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Preparing for Battle – Part 3

Continued from Preparing for Battle – Part 2,

Mom in the Trenches 4

This image makes me giggle!

Picking up where I left off, at this point in the meeting, I have gone through the Lindamood-Bell evaluations, answered all relevant questions, and there were LOTS of questions, pulled out the 4 bell curves and took a breath.  With the visual image of the bell curves, the room is so silent you can hear a pin drop.

As a friend of mine said, “Your honor, I enter into evidence exhibits 1-4.”

I didn’t take a breath for too long.  In a good negotiation when you have them by the throat, keep punching.

I enter into my original content that I created for the sole purpose of this meeting.  It is 7 pages that I call Dyslexia 101.  It is comprised of excerpts from the International Dyslexia Association, Overcoming Dyslexia, and several textbooks on dyslexia remediation.  I made two Venn diagrams within the paper representing dyslexia.  The point of the Venn diagrams are to show that dyslexia is not just about reading, but proper remediation is only successful when all of the intersecting circles are successful not just as a stand alone skill, but in FULL conjunction with all of the other circles.  It is then and only then that the full intersection is successful, that the child is successful.

So let me explain what I mean.


As we all know, reading is not simply reading.  There is not one simple cognitive process happening when a person reads.  There are multiple processes happening at the same time in order to facilitate rate, accuracy, fluency and comprehension, which we can measure using the Gray Oral Reading Test or GORT for short.

If you’re measurement looks like this:

Remediation 1

Then skills in isolation are all that’s being focused on and the child is still struggling.  Remember that 100 is the mean so this is assuming a child of completely average intelligence.

While comprehension is at the mean, rate, accuracy and fluency are -2 standard deviations below the mean.  This child is headed for a plateau (i.e. another wall) and is very probably making conscious choices of what they’re attempting to achieve as they’re reading.

In other words, this child’s ability to read is still significantly labored.

If however, all aspects of dyslexia are being remediated in conjunction with each other, all skill sets are being equally focused on, then this same child, with proper and successful remediation can achieve this:

Remediation 2

Here, the child isn’t making conscious choices about why he’s reading or for what purpose.  Here, all skills are working in conjunction together so that the reading process is far less labored.

All of the programs that I’m aware of do not focus on all skills at the same time.  They choose one over others, but over the course of the program, they do pull them all in line together.

Now, granted, this is a perfect example, but I’m demonstrating this to hammer the point home that reading is far more complicated than people believe, and our schools should be focusing on far more than a child’s ability to get an A on a general education reading comprehension test.

So, back to my story.

I am punching hard enough at this point that I don’t linger too long on any one thing, but keep going through my prepared materials.

Next I shift to my markup of their draft IEP.  I had converted it to Word, marked it up and had about 100+ comments across the document.  I corrected spelling and grammar, I wrote a revised Parent Statement, and I reviewed every goal that had existed, pulled a few back onto the table, proposed an additional goal and wrote in the qualifications for what would define a good goal.

I said, “if it’s not mathematically quantifiable, this it’s subjective at best and I will not accept it.  It must be mathematically quantifiable based on measures upon which are scientifically sound and / or globally accepted and agreed upon here.  Anything less will not work.”

The friendly debate at this point is less, but the questions continue.

“We don’t use F&P in our district.  It’s the baseline for our reading goals per grade, but the district has it’s own scale.”

“You’ve never given it to me.”

“It’s on our web page for parents to access.”

“Um, ok.  You seriously think I have time to search your web page every single time I need a piece of information?  That is not helpful at all.  You used to provide it in paper format.  Now I’m bombard with the most useless handouts all year long, and none of it actually tells me anything meaningful about what you’re teaching my child, and your answer is to direct me to the web page? Um, no.  That won’t work for me.  I’m far too busy for that.  Burden of proof is on you, not me.  You’ll send me an email or go print it and hand it to me before we convene today.  I’m not going to go look for it on your web page.”

I disputed every finding they had.  I disagreed with almost all of the language, but I’ve got to share one of my favorite bits.


The only thing checked is Basic Reading Skills, but the FIE states dyslexia and dysgraphia and I’ve clearly demonstrated -3 Standard Deviations below the mean for fluency and comprehension as well as rate and accuracy.

Their defense…

…this still cracks me up…seriously, dying laughing…

“Well, as you may know, your son’s FIE was done in the old way that Texas managed dyslexia, and…”

I interrupted.

“And, the state of Texas was censured by the Federal Department of Education for willfully violating IDEA and got in an enormous amount of trouble.  How is that my problem now?”

“Well, because based on the FIE this is all that we can check.  We’d have to do another full FIE to check more boxes.  His next one is due in the winter of 2020.  Is that date ok with you for us to rectify this?”

“So the winter of 6th grade.  He’s in 4th now.  Why would waiting another two years to properly represent my child’s needs on the contract that governs his services be ok with me?”

“Well, that’s when it’s scheduled for.  You’ve already stated that you’ve had to subject your son to 3 additional evaluations in the last 3 weeks.  We’re already about to do an AT evaluation.  Do you really want to subject him to an additional evaluation on top of all of this?”

Guilt trip much??

“Well, I’m sure if you went through the data behind the FIE and looked, sufficient data will be there to support my request; however, if it does not and another evaluation will need to be done to properly represent my son’s needs in the contract that governs his services in this district, then so be it.

Baby, is that ok with you?”

“Yes, mom, that’s ok with me.”

“You’re amazing, babe!  Really.  Love you to pieces!

You heard him, he’s ok with it, so evaluate the existing FIE, and if you must proceed with another FIE, then proceed.”

There was A LOT more to that exchange that than, but that’s the gist.

So, here’s the list:

  • Proper spelling within the IEP
  • Proper grammar within the IEP
  • Mathematically quantifiable goals and benchmarks
  • Main goal – all benchmarks are to target grade level expectations, whatever grade that may be
  • Conclude remediation by end of the 5th grade school year, Spring 2020, with child preforming on grade level in reading, accuracy, fluency, rate and comprehension
  • With full AT support in all subjects where necessary to properly support peer level expectations, his dyslexia and dysgraphia with the necessary learning curve time period taken during his 5th grade year for speech to text, etc.
  • Goals for reading, fluency, comprehension, rate and SPELLING

Oh, I didn’t talk about spelling?

Well, let me elaborate.

It is a myth that a dyslexic can never learn to spell.

“The definition of dyslexia endorsed by The International Dyslexia Association *Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003) included reading disabilities as well as specific spelling disabilities.  As noted in Chapters 5 and 8, students with dyslexia have difficulty learning to decode because of a core deficit in phonological processing (Adams, 1990; Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Goswami & Bryant, 1990).  It is rare for students with dyslexia who have difficulty with decoding not to have difficult with spelling.  It is possible, however, for students to be fairly good readers but poor spellers.  Moats (1995) made these observations about poor spellers.  Good readers who are poor spellers have problems with the exact recall of letter sequences and subtle difficulties with complex spelling patterns and aspects of language structure, but they do not have a deficit in phonological processing.  Poor readers who are poor spellers have a deficit in phonological processing that interferes with their mastery of spelling.  These readers also have a specific problem with memory of letter patterns, which is rooted in their poor phonological processing.  In additional, poor spellers do not possess the ability to deal with several layers of language simultaneously.  With proper instruction, poor spellers who are poor readers will improve their decoding skills, but they seldom master spelling (Moats, 1994; Oakland, Black, Stanford, Nuddbaum, & Blaise, 1998).

Teaching students with dyslexia to spell is a long, tedious process that requires careful lesson planning.  The teacher must plan for success because success builds confidence and confidence builds independence.  Students with dyslexia need spelling instruction that is closely integrated with reading instruction.  Because of the exacting demands of spelling on complete and accurate recall of letter patterns, students with dyslexia need to spell words with sounds and patterns that have previously been introduced for reading and practiced.  Reading words before spelling them heightens students’ awareness of orthographic patterns.  The number and choices of activities for a spelling lesson will depend on the readiness and needs of the student or students.  The teacher will want to plan a rotation of activities that ensures that all areas of spelling are covered regularly.  The teacher also will want to discuss the meanings and usages of spelling words to ensure that all of the different layers of language structure are covered in a lesson.

Spelling instruction must be designed to address phonological processing because it is the primary deficit of students with dyslexia.  Without phonemic awareness, students with dyslexia will not be able to develop facility in reading or spelling.  Initially, spelling instruction for students with dyslexia should build phonemic awareness.”

Excerpts from Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, 3rd Edition, by Judith R. Birsch and Sally Shaywitz

So, my advocate wrote a brilliant goal:

Nonsense word fluency measures a student’s ability to decode individual phonemes (use of the alphabetic principle) and then blend the sounds together to read words.    There is a large body of evidence that supports the use of pseudowords (nonsense words) for assessment purposes.  According to research (Ravthon, N., 2004) “pseudoword decoding is the best single predictor of word identification for poor and normal readers” and is the “most reliable indicator of reading disabilities” (Ravthon, N, 2004; Stanovich, 2000).  The assessment is really that powerful and when you administer the assessment, you glean a lot of information on the child’s mastery of the alphabetic principle as well as his/her ability to blend sounds into words.   On the DIBELS Next NWF assessment, the student is given a page of “nonsense words” (pud, dak) and essentially asked to read the words.  Some students are able to read the whole words (/pud/, others say the sounds (/p/ /u/ /d/), and some use onset-rime (/p/ /ud/).  The assessment is a one minute assessment and the assessor records sound errors as well as if and how the student blended the sounds.  A score is recorded (22 correct letter sequences/3 whole words read) and then compared to a set standard for the student’s grade.  Using this score, the teacher can determine if the student’s ability falls within the benchmark (doing fine), strategic (require some additional instruction) or intensive (significantly at-risk) range. best spelling assessment for determining appropriate spelling goals. 

Proposed goal : when presented with nonsense words with ______grade- level appropriate spelling patterns, child will read or write them correctly with 80% accuracy across 3 out of 5 trials.  

Needless to say, the district balked because they didn’t understand.  The head of SpEd curriculum is the one who spoke up.  I actually genuinely feel bad for this woman because she’s been in two meetings with me and she’s now made a grand total of two comments and I’ve shut her down both times.

The crux of the situation is the district doesn’t teach spelling and doesn’t know how to.  They have not invested in a spelling program.

And none of that is my problem.

The reality is that spelling needs to be addressed for my child to have proper remediation and I intend to force the issue.  Lack of investment, training, etc. by the district is not my problem.  Lack of understanding about my ask is not my problem.  I can drag them by the nose so far but they must do the right thing and a well written goal will tell me if they are actually doing the right thing or not based on my son’s success against the benchmarks, so long as those benchmarks are not subjective, but are in fact mathematically quantifiable.

So now, having gone through my dissertation, I granted them time to process and reply.  While I only got 3 weeks for their blindside, they took a month to respond to me.  They did get me the rewritten PLAAFP and goals 2 weeks ahead of the meeting, but they did not provide the entire document.  They did that with less than 1 week to go and after 2 emails from me asking for it.  They were responsive to my questions.

But, even at what I hoped to be the end of this long and exhausting ARD, things grew even more entertaining.

Continued in Preparing for Battle – Part 4,

2 comments on “Preparing for Battle – Part 3

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