“He is fine. Everyone struggles at something.”
My son and I were fortunate to have the teacher we had in third grade. I already had a relationship with her; she was my mentor and I almost always taught her class in her absence. At the beginning of the year, I was able to sit down with her and address my concerns about his abilities. We spent the entire year working on differentiated instruction; ironically, in our school district and many across the state, that year was the pilot year to have less children leaving the classroom for special education services. The idea is that every child is unique and the instruction should be tailored to each individual need.
Despite of our hard work, he was still struggling with his reading. However, if you were to look at his report cards, you’d think he was student experiencing no difficulties.
Fourth grade rolls up and we were blessed with another great teacher. As year two of the inclusion process, she had a special education teacher assigned to her for half of the day as well as an assistant. My son was put into a small group for leveled instruction. By the end of the year, he was finally reading on level. But his teacher and I were still concerned. She recommended him again for testing.
Skipping a grade
A new middle school was built in our town. The school district was rezoned and calibrated. Students from 5th grade to 8th were assigned to a middle school. Previously, 5th grade students were elementary. At the same time, state standards were changed. So not only was my son “losing” a year of elementary school, the work was actually the previous year’s sixth grade work.
No child left behind?
He was tested over the summer, and then given more tests at the beginning of the year. A whole grading period lapsed before I could get any answers. In the meantime, I was emailing his math teacher almost daily. His language arts teacher was getting aggravated at his lack of solid skills. I would email the special education teacher for his grade level and would get no answers.
Answers at last
I was finally called in by the school psychologist and special education teacher. In that meeting, things finally fell into place. While he actually passed all of the tests, it was just barely. It took a meeting with the third and fourth grade teachers, the psychologist that administered the test, myself and his language arts teacher to finally recognize the issues.
His entire school career, reading was the subject everyone honed in on as his problem. While I wasn’t surprised, it was math that he actually did the worse on. Because he could perform basic math functions, the regular education teachers never gave it much thought, but were merely concerned over the time it would take him to complete assignments.
However, finally we had and answer: he has a processing disorder. The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t do the work, nor his understanding, he simply needs time to think about it. Also, he needs repetition. He may not always “catch” things the first time. He is also able to process information more easily if he hears it, rather than reading on his own.
The middle school psychologist made the decision to recommend him for services. We wrote an Individualized Education Program (IEP). I requested a different math teacher. Within a day, his schedule changed. Within a week, his attitude about school changed. Math was the only class that he left the mainstream for instruction. Things were finally starting to look up.
It was worth it
As of this writing, my son is in the sixth grade. He “graduated” from the specialized math class and sits in an inclusion math class. All of his teachers are aware of his IEP and accommodations are made for his instruction. For the most part, he is able to do all of his work on his own. Last year, on the state achievement test, he tested proficient and advanced for the first time. He is confident in his abilities and THAT makes the fight for his education worth it.
Stayed tuned for part three of three in this series. I will give you a checklist of do’s and don’ts when fighting for your child’s education.