty minutes a day five days a week to implement an Orton Gillingham reading program with fidelity. That is above and beyond the sixty minutes, a student may receive for reading support in the least restrictive environment. If you understand LRE, you can skip this, but I want to explain in case you don’t know what it means.
A least restrictive environment (LRE)
LRE is, first of all, being in a general education classroom. This might be for someone very close to exiting Special Education and they seem to be progressing with peers. Next is Instructional Aide (IA) support in the general education classroom. The IA will support many Special Education students unless there are those who require a tremendous amount of their support. The next level of support is when the Special Education Teacher pushes into the classroom or pulls the students out to offer the support needed to access the grade level content curriculum. Finally, the most restrictive is the Special Day Class (SDC) where students have an entire class with a Special Education Teacher an aide or two, or three if fortunate.
I have seen students with dyslexia also have ADD or ADHD, so one of those is made the primary eligibility. The dyslexia is unaddressed. What does diagnosis look like to qualify a student with dyslexia?
Model of Discrepancy for Eligibility
Attorney Michelle Becker in Pasadena presented to concerned parents and shared a Severe Discrepancy Model example:
~Any Cognitive Score standard score of 110
~Any Achievement Score standard score 75
Severe Discrepancy: =35 points
Most schools use a 22- point discrepancy.
~ Any Processing Score under 85 (Visual, Auditory, Attention, Sensory – Motor and now Phonological).
CEC (California Ed Code) 56334 Includes Phonological Processing as one of the basic psychological processes.
CEC (California Ed Code) 56335 – Requires State Superintendent to develop Dyslexia guidelines for the districts to follow.
Approaches to Teaching
Effective Approaches to teaching students with dyslexia:
~ Evidenced-Based Curriculum
~Direct and Explicit (the student is not sitting in front of a computer without a teacher guiding)
~Structured (the same phonological, reading, and writing exercises are written with purposeful and intentional order to the progress of the lesson)
~Sequential (Steps 1-7 or 1-10 daily, from level to level)
~Cumulative (lessons build upon the previous lesson and materials is revisited)
And wouldn’t it be great if the program is emotionally sound? The student feels good about his/her progress and is eager to continue?
What is to be Taught
I will tell you what is taught and try to demonstrate the need to have a highly trained person.
~Phonological Awareness has many components:
Rhyming (cat rhymes with bat)
Rhyme Categorization (Does bat rhyme with cat or cut?)
Sound Providing (What is the beginning sound of cat? What is the ending sound of cat?)
Sound Categorization (Does the first sound of cat go with mat or can?)
Sound Blending (what sound does s and h make when put together?)
Segmentation Counting (tap out the sounds for banana, how many are there?)
Segmentation Deletion (in the word table, remove the /t/ sound and what is left?
Segmentation Substitution (in the word table, remove the sound /t/ and replace with the sound /st/ and what does it say? (stable)
~Orthography: How to correctly combine letters to spell words. Do kids recognize word families like “ang, ing, ong, ung, eng” and that they sound differently?
~ Phonics: What letter goes at the beginning of cat?
~Syllables: How do we divide with word napkin? How many syllables are there when it’s divided?
~Syntax: Grammatical structure of words and phrases to create coherent sentences. (Proper placement of words.) My cat clawed the curtains is fine. But, The tree ate its leaves is not. Neither is Dad his beard the baby.
~Semantics: The proper usage of words. “The wheel is round” is fine, but “His car has four new rounds” is not correct.
~Comprehension: Who, What, Where, Why, How Questions, Summarizing, understanding the main topics and key details of a story.
~Morphology: Understanding the forms of words and their origins.
Okay, now you know all about what has to be taught to the students with dyslexia. How can you expect a teacher or school psychologist to understand all this when they have Common Core Standards to teach, test their students, plan, and all the other jobs they do?
In conclusion, the best person to assess your child is someone like me, someone with Masters Degrees, nearly two decades of teaching experience, assessment experience, and a Doctorate in Education Leadership and Administration which provided effective intervention. I can be reached on my website email for questions and free consultations. I am your advocate and your IEE (Independent Education Examiner) to assess your child for dyslexia.