Why Early Intervention Matters

The article says it all.  This is why we must advocate for early screening and early intervention.

“One lesson is that intensive orthographic and phonological tutoring can really help. Another is that dyslexic children should be encouraged to keep reading, even though it is a struggle. And a third is that dyslexics’ difficulties with reading aren’t as hard-wired as we once feared. Experience makes a big difference, for ill and for good.”

Reading Experience May Change the Experience of Dyslexic Students

Trust

Last summer my running partner convinced me to do track workouts.  I’m pretty new to running and had no idea what a track workout was.  Basically what you do is sprint twice around the track (1/2 mile) as fast as you can, jog around the track once….repeat….at least 4 times, building up more repeats as the training season goes on.

It’s grueling.

It makes me feel like I’m going to barf.

It makes me slightly dizzy and forced to run with tunnel vision toward the finish line.

It wipes me out for much of the day, and sometimes the next day too.

And yet, I did it, and went back throughout the summer.  I trusted my running partner.  I was training for my first marathon where speed, not just finishing, was a goal.  I knew she was pushing me in the right direction and had my best interest in mind.  She is a much more experienced runner than me. I listened to her and pushed myself to be uncomfortable and work very hard.  I trusted that this new training method would deliver results.  Trust is the cornerstone of any great relationship.

 

When you ask someone for help, you are essentially saying that you trust the person enough to actually help and you believe they know what to do.

This week I will go to #3s post-assessment meeting.  I have been asking for help all year.  After initially being denied an assessment, #3 received more interventions in the classroom and with Minnesota Reading Corp.  After 6 weeks we had another meeting, and not only had he not made progress, he went backwards in his reading achievement.  Although he was still not as far behind as they initially told me he had to be according to the Mondo Achievement test, the school agreed to assess him for special education services because the interventions were not helping him move towards grade level.

The assessment guarantees nothing.  If I sound jaded, I am.

For the past week I have noticed my anxiety on the subject climbing and I have wondered why.  It is possible that he will qualify for special education and the IEP they propose is something that would help him reach grade level in reading and writing.  I have seen IEPs for children from this same school and I think the goals and steps are excellent.

So why am I so nervous?  I really have no reason to be.

It’s because my trust is gone.

This is not about the teachers at this school.  I trust the teachers.  I trust the special education teacher at this school…that is why I want her to be #3’s case manager.

I don’t trust the system.  I have asked for help so many times only to be ignored or turned down I no longer believe they have my children’s best interest in mind.  I don’t trust the policies surrounding qualifying children with learning disabilities.  My experience was so horrible when #2 had an IEP and the services he received only made the situation worse, I know that having a piece of paper saying my child gets help doesn’t mean the help with be appropriate or, in fact, helpful. If I don’t agree with the assessment results, I’m quite certain that no one in administration is going to listen to my concerns.

When I asked the school to test my child for special education I was putting myself in an uncomfortable and vulnerable situation.  I was putting #3 in an uncomfortable and vulnerable position too and letting him know that I think something is wrong.  I was openly admitting he is failing.  I was asking for help, and not just a little help, but a lot of help, to simply get my child to read at grade level….nothing that incredible and something that is quite easy for many kids.  During this process I was reminded of all the hurt and anguish I went through seeking help for #1 and #2 in the same school district, and never finding that help.

It’s hard to ask for help.  It’s hard to ask people to listen to your concerns.  And it’s really hard to ask for help when you don’t trust that things will get better.

I want to trust the system again.  I want to trust that they understand the importance of early detection and early intervention for children with learning disabilities….BEFORE they have failed so enormously that catching up seems nearly impossible and their self-esteem is crushed.  I want to trust that special education is set up to help students and not protect the school district from law-suits.  I don’t want to be jaded anymore.

I want to be presented with a plan, that is researched based, telling me the steps they will take to teach #3 how to read at grade level.  I want to come out of an IEP meeting with a smile on my face and breath a sigh of relief knowing I can trust the new initiative, the new training method, to help my child who is not reaching his own goal of learning how to read and who is beginning to show signs of frustration and learned helplessness.  I want to trust that they will push him in the right direction.  I want to trust that his best interest, not dollar signs, case loads, or misguided policies determined the education he will receive.   I want them to push him to work hard and try what is difficult even when he’s uncomfortable, which will lead him to achieving success.

 

After my first track workout, when I was standing on the track, hands on my knees, gasping for breath I looked at my running partner and said, “Why did you make me do this?  That was awful!!!! It’s quite possible I almost died.”

She replied, “Physically it makes you stronger and gives your cardio a wake up.  Psychologically you are learning that even when you don’t think you can keep going, if you just trust your body, your legs continue to carry you along.  You are learning to trust yourself.  You are learning to listen to your body and know how hard to push.”

“OK, fine.  That was awful, but I’ll do it again if it will help me.  I’m going to trust you on this.  Same thing next week?”

With a sly smile, my running partner grabbed her water bottle and said, “No, next week I introduce you to hill drills, and that is an entirely different out of body experience.”

 

A Clarification

Many interpretations have been made about my last post.  What I intended to say is that diversity training is good.  It should happen.  It brings important, and hard conversations into our lives.  The school district should do this.  Children and adults are negatively effected by racism and we all need to work together to put an end to this and take a hard, honest look at our own actions, stereotypes and interpretations.

I do not believe diversity training takes away from the needs of my children.  

I do not believe diversity training diminishes the needs of my children.

 

The achievement gap is real.  It’s horrifying.  Something needs to be done.  When I advocate for more awareness of dyslexia I am not only advocating for my children, I am advocating for up to 20% of the children.  Rich.  Poor.  Black.  White.  How could more awareness for dyslexia help children without a parent who is able to be an advocate?  How can awareness of dyslexia and different teacher methods help the achievement gap?  Last year I wrote about this in “Complicating Factors.”

Another point I was trying to make: How can we value diversity and narrow the curriculum at the same time?

My advocacy is not meant to take away from other people’s struggles.  I am NOT saying we should train teachers in how to teach children with dyslexia INSTEAD of racial awareness.  But maybe teachers could be provided with current, scientific information about dyslexia also…..not in replacement of the diversity training currently going on.

I do not know what it is like to raise a black child.  I am open to learning about and listening to this experience.  I want to help make the world a better place so these children feel valued and loved and able to reach their potential.

I do not know what it is like to raise a child that is from a family that doesn’t speak English.  I am open to learning about and listening to this experience.  I want to help make the world a better place so these children feel valued and loved and able to reach their potential.

I also do not know what it is like to raise a child with autism, Down’s Syndrome, severe mental health issues, food allergies, dwarfism, a prodigy, a physical disability, a chronic disease, a terminal illness…… I am open to learning and listening to these experiences.  I want to help make the world a better place so these children feel valued and loved and able to reach their potential.

But, I do know what it is like to raise a child with dyslexia.  I can tell my personal story, my questions, my musings, and my struggles to get them a public education that does not leave them dejected, ashamed and left out.

We are all in the same boat.  And when we see a hole, we all need to work together to fix it.  We are only as strong as the least among us.  When equity happens, we are all raised up.

And this is one reason why diversity training and racial awareness is important for everyone.