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Understanding the Professional Evaluation Process

1 Jan

Being tested for dyslexia or a language or learning disability involves a comprehensive assessment that provides you with a clear understanding of your competencies in the following areas:
• Oral language
• Phonological skills (e.g., phonemic awareness, rapid automatic naming)
• Decoding
• Reading fluency (i.e., rate and accuracy)
• Reading comprehension
• Spelling
• Writing
• Skills that might also be a part of the testing battery may include: articulation, social, and/or oral motor difficulties.
Evaluations should be performed by a professional with knowledge about speech, language, reading, spelling, and writing development. A Master’s-level speech-language pathologist who is certified by the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) is an excellent choice, as is a school or private psychologist or a learning disabilities specialist. By familiarizing yourself with the available testing procedures and options, you can better understand what you need in an assessment and how your disability impacts your learning or work performance. Here are some things to consider before, during and after an evaluation for dyslexia or language disability.
What to Expect Before the Evaluation
As part of a comprehensive evaluation, you may be asked to fill out a checklist and/or language and behavioral inventory regarding your current status, developmental and medical history, family history, and educational history. When you meet with the professional, he/she will offer interpretations of the data and initial impressions, which will inform the testing. The practitioner will be able to tell you which tests will be administered and why.
Questions to Address Prior to Agreeing to Assessments
1. What is the purpose of the testing? Is it to establish a baseline of skills or to determine whether or not I have a specific disability? Is it to measure ability or academic achievement?
2. What is the assessment’s protocol and format? Is the test timed, multiple-choice or fill in the blank, oral or written? For what age is the test standardized? Is it administered individually or to a group?
3. Is the choice of an instrument validated for the specific purpose for which the evaluator is seeking clarification or baseline data? Is the evaluator trained according to the publisher of the test?
4. If I have sensory or physical limitations, will the test provide accurate data relative to my knowledge and performance capability or will it merely measure my disability?
5. How often should I be tested? When is it important to vary the assessment tool so that the data are valid and not hindered by repetition?
6. Will the whole test or only some of the subtests be administered? How are the professionals making their selections? If they are giving only part of a test, will this give you a standardized score?
What to Expect During the Evaluation
The length of time for a comprehensive evaluation will depend on the number of areas to be assessed and the age of the individual. A language and literacy evaluation typically lasts between 3-4 hours for younger children and 6-8 hours for teens and adults. The professional will use his or her judgment to determine what is best for you. You’ll want to be sure that the diagnostic tools are age-appropriate and designed to assess the specific areas of concern. Everyone, regardless of age, should have passed a recent screenings for hearing and vision
What to Expect After the Evaluation
Following the evaluation, you (the client) are provided with a report that gives a diagnosis, outlines recommendations for therapy, activities for home practice, school support and accommodations. Recommendations should include your present level of functioning and clearly outline the path you need to take to get the needed support to succeed academically and in life.
A typical diagnostic report from a professional might include the following:
• A statement about how or why you were referred to this professional
• A one-paragraph summary of the professional’s initial impressions
• A comprehensive list of the assessments/tools used to reach a diagnosis
• Information regarding how the test is typically administered and scored
• A summary of findings and results
• A prognostic statement, which is the professional’s best prediction of long-term outcomes for you
• A list or summary of needed interventions to accomplish short and long-term goals, with some descriptions of types of intervention as well as number and/or length of appointments
• Follow-up assessments, if recommended

Reading Wars Continue

17 Sep

Another blast in the reading wars

By Valerie Strauss,

The reading wars continue.

Last month I published two pieces by literacy experts who raised serious objections to key parts of a report released over the summer on teacher preparation by a group called the National Council on Teacher Quality. The first one is here, the second here.( I had earlier published posts on the report, here and here, which criticized its methodology in determining which colleges of education were worthwhile and which aren’t.) The literacy experts (some of whom have served as president of the  National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association) were concerned, among other things, that the council was promoting an old and narrow idea that direct instruction of phonics is the best way to teach reading and that other methods have little or no value.

Not surprisingly, a number of scholars with different views has taken issue with the group’s objections and signed a letter about their position. This letter was written and circulated among like-minded scholars by Steven Dykstra, an adolescent psychologist and a founding member of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition.

For the sake of healthy debate on an important issue, I am publishing their letter. This is an important issue, and I’ll continue to write and publish pieces on it.

Here’s the Dykstra-written letter, with the names of signing scholars at the end:

Like Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss, we also regret that the Reading Wars continue to plague education. However, this cannot be blamed on organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), which recently published its findings on how well our colleges and universities prepare future teachers to teach reading to young students. Rather, the Reading Wars persist because of the continued dissemination of false information about the process of becoming an effective reader, with the latest example being Strauss’s own blog on August 13. Strauss’s pronouncements are particularly damaging, appearing as they do under the banner of the Washington Post, arguably the most trusted source of unbiased information for the nation’s decision makers. As such, they require a decisive response.


Taking aim at the NCTQ’s evaluation of teacher preparation programs, Strauss uses her forum to champion and promote the views of a limited sub-group of a society that calls itself the Reading Hall of Fame.  Although an independent organization, many members of the Reading Hall of Fame, including eight signers of the critique in question, are Past Presidents of the International Reading Association. Some of their criticisms aren’t much more than political innuendo, suggesting that the NCTQ and its allies are a front for conservatives determined to ruin public education and usurp control of teacher training.  Many staffers at the NCTQ as well as their supporters are true-blue liberals, and efforts to paint this as a clash of political philosophies distract from the real issue, which is the need to improve the effectiveness of teacher education in the United States.


Headliner Kenneth Goodman and the other Hall of Fame signers also complain that the NCTQ approach is incomplete, neglecting many important aspects of reading instruction and teacher training.  We must remember that NCTQ neither intended nor claimed to evaluate all aspects of how teachers are prepared to teach reading.  The NCTQ review focused on the five core components of reading identified by the National Academy of Sciences in 1998:  phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Weakness in any of these five components impedes or obstructs reading growth and, as attested by the 2000 meta-analysis of the National Reading Panel, growth in each of the components is significantly assisted through appropriate classroom instruction.  The NCTQ reviewed programs to see if each of these critical components were covered for at least two lectures, and evaluated by at least one assignment.


The NCTQ standard was a bare minimum level of performance, requiring programs to meet a very low standard for at least four of the five topics.  In fact, learning to teach reading requires a great deal more than two lectures on each of these five topics.  It would be possible to score well on the review but still do a very poor job preparing teachers to teach reading.  What would be impossible is to neglect these five topics and still do a good job preparing teachers to teach reading.  This is true no matter how much time is devoted to addressing speaking and listening, writing, content-area texts, diversity, the formation of instructional groups, motivation, and metacognition. No one contests the relevance of these more general topics, which Hall of Fame signer R. David Pearson bemoaned as missing in another critique of the NCTQ review that he co-authored for the International Reading Association. However, NCTQ’s review focused on the five essential, scientifically-proven reading fundamentals that incontrovertibly underlie the ability to learn to read accurately, fluently, and with comprehension, an ability that eludes far too many school children today.


Goodman and the others accuse the NCTQ of keeping the Reading Wars alive, and in one respect they are right. NCTQ uncomfortably shined a light on those aspects of reading that these critics prefer to minimize.  There has never been a disagreement over motivation, diversity, or the importance of reflecting on and responding to high quality reading material. There has, however, been an ongoing battle over the way children become accurate and fluent readers. The Reading Wars are an ongoing struggle between those who understand that children must be taught to use letters and sounds to decode and spell words, and those who think children should mostly or entirely eschew that method (generally known as phonics) in favor of guessing.  The first side is guided by science, the alphabetic nature of our written language, and a common sense recognition that understanding the meaning of text is predicated on accurately identifying words.  The second side believes that children should be taught to construct meaning from text based on their own meaning-based intuitions about what the words might be.  That is, rather than reading the words of a text to expand their knowledge and understanding (as well as their reading prowess), this second side encourages children to use their own existing knowledge and understanding to guess at words.

Kenneth Goodman himself is the father of the guessing approach.  Despite ample science to the contrary, this philosophy gained wide popularity following the publication of his paper, “Reading: A Psycholinguistic Guessing Game,” in 1967.  Since then, too many children have been taught to read by a collection of methods that includes a heavy reliance on guessing at words, while lending little attention to the print on the page. Science has incontrovertibly resolved the dispute in favor of the alphabetic approach, but the war cannot end as long as those who reject the lessons of science still dominate in our colleges and classrooms.


The uninitiated who find this difficult to believe may rely on Goodman’s own words regarding what reading is and how it should be taught:


  • “Accuracy, correctly naming or identifying each word or word part in a graphic sequence, is not necessary for effective reading since the reader can get the meaning without accurate word identification. Furthermore, readers who strive for accuracy are likely to be inefficient.” (p.826) Goodman, K. S. (1974, Sept). Effective teachers of reading know language and children. Elementary English, 51, 823-828.
  • “Early in our miscue research, we concluded…that a story is easier to read than a page, a page easier to read than a paragraph, a paragraph easier than a sentence, a sentence easier than a word, and a word easier than a letter. Our research continues to support this conclusion and we believe it to be true…” Goodman, K. & Goodman, Y. (1981). Twenty questions about teaching language. Educational Leadership, 38, 437-442.
  • “Matching letters with sounds is a flat-earth view of the world, one that rejects modern science about reading.”  (p. 371) Goodman, K. S. (1986). What’s whole in whole language. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Scholastic.

While this approach has been tempered over time, it still dominates the way most teachers are trained to teach reading, and thus the way our school children are instructed.  We can trace a clear ideological path leading from Goodman to Reading Recovery to balanced literacy and many present-day iterations of guided reading. Lip service to phonics now allows a child to use the first letter of the word and guess, followed by the first and last letter and more guessing.  But this faction adheres to the admonishment of Marie Clay, the influential developer of Reading Recovery, to use phonics only after all other strategies, or “cues,” have been tried.

  • “All readers, from five year old beginners on their first books to the effective adult reader need to use: the meaning, the sentence structure, order cues, size cues, special features, special knowledge, first and last letter knowledge before they resort to left to right sounding out of chunks or letter clusters, or in the last resort, single letters.” (p. 9) Clay (1998). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Auckland, Heinemann..

The goal is to keep phonetic decoding of words to a minimum, despite a wealth of research that shows it is a cardinal feature of all skilled reading. Skilled reading and poor phonetic decoding are mutually exclusive. The guessing advocates ignore this richly validated fact because it is inconsistent with their own beliefs.  The damage comes when, as the NCTQ found, so many university teacher programs confuse the philosophy with the science. Fresh out of high school, our future teachers are hugely dependent on their college education to prepare them to teach children to read. Teachers can hardly be expected to teach what they haven’t been taught, much less that which they have been trained to reject.

Attacks on the NCTQ review are merely ways for defenders of guessing to deflect attention from years of misguided and, ultimately, damaging instruction.  There is nothing enlightened about denying serious research, and there is nothing liberal about denigrating or withholding the tools and knowledge on which teachers’ successful careers and children’s educational horizons depend. Strauss, Goodman, and others need to give up their smokescreen of concern over the politics and particulars of the NCTQ review, and account for the relentless adherence to the guessing strategies that really are perpetuating the Reading Wars. Future teachers and all stakeholders who want our children to have the keys to skilled reading should demand this accounting.


Marilyn Jager Adams, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar, Psychology, Brown University

Isabel Beck, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, University of Pittsburgh

Susan Brady, Ph.D., Professor of School Psychology, University of Rhode Island

James Chapman, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand

David Chard, Ph.D., Dean, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University

Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University

Carolyn Cowen, Board Member, Literate Nation

Molly de Lemos, Ph.D., President-elect, Learning Difficulties Australia

Mary Delahunty, M. Ed., Learning Difficulties Australia

Steven Dykstra, Ph.D., Founding Member, Wisconsin Reading Coalition

Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP (ABCN), Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Houston

David Francis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Houston

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D, President, Literacy How; Research Affiliate, Haskins Laboratories

Sally Grimes, Ed.M., Founding Director, Grimes Reading Institute

Cinthia Haan, Haan Foundation for Children

Lorraine Hammond, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University; President, Learning Difficulties Australia

Kerry Hempenstall, Ph.D., RMIT University, Australia

Marcia K. Henry, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, San Jose State University

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia

R. Malatesha Joshi, Ph.D., Professor, Teaching, Learning, and Culture, Texas A&M University

Edward J. Kame’enui, Ph.D., Dean-Knight Professor of Education, University of Oregon

Yvonne Meyer, Committee Member, National Inquiry into Teaching of Literacy/Report: Teaching Reading (2005) Australia

Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D., Moats Associates Consulting; former Vice President, International Dyslexia Association

Frederick J. Morrison, Ph.D., Professor, School of Education and Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

Mary Newton, J.D., CALP, Founding Member, Wisconsin Reading Coalition

Charles A. Perfetti, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Margot Prior, Professor of Psychology, AO, FASSA, FAPS, University of Melbourne, Australia

Daniel J. Reschly, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Mark S. Seidenberg, Ph.D., Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Donald Shankweiler, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Haskins Laboratories; Professor Emeritus, Psychology, University of Connecticut

Holly Shapiro, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Ravinia Reading Center, LLC

Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., Professor, Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., Professor, Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Susan M. Smartt, Ph.D., Vice President of Science Core Group, Literate Nation

Louise A. Spear-Swerling, Ph.D., Area Coordinator, Graduate Program in Learning Disabilities, Southern Connecticut State University

Morag Stuart, Ph.D. Professor Emerita in the Psychology of Reading, University of London

Geraldine L. Theadore, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Rhode Island

Joseph K. Torgesen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education Emeritus, Florida State University; Director Emeritus, Florida Center for Reading Research

William E. Tunmer, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand

Kevin Wheldall, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor and Director of MULTILIT Research Unit, Macquarie University, Australia

Joanna P. Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia University







Back to School: Organizing Tips for Parents from

16 Sep






To get your son or daughter in gear for this new school year,  now is the time (if you haven’t already done so) for getting organized.  This is important for all kids, but particularly so for those with ADHD and/or Learning Disabilities.  Help your child be ready and off to a fresh start with these tips:

Clean Out the Old





Make sure your child’s room is organized.  Hopefully, you’ve been working on this project during the summer.  But, if not…together with your son or daughter,  go through desk drawers, closets, and cabinets.  Sort through all of the previous year’s school papers and projects.  Determine what can be dumped or recycled, and what is to be saved.  Take advantage of today’s technology, by taking  digital pictures for an electronic portfolio of your child’s save-worthy work, art, and projects from last school year.    Then, store in labeled boxes or files just the most valuable items you want to keep.




In With the New




Whether they look forward to going back to school or not, shopping for new school clothes and supplies is exciting for almost every child.   Many schools provide a list of required or recommended school supplies for parents to purchase, or teachers may send home such a list.   When buying  the basics and required items, motivate your child by buying when possible his or her choice of backpack, lunchbox, and other school supplies  (as long as they are user-friendly for your child’s needs). 


Discuss and Plan the Homework Area


Now is the perfect time to explore different homework area options and create with your child a homework station/area that will be appealing to your son or daughter.  There are so many creative ideas for setting up homework stations within your child’s room, another area of the house, and portable ones that can be found on Pinterest board – Home Organization-Homework Areas

Low Omega-3 Could Explain Why Some Children Struggle With Reading

15 Sep

Sep. 13, 2013 — An Oxford University study has shown that a representative sample of UK schoolchildren aged seven to nine years had low levels of key Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Furthermore, the study found that children’s blood levels of the long-chain Omega-3 DHA (the form found in most abundance in the brain) ‘significantly predicted’ how well they were able to concentrate and learn.Oxford University researchers explained the findings, recently published in the journal PLOS One, at a conference in London on 4 September.

The study was presented at the conference by co-authors Dr Alex Richardson and Professor Paul Montgomery from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. It is one of the first to evaluate blood Omega-3 levels in UK schoolchildren. The long-chain Omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) found in fish, seafood and some algae, are essential for the brain’s structure and function as well as for maintaining a healthy heart and immune system. Parents also reported on their child’s diet, revealing to the researchers that almost nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all. The government’s guidelines for a healthy diet recommend at least two portions of fish a week. This is because like vitamins, omega-3 fats have to come from our diets — and although humans can in theory make some EPA and DHA from shorter-chain omega-3 (found in some vegetable oils), research has shown this conversion is not reliable, particularly for DHA, say the researchers.

Blood samples were taken from 493 schoolchildren, aged between seven and nine years, from 74 mainstream schools in Oxfordshire. All of the children were thought to have below-average reading skills, based on national assessments at the age of seven or their teachers’ current judgements. Analyses of their blood samples showed that, on average, just under two per cent of the children’s total blood fatty acids were Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and 0.5 per cent were Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), with a total of 2.45 per cent for these long-chain Omega-3 combined. This is below the minimum of 4 per cent recommended by leading scientists to maintain cardiovascular health in adults, with 8-12 per cent regarded as optimal for a healthy heart, the researchers reported.

Co-author Professor Paul Montgomery said: ‘From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behaviour and ability to learn. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behaviour problems as rated by parents and teachers. These results are particularly noteworthy given that we had a restricted range of scores, especially with respect to blood DHA but also for reading ability, as around two-thirds of these children were still reading below their age-level when we assessed them. Although further research is needed, we think it is likely that these findings could be applied generally to schoolchildren throughout the UK.’

Co-author Dr Alex Richardson added: ‘The longer term health implications of such low blood Omega-3 levels in children obviously can’t be known. But this study suggests that many, if not most UK children, probably aren’t getting enough of the long-chain Omega-3 we all need for a healthy brain, heart and immune system. That gives serious cause for concern because we found that lower blood DHA was linked with poorer behaviour and learning in these children. ‘Most of the children we studied had blood levels of long-chain Omega-3 that in adults would indicate a high risk of heart disease. This was consistent with their parents’ reports that most of them failed to meet current dietary guidelines for fish and seafood intake. Similarly, few took supplements or foods fortified with these Omega-3.’

The current findings build on earlier work by the same researchers, showing that dietary supplementation with Omega-3 DHA improved both reading progress and behaviour in children from the general school population who were behind on their reading. Their previous research has already shown benefits of supplementation with long-chain omega-3 (EPA+DHA) for children with ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and related conditions. The DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) Studies have now extended these findings to children from the general school population.

‘Technical advances in recent years have enabled the measurement of individual Omega-3 and other fatty acids from fingerstick blood samples. ‘These new techniques have been revolutionary — because in the past, blood samples from a vein were needed for assessing fatty acids, and that has seriously restricted research into the blood Omega-3 status of healthy UK children until now,’ said Dr Richardson.

The authors believe these findings may be relevant to the general UK population, as the spread of scores in this sample was within the normal population range for both reading and behaviour. However, they caution that these findings may not apply to more ethnically diverse populations as some genetic differences can affect how Omega-3 fatty acids are metabolised. Most of the children participating in this study were white British

Is It “Cool” To Say You Hate School?

31 Aug

shout asserts its purpose is to be a support site for students who can’t stand being forced to go to school. They qualify their mission by explaining that they are not telling anyone to drop out, rebel or do anything in particular. They endorse making your decision and alone, and they will just provide support and information for whatever choice you may make. They emphasize that the choice is the student’s to make. They offer someone there is always willing to listen to you. Their bottom line is its okay to hate school and provide14 Good Reasons why School Sucks & Things I Hate About School:
1. School sucks because if you don’t like it, most people automatically think there’s something serious wrong with you.
2. School ruins learning. In school, learning is all about memorizing things, answering questions, and writing loads of crap on topics you don’t care about.
3. Because you’re forced to go there, and if you want to try some other alternative, you need to get parental permission first. School is essentially pointless forced labour without pay.
4. It sucks because people expect you to treat school as the most important thing in your life. Nevermind what you’d rather be doing.
5. School sucks because once you’re done, you’ll probably forget 90% of what you “learned” there and burn all your books anyway. All you’ll be left with is a diploma stating that you survived 12 years of hell. And very few people (besides your parents) will even want to look at it.
6. Because talking to your friends is a crime at school.
7. It sucks because even if you’re bored out of your mind, you’ll still get all the blame for not participating in class.
8. School suppresses independent thought – if you disagree with the teacher, you’re in trouble. If you dare to think of a new way to do something, it’s automatically wrong.
9. School sucks because if you do what they say and do all your work, you don’t get time off – they’ll just expect even more from you in future. And someone who cheats on their work and tests can just as easily do better than you.
10. School sucks because life is short, and you’ll never get that time back.
11. School makes everyone around you panic over the smallest little things that none of them (or anyone else) will care about a few years down the line.
12. Even when you go home, school invades your life by giving you homework as well.
13. It sucks because even though school has all these problems, if you mention any of them, you’ll be the one they blame, no matter how right you may actually be.
14. School sucks because every now and then it does something useful for someone, and then everyone goes all “Look! That’s proof that school is good for you!”… It’s like getting free ice cream in hell – it just doesn’t quite make up for all the other stuff.

Suggested Books From The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

24 Aug

Eleven by Patricia Riley Giff
Sam, a talented boy who can’t read, is trying to discover his true identity through written documents. This action-packed psychological mystery is both suspenseful and touching.

Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever
A Series by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

“Hank Zipzer is the kid next door. Humor, magic, a school bully, a pet dachshund named Cheerio, and a pet iguana that slurps soup at dinner add up to a fun novel with something for everyone.”
-Library School Journal
Henry Winkler’s real-life experiences as a young “underachiever” inspire these humorous and exciting stories in the Hank Zipzer series. These books will engage even the most reluctant reader in a fun romp through the days of Hank Zipzer, who always manages to keep things lively and, in the end, helps deliver a message of understanding for all kids, especially for those who share Hank’s learning differences.
Visit Hank Zipzer’s official site.
“The Fonz Makes Dyslexia Cool” A video on BBC News.
“Henry Winkler, who played the Fonz in the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, has been in Hampshire talking to schoolchildren about his struggle with dyslexia.” -BBC

The Lightning Thief
and others in the series by Rick Riordan
“My Son and all his friends from ages 10-15 years old like these series, they are filled with excitement, danger, and personal triumph. They can also be downloaded for an MP3 player.”
-Marcia Mishaan, YCDC Council Member
From Myth & Mystery: The Official Blog for Author Rick Riordan…
On a more personal level, mythology was very helpful to me. Before I wrote The Lightning Thief, my son Haley was struggling in second grade, or Year 3. It turned out he was dyslexic and ADHD. These learning disabilities, by the way, are also a frontier, a way of seeing from the edge. ADHD and dyslexic people are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. They cannot do things traditionally, so they learn to improvise. Percy Jackson was a myth to help him make sense of who he is. Mythology is a way of explaining something that can’t be explained, except by allegory, and my son’s struggle in school definitely applied. He completely bought in to the idea that ADHD/dyslexia, taken together, was an almost sure sign that you have Olympian blood.

Trapped. A Novel by Judy Spurr
“A short, empathetic novel for middle-schoolers
that addresses learning disabilities and bullying…nicely executed fiction with a neatly resolved ending that will leave readers smiling.” -Kirkus Reviews
School is difficult for Jamie–dyslexia not only makes coursework a challenge, but he is often bullied at school. Spurr, a former reading teacher, enters the real-life, day-to-day struggles of kids with dyslexia and shows how friendships and perseverance can change a life. The book is written appropriately for young people, but parents will learn something, too, of both the academic and social challenges kids face. The book offers lots of food for thoughtful discussion between parents and kids or kids in a classroom or book-club setting.
Click Here! Judy Spurr: On Why She Wrote Trapped

Author by Helen Lester
“Lester’s lighthearted book of how she came to write children’s books will give aspiring authors of any age a lift and encouragement to persevere.”
-Publishers Weekly
An inspirational true story of a girl, Helen Lester, who has trouble writing even something as simple as a grocery list and ends up becoming a teacher and then a celebrated children’s book author.

Tacky the Penguin
by Helen Lester & illustrated by Lynn M. Musinger
“This book is must reading for any kid–or grown-up–who refuses to follow the pack.” -Publishers Weekly
This delightful tale of an odd penguin who doesn’t fit in with the perfect penguins in his colony is well suited to budding out-of-the-box thinkers who often do things differently from their peers. Stories give children a way to think positively about themselves and Tacky is a hero for children who struggle with differences.
Note: A Read-Along Book/CD combo is also available.
Visit Helen Lester’s website.

What Is Dyslexia?: A Book Explaining Dyslexia for Kids and Adults to Use Together
by Alan M. Hultquist, illustrated by Lydia Corrow
“…a must read for parents and children
struggling with dyslexia.”
Children with dyslexia can be left “out of the loop” when it comes to discussions about the reasons for their struggles at school. What Is Dyslexia? is designed to help adults explain dyslexia to children aged 8-11. Hultquist offers clear examples and explanations, interactive activities for parents (or other adults) and children to do together, and highlights of the courage and strengths of people with dyslexia.

It’s Called Dyslexia by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos & illustrated by Nuria Roca
Whoever said that learning to read and write is easy? The little girl in this story is unhappy and she no longer enjoys school. When learning to read and write, she tries to remember which way the letters go but she often gets them all mixed up. After she discovers that dyslexia is the reason for her trouble, she begins to understand that with extra practice and help from others, she will begin to read and write correctly. At the same time, she also discovers a hidden talent she never knew existed!

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
“…an inspiring picture book…the author clearly shows the ways that children internalize critical comments made by others and suffer for their differences.” -School Library Journal
“This story is truly autobiographical. It is about my own struggle with not being able to read. This story honors the teacher that took the time to see a child that was drowning and needed help…Mr. Falker, my hero, my teacher, not only stopped this boy from teasing me, but he also noticed that I wasn’t reading well and got a reading specialist to help.” -Patricia Polacco
Visit Patricia Polacco’s website.

The Alphabet War: A Story About Dyslexia by Diane Burton Robb and Gail Piazza
“Adam’s experience will inspire and encourage
many youngsters who find themselves in similar predicaments. Equally important, the book sounds
an alarm for educators and parents.” -Booklist
“When Adam was little, he loved to sink into his mother’s warm lap and listen to her read.” Yet, reading becomes a frustrating, daily battle once Adam starts school. Finally, in third grade, Adam learns that he has dyslexia…and begins a journey back to enjoying reading.

My Name Is Brain by Jeanne Betancourt
“Children with learning problems will relate well to this book.”
– School Library Journal
It’s a new school year and Brian is hoping to have a much better academic year. He’s still joking with his friends, and makes them laugh especially hard when he writes his name on the board as “Brain.” But this is no joke, as his new no-nonsense teacher spots Brian’s previously undiagnosed dyslexia. With tutoring and the help of his teacher, Brian starts to see his potential and himself in a whole new light.

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica’s Comeback Kids by Mike Lupica
Teaming up brings new opportunities for the
class brain and the class jock.
Chris Conlan is the coolest kid in sixth grade—the golden-armed quarterback of the football team, and the boy all the others look up to. Scott Parry is the new kid, the boy with the huge brain, but with feet that trip over themselves daily. These two boys may seem like an odd couple, but team up when Scott figures out how to help Chris with his reading problem, while Chris helps him with his football and both boys end up winners.

Political Correctness Gone Mad: Has School Become Too Hostile For Boys ?

21 Aug


            Parents of boys should ask themselves this question as they enter the doors of theirschools. A myriad of incidents suggests that the answer is yes. By the time they reach school, many boys are already lagging behind in literacy: at age five, there is a gap of 11 percentage points between boys’ and girls’ achievement in reading. More and more boys struggle with reading and literacy as they progress through the school system. Boys are also less likely to enjoy reading and less likely to spend time reading outside of class. This literacy gender is becoming more severe because boys are not only underachieving in literacy the gap between how much boys and girls enjoy reading or choose to spend time reading is widening.

So what is making boys more likely to struggle with reading? Not all boys struggle with reading and while the literacy gender gap is seen internationally, there are notable exceptions including Chile and the Netherlands. Something we are doing as a society is making boys more likely to fail at reading.. In school, what is taught and how it is taught and assessed all impacts on boys’ achievement, while boys’ gender identities, influenced by society’s expectations and reinforced by their peers, can negatively impact their attitudes toward reading, the amount of time they spend reading and ultimately their reading skills.

Many secondary school boys do not have the stamina to read beyond the 100th page of a book. Does his mean we need toss out longer novels in favor of shorter books?  Since for many boys the cutoff point happens  within the first few pages  of a book, providing shorter books does not solve the problem . More needs to be done to engage boys’ and build on their own interests.




Texas Child Suspended After Hugging Aide
  WACO, Texas — School administrators gave a 4-year-old student an in-school   suspension for inappropriately touching a teacher’s aide after the pre-kindergartner   hugged the woman. A letter from La Vega school district administrators to the   student’s parents said that the boy was involved in “inappropriate   physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual   harassment” after he hugged the woman and he “rubbed his face in   the chest of the female employee” on Nov. 10. DaMarcus Blackwell, the   father of the boy who attends La Vega Primary School, said he filed a   complaint with the district. He said that his son doesn’t understand why he   was punished. “When I got that letter, my world flipped,” Blackwell   said in a story in Sunday’s editions of the Waco Tribune-Herald.  La Vega school district officials said   student privacy laws

prevented them from commenting. After   Blackwell filed a complaint, a subsequent letter from the district said the   offense had been changed to “inappropriate physical contact” and   removed references of sexual contact or sexual harassment from the boy’s   file. Administrators said the district’s student handbook contains no   specific guidelines referring to contact between teachers and students but   does state that inappropriate physical contact will result in a discipline   referral (Waco   Tribune-Herald, 2005).


Child   suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to   “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months   earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for   nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At   about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing   an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world (Time,   2013).”


Forgotten is the reality that millions of boys are struggling academically. A large and ever-increasing male horde is falling behind in grades and disengaged from school. College has never been more important to a young person’s life prospects, and today boys are far less likely than girls to pursue education beyond high school..

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys.. The obsession of upholding zero tolerance policies is creating hostile environments for young boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”

According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression — only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week — whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.

Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to schoolSchools must enforce codes of discipline and maintain clear rules against incivility and malicious behavior. But that hardly requires abolishing tag, imposing games of tug of peace or banning superhero play. Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.




13 Aug



            Sec. 504 is a civil rights law and not a special education law. Its purpose is to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination related to their disability in programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. SEC. 504 ensures equal, non-discriminatory access to the existing educational process, it does not provide a special or unique educational curriculum or related services. To be eligible for the  protections under Sec. 504 an individual must have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits  at least one major life activity.” While this statutory measure for identifying a “disability” is vague at best it has been held that such measures should be broadly applied and should not require “extensive analysis.”

          Sec. 504’s disabling qualifications include “specific learning disabilities” which impair activities such as reading or learning. Further, any such impairments are to be considered without regard for the potentially ameliorative effects of mitigating measures (such as medication, assistive technologies, informal accommodations, etc). In this same vein, a student’s academic success alone is not an indicator sufficient to determine that the child does not have a qualifying disability under Sec. 504 or is not a person with a disability entitled to Sec. 504 accommodations.  Congress has specifically rejected the assumption that a child with a specific learning disability,  who performs well academically, cannot have substantially limiting disabilities in activities such as learning and reading. This is because grades alone fail to provide any information as to mitigating factors such as an individuals own adaptive strategies or how medication or other outside resources are required for the student to achieve the grades.

          Sec. 504 requires  all reasonable modifications or accommodations necessary to provide the disabled child equal  “access to an education.” It includes such things as :

          Presentation:              Provide audio tapes, larger print, oral                                           instructions, repeat directions

          Responses:                Allow verbal responses, provide a scribe                                              to record verbal responses, allow                                                 responses via computer or tape recorder

          Timing/scheduling:   Allow frequent breaks, extended time

          Setting :                       Provide special settings, small group settings,                                               private room

          Equipment/materials :  Provide computers, amplification equipment,                                             manipulative      

Lastly, of note is the fact that no federal or state funds are associated with the provision of services under Sec. 504.


          By way of contrast, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a broad special education law. Children who qualify for special education services under IDEA are automatically protected under Sec. 504 and are eligible to receive all Sec. 504 required “reasonable accommodations” or “modifications.” However, the reverse of this is not necessarily true. That is, a child under a Sec. 504 Plan alone, does not automatically qualify for the broad protections provided by IDEA.

          When evaluating the potentially beneficial aspects of these two statutes for your child there is a common misunderstanding  that special education services under IDEA require a special education setting, while Sec. 504 protections allow a child to stay in their regular class room . This is not accurate. While Sec. 504 accommodations are almost always provided in the general classroom setting, IDEA also requires the application of special education services in the “least restrictive environment .“ This includes receipt of services with non-disabled children in the regular classroom whenever possible.      


          Sec. 504 does not set out specific circumstances that trigger the school’s obligation to conduct an evaluation. Such a decision is governed by the individual circumstances in each case. If a school does not believe that a child is disabled an evaluation is not required.  In this regard it is important to remember that the particulars related to the actual implementation of the Sec. 504 eligibility remain at the discretion of the local education body. However, in the event of such a non-testing/non-eligibility decision, the parent’s  must be informed of the decision and  be allowed to examine the child’s records. The parents must also must be informed of their due process appeal rights . Such appeal rights may include mediation (if all parties agree). Lastly, an impartial hearing appeal is always available. This allows the parents an opportunity to participate and obtain legal counsel if they desire. 

          If however, the school “believes” or “has reason to believe” that a student has a qualifying Sec 504 disability they must evaluate the student. Such belief could be based upon such things observations/opinions by the school staff or a parental request for an evaluation. Further, such an evaluation always must be conducted before any action is taken with respect to a child’s initial placement  or before there is any change in placement.

          A parental request for a Sec. 504 evaluation should be in writing and addressed to the School’s 504 Coordinator and the Principal (the principal frequently serves as the Coordinator). The request should identify the specific reasons as to why the child qualifies for a Sec. 504 plan, as well as the specific 504 accommodations to which the child is entitled. If you have documentation that supports your request it is helpful to include it. However, given that the implementation of so much of Sec. 504 is left up to the local schools, it is important to obtain a copy of the schools policies/procedures and procedural safeguards before making such an evaluation request or attempting to enforce any of the due process procedural rights.

          For such an evaluation the school is required to assemble and use a team of persons knowledgeable about the student and draw upon varied sources of information. While there is no requirement under Sec. 504 that the parents be allowed to actually participate in making these decisions, many school systems do involve them in the process.  Further, while a Sec. 504 Plan does not have to be in writing, the parents must be provided with notice of actions affecting  the evaluation, identification and placement of the child. Additionally, any decision regarding Sec 504 eligibility and related services must be documented in the student’s file. If a Sec. 504 Plan is actually provided, eligibility and services  must be reviewed periodically. 



Reading Checklist for Reading Difficulties

7 Aug

Go to for a list of red flags of reading difficulties

Books for Struggling Readers

7 Aug

Babymouse Series Graphic Novels by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Even though their covers are pink, and the protagonist female, boys fall for Babymouse also.

From the publisher: “Meet Babymouse, a sassy young mouse who dreams of glamour, excitement, adventure, straight whiskers, being queen of the world…Readers will love Babymouse’s vivid imagination…and the clever illustrations and hilarious storyline of brother-sister team Matthew and Jennifer Holm.”


Wonder  by R.J. Palacio

Auggie is heading to 5th grade at a mainstream school. Until now, his extreme facial deformity has kept him home and safe from peer ridicule. Readers enter into Auggie’s life as he embarks upon a challenge to get his classmates to see beyond his face.


The One and Only Ivan by Kathrine Applegate

Simply told story from a captive gorilla’s perspective. It is a sweet book looks at life from the other side of the cage.

From the publisher: “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all….and then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family.”


Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

The reader takes an adventure with Callum while he tries to keep a promise to a girl and an endangered bird. Set in modern Ireland, it is a suspenseful story that explores grief, survival and respect for the natural world.


Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Written in beautiful free verse narrative, the text is very assessable, but the story is deep and sophisticated. The reader follows 10 year old Ha, her mother, and three brothers as they are forced to flee Vietnam during the war. They end up in Alabama having to make extraordinary cultural shifts.


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger

The “Origami Yoda” books tell the story of a sixth-grade weirdo and his mysterious ability to dispense bona fide wisdom through a Yoda finger puppet (cartoons and marginalia included). The book is structured as a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don’t. Ages 8-12


Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

The popularity of the “Wimpy” series ushered in many popular spin-offs. The best thing about these humorous graphic novels is that they appeal to all reading abilities. Because everyone in the class reads (and enjoys) them, the series creates a shared experience among the students, regardless of reading abilities. Ages 8-12

Other Books Like Diary of a Wimpy Kid:

Planet Tad by Tim Carvell

Tad has an agenda: Survive seventh grade.
also wants to: grow a mustache, get girls to notice him, and do a kickflip on his skateboard…
But those are not the
main reasons he started a blog. Tad just has a lot of important thoughts he wants to share with the world, like: Here is the first thing I have learned about having a dog in your house: Don’t feed them nachos. Not ever.

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald, illus. by J.P. Coovert

From the author’s website: “Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader every born. He does whatever it takes to get out of reading, and so far, it’s worked out really well. But one day in middle school he gets into trouble, and finds his impressive record is on the line. Will he push his luck and do whatever it takes to get out of reading, or will he finally bite the bullet and… gasp…read a book?!? “

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look and LeUyen Pham
Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce


Love that Dog and Hate that Cat  by Sharon Creech

Both books are written in easy-to-read free verse and are so compelling and funny that students find themselves rethinking poetry. Ages 8-12


Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write about Being Boys: 

A collection of wonderful, short autobiographical stories written by favorite authors like Avi, Dan Gutman, Daniel Pinkwater, and Jerry Spinelli; edited by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Funny Business

From the publisher: “Ten stories guaranteed to delight, amuse, and possibly make you spit your milk in your friend’s face”

Guys Read: Thriller

From the publisher: “Ten original short stories of mystery, thrills, intrigue, and nefarious activity by ten of the best mystery/thriller writers of our day. Read these if you dare!”

The Series is best for older readers as independent read-younger readers need some guidance-not all stories are appropriate for elementary ages and these stories are not just for boys. Grades 5-9


Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing up Scieszka by Jon Sciezska

A hysterically funny autobiographical novel told with lots of visuals and exaggeration. Ages 9-12


Addie on the Inside by James Howe

From the publisher: “The Gang of Five is back in this third story from Paintbrush Falls. Addie Carle, the only girl in the group of friends is outspoken, opinionated, and sometimes…just a bit obnoxious. Told in elegant, accessible verse…gives readers a look at a strong, smart, and sensitive girl struggling with the box society wants to put her in.”


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A 566-page novel told mostly through illustration. Kids love this fat book; it makes them feel like “real readers.” A Caldecott Medal winner. Ages 9-12

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Like “Hugo Cabret” this book is told mostly through pictures. From the publisher: “Ben and Rose wish their lives were different. Set fifty years apart, their two stories — Ben’s told in words, Rose’s in pictures–weave back and forth on a spectacular journey.”


Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 

A simply told touching story with short easy-to-read chapters.

Other books by Kate DiCamillo:      The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane      The Magician’s Elephant      Tiger Rising  


Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale, Dean Hale, Nathan Hale

A funny retelling of the classic tale done in graphic novel format. Boys do like it, even though they resist it at first.


Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

A good short book packed with humor and adventure and a little introduction into how capitalism works. Ages 9-12 

And the sequel, Lawn Boy Returns.  

More books by Gary Paulsen include:
Liar, Liar: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Deception, and
Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed  


Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm

The author uses everything from journal entries to refrigerator notes to tell a touching story about one girl’s challenging year. Ages 9-12


Many titles by Jerry Spinelli seem to get students hooked on reading in the middle elementary grades.  Loser and Love, Stargirl are favorites. Spinelli’s autobiography, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, is also a surprise hit.

Teachers who recommend these titles gain a lot of credibility with their students.

Young Adult Books

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Simple cartoons help tell the story of Arnold Spirit, a fourteen-year-old Indian, who has not had an easy life.  Using his humor and sharp observation, Arnold grapples with his own ambitions, his Indian identity and the world around him.


A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator)

This powerfully illustrated YA book is a powerful story about the monster, both real and imagined, that thirteen-year-old Conor must face.

Compiled by Kyle Redford