I have a 7-year-old going into the 2nd grade who has the indicators of dyslexia but can't be formally diagnosed due to his age. I see the signs--reading words backward, calculating correctly but writing the numbers backward. He struggles to read, decode, blend. I hate seeing him cry when we go through a book. I am sincerely in dread for his future. It's my joy and obligation to see him accomplish his goal of being a pilot one day.

I am so tired of meetings where I hear my child is slower than his peers. ”He can’t”, ”he is behind”, ”he struggles." And in my mind, I cynically think, "they are basically saying my child is dumb as a box of bricks.” I had my child independently assessed as the school thinks the only cure is an IEP. I have brought my findings to them, and they refuse to say that he has signs of dyslexia. They say it is normal for his age or they brush it off. We have this IEP that I have had reviewed by an advocate for special education who states the IEP does address the dyslexic component, but the school will not actively acknowledge it since they will have to formally put services in place to accommodate, which is costly. My son is doing Title I reading services and speech therapy, which seems ineffective as we continue to have meetings where test scores are low and he still struggles. What do I do? I want to see my son actively improve and catch up with his peers. This whole process is very complicated and stressful as I want to make the best decisions for my son that equips him for success.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I am so sorry that your son's situation is causing such angst. Unfortunately, I have run into similar situations with clients whom I see. I was going to suggest a good assessment, but it seems you already have had that. When writing an assessment report, I specifically state which part of the special education eligibility criteria for specific learning disability (SLD) the student meets (i.e., I diagnose developmental dyslexia and then add the SLD eligibility rule from the special education rules).

Here is the text from the Ohio Department of Education website.

Here is IDEA’s Definition of “Specific Learning Disability”: “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes a definition of “specific learning disability” —as follows: Specific learning disability— General. Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia."

I bolded dyslexia. It is right in the rules and therefore, the school needs to address his challenges.

I recommend you move forward using facts. Do you have Sally Shaywitz's book Overcoming Dyslexia? Published in 2003, it remains up-to-date about diagnosis and, importantly, how we treat dyslexia. I recommend reading it from cover to cover. I have found when I attend IEPs that, since I can talk the language of the school (I formerly worked in the schools as an SLP) AND know what is needed for dyslexia, it helps to bridge the gap, so to speak.

I have had parents successfully get services for their child with 1) a GOOD assessment report that outlines intervention, and that intervention is termed structured literacy. 2) Then you need a GOOD (i.e., clear, measurable) set of goals taught by someone in the district who is trained in structured literacy (that can be a tough one...) and 3) regular meetings with the school staff every 6 weeks to document progress. I consult with a number of teams.

I would give his teacher a copy of A Fish in Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Although the context is 6th grade, it is an excellent novel about what happens to a girl before her dyslexia is identified and then after a brilliant teacher figures it out. It is an excellent read.

Last, I would connect with Decoding Dyslexia - Ohio. DD is a grassroots organization started by parents--and someone there may be able to help you. There is also the Ohio branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

I know it is heartbreaking--but try to challenge your energy into positive thoughts. He is lucky to have you.

Those are my ideas for you. I hope these get you started in the direction you hoped.