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My son's accomodations will change when he starts middle school. Who should I talk to about this transition?

I have a son who's 12 years old now. He has moderate LD mainly in visual processing, working memory, and expressive language. If he has no ADHD, should I still consider medication? He will start his middle school next week. In elementary school, he was pulled out for 45 minutes a day each week. Now, he will go to special education class for his language arts and social class.

I don't know whether it is good idea to place him in non-mainstream classes. Would this destroy his self-esteem? Should I insist on putting him in the regular class (though only push-in service will be provided)?

If your son does not have ADHD, he should not be considered for an ADHD medication. I cannot answer your questions on placement in middle school without knowing more details. You should be meeting with the special education (IEP) team to discuss what he will need for middle school. Has this happened yet? If you are unsure of the recommendations made by your school, seek a private consultant who can help you decide what is best for your son.

I think my coworker has an undiagnosed learning disability. How can I help him recognize it?

Both my husband and I work with a friend. Over the years, we've noticed things about him — very poor listening, speaking, and writing skills; poor understanding and organization of information; and poor time management, to name a few.

Lately the penny dropped with us when we noticed that he's developed quite a set of avoidance mechanisms that deflect attention from his lack of understanding or skill. In the past, he's been able to fly under the radar; but things have changed at work lately, and that's no longer the case. We're on an important project where he's in over his head. He's really struggling, the project is floundering as a result, and management is noticing.

Is there anything we can do as friends? How do you suggest to someone who is in deep denial that he may have a learning disability? He shuts down when he senses "criticism", or any kind of detection.

Your friend is lucky to have people who care about him. How did he get this far in life? How have you been able to accept his level of function or lack of function? I don't know how to break through his avoidance and get him to do something. Maybe he will have to fail and lose his job before he wakes up and realizes he has to do something. Good luck.

Is there a correlation between gluten ataxia and learning disabilities?

My daughter has been diagnosed with gluten ataxia. After some research into learning disabilities, I see that she probably also has this challenge. The professionals that work with her for the ataxia do not seem to help much in the area of LD. Have you come across other children with L.D. and ataxia? Any insight would be helpful.

I am not familiar with gluten ataxia. You should ask the professional(s) who made the diagnosis if cognitive difficulties might be associated with this disorder. The only way to clarify if she might have learning disabilities would be to have formal testing done. If testing has not yet been done, discuss this need with her principal.

My first grader has trouble focusing and is falling behind in reading and math. How can I help him succeed?

My son is 6. He just started first grade at a public elementary school. He is struggling. His reading and math are not to grade level. He zones out and cannot answer simple questions.

He was read a word problem by his teacher: John has five apples and Sue has four apples. How many apples altogether? He drew 20 apples on the paper. He is on a PEP at school and goes to tutoring every Monday for an hour after school. I am worried about him not passing the first grade. What should I do?

I understand your concerns. You describe several difficulties that might suggest that your son might have a learning or language disability. If he is in a PEP program, the professionals at the program probably share a similar concern. Have you discussed your concerns with them? Usually several professionals are part of the PEP team. Another approach would be to meet with the principal of his school, requesting a meeting with the special education team to discuss what they see as his problems and what they are doing to address them. Do not lose time. Keep pushing to get clarification on what his areas of difficulty are and what can be done to help.

My preschool child has a severe speech impairment. What interventions are available for him?

My son Benjamin is bright and can do what some four-year-old children can't, like swim and ride a two-wheel bike. But he has a speech impairment and developmental delays. I tried to get help when he was two because he would just sit on the floor and cry when he could not express in any way what he wanted. Early Steps turned him down because he had good motor skills; and when he entered Head Start, they tested him for speech and passed him because they did not want to deal with him.

Now he is in preschool, and they tested him and found that his development is almost two years behind and his speech impairment is kind of bad. My question is … should I get other testing done by, say, a geneticist or a neurologist for different things? Should I put him and myself through this?

It is unfortunate that he did not get help earlier. It is critical that all of his needs be addressed now. Have you been to the public school yet? He is eligible for a program called Child Find. The public school team will assess for motor, cognitive, language, and social concerns. If they find concerns, the appropriate interventions should be provided by the public school. I would get these efforts started first. Depending on the findings, you might discuss with his family doctor whether medical evaluations would help clarify the reasons for his difficulties.

I have many symptoms of dyslexia, but I was never formally diagnosed. As an adult, is it worthwile to be tested?

How can an adult find help or a cure for dyslexia? I am 45 years old. I have all the symptoms for dyslexia and was never treated. Deep down inside I knew I had a disability. For many years I have struggled with the sounds of words and just couldn't hear them right. I barely talk because I always make a fool of myself when I mispronounce a word. Please help!

It is unfortunate that you have had to struggle for so many years. The first step would be to clarify if you have dyslexia, another form of a learning disability, or some other problem. To do this, find out where you can get formal testing designed for adults (psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing). The results should help you clarify what can be done at this time to be of help.

My child seems to have trouble with major tests. Could this be a sign of a learning disability?

My son has always been the type of kid who kept himself busy, making things, drawing, music. I noticed in his high school years his marks were inconsistent. He'd do well in his writing assignments and usually the homework, but on his major tests he'd door poorly. He commented that when he was doing his SATs, there was a boy sniffling with a cold and that the noise threw off his thinking. He got a low score. He doesn't like to read books unless they have to do with music; but when he argues, I can tell he's a smart kid.

His pre-calculus course in senior year he did pretty well except for the testing, where he didn't seem to transfer the concepts he knew. Now he's anticipating college with his first year in media design. Does he sound like someone who should be tested? If so, what type of place should I go to?

I cannot be specific based on the information you've provided. What have the school professionals been concerned about over the years? Yes, formal psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing would be helpful in clarifying some of your questions. If the results are not helpful, he should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

What resources are available to help learning disabled adults find success in the workplace?

I am an adult with a learning disability, and I'm trying to further my education in a field that I am well suited for. I'm not quite sure where I would best be suited, although I have several interests. How can I, and other learning disabled individuals, figure out what type of job opportunities align with our abilities and disabilities to get the right fit? And how, as an adult, do I get the resources I need to obtain the accommodations I may need in my future profession?

There are vocational guidance professionals who are familiar with learning disabilities. The focus is on the individual's strengths and weaknesses as they relate both to the training needed for a field of work and as would be found on the job. Then the task is to build on strengths while trying to compensate for the weaknesses. Try to find a professional familiar with vocational training and with special education. You might contact the Division of Special Education within the Department of Education at a university near you or contact your state's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Often there are agencies in cities that do such counseling.

Is dysgraphia an official learning disability or a functional diagnosis?

I'm an occupational therapist and was recently reading up on dyslexia on the LD OnLine site and had some additional questions about it. Is dysgraphia an official learning disability or a functional diagnosis? Are occupational therapists allowed to diagnose dysgraphia? Who else can diagnose dysgraphia? What are the precise diagnostic criteria, if any, of dysgraphia?

The official diagnostic manual (DSM-IV-TR) lists only one Motor Skills Disorder — "Developmental Coordination Disorder." The task force planning DSM-V is aware that there will be a need to identify dysgraphia. Psycho-educational testing will identify a child with a written language disability based on fine motor coordination. Certainly OTs can do this.

I do not know if there are uniformly established criteria. If a student has difficulty with spelling or with language arts (grammar, punctuation, capitalization), he or she is seen as having a learning disability. If the difficulty relates to fine motor coordination and the ability to form letters and words properly or quickly, he or she is seen as having a grapho-motor problem or dysgraphia.

My child's Woodstock Johnson test results changed dramatically since his last assessment. Is this normal?

My son was administered the Woodcock Johnson tests at the end of fifth grade and again at the end of ninth grade. His scores declined in 6 out of the 9 subtests. Most notable were decreases in the Broad Written Language (down 8 points) and Written Expression (down 12 points) subtests. Is this pretty unusual? Do you have any idea of what could be going on here?

I share your concern. I do not have enough information to generalize an answer. Discuss your concerns with the professional who did the testing or with a private educational consultant.

What type of testing is done to determine if a child has a learning disability?

My son has struggled in school his whole life. I have tried to get him tested for learning disabilities but cannot. My son is now in the 11th grade, and the high school psychologist agreed to test in December.

We met in the middle of March to discuss the results, and she said his test results showed that he is capable of doing the work. She said an average score was between 85 and 100, and most all of his scores were in that range. But when she started reading off some of the result categories, they were all academic tests (i.e., algebra, reading comprehension, etc). This was not what I expected; I thought learning disability testing was something more abstract.

I'm wondering… what kind of educational testing should I expect the school to use in determining whether or not my son has a learning disability?

A comprehensive assessment should consist of an intellectual assessment and an educational assessment. Perhaps you can get a copy of the studies done by the school and seek a second opinion from a psychologist experienced in doing psycho-educational or neuro-psychological assessments.

One of my middle school students has severe learning disabilities and cannot write sentences independently. How can I help her?

I have a 6th grade student that is functioning on a pre-primer level. She recognizes letters but does not know all letter sounds. She can copy sentences and paragraphs from the board; but when asked to write, she has no word formation.

She uses "chunks" of letters and often puts spaces to create "words" and uses punctuation. Yesterday, she wrote: "deu dreus als kit petip fim dea yan et jit on a u ej and seu tok a uejes sosi of lr ret and seu yor hr sos: snd seu uod hafr kefmbakand sue" in response to the question: "What happened to Dorothy's house when the cyclone hit?"

I am trying to help her; but when we have success, she seems to forget everything just minutes later. I have never seen this before, and I am wondering how I can get help for this child. Thank you for caring.

This student needs a full psycho-educational evaluation to clarify why she is having these problems. If you teach in a public school, suggest that the girl's parents request from the principal that a comprehensive evaluation be done. If you teach in a private school, advise the parents that they can request such studies from the principal of the public school she would have gone to. I am going to guess that studies have been done but that you have not been provided with the information known about her. If true, ask to review her records.

My child has high test scores but a low IQ and his school wants to remove him from the special education program. What can I do?

My son has a learning disability. The numerous tests done on him at school concluded that he has language, cognition, and comprehension problems. My dilemma is that his school won't continue giving him special education because his recent achievement scores were high on the tests, yet his IQ score was low.

They told me there is no category to place him in; therefore, they have to deny continuing his special education services. I told them that his achievement scores are high because of the special education services he had been receiving. I thought having a learning disability was a reason to receive special education services. What additional information do I need so that my student can continue to receive special education services?

I share your frustration. Some school systems use a discrepancy model for defining a learning disability. The child must be a certain percentile behind what is expected for his or her IQ to meet the criteria for LD. Thus, as a child benefits from help and progresses, he or she might no longer be "far enough behind" to continue to meet the criteria for being coded as having LD. I suggest that you seek the advice of a special education counselor so that you can develop the best strategy for approaching your school.

Is it true that IQ remains the same after age 5?

Is it true that IQ remains the same after age 5? In reviewing my daughter's school psycho-educational assessment reports, she's received two pretty different IQ scores. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children was used at age 11: score of 87. And the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was used at age 17: score of 70.

Would two different types of tests produce two different scores? If so, how can we know at what level she is truly performing?

IQ tests measure basic intellectual abilities. However, parts of these tests also measure skills that are expected to be present at specific ages. Also, the format for the Wechsler and the Binet is different, possibly measuring different basic skills/abilities. I would suggest that you sit down with the psychologist who did the most recent testing and ask this professional to clarify the differences in IQ scores.

Can learning disabilities and ADHD get worse in high school?

Help! I am a sophomore in a private school. When I was in first grade I was diagnosed with ADHD and a visual processing disorder. I got help, medication, and accommodations so I eventually worked my way up through the system.

By eighth grade I was a straight-A honors student with almost no late assignments and not that many late nights. The perfect success story… until this year. It was like I hit a brick wall a quarter into the year.

All of a sudden I was staying up until 2am or 3am every night trying (and often failing) to get my work done. I frequently only had time to eat one actual meal a day. My parents and I were a little less than pleased and talked to my guidance counselor and the learning support teacher at school. We are pursuing retesting. I now have preferential seating and can get extensions on due dates.

But the problem isn't gone. At all. I am still up late and stress and my parents and I still donít like it. Can learning disabilities and ADHD get worse? I didnít think that they could. What can I do to work better and focus better? I'm really tired of it taking me up to an hour to write a one-page paper. I've read everything on this Web site about visual processing and have done extensive research on ADHD. What do I do now? What else can I try? I'm running out of ideas.

Here's what I have tried: multiple types and doses of meds; assistive technology with reading; keeping a planner; prioritizing; using a timer when working; outlining and other organizational techniques for papers; taking notes; placing an object under the text; quiet work space; consistent work time; taking breaks; taking notes/ highlighting while reading; writing on the computer or with different paper/pens/pencils; being well rested; no cell phone distractions; working early in the morning after sleeping; caffeine; different lighting; classical music; enlarged print; underlining; reading/saying it aloud; and color coding.

I suspect that you have executive function disorders. These problems often become an issue starting in middle and then high school. Problems might include difficulty organizing your school materials, papers, reports, and assignments. Thus, you might lose or misplace things or leave things at home when you go to school.

You might also have difficulty organizing and keeping track of your personal belongings (backpack, coat, pencils, etc.) and keeping your personal space organized. Often, there is a problem with monitoring time.

Added to these problems might be difficulties with retaining what you have read or with organizing your thoughts when you need to write something.

If this description sounds like you, you will need updated psycho-educational testing to clarify how best to help. Usually, an organization coach is needed but often more is necessary. Show my answer to your parents and ask that they arrange such studies. Good luck!

Who diagnoses an auditory processing disorder?

My son is 9 years old. His teacher questioned whether he has an auditory processing disorder. The school is going to test him shortly but everyone tells me I should have it done privately instead. It is not covered under insurance.

If his school tests him, is there a specific or more thorough assessment that I as a parent could ask for? Thanks.

Speech and language therapists evaluate for a possible auditory processing difficulty. Most health insurance companies will pay for this assessment. But you should also discuss your concerns with the principal of his school, and request that the school's speech and language therapist see your son.

How can I get a 4-year-old who can only say three words tested?

How can I get an assessment or evaluation for a child who has turned 4 but can only say three words? I think he is too old for the Babies Can't Wait program.

Under the public law, IDEA, every public school program must have a Child Find program to evaluate children ages 3 to 5 who appear to be delayed in any area of development prior to entering kindergarten. Speak with the principal of your neighborhood school about how to register for Child Find.

My son is on Concerta for his ADHD, but still struggles with multi-tasking and is falling behind in class. What is causing this?

I have a 9-year-old son in the third grade. He has ADHD and is on Concerta. The meds definitely help calm him down so he can focus more at school.

Academically, he is very smart but he constantly needs help from the teacher or a student to keep up with the class. According to his teacher, he is always many steps behind the rest of the kids in class. He does not do well with multi-tasking and this often causes him to fall behind. And he's very slow at finishing every assignment.

At the same time, his teacher says that he is the hardest working person in the classroom and he'll keeping working until it's done. He does no goofing off whatsoever. Any idea what might be causing this? Could it be the meds he's on?

About 50% of children with ADHD also have learning disabilities. It sounds as if your son might have both. Discuss this concern with his school professionals and ask that they evaluate for this possibility.

Does my daughter need both a reading specialist and a tutor?

First I want to express my thanks for all the information available on the site.

Dr. Silver: My daughter is 12 years old and in sixth grade. Since first grade, she has had difficulties in reading and spelling. I had her tested recently for dyslexia. She was placed in extended school year services, tutoring at school, and given accommodations.

I wish I could have had her tested earlier. I sent her to a reading specialist in the summer, which was costly. I also have her go to a tutor, who works well with her but does not have the credentials of the reading specialist (who also tested her).

Question: Do I do a combination of both or just keep her with the tutor? I put her in private school, because I felt she would get lost in the system. Also, I am looking for a school that offers a program which works with kids like her. I am a single mother, trying to find the best possible avenues to bring out my daughter's talents.

Your daughter will need both remedial tutoring and an education program that can accommodate for her special needs. If she is in a public school, these services should be available. If she is in a private school, your resources may be more limited. Do you have an educational consultant or someone at her school who coordinates her special education program? If so, discuss these needs with this person.

My high school son is off ADHD meds but now he's struggling with organization and self-motivation. What should I do?

Dear Dr. Silver,

I have a high school senior who has a learning disability, not ADHD. He was thought to have ADHD and was medicated when in middle school. However, when he started high school things changed and we stopped the medication due to behavioral misconduct that appears to have resulted from the medication.

As parents we have tried to help him with his behavioral problems. They have improved, but his grades have not. He starts off well but by the end of each semester he always falls short.

I am lost as to what to do. My son wants to be successful but is lacking the determination and motivation to get there on his own. He constantly needs reminders and supervision. How do I groom him to become independent, determined, and self-motivated?

Your description of his problems sound like a possible executive function disability (problems with organization and time planning). This disability might be a reflection of ADHD or of LD and often begins to be a problem in middle and high school. Discuss this possibility with the professionals at his school.

Can ADHD meds help with an auditory processing disorder?

My fifth-grade son failed two subtests for auditory processing. I do not know if we are dealing with ADHD. We have tried ADHD meds and he says that he can hear the teacher better.

Is there any evidence to indicate that ADHD meds would impact auditory processing? Everything I've read seems to indicate no, but he insists that is the one difference for him.

You ask good questions; however, I cannot be specific. You need to sit down with the person who diagnosed him with an auditory processing problem and ask these questions. Usually, such an area of difficulty would interfere with reading skills and writing skills (e.g., spelling).

There are other questions to ask this person. What two tests did he fail and what does this mean? Did you do any other studies to see if he has areas of learning difficulty? Push to get clarification.

How can I help my son who is calm at home but disruptive in class?

My son is in kindergarten. Although his behavior seems calm and normal at home, he is constantly disrupting his class. As of now his learning is being affected. He is behind the rest of the students. He can count to 20 but cannot recognize numbers or letters. I have tried visiting his class and I work with him at home but he always gets frustrated and turns away. Please help!

I cannot be specific about the cause. I can share your concern. You need to discuss these problems with the school professionals to explore what his problem areas are. His areas of difficulty might reflect that he is developing at a slower pace than his classmates or they might be the first clue of a possible learning problem. If no one will respond, you could seek a private evaluation.

What would you call an almost total inability to rote memorize?

What would you call an almost total inability to rote memorize?

I am talking about a child, otherwise quite intelligent, an excellent reader with a high level of what used to be called "number sense," who otherwise cannot memorize. For example: This child has tried for months to memorize the times tables and is unable to do so. The child can multiply but just cannot memorize the tables. I am at a loss to help.

Concerned parent,

Bill

I would need the child's age to be specific. I would be more concerned about why this child is having this difficulty than what to call it. Have you discussed this problem with a school professional or a private special education professional? Specific testing should both clarify why the problems exist and what to do to help.

My son has an auditory processing disorder and is struggling but the school is only offering a 504 plan. What can I do?

My son is 12 and has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder. He has a hard time comprehending the material in school. I'm told he doesn't focus or engage in asking questions. I wonder if he has ADHD, although the doctor said he only has an auditory processing disorder.

What can I do to help him in school? He can't retain the information and the workload is too much. I'm not getting any help from the school. My son is a good kid who tries extremely hard. I don't want him to give up. He is extremely nervous giving a presentation or performing in front of people to the point that he hunches over and starts crying. Please help me! The school would not give him an IEP. They recently said they may consider a 504.

My first question: Who diagnosed him with an auditory processing disorder? This person should be advising you. Such a disorder often causes learning disabilities. Was he evaluated for this? If not, this needs to be done. Where are his skills in reading, writing, math, and organization? What you describe does not sound like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I support your not accepting a 504 Plan. This plan would provide accommodations but not remedial services. You need to be assertive about wanting a full assessment leading to an IEP. Under an IEP, he should get both accommodations and services. Maybe you need a special education consultant to advise you on your rights under the education law and how to approach your school.

(If you want to read more on this, look in my book, The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press.)

Good luck. Don't give up. If all of the above fail, e-mail back.

I spend hours helping my daughter with her schoolwork each night, so she appears to be doing better than she is. How do I get the school to test her without letting her fail?

Dr. Silver,

I would love some advice on how to help my daughter.

At this time she has had no formal diagnosis of a learning disability. She is now in second grade and it seems she struggles with everything. I work a lot with her and try to help her understand things, but she never seems to quite "get it."

It now results in tears, frustration, and her thinking she is stupid and hating school. With the huge amount of work we do at home she has managed to be passing her classes, but I don't know that she is really learning.

She barely passed on into first grade because she was having a lot of problems in reading and was behind. That summer I sought the help of a friend who tutors kids in reading using a program that is supposed to be great for learning disabilities. With her help and a lot of work at home, we got her to grade level in reading.

All of her teachers so far have said that they can't quite put their finger on it — she is very hit or miss with things. One day she seems to know it, but then the next she doesn't. She still reverses letters a lot in reading and spelling. I have been told that she should grow out of this — but when?

At this time she struggles greatly with math. She seems to not understand how numbers work. My 5-year-old is able to do a lot of the work she can now do, because of just overhearing all the work I do with her. This is sending up a red flag to me. I know the schools are hard-pressed for the funds to do a lot of what is needed and I hate to waste their time. But that being said, I want to see my daughter get help and not have to work so hard if there is something we can do.

Unfortunately, the problems have not been bad enough for a teacher to say we need to test, but I wonder if I slacked off at home if they would be. It is a terrible place as a mother to be feeling like you need to let your child fail so she can get noticed.

Should I push the school into testing? Do you have any suggestions in helping me figure out what is going on? Thanks for any help you may be able to give.

I share your concerns. From your description, your daughter might have a learning disability. You are correct. By spending so much time with her each night, she appears to be doing better than she really is. Yet, you do not want to take away this help and have her do poorly just to show the school what you mean.

She should be evaluated. A psycho-educational assessment would be best. The first step is to submit a written letter to the principal, requesting a meeting to discuss your concerns with your daughter. The principal is required under education law to schedule this meeting. The classroom teacher, principal, school counselor, and special education person should be present. Share your concerns, using as many examples as you can. Be sure to explain just how much work you do each night. If the school agrees, they will do a formal assessment.

I need to warn you. Most school systems will not evaluate a child until the end of third grade. It is only then that they show enough of a discrepancy to meet their criteria for doing an assessment. If so, you might explore if it is possible to have these studies done privately and then take the results to the school.

Good luck.

How can I get the school system to help my son, who is a junior and cannot read, transition to the work world?

I am the mother of a child who has learning disabilities. He is now a freshman in high school and still reads at a first-grade level. His writing skills are also compromised.

Are there any tips you can give me to help my son? I am very upset with the school system in my town and don't know how to approach them calmly to make them understand that he is facing adulthood and needs to be able to get a job, drive a car, etc. What can I do?

I am very upset to learn that your son has gone through at least 12 years of public school and is still reading at the first-grade level. How did this happen? Was he not tested over the years? Did he have an IEP?

If the school system has never been concerned and if your son has never had an IEP, I would find an attorney who knows about education law and discuss what your options are. If he has had an IEP, you need to know that the school system must continue to work with him until the end of his 21st year. During this time he could receive further help with his learning disabilities and he could receive vocational training. If you do not know about this part of IDEA, ask the principal about it.

How do you assess and qualify a student with limited English proficiency for LD special education services?

How do you assess and qualify a student with limited English proficiency for LD special education services?

Under the federal law, IDEA, such a student must be evaluated with test instruments that are in his/her primary language.

My son forgets things everywhere. Is this a sign of a disability?

Hi Dr. Silver,

My son forgets things in school, on the bus, in the park etc. He needs a reminder or he will forget things.

Is this related to any disability? If so, how can he be helped? Also, could it be possible that he can't process multiple tasks at the same time?

Without your son's age, I cannot be specific. But the behaviors you describe suggest that he might have what is called an executive function disorder. He has difficulty organizing schoolwork, and loses, forgets, misplaces papers and other materials. He gets to school and leaves things at home. Then he leaves school and forgets things that need to come home. He might have similar difficulties with his personal belongings (coat, pencils, etc.).

If he has executive function disorder, it might be a reflection of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type or it might be a reflection of a learning disability. I would discuss these problems with his teacher. If the teacher notices the problems as well, speak with the principal about the possibility of having a special education team evaluate him.

(If you want to read more about these problems, look in my book, The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press.)

What is the difference between dyslexia and a specific learning disability in reading?

What is the difference between dyslexia and a specific learning disability in reading? Are they the same or is the term based on regional terminology?

Specific learning disability is the official term used today for students with learning disabilities. Such disabilities might impact reading, writing, math, or other areas. Dyslexia is no longer an official term used under federal education law. This term was initially used to describe a language-based (i.e., phonologically-based) reading disability.

My son is in kindergarten and cannot write his name, but the psychologist says he's on track. Should I request testing anyway?

My son is 5 and is having difficulty in school. He started in a child development program last year at age 4 and had a lot of trouble learning anything. We thought it was due to his ADHD and behavior. He could not spell or write his name, did not know colors, numbers, or any of the alphabet.

This year he is doing much better with his behavior. But he has been in school for nine weeks so far and still cannot spell or write his name without assistance. He only knows three letters of the alphabet and can only recognize the numbers one to five. He has trouble gripping a pencil tight enough to write.

He is in speech therapy and has been since last year. My husband was LD in school. My son has been evaluated by the school psychologist but she thinks that even though he has attended school for over a year, he is where he should be. Should I be concerned and request additional testing for him, or is he too young to be diagnosed with dyslexia or other LD?

I share your concerns. Yes, he might be too young to meet the school requirements to be identified as having a learning disability. (Most schools use a model that requires a child to be about two years behind and he is only five.) But, there is the opportunity to evaluate and help a 5-year-old without needing to conclude why the problems exist. If testing shows that he has areas of deficit, services can be provided without the formality of testing. Speak with the principal about getting such help.

If you are not successful, you have two options. First, you could get psychological and educational testing done privately and then take the results to the school, insisting on help. Or, you could set an appeal process in motion. To do this, send your principal a letter, requesting a meeting to discuss the need to evaluate your son. The principal must call such a meeting within 30 days (based on education law).

At this meeting, request an evaluation. If the team does not agree and does not agree to informally provide services, ask for the guidelines on how to appeal the team's decision. Such a process is required by law. Then, appeal to the next level within your school system. If the principal refuses to call a meeting, comment that IDEA, the federal education law, requires that the principal call such a meeting. If he or she still refuses, ask for information on how to appeal.

(Should the principal refuse, I would meet with your superintendent of school or an assistant. Bring your notes about each step you went through and ask what your rights are.)

Good luck.

How can I help a teacher understand her student's behavior disorder?

Dr. Silver,

I am the principal of an elementary school. I have an eighth grade student that has a behavior disorder. He is a great kid and has made great strides in the past few years. He is on medication and when he takes it he does well.

He has problems with a certain teacher and I am struggling to help her understand his disorder. He does not deal well with any kind of pressure and often times this pressure is because of something that is going on at home. He is easily irritated and frustrated. He often closes himself off when he becomes agitated and won't do any work. He becomes easily worried and depressed. He does not like to write and when an assignment requires extra writing he shuts down. (We have offered a computer to type assignments, but it is not an appealing alternative to him.)

He is a very intelligent boy but this behavior is all his instructor can see. She cannot understand why he shuts down sometimes. She becomes easily frustrated and continues to single him out in front of his peers when he chooses not to work. This only agitates him further. She honestly feels that he is making a decision to act a certain way just so he is in control of every situation.

The special education teacher and I have both tried to explain the behavior disorder to her. We are unsuccessful in our attempts. What would you say to her that might help her understand that kids with behavior disorders really are not able to control themselves all the time?

May I thank you for being so sensitive to the needs of your students. My first proposal might not fit your administrative style. I would transfer the child to a teacher who does understand the child's disabilities. I would then request that the teacher he now has receive help in learning how to teach a child with special needs in a general education setting.

If this is not possible, I would assure the current teacher that she will receive supportive help from the special education program. However, this teacher must (not it would be nice if...) follow the recommendations made.

Explaining has not helped. A specific list of teaching approaches that are expected and that will be monitored might work best.

The last thing I would want is to have the child continue to suffer because of the teacher's lack of knowledge and sensitivity.

Is LD passed on to offspring?

I was diagnosed with LD in math and reading when I was in eighth grade. Recently, my daughter has had problems with reading and writing. She is 6 years old and I was just wondering if LD is passed on to offspring.

There is a strong family pattern for learning disabilities. I would encourage you to keep a close eye on your daughter. If she continues to struggle, ask the school to evaluate her for possible learning disabilities.

Who should I go to first to find out if my child has dyslexia — the school or an outside professional?

How does one find out if their child has dyslexia? I have approached the teachers regarding this and they told me to seek help outside school. Yet when I speak to professionals outside school they say it is up to the school to test the child. Can you give me advice to help my daughter before she falls any further behind in school? She is entering third grade.

Thank you,

Heather

Submit a letter to the principal requesting a meeting to discuss your child's difficulties. The principal must schedule this meeting within 30 days. At the meeting, present your concerns and ask that the school evaluate her to clarify if she has learning disabilities. The principal must respond by either agreeing or saying that the school will observe her and test her if she continues to have problems. If you disagree, you can request an appeal process.

LD services seem mainly geared toward children — where can a struggling adult find help?

Dear Dr. Silver,

I am 39 years old and have extremely poor memorization skills. I have taken several college courses and have failed some of the easiest of courses. For some reason I can't really grasp facts for future reference. Where can I go for help with this type of problem? All the learning disability facilities in my area are just for children. Any suggestions?

Yours Truly,

Lisa

Go to the Office of Disability Services at the college you attended (or the one closest to you). Ask for names of professionals who evaluate and work with adults.

My son reverses letters and can't see the difference between adding and subtracting. He wears glasses but they don't seem to help. Where do I take him next?

My son of 8 years old shows symptoms of learning disabilities. At first, his teachers thought it was due to vision problems. He is wearing glasses and still doesn't show improvements.

He reverses letters and numbers and has problems with reading. He also cannot see the difference between adding and subtracting, no matter how I teach him. I don't know if I should bring him to a psychologist or neurologist.

Please help! Thanks.

The problems you describe are not the result of a vision problem. They might be the result of a learning disability. I would start with a psychologist who is skilled at doing the necessary studies to clarify why he has such problems.

Why do I get tired when I'm trying to learn?

I am 48 and I still have the same problem I did in when I was in grade school. This problem is also the reason I didn't continue to college. When I am trying to learn (read, listen to an instructor in a class, watch a training video), I get sleepy. Almost like I'm going into at trance. I have poor comprehension and recall.

It has always bothered me and I feel like it kept me from reaching my full potential. I have many books and training materials but give up on reading or viewing them after I start.

I have a technical job that is changing at a rapid pace and this is causing me to fall behind my peers. What is this type of problem called? What can I do to over come it?

Your descriptions sound like you have a learning disability that impacts reading comprehension and possibly reading retention. You would have to have formal psycho-educational testing done to validate this is your problem. If confirmed, you can request accommodations on the job under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Try to find out who does this type of testing with adults.

My daughter takes AP classes and gets good grades but shows signs of a learning disability. How do we get her tested?

I have a 12-year-old daughter who has shown signs of dyslexia for the past six years. She was finally tested and diagnosed through our school this year.

I also have a 15-year-old daughter who will be going into the tenth grade and is very concerned about also having symptoms of dyslexia. She has always been in honors classes and is presently in all AP classes for next year. She works extremely hard to make A's, but struggles with spelling and her handwriting has been bad in the past (although it is improving).

She always gets a bad grade when she has to write an essay. She says she struggles at putting her thoughts together, etc. She also had trouble in geometry — she had to check the formulas over and over because she transposed numbers very easily.

She is very concerned about having to take the PSAT and SAT and worried she'll get a bad grade on the essay portion of the test. She took the SAT in seventh grade as part of the Duke Talented Identification Program and scored very well except on the survey part.

What can I do to get her tested? Considering she makes A's in honors classes, I doubt that the school district would readily test her. This is the problem I had with my youngest daughter. She compensated well and we had tutors, and it would take us hours to do homework, but she would make A's. It wasn't until this year, when she didn't pass the standardized mandated Texas test and was failing, that the district finally tested her.

You are correct that formal testing would be the only way to clarify if your older daughter has a disability. It might be that she has learning disabilities that are reflected in a different way than with your younger daughter.

Since she is doing so well in public school, I doubt you could get these studies done there. You will have to find a private psychologist (or diagnostic team) to do the psycho-educational testing. The results will help you find out what your daughter might need. These data would be required if you requested accommodations for the PSAT or SAT.

How do we make sure our daughter with ADHD does not get bullied in middle school?

My daughter will be 13 in September and is going to middle school. I am very worried because she has ADHD and has a hard time making and keeping friends. She gets bullied a lot of the time. I don't want that to happen as she enters middle and high school. So how do we help her make friends, hang with the right crowd, and not get bullied?

I share your concerns. One option is to speak to the counselor who works at the middle school she will be attending. Ask for guidance and for help when she arrives.

The other option is to speak with the professional who is treating your daughter for her ADHD. Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who works with middle school students who have ADHD and social problems.

Is a British psycho-educational evaluation valid in the U.S.?

Our family is about to move to the U.S. and our son is experiencing difficulty in school. His teachers have suggested a psycho-educational evaluation, which would be carried our by a British educational psychologist.

Will this report be valid and useful in the U.S. or will my son need to be assessed again at his new school? We don't want to stress our son with two assessments. We will be moving in December.

Regards,

Kelli

If time allows, I would recommend that you have someone do the psycho-educational evaluation in the country (and city) where you will be living. The results would be more relevant to the U.S. school system.

If you plan to enter your son in a public school rather than a private school, it is possible that the principal of this public school would agree to have the school's professionals do the testing.

Should a school retain a first grader with special needs?

My son is 7 years old with ADHD and is in the first grade. He had a rough time this year in school and the school wants to hold him back. I just found out that my son was diagnosed with special needs. Now the school is giving me a choice of whether I want him to go to the next grade or stay in the first grade. I do not know what to do.

Your school professionals concluded that your son has learning disabilities and ADHD. He will need special education services along with the general education programs. He will also need medication to address the ADHD.

The question of repeating first grade or moving on to second grade should be based on the extent of his problems and his basic skill levels. The school professionals should make a specific recommendation and not leave the decision to you.

Should you agree, fine. Should you not, you might want to seek the advise of a private special education consultant to advise you. Without more information, I cannot make a recommendation.

The school wants to put my social, bright 13-year-old daughter into an all-day program. What should I do?

Dr. Silver,

My 13-year-old daughter has had trouble learning, retaining, and applying information since kindergarten. She has been in a resource program since fifth grade. This year I was informed she needed to attend a special day class that is more intensive than the one she is in. I went to visit the classroom and was so surprised to find 10 6-8th graders with very low functioning ability.

My daughter is bright and social, and never causes problems in school. I feel putting her in an all-day class like this will really hurt her self-esteem. I am wondering if she could have ADHD, although the testing doesn't indicate this.

She also scored low on her intelligence test. However, she comes across as a normal 13-year-old. She is on the cheerleading team and is very good at dance and athletics. Can you please give me some advice?

Thank-you,

Heather

Your school professionals appear to have developed an IEP to address your daughter's needs. If you are not comfortable with this IEP, you have two choices.

First, you can appeal the decisions (such as diagnosis, needs, and class placement). Your school must then have another team from outside of your school review the case. Or, you can see a private professional knowledgeable in special education problems and request a private assessment. Should this professional agree with you, you can request another meeting of the IEP team and bring this person.

What do I do about teachers who belittle my son in front of other students and do not follow his IEP?

I have a 9-year-old son, who was diagnosed with dysgraphia and ADHD in second grade. He has a special education plan, which his teachers usually follow, but because he is in lots of special groups, math help, reading help etc., he has lots of different teachers.

I am really having issues getting them to positively reinforce him. I fight with them all the time and it is just the same thing over and over — he gets a new teacher who is supposed to follow his IEP and instead they make fun of him or belittle him because he does not learn the same as other children. I am so sad and frustrated, I want to just follow him around and stop anyone who hurts him, but I can't do that.

Is there anything I can do to help his beaten self-esteem? Or maybe a different way to approach the teachers? He is just a little boy and he learns a little differently than others. I have had teachers use him as an example, saying things like, "If you don't do your homework, you'll end up like him." They have told him, "If you don't stop making your letters backwards, you will never have a job or a drivers license." Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Shelly

If your son has an IEP that clarifies your sons disabilities and the services needed, do not tolerate any teacher acting the way you describe. Keep a log of each occurrence. When you have enough examples, request an IEP meeting to discuss your sons progress. At this meeting, present your log and ask that this issue be addressed.

If your son has a 504 Plan, based possibly on the ADHD, follow the same process. Here, you would request a 504 meeting to discuss his progress.

Do not allow this to continue. But, you must document, document, and document. If your only data is from your son, see if you can get validation from another student, an aide, or someone else.

How can we help a gifted fifth grader who is forgetful and lacks organization?

Dr. Silver,

I really hope you can help steer us in the right direction in seeking help for our daughter. She is in the 5th grade and has been tested as gifted (IQ of 135). She goes to a private school and is in a gifted pull-out program (one day per week), which she loves.

She is struggling mightily this year with organization. Her grades are just OK, but her effort is definitely lacking. She is not working up to her potential.

She says she is trying her hardest, but her teacher thinks that she does not use her time wisely and does not listen attentively. Her desk is the messiest in the class and no system of organization has seemed to help her. She generally does her work but often "forgets" to turn it in. Her handwriting is awful. I constantly have to remind her to head her paper and mind the margins.

I am at my wit's end with trying to get her to be more organized and responsible, and always give school her best effort. I should mention that she also suffers from anxiety. She has been in therapy for two years and is currently being medicated for it. The anxiety seems to be under control.

I don't know what else to do to help her or what kind of professional to turn to for help. I would love any advice you could give me. Thank you so much for your time and attention.

Respectfully yours,

Andrea

Most of the difficulties you describe suggest what is called executive function disorder — difficulty with organization of materials, tasks, and time. She also appears to have a fine-motor problem that is affecting her handwriting. It is important that the reasons for these problems be clarified.

She will need a psycho-educational evaluation. The results will explain why she is underachieving and what to do to help her. You are in a private school; however, you are entitled to services from the public school system. Meet with the principal of the public school she would have gone to and request that she be evaluated. The principal must schedule a meeting to discuss your daughter's difficulties. If the principal denies your request for such studies, you may have to have it done privately.

Do not wait until she is in middle school. Her problems will only become worse. Have her evaluated now so that the right help can be introduced now.

My 6-year-old son is reversing letters and numbers. Should I get him tested?

I have a 6-year-old son that is having trouble at school. He reads a lot of common words backwards, such as reading pan for nap or dull for pull. He can do basic math, but if the answer is 32, sometimes he'll write 23.

It was upsetting me that he was making simple mistakes because he wouldn't take the time to look at things, and then I noticed he was having trouble focusing his eyes. I had his vision tested and it's fine.

I asked his teacher if she would refer him to get tested for a learning disability. She told me the school's waiting list is about 60 days. Am I going about it the right way by getting him tested? Where do I go from here? Can my son's doctor have him tested or refer me to a testing center? What kind of test do you do to identify learning disabilities? I feel completely lost and worry that I am failing my son. Please help!

Sometimes, 6 year olds still reverse letters and numbers. If this is his only problem, you might wait a little longer. If, however, you find that he is not mastering his first grade skills (reading, writing, math), then I would not wait.

Don't discuss this with the teacher. The process is for you to write a letter to the principal, requesting a meeting to discuss your son's difficulties. The principal must call such a meeting. The school psychologist and special education person will be present. Discuss your concerns with this team. If they agree, they will schedule testing. If they do not feel testing is needed now, you will still have focused everyone on his difficulties. If in the fall he has not made progress, request another meeting.

You can always have him evaluated privately. The testing is called psycho-educational testing.

As an adult, how can I determine if I have dyscalculia?

How can I go about determining if I have dyscalculia? Do you know of anyone who can make this determination in an adult in the San Antonio, Texas area? I have always had difficulty with math but now that I am in intermediate algebra in college, it's impossible.

I use a tutor two hours a week, the professor is wonderful, and I still don't get it. As they explain it one-on-one to me, it makes sense. Twenty-four hours later, I might as well be looking at Japanese writings. It does not make sense. I can't even look at the examples given to figure out a solution. A friend suggested I may have dyscalculia. I thank you in advance for your assistance.

Dyscalculia, or difficulty learning and applying math, is considered a type of a learning disability. If you have never had studies done to answer your question, you should do so now. Go to the Office of Disability Services at your college and ask how you can be evaluated for your math disability.

My sister's first grade teacher said my sister will be in special ed classes for the rest of her life and won't go to college. Isn't this setting her up for failure?

I am not a parent but my younger sister, who is in first grade, is having difficulties with reading and other basic skills. Today our older sister went in to talk with the teacher and the teacher told her that our younger sister is going to be in special ed for the rest of her life and that it is likely that she will not be going to college. I guess they are teaching her life skills at the school and they do not look at the homework that she is doing.

This aggravates me because it seems like they are just setting her up for failure. I read an article about one student who said that it is better for these kids to be challenged and placed in mainstream classes — he was placed in special ed second through eleventh grade and once they did put him in mainstream it was a lot more difficult to transition. His was a success story, but I completely agree students should be put in mainstream classes earlier. I would just really appreciate your input on this situation because I do not want to see my little sister fail.

Your younger sister is fortunate to have you as an older sister who cares about her. I do wonder why you and another sister are involved. Where are your parents/guardians?

It is essential that the parents request a meeting with the school principal and school professionals. What studies have been done to support this teacher's comments? A child cannot be placed in special education without studies to support this need. AND, no decisions can be made without the parents' consent. First, speak with your mother and find out what she knows. If there are no formal studies or no official meetings, this teacher needs to be confronted about such comments. If there have been such studies and your mother has not shared them with you, ask that they be discussed.

Could a pre-kindergarten student who identifies numbers but not letters be showing early signs of dyslexia?

I teach early childhood special education and have a student who is pretty good at identifying numbers, but is not identifying letters or showing much interest in emergent reading. He likes books and looking at the pictures or singing the songs, but not identifying letters or sounds.

The child is 4.5 years old. His speech is good — he has received SLP therapy and his receptive and expressive language are both high. Could any of this difficulty in expressing letter knowledge, but not number knowledge, be an early sign of dyslexia? Is it perhaps just a matter of being 4 and not wanting to answer the questions? Also, his parent had a learning disability as a child — could this be genetic?

Thank you!

The problems you describe could be the initial clues that this child might have learning disabilities. The fact that he needed language therapy adds to the possibility of this diagnosis. If this child is in your class, it suggests that he is already seen as in need of special education services. The current approach would be to try remedial interventions and see how he responds. If he does not respond, then formal studies might be done.

Our pre-kindergartner can only speak in words (not sentences) and shows little interest in learning. What should we do?

Hello Dr. Silver,

I have a 5-year-old boy that had craniosinostosis surgery when he was 3 years and 9 months old. Next year he is going to be in kindergarten but he can't talk well - he can say words but not sentences. He does not know his colors, numbers, or letters and he is not interested in learning. He has short attention span (2 or 3 minutes at most). I'm really concerned. Please advise.

You should be concerned. Have you discussed your questions with the professionals who have been working with your son? Given your descriptions, I suspect that you have had evaluations and services since he was three. If not, you should know that you are entitled to a full assessment and services from your public school. Discuss this with the principal of the school where he would attend for kindergarten. Don't stop asking until you get your answers.

My son had the precursors for dyslexia in preschool two years ago but is reading well now. Should I still be concerned?

My 6-year-old son was evaluated in 2007 by a neuropsychologist. She determined that he does have the precursors for dyslexia and what appeared to be the beginnings of it. I then had him evaluated for dyslexia and pre-screened for the Barton Reading and Spelling System. He is very intelligent and is reading above grade level. He can write, but it takes him time. His school refuses to believe he has dyslexia.

Where can I find more information to prove he has dyslexia even though he can read and write?

Your child was tested when he was in preschool. The results were based on levels of expected performance for that age. It may be that what was seen as a weakness then (precursor), improved with maturation and is not an issue now. You say he can read and write at grade level. So, he does not appear to have any deficits that might suggest dyslexia at this time.

It is difficult to use these data to assess if he has learning disabilities. I suggest that you stop pushing for a diagnosis (dyslexia) and ask the school to help clarify if he has any problems at this time.

Should a 6-year-old boy who struggles with reading be evaluated?

Hi Dr. Silver,

How early can a child be tested for disabilities? I have a 6-year-old boy who is now in first grade and struggling with reading. He reads below grade level and is unable to comprehend what he reads.

When he was in kindergarten, I was told that something was not right, but they didn't know what it was. So, in first grade I have been pushing the school. We are now going to do testing for learning disabilities. They said that they do not think anything will show up because of his age and that they will recommend retention.

This is so frustrating! He currently has B's in everything except reading, in which he has a D and sometimes an F. Is it too early to tell?

If your child is struggling with reading, testing should clarify why and how best to help him. If he is doing well in all other areas, retention may not be recommended. He might continue on to second grade but receive remedial help for the rest of this year and for next year. And, if you wish, you can supplement this help by getting the right private help over the summer.

Don't let your fear of retention stop the school from clarifying why he is struggling with reading. Only with this information will the appropriate interventions be clarified.

How can I prove to my workplace that I have a learning disability if my high school records don't indicate a diagnosis?

Hi and thank you for taking my question. I'm an adult male in my late 30's. I was diagnosed with a learning disability in the early 1970s. I was in special education classes from elementary school through high school. Just recently, I put in a request for my high school to send me copies of my transcript to see if they had me listed as an LD student. They responded by saying that at that time, they didn't use the terminology of a learning disability. My high school transcripts show that indeed I was in special education classes, but do not list a learning disability.

I want information about my diagnosis because I want my workplace to know that I have a learning disability. I have no other record about my disability and I know my workplace will want something in writing or on file. Any suggestions about what I can do to prove my case?

Thanks for your advice,

Gerald

Gerald: You are correct in needing documentation if you are to use the Americans With Disabilities Act to request accommodations at work. The federal law that established a formal need for special education services was not passed until the mid-1970s. Thus, your school may have provided special education services without the formal documentation needed today. Also, many schools kept a formal record on each student that could be read and released to the proper people and a confidential record that contained any testing or evidence of a disability.

Most important to you is that when you request accommodations based on the ADA, you need evaluations that are not more than three years old. Thus, you will have to find out who does formal studies, known as psycho-educational evaluations, for adults with learning disabilities in your area. The professional who does these studies will help you document your disabilities as they relate to work.

Can an exercise program aimed at re-patterning neuronal pathways help children learn to read better?

Dear Dr Silver:

I wanted to ask your opinion regarding a controversial treatment of learning disorders. My daughter's school has begun a program of using what I believe is an old technique (40 or so years) that was found not to have conceptual or scientific foundation in the treatment of learning disabilities. They're using an exercise program aimed at re-patterning the neuronal pathways. The claim is that by doing exercises and crossing the midline of the brain the child is able to learn to read better.

The school is not only having kids with LD do the exercises but the entire school. As an adult with a learning disability who believes exercise is extremely important for many reasons, I disagree with the use of an unfounded method of treatment. I believe it gives parents false hope, wastes precious time in the classroom, and takes away from time that could be used with proven methods. I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics has denounced such methods. I respect your knowledge and expertise and I wanted your opinion on whether you believe patterning is an effective treatment for LD.

Thanks for your input.

David Kalis, LCSW, Ph.D.

You are correct. This method - originally proposed by Doman and Delacado - has been long shown to be incorrect in the concepts proposed and not successful as a treatment. You will need help in approaching the school board. First, you might contact the American Academy of Pediatrics and request their position paper on this approach. Second, you might look through the chapter on "Controversial Therapies" in my book, The Misunderstood Child, Fourth Edition, published by Random House/Three Rivers Press.

Our daughter is in preschool and doesn’t talk to anyone except us. How can we get her to open up?

Dear Dr. Silver,

My daughter is 4 years old and she does not speak to anyone except to us, her parents. She started going to preschool a little before age 3 and for nine months did not speak to the preschool teacher. We tried seeking help from the school district and they wanted to place her in a special program.

If she is with children who have disabilities, will she progress there? I am not sure that is the proper environment for her. I honestly think she needs more individual attention. Unfortunately, the preschool setting does not provide that. They usually have 24 kids with two teachers. What can I do in order to help my daughter open up, participate, and communicate with kids her age and other adults?

Please help.

Thank you,

Shirley

Your daughter has what is called selective mutism. There are several possible causes. Have her evaluated by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. The interventions needed will be based on the reasons for her behavior. Don't worry about the impact of one program or another on your daughter. Focus on the cause first.

How can I get my daughter to stop procrastinating and do her homework without a fight?

I have a 12-year-old daughter who procrastinates terribly when she is supposed to be doing homework or studying and we are constantly threatening, bribing, reasoning with her to get her to do her work. She is often up late at night still doing it and we're always fighting. She frequently refuses when told to do things she doesn't want to do and I just can't make her.

Her behavior is so stressful to the rest of the family and we are all constantly on edge. How can I get her to complete her assignments without all the defiance and yelling? She is on Focalin and is a good student (with a lot of our badgering to do her work).

Please stop the arguing, bribing, threatening, etc. It is not working and does not work. Shift your focus to why she is acting this way rather than trying to make her change. I have yet to meet a 12-year-old who really wanted to fail or to disappoint his/her parents. There must be a reason and it is your job to find out what it is.

For example, I assume she is on Focalin because she has ADHD. If she takes the medication in the morning, it has probably worn off by about 4 or 5pm. Could this be a reason she struggles at night? Second, if she has ADHD, there is a high likelihood that she also has learning disabilities. Has she been tested to see if she might? If not, do so.

The answer to your question is not to increase the consequences and hope she will change. The challenge is for you to find out why she is struggling and to address the reason. Have you ever sat down with her and said, "I know you don't like to do poorly in school and I know you don't want to disappoint us. Let's work together. Help me understand what is hard about doing the work. Let's figure out together what we can do to help you be more successful."

I have a learning disability and suspect my 7-year-old daughter does, too. I want to get her tested but my husband thinks we should wait. What do you suggest?

My daughter is 7 years old and young for her second grade class. As a past special education teacher, I am pretty sure I have a learning disability (never formally diagnosed) and I'm pretty sure my daughter has one, too. She struggles in school. And after reading the information on visual processing, this seems to fit my daughter and me perfectly.

We've seen her problems increase since preschool - difficulty with writing, flipping of letters (I still do this!), finding relevant information in reading, writing quickly, and judging distances. Teachers have noticed her problems but have always brushed them off because she is young. My husband wishes to wait to see how she does in three years.

My problem is that I know how hard school was for me and I don't want my daughter going through the same thing. To make things more complicated, she also has strabismus (a vision condition in which the eyes are misaligned) and juvenile diabetes. Should I push to have her tested at the very least? Or wait as my husband suggests? Thanks!

Your daughter has real problems and needs help now. Your history only reinforces this fact. Try to explain to your husband that the "wait until she fails" tactic not only delays getting her the help she needs now but does a real number on her self-esteem. (If this does not work, get a copy of my book, The Misunderstood Child: A Guide for Parents of Children With Learning Disabilities, and ask that he read it.)

She needs a formal assessment that might include psychological, educational, and occupational therapy testing. These data will clarify the areas of difficulty and the types of interventions needed.

Don't give up. Push for a formal assessment to clarify her areas of difficulty and the types of services needed. If you are not successful with the school and you cannot afford private testing, seek a private educational consultant to advise you on your rights.

What can you do if you suspect the child you're advocating for has a learning disability but the school refuses to test?

Hello and thank you for such a wonderful resource! I am a former teacher and school psychologist. I'm currently providing supplemental reading instruction and trying to advocate for my second grade niece.

She has a long history typical of a child with a specific learning disability or dyslexia. Her language development was slow, particularly with regard to articulation. Letter and number recognition was difficult and her general phonemic awareness still has not been mastered in spite of consistent and systematic reading instruction for the past six months. She has trouble expressing herself with the appropriate vocabulary and word sequence.

When she reads, besides the usual misread words, she still confuses b and d and she often substitutes synonyms for words (i.e. house for home, mom for mother, dumb for stupid, etc.). Independent homework completion is impossible because she cannot read the directions accurately.

She was retained in kindergarten and now is receiving extra small-group reading instruction at school three times a week. Even so, the school has yet to initiate communication or collaboration with her mother or me. The only reason we knew about the extra reading group was because it was mentioned during parent/teacher conferences.

When her mother asked if it might be time to refer her for a special education evaluation, they said she could request it but probably wouldn't get it because her daughter's problems aren't that bad. I'm concerned that all the help my neice has received will ultimately prevent her from qualifying for special education because the school only uses the discrepancy model (and she may be too young to show a significant discrepancy).

Is it enough that a student's mother and advocate suspect the presence of a disability to get the special education evaluation? I've worked in three different states and never heard of a school denying a parent request for an initial evaluation.

Also, can I, as her advocate, make the case from the vantage point of Response to Intervention that she has a learning disability? Or should we stop helping her and let her fall further behind in order to access the services she needs at school? We cannot afford a private evaluation and because I'm not currently employed, I don't think they are going to take my opinion too seriously. I hope you can help!

First, please do not stop helping her. She should not have to experience any more pain than she is experiencing already. I suspect that she is in a school system that waits until the child fails third grade before they do any testing. Why? As you mentioned, they use a discrepancy formula to determine if a student has a learning disability. And, the student has to have failed third grade before he/she is far enough behind to meet this discrepancy. I hate this "wait until you fail before we will evaluate or formally help" you strategy.

Have her parents send a formal letter to the principal requesting a meeting to discuss their daughter's academic difficulties. This request must be in writing. The principal must schedule the meeting within 30 calendar days. The principal, appropriate school professionals, the teacher, and parents should attend this meeting. (You can come as well.) At this meeting, her parents should formally request testing to find out why their daughter is struggling. If the school agrees - great. These studies will be done and then shared with the parents.

If they do not agree to do testing at this time, have the parents say, "This decision is not acceptable to us. We wish to have the minutes of the meeting reflect that we do not agree. And, we would like to be informed of our right to appeal this decision." The school must comply with these requests. Prior to seeing someone within the appeal process, seek help from a private educational consultant on what to say.

Good luck. Your niece is very lucky to have you for her aunt.

I have LD and ADHD and struggle to regulate my emotions. Could I have Asperger’s Syndrome, too?

My name is Rachel and I am 23 years old. I was diagnosed with combined-type ADHD and a learning disability when I was 8.

As a child, I had a delay in fine and gross motor skills, I had trouble expressing my emotions, trouble communicating with others, and threw constant, severe tantrums when I didn't get my way or for no reason. During these severe tantrums, I would slam myself on the ground kicking and screaming, and I would rock and bang my head. I also did not know how to make friends or keep them.

As an adult, I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Do you think I have Asperger's Syndrome, too?

Rachel: I am so pleased to hear you describe your problems. All too often, I see young adults who spend all of their time blaming others for their difficulties. You are correct. Something is not right in the way you regulate your emotions. Plus, there are other learning problems.

What you describe does not sound like Asperger's. If you have not done so as an adult, ask to see a psychiatrist for a comprehensive assessment. (Even though you are an adult, you might find that a child and adolescent psychiatrist would be best. These professionals are trained to work with adults as well. And, they are more likely to know about the types of difficulties you describe.) Don't give up until you have answers and a treatment plan to help you.

How do we help a kindergartner who cannot complete assignments independently and gets distracted easily?

Dear Dr. Silver,

I have a 5-year-old son that is in kindergarten. Prior to this year, he attended some daycare but never attended pre-k.

We have been experiencing problems with his learning. His teacher complains to us everyday that he does not complete his assignments in class. She has shown my husband the packets they need to do in class and his are blank. I have noticed that if I sit down with him, he will finish the work. However, if he does not have supervision he gets distracted.

This happens consistently. Please tell me your suggestions on what to do. I am very concerned about his learning ability. He is a normal child - he communicates normally and understands my instructions when it comes to home duties. But when it comes to school he does not seem to get it.

Thanks

Malena

Ask to meet with the principal of the school. Explain your concerns and the comments from his teacher. Request that the principal assign the school psychologist or other school professional to observe your son and to talk with the teacher.

Then, ask that the principal, this professional, and the teacher meet with you to discuss their ideas on why he is having difficulty. (If you make this request to the principal in writing, the principal must respond and schedule this meeting within 30 calendar days.) Don't accept a no or a "let's wait until the end of the school year." If you hear this, seek help from a private educational consultant.

What can we do for a bright ninth grade student who does not qualify for services but is failing most of his classes?

We have a 15-year-old that has been tested through the school system two times and all they seem to come up with is immaturity. We have consulted with a child psychologist who thought, after reviewing his prior evaluations, our son may have a problem with his executive thought process. Because of insurance issues we could not continue with the psychologist.

We have turned back to the school district. They are in the process of evaluating him again for the third time.

Our son is thoughtful, caring, and loving, and he is a self-taught percussionist. He loves to play the drums and the African djembi. He plays amazingly well! He loves to write poetry and song lyrics. I think he is quite gifted. But he can't make it in school.

He's in 9th grade and only passed English and Gym. He tries very hard and when he fails he tends to give up. He says "Mom why do I have to try so hard?" Please help us with a suggestion on what we can do for him. Where should we turn next?

Thank you,

Anne

Dear Anne: I feel for you. Your son sounds like he has difficulties. The important question is why. If he only passed English in his current grade, this means that he failed at least four other major subjects. You are correct. You do need to find out why.

Here is what I suggest: First, clarify with your school professionals what testing they plan to do. At a minimum, these studies should include an IQ test (usually the Wechsler) and a battery of educational testing. If they do not plan to do this, ask why. Second, request that you receive a copy of the results of these studies before you meet with the school to discuss them. You need to review the results with an educational consultant. It is important to learn what is going on and to rely on other inputs.

If you cannot find a consultant on your own, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America and get the name and phone number of your closest chapter. (go to www.ldaamerica.org - click on your state for the state chapter then look for information on your closest chapter).

Don't give up on your son. Best of success.

Our second-grade daughter is struggling with depression and ADHD. What do we do?

I have a 7-year-old girl who is in second grade and struggling. She was diagnosed with Adjustment Depression and ADHD last March. She was treated for depression with an SSRI and counseling. She is currently on an ADHD medication and has stopped the depression meds. The counseling was stopped this fall because her counselor could see no reason to continue.

We have struggled since she started school. She is a very strong-willed little girl who knows a lot more than what she is willing to show us or the teachers. Her work at school fluctuates from day to day. She can do the work with ease one day and then struggle the next with the same work. Her teachers are as perplexed as I am. I have tried many different things for her such as Hooked on Phonics, Sylvan, special tutoring at school, and working with her in different ways at home. The things we try seem to make an impact the first couple of weeks but then she no longer is interested in them and does not want to participate. There seems to be a battle of wills.

How do we go about finding the thing that will allow my daughter to be as bright as we know she is without traumatizing her or bringing back the depression and making things worse? Her teachers feel she should continue counseling. They are disagreeing with the diagnosis of ADHD even though we went through several hours of testing. I fear that if she is held back (which I am thinking may be next) that she will be traumatized from this and will not recover.

Her social skills are lacking. She avoids crowds and does not warm up to people like a typical 7-year-old. She would much rather play with younger kids and avoid group activities. She has no problems making new friends as long as it is just her and the other child. Could her social behavior be contributing to her academic behavior and, if so, how do we go about making changes?

Your questions and concerns are on target. You need to find out more about why your daughter is struggling. It is possible that her depression was the result of her frustrations and difficulties at school. Once some of these were addressed, her depression went away.

If you feel that you are not getting the answers you need from her school professionals, you might have to seek help from others. First, meet with the person who did the hours of testing to conclude that your daughter has ADHD. Discuss your concerns with this professional. Why is she struggling in school? Why is she inconsistent? Were there any test results that might suggest that she has a learning disability or is at risk for such a disability? Discuss the fact that her school staff do not agree with the diagnosis of ADHD and ask for help in responding to the teachers.

If these efforts do not help, seek a private special education consultant who can review all of the records and testing (by school and privately) and advise you on what is best to do.

One added thought: Many professionals within the school and private sector use a guideline for diagnosing someone as having a learning disability. They must be significantly behind expected grade level. If a student is in second grade and a year behind, he or she might be shown to have difficulties, but the degree of deficit is not great enough to use the formal term learning disabilities. Discuss this theme with both school and private professionals. Challenge them by asking, “Are you saying that I have to wait until she fails third grade before you can identify her as having a disability?”

How can I parent a 5-year-old with multiple diagnoses?

What should I do with my 5-year-old child? He has been tested and the people who did the testing told us that he has early warning signs of dyslexia, an undeveloped central nervous system, and the fine motor skills of a 2-year-old. They haven't told us what to do or how to parent such a child. He goes to an occupational therapist two times a week for the fine motor problems.

Unfortunately, he is also having severe temper tantrums at school and at home. He won't sleep by himself. He has issues going to the bathroom. If I am not home, he goes in his pants. I just want somebody to either let me know these issues are normal in kids his age or what I can do to parent a child with severe emotional outbursts all day. I am exhausted and afraid I have him in the wrong learning environment. Please give me some insight if you could.

I can appreciate your concerns and frustration. What you describe is not normal. You need to act. First, it will be important to fully understand what learning, language, and/or motor problems he has. With this information, it might be possible to find professionals to improve the areas of weakness and to advise you on ways to help him. These studies might be done by your school professionals. Since he is five, you should discuss the need for such assessments with the principal of your local public school. Or, you might have the studies done privately. Without this information, it is difficult to know how best to help your child.

How can I get an accommodation at work for my difficulty with handwriting?

I'm a 28-year-old male and am currently a head of department at a school of media and design. I suffer from a form of dysgraphia (at least I think that's what it is) in that I have terrible handwriting. I actually draw the shape of the word rather than spell it out (my spelling is terrible) and I cannot control the placement of capital and lowercase letters if I write by hand (though with a keyboard I don't have a problem).

I've recently enrolled in an advanced assessors course where all the work submitted has to be hand-written. It takes me hours to write out a single page, which is then only mostly illegible. And although each sentence starts with a capital letter, extra capitals crop up throughout the sentence.

I just wanted to know if there is a specific name or diagnosis for this so that I can plead my case.

Thanks in advance,
Guy

Guy:

You need appropriate accommodations — possibly permission to use a computer to write responses. First, you must document your motor-based writing disability. This can be done by a psychologist who does psycho-educational testing. Once documented, you are entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act to such accommodations.

Meet with the Office of Disability Services at the institution you are attending. Explain your problem. Possibly, they can arrange for such studies. If not, they can direct you to the right person to do this assessment.

What is a good reaction for a parent to have when the school wants the child tested and they are not sure it is a good idea?

Today at a parent teacher conference, my second grader's private school is suggesting psycho-educational testing due to his behavior issues in class and want us to meet with their resource teacher and principal. They report that he sometimes refuses to do work, talks out of place, and doesn't listen. In essence, he has a bit of an attitude — which, of course, we address at home through consequences for poor behavior and rewards for positive behavior. The negative behaviors were evident in kindergarten and first grade, but seem to be improving each year. I thought these improvements meant he was simply growing up.

I am concerned about their request for testing at this point. He is a straight A student with a history of excellent grades, can sit still, can focus in spite of distractions, and has a rich social life. I am worried that the school is “jumping” to test him out of frustration as he makes them work a little harder. They have not suggested that he is “gifted” and in need of more challenging work.

I suspect many school personnel push for diagnosis and medication to make their job easier, and believe many children are unnecessarily diagnosed and medicated in this country. I fear a label and a diagnosis for my son that will hurt him rather than help him. I want to tread carefully, while respecting the schools opinion. I simply want what's best for my son. I intend on having an independent evaluation — not with the professional the school recommends. What advice can you offer me?

May I start with your comment that you want what is best for your son. I also believe that his teacher and principal also want what is best for your son. This shared desire needs to be the starting point. Sit down with them and listen to their concerns. You mention that he has had similar problems since kindergarten; thus, if the school professionals are concerned again this year, something needs to be clarified. Ask questions about what they are observing in class. Share what you are seeing at home. Try to find common ground on what the current concerns are and think through with them why these concerns might exist.

I believe that behavior is a message. Our task is to find out what message your son is sending. Why does he show an attitude? Why does he sometimes refuse to do his work? Why might he talk out of place or not listen? Where are his academic skills now as compared to where they should be? Try not to be defensive. Listen. Think about their concerns. Raise your questions: “Is he gifted and bored? Are you not setting consequences for his behaviors?”

At the end of this meeting, try to plan next steps. Maybe they will try additional efforts and meet again in month. Maybe you will agree to studies to clarify why he is having difficulty. If testing is done, ask to meet again after the results are available to discuss the results and to plan any needed interventions.You and the school professionals share a concern about your son. Don’t react in frustration or misread their intentions. Do what we teach our kids. Sit down and talk.

Does my inattentive disorganized teenage son have ADHD?

My question or questions concern my son who is now 15. He has had struggles his entire tenure as a student thus far. His teachers say that he is to often off of the task at hand. He tells me he has trouble concentrating at times. Having him sit by himself is very little help in terms of him not getting distracted. I had him tested four years ago for ADD and he doesn’t seem to be a ADHD candidate because he has no problem staying still, with the exception of his concentration problems. He gets good grades at times and then it seems at testing time he fails. Teaching methods attribute to some of it, but not all.

He is very disorganized and even if I take the time to get him set-up to be organized (i.e. notes), he often gets classes mixed up. This leaves him with a result of mixed-up paperwork that needs to be deciphered for determining which notebook it goes in. The doctor who gave him the test years ago said that the results were such that he didn’t think he was ADD or ADHD and that he would probably always be a high maintenance student. He is now a freshman struggling and I cant help but feel he is slipping through the cracks. He does not cause problems, although when he is off task and tries to socialize during class, it can cause additional distraction for his teachers. Please advise on where I should go from here.

Thanks,
Harold

Your son is fortunate to have a father who cares and is concerned. Your worries are appropriate. How would a 15-year-old reflect that he might have ADHD? First, he would have difficulties with activity level, ability to attend, or with impulsivity. For adolescents, we often also find problems with organization and with time planning. You describe him as distractible and inattentive. He is also disorganized.

The second step in establishing the diagnosis of ADHD is to show that the identified behaviors have been present since early childhood (chronic) and that they occur in most life situatiions (pervasive. I believe that you describe such a chronic and pervasive pattern. Finally, you need to show that these behaviors are having a significant impact on areas of his life — home, school, peers. The answer again is yes.

Based on your description, your son seems to have ADHD. I encourage you to see a physician who is knowledgeable about ADHD. If my impression is correct and he does have ADHD, treatment will make a significant difference.

What do parents do when they don't agree about how to handle a struggling child?

I am in desperate need of help or guidance. I have a beautiful 12-year-old who has always really struggled in school. This year has been the worst academically. I don't think her Catholic school has any resources to help kids who struggle. Her SAT/reading test scores have always been low. She tends to have difficulty remembering small tasks. She runs out of time taking tests. Therefore, they are incomplete. The quality of homework is poor and sentences she writes are usually incomplete and/or misspelled. She also has difficultly meeting timeframes.

She has seen a counselor in the past and was tested for ADD/ADHD with negative results. My heart goes out to her because her self-esteem is at an all-time low and I have sat with her many nights watching her cry. She’s usually doing homework until 10:30 at night (we get home at 5:00pm) and I am usually in bed by midnight after I correct it. I write her sticky notes daily to remember to do things. I feel so helpless as a parent because she works twice as hard with poor results.

Her struggles not only occur at school, but even at home. We feel we have to follow her around to ensure she does her daily chores. It just seems that everything with her is last minute or halfway done. She is such a beautiful girl, but gets teased by other girls and does not know how to handle confrontation. On the flip side, she is extremely artistic with oil paints and art. She gets A’s in her Spanish class. She loves soccer and performs hula and she is excellent at both.

This problem has affected my marriage. My husband and I find that we don't spend enough time together because we spend so much time helping her with school homework and our marriage has taken it's toll. I feel as if we are doing her homework for her. I am just so perplexed with my daughter. There are times that she seems so confident with school, then fails every test there are other times where she goes above and beyond what is expected. We have spent hundreds of dollars on a tutor and want to get her in touch with a counselor.

My husband is at a point where he thinks she is just hitting puberty and that she is very lazy. He says when things don't go well she just quits. I disagree with her being lazy and feel as a parent, I need to be able to help her or get help for myself to help her. I always tell her, “I will not quit on you and you shouldn't, either.” She has told me that I didn't think she would ever make it to college. That broke my heart because I think the stress of this has taken it's toll and my actions are very negative. Any advice you can give to a mom who is willing to do whatever it takes to help her child is greatly appreciated.

Mrs. Mitchell

Please, Mr. And Mrs Mitchell, sit down together and read my response to your question. When our children have problems, the easiest first reply is to our frustration is to look for someone to blame — the kid, teachers, the school, your spouse. “She is just lazy…not motivated…too dependent on mom.” I understand this reaction. Your child is frustrated and having difficulty with life and school. You love your child and share this frustration.

You have a beautiful 12-year-old daughter who is probably as miserable as you two are. She does not understand why she has problems any more than you do. She needs help and this help must come from both of you. You cannot afford to waste energy struggling with each other about what to do. You must unite and focus your energy on helping your daughter.

I don’t know if she has ADHD or a learning disability or both, but your descriptions suggest both. Your first steps must focus on clarify if she has one or both of these problems. Only then can you focus your energy on making sure that she gets the necessary help. The issue is not why mother has to spend so much time helping your daughter, making father upset. The issue is why your daughter is having so much difficulty that she needs someone to read with her, think through what she has to write, or help her organize herself and her materials. No, it is not puberty. She has had these problems for a long time.

She must be evaluated for a possible learning disability. She shows possible problems with reading comprehension and definite suggestions of problems with spelling and possibly with other writing skills. She might have problems organizing her thoughts when she writes. She also shows problems with organization and with time planning. This evaluation is done through formal psychological and educational testing. Your daughter is in a private school; however, as tax payers, you are entitled to such studies through your public school. Discuss how to make this request with the Head of her private school. The test results will clarify if she has a learning disability and, if she does, what help and accommodations she will need.

I do not read any suggestion of possible ADHD. I would do the testing first. Should the results suggest ADHD, she would be evaluated for this later. Again, the most important thing both mom and dad share is your love for your daughter. This love must unite you to focus on your daughter’s pain and how to help her. There is no time to waste energy blaming each other.

God bless and good luck.

What is the relationship between Auditory Processing Disorder and ADD?

My fourteen-year-old son has ADD and APD. He’s currently on medication, but does not seem to help. Could the APD keep the medication from working?

Gina

Gina,

The Auditory Processing Disorder will not interfere with the medications used for ADHD (ADD). The question is whether what is seen as inattention is truly ADHD (ADD) or a reflection of his Auditory Processing Disorder. If it is the latter, medication will not help. Speech-language therapy will.

What can you do about programs that say they help LD, but lack evidence that they succeed?

I am concerned about programs like Brain Gym and Bal-A-Vis-X, which claim to be beneficial for children with learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioral disorders, and a whole host of other problems. These programs are being implemented in schools without a shred of controlled research to document such claims. Can anything be done to stop them?

I share your concern. The definition of a “controversial therapy” is either that: (1) there is no evidence to support the concept; (2) there is clear evidence to show that the concept does not work; or, (3) the concept is being used for financial gain before there is research to validate that the concept is correct. I believe that the programs you refer to fit definitions 1 and 3.

The problem is that if a parent has a child with a disability, he or she is vulnerable to anyone who says they can help or fix their child. Such parents are at risk for spending time and money and for putting their child through programs that will not accomplish what is stated. The organizations will not change. The best hope is to educate parents and to remind them, “the buyer beware.”

How can I help an ADHD child with "sluggish cognitive tempo?"

After extensive testing by various places, my son has been diagnosed by a psychologist with ADHD-PI and sluggish cognitive tempo. He has just started taking band and playing the flute. Band is held at the end of the day when the other students have a study hall. As expected, he is having difficulty finishing tasks and tests in class.

The teachers want me to withdraw him from band to give him extra time to finish these things. He wants to continue band. He does not have an IEP yet. I am waiting for the written report from the psychologist to schedule an appointment with the counselor. The school tells me that with ADHD he does not qualify for additional resources.

Is sluggish cognitive tempo considered a learning disability? Will the diagnosis qualify him for additional resources, such as a resource teacher or just an IEP? Should I withdraw him from band and make him concentrate on academics or should I insist that the school make other accommodations to allow him to finish his unfinished assignments?

It appears that the school has done formal testing, called psycho-educational testing. These data should clarify why he has “sluggish cognitive tempo.” The most frequent causes are weaknesses in what is called processing speed or in what is called working memory. If these are the reasons, targeted special education tutoring should help.

You are correct — ADHD is not a disability under education law, thus, an IEP will not be done. ADHD can be considered under what is called a “504 Plan” and would include some assistance, such as the study hall.

Your options: You might let him stay in the band and provide a private special education tutor to work on his areas of difficulty. If formal psycho-educational testing has not been done, you might request that the school do these studies (or have them done privately).

What should a parent do with an ADHD first grader who hates school?

I have a six-year old son who was diagnosed with ADHD. He started first grade this year and we have hit a wall. He has told me that he hates school and he is very reluctant to let me go in the mornings. He is a very active child and has a very volatile temper. What can I do to help ease him into the new routine of first grade?

If your son has ADHD, is he being treated for this disorder? Without treatment, he might be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive in school. Since about 50 percent of children with ADHD also have learning disabilities, it will be important that you request that he be evaluated for this possibility.

Maybe his behaviors are due to frustration. Discuss your concerns with the principal. Ask for a meeting to discuss how to help your son. At this meeting, request that further studies be done. His behaviors are a loud red flag that he is hurting. You must find out why. Is it untreated ADHD? Is it unrecognized LD? Or, is it something else?

What do you do when a child just gives up?

I have a question about how to handle my son's attitude. He is a very caring boy with a big self esteem problem. He only puts out half effort in school and in sports, due to deciding ahead of time that he does not fit in or can not do it. I need a positive way of handling this with him, knowing he has consequences of his actions. He has a learning disorder in language arts and ADHD. I'm not sure of what help to give him. I just hate to see him falling in a depression.

You must clarify why your son is so discouraged that he appears to have given up. If he has ADHD and a learning disability and if he has not been fully treated for one or both of these serious disabilities, the behaviors and attitudes you see may be a result of his feelings of frustration and failure. His poor self-image and low self-esteem concern me as well.

First, meet with the professionals who are working on his ADHD and LD and explore if each is fully addressed. If not, implement the needed help. Also, have him evaluated by a mental health professional who understands ADHD and LD. Act quickly before you lose him.

How do you get the school to help a teenager who is acting out?

My son is 15. He was diagnosed ADHD & Dyslexic in the fourth grade. My biggest problem is that I feel like the schools are against me. We didn't get any help until junior high. By that time, my son was so frustrated that he began to act out. I am currently trying to learn the steps to take to fight the schools to get the help he needs and deserves.

Should he be tested again to see if anything has changed? Or does the diagnosis just remain the same? We had outside testing done. Otherwise, I would not even be asking because unfortunately, I don't have much trust in the school system. I believe that they try to give out the least amount of help as possible. This web site has been a wonderful source of education for me. My biggest fear is that I will have a son that quits school because he gets frustrated just like I did when I was young.

Thank you for answering all of these questions for all of the people that have the same issues as mine, but some in different areas. Please just remind people that they are their children's voice and that they need to help them.

Kelly

I share your anger that your school system did nothing until he was frustrated and acting out. You need to do two things as a first step. Act now before he does give up. First, go to your family doctor and ask that a report be written confirming the diagnosis of ADHD. Then, send a written request to the principal of his school, requesting a meeting to discuss the need for updated testing and the probable need for an IEP.

If you put this request in writing, the principal must respond by calling such a meeting. If ignored, contact your Superintendent of School and complain. I would encourage you to take your own educational consultant to this meeting. You and your son have rights. Sometimes you have to remind the school system that this is true. Good luck.

Can a teacher place a child in a resource room?

I am a self-contained special education teacher in New Jersey. I would like to know if I can place my students in a resource room setting for subjects such as reading or math. In other words, I might teach this student reading, language, spelling, science and social studies and he might go to the resource room for math. Is this legal?

You must request a meeting of the special education team. In New Jersey, this is known as the Child Study Team. This is the group of professionals who will reflect on your concerns and answer your questions.

How does a parent handle a child who misbehaves in school but is well behaved and happy at home?

My eight-year-old son has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. He has been taking his medication but still has bouts of behavioral problems. He has also been evaluated with learning disabilities although over the past three years the evaluations have not been consistent.

He has learned to manipulate to get out of situations he does not want to be in. For example, throwing temper tantrums worse each time to get sent home from school. As soon as he walks out of the school, he is a totally different child - well behaved and happy. How can I tell when his behavior is manipulative and when it is due to his anxiety?

It is important to differentiate the cause of the behaviors; however, the interventions are the same. I would suggest that the first step focus on why school is stressful. If he has learning disabilities, these should be clear on formal and current testing. You should not have to suspect. If your school system is minimizing or avoiding recognizing LD or treating the LD, seek outside help. If the cause of the behaviors is the frustrations and failures caused by his LD, an important focus will be to provide the necessary remedial interventions plus classroom accommodations.

Next, I would try to clarify the anxiety and depression. Are these problems only present during school time but not seen on holidays or summer? Are they present all year long? Has he had problems with anxiety or depression for many years or is it only recent? You might need the help of a mental health professional to clarify if the anxiety is secondary to the academic frustrations or are the cause of the academic difficulties.

Your son is yelling for help. He is desperate enough to act out in order to get out of school. Please act quickly to figure out the reasons and the best interventions. (first, does he have LD; is he below grade level in skills; second, are there other reasons than school to explain his behaviors.)

What should be done for an underemployed adult with a learning disability?

In second grade, my son was held over and got his first private Ed Evaluation at SUNY, which diagnosed him as dyslexic. He had a resource room and vision training at SUNY. His behavior and verbal ability was better than average, but his reading and math especially continued to plummet as the work advanced. He struggled through an alternative high school, attended N.Y. Film Academy and excelled. He did internships for a few years which did not lead to steady employment.

His academic struggles have negatively impacted his life. Currently, he is a substitute paraprofessional in the day and a substitute janitor for the Board of Education of New York. He loves children and would love to teach; he has 15 credits from KCC, but failed the CUNY Assessments in Math and English. He has friends and socializes, but it's hard to get into a serious relationship when you cannot realize your full career potential because you don't have the tools to succeed in college.

He is now 27 years old and, unless something changes for him, he'll have to settle for a mediocre "job." Even civil service tests are a challenge for him. He scored a 70% on a Transit Authority Painters Test. Help! The system has failed him and countless others.

Yes, the system has failed him. I agree that something must be done now. Find a professional who understands LD in adults. An updated assessment will help to clarify if specific interventions might help at this time as well as whether better compensatory strategies can be developed. This assessment will also help to clarify what career/job potentials he might have and what types of training might be needed.

There are programs to help adults like your son and laws (American's with Disabilities Act) to help in the work situation. Perhaps you could contact the programs that assessed him as a teen and find out where you could go to get help for an adult with LD.

How can I help my daughter who has lost all of her former friends?

My daughter has lost all of her good friends. She claims it is them and not her, yet I am not so sure. Do I step in and call her friends to see what is wrong, or do I ignore this and hope that she will get some new friends? She is ADD and OCD and is a smart, beautiful young lady who has zero confidence in herself and always sees faults with everyone else.

Tracee

You note several possible reasons why your daughter might not have successful social interaction skills. Her ADD, OCD, and lack of confidence might be the issues. Start with the school counselor. Ask that he/she observe your daughter and speak with her teachers. See what you can learn. Observe her when she is with other kids and try to clarify why these kids react the way they do.

If she has ADD and OCD, she is probably under the care of one or more professionals. Seek their thoughts on the problem. She might need to be in a social skills group therapy or in another program that helps her understand her behaviors and how they impact on others.

What's wrong with a child who throws tantrums, refuses to listen, and can't concentrate?

I am worried about my five-year-old grandson. He refuses to listen, has trouble concentrating, throws tantrums, and asks the same question over and over. He is very bright, cute, funny, imaginative and loves to be the center of attention. He doesn't sit still if there is external stimuli. I literally can't take my eyes off of him. He doesn't know boundaries. He doesn't sit to eat a meal. The doors have to be locked from the inside, he may decide to visit the neighbor or go on a journey. Two years ago, I thought it was a phase, but it is getting worse. It's as if he has no control.

Please help!

Jackie

The behaviors you describe suggest a possible Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Have your grandson's parents explored this possibility with their family physician? If not, you might suggest that they do. If they are resistant, ask them to learn more about this disorder. Have them check the ADHD Basics section of LD Online, ADDITUDE and CHADD.

My child went on ADHD medication and is now depressed. What now?

My daughter, who is now 7 years old, has been diagnosed with ADHD, Dyslexia, Motor Function delays and Executive Function disorder. This diagnosis came after about four months of testing and evaluation. The ADHD diagnosis came as a surprise, not just to us, but to her teachers and specialists as well. They just didn't see it.

The plan of action included continuation with what we are already doing and medication. We tried the medication and were told we would see an immediate change. The medication did nothing other than make her depressed. She is known for her sweet personality so the change was obvious. We tried other meds with the same result.

I am wondering if she has been misdiagnosed. She is now reading and writing through the help of a specialist as well as at home. She is also doing well with math. She is still struggling with her ability to stay focused and follow directions (ie. if I ask her to face me she will turn around with her back to me). At this point in her treatment, do you have any advice as to what I can do next? Thank you, in advance, for you time and consideration.

I would trust your observations and judgment. It is possible that her inattention is the result of her learning, motor, (and probably language) disabilities. If so, medication may not help; remedial tutoring, OT, Speech-Language will help. I suggest that you hold off on trying medication and give the interventions a chance to help. If the professionals working with her feel that her inattention is a major concern, you might want to have her reassessed by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist to explore why the medications did not work and to find if other interventions might help.

How can you get the school system to help a child who is doing well now, but needs intervention to prevent failure next year?

My son is 10 years old and soon to start the fifth grade. In early 2007, he was diagnosed with mild learning disabilities, specifically with a phonemic awareness deficit and short-term memory deficit. It was also suggested that he perhaps has some trouble with CAP, but that no one in this area does this type of testing. His public school can do nothing for him because his intelligence was at a low-average to average level and compared to his academic output, there was not a significant gap between the two.

He makes a few A's, mostly B's and some C's. He loves to learn new things about the world; however, he is increasingly frustrated with the demands of higher elementary school. He is doing as well as he is in school because I work with him so much after school. His teachers try to help in the class as much as they can, but with almost 30 kids, it is impossible. I am concerned that he requires so much help now and wonder how we will get through middle school next year when the teachers won't be so helpful.

I am returning to school to finish my master's degree and will not be available to help him as much. His counselor said we might need to retest him in middle school if his problems become worse because by then, he might be more than a few grade levels behind instead of the one he is now. He would then most likely qualify for special education and an IEP.

It doesn't end here...my son also was born with congenital heart defects and almost lost his life this past year due to his heart issues. However, with everyone's preserverance, he has recovered wonderfully. The point is, my son wants to lead a full life, but that full life may be shortened unfortunately by his medical condition. I can't let him get two or more levels behind. He wants to go to college and do so much more.

Is there anything else that I should be doing? What else can I do to help him? Anyone else I should contact? Any tips on how to help him be a successful reader, speller and writer? Why must my son get two or more grades behind before anyone will help him? It frustrates me and disgusts me to no end that our schools are failing the kids that need them the most.

Anyone can teach a bunch of straight A students. You know, the ones that don't even need a teacher and would do fine on their own. To be a true teacher they must be able to connect with and teach our kids who are having trouble in school; that is the true art and science of teaching. The trouble is finding one of those rare teachers.

Thank You,
Tina

Your son is lucky to have you as his mother. You have been there to help and you are not ready to accept what the school is saying. It sounds as if the school is saying that only if you stop helping him so much at home and you let him fail, will he be eligible for help.

Public schools often use a "wait to fail" model for providing help. "Your son has to be two standard deviations behind before he is eligible for services." This is wrong, but it is not uncommon to be used to avoid services. If you can afford to do it financially, seek a comprehensive private evaluation. Get another opinion on where he is and what he needs. (If you cannot afford to do this, seek out a private educational consultant to review the school evaluations and to advise you.) Start an appeal process and use good consultants to help you fight.

You need to be an informed and assertive advocate for your son. Seek help from a private consultant to help you do this. (Ask friends who they have used. Or, go to the website of Learning Disabilities Association of America, then click on your state, which is on the left side of the site. Find out the name of the State chapter of this organization. Contact them and ask for names of advocates in your areas.

Good luck and don't give up.

What are some symptoms of language-based learning disabilities?

My seven-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder over a year ago and had great difficulty with reading and writing. We took her to a Speech Therapist and Tutoring to learn Phonics. She has shown tremendous improvement and is reading and writing pretty well and almost at grade level.

I have noticed that she still has difficulty during reading and writing with mixing up b & d as well as m & n. She also continually starts writing sentences in the middle of the page, writes really big at the beginning of a sentence and toward the end of the page the letters get smaller and smaller. Two months ago when re-tested, her Auditory Processing skills were improved to a normal level.

What do you make of the writing problem, it is constant and her teachers and I have to work with her one on one to ensure she starts each row on the left side. Could this be a form of dyslexia? What kind of specialist tests for something like this? Please help. Thank you very much.

Your daughter has a language-based learning disability. This means that she has difficulty using phonics when she reads and writes. Often, children with these problems also have difficulties in visual and motor skills as well. They have all of the problems with writing that you note. The label does not change. But, there is a need to expand the help beyond phonics-based tutoring. Speak with the person/team working with your daughter for advise on what more to do.

How can I help my child who is well-adjusted socially in school, yet not doing well academically?

Our fourth grade daughter is dyslexic. She was diagnosed in second grade. She attends a private, independent school where she has attended since Kindergarten. She is happy and loves her school, which has a reputation for academic excellence. We pay for additional tutoring every day by an aid. She is progressing, but she is definitely not in many academic areas on the same level as her class mates.

She will attend there next year in the fifth grade. We have been told that as a consequence of her poor writing skills (due to her dyslexia) that this school will not want her in the sixth grade, even though they go through to the eighth grade. Our question is, do children do better mainstreamed in the arena where they are happy and have their social structure and their friends, or in another school. We would like our daughter to remain at this school. Thanks for your consideration.

Elizabeth

From your comments, I am concerned that this private, independent school is not equipped to provide the necessary special education tutoring and accommodations. Special education tutoring requires a very skilled person who has been trained to work with students who have learning disabilities. It is not done by an aide who probably just goes over again what was done in class.

I would go back to the person who tested her in second grade. Ask for an update, showing where she is now. Use these results to identify the type of special education services she needs. It may be that this school cannot provide what is needed. Please do not wait until the end of eighth. She will be so much further behind if something is not done now.

What should a teacher do with a defiant child?

I have an LD student who is oppositionally defiant. Academically, he is quite capable of doing his grade level curriculum other than reading. The problem is motivating him. I have created a separate Behavior Intervention Plan for his behavior, but this particular student just does not care what he does or what rewards or consequences are attached to his plan. He ends up spending way too much time in "time out" not learning anything other than his General Ed teacher gives him strikes to place him in "time out" and out of her classroom.

In the student interview, he told me nothing motivates him, he hates school, doesn't need school, won't do his work no matter what, and wants me, his special education teacher, to leave him alone. Any suggestions before he ends up suspended from school as a third grade student? Anything you can suggest will be helpful. Thank you in advance.

Regina

After 40 plus years of practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I have yet to meet an eight-year-old who did not want to please his parents and teachers. Most kids hate school if they cannot perform at the level required. The question is not why he is not motivated. The question is what is keeping him from being successful. The oppositional behaviors and avoidance are his way of not doing tasks that either are too hard or that he is unable to do.

Don't join with the teachers and "blame the victim." Request formal testing to clarify why he is having difficulty. For more on diagnosis, see the LD OnLine section of Evaluation/LD Testing and my article What Do You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability.

Is it dyslexia when our three-year old can't identify letters and numbers?

Greetings Dr. Silver,

While our three-year-old seems age appropriately advanced in all other areas, she cannot identify letters/numbers. For example, we have been reviewing the five letters for days now and she cannot accurately identify more than two consistently. We have used flash cards, hand writing them, utilized her favorite books, etc. to no avail. Should we be doing anything at this stage? We are concerned about dyslexia or some other LD we are not familiar with. Many thanks!

It is not uncommon for three year olds to not recognize letters and numbers. I suggest that you hold off on these exercises for now and just have fun with her. If you have other reasons for being worried about her having dyslexia, speak with your family physician about having her assessed.

Is it necessary for a psychiatrist to contact the parents of an adult to make a diagnosis of learning disabilities?

I was seeing a psychologist, and he recommended that I have an Adult ADHD assessment with a psychiatrist. I met with a psychiatrist, and after an hour-long session of explaining my "symptoms," he thought I should continue with testing. He also asked to speak with my mom regarding my childhood behavior. While this is understandable, given the relationship with my mom, I said that I was not comfortable with that. He said that instead I could give him a few of my report cards, which I did. I was then given two tests, one that was for attention testing and one was more of a personality/behavioral profile.

At the end, the psychiatrist (who was very rude and condescending) told me that the report cards did not have enough comments written on them, so he could not make a diagnosis without talking to my mom. He never gave me the results of the tests, except to say "one test did show some attention problems." He did not discuss any options for help with me (behavior modification, counseling, etc.)

I am so frustrated! When the psychologist first mentioned ADD and I read up on it, I felt like something clicked, and I felt like there was an explanation for the rapid-fire of thoughts that goes through my brain sometimes! I thought I was going to get help, but now I just have a big bill, and I don't know where to turn.

I'm 28 years old - can a general physician or someone else help me, without consulting my mom? I understand the need to establish ADHD behaviors in childhood, but the relationship I have with my parents just does not make this an option. Do you have any recommendations of how I could still get help?

I cannot explain or justify the actions of the psychiatrist. To make the diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to show that the behaviors present as an adult (hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity) are chronic and pervasive. Chronic means that they existed before age seven. If the patient is comfortable with the suggestion, the psychiatrist might speak with a parent to confirm that the problems are chronic. Teacher comments from elementary school might help. However, if you did not want your mother to be contacted, some other way of confirming the chronic nature could have been tried. The psychiatrist might have had to rely on your memory. "I remember being like this in grade school or middle school."

Don't let the doctor-patient style of this psychiatrist prevent you from getting help. Yes, you can speak to your family doctor. Or, you could seek another psychiatrist. Often a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (who also sees adults) is the best option since he or she would be very familiar with ADHD.

What does the diagnosis "globally delayed" mean?

A friend has a four-year-old who is very behind in his learning. She recently had him tested and was told he was globally delayed. Speech was at nine months, large motor skills at 18 months. Where can I find out more information on what is meant by globally delayed. Her support base of friends would like to better understand so that we can help any way we can.

Globally delayed is a general term used when the developmental delays found involve more than one major area. Examples might be cognitive, language, motor, psycho-social, and interactional.

If your child does the work when he chooses to do so, might they still need special education?

I have a six-year-old ADHD son with a learning disability. At school he does not complete the work as he knows how to do, thus making it look like he does not understand the work or is further behind. If he is given the right reward, he will do it. Otherwise, he does not. The IEP team wants to move him to a special education class because they feel he can't do what is expected of him. He can do it when he chooses to do it. Can you offer any help or advice?

The key question is your observation, "He can do it when he chooses to do it." Think about what you do with him. Does he do the work when you insist or does he do the work when you sit down first and make sure he understands what to do? What role do you play with him to be sure that he "does the work"? You might be helping by compensating for any problems. In general, with a first grader, I would encourage you to listen to the IEP team. They are basing their suggestions on formal testing plus hours of classroom observations and efforts.

If a nine-year-old suddenly starts having trouble focusing in school, is it ADHD?

My gifted nine-year-old, who is an advanced reader, writes and illustrates stories, finds patterns and relationships in math problems, and likes to have theological discussions, has suddenly started having extreme difficulty focusing in school. For example, his teacher often saw him staring off into space for long periods of time during standardized testing and his gifted teacher said that on a recent assignment he wrote only 12 words in one hour without one complete sentence!

He still has all A's in classes except for Science, in which he has a low D. Lately, the Science assignments have been done on your own during center time while the teacher helps small reading groups. The gifted teacher has mentioned the possibility of ADD since this seems to go beyond occasional daydreaming and reminding him to focus really isn't cutting it.

Do I ask the school to test him? Do I take him to our pediatrician or ask that his office's psychologist test our son in some way? Should I go first to an eye doctor since he recently mentioned seeing double at times? Where do we start? I would like to look into this before he goes into fourth grade next year (known to be harder and faster paced).

ADHD is a neurologically-based disorder. Key to making the diagnosis is to establish a chronic and a pervasive history of the behaviors noted. That is, if inattentive, there needs to be evidence of inattention/distractibility since preschool or kindergarten. And, these behaviors should be noted in most situations (home, school, with friends, on vacation , etc). If the problem of focusing "suddenly started" at age nine and seem to be related only to "difficulty focusing in school," other possibilities need to be considered.

I would start by meeting with his teachers and other school professionals to explore what might be the cause. Ask that someone come to the class and do observations to clarify when this problem is present and to explore for possible causes. Don't rush to have further studies done until you have more observational data.

What can an ADHD teenager do who feels like their parents see only the bad things they do?

I am 14 years old and I have ADHD. I have had it all my life but it only started to become a real problem in 8th grade. I started to slack off and my grades dropped. I knew it was because I was not paying enough attention in class, but I can't help it. So my parents just made my suffering worse by making threats. I was not going to go back to my school if my grades didn't improve, or I was going to go to military school and never see my friends again. It just all made me feel worse.

My parents just emphasize all the bad things that I do and just make me feel like I want to die or something. They have no idea that I feel this way. The only person that does know is a trusted teacher. I am not sure how to cope with all the built up sadness and anger towards myself for not being the perfect child that my parents seem to want me to be.

I have a younger brother with mental disabilities and all their attention seems to be on him and less on me. I feel like they don't even notice the little good I do. They only seem to see the bad that I do.

Nikki

You are struggling and I am glad you are trying to get help. You mention several problems: (1) You are struggling in eighth grade: (2) your parents appear to be responding with punishment and criticism rather than responding by trying to figure out why you are having difficult; (3) your brother sometimes gets most of your parent’s attention; and, no one appears to realize how much you are hurting emotionally. I am glad you are seeking help. You are fortunate to have a trusted teacher.

You need help from people at school to work with you and with your parents. Start with that trusted teacher. Maybe show this teacher my comments. The two of you might know a school counselor or special education teacher who could be asked to help.

First, many students with ADHD also have problems with organization and with what is called executive function. They have problems organizing their materials (notebooks, papers, reports, homework) and they have equal problems organizing the information in their head. They might read well but not remember what they have read. They might know a lot but have difficulty organizing this information in order to write and answer to a question or to write a report or paper. If this sounds like you, further educational studies might clarify your problems and then clarify how to help.

Second, ask this teacher to go with you to the school counselor to discuss how best to bring your parents on board in an effort to help you rather than to make you upset and angry.

Can LD be unrecognized until a student goes to college?

Is it possible for a learning disability to go unrecognized until a student first enters college? I struggled intensely my freshman year of college to keep up with the readings and writing papers. It is difficult for me because the vocabulary I tried to develop over the course of high school seems like it has left me. I used to memorize vocabulary words and use the thesaurus a lot in high school to help me but it seems like new and complex vocabulary words don't stick.

I am also a very slow reader and the ideas and concepts I'm trying to understand are difficult to remember after reading. It seems as though I can't quickly process the information. I end up highlighting passages like crazy and going back to re-read them again and again. It makes it difficult to remember what was read and summarize it.

It is also difficult for me to do mental math which limits my computational skills. All of these struggles actually led me to become so frustrated that I attempted suicide. I am now in recovery for depression and anxiety but still wonder if all of my academic problems are directly related to depression only.

Most people are telling me that since I was never diagnosed with any disability earlier in life, it would be impossible for me to have one. But I definitely remember struggling in high school to keep up with my peers. School was pretty much my life. Are there any tests which could be done to investigate this further?

I am sorry to hear of your problems. First, may I comment on your emotional difficulties. Anxiety and depression might be the result of adjusting to college or to the frustrations resulting from poor academic performance. However, more often, they are the current expression, maybe more intense, of a chronic problem. That is, I suspect that you have had periods of anxiety or depression since childhood. It is critical that you continue psychological help beyond getting through the acute phase.

Yes, it is possible to have learning disabilities and not be recognized until college. There are several possible reasons. Perhaps a parent or both parents provided much support with homework and projects during school, covering up any areas of difficulty. You might have gone to a school that cared enough to adapt their teaching to fit your abilities to perform or that provided much support and assistance during school. You graduated with a sense of competence that might not have been there.

What ever the reasons, meet with someone in your college's Office of Disability Services. Arrange to receive the necessary testing to either document your learning disabilities or to clarify other possible problems. Based on these findings, seek appropriate help plus accommodations.

Note from LD OnLine: For more on diagnosis, see What Do You Do If You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability. For more on the social and emotional problems, see Social and Emotional Problems Related to Dyslexia. Good luck.

How can a first year special education teacher learn more about how to document special education services?

This is my first year as a special education teacher. I am finding the paper work overwhelming and frustrating. I am so busy with the paperwork I have little time to work with my students, my classroom aide does most of the one-on-one. There is so much more to special education than even I knew as a five year classroom aide.

How do I understand the results of diagnostic testing? And after I understand the test, what does that tell me about what to actually do with the child? I did not have any training in how to give or even understand the results of any testing.

At the moment, I am trying to understand the WISC III and Woodcock Johnson Test of Achievement results for a student who appears borderline. How can I understand it so if I can show that he needs special education services with my documentation ? Is there a book or something you could suggest that will help me in the future?

I cannot help with the overload of paperwork. This is a common complaint by special education professionals. The problem is that your school system must now document everything (time spent, materials used, base line, progress markers, plus IEPs).

Let's think about your second question. You probably have a non-categorical degree in special education. Thus, you may not have had training in diagnostic testing and how to use the results to develop an intervention strategy. I agree that it is essential that you learn this. There might be books that you can read. I am not familiar with this literature.

Options. Do you know any other professional within your school system who knows how to do this? If so, see if he/she might suggest readings or help you learn. Second, check with the nearest University that has a Department of Education that offers a degree in special education. Find out who on faculty might be able to help you.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit our Tech Expert section to see Dr. Tracy Gray's response to the same question.

When is the earliest that a child should be assessed for a learning disability?

I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old son. I have recently been through two assessments with a pediatrician. One says says he has learning difficulties and the other says he comes somewhere under the Austism Spectrum Disorder. I think there is a possibility of dyslexia. Could you advise me what the minimum age of a child is to assess for dyslexia?

Marisa

The earliest clues of a possible learning disability might be noticed in preschool. Formal testing often is not done until first grade.

Why would a child diagnosed with ADHD have trouble retaining letter sounds?

My 7-year-old son has ADHD and an IEP in class at his school. He is very good in math, but when it comes too letter sounds, he cannot retain them so he can't read or write. How do I, as his mom, help him too remember from one day to the next? And why is it he can retain all the things to do with math and not reading? I am confused?

Vickie

About 50 percent of children with ADHD also have Learning Disabilities. Your son sounds like this might be true for him. If not yet done, a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation will clarify why he is having difficulties and clarify how best to help him.

How can I help my preschool son with a complicated diagnosis?

My four-year-old son is considered twice exceptional. Academically, he is above age appropriate (reading at a third grade level) and shows a great interest in math (addition and subtraction). Socially, he has no trouble making friends but not great at keeping them. He is impulsive in his actions, which makes most children shy away from him.

He has a medical history of open heart surgery and was hospitalized for ten weeks at birth. He was recently diagnosed with ADHD, but his pediatrician and cardiologist disagree with this diagnosis. We struggle to find the right academic setting for him (his two previous schools say they are not for him and that he needs more structure and academic). It has also been suggested that we check him for Sensory Integration Dysfunction, which we are in the process of researching. Resources are available for LD and for gifted, but we struggle to find someone that can help us with both issues. Any suggestions?

Andrea

Your description of your four-year-old son is complex. I recommend that you meet with the preschool evaluation service of your neighborhood public school. Every public school system must have an age three to five assessment team. These professionals should help to clarify what is happening.

My third grade daughter struggles to read. What should we do?

My daughter is in third grade now and still struggles to read at an early first grade level. Her cognitive skills are fine. If I read the work to her from school, she can answer the questions. Reading for her is a new struggle every day. It seems like she will recognize a word one minute and the next, have no idea what it is.

She struggles with school at all reading-based subjects. She is getting learning assistance, but her progress is extremely slow. Her self esteem is starting to suffer and she is beginning to refer to herself as stupid. I am so worried about her state of mind as she sits in class with children who can do the work and she simply can't read the words.

She is very gifted in drawing and is very perceptive in understanding emotions, she is simply unable to read. I have told the school I believe her to be dyslexic, but there is little information available as to practical solutions to help her learn and be diagnosed. Where can I get affordable help for her? What techniques can I use to help her? How can I get a diagnosis?

Kerry

Your daughter certainly sounds as if she has a learning disability. Only formal testing will clarify if this is correct and, if so, what to do. Unfortunately, many school systems will not test a child until they are significantly behind. This often means that they must have completed third grade and still be at first or second grade level with skills. I see this as a wait to fail model. Push harder for the school to do the testing. Maybe you could get a parent advocate to help you with this effort.

If you cannot find someone, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Click on your state. Contact this state chapter of this organization to get possible names.)

If my third grade son continues to be frustrated trying to read, should the school do more?

My son was diagnosed at the end of first grade with short term memory problems and some phonics problems after falling behind in reading. His school is working hard with him, but it is a struggle at home to get him to read.

As soon as we say its time to read for a few minutes he is annoyed (he is now in the third grade) and gets quickly frustrated even with our help. He also seems to start to yawn soon after starting to read, even though he goes to bed at 8:00 p.m. and gets up at 7:00 a.m.) We let him pick what he wants to read and take breaks, but it is still a struggle. Are there issues we and the school could have missed and are there any suggestions on how to make reading less of a struggle?

If your child is in the third grade and continues to have problems with reading, despite what the school is doing, I would be worried. First, clarify what the school is really doing. You might find that he gets 30 minutes once or twice a week in a small group or that the interventions are not appropriate.

Yes, I would push to get him tested. Start by requesting a meeting of the special education team at your school along with the principal. Express your concerns and note that whatever is being done is not adequate. Request formal studies to clarify why he is not making progress. Please persist. Your son needs you to do this.

Can our daughter be both gifted and learning disabled at the same time?

My daughter is in a Gifted and Talented program in our school corporation and is in the fourth grade. Since starting the program last year, we (along with her teachers) have noted a difficulty in spelling. She excels in everything, except reading aloud, retaining what she reads and spelling. Her state tests came back and confirmed she belongs in the gifted program. All her scores were well above average, especially Math. Her spelling score was in the 39th percentile, still in the average range but on the low end. It has also been noted, whenever she works on her own in class, she is not able to sit still (she rocks or shifts back and forth) and has even been seen to flex her hands so bad she is not able to type on a computer, hold a pencil or even write.

Whenever we look over our daughter's work, we have to ask her for clarification on several of her words because her words are not spelled anywhere close phonetically. Her teacher suggested that an evaluation be done to determine what kind of learning disability our daughter has. This teacher has been working with the gifted program for over ten years so we feel very confident in her opinion of the situation. We were told testing would not be granted because she does not have the scores or classroom grades to support her difficulties.

How is it that our daughter can read through her entire state tests, score well above average, do well in all her subjects and not be able to spell or restate what she just read? Is this a simple case of needing to learn phonics or could there be a disability that needs diagnosed? Your help and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Meredith

Meredith,

I strongly support her teacher's suggestion that an evaluation be done to clarify why she is having these difficulties. You can be bright and gifted and still have learning disabilities. In my mind, contradictions are clues. The testing should help to clarify the reasons for her difficulties. If, with the support of this teacher, you still cannot get your school system to do formal testing, you might have to seek a private professional to do these studies.

Could the long hours it has taken me to do well at my studies be due to an undiagnosed learning disability?

Throughout school, I have always tried to be a good student and would constantly put in a tremendous amount of effort to keep up with the material of my classes. I'm 20 years old and recently had to withdraw from my classes at University of Wisconsin-Madison due to my frustration with school. I've been put on medication for depression and General Anxiety Disorder although I'm not certain it is helping.

Ever since this has happened, I've been re-examining my past as a student from grade school all the way to high school. I would get good grades but I would have to put in many extra hours to keep up. It seems like I would memorize the information required of me through constant repetition, take the test on the information from the class, and then forget all the material after. I could never remember details from books and would constantly have to highlight almost every sentence and then return to it through repetition until what was read was ready to be spit back out on an exam.

My social life suffered because I always seemed to be studying and never found very much time to discover what actually interested me in life because my nose was hidden in a book.

Here are some of the problems I'm discovering about myself: inability to do mental math; difficulty understanding percentages, decimals, fractions, measuring, and financing; difficulty remembering numbers; difficulty retaining information that I've read; difficulty concentrating in a noisy environment; inability to understand abstract concepts; poor vocabulary; difficulty with writing and expression; difficulty reading maps and poor sense of direction; difficulty trying to navigate and remember directions/street signs while driving; and the list goes on. Is it possible that I may have an undiagnosed learning disability?

Emily Whitlock

Emily,

Yes, yes, yes. Sadly, you describe someone (yourself) who has had to struggle with unrecognized and untreated learning disabilities. Find a way to be evaluated. Then, find out how to get help. Should you return to college, these studies will open the door for better services and accommodations. Don't give up. Find out what the problem is and act.

Would it help to have a 7 year old with LD repeat second grade so they can mature and become a better reader?

My son and daughter both have IEPs for speech and reading and have received special services since age three. Neither spoke until age three-and-a-half. Both are behind in reading and are just learning to sound out words. Both have solid average to slightly above average intelligence, according to standardized tests. Both do fine with math.

Our son has been labeled LD for reading, though our daughter is not much better at reading. This summer they will work with a reading teacher who uses the Reading Reflex program. In addition, both seem to us developmentally immature. Repeating won't solve problems, but it might buy us some time for them to mature and become better readers. What are your thoughts?

Howard

Howard,

Repeating second grade might make sense ONLY IF they receive intensive special education services during this repeated year to address their disabilities. Otherwise, you may be in the same situation at the end of their second time through second.

Why would a nine-year-old boy get overly distracted by sounds?

I have a 9-year-old boy who gets good grades, is intelligent, great sense of humor, and well-mannered. For the past three years, I have been hearing that he is distracted easily in class, as in if he hears a tapping pencil, fire siren, or noise outside of his class, he gets distracted too easily, and doesn't focus on his work sometimes because he starts to talk in class at times.

I have been very patient, and tried explaining the importance of cooperating with his teacher and the school rules, but I'm getting very worried. Especially, now that his teacher thought it would be a good idea for me to sign a 504 form so he can concentrate or focus better because she believes he can get a top score. Only now after signing, the principal is saying he should see and talk to a school professional, and now I am very concerned and don't know what to do. I am up to my wit's with this situation. Please help. He understands his work in school. I am lost.

You describe auditory distractibility that has been noted since he started school (first grade). I suspect that you see the same behaviors at home and in activities. I would discuss the possibility that he has Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type with your family physician. Prior to this, you might ask his school professionals to do rating scales on ADHD.

Can an ADD child get addicted to video games?

I have an 11-year-old son with ADD. A doctor has stated that there is research showing that a) kids can become addicted to violent video games and that b) gaming raises cortisol levels in people who play video games. A counselor says that ALL electronics can cause the above two situations. What is your take on this? What about active video games such as Dance Revolution or the wii games? How should a parent address this? Take them off all games, etc? Permanently or just take a break?... HELP!

This doctor is providing part of the research. May I refer you to a website that will provide more facts: notMYkid (then click on Internet addiction). Another site is MediaWise (then click on game addiction).

How do you distinguish between ADHD and the inattention and impulsivity that can come up as people age?

Do you have any knowledge or experience in diagnosing the elderly (80+) with ADHD? What is the best way to differentiate between undiagnosed ADHD symptoms, which appear to have become more acute with age, and Alzheimer's disease in the elderly?

ADHD is a neurological disorder present at birth. Thus, the history of hyperactivity, inattention, or impulsivity has been noted since at least age seven. If the inattention is due to Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, the behaviors noted would not have been present in the person’s life until the time of onset of the problems noted.

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.

(February 2011)

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.)

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.)

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

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.

(February 2011)

My son's accomodations will change when he starts middle school. Who should I talk to about this transition?

I have a son who's 12 years old now. He has moderate LD mainly in visual processing, working memory, and expressive language. If he has no ADHD, should I still consider medication? He will start his middle school next week. In elementary school, he was pulled out for 45 minutes a day each week. Now, he will go to special education class for his language arts and social class.

I don't know whether it is good idea to place him in non-mainstream classes. Would this destroy his self-esteem? Should I insist on putting him in the regular class (though only push-in service will be provided)?

If your son does not have ADHD, he should not be considered for an ADHD medication. I cannot answer your questions on placement in middle school without knowing more details. You should be meeting with the special education (IEP) team to discuss what he will need for middle school. Has this happened yet? If you are unsure of the recommendations made by your school, seek a private consultant who can help you decide what is best for your son.

(January 2011)

I think my coworker has an undiagnosed learning disability. How can I help him recognize it?

Both my husband and I work with a friend. Over the years, we've noticed things about him — very poor listening, speaking, and writing skills; poor understanding and organization of information; and poor time management, to name a few.

Lately the penny dropped with us when we noticed that he's developed quite a set of avoidance mechanisms that deflect attention from his lack of understanding or skill. In the past, he's been able to fly under the radar; but things have changed at work lately, and that's no longer the case. We're on an important project where he's in over his head. He's really struggling, the project is floundering as a result, and management is noticing.

Is there anything we can do as friends? How do you suggest to someone who is in deep denial that he may have a learning disability? He shuts down when he senses "criticism", or any kind of detection.

Your friend is lucky to have people who care about him. How did he get this far in life? How have you been able to accept his level of function or lack of function? I don't know how to break through his avoidance and get him to do something. Maybe he will have to fail and lose his job before he wakes up and realizes he has to do something. Good luck.

(January 2011)

Is there a correlation between gluten ataxia and learning disabilities?

My daughter has been diagnosed with gluten ataxia. After some research into learning disabilities, I see that she probably also has this challenge. The professionals that work with her for the ataxia do not seem to help much in the area of LD. Have you come across other children with L.D. and ataxia? Any insight would be helpful.

I am not familiar with gluten ataxia. You should ask the professional(s) who made the diagnosis if cognitive difficulties might be associated with this disorder. The only way to clarify if she might have learning disabilities would be to have formal testing done. If testing has not yet been done, discuss this need with her principal.

(January 2011)

My first grader has trouble focusing and is falling behind in reading and math. How can I help him succeed?

My son is 6. He just started first grade at a public elementary school. He is struggling. His reading and math are not to grade level. He zones out and cannot answer simple questions.

He was read a word problem by his teacher: John has five apples and Sue has four apples. How many apples altogether? He drew 20 apples on the paper. He is on a PEP at school and goes to tutoring every Monday for an hour after school. I am worried about him not passing the first grade. What should I do?

I understand your concerns. You describe several difficulties that might suggest that your son might have a learning or language disability. If he is in a PEP program, the professionals at the program probably share a similar concern. Have you discussed your concerns with them? Usually several professionals are part of the PEP team. Another approach would be to meet with the principal of his school, requesting a meeting with the special education team to discuss what they see as his problems and what they are doing to address them. Do not lose time. Keep pushing to get clarification on what his areas of difficulty are and what can be done to help.

(January 2011)

My preschool child has a severe speech impairment. What interventions are available for him?

My son Benjamin is bright and can do what some four-year-old children can't, like swim and ride a two-wheel bike. But he has a speech impairment and developmental delays. I tried to get help when he was two because he would just sit on the floor and cry when he could not express in any way what he wanted. Early Steps turned him down because he had good motor skills; and when he entered Head Start, they tested him for speech and passed him because they did not want to deal with him.

Now he is in preschool, and they tested him and found that his development is almost two years behind and his speech impairment is kind of bad. My question is … should I get other testing done by, say, a geneticist or a neurologist for different things? Should I put him and myself through this?

It is unfortunate that he did not get help earlier. It is critical that all of his needs be addressed now. Have you been to the public school yet? He is eligible for a program called Child Find. The public school team will assess for motor, cognitive, language, and social concerns. If they find concerns, the appropriate interventions should be provided by the public school. I would get these efforts started first. Depending on the findings, you might discuss with his family doctor whether medical evaluations would help clarify the reasons for his difficulties.

(January 2011)

I have many symptoms of dyslexia, but I was never formally diagnosed. As an adult, is it worthwile to be tested?

How can an adult find help or a cure for dyslexia? I am 45 years old. I have all the symptoms for dyslexia and was never treated. Deep down inside I knew I had a disability. For many years I have struggled with the sounds of words and just couldn't hear them right. I barely talk because I always make a fool of myself when I mispronounce a word. Please help!

It is unfortunate that you have had to struggle for so many years. The first step would be to clarify if you have dyslexia, another form of a learning disability, or some other problem. To do this, find out where you can get formal testing designed for adults (psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing). The results should help you clarify what can be done at this time to be of help.

(January 2011)

My child seems to have trouble with major tests. Could this be a sign of a learning disability?

My son has always been the type of kid who kept himself busy, making things, drawing, music. I noticed in his high school years his marks were inconsistent. He'd do well in his writing assignments and usually the homework, but on his major tests he'd door poorly. He commented that when he was doing his SATs, there was a boy sniffling with a cold and that the noise threw off his thinking. He got a low score. He doesn't like to read books unless they have to do with music; but when he argues, I can tell he's a smart kid.

His pre-calculus course in senior year he did pretty well except for the testing, where he didn't seem to transfer the concepts he knew. Now he's anticipating college with his first year in media design. Does he sound like someone who should be tested? If so, what type of place should I go to?

I cannot be specific based on the information you've provided. What have the school professionals been concerned about over the years? Yes, formal psycho-educational or neuro-psychological testing would be helpful in clarifying some of your questions. If the results are not helpful, he should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

(January 2011)

What resources are available to help learning disabled adults find success in the workplace?

I am an adult with a learning disability, and I'm trying to further my education in a field that I am well suited for. I'm not quite sure where I would best be suited, although I have several interests. How can I, and other learning disabled individuals, figure out what type of job opportunities align with our abilities and disabilities to get the right fit? And how, as an adult, do I get the resources I need to obtain the accommodations I may need in my future profession?

There are vocational guidance professionals who are familiar with learning disabilities. The focus is on the individual's strengths and weaknesses as they relate both to the training needed for a field of work and as would be found on the job. Then the task is to build on strengths while trying to compensate for the weaknesses. Try to find a professional familiar with vocational training and with special education. You might contact the Division of Special Education within the Department of Education at a university near you or contact your state's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Often there are agencies in cities that do such counseling.

(August 2010)

Is dysgraphia an official learning disability or a functional diagnosis?

I'm an occupational therapist and was recently reading up on dyslexia on the LD OnLine site and had some additional questions about it. Is dysgraphia an official learning disability or a functional diagnosis? Are occupational therapists allowed to diagnose dysgraphia? Who else can diagnose dysgraphia? What are the precise diagnostic criteria, if any, of dysgraphia?

The official diagnostic manual (DSM-IV-TR) lists only one Motor Skills Disorder — "Developmental Coordination Disorder." The task force planning DSM-V is aware that there will be a need to identify dysgraphia. Psycho-educational testing will identify a child with a written language disability based on fine motor coordination. Certainly OTs can do this.

I do not know if there are uniformly established criteria. If a student has difficulty with spelling or with language arts (grammar, punctuation, capitalization), he or she is seen as having a learning disability. If the difficulty relates to fine motor coordination and the ability to form letters and words properly or quickly, he or she is seen as having a grapho-motor problem or dysgraphia.

(August 2010)

My child's Woodstock Johnson test results changed dramatically since his last assessment. Is this normal?

My son was administered the Woodcock Johnson tests at the end of fifth grade and again at the end of ninth grade. His scores declined in 6 out of the 9 subtests. Most notable were decreases in the Broad Written Language (down 8 points) and Written Expression (down 12 points) subtests. Is this pretty unusual? Do you have any idea of what could be going on here?

I share your concern. I do not have enough information to generalize an answer. Discuss your concerns with the professional who did the testing or with a private educational consultant.

(August 2010)


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