Mountain Climbing

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I’ve compared our dyslexia journey to Alice in Wonderland.  It’s also akin to climbing a mountain.

One should never climb a mountain alone.  It’s not safe and it is fraught with peril.  One needs a team to succeed.  Some people are going to be novices that you have to lug up the mountain with you, but they’re dedicated to learning the how and while they may make mistakes, they will always try.  Some people will be the cocky “experts” who through their arrogance pose the most danger to the team, since their arrogance is really ignorance combined with too much chutzpah and therefore they usually only cause accidents and death.

A good team consists of people who are willing to work together, defer where necessary, take the lead when called upon, step back and follow when their knowledge is less than they possess for the task, but a unit working together, trusting each other.  It is through this dynamic that one climbs mountains.

So how is my journey climbing a mountain?

Unlike how I would climb a mountain, I didn’t choose my team, they were chosen for me by someone else.  The team is what it is.  Sometimes I’m alone, other times people are hindrances, other times I can see the depth to which the team is trying to pull themselves up the mountain with me.

The below is one example of the team mountain climbing together.

On December 11, 2018 I sent the following email to my son’s IEP team:

Good afternoon,

A team of Neuhaus professionals has evaluated my son and decided that his phonic mastery is complete. They are focusing now on metacognitive skills, writing and spelling so in essence they’re skipping ahead quite a bit. He’s still in book 2 but near the end with only 40 lessons to go before beginning book 3. My son has mentioned there’s an item or two he still has to work on with you based on what you’ve discussed with him. I’d like to know your thoughts on where he is in the programs you’ve opted to use with him, specifically given the latest from Neuhaus.

I would also like to ensure we are measuring and challenging him properly, especially given the latest evaluation by the district regarding his orthographic processing. I do not wish to continue to push phonics instruction when that is something he’s mastered. Repeated evaluations are showing his phonemic awareness is exceptionally high.

As I am not an employee of any school district I will have to purchase the data on the programs that are currently being used with my son, including the research on why the publisher feels these are valid programs. This is not something I wish to do. I am also unable to locate any statements by the publisher that either program is appropriate for dyslexia remediation and so far our ISD’s head of dyslexia is unable to provide me with that documentation as well.

My son has been expressing boredom and frustration to his tutor regarding his remediation. He has gained an enormous amount of confidence with his reading and would like to be challenged appropriately.

I would like to discuss moving him back to the DIP program and ensuring, from a remediation standpoint, that program wise, we are as closely aligned as possible.

I realize I’m asking a lot and Christmas is a week and a half away. I have no interest in pushing a response prior to Christmas, but I would like to discuss as soon after the break as possible.

We met this past week specifically so the team could have the opportunity to address my questions..

In attendance were my son’s GenEd dyslexia teacher, his SpEd case manager who is about to go on maternity leave so his sub case manager was there too, the Vice Principal, the Principal, the diagnostician for the school (brand new diagnostician meaning this is her very first year every doing this), the head of dyslexia for the district, the head of reading curriculums for GenEd dyslexia teachers, and the head of reading curriculums for the SpEd program.

Interesting note regarding a public records search, the GenEd curriculum position earns almost 3x as much as the SpEd position.  It begs the question, why is one position worth so much more than the other?

I was informed of each person who would be in attendance except for the diagnostician.

I bought 8 Antone’s sandwiches for them and turned out to be 1 short due to the incomplete list of attendees, but pregnant women can’t each lunch meat so I used that as my excuse.  She laughed and said she had already eaten since the baby demanded she eat every 2 hours.  I remember those days all too well.

I had a friend with me so I wasn’t alone.

I launched into my questions starting with why they were using the programs they’re using on my son when a) they’re not dyslexia programs per the publisher of the programs, b) who made the decision to use these programs and c) if DIP is the official program why is that not the one being used.

a) They never addressed the fact that the programs are not official dyslexia programs, so this remains an open question that requires a resolution.

b) His GenEd dyslexia teacher is the one who choose the program she’s working with him on and his SpEd case manager choose the other program.

c) The head of curriculum for dyslexia said they have more than one adopted program and later in the meeting we asked where is that then b/c the website only lists DIP. She said she’d send me the link. She said the two programs being used are on their adopted list.  Once I have the link I will verify this information.

So, I asked who made the decisions for the district as to what programs are used. They said a committee. I said who’s on the committee. They said people from Region 10, people from Region 4 and district staff. I asked if ANY of them were CALTs and she said they do talk to CALTs and while no CALTs work for the district per se, Region 10 and Region 4 have CALTs (this is not true about Region 4 having any CALTs working for them), but that CALTs did consult in their decision-making process.

Given these responses I will have to (and am going to) do an open records request.  My goal will be to see specifically who was on the committee, if any of the people were indeed CALTs and if there were CALTs if they voted for or against the usage of the specific programs being used.

Rumor also has it that the district is using the free version of DIP.  The head of dyslexia told me last year in a phone call that this was untrue, but I will do an open records request to see for myself.  This is a curiosity point more than anything.

Quick note, I did record the meeting because that’s just good practice.

His GenEd dyslexia teacher did the majority of the talking. She explained in-depth why she feels like the programs she and his SpEd teacher are using are superior to DIP, and it boils down to a statement she made later, which I’m paraphrasing, which was that they are superior to DIP which only does phonics.

NOTE I do not know if this is true or not, but I do think DIP is garbage, so a better program isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination.

It would be interesting to see a true comparison of all programs side by side to see strengths and weaknesses of each in relation to each other, with links to the science and data to support such claims.  Hmmm, sounds like I just thought of a new project for myself.

We did talk at length about his orthographic processing and how it is impacting his learning in her classroom and we had a lot of good discussion back and forth with the principal jumping in and asking a lot of really good questions in his attempt to understand as well.

Note, the principal was the most involved in this discussion than he’s been in the prior 2 meetings he’s attended.  He seemed genuinely curious and truly wanted to understand the pieces of the puzzle that is my son.  He was engaged in every new piece of information I shared and the why’s of how that fit into how my son takes in and retains information.  I was very happy to see this level of engagement.

My son apparently is not showing the same frustration with his GenEd dyslexia teacher as he has with his tutor. She said that typically his frustration emanates with him shutting down, which he does do from time to time, but they’re able to work through it. She said after 2.5 years of working with him she feels they have a very good rapport and he’s very comfortable telling her how he feels and she feels as though she reads and understands him very well too. I do agree with this.

However there is a key distinction to make with regards to his frustration with his tutor v with his teacher.  With his tutor he’s in a 1:1 environment so he feels safe expressing his full range of emotions,  but with his dyslexia teacher he’s in a 6:1 environment so he’s never going to show very much.  The only emotion he feels he can safely express is shutting down.

Due to the change with how the Neuhaus program is being administered, she did do a mid-year evaluation on him and passed those results around the room. While he started the year reading at a 2nd grade level, he’s now reading at a 4th grade level. She did also test his word recognition which is at a 5th grade level.

The results are pretty good. Granted his goals suck, but it’s hard to deny his progress.

Everyone present was pleased and surprised at how many gains he’s made this year so far.

The only condescending person in the room was the GenEd dyslexia curriculum person, which she only did once, but I dealt with that well I think.

The only idiotic comment came from the SpEd curriculum person, which was her only comment in the meeting, but I dealt with that too, which the manner in which I choose to deal with it might have been the reason she kept quiet for the majority of the meeting.

We scheduled the next ARD meeting, and I mentioned I’ve hired a consultant to work with me on good goals for his orthographic processing, but honestly she’s working on a full rewrite of all of his goals.  I am very interested to see how this goes and how the new goals will impact his environment and his progress.

We also discussed the transition to Jr. High and how that would work since that’s 1.5 years away. They addressed some of my fears with that transition.

I said I’d like to be done with services and our private tutoring via Neuhaus so we can move onto Structured Word Inquiry / Language, which I had to explain to them what that was. The GenEd dyslexia curriculum person was very excited about that and talked about a 4-day seminar she’s just attended and how DIP is being modified to include orthography. I just smiled and acknowledged that I was aware of the pending publication of the modified DIP program (which will still be garbage IMO).

Overall some big questions still remain, but for now, I have a measure of the situation. This team is trying. I’m not 100% sure why I have what I have when others in my district don’t and I continue to learn every single day.

There’s still so much I do have to learn, so soo sooooooo much, but I’ll get there. I appreciate the good friends and dyslexia colleagues who continue to support me each and every day. Without my circle I couldn’t do this. Y’all know who you are.  Thank you for always being there!

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