We first met Texas parent, Jessica Bryant
, on Facebook
. She made a beautiful post about her daughter's experience stating:
"This is an example of what a child (who has dyslexia) looks like who has been tested in the public school, serviced appropriately by certified teachers (CALTs) in her public elementary and her public intermediate school, and will be exiting the dyslexia program after 4.5 years this May."
Jessica added, "I know she is in the great minority, but things are changing thanks to all of you."
We had to know more, so we reached out to Jessica asking her to share her experience with the world. The following post is in her own words:
It can be done.
Students with dyslexia can be remediated by public schools. It is being done every day in
at least one school district in Texas. It's not perfect for every student, but it did save my daughter.
When my daughter was in first grade, she couldn't read a BOB Beginning Phonics Book to save her life. She could kind of read a Step-Into-Reading Level 1/2 book because she had memorized the sight words and took cues from the pictures. That's not real reading, though. She looked like a normal, slightly below average first grader. She participated in class and loved her teacher and school.
Homework on the other hand, was full of tears. I faulted myself for those tears, until that fateful night where I wanted to poke holes in my eyes while she was attempting to read the BOB Beginning Phonics Book. It was torture. Off I went to school the next week to casually mention this to her teacher. Like so many of us, I still thought it was my fault. This was September of first grade, I thought she was just a little behind, but she'd be fine.
However, her teacher didn't brush me off.
We immediately decided to set up a Student Intervention Team (SIT) meeting. And so the story goes, off we went to the SIT meeting after Madeleine had met with the Intervention Specialist. It was decided she would be placed on iStation (reading intervention) for extra phonic/reading practice.
Not a Perfect Start
Fast forward to second grade - she does not read much better.
As I said, our story isn't perfect. People continue to make remarks about her extensive vocabulary and what a conversationalist she is, but they don't know her reading has not improved. I do.
I make a point to tell her new second grade teacher at parent orientation that Madeleine has a SIT plan and I have concerns about her reading. He literally looked at me like I had 3 heads! "She's one of my top students," he replies.
Well the next week, he chased me down the hall with her Texas Primary Reading Index (TPRI) scores. They were borderline, still developing on many key skills. Decoding, fluency, words per minute, and so forth were all low.
Things Turn Around
Her district had just implemented
a dyslexia testing schedule and program. You read that right - a public school district that actually tests for dyslexia and then has a program specifically for it!
I didn't know at the time that this didn't happen on every campus in the nation. I had no clue we were in the minority.
I decided to have her tested. Let's do it. Once again we were in the SIT meeting reviewing the scores on the test. Before I went into that meeting, I was thankful for another mom who told me when I see the score sheet, I will think the numbers look good.
"You have to pay attention to the gap between intelligence and the scores," she said.
As the educators at the table tried to explain the different scores to me, one score jumped out at me. Madeleine scored a near perfect score in comprehension (GORT-140.) They showed me the test. How the heck does a child who cannot even read all the words in the short paragraph ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS CORRECTLY! How? She scored very low in phonemic memory, accuracy, and spelling.
She started dyslexia class the next week.
Here's another area that sets our district apart - in our dyslexia program, we actually use a multi-sensory, explicit teaching approach in phonemic awareness. Her dyslexia teacher is also a Certified Academic Language Therapist who has been teaching dyslexics for 20 years!
I had NO IDEA these teachers didn't work in every school district! I had no idea that my child was receiving intervention that is not accessible to the majority!
It still wasn't a quick fix. She is graduating from the program after 4.5 years, but she reads now. She reads! Look at her standing there in the picture excitedly showing me her book time line that illustrates it all in one frame - success! She read those books and loved them! This is the child who in second grade could not read.
Advocating for Change
I want educators and public school administrators to know that it can be done. All these public school employees invested in my child without resistance. It is messy. It is costly. Not every teacher is perfect. Not every student is perfect. However, it is happening in our district!
I know she is in the great minority. I share this information not to boast, but to offer an example of appropriate public school intervention and the result it can have in case someone, somewhere can use this information to illustrate the need for appropriate dyslexia programs.
How many children cannot read in second grade and are waiting for someone to make a difference in their lives?
Do parts of Jessica's story sound familiar? Learning Ally
offers many services for parents, teacher and students. Check out our website for more information at LearningAlly.org.