I am writing in reference to my daughter, who is 7 years old and in the 1st grade. Her teacher said early on in the year that she is "not trying, lazy, not trying". I believe that is not true, I believe my daughter is struggling because of a learning disability. Problem is I don't have the money to have her tested outside of school and the teacher is not listening to my request to have her tested. My daughter is struggling with phonetics. Please help me she is already been embarrassed by her teacher because she is not reading chapter books with the rest of the class. She is sad and heartbroken despite our hard work and effort at home she seems not able to make the connection of the letter to the sounds. Please help let me know if there is anything low-cost in Albuquerque, NM that can help her?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I am so sorry that your daughter is struggling so. You are doing the right thing by trying to help her before she gets too far along in her schooling.

I find it disconcerting that your daughter's teacher does not have a better understanding of learning disabilities—the response that she is "not trying, lazy" is a classic myth that we are always working to dispel. Perhaps you can give her teacher the link to DyslexiaHelp to learn more about the disability and ways he/she could help, particularly the 'myths' page where we have this:

Myth: Children with dyslexia are just lazy. They should try harder.

Fact: Research has shown, with the technology of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that those with dyslexia use a different part of their brain when reading and working with language. Dyslexic people show an abnormal pattern of brain function when reading: underactivity in some regions, overactivity in another which, according to researches, accounts for the difficulty they have in extracting meaning from the printed word. The findings provide evidence that people with dyslexia are not poorly taught, lazy, or stupid but have an inborn brain abnormality that has nothing to do with intelligence. Lack of awareness about this disorder among the teachers and parents, has often resulted in the child being branded as 'lazy.' If students with dyslexia do not receive the right type of intervention and/or classroom accommodations, they often struggle in school—despite being bright, motivated, and spending hours on homework assignments both academically and emotionally.

I typically refer people to the list of providers in their state from the International Dyslexia Association to look for help in their area. Unfortunately, the only 'free' services are those through the public schools. Your daughter has a right to an appropriate education and you have the right to request an evaluation for a suspected learning disability. You might want to talk with the your school district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Committee to see if they can refer you to an advocate to help you navigate the system there. We've got information about your rights here.

A good program for parents teaching their kids is the Barton Reading Program, although it is not cheap. It is very systematic, based on research, and is highly regarded.

If your daughter could get certified for special education services, then the school could help you get her audiobooks so that she could listen to (and read along with) the chapter books. In addition to intervention, she could also get accommodations and modifications to help her succeed. There are many things to help her compensate.

Last, I want to leave you with what I know from having had many conversations with successful dyslexics and kids with learning disabilities—they all talk about the one person who believed in them, and most often that person was their mother. Have your daughter be involved in things that she enjoys and is good at—this will help buffer her in those struggles at school.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions. Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further help.