I am in need of help. My child is in 6th grade reading at a 1.3 reading level. I have been told by several of her teachers that they feel like she has dementia when it comes to spelling and word recognition. They have told me with some of her memory issues that she may never read. I need help advocating for her.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
I am rather surprised by the response from the school relative to your daughter's learning to spell and word recognition skills and using the word “dementia.” Anyone who works with kids with reading, spelling, and writing disorders understands that it is not at all uncommon for them to know something one day and not the next. It sort of comes with the territory and is why these students need explicit, systematic intervention. Memory issues can indeed be playing into someone’s reading and spelling challenges. We need to determine just where the breakdown is occurring. This behavior, in and of itself, should raise a flag for the school staff, not to mention the fact that your daughter is reading so far below grade level. There are many questions that arise. What is the school doing to try and understand her challenges relative to teaching her? If she is reading at a 1st grade level, how are they ensuring that she has access to the 6th grade curricular content? Similarly, how can she demonstrate what she knows or has learned?

Your daughter needs a comprehensive assessment of her spoken and written language skills to determine what her strengths and weaknesses are. Is the school pursuing a special education evaluation for a specific learning disability (SLD)?

If not, you have the right to request this as a parent through the special education office. You can sign a request for an evaluation of a suspected learning disability. This gets the clock going. Then, depending on whether you daughter qualifies -- and with such a significant delay in her reading skills I would suspect she would -- the school will then determine an appropriate program for her through an Individual Education Plan (IEP)..

Should you want to pursue an outside evaluation (the school services are paid by our tax dollars, so no extra cost to you), I typically refer people to this International Dyslexia Association’s list of providers. You can find that at www.eide.org.

I have a list of Independent Schools here if you choose that route.

Let me know if you have any other questions. Definitely, you are correct at wanting to get her help!