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I am an early high school student. I just completed eighth grade, but I find that a lot of my skills seem well below my classmates’ skills. I have had a learning disability since before I can remember. I have dysgraphia, fine motor difficulties, and speech difficulties. However, I take a combination of regular, college prep, and honors classes. I am in no “special education classes” with the exception of supplemental.

I know for a fact that my skills in grammar, written expression, and spelling are well below the eighth grade level. I am receiving no help in those areas outside of my college prep English class. My teacher seems to think of me as “stupid.” I have asked for extra help but she seems too busy to provide any after or before school help.

So instead, she sent me home with English text books to borrow over summer which doesn’t help much since it takes me hours to get through one page due to my handwriting difficulties. I learned very little in her class and I know the skills I lack in are not taught in high school but in elementary and middle school. I fear that without these skills I won’t be able to be successful in school and work.

A tutor is financially out of the question and my case worker, who also happens to be my supplemental teacher, doesn’t seem to think that I lack these skills or just doesn’t realize it. I find she doesn’t pick up on a lot of my difficulties. How can I learn these skills that I need (e.g. basic grammar, spelling, and vocabulary) if I will not receive it through my classes? Do you have any suggestions?

First, discuss your concerns about your skills with your parents. Your parents could request an assessment of your skills by the school, or possibly through a professional outside the school. If you currently have an IEP, the school should also evaluate you to determine whether assistive technology could be a helpful accommodation. Under IDEA, possible technology accommodations must be considered for students with disabilities in addition to other accommodations and modifications as part of the IEP process.

There are a number of software programs available that can assess your skill levels in reading and mathematics, including AutoSkill(opens in a new window), Skill Detective(opens in a new window), and Skill Navigator(opens in a new window). These programs will then provide you with targeted activities and lessons to help you improve areas of deficit. Because many of these programs are specifically designed for use in schools, your school would have to order one for your use.

It may be worthwhile to have your parents discuss your skill levels with your teachers and determine whether skill-building software might be a helpful solution for helping to get you caught up with your peers. Once you start improving your writing and grammar skills, I’d also recommend finding ways to engage in more writing opportunities outside of school.

If there is something you are particularly interested in, or know a great deal about, you might consider starting your own blog or contributing to a public blog or to a wiki. Consistent experience with writing in a more informal and “fun” setting might make you more comfortable with writing. The more you write, the more you’ll have the opportunity to practice your new skills and continue to improve.

Note from LD OnLine: Visit Dr. Silver’s About LD(opens in a new window) section to see a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist’s response to the same question.

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