Years ago, when my kids were struggling with reading and writing, I remember thinking I was doing something wrong. Why did my 7 year old always seem so upset and struggle with words and letters? Why did his handwriting never improve? Things just seemed much harder than they should be, and it took me a while to link the speech delays two of my children had with potentially other learning disabilities. After finally listening to my gut and seeking advice from some other moms, I looked online and began to suspect that two of my boys may have a learning disability.
I reviewed some “signs” of dyslexia – and was shocked to discover my kids met about 90% of them! I immediately scheduled a screening with a dyslexia specialist–who did a non-medical evaluation. Our report confirmed our suspicions, but we knew we needed a real diagnosis and opportunity for therapy. We scheduled an official evaluation with our local school district, something that every home-schooling family in the United States is allowed to request based on federal IDEA law (Individuals with Disabilities Act). Our evaluation at the district seemed to take forever to schedule and complete, but some issues were identified. To my surprise, there was no “specific learning disability” confirmed, but instead I was told that homeschooling was the issue. Of course, we disagreed with the evaluation and requested an “Independent Educational Evaluation” or an “IEE” from the district. We wanted a licensed neuropsychologist to do another evaluation. It was a bittersweet time receiving the official diagnosis of dyslexia and dysgraphia, and then finally qualifying for some limited services with our local school district.
Unfortunately, our local district did not offer any dyslexia remediation services, so we were back on our own. We utilized an online school for a while and began to work on remediation ourselves, first with Foundation in Sounds, and then moving on to Barton Reading and Spelling. I highly recommend both programs for dyslexic children, and the latter has a wonderful Facebook group called “Homeschooling with Barton” that any parent can use–even if your children are enrolled in regular school. We plan to have more posts on home educating with learning disabilities, but for now–I would love to encourage those parents who suspect a learning disability with their child. Here are some pieces of advice and encouragement for you to consider:
- Act now! If you think that your child is behind in any way, listen to your gut as a parent, seek advice from other parents, and consider an evaluation through your local school district right away. Don’t delay! Commit to starting the evaluation process now! I was discouraged that my child would “grow out of” his struggles, and I could have sought an evaluation and helped my child two years earlier.
- Get a professional opinion or diagnosis! Online articles and screening options are a wonderful help to many parents and can be used to confirm something you may already be thinking about your child and his/her potential learning struggles. Many parents I have spoken to feel afraid of getting an evaluation because they don’t want a diagnosis to “follow a child,” but this doesn’t help anyone. Having a real diagnosis brings peace and opportunity for actual help and resources, not to mention potential options for tutoring, treatments, and more.
- Don’t take “no” for an answer! This is a hard one for so many of us! When I had my child evaluated at our school, I was shocked they would try to somehow blame me as a home-educating parent. We could have taken that answer, walked away, and never have gotten our official medical diagnosis. But I knew that my child was struggling, and I knew I had tried *everything* I could to teach him to read. If you think something is wrong, if learning seems to be a greater struggle for your child than what we would consider is “typical,” then don’t give up. Keep searching, keep pressing, keep looking for answers. It’s a long and difficult path, but we must find answers so we can help our children.
- Know your rights! Many parents who have children learning at home have told me that their state or district does not do evaluations for “homeschoolers.” This is not true. As mentioned above, federal law requires that a state evaluate a child if requested by a parent. The process looks different under age three (This is often called “child find” and is done by state “early intervention” programs.). After age three, if a parent requests an evaluation of his/her child by a locally zoned school district, the district must schedule and complete the evaluation. More information can be found on www.wrightslaw.com. Also, many states have Facebook groups for learning disabilities or special needs families to help. Search and get support from parents in your state. Knowing your rights is a crucial first step in getting your child the help he or she may need.