It happened again. I was in an IEP for a student with dyslexia who is struggling with spelling the most. This GATE-identified young man is in the 5th grade and spelling phonetically, yet he was not receiving services for spelling last year – which is why I am now involved in the IEP process. The meeting was somewhat tense from the beginning, but when we got to the spelling goal this is what was presented: Thomas will be taught to memorize and spell 200 of the most common sight words. Hmm. Ok. So, my response: Can we change this goal so that we are actually teaching him to spell versus just memorizing some words? This is when I got the death stare and then silence. I interpreted the silence to mean that the RSP teacher didn’t know how to write the goal because she did not know how to teach a kid who is spelling phonetically how to spell. Then she said it, and the general ed teacher agreed with a nod of his head: He is going to middle school next year and he really doesn’t need to know how to spell anymore. I mean they don’t give spelling tests. My heart started to pound and then she added the ubiquitous suggestion: He can just learn to use spell check. Read the rest of this entry →
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Every teacher in every classroom in every school in this country (and beyond) will come across several, if not dozens, of students who just can’t seem to get the ‘reading thing’ down. The students are smart, articulate, and creative, yet they omit small words, read slowly, have difficulty spelling, and stumble, guess or mumble through multisyllabic words. They are placed in reading groups for extra instruction and still don’t seem to ‘get it.’ And during his or her career, every teacher in every classroom in every school will ask themselves, “How can I help these children?” The answer is to learn as much as possible about dyslexia , because the child described above has dyslexia. Read the rest of this entry →
Students with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have significant difficulties in identifying and discriminating sounds despite having normal peripheral hearing. These students often have reading difficulties due to significantly poor phonological awareness, decoding ability and grapheme knowledge. Time and again a student with Auditory Processing Disorder will lack the necessary reading foundation skills that are essential in becoming a strong reader. Read the rest of this entry →
In the world of advocacy and dyslexia, the observation seems to be a forgotten and seriously under-utilized tool. In fact, the observation can be the one thing that can turn a case around and create some change, but it has to be done correctly. The observer needs to know what to look for and what to report. It may also come as a surprise, but one of the most heart-wrenching things I do as an advocate and dyslexia expert is the classroom observation. There have been observations where I actually felt nauseous the longer I sat and watched the instruction. The reason for my visceral response is usually caused by the ‘instruction’ the student I am advocating for is receiving; but it is also caused by the students in the class for whom I am not an advocate – who is watching out for them? I take solace in the thought that advocating for one student will have a ripple effect for others. So, what could provoke such a response to what should be an innocuous experience? Below I have described why an observation should take place and what the observer should be evaluating. I have also shared some very common experiences that occur in classrooms with students with dyslexia. Read the rest of this entry →
During this time of year, high school juniors and seniors are hard at work preparing for college entrance exams, writing the perfect admissions essay, touring colleges, and eagerly awaiting decision letters from their institutions of choice. While this can be an exciting, yet stressful time for all students, students with learning differences have another level of factors that they need to take into consideration when choosing the right college. It is important for these students to not only consider the skills necessary to set themselves up for success, but to also be aware of the supports available to them at the colleges where they are considering attending. Read the rest of this entry →
A recent IEP meeting began the same way they always do, “Jake is a great kid. He has a lot of friends and he tries really hard. We really like him and enjoy having him on campus.” Much to my surprise and my utter joy, Jake’s dad took off his glasses, leaned forward and said, “I know my kid is great. I know he has a lot of friends. But that is not why we are here. My kid can’t read, so let’s talk about that.” I beamed with pride and wished this could be said at every IEP/school meeting. Guess what? It can – just do it.
The niceties are over. The pleasantries are done. Dyslexia affects up to one in five children in this country, and it is still laughed off, brushed off, ignored and scoffed at in almost every IEP/SST meeting I attend. The word is not getting to the frontline staff and administrators, and I think it is because we are whispering. Well, now it is time to roar. I usually advocate for a win-win relationship and a healthy relationship between the school and the parents, but my tune is beginning to change. Niceties and pleasantries are not working, so the gloves are off, and we are asking schools the tough, relevant questions. It’s time for the dyslexia community to take control of the situation and ask the questions that require the districts to justify their responses and create some positive, meaningful change. Read the rest of this entry →
The weird thing about the diagnosis of auditory processing disorder is that, although most everyone agrees on the variety of symptoms, the actual testing of it can differ widely. Assessments, and therefore instructive strategies, can fluctuate by state, district, profession and resources, both public and private. The California Office of Administrative Hearings for [Public School] Special Education has over 500 notices of fair hearings with the term Auditory Processing Disorder, meaning that either a parent or a school district was attempting clarification or a decision regarding some aspect of this disorder. Further, the California Speech-language Pathology, Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board has published a notice-
It is incumbent upon the licensed audiologist and licensed speech-language pathologist to use only diagnostic assessments and therapies that are supported by rigorous empirical evidence. While it is important to conduct research studies on new and emerging assessment tools, such studies should take place within the confines of an approved experimental protocol, and it should be clear to consumers that assessment with such tools is experimental only and provided at no cost. In keeping with B & P Code 651(b)(7), licensees are prohibited from making scientific claims that cannot be substantiated by reliable, peer-reviewed, published scientific studies. Read the rest of this entry →
I am noticing a disturbing trend when I read IEPs and I have had some nonsensical conversations about reading with IEP teams lately as well. This trend and these conversations center around the goals section of the IEP. What this has revealed to me is what I have suspected all along – there is a lack of expertise and understanding of not only dyslexia, but the progression of teaching reading and the components of the reading process. To correct this trend I offer the following examples to illustrate some fallacies about reading as well as how to fix goals.
Parents have asked me, how important are the goals anyway? Remember: needs drive goals and goals drive services. The school is only held responsible for the goals that are set and agreed upon in the IEP. If they are low or incorrect and the IEP is signed, the school is only responsible for those goals. It seems to make more sense to make sure the goals are written so that the child receives some educational benefit and that the goals make pedagogical sense. For example, if there is a need for fluency improvement then there should be a goal for that. Is there is a need for spelling, there should be a goal for that. If there is a need for sight word improvement, then there should be a goal for that. If there are ten needs, then there are ten goals. There is no limit to the number of goals an IEP can have.
IEP Team: We did not include a fluency goal because he is only reading 12 words per minute correctly right now, so what is the point in teaching fluency?
For those of you who have read my prior articles, you can just insert a snarky comment here. I will only say, really? I have to admit, I was speechless while I gathered my thoughts to respond. When reading improvement is a need, the IEP should always include a fluency goal. Fluency is the ultimate goal of reading and needs to be taught and practiced from day one. Make sure the baseline has a present WPM, not just a grade level. The goal WPM should be high enough that it would be noticeable and measurable progress. Additionally, the tool to assess should be the same for progress monitoring.
IEP Team: We did not include a phonological awareness goal because we have a vocabulary goal.
Again, this is simply a lack of awareness of the reading process. If a child is struggling with single word reading, nonword reading, spelling, and/or fluency, then it is a need and they require a phonological awareness goal. Vocabulary and phonological awareness are not one in the same; in fact they are two entirely separate components of reading. Phonological awareness teaches the student to understand and manipulate the language by understanding phonemes, syllable types and spelling rules. This is accomplished using a multisensory, structured, sequential program. Because we are talking about students with dyslexia, they will always need a phonological processing goal. It is also imperative that the program being used and the teacher qualifications be documented in the IEP – usually in the notes section.
Below is a real example. Please read it and ask yourself what is wrong with the goal.
Proposed Goal: John will be able decode multisyllabic words that include words with long vowel sounds (a,e,i) in words like turmoil and chipper.
Did you find the problems? Are you stunned? Embarrassed for the author of this goal? It is very common to see goals like this and this is a fabulous illustration of the importance of nit-picking the goals. Here are the problems: 1) where are o and u, 2) what grade level, how many words – where is the measurable part of the goal, 3) the goal states that only one concept will be learned in a year (the long vowel sound of only three of the vowels), 4) and last but certainly not least, turmoil and chipper do not contain long vowel sounds!
Below is the same goal rewritten:
New Goal: When given a list of 50 words Scott will be able to accurately decode multisyllabic words that contain closed, open, vowel teams and vowel-consonant-e (beside, statement, remain) syllable types with 90% accuracy as measured by teacher records.
This new goal includes more than one syllable type which means he is expected to learn more than the original goal suggested, it is measurable, and most importantly, the words used as examples are correct and show an understanding of what John will actually be learning.
IEP Team: We don’t really teach spelling, we just do worksheets and weekly tests.
For students who are not struggling, this might work. For those with dyslexia, this is disastrous. The fact of the matter is that most teachers and curriculum developers do not know any other way to teach spelling. How to teach spelling is a topic for another article (please see http://www.wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Home.html for an extremely effective way to teach spelling – I have no affiliation, but always share a wonderful resource), but if there is a need to improve spelling, then there is a goal for spelling. Additionally, this should be a stand-alone goal, not grouped in with sight words, etc.
Here is an example of an acceptable, measurable spelling goal with high expectations:
New Goal: When presented with a list of 50 multisyllabic third grade words that includes closed, open and vowel-consonant-e syllable types, John will accurately spell them with 90% accuracy.
Again, ask the IEP to document in the notes how this will be accomplished.
Some additional tips about goals for students with dyslexia:
- Goals should say either 90% or 4/5 times, but not both.
- Goals should be measureable.
- Goals should respond to each and every need identified by assessments and teacher observations.
- No one reading goal should include more than one component of reading. (i.e. comprehension, fluency and phonological awareness should not be in the same goal – they are different skills).
- Baselines need to accurate and current. They need to include data, not subjective descriptions.
- Improving the reading and writing of sight words are stand-alone goals.
- Goals should be written to expect significant progress. Beware of the low-expectation goals.
Read the IEP from the top down. The present levels need to include data, not observations. Goals should be directly derived from assessments and progress monitoring. Every need should be addressed. Goals drive services, so if the goals are incomplete, low or inaccurate, the services will be incomplete and ineffective. It never hurts to ask an expert to read the IEP and get a second opinion. For students with dyslexia, goals can be very tricky, but they are the pinnacle of the IEP – make them count.
Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.) She is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process. She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs. Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She is currently working on her book, Putting the D in IEP: A guide to dyslexia in the school system. Join the Dyslexia Training Institute at www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining
You’ve suspected it since your child was three. You were quite sure of it when your child was five and now your child is in school and you are convinced and unwavering about it. The school is not quite as convinced and they are slow to react to your suspicions. Be prepared; the road to the diagnosis may not be easy or cheap, but in the long run it will be worth it. The steps to diagnosis below make the assumption that you have done your research about dyslexia and you understand the symptoms. If you are still at that stage, you can visit www.interdys.org for more information. Read the rest of this entry →
Dyslexia is estimated to affect some 20-30 percent of our population. This means that more than 2 million school-age children in the United States are dyslexic!
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Dyslexia varies in degrees of severity and is highly hereditary. It is not uncommon for a child with dyslexia to have an immediate family member who also has this condition. Also, it is not unusual for two or more children in a family to have dyslexia.
Although children with dyslexia typically have average to above average intelligence, their dyslexia creates problems not only with reading, writing and spelling but also with speaking, thinking and listening. Many times these academic problems can lead to emotional and self-esteem issues throughout their lives. Low self-esteem can lead to poor grades and under achievement. Dyslexic students are often considered lazy, rebellious or unmotivated. These misconceptions cause rejection, isolation, feelings of inferiority, and discouragement. Read the rest of this entry →