Why Public Schools Struggle to Help Kids with Dyslexia

Many parents expect public schools to provide their dyslexic children with timely evaluation and therapy, and these parents often delay getting their kids the help they need until the school acts. Unfortunately, this “wait and hope” approach is rarely effective and has a costly impact on children.

Challenges Parents Encounter to Diagnose Their Children at Public Schools

  1. Navigating the public school bureaucracy to secure special attention often takes months or years. Meanwhile, children are falling further behind during the critical early-education period.
  2. Most schools are understaffed and ill-equipped to administer a complete language processing evaluation.
  3. Even if you are able to get your child designated for special education, he or she will typically be taught in a group of children with widely ranging learning challenges, making targeted and specific treatment for dyslexia unlikely.

Dyslexia Help in Public Schools

Every week scores of confused parents call us to discuss how to help their children who are struggling readers and writers. Many of them wonder, “It seems like my child’s school should help him overcome his reading and writing problems. Can’t I just ask them to test him?”

While this seems like an entirely reasonable approach, it just does not work very well in the real world of today’s public schools. In short, your child’s public school is very unlikely to provide the testing or treatment that your bright, dyslexic child needs—no matter how long you wait.

Why Schools Act Slowly—Or Not At All

  • Public school teachers, principals, and staff are well-intentioned, but the system is broken. Most schools don’t have the resources to diagnose and treat dyslexics. Waiting for the school to test and treat your dyslexic child is a “race to the bottom” and an enormous disservice to your language-challenged child.
  • If a teacher notices that your child is having difficulty, the teacher might just say that kids develop at different rates and yours will “catch up.”
  • The school might tell you that your child will be tested in the 3rd grade, so you should just wait until then.

The Risk of Delaying Evaluation and Treatment for your Child

  • By the time your child is far enough behind to qualify for a public school evaluation, you have a bigger problem on your hands. What was a manageable academic challenge for your 1st grader can turn into a significant emotional and social problem by the 3rd grade. You are likely to hear your child say things like, “I’m never going to get this,” “All my friends read better than I do,” “I hate this,” “School is not for me,” “I’m stupid.”
  • Children with dyslexia do not “catch up” without specialized and explicit instruction. Such children don’t “just need a little extra practice” or a tutor; they need a specific type of teaching designed for the unique learning patterns of the dyslexic brain. (This is known as the Orton-Gillingham method.)
  • Smart dyslexic students often treat every word as a sight word and memorize it, instead of using the word’s structure to decode and understand it. School reading assessments are unlikely to pick this up. Later, when these bright dyslexics are in middle and high school with dramatically increased reading and note-taking demands, this memorization strategy will fail them.
  • While you are hoping for dyslexia help from the school, your child is losing ground—falling behind with reading and writing skills that are fundamental to all learning. As the American Federation of Teachers explains in “Waiting Rarely Works: Late Bloomers Usually Just Wilt,” among children who do not get help outside of school “there is nearly a 90 percent chance that a poor reader in first grade will remain a poor reader.”

Common Limitations of School Evaluations

  • The instruments schools and school psychologists most often use to determine eligibility for special education seldom if ever give a diagnosis. Yet, only with a clear diagnosis can you create a roadmap to academic success for your dyslexic student.
  • The psychoeducational evaluation that schools provide looks at IQ and academic achievement to determine if there is a gap between the two. That gap is defined as a “learning disability.” This evaluation will not tell you what’s wrong nor will it suggest what treatment will work best for your child’s individual problem.
  • Intelligent students with dyslexia often test like typically developing readers in the early grades. They can get to third or fourth grade, still testing in the broad average range on psychoeducational measures, yet struggling mightily with basic language processing skills necessary for upper-level literacy. They may never qualify for public school services because their psychoeducational testing scores don’t show the arbitrary “gap.”

Common Limitations of School Intervention and Therapy

  • Your child may be offered special education. Special education typically takes place in a group that is made up of children with conditions as different as dyslexia and brain injury, all taught with the same methods, regardless of the cause of their difficulty.
  • Group teaching (including special education) is less effective than individual therapy since both explanation and practice must be adapted to each child’s level.

The Proactive Alternative to the “Wait & Hope” Approach

  • Your dyslexic child needs the attention of a professional to pinpoint and treat the root causes of his/her reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. Professionals who are qualified to identify dyslexia include specially trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators. Unfortunately, the goal of public school psychoeducational testing procedures is eligibility for tax-funded services, not diagnosis or treatment planning.
  • It is rewarding to see how dyslexic children thrive and excel once they are properly identified and offered effective individualized treatment. The child who “hated” reading is now reading beyond her grade level; the child who refused to do homework is now eager to write reports. Have a look at what parents say about their child’s experience.

If you do decide to pursue the school route, please see Part 2 of this article which provides a visual for this process. However, here is a better way of helping your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading, writing, or spelling, administer the free online dyslexia screening test. And if there’s a risk,  call us so we can connect you with a qualified professional to determine the causes of your child’s struggles and start an individualized treatment plan. No matter where you live or how busy your schedule is, your child can be assessed and treated individually, online, and face-to-face by the clinical educators at Lexercise.

74 Responses to Why Public Schools Struggle to Help Kids with Dyslexia

  • Tammy Smith commented

    I believe there are many home school parents out there,like myself,with children who have dyslexia.What is a real problem is having them tested.With everything going on in our country,it’s frightening to think that we could lose our children just for reaching out for help.I find that I don’t trust anyone,especially where my children are concerned.Also,what are your thoughts on Thomas West’s ‘In The Mind’s Eye’? Thank you.

    • Hi Tammy. Thank you for your comment. One of the most important things about intervention of any sort, but especially for dyslexia, is that it be “emotionally smart.” There are many aspects to that, but of course the first one is a trusting relationship among all involved.

      You are the first parent who has ever mentioned Thomas West’s ‘In the Mind’s Eye.’ We are big fans, and in fact, we have a therapy procedure that is in part based on this approach to learning.

  • frantoomey commented

    This is such an important topic. I hope it gets the audience it deserves.

  • Ann commented

    It amazes me that public schools or any school would not incorporate the Orton-Gillingham method as part of elementary reading programs, especially with one in five having dyslexia. Let me go back even further. I believe if you are getting educated to teach elementary students this should be a part of your college education. I am so baffled by why our schools aren’t helping students and how our educators are so ignorant on the subject. I could go on and on. I live in Western Pa and would love to advocate for dyslexia. Our school is one that takes so many LD students but yet when it comes to dyslexia it’s like the plague, or I should say this is how we felt. What a run-a-round! Dyslexia is not a disability it just hasn’t been unveiled. As the saying goes, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

  • Laura Pratto, MFTI commented

    Hello all~

    I have worked as a counselor for school districts and found out that they have categorized Dyslexia as a MEDICAL DX not a developmental learning disability. Although all of us know that without the Dyslexia DX you would have a child learning perhaps in tandem with their classmates.

    Medical issues are not in the pervue of school IEP teams. Therefore they do not have to pay for treatment. Linda Mood Bell, one of the best treatment providers for Dyslexia, can cost tens of thousands of dollars for their program.

    As usual the bottom line tends to determine IEP options.

  • DyslexiaMom commented

    For those interested in advocating for identification and intervention changes, I strongly recc’d joining with your states “Decoding Dyslexia” chapter. The DD chapters have taken off in the last 6 months and are using social media to help advocate legislative and policy changes to benefit student learning.

    • DyslexiaMom – We support Decoding Dyslexia but are skeptical that public schools will be able to adequately treat children with dyslexia. Still, Decoding Dyslexia’s parent support helps the public understand how dyslexia should be treated, even if the public schools will struggle to do it.

  • Tammy commented

    I just wanted to point out that the reason why public schools do not give a diagnosis is because we are told not to do so. Basically the theory is that if we provided a diagnosis then we would be required to provide all assistance involved in the treatment of that diagnosis – something that the public schools do not have the money to do. Hence we have the system that is broken as described above. I will say that there are many public schools that do the best they to help these children despite having a broken system to work in.

  • Stephanie commented

    Thank you for sharing this article. My middle son struggled in elementary school. Most nights consisted of hours of homework only to end up in tears…with criticizim from his teacher saying we weren’t doing enough to help him! His fourth grade teacher said she thought he was dyslexic. It took over a year and a half to have him tested, only to be told by the school psychologist that “there is no such thing as dyslexia.” They labeled him as having a “specific learning disorder.” To my son, just knowing that he wasn’t “stupid” is all that he needed to be successful! He was reading at a second grade level in the fifth grade. He is now a junior in high school and has made the honor roll since middle school. He just aced his business management class and hopes to have his own business one day. He even made student of the year at his school…not because he always gets 100% on his work, but because he gives more than 100% effort every day. Dyslexic children are much smarter than most people give them credit for! It was because of his struggles that inspired me at 34 years of age to go to college (for the first time ever) to pursue a degree in elementary education. I am now an elementary teacher hoping that I don’t let a single child fall through the cracks the way that my son did! Every child deserves to feel smart and valued! Thank you again!

  • Kelly Fedge DuBose commented

    Thank you all for continuing to fight the good fight and bring correct awareness to this education disaster. The horror stories remain the same year after year, decade after decade. The system is beyond broken yet most of,at least the American public, remain deeply in the dark assuming well meaning teachers and educators have the education and professional training necessary to teach children who approach learning differently.

    Do you know how many hours- yes, hours- NOT years- elementary education teachers have before they start teaching your children? Start asking questions! You will be shocked and disturbed by the answer you get. Unless a teacher has a Masters in Reading they have nominal instruction in teaching children to read.

    Why do we continue to celebrate only a few strengths which are tested and taught to the nth degree? Why does the SAT test focus on Math, Science,..and not on the arts, athletics, music, communication, storytelling skills? Neurodiversity is natural. We celebrate and applaud differences all through nature yet sadly our education system has not moved on from the industrial revolution. We are shutting kids down by not recognizing the strengths of our youth and instead we attempt to homogenize? WHY!?
    If people ( public and educators) knew better they would do better. I facilitate “Dyslexia for a Day” simulations for Student teachers and current Elementary and Middle school educators and watch their hearts stop and tears flow!! They simply do not receive enough training and then are asked to teach what they are not comfortable or proficient at themselves and told to NOT even use the word Dyslexia$$$$.

    Start with your child’s strengths, educate yourself and find Orton-Gillingham trained instructors or become one. Dyslexia is not a disease! You don’t “have dyslexia” It is like handedness people are right or left handed, they don’t have lefthandedness! Dyslexia is an organization of the brain. There is no damage to the brain, many are gifted- most are of above average intelligence they simply approach learning and seeing the world differently. As with many questionable acts if you ” follow the money” you will understand why our current system doesn’t teach to potential. Check out Khan Academy for help. Saul is changing the face of education for the better! Children who are creative, right brain thinkers are at an advantage during these times of innovation. We simply must develop their strengths and teach the way they learn either at school, at home or via the computer. THERE IS HOPE outside the school system. You will find a way!

    • Thank you for the words of encouragement, Kelly.

      We do find that when parents participate in their child’s evaluation and teletherapy they begin to arm themselves with the tools they need to help and empower themselves and their child. As you can see from the many positive parent comments here there most definitely IS A WAY!


  • Joanne commented

    In Rhode Island it is not a disability specifically identified under learning disability. That needs to change. Can only get it diagnosed outside of school. Even then you need to find the right evaluator. Not easy. School personnel presently are not trained or qualified to make the diagnosis. Some other states are ahead of the game. This continues to be a very disturbing issue. Best book to buy someone you want to teach about dyslexia, current research,statistics, results of national reading panel, teaching methods is Decoding Dyslexia. By Sally Shaywitz. Commissioner of Rhode Island should read this cover to cover . To help our children we need the adults educated (administrators. Policy makers. School evaluators. Special educators) it is alarming and very common for this to be a very late diagnosis with a window of opportunity lost. we all know someone with dyslexia even if they don’t know it themselves! We all have a friend. Co worker relative that has struggled and as an adult never really understood what was wrong! Can’t spell, don’t like to read, never did . So sad.. This needs a grass roots effort to effect change

  • Seamama commented

    This article is spot on. Our school is filled with great people who truly care, but the system is so messed up and you’ve done a nice job outlining why that is.

    Two things I would add to the list of why schools are slow to act: (1) I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that teachers may be reluctant to suggest a student be evaluated for SpecEd because they’re afraid that a child won’t actually qualify. If that happens, then it looks like either the teacher was just being alarmist or was simply wrong that there’s a problem. (2) Schools don’t know what to look for. From my own “survey” of teachers I know, they aren’t taught in their university teaching programs when they get their degrees to become teachers and they aren’t taught in their professional development/training courses.

    I know schools can’t diagnose dyslexia but why can’t they do a screening test? They already do a vision and hearing screener, why not reading?

  • Powermom2000 commented

    I am skeptical that a child can be adequately identified and treated using an online approach to both. Children require and deserve face-to-face assessment and observation, and personal interaction. I am likewise reluctant to agree that our public schools can never meet this demand — they must. And it is up to parents to become educated and assure that schools are able to address individual differences, and provide differentiated instruction for all learners.
    Why? Because of this: what happens when the online remediation or, even, Orton-Gillingham program is completed? That child remains in a classroom with their difference, and they will still need educated, trained staff to guide them toward self-advocacy and independence. Our children with dyslexia can do well but it creates a systems approach to make that happen, not skepticism but profound hope, and advocacy.

    • PowerMom2000,
      Research has consistently demonstrated that online evaluation and therapy results are at least commensurate with center-based results. For example, see this study.

      Online evaluation and therapy both involve real-time personal interaction. One of the advantages of Lexercise Teletherapy is the way parents are included in the process. Unlike center-based services that often leave the parent in the reception room, parents are part of Lexercise Teletherapy. Parents learn the Orton-Gillingham approach along with their child. While the child has a new teacher every year, parents are a constant in their child’s life so this family-focused approach pays huge dividends. The data speak for themselves. On average, children make 2.7 years growth in 5 months of Lexercise therapy.

      Of course, we all wish that schools could accomplish this kind of progress with dyslexic children but, from a systems perspective, it makes sense that schools can rarely be as individually focused as families. We strive for the best in both worlds: a home-based therapy program that achieves rapid, self-sustaining gains and a supportive, technology savvy school program that fosters academic growth.

      See what parents have to say. Their comments ARE hopeful!

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  • Barrington Stoke commented

    Thanks for the article. There’s a lot to do in an education system to provide for dyslexic children, meanwhile it’s up to the parents to direct their children appropriately.

  • I am a physician and have a son who has dyslexia. I have taken it upon myself to learn the Orton-Gillingham techniques (as best as I can anyway) and have been working to advocate for change. I have learned a few things in this effort; 1. We need to change the perception and pigeon-holed description of dyslexia from that of a disability to that of a genetic trait—that IS what it is. Just as about 20% of the population may have blonde hair, about 20% of the population may have dyslexia. This is not a disease, it is the way God made many of us. 2. The Orton-Gillingham method should be taught to ALL children. This way, the dyslexic children will get what they need and the non-dyslexic children will not be left in the dust. We all need to stop trying to beat an old horse that just isn’t going to get up and go. We need to change the way we are approaching dyslexia education and educate EVERY teacher in the Orton-Gillingham method so that it becomes the norm rather than the exception. There is no reason to teach ONLY the dyslexics this way—because they will never EVER get the help they need when we are trying to approach it this way–there will NEVER be enough money, funding or grants…there will never be enough trained special ed. teachers….and there will always be a political bureaucracy to fight for as long as we try to bring change about in this way…..lets try to make a permanent fix and get OG training into the mainstream teaching certificate and begin integrating OG into preschool, K, 1, 2 and 3. What do you think? Cheryl Lee D. Eberting, M.D. http://www.CherylLeeMD.com

    • Cheryl,
      I certainly see what you mean, and I agree that language processing abilities, like many other human traits, are on a continuum (distributed normally, under a bell-shaped curve). That said, research has demonstrated (often genetically linked) neurobiological patterns that underpin dyslexia. Whether we call that a difference or a disorder, the fact remains that it is much harder for people with these pattern to achieve fluent, automatic reading and writing skills.

      I certainly support the idea of better professional development for teachers, and I think there is good evidence that teachers trained in structured language methods tend to have students with fewer reading and spelling difficulties. But I don’t think there is evidence that classroom instruction alone can enable all dyslexics to overcome their difficulties. For one thing, to be effective, the O-G approach must be adjusted to each individual’s unique processing patterns. That means that teachers would have to learn to evaluate individual children’s language processing patterns and to match them to differentiated teaching methods. This would add, at a minimum, two years to teacher training. This just doesn’t seem likely to happen, especially in the current climate of budget cutting.

      As it is now, teacher education programs focus the bulk of the course work and practicum on group teaching methods. That’s reasonable, given that both general and special education teachers generally teach children in groups. In contrast, therapists (e.g., educational therapists, speech-language pathologists) learn methods for addressing individual learning patterns.

      Bureaucracy in both medicine and education is certainly a big problem! It can take years for parents to navigate between the medical system (asking their child’s physician for help and advice) and the education system (asking their child’s teacher and school for help and advice). Bureaucracies move slowly, but a few very simple things could help a lot–like teachers and physicians who understand at a basic level what dyslexia is (i.e., trouble reading and spelling words in an individual with good listening comprehension) and what it is not (e.g.,a visual problem reversing letters).

      You and many of the others commenting here attest to the value of parent involvement in their child’s treatment. Parents often ask us how Lexercise produces such fast gains (averaging > 2 1/2 years gains in 5 months). While I can’t prove it, I think our “edge” is that we work with both the child and the parent. Teaching the parent how to be a change-agent is powerful and empowering!

  • Sandra Wolters commented

    It is a rare public school that will meet the individual needs of a child with learning challenges. Assuming that the public system will provide appropriate services is a risky gamble that can hurt a child.

    My child lost precious learning time in a public school system that actually caused harm. While she made progress over summer breaks with private individualized tutoring and specific instructional methods that were approproriate, she declined during public school years.

    In second grade my child, who has a diagnosed language disability, was instructed to “find a book you like” along with all the other students in the regular second grade class of 29 students. Then they were all instructed to read their books silently during “daily reading time” of 20 min. My daughter followed instructions, picked her “favorite” book of the selection which was a Magic Tree house book or a Junie B Jones book. She quietly looked at the book, pretending to read the text. She was very motivated to have these books and really wanted to be able to read them. She told us she read them at school.

    We knew this happened because it was written on her daily communication sheet to home, by the aide. Also noted was what a great job she did during reading time.

    We knew that these books were not an independent reading level for our child, and that the time was harmful to her. The neuropsych report (that we obtained privately and the school accepted) specifically stated that her reading should be done aloud with support. When we politely asked about the silent reading practice at a meeting with the IEP team, we were quite forcely informed that 20 min of daily reading and the child selecting an interesting/motivating book has been shown to improve reading skills. It was presented as if it were scientific reading research.

    The school claimed there were other “reading instructional times” which turned out were 3 different instrucational methods.One was a 15 min. per week computer based program supervised by a parent volunteer with the 29 students.

    There was no way to change these practices, despite having an IEP and an attorney helping us. The school attorney wrote parents were bullying the teacher in the school record. The special education teacher informed us that if our child was included in a regular class that she needed to do everything that the other kids did. Our child’s NWEA MAP scores (which in August were in the 40th percentile, ended the school year in the second percentile) as well as all other objective reading measures done by the school team progressively declined over that school year.

    There was not one person on the IEP team who had any reaction to the objective declines when they were brought up at the mid year and end of the year IEP meetings. Even when our attorney raised specific questions about the objective declines, there was no concern expressed by school personnel.

    Our child lost critical learning time because we had the misperception that the public school would follow its mandate to provide services to kids with learning differences, especially once we had an attorney. Instead, negative comments were made towards parents in response to any questions about her regression or the methods used. Nothing in the reading instruction was individualized to meet her learning needs, nor would the public school teachers communicate with the outside summer tutors in a public-private partnership.

    Parents should find appropriate evaluation and intervention outside the public schools in most situations.

    Sandra Wolters MS,OTR/L

  • Cheri Lehman commented

    I taught in public ed for 36 years and I agree with most of the above posts. The special education money follows the most severely disabled who are disruptive to the ed process. Since most dyslexics are very functional and try to blend, it is hard to get noticed. I have started a community support group and will get training to screen children in our community next fall. The school is always willing to take free help so I am trying to help recognize children in kindergarten. We did the online evaluation through Lexercise for my grandson last winter and I was impressed with the information the tester was able to provide to us. My grandson is in kindergarten but we started O-G tutoring during the summer before kindergarten and he also held him a year while we worked intensely on sounds. He is doing exceptionally well and I am so excited to see the one-to-one tutoring be so successful. I urge all parents to take their child’s education into their own hands and get the special instruction they deserve. I am now trying to get our community to help others who do not have the financial resources to get the special tutoring. Educate yourself then educate your child. I also recommend Sally Shaywitz’s book Overcoming Dyslexia. Also read Ben Foss’s book The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan. iIt changed my whole perception of how children should be taught. We are focusing too much on eye reading in school instead of ear reading. I which I knew all this 40 years ago.

    • Cherl,

      It is great to hear your grandson is thriving. Yours is another testimony to the enormous value of early evaluation and treatment. How wonderful for your grandson!

      We work with a lot of children whose parents and/or grandparents are teachers, so your comment about special education funding is very familiar to us. More than anyone, teachers realize that waiting for the school to help their bright struggling reader is likely to be a dead end. (See parents’comments here)

      Especially if started early, the cost of treatment for dyslexia is a bargain. Combining one-to-one therapy sessions with online exercise games for daily practice can speed up the process and reduce the cost. (Our clients average over 2 1/2 years growth in skills in 5 months.)

      I like your comment about the importance of starting with “ear reading”. Starting with the auditory basis (and getting that nailed down precisely) and only then moving to the visual (symbol) representation is am important key for children with dyslexic-type language processing issues. It takes a deep understanding of language structure to implement this approach smoothly. We teach these methods in our online professional education courses…..and we are running a summer discount on those courses now. We’d love to have you and your community support group colleagues take part!

      Thanks for taking the time to post about your experience!

  • Jackie Baker commented

    As a mother of three, a former public school teacher and a current preschool teacher and director, I have nearly 20 years of experience in the field of education. When my third child was almost four, I realized that he might have ADHD. Then, when I gave him the PALS PreK I realized that what he was learning wasn’t “sticking.” At that point, I began my crusade to find out what was going on in his brain. I read every book on dyslexia including Sally Shaywitz and Ben Foss’ books. I watched every documentary and research Orton-Gillingham. My son continued to struggle with reading and writing and math. I kept him back from kindergarten to give him the gift of another year (his bday is late summer). When he got to the public schools, I informed them that I thought my son had a learning disability in addition to ADHD. They said wait to test. I did test him privately for the ADHD when he was five. He is now in first grade and still struggling in reading, writing, and math and I see many of the red flags of dyslexia and dyscalculia. The school tested him last month and concluded that his ADHD is preventing him from learning not a learning disability. he qualifies for special Ed services under OHI (other health impairments) due to his ADHD. I have worked with many children with ADHD who were way more hyper and inattentive than my child and still they did not have the academic struggles that my child has. If 30% of children with ADHD have co-existing learning disabilities why does the school think my child’s struggle is due to his ADHD which I am not even sure he has. It could be the dyslexia which looks like ADHD. I am tutoring my son using the Susan Barton Reading and Spelling system and am in the process of getting a second opinion through a local center (Mindwell) that can diagnosis dyslexia. Have others had this same experience of a school saying that ADHD is the problem? I don’t buy it.

    • Jackie,
      It is great that you have done so much research and understand that language processing challenges can disrupt attention. This is so, in part, because language processing issues drain cognitive resources.

      You said that you had your son tested privately for ADHD, but what about an evaluation for language processing problems? A language processing evaluation might help you clarify his his challenges as well as better focus his treatment. Here is an article that describes a language processing evaluation and contrasts it with a psycho-educational evaluation that is used for public school special education funding.

      Getting the diagnosis right has implications for adjusting therapy so that it is more targeted and effective. One of the most common reasons for inadequate response to intervention is diagnostic confusion. If you have a nail, you need a hammer. If you have a screw, you need a screw driver. Just because a screw looks a little like a nail doesn’t mean that it will respond to hammering! Here is an article about the importance of getting the right diagnosis.

      One reason that schools may be more prone to label children as ADHD (i.e., Other Health Impaired) as opposed to Learning Disabled (LD) is that paying for special ed. services is expensive, but funding services for ADHD generally involves only accommodations (e.g., testing in a separate room).

      In my experience, school officials are typically well-meaning, and they are not consciously withholding services. They truly see the child’s problem as inattention. That IS often how these children often look in group learning contexts. It is hard to “see” what is causing a child’s inattention, especially in group settings. These practice preferences have become culturally and institutionally engrained in public education, and they are a well-worn and familiar path. Here is a relevant article from the National Ctr. for Learning Disabilities that encourages parents to take action if the ADHD label doesn’t seem to fit.

      You might give your son the free Lexercise Screening Test as a way of determining his need for a full language processing evaluation.

      We’re here help parents so give us a call if you have questions. 888-603-1788

  • Colleen Smith Fournier commented

    This article is probably the best info I have ever read in the last 12 years. I immersed myself in the world of D People early on- my son, husband, 1 brother, 1 sister, my dad n both grandfathers, n father in law…All D People! The schools here in San ta Ynez Valley CA had NO Clue. We did 3+ times a week with private reading specialist for 5 years.
    I became the squeaky wheel, trying to educate the educators. I studied the tests the scores the reading programs the laws the history…everything I could find. This article gives me hope! Wish I had read it in 2002.
    I still think the public schools should be held accountable however. Lord knows we have spent billions since US Congress asked ‘Why can’t Johnny read’ in the 1970s. So much suffering could have been avoided for the smart wonderful D People in my life!

    • Colleen,
      I’m glad you found this information useful! We started Lexercise because we also have smart, wonderful D People in our lives, and because don’t see the public school situation changing–despite great efforts from grass roots groups like Decoding Dyslexia.

      Our blended learning, teletherapy model is not only highly research-backed and convenient but it involves parents in a much more functional way than can be accomplished in office or school based therapy.

      There is certainly reason for hope! The future is very bright for people with dyslexia!

      Thanks for your comments and your advocacy!

  • Justine LaMaster commented

    I am a newly mapping our way to help for our son who has dyslexia! Is there a parents support group on FB or somewhere that I can seek advice??

  • Susan Moline commented

    We have a daughter who was just recently diagnosed with dyslexia. She has been struggling for years and is now in 8th grade. What can we expect from the school? Also, would home schooling or private school be a better option?

    • Susan,
      It is great that your daughter finally has a diagnosis.

      Research is clear on how students with dyslexia can be helped. We’d be happy to talk with you about the research-backed guidance for your daughter’s specific situation. Just give us a call: 888-603-1788.

  • Michelle Vaughn commented

    I am a Speech Language Pathologist working in an outpatient clinic and also have a friend with a child who has recently been diagnosed with Dyslexia. I am interested in becoming certified to provide therapy for this type of disorder. What type of training/resources would you suggest? Is there typically funding through commercial insurance plans for funding of therapy? Thanks

    • Michelle,
      It is nice to hear of your interest. While dyslexia is by far the most prevalent communication disorder, public schools struggle to even recognize dyslexia, let alone treat it. This means that qualified private providers, schools and clinics are badly needed. Parents have a devilish time finding research-backed services. As just one indication of that, the free, online Lexercise Dyslexia Screener is administered about 2000 time a month–mostly by parents!!

      Lexercise has a series of online professional development courses and a qualification process for SLPs, educators and psychologists who want to develop the knowledge and skills to provide services in the area. Our courses and qualification exam are based on the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Knowledge and Practice Standards. (IDA’s own qualification exam is not estimated to be ready until 2016.)

      The situation with medical insurance for funding SLP services in the area of language-literacy is (like all issues related to insurance reimbursement) complex. I’d be happy to discuss your specific circumstances with regard to both professional preparation and service delivery issues. Just send me message here: Courses@Lexercise.com

  • Hellen commented

    I currently have moved to Elizabeth City North Carolina and my son is having a hard time. He is dyslexic and doctor has ordered his work to be accommodated to his needs. I kept him home an extra day so everyone had time to read his IEP and prepare for him. I have talked to his teacher tonight and she has not seen his IEP at all! She just kept telling me about the worksheets I have questioned that this is what second graders do. They read the book and answer the questions. How can he read a book and answer question when one he tries to read every night for 20 minutes and struggles. He confuses words. He could say it right he first time and the second time he sees it he says something else. I kept saying he can not do that. If someone was to help him read it then he might get answers right. She completely ignored what I said. Spelling words are to be acommadated also and he got a zero on this weeks test. He said mom they made me do 20 words I wrote one through 20 and tried on the ones I thought I knew. Is their any laws that states the schools have to follow a doctors order on dyslexic. It’s very frustrating and don’t know what to do to help him.

  • april commented

    I am having all kinds of problems with the school system now. They supposedly “tested” my daughter ant the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year after I requested it since kindergarten. They called me in to the school and explained to me that she had dislexia and they were gonna do intervention to help her. Which that helped her through 2nd grade. But at the beginning of this school 3rd grade school year she started struggling so I called the school to find out if they were gonna step in help her. The principal calls me back and informs me that before they can help her she has tho be legally diagnosed with dyslexia. I was OK with this until nobody in the school system could tell me where I could get this diagnosis from. Finally they have decided to test her for a learning disability but not dyslexia. I can’t figure out why this is such a problem in the school system. Its hard being a parent and watching your 8 year stress out and cry because she can’t get some of the work especially spelling and reading. I just wish I knew what I could do to make sure she gets the correct help she needs and not just enough to get by.

    • April,
      The issues you describe are common in public education, and in this blog post I have tried to explain why diagnosing and treating dyslexia is so problematic for public schools. Lexercise is committed to working with parents to that you CAN learn what to do to help you child. Hundreds of parents have used Lexercise to do exactly that. Check out their comments here: What People Are Saying

      Give us a call. We’d be happy to help if we can.

      Sandie (888-603-1788)

  • Ally commented

    I am a teenager with dyslexia who is currently in public school. I receive no remediation, and only extra time. The resource rooms in all schools suck, the teachers are not trained, and only severely disabled children get help. Only children who disturb the class get help. I have received little remediation, which was out of school, which i hated because school took most of my energy and the idea of learning for another hour after school did not work. I am lucky that i enjoy learning and have a good home environment or else i would have given up.

    • Ally, Thanks for your post. Don’t ever give up. Stay strong. Figure out a way to get to higher ed. Take heart from the persistent dyslexics who struggled in elementary and secondary school but excelled in higher ed and have done things like won Nobel Prizes. Hug you parents. You are going to make it!

  • susan commented

    My daughter is 15 and I have decided to take her out of the public school system because she fails at it…. I do not want her to grow up believing that she is a failure… Is there an affordable audio school system which children like her can learn through… I will appreciate any help and or comments… I would like to immediately start her on a learning system to enable and empower her to become an independent human

    • There is no research-backed audio-only therapy. But research does tell us what elements to look for in intervention that works: 1) a therapist who is highly knowledgeable about the structure of English, 2) a structured literacy curriculum 3) motivated, structured, daily practice. Give us a call and we can explain how this works.

  • Clare commented

    Thank you so much for writing this article. Even though it was published a while back, I love to see people spreading the news about dyslexics. I have never read anything about dyslexia and how the school systems do not help with the issue before, though this is a problem in my district too. Our school board refuses to give my brother the help he needs, even though he has actually been diagnosed with dyslexia.

  • Trudy commented

    Having lived in Ireland and the UK, I am thoroughly disgusted with the state of the US educational system when it comes to children with dyslexia, as I am with the healthcare system too. Dyslexia runs in both my family and my husbands family, so when I noticed my eldest child struggling with academics, writing letters backwards, capitalizing in the middle of sentences and using inappropriate words, I knew that it is most likely dyslexia.
    Having raised my concerns to his 3rd grade teacher she fobbed me off with “it changes nothing to have him tested, we’ll just teach him as though he is dyslexic.” I was more then appalled to hear this. Of course it matters. Why label him as something if he is not? Why expect less of him if he is capable of so much more? And visa versa, why expect more of him if he is not capable of doing it? Dyslexia often leads children into feeling “stupid” and a diagnosis will resolve this feeling.
    In 4th grade I raised the question with his teacher again and she agreed with me that testing him might be a good idea. I sent a letter to the principle and his reply was “we don’t diagnose, nor do I know how to go about it.” Feeling the frustration build and build, I resorted to going to my GP. She agreed to look into it but in the end her response was “I don’t know where to find this but I’ll give you a list of names that YOU can call and find out for yourself.”
    In a country that deems itself to be a progressive first-world country, I think I would find better care in the bottom of a trash can. I know, for a fact, that had my son been educated in either Ireland or the UK, that their in-house team of professionals would have been immediately on the case and a diagnosis would have been made.
    All that glitters is not gold and the American response to dyslexia is nothing short of fools gold.

  • Celeste commented

    This post has given me hope that I am not alone. I had my son tested just as he was coming out of K and they told me that he was developmentally on target. While in first grade he still struggled with his letter sounds, writing and reading. As he entered 2 grade this school year , they put him in a reading program. Which I haven’t seen much progress. His teacher has been very helpful, but still couldn’t figure out what’s wrong. So I contacted his pediatrician to get a referral. He was evaluated and it was suggested that he get further testing through the school. The Dr. did advise that it may be difficult to get help through the school for a child diagnosed with Dyslexia. I have been saying that my son was dyslexic since K and everyone kept looking at me like I was crazy. I do not want my child to go another year without getting the help he needs. It’s only going to get worse as he gets older, if I don’t step in and do something now. Please help! Thank you so much for this article.

  • Juli commented

    I would like to respond to Ann’s comment on March 29, 2014, in which she states, “I believe if you are getting educated to teach elementary students this should be a part of your college education. I am so baffled by why our schools aren’t helping students and how our educators are so ignorant on the subject”. First of all, I completely agree that this SHOULD be how teachers are educated. Secondly, I am an elementary teacher with a master’s degree in Elementary Reading and Literacy, and I can testify that this is not how it IS.

    In fact, instruction on dyslexia was not a part of ANY of my college classes. I did not learn the warning signs or how to provide appropriate intervention. In fact, I believed the myths that we’ve all heard that it is simply letter confusion and reversal. When I noticed some of the actual warning signs in my students, I had no idea it was dyslexia, and when I referred those students to our school child study team, none were properly diagnosed or received appropriate intervention. Not one of my colleagues, including the AIS reading teachers, special education teachers, or our school psychologist who conducted the testing, ever mentioned the term DYSLEXIA. I believe they received a similar college education, which neglected any instruction on dyslexia.

    It was actually a persistent and frustrated parent who finally got me to independently research and correctly identify her daughter. At first, just like all her previous teachers, I ignored the parent’s suggestion that it was dyslexia, because I thought I knew what that was. I was her daughter’s FIFTH grade teacher! She had been saying it to every teacher since first grade, and we’d all ignored her because we were ignorant.

    There is no question that instruction and intervention needs to change in our public schools, especially at the elementary level. However, it first needs to change at the college level! It should also be mandatory for every current teacher, so no teacher ever feels the frustration, embarrassment, and failure that I felt because of my ignorance.

  • margaret commented

    This is a very interesting chat. I have found that teachers and school are not equipped to train dyslexia and it is not just in public schools. My research has found that teachers in college get exactly 2 lines on dyslexia and that is it. Appalling. I have bought books and spoken with teachers at our school and have made it a point to educate them myself. well I found that the teachers that were engaged started to recognize their students and what could be. they changed their spelling which matched the Orton Gillinham that is good but if the teacher is not willing to embrace it becomes a mute point. Now my daughter is with lexercise and has been for a year. what a difference. doing this online is so much nicer and more personnel. My daughter in the first 2 months changed overnight. So thank you Sandie I was a very frustrated parent with high learning child that everyone would ignore her problems so to the parents you have to fight for your child you really know them the best. Thank you Lexercise I have a happy child.

  • margaret commented

    Having the ability to give my daughter dyslexic training virtually is great. It is less stress on the child and the parent not have to drive somewhere across town. that is stressful for the child and the parent. The ability to do this at home allows my child to be in a relaxed atmosphere and for me as a parent to be able to participate in her training with out having to drive across town to another town. I find that stressful. We have been able to do everything face to face thru webex as we would of done at the office. This also help keep costs down as well as a good time management. Costs would be brick and mortor, gas, time, possibly having to eat out because it is so late in getting that child home.

  • Tracy commented

    Susan did you ever receive a response regarding your 15 year old daughter and online schooling? I have a 16 year old son who is struggling in school and progressively getting worse (giving up) after talking with a friend she said sounds like dyslexia, I have that and that is exactly how I felt in school, she sent me some links and I did some of the tests snd had him take some of the online tests and the results seemed stong that he could be dyslexic. We are not sure where to go from here since most references are for younger children, how can we help him this late in the game? Any help and suggestions are appriciated.

  • ConcernedMom commented

    My child has been newly diagnosed with a learning disability. The NYC school system clusters all children into three categories: ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum and Learning Disability. My son has dyslexia but of red tape and bureaucratic non-sense has not received an official diagnosis. Since there are only two pediatric neuropsychologists that specialize in Dyslexia, they do not accept any form of insurance and you have to pay out of pocket approximately $5,000 to get them evaluated. This does not cover treatment. I am so aggravated with this. How can one of the major metropolitian area not have affordable evaluation and treatment for children with Dyslexia. His school is not addressing his specific need. I really need guidance as to how to get him the evaluation and services he needs. Please help.

    • Dear ConcernedMom,
      The aggravation you describe is exactly why we started Lexercise Public school, by definition, is group instruction. Even if your child were diagnosed with dyslexia chances are the public school’s group intervention would not be any more individually customized or based on best-practices for students dyslexia. I tried to describe why this happens in this article.

      The good news is that research-backed, family-centered treatment for dyslexia is typically quick and effective. Students who work with a Lexercise teletherapist make average reading gains of over 2 1/2 years in about one semester. One of the reasons we have such good outcomes is that parents are an integral part of the Lexercise treatment. They learn the structured literacy approach along with their child. In this way, what is learned in a few months of treatment lasts a lifetime.

  • Bryn commented

    We live in Cary, NC, near Raleigh. I’ve just confirmed, although still early in the screening and assessment stage, that my son has dyslexia. I’ve suspected this since he was age 3. Not glad for him, but glad to finally “know.” I’m wondering if you have contacts in this part of NC, and/or if there’s anyone you recommend for educational support? Thank you for your time and consideration.

    • Bryn,
      Our corporate office is in Raleigh. Our clinicians use an Orton-Gillingham (aka structured literacy) approach, and we work with families all over the English-speaking world. Give us a call, and we’ll explain more. 888-603-1788

  • roberta commented

    dear sandy my grandson has been diagnost with dyslexic and adhd the school new he was for four years and just told us he had a learning problem they say that’s the same thing as dyslexic we r having a iep meeting soon we want a helper to stay with him all day until he catches up he is nine and in second grade what should we do help please

  • Crystal Welborn commented

    I am a parent with deslexia and now have a son who is in second grade who I think has it. He has a low RPM for reading, has difficulties in spelling, math and he is failing in writing. He constantly comes home with incomplete work and just can’t concentrate. I just got back from asking the school to test for dyslexia, since it runs in the family. I have persued this for the last year and have come to the conclusion that they will avoid it at all costs. They want to lable him as ADD. Can there be both dyslexia and ADD. The people at the meeting made me feel as if I was making it up and I was being foolish. I grew up feeling stupid and insecure. I stuggled all through school, college and still do, but I received some help during my elementary school. I feel my son could really benefit with a little extra help. I also just want an answer so I can stop second guessing myself. It is really not possible to get my son tested? Should I just give up the quest and just assume he has it.

    • Crystal,
      I am so sorry you are having this trouble. Unfortunately, the problems you report are common. Yes, a person can have both ADHD and dyslexia. In fact, they have a tendency to occur together. But also, children with dyslexia can seem inattentive due to stress when they actually have very adequate attention and self-regulation when they are being taught using methods that enable them to learn. (Stress disrupts attention and memory.) Based on what you have reported, it is unlikely that the school is going to be able to help. Have you given you son the (free) Lexercise Dyslexia Screening Test. That would be a good place to start. Then we’d be delighted to talk with you about next steps. When parents and kids work together in therapy the results are empowering and life-changing. Your son is lucky to have such a persistent and wise mom!

  • Pennie McCain commented

    My son is 9 aand in 3rd grade. The school said they can not diagnosis dyslixia. He has an IEP, we however feel he is not getting everything he needs. The school wants to put him in a classroom full of Students woth IEP, we feel this is wrong. As with most dyslexic students he is way smarter then given credit for. I need help knowing what he needs at school to get over thw hump. My oldest is dyslexic and graduates this year. Shecarries a 3.66 gpa and is getting honor cord. She Has also taaken college courses for the last 2 years. So I know once we figure put what piece of the.puzzle is missing he with thrive.

  • le commented

    I have a child I’m not sure what the problem is but I can tell leaving him in the public school would be a mistake. Teachers don’t have the specialized training. My child I noticed has trouble remembering math facts, holding and retrieving information. It is troubling as a parent I can see that, but educators this is what they do for a living but do not see it and just keep failing your child.

  • girl commented

    i’m in year 10 and it is hell. I was diagnosed with dyslexia In year 8 and when we tried to get help they agreed to help me and support me.
    only problem is that over the last few years they have just stressed me out even more to the point that I was at a all time low and I cried everyday because of the fact that I couldn’t cope at school.
    they never contact my mum to discus progress, I have been allowed to use a laptop that crashes all the time and ruined my English mocks, they have lied to my mum about things, they never take the chance to ask me how i’m doing, they educational report they have written on me has incorrect information on and is very poorly written, I have asked for things to be in big writing for me and they still give me the tiniest writing I have ever seen.
    literally I gave up months ago because I just can’t be doing with it. my mum says she has felt physically sick thinking about it because the amount of stress it causes her.
    my school is so bad as this stuff should have been sorted in year seven and still now its a consent battle to get support. I have exams in two weeks and I am totally unprepared and I know for a fact i’m going to fail because I don’t know what i’m doing.
    everytime we kick up a fuss they say they are gonna sort it and they never do. i’m at breaking point, what do I do ?

    • There is help available, but it sounds like it will not be through your school.

      Don’t give up! You would not be posting here if you didn’t care.

      If you will have you mum contact us we’d be delighted to talk to her about the help that IS available. Do you live in Britain? If so, your mum can contact us at Support@Lexercise.com or via Skype at Lexercise.support.

  • Drew commented

    You really can’t force people to help your child. If you don’t believe they are receiving adequate help in the program they are in then maybe it’s time for a new program because like you said, some schools are just not equipped to handle that type of learning/evaluation. Thanks for your post.

  • Nelson commented

    The end result here is government. No government resource is looking to fully fund public education to maximize student potential. It is not right that you say staff is ill equipped. There is not a sufficient amount of funding to support Special Education. Government doesn’t care. Educators do. Don’t corner educators for the hard tasks they face daily. If you do raise taxes to fund more educational programs, then perhaps we have options. Would you pay more?

  • Anthony Eller commented

    I didn’t find out until later in life I was dyslexic when I did a whole new world opened up to me. I knew I had to share the gift I have found. I created a website http://MyToolBoxToSuccess.com to bring awareness and to help change the perception of dyslexia
    I joined a songwriters group and was encouraged with my writing a song called “Billy” about my experiences being dyslexic. (I’m 60 hadn’t played my guitar since college) That I have played at a coffee house where I met a retired school teacher who is helping me to start a non-profit called Billy’s Quest. I have meet a remarkable man Dr. Bob Berk his passion to help those less fortunate that are dyslexic. I believe with all my heart an soul this school can be the model for charter and public schools going forward http://cypressacademy.org in New Oleans where 20 % of the enrollment is dedicated to dyslexic chlidren. My question to you how can we get the cost of treatment down where all children can grow up to be productive individuals without living with the shame and pain that dyslexia has caused to so many?

  • Yen commented

    What a great article Sandy! We pulled out our daughter to homeschool in the third semester because I knew they did not know how to help a stealth dyslexic like her. We had to fight hard for a 504 for middle school as she finally could no longer keep compensating. We also learned she did have visual and auditory processing issues that I had missed because she coped so well until notetaking and copying was a disaster with the speed and volume ramping up in middle school. While she passed all std tests with at worst average scores in reading and writing, class work was terrible with incomplete notes and inability to finish the volume of assignments. So we got zero services as she was not ‘failing’ yet. Until the system changes, as parents we have to educate ourselves and find the right professionals who know what they are doing. I now work with my daughter 5 days a week to target the underlying processing issues guided by an experienced dyslexia clinician and the turn around has been huge undoing all the negative anxiety school caused in my daughter. Decoding dyslexia has been very strong in CA and they are finally ensuring all kids get screened before third grade but it will still be awhile before higher functioning dyslexics get support from schools.

  • I am by NO means what anyone would call an expert In Dyslexia. However I feel that I can provide some insite on this subject because as a young child just begging my public school education, I was diagnosed as having dyslexia, and it did effect my school work big time. It took awhile and allot of help on my moms part.

    She was my fighter. Back in the 1980’s the public school system I was in had no idea how to help children like me, so they did the worse thing at least for me. They would separate us kids who had trouble, which automatically set us apart from our peers, and caused me allot of anxiety which didn’t help. The school system eventually told my mom during that same year, that they would just pass and fail me, until I would hit the legal age to drop out. My mom was appalled by what she had heard from them, and knew deep down inside that there had to be anoth way for me to get a good education, I am not sure how she found what would become my new school, but she did, because I had just enough vision issues, I was accepted into the school. However the hard part for me was I had to leave home during the week and live at school and would come home on the weekends. However while being at the school I ended up getting the best education possible, I did graduate. I did do sports and I made a ton of friends. Looking back I know and understand why I was able to get the good education that I got. The class room sizes at the school were and still are known to be much smaller than the 20+ kids stuffed into a public school class room. They were at the largest have the size about 10 kids per class, The teachers were special education teachers, but they needed to be because there were and I believe still are allot of kids with special needs even more severe than what I struggled with. There was also a helper especially for the pre-k and elementary and middle school students. At the school I learned how to calm down and relax and concentrate on what I was doing. I didn’t have any special therapist work with me, I just had some very patient and passionate teachers who liked what they did and cared for the well being of their students. The school still exists today, and is ran by tax dollars and I believe grants when they need something special done. When I graduated from High school I did so with a gpa of 3.79
    every once in a while if I am really stressed and or upset and am unable to consintrate, my dyslexia will show up, one of the areas for me where I struggle with them such as math and spelling, because I will flip the letters around by mistake or I simply can’t figure out the problem, too much going on.
    I truly believe that if the school systems across the nation would stop trying to shove 20+ kids in a class and stop expecting every child to be like each other (like a cookie cutter) and add a heper in the class room to help especially when kids do have trouble understanding something, that way they will get the help and attention that they need.
    I have been out of school for a long time now, but I still remember to time and attention I got when I had a hard time grasping something new.
    It really needs to be remembered that EVERY CHILD is different and UNIQUE, so they are NOT all going to learn the same way, I believe education is very important and I am so thankful for what my mom pushed for and for what I got from the school I went too.

  • Joanne Galanino commented

    Thanks for the well discussed article Sandie, I work with children with dyslexia and similar learning difficulties. Parents often tell me how frustrated they grew with the lack of resources the public schools are able to provide. I try to explain that it’s always a battle of budgets, but it’s often tough to explain to parents who feel like they should have done more. I will be directing them here for more information. Can’t wait to share this site, and especially your blogs. Please keep blogs like this coming!

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

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Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.