Difficulty in School - Way Below Grade Level

Updated on October 01, 2009
P.L. asks from Hoffman Estates, IL
21 answers

Hi everyone!

You always have great suggestions and I'm trying to help out a neighbor. She has 2 boys -8 and 11. The youngest is in 3rd grade. He is struggling horribly to comprehend all of the work in class and when he comes home - as you can imagine - homework is a nightmare. At the end of 1st grade - she requested that he be held back since he was not able to do the work then however the school keeps pushing him forward and now everyone in that household is at wits end. He was "evaluated" last school year for ADHD - and supposedly does not have it and now receives some additional assistance with reading. I have helped him with homework on occasion - and even the basic things ie 4+2 - he cannot get.

What rights does she have? Can the school continue to push him forward without him meeting the goals of that particular grade? Is there further testing that can be done - as maybe it isn't ADHD but dyslexia or some other learning disability. Unfortunately they don't have a lot of money and their out of pocket expense for formal testing with a neuropsychologist would be prohibitive.

I have a feeling if she knew what to ask for - they would help as I've had supportivie services for my oldest who has ADHD for years - and all I had to do was ask - and it was mine. We just don't know where to start.

Thanks!!!

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G.R.

answers from Chicago on

Have her threaten due process and demand an IEP (individualized education plan). If he is struggling he could get services for math, reading, a social worker.....more time on tests and if low enough a one on one aide. Parents are the only advocate for their children so she must fight. The help is there they just don't like giving it away. threaten to sue the school district with due process if he doesn't get a compete evaluation.

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C.M.

answers from Chicago on

Hi mom have she gone to the school and talk with them? If she have then she need to go to the board go over the school's head. Because they should not be passing him on that's crazy, also have the school tested him? You know they did me and my son like that he had to get suspended 12 times and they kick him out because he was not in their district he was put in another school and they did not want him so they tested him and he went to another school that had special ed but by then it was to late. Its sad I feel so sorry that what's wrong with the world today they are not focus on what really matter.

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B.Z.

answers from Chicago on

When you say that the boy was "evaluated" at the end of 1st grade, was that with the school? or did your friend talk to a doctor? How do you know that he actually is performing "way below grade level"? Who gives him special reading help, and is this service outlined in a 504 plan or an IEP? An IEP is a document for students who receive special education services. If he has one, there will be specific goals in areas where he struggles. A parent/guardian can call a meeting to reevaluate the goals on the IEP... perhaps reading isn't the only area that needs to be detailed on the IEP, if this boy has one.

Unfortunately, some schools and districts wait until a child has signficant issues before intervening. If the boy does not have an IEP, it's time for your friend to go back to the school for an evaluation. His specific disability does not really matter. The fact is that he's behind his peers, and this is cause enough for intervention.

Nothing presents the same as dyslexia, so it should be fairly easy to rule it in/out. If you want to find out more about dyslexia, check out this site: http://www.audiblox.com/dyslexia_symptoms.htm

As far as tips about doing schoolwork, teach him touch math. It helps the student see the number and count the value with a finger. This is especially helpful for kids with dyslexia, but it helps any young learner.

Try to listen to him read aloud. You might find out some of his issues... like does he know the common sounds for each letter, does he get hung up on consonant blends, does he skip words? Any of these things will eventually cause issues with comprehension. Hopefully there's some documentation about why and how he receives reading help at school, and the family can give the student the same kind of help at home.

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D.N.

answers from Chicago on

Not sure where the school district is but I would contact the district rather than just the school itself. Insist on the testing. If they are unable or unwilling, ask if there is a social worker tied to the school. They can assist finding places to test the child at a low payment or sliding scale basis. They should be able to test for ANY learning disorder, not just one.

1 mom found this helpful
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M.C.

answers from Chicago on

I would immediately get him checked for dyslexia!!! If he doesn't fall into the ADD/ADHD category yet he's bright but not understanding his school work, there is definitely a problem. The most apparent thing to me is dyslexia. It runs in my family and this is EXACTLY the sign. I'm extremely surprised they haven't thought of this. I would not wait on the school to evaluate him again. He needs to be taken to a specialist to diagnose and I would do it right away. Once diagnosed, this is a highly treatable affliction. I know you explained the out of pocket expense but sometimes with children you just have to pay no matter what the cost. In my opinion this is mandatory and not an option. They can pay as little as they can on the remaining expense, even if it's $10 for the next 10 years, there's nothing that can be done about it as long as they're paying. Obviously the school district is not going to be much help, the family needs to take this upon themselves. This would take 1 office visit to diagnose. Once they have that in place, the school can then help with special education requirements for such. But he needs to be diagnosed.

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P.F.

answers from Chicago on

Some of the key words that she can use to talk to them are:

Child Study team (this is a team of teacher, social worker, special ed teachers etc that discuss kids that are struggling). This team must have discussed this child before, if not she should ask for him to brought up there. There are multiple names this team can go by.

504 plan: this is a plan for children who don't fit the special ed guidelines but need extra help to succeed. It is a written plan that once written any and all teachers must follow the strategies in place. It will follow him year to year so he doesn't fall through the cracks.

Schools typically do not hold children back any longer. It is a rare case, what she needs to do now is find a way for him to get the extra help he needs.

I have business associate that is a parent advocate and also one who is a special ed lawyer. If your friend wants a little advice I am sure they would be willing to spend a few minutes on the phone with her to give her some guidance. LEt me know or have her email me: [email protected]____.com

P.

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J.W.

answers from Chicago on

Stop the presses!

Before your friend talks to an attorney, or acts upon any anecdotal information...have her check out the Family Resource Center on Disabilities ( http://www.frcd.org/ ). This agency is DA BOMB when it comes to educating parents of special-needs (or potential special-needs) children. The FRDC's website has a wealth of resources on it, but most importantly I would urge any parents in this situation to attend one of the FRDC's free workshops.

Good luck to your friend. It's a tough row to hoe but take it from me, it can be done.

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J.S.

answers from Chicago on

Hi P..
I agree with Jacqueline. I would suggest that your friend start by discussing this with her child's doctor. One of my sons had issues in school also. They felt he had ADD but it just didn't seem to truly fit the situation to me. In the end we discovered that he needed glasses. He became a whole different child/student. (At the end of the year he even won the President's Award for most improved student.)

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J.J.

answers from Chicago on
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K.A.

answers from Chicago on

Hi P.,

I don't know where your friend lives, but in the western suburbs there is an organization called LADSE. I think it stands for The Lagrange Area Department of Special Education ###-###-####. They do all the evaluations for about a dozen communities around here. Even if she is not in their district, they can direct her to where she should go for a special needs evaluation. That would be the 1st step. Once she has had the kid diagnosed, then she needs to look at the Wrights Law books (Special Educaton Law, by Peter? Wright). Those clearly outline what services her child is entitled to BY LAW, and what to ask for when she goes through the IEP (individualized education program)process with LADSE and the Special Ed representative from her school district.

Evaluations from organizations like LADSE are either free or very low cost, I believe, because I think they are part of the state education program and funded by tax dollars.

Do not EXPECT the school to go out of their way to get the child the services he or she needs. As great as it is that there are so many gifted and caring educators working to help kids learn, there are quite a few, especially district heads that have an incentive to limit the funds spent on special ed. This can have catastophic impact on an entire district, by limiting available classes, services and therapists to kids that really need these things. She should expect that what they will offer her will be in their best interest.

She needs to learn how to fight for getting whatever is most appropriate for her childs needs, as defined in the IEP. The IEP is GOD, if the therapist says the child needs 'x' and you know, because it's your kid, that he need 'x+y' then speak UP, and get them to explain how they determined that they think he only needs x and not y, and fight if it makes sense to you. Pick your battles and remember it is about getting your kid the right kind of help. If it doesn't make it into the IEP, school does NOT have to give it to him.

This is where, if she had the money, an INDEPENDANT evaluation is great because it is impartial. Remember, the therapists that do his evaluation though the school districts, are like contract workers. They don't work directly for the school, but they have to work AT the school, and the district folks can request,or deny that only certain therapist work at their school. Office politics CAN have an influence on how accurately they evaluate a child if the safety of their job is threatened by a district culture that has 'other' priorities.

Just read the Wright's Law books, and know that if the child needs help, they have to give it to him. It just might not be easy, especially if the needs are mild. Because the kid is too normal to be with really needy kids, but he's too slow to stay with the normal ones. (please pardon my use of behavioral descriptors).

Anyways, this should get her started. I wish her, and you, well.

Keith.

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J.D.

answers from Chicago on

Hi P. why don't you check with the support services that is helping your oldest child. Take him to see is peditrican and see what he/she recommends. The school keep passing him and he'll get further behind. Most school have special classes for children who are lacking skills. Have a meeting with the principal and see what the school policy is for chilren like your son.

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K.H.

answers from Chicago on

He might not have ADHD. There are a few disorders like Aspergers that can LOOK like ADHD but is totally different. He does need to be evaluated and as soon as possible. Once you get the right diagnosis, things will improve. She needs to talk with the school. She needs to push it until she gets answers. It is the job of the school district to find out and help. Good luck!

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L.R.

answers from Chicago on

As a PARENT you have EVERY right to request that your child repeat a grade, or demand extra special services. it is OUR JOB to fight/advocate for our kids. If you have no luck with the school itself go to the school board....then the super intendant....then the regional superintendant. At EACH stage tell them up front you expect resolution QUICKLY! (state in writing within 14 days) and at the end of that 14 days go to the next level!!! they will try and bog you down with extensions....appointments...yada yada, blah blah blah. DO NOT LET THEM!!! They are there to EDUCATE YOUR CHILD!!!PERIOD! Fight for him and get him the help he needs....PLEASE DO NOT LET HIM GET LOST....just because they don't want to figure out how to teach him.

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D.F.

answers from Chicago on

Hi P.,
Please have your friend check with CPS ###-###-####)because they offer alot of tutoring services. Some of them are free, and come to the child's school. Also, some companies offer free online tutoring if child pick-up after-school is a problem. Lastly, make sure your friend gives them time for recreation and play after school. Sometimes we forget as parents that the kids need time to play and unwind after school. Of course, make sure their work is done before hand. You mentioned they were below-level students, have them work on the workbooks (2 grades below) from Walgreen's or Target. If they feel uncomfortable working out of those books write it up for them and have them work on problems using notebook paper. Also, make sure to have the mom read one or two stories every night together. There is something about the power of reading together that helps to stimulate their thinking, and consistency is key!

All the Best!

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E.R.

answers from Chicago on

It sounds to me like the school might not want to spend the additional time or money required on this child. I would STRONGLY recommend that your neighbor meet with an advocate who specializes in IEP plans with schools. IL state law has just changed, so that parents can have outside input and support from IEP advocates in school meetings with them, but a lot of parents don't know that, so they just think they have to go along with whatever the school tells them. Whether or not the child has ADD, he is obviously struggling and something in school is not working for him. It sounds like these parents are trying to do their part at home, but maybe the school needs to step up as well.

I have several Special Needs support groups, professionals and caregivers as clients and can recommend Merilee Waters at Waters & Assoc. She is a really good person and has been through this herself and can help your neighbor navigate the rules of the school system and get her child an IEP that will be more suited to his needs. You can contact her at: ###-###-#### or [email protected]____.com I am sure she can at least give your neighbor an idea of what to do next. You're a good neighbor for trying to help this family out- good luck!

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D.S.

answers from Chicago on

I do not know what state or school system you are in but all schools can test a child for learning disabilities. There is some formal paper work to fill out. Tell her to go to her childs teacher or principal to ask and get the testing started. They are allotated 60 days for the testing and paper work. Sadly they only spend maybe 2-3 days of that with your child.

If she lives in Porter County Inidana I can refer her to many wonderful people people for help.
If he doesnt qualify for help in school she can get him tutored in may programs. Most schools have LD teachers(Learning Disability)who can tutor him in many programs of course out of pocket like the Linda Mood program,LIPS, Wilson program.The same training he would get if he qualified for services during school. What it comes down to is a #'s game weather a child qualifies not always what the child needs.

Let her know that some ins companies will pay a portion of testing to see the neuropsychologist. It is worth checking into.

Please help her in finding the right people and just start demanding help and testing she is the only one there for her child.

From a mom of an 18 yr old boy who is dyselexic and diagnoised when he was in the second grade. I to knew something wasnt right when they would pass him on when he struggled so hard. I was lucky enough to have the right people to tell me what to do and who to contact,by the was he is doing great today so much confidence not like the child who would cry everyday and tell me he is the stupidest one in class and didnt want to go to school.

I would be happy to talk to her.
Donielle

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M.T.

answers from Chicago on

HI,

I just read this book on this beautiful young woman who has a learning disability that is called severe dyscalculi (inability to learn math) and also has dyslexia but is gifted. The book, My Thirteenth Winter : A Memoir by Samantha Abeel is an amazing account beautifully written look from the inside, by a talented writer, this is a must-read for parents, teachers, and kids with LDs. Ms. Abeel also wrote and published a poetry book, Reach for the Moon, when she was 13 years old.

My daughter's therapist recommended it for me, not because my daughter has either of these issues but because of the way her mother was her advocate within the school system. Of course, I don't know anything about learning disabilities but I found the information on how her mother worked tirelessly for her.

Just a thought when I read your posting. It isn't a big book, but worth the read!

Good luck!
M.

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M.

answers from Chicago on

Hi,
I am a teacher and it is crazy that a school would push a student forward who is not ready, especially if the parent is willing to retain the student. Your neighbor needs to ask the school about their RtI program. Under IDEA 2004, RtI is a state mandate now, so all districts are required to do it. If they claim the child does not qualify for RtI, she needs to ask to see benchmark data to support that conclusion. I know it sounds like a lot of jargon, so she can email me privately if she wants more assistance, but this is the place to start!!
my personal email is [email protected]____.com, have her put in the message mamasource, b/c I wont open emails I dont know :)
And remind her she is doing a great thing by being proactive for her child and fighting for his rights, even if it seems frustrating at times!!

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L.F.

answers from Chicago on

The school social worker and/or psychologist should be able to provide some direction.School districts typically provide testing.Make an appoinment with the special education director in the school district. The child may have an un diagnosed learning disability.

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J.R.

answers from Chicago on

Good Morning,

I ran into a similar situation with my kids. I have twins--boy/girl-who are in 3rd. grade. I recently transferred them from a private Christian School to our local public school district and was immenseley happy with the change.
First of all, it certainly sounds as though he is entitled to extra assistance. The parents will need to contact the school district and based on his performance request IEP testing to be done. There is no charge for this through the school district --(you do pay for it by paying your taxes)
The testing will show where he stands, where the issues are and the best way to teach him.
Depending on their school district, they may need to be prepared for the red/tape (paper-work) but believe me it's worth it/
Last year my daughter would cry--(prior to the change) because she didn't want to go and have some of the other kids make fun of her, etc.. now since the change--she's the one asking to do her homework sooner, etc. and she can't wait to go to "club excel" extra help is provided in an encouraging atmosphere.
The former school told me my son couldn't do well, because he couldn't stay put and focus...they suggested ADD and drugs... So far this year, he's gotten an A+, an A and a B+
Tell them to pursue the testing through their district--it's worth being a "squeaky wheel".

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B.A.

answers from Chicago on

She should first approach the schools principle. Request a formal assessment for her child with a creatiom of an IEP. If they decline, then she needs to approach the district for the assessment, if they refuse then going to County School district and onto state if needed. By going through the chain she is not stepping on any toes of the people who can affect his educational outcome. However if results are not obtained then start the process of outside intervention with an attorney and education specialist to force the districts hand. If there is still no result, private tutors may need to be enlisted to help this child get to his potential.

Other things to consider for this child are allergies, Celiac disease,or diabetes, sleep patterns and ability to sleep. Traumatic events preventing pattern learning. A look at health, schedule and relationships can sometimes solve alot.

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