Learning to read is not easy. For some kids learning to read can be a struggle. For parents, watching their child struggle can be both heartbreaking and frustrating. However, you are not alone. Be sure to reach out to your child’s teacher if you see reading struggles. Together you can structure a plan to help your child be more successful.
5 Suggestions to Help Your Struggling Reader
- Schedule a parent teacher conference – If possible, schedule an initial face to face meeting (use phone and emails for follow up meetings) to share your concerns about your child’s struggle to learn to read. Share specific behaviors that you are seeing at home when reading or completing homework. Don’t hesitate to bring notes! After all your child’s teacher will have notes too! Compare notes and see if additional testing and/or programming is necessary.
- Testing or programming – If your child’s teacher suggests extra help in school and/or testing, say YES! Did you know that in some school districts parents are eager to get extra help for their child, even if their child does not qualify? Extra help is OK. The purpose of testing is to get specific information about your child’s needs. The testing results may show that your child qualifies for additional reading support. However, even if they don’t qualify for extra help outside the classroom, the classroom teacher will have more insight on ways to meet your child’s needs. As a parent, you have the right to accept or reject the recommendation, so information is your FRIEND.
- Support at Home – At your meeting ask for suggestions on how you can support your child at home. This may include some at-home reading practice. If so, clarify with the classroom teacher exactly what needs to be done. It’s important to remember that “at home” practice is just that “at home”. Your child has already been in school all day and although they may be struggling, balance is important. Together, parents and teachers must develop a plan that helps a child that is struggling but not make them feel punished when completing extra work.
- Set a timeline to re-evaluate the plan – Most teachers are eager to work with parents to help their child. At the end of your initial meeting, set a date to review the child’s progress in school and home. This check-in can easily be done by phone or email. Share what is working or not working and ask questions. Discuss progress, current activities and ask about next steps. At the end of the check in be sure to schedule your next check-in date.
- Request evaluation -Often a child will make some progress after additional support in class and at home. However, check with your child’s teacher if the progress is great enough or if additional testing is necessary. A child with specific reading difficulties may need some additional support from a reading specialist. In most schools, the classroom teacher must request additional testing and a child will need to qualify to receive these services. Ask your child’s teacher about the school’s procedures for requesting formal testing.
Reading Struggles: What Does Testing Look Like?
Under the federal IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) law there are two routes that parents and schools can take for evaluating children for specialized services:
- Response to Intervention (RTI) – In the RTI process, the classroom teacher is required to have made modification to your child’s instruction and provided interventions to your child’s instruction. If those interventions have not been successful, a specialist may be assigned to your child for additional instruction (individual or small group). This teacher will also give suggestions to the classroom teacher for additional in-class support. If these interventions do not bring your child to the level that he is capable of reading at, traditional formal testing may be recommended.
- Traditional formal testing: If a teacher or parent suspects a child may have a reading disability and has compelling evidence to support this claim, s/he may request formal testing to identify educational issues. In many schools, RTI may be required before formal testing is allowed. Be sure to get additional information on the type of testing that will be administered.
Reading Struggles or Reading Disability?
IF testing shows that your child has a reading disability, take a deep breath. Simply, this means that your child has some type of disability (in this case reading) that affects their ability to learn and that in order to be successful some specialized help can be provided. A special education designation and having an IEP simply ensures that your child will get the support she needs to develop as a reader. You and your child’s teacher will create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that will list your child’s needs and a proposed plan of instruction to meet your child’s, educational needs.
Some parents are concerned that having an IEP for their child will mean that their child will always have to receive extra services. Don’t worry. By law your child’s IEP must be re-evaluated and revised annually (at least) by the school staff and YOU to allow for changes to be made. As the parent you are an important member of the process and your input is not only welcomed but is required at the committee meeting. You will be involved in the entire process and have the final say on your child’s program.