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Frequently Asked Questions About Education Options for a Dyslexic Child

Q: How can I get help for my child's reading problems?
A: First step, contact the school and ask for a meeting of the educational management team. This team should review current functioning of your child through school records and interviews of staff. This would be the time to review the possibility of additional assessments. Students need to qualify for special education services. Please see www.schwablearning.org or www.ncld.org for more information.

Q: What do I do if the school says my child has attentional issues?
A: Through an educational meeting at the school, you can determine if your child qualifies for a 504 plan. The ADHD/ADD must be so severe that it substantially limits a major activity (learning).

Q: What does an assessment involve?
A: Typically a record review of students educational and health records, student observation/interviews, and formal testing looks at one or more of the following skills: reading decoding, reading comprehension, math calculation and reasoning, written language, oral language, auditory/visual memory, emotional development, and ability levels. Please see http://ericae.net for more details.

Q: What are a parent's rights when requesting educational services for their child?
A: Parents can request a review of their child's progress and examine school records. There are timelines the school must follow once a parent has made a formal request for assessment. If your child qualifies for special education service the school must have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) in place within 30 days. You may have an advocate or interpreter with you at all school meetings. Parents should receive a written copy of all assessments, IEP's, and meeting notes. Your state's department of education can provide you with more information of your parental rights.

Q: What is IDEA?
A: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act entitles students through age 21 to receive educational supports once a disability has been identified. For more information about IDEA, go to the Department of Education website at www.ideapractices.org .

Q: What are the service delivery options?
A: IDEA requires that children receive service in the least restrictive environment. This could mean a regular class with accommodations, part-time special education class, full-time special education class, special education day school, or a residential setting.

Q: How do I get my child evaluated if I suspect he/she is dyslexic?
A: Start by sharing your concerns with your child's teacher. Request a meeting with the school's resource team - which should include an administrator, a special educator, the school nurse, the school psychologist, and a speech therapist. This team will review school records, conduct observations, and through informal assessment determine if testing is warranted. Testing should include a psychological battery and an educational assessment using formal instruments. Results of the testing allow the team to compare a child's cognitive ability with achievement scores to determine if a discrepancy exists.

Q: What type of special education service should I pursue if a disability is identified?
A: Students should be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for services. The LRE will allow the student to continue participation in the mainstream.

Types of roles that special education can assume:
Consult - A special educator will provide consultation to classroom teachers who work with the identified study. There is no direct intervention by the special education.

Resource - A special educator will work directly with the student for part of the school day. This could occur in the child's classroom or in the special educator's classroom. Specific subjects will be identified by the team.

Self Contained Classroom – Students who require support in all academic areas will be placed in a classroom with a special education teacher for most of the school day. The student/teacher ratio will be smaller than the general education classroom. Mainstreaming will continue for part of the school day for classes such as art, music, physical education, lunch, etc.

Special Education School – Students who require support for the entire school day will be recommended for placement in a special education school. The student to teacher ratio will remain small and all instructors will be certified special educators.

Q: What is an IEP?
A: An IEP is an Individual Education Plan that is written to specifically identify your child's education needs. It should be written in behavioral terms with measurable outcomes. An IEP needs to be reviewed through a parent conference within 60 days of it being developed. It must be reviewed formally in a parent conference annually thereafter.

Q: Can I request an IEP meeting to make changes to the IEP at other times?
A: Yes, you can request one of these meetings at other times.

Q: What if I am not happy with my child's special education program?
A: You have the right to appeal the school placement. Ask your child's teacher for information on how you can begin this process. Your child will “stay-put” in the current placement while your case is in process.

Reading Intervention in Area Schools

Q. Could you give me an example of how various reading interventions are being used in area schools?
A. Montgomery County Public Schools located in Maryland recognize that every child has a right to learn to be a fluent reader. Early reading assessment is in place to identify students who are at risk of failure in reading. The intervention programs utilize multiple reading programs to ensure success.

A program of balanced literacy with reduced student-teacher ratio has been implemented in primary grades in all Montgomery County Public Schools. This reading initiative includes training in phonological awareness and systematic instruction in decoding and encoding. Teachers use a variety of text structures to promote the development of background information, concept and vocabulary development and comprehension strategies.

Teachers use a variety of formal and informal measures to assess reading development. These assessments focus on assessing early phonemic awareness, sound symbol association, non- word decoding skills, and memory. Various reading inventories are used to measure whole word decoding, comprehension levels and reading rates. For older students (3rd grade and up) narrative and expository passages are given to the students to sample reading performance.

Teachers use many instructional strategies in the classroom. These focus on increasing time spent reading, providing high interest/low readability materials to students struggling reading below grade level. Direct instruction followed by modeling of the desired reading behavior (read aloud), repeated reading to provide practice and reinforcement all contribute to reading success. Teachers have the students "collect words" to be used for various activities, use graphic organizers, concept maps and continued vocabulary activities to further develop vocabulary levels. Comprehension strategies include questioning strategies and practice summarizing text by identifying main ideas and supporting details. Students are often asked to predict what will happen next.

Comprehension of text is the reason for reading. These skills can be taught through explicit instruction, cooperative learning and by helping readers use all of the above described strategies in combination.

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