Oct 132013

Special Education Advocacy Comments by: Sandy Cook, Parent, To Georgia’s House of Representatives Education Committee Members and Georgia’s Senate Education Committee Members at their Townhall Session on 10 October 2013

“After five years in public school, my oldest son still could not read. He was falling further behind in all subjects. We told our IEP team our son wanted to go to college.

“One administrator laughed aloud, and barked, “Your son may never read well, and he is certainly NOT college material. You just need to lower your expectations!”

“As they had always done, our school ignored our pleas for meaningful instruction. It was CLEAR their expectations for INTELLIGENT children with dyslexia are minimal. I don’t think they realize their low expectations become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

“Thus, I was forced to homeschool. In our first year of homeschooling, my son achieved a 6th grade reading level, and he was fully proficient in reading two years later. My son is now in college, on the Zell Miller Scholarship, and this year he will graduate from college—with honors.

“Scientifically proven programs for teaching students with dyslexia have existed for decades. The programs enable children to read proficiently in three years or less. I used one, and I was easily successful yet Georgia’s schools to continually fail to teach intelligent children to read—in a reasonable time frame.

“Children with dyslexia account for 10-15% of the school population, so you, the legislators of Georgia, can increase school performance across the state with three pieces of legislation in the form of special education advocacy :

1) “ALL Teachers need to be taught Universal Design for Learning and they need to understand children with learning disabilities are not mentally impaired. These kids can learn if they are provided with accessible instruction and properly implemented, proven programs.

2) “Every child with a learning disability needs to be quickly equipped with assistive technology. You wouldn’t withhold audiobooks from a blind student, and likewise we shouldn’t withhold audiobooks from children who have dyslexia. We need to provide assistive technology to all students with specific learning disabilities to keep our children on grade level while we work to overcome their disabilities.

3) “Parents need schools to document the effectiveness of their special education programs so we can make informed decisions about the placement of our children. Schools need to be held accountable for the effective implementation of proven programs.

“Parents need to know: How many years children spend in special education resource classes. They also need to know how many children ever graduate from a school’s resource program.

Special Education Advocacy Efforts

“In summary, Great Outcomes requires that we:
1) Educate teachers about Universal Design for Learning and learning disabilities.
2) Liberally equip Georgia’s children with assistive technology.
3) Empower parents with data so we can make informed educational decisions.

“These three educational initiatives will improve learning outcomes in Georgia’s schools. Thank You for your consideration of these changes on behalf of students with specific learning disabilities.”

  4 Responses to “Special Education Advocacy for Students with Learning Disabilities”

  1. Does either of you recommend an online diploma school that catered to dyslexics.
    My son has struggled since 4th grade now a senior but with credits not allowing him to pass he is to take another year. He is brilliant, though got discouraged and signed himself out. He has a bright future but cannot reach it with the public school.
    I cannot homeschool.
    He is not your average child he has sat and watched nova and nasa channel since age 8 he writes computer programs and is highly gifted but he will never get to his future without education and diploma. He feels lost , frustrated depressed.
    How does the school get funding for them and not provide the methods needed to learn. And we are low income and cant afford the high price dyslexia online schools.
    Einstein was dyslexic, the next one could be slipping through the cracks.
    His school acted like he was slow..
    hes off the charts in Science

    • I’m so sorry, April, but just about any school that caters to students with dyslexia is going to be expensive. We could not find a cost-effective solution for our son, which is why I ended up homeschooling. I could have worked solely to pay for some of the specialized schooling, but we also would have had to take out a big loan. The other option was to homeschool. Since my husband had a job that would provide food and housing, we went the homeschooling route.

      Please don’t be discouraged though, there are MANY great people with dyslexia who have struggled through schooling, but accomplished great things through their knowledge and ingenuity.. Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Steven Speilberg, etc. It’s not that your son will “never get to his future,” but rather it will take a different route!

      There are a lot of relatively inexpensive online and correspondence programs that can allow him to complete the needed high school credits over time. The key is to realize that we are not on a set timetable with our kids.. some of them require a longer time to graduate or achieve their goals and there is nothing wrong with that!

      I personally didn’t start attending college until I was 22 and now I have a Master’s Degree.. Honestly, being an older student helped me be a better student than many who were fresh out of high school and ready to party. 😉 SO, check out the Virtual and Online High School programs that are available, and see if you can find one that will work for your son. I wish you the all the best with your bright guy! 😀

  2. I want to respond to you great educational initiatives. Most of all I wanted to let you know I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology with 30 years of working with individuals with learning and developmental disabilities. Most importantly, I am dyslexia. When I entered college I could NOT read my text books. I took 21 units in pre-med and pulled straight “As”. I did not have access to books on tape, or other assistive technology. I wanted you to know so you could share with others: 1. being a non reader did not keep me out of college, 2. it did not impacted my grades – I graduated Magna Cum Laude, 3. determination and motivation are far more important than reading skills.

    Today, the ADA assures college students have access to appropriate assistive tools and accommodations. The diagnostic definition of dyslexia clearly states individuals must have average or above intellectual abilities. Non verbal intellectual educational assessments are extremely important in highlighting an individual true intellectual abilities.

    Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for being a parent who was committed to advancing your son’s academic success.

    • Thank you, Pam. I hope your story inspires others who visit this page. Kids with learning disabilities, by definition, ARE able to learn. If they aren’t learning, they aren’t being taught properly. With all of the assistive technology and all we know about learning disabilities these days, there really is no excuse for failure to educate any child with an average or above average IQ, IMHO. 😉

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