My 4th-grade daughter has a robust and comprehensive IEP for reading comprehension and writing at her public school. She has been in Reading Recovery since 1st grade. This summer she was diagnosed with dyslexia dyslexic and a specified writing disorder. Despite her IEP and teachers and professionals I believe really do care about her, the gap in her reading ability continues to widen in relation to her same-aged peers. I read the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. I do not believe that any professional would look at her school plan and say that it is not well developed, but despite their best intentions, the plan falls short. They are succeeding at providing enough support and great accommodations to keep her moving through grade level, but they are not closing the gap on her reading ability.

I am a great education partner; but not a fighter. I am considering moving my daughter into a school that has Wilson Reading programs integrated into all parts of a curriculum. I literally live in one of the best school districts in the nation, but I feel like this alternate school may be the answer to close the gap and provide the stronger technical reading base she is currently lacking. I have a high degree of respect for the educators in our district and I value public education. What is your opinion on specialized schools? It will be a financial sacrifice, but one we are willing to fully support if it is her best chance for a better outcome.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

You certainly have done your homework. It appears that you have discovered that what your daughter needs is structured literacy (SL) [1] intervention. As you have determined, Reading Recovery is not a structured literacy approach/program. Wilson Reading is. I have a number of programs listed here [2] that also meet the SL guidelines.

I have had experiences with students attending a private school for students with learning disorders in our area. This school has a reputation for living up to the promise of getting students back into their public school with solid skills within 3 years. You might want to talk with other parents who have attended that particular school to learn about their experience.

I talk about the 4th grade slump in this piece [3]. Your daughter is now at the age where 60-80% of the words she will be encountering in grade-level text are morphologically complex, and the demands of the curriculum will only increase. Many of our students with dyslexia were able to ‘cope’ through 3rd grade using their spoken language comprehension skills. She will no longer be able to rely on her stronger comprehension skills to learn. She will be required to use her ‘reading to learn.’ And, she will need intensive intervention to close that gap.

Given her age, now is the time. I think if you can afford this school, it sounds like a good option for your daughter.