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October 2014: This Month's Questions
Dr. Silver

Dr. Larry Silver answers selected questions from LD OnLine users regarding diagnosis and options for managing learning disabilities.

Below are the newest questions answered by Dr. Silver. To view all questions, organized by topic, visit the All Questions section.

Do you have a question about diagnosis and options for managing learning disabilities? Submit it now!

Can a child "grow out of" dyslexia?

My daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia at age 9. She is now 16 and has been retested. We were told she no longer qualifies for modifications. Did the dyslexia resolve? She still has much difficulty with the dysgraphia, but the school says she doesn't qualify for modifications. Is this possible?

Usually, dyslexia is not "cured." One learns to compensate for it. It is possible that the help she received taught her enough compensatory strategies that she no longer needs help. You need to discuss your questions with the person(s) who did the most recent testing. If it was done by the school and you want another opinion, seek out someone who does the testing privately and ask him/her to review the results.

Does my child need to attend a special school for children with dyslexia?

My son has been diagnosed with dyslexia (mild). He is 12 and still can barely read. He has reasonable math skills. He is very sports oriented. Please advise as to what to do. I have a tutor who I pay myself, and he also goes to a Kumon program twice a week. The school says he is doing fine considering his IQ, but I believe he should be doing a lot better. Is it possible he would benefit from going to a school that teaches mainly kids with dyslexia? I have mentioned this to the school, but they are resistant to the idea.

Let's start with who diagnosed him with dyslexia and how long ago. (It may have been seen as mild when done; however, he is now several years older.) This person should advise you about specific needs. If he has dyslexia and can barely read, he has more than a "mild" disorder. The treatment is to work with professionals who are trained and skilled in helping students with dyslexia (often called learning disabilities specialists). Kumon and general education tutors are nice people; however, they are not trained to work with students who have specific learning disabilities.

You need to do two things: 1) Find a private tutor who is skilled/trained to work with students like your son. And 2) be sure that the testing you have is current and comprehensive. You can only challenge the school for more help if you have updated data. (If you can afford it, get private testing and use these data to approach the school.)

My daughter has trouble comprehending written questions on tests. What should I do to help?

My 12th grade daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD, slow processing, and executive function disorders. Her biggest problem is that she continually misinterprets written questions, especially on tests, which she typically fails. Do you know what causes this and how to remedy the problem? She is failing most her classes because of failing the tests.

Many students with executive function disorder also have learning disabilities related to this disorder. Such disabilities might include a "reading fluency" or a "writing fluency" problem. The difficulties might result in problems with retaining what is read (thus, misreading questions or instructions) or problems organizing what he/she wants to write, resulting in difficulty knowing what to write and then writing it. If these sound like your daughter, speak to the special education coordinator about having psycho-educational testing done to clarify that she has such learning disabilities.

My child struggles with reading comprehension. Could he have a learning disability?

My son has a very hard time reading and comprehending. He is in the fifth grade and reads at a second grade level. We work with him at home, and he goes to special education classes at school; but I really think he needs much more.

He has a hard time naming items. For example, he asked me, "Mom, where is the sweeper thing?" instead of asking for the broom. Or he would say, "Do you remember the place with all the games and the mouse or rat thing?" instead of saying Chuckie Cheese. It's like his brain is not able to process what something is without describing it first.

What type of help can be offered with this type of disability? Or is this even a disability? The school did not offer a suggestion.

You should not have to wonder if your son has a learning disability or a language disability. Send a letter to the principal requesting a meeting to discuss your son. At this meeting, request formal testing to clarify if he has a learning disability or a language disability.

If the principal refuses or the meeting does not result in scheduling such testing, state that you do not agree and want to appeal this decision. (You can learn more about these steps and your rights in my book The Misunderstood Child.)

Cancer treatment affected my daughter's short term memory, and she is struggling in school. How can I help her?

Last year my 10-year-old daughter fought cancer and underwent six chemos, surgeries, etc. She is back in 5th grade and struggling. It appears that her short term memory is gone. She has to spend hours on one subject and then still fails the test. She is doing very poorly with simply reading a paragraph and answering questions. Is there any way to reverse the side effects and strengthen, if you will, her short term memory?

Unfortunately, chemo and radiation therapy can cause short term memory loss. Sometimes things improve over time. You need to work with the professionals at the cancer center she attends. You need guidance on working with your school system. There are ways to get coded under educational law (IDEA) so that she will get proper placement and help in school. She should not be in a general educational fifth grade program is she has the disabilities you mention.

Is brain therapy available for children with impulsive behavior and poor time management skills?

My daughter has a new diagnosis of acquired attention deficit disorder after TBI from a motor vehicle crash in October 2009. She is doing well in her 12th grade studies. But is there brain therapy we should consider to help with impulsive behavior and poor time management skills?

There should be a team at the traumatic brain injury center where she was treated who can advise you on resources and programs. Discuss your concerns with this team. Attentional problems due to brain injury are often treated differently than attentional problems caused by ADHD.

My middle-schooler is frustrated and embarassed by his classroom placement. What are our options for alternative placements?

My son is 13 and in 6th grade. He has nonverbal learning disabilities. His Full Scale Intelligence Quotient is 91. This is his 1st year in middle school. His resource placement is with the lowest functioning children of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I was told that he was placed here because of his learning needs.

He is not happy; he is socially very aware of where he is. He wants to know why he can't be with his regular friends. I feel that some of his work gets so "modified" that he is not learning to his potential. I really think that some of his teachers can not figure out how to teach him. I know his LD is complicated, but he CAN learn. He hates school and is very frustrated with it. I see sadness in him that returns every year.

It can't be another wasted year. I don't want him in this placement for the rest of middle school. He is probably too far behind to be put in the regular LD resource room. I don't know how to fix all this. Do you have any suggestions?

You need to sit down with an educational consultant to discuss his current level of abilities and disabilities and to think through what your options are. If you have difficulty finding such a person, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America for leads.

My daughter is substantially below grade level in reading. How can I make sure she doesn't fall through the cracks?

My daughter is 11 and has ADHD and LD. She is in 5th grade and is on a first grade reading level. I know the schools are doing what they are financially able to do, but I do not see my child improving. She is in special needs classes and has had an IEP since she has been in school.

I would like to know if there is anything out there for my child that can help her academically. I can see her falling through the cracks. She also has a lot of anger and meltdowns that I can not control. Please … if you have any answers for me, I would be so grateful.

You do need to do something. You need to know your rights and options. Perhaps the first step would be to get a private educational advocate to help you in your struggles with your school. There are many local organizations that can help. Best of success.

Is a learning disability a form of "mental illness?"

Recently the disabilities specialist resigned at the college where I'm on the faculty; and, as opposed to hiring someone new for the position, the administration gave the responsibility to one of our counselors. He has claimed to the faculty that learning disabilities are a form of "mental illness."

I have read that learning disabilities are more like a difference than an illness. I asked him about this, and he claims that because learning disabilities are listed as learning disorders in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), that makes them mental illness. What do you think?

Learning disabilities are a neurologically-based disorder that is recognized in Federal Legislation (IDEA, ADA). It is not a mental illness.

My son is struggling in college and has become depressed because of the situation. What can I do?

I have a 21-year-old son who graduated from high school with an IEP diploma. I was able to enroll him in a private college; but, unfortunately, because he didn't acquire 24 credits, financial aid refused to pay. He dreams and dreams about living a normal life, but now he's depressed. I tried to enroll him in a college prep course, but he refused to complete the process and is now left without a paddle. I'm hurting for him but am also very frustrated with him because he won't take my direction. What can I do?

You present a very complex problem. The brief responses that I can offer here would not be of help. If you have not done so yet, seek professional help from a mental health professional. If he refuses to go, you need to go yourself to decide what to do.

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