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Saturday, February 24, 2007


John Lloyd

I'm not an attorney (nor do I play one on TV), but I think that this is potential evidence of a legal problem:

...both parents have asked the school to test Mercury

As I understand it, even in these days of RtI, parents' requests for evaluation for eligibility for special education must be honored...where is that pesky law?

liz Ditz

What I'm wondering is if Kim Smith asked verbally -- that she didn't know that a formal written request was necessary.

The schools hold all the cards, in my view.

Imagine this scenario: Mom and Dad are meeting with Teacher over child Sandy's disappointing school performance. Mom and Dad say, verbally, to Teacher, "Well does Sandy need some testing to find out why Sandy is performing so poorly?".

(backstory: one or more of the following may hold
1. Teacher doesn't know from testing.
2. Teacher has been told to discourage parents from seeking evaluations, for any number of reasons
3. Teacher believes that if Sandy would just "try harder", Sandy's performance may improve
4. Other reasons -- such as Teacher feels defensive)

Teacher says, "Not really" and the conversation moves on.

Parents don't know their rights, and Teacher may have only a weak grasp of the law.

I suspect something like the above happened in young Mercury's case.


we have a 10 year old child that we had tested and he is "definitely" dyslexic! His teachers refuse to admit that he needs help (although he tested out as reading in the lower first grade level and he is in 4th grade)....Where can we get him special help to teach him how to read? He gets so frustrated and upset. AGAIN....where can we go to get him help?

Liz D.

(dovie did not supply a valid email address, I hope she comes back)

Hi Dovie -- your boy sure does need help. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can start tutoring him next week.

You are probably going to have to pay for outside tutoring, even though the school district *should* be providing him with remediation -- but many don't.

If you are outside the Bay Area,

If you are near a Masonic Learning Center, they may be able to help you for free. If not, I recommend finding someone who is an Orton Gillingham (O-G) tutor.

Susan Barton has a DVD-based program that is based on O-G principles

You can get more reliable information from Susan Barton's site, Bright Solutions for Dyslexia

My daughter is dyslexic. We flailed around with a few alternative therapies--wasting my daughter's precious time, and of course money, before her successful remediation using Orton Gillingham, specific, direct, multisensory instruction.

The Orton-Gillingham approach is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible. Its breadth, perspective, and flexibility prompt use of the term approach instead of method.

Language-based. The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.

Multisensory. Orton-Gillingham teaching sessions are action oriented with auditory, visual, and kinesthetic elements reinforcing each other for optimal learning. The student learns spelling simultaneously with reading

Structured, Sequential, Cumulative. The Orton-Gillingham teacher introduces the elements of the language systematically. Students begin by reading and writing sounds in isolation. Then they blend the sounds into syllables and words. Students learn the elements of language, e.g., consonants, vowels, digraphs, blends, and diphthongs, in an orderly fashion. They then proceed to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, and affixes. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity. The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.

Cognitive. Students learn about the history of the English language and study the many generalizations and rules that govern its structure. They also learn how best they can learn and apply the language knowledge necessary for achieving reading and writing competencies.

Flexible. At best, Orton-Gillingham teaching is diagnostic-prescriptive in nature. Always the teacher seeks to understand how an individual learns and to devise appropriate teaching strategies.

Emotionally Sound. In every lesson, the student experiences a high degree of success and gains confidence as well as skill. Learning becomes a rewarding and happy experience.

Here's a parent's take on the Barton System--do it yourself at home

"I have been using Barton with my 7-year old for over seven months. We try to do Barton every day for 45 minutes and are currently at the end of Level 4 of the program.

Will Barton work? From my experience (and many others I have met), the answer is yes. It is based on the Orton-Gillingham method. It begins by teaching phonemic awareness, something you may not find in many other programs, and then, very explicitly and sequentially, teaches reading and spelling rules. By using this program, I have learned a lot of spelling rules myself that I have never heard of. I just learned to spell by visual memory, because it looks right. But the program teaches you the rules -- something that dyslexics desperately need. My daughter is really doing well. She is in public school, and her teacher says she is above average for both reading and spelling -- despite being moderately dyslexic.

I have done a lot of reading on multisensory approaches and have also attended an IDA research conference. I have been happy to learn that all of the research-based recommended components of a good multi-sensory program are included in the Barton method.

Do you need additional training? No -- everything is provided in videos and written materials. I do wish that Susan Barton provided more of an explanation as to why certain lessons are taught the way they are, or why they are taught in a particular order, as I like to know the rationale behind a teaching method. But this is a just a minor complaint and certainly not an issue that would hold me back from endorsing the program.

Is the program worth the expense? Only you can decide. If you just look at the materials you receive for the money, it really doesn't look like much. But I think the program has been priceless, as my daughter has shown great improvement. Could she have improved as much with a less expensive program? I don't know.
When I explored my options last year, I considered hiring a tutor (MUCH more costly, at $70/hour). I also looked into other OG programs, but they all required training. I didn't want to have to take the time to go through a formal training program -- I like just being able to watch the DVDs in the evening in the comfort of my own home. Another reason I chose the program is because Susan Barton has been extremely helpful to me with any questions I have had -- even before I purchased the materials -- and I have found her access itself to be worth the cost of the program."

For handwriting issues, I really love the Handwriting without Tears curriculum

Their workbooks are very reasonably priced and their approach to letters makes so much sense. I started using it with my 4-year old daughter last month and I wish so much I had heard about it when my 7-year old was younger. I think it would have helped a lot with reversals.

More resources

You could go to

a site for kids with learning disabilities.

Or, you could call The Learning Disabilities Association of America and find a chapter near you.

Learning Disabilities Association of America
4156 Library Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15234-1349
Phone (412) 341-1515 Fax (412) 344-0224

If you are in or near Tennessee, you could contact

Center for Dyslexia
200 N. Baird Lane - MTSU Box 397
Murfreesboro, TN 37132

(615) 494-8880

(615) 494-8881


Best of luck.

If you are near Bedford, MA, I highly recommend the Center for Learning and Reading

I also highly recommend the resources at Wrightslaw

I suggest you order the book, "From Emotion to Advocacy"

Good luck and don't hesitate to write back.

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