Archive | dyslexia RSS feed for this section


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

Sight Word Assessments

6 Aug

Administering a Fluency Assessment

6 Aug

Administering Fluency Assessments


 Directions. The following are some guidelines for administering fluency assessments:

  • Give your daughter a reading passage she has not seen before at her instructional level.
  • Fluency assessments are always done as “cold reads”; that is, they are done with material that is new to the person being tested.
  • Explain that you would like her to read the passage out loud and then answer tell you about  the story. Then say: When you are ready, you may begin.
  • Start your   stopwatch when the student reads the first word.
  • Follow along on your copy of the passage as the student reads. Place a line through each  word that is read incorrectly or omitted.
  • Place a check above each word that is read correctly.
  • If your daughter  substitutes or mispronounces a word, put a line through the word and write  the word she said above it.
  • If your daughter  does not correctly say the word within 3 seconds, say the word for her and circle the word to mark it as incorrect. Self-corrections and repetitions      are not marked as errors.
  • At the end of one  minute, stop your stopwatch and place a bracket (]) after the last word  read .
  • Have your daughter finish reading the passage.
  • Ask your daughter  to retell the story.


How to score. Use the following steps to determine your daughter’s fluency rate.


Scoring the retelling. Score the retelling using the following criteria. Assign an appropriate numeric score from 1 to 5 for future comparison.

  • No recall or      minimal recall of only a fact of two from the passage.


Ode to Football

6 Aug

Ode to Football

As the mother of two boys, I can remember taking long early morning walks in the heat of August praying for the beginning of football season. When the day finally arrived the boys would don there symbolic warrior pads and tight pants and prepare for their quasi war games.  From an exhausted mother’s perspective, this meant all of that adolescent angst that Lesko carefully discounts, would have an outlet in a culturally accepted rite of passage.

In Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence, Nancy Lesko questions these tendencies to label adolescents as deficient, controlled by hormones, crazy, and a little dangerous. She asks us to entertain a social-constructivist interpretation of the adolescent phenomenon. She attempts to debunk the popular assumptions associated with adolescents. She investigates how adolescence was conceptualized throughout history, and how ideas from the past affect current thoughts about youth.

Lesko’s discussion focuses on the Great Chain of Being, a symbol for  human development along the lines of race, gender, and national progress. The Great Chain of Being  depicts the hierarchy of animals, people, and societies that portrayed evolutionary history and sociological ranking. Evolutionary rankings were depicted from bottom to top. According to the Great Chain of Being, progress and civilization were the exclusive right of white men. Conversely, people of color, women, and youth were ranked lower and consequently regarded as being less civilized. The job of society was to help white male adolescents progress up the evolutionary scale, to become better, more civilized human beings. And what better way to accomplish this task than suiting them up in warrior costumes and letting them beat the shit out of each other. Wait a minute, how is this assisting in the journey of becoming an evolutionary superior? The alternatives presented to achieve this end are not as compelling as Friday Night

Lights. A trip to Juvie Hall rarely has a long term uplifting or rehabilitative effect. Perhaps the Young Men’s Christian Association and scouting have had more luck civilizing the savages.

I buy Lesko’s argument until she stretches her argument to assert that Great Chain of Being is a subversive metaphor for societal brainwashing in relation to race, gender, and national progress. She suggests that the Great Chain of Being insinuates the state of progress and civilization as being exclusive to white men, while people of color, women, and youth are ranked lower and regarded as less civilized. Personally, I wish my daughter could have suited up in warrior gear for a fall floundering. She needed an outlet for her adolescent angst much more than the boys.

Southeast Homeschool Expo

27 Jul

I am providing materials presented in my workshop at the Expo. It was a pleasure meeting so many wonderful and committed parents.