Subj:    The Special Ed Advocate, Vol. 1, No. 12 (October 10, 1998) Special Edition 12A
Date:    10/8/98 7:12:01 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: (Pete and Pam Wright)

The Special Ed Advocate
The Online Newsletter about Special Education and the Law

October 10, 1998 Vol. 1, No. 12

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The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special
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Dear Pete and Pam:

First, I want to thank you for your informative web sight. It is a big
help to parents who are trying to deal with special education
departments that often do not adequately address the needs of these

My son began special education during his second grade year. He is now
in fifth grade. When he entered special education, his reading level
was 1.3. After 30 months of special education, his reading level is
2.3. He is falling further behind, not closing the gap.

I have done a great deal of research about the components an appropriate
reading program for learning disabled children. I requested that the
school use a program that is structured, systematic, sequential,
repetitive and phonologically based. The school insists that Paul’s
strengths are “reading in context” and “employing a variety of different
strategies to decode words,” i.e. picture cues, context cues etc. For
2.5 years, they have focused on this. Despite this, the test scores show
that Paul is falling further behind.

Our special education supervisor attended the last IEP meeting because I
refused to sign the IEP. She said that our school district recently
purchased the Wilson Reading System for all resource classes in our
district. Wilson is a great system – it’s based on Orton-Gillingham
principles of remediating dyslexic children.

I was very encouraged by this - until I saw that the resource room
teacher knew very little about the Wilson program and was convinced that
my son still needed reinforcement in “alternate reading strategies.”

Although the IEP says Paul will receive 45 minutes of “pull out
instruction,” his teacher will only use the Wilson Reading System twice
a week. On the other three days, she will put him in a reading group
where she teaches “alternate reading strategies.” When I asked that
Paul receive Wilson Reading System instruction five days a week, the
principal said they were “trying to meet me half way.” She said I was
“not entitled to dictate the method they chose to use to remediate my

I requested additional time to review the IEP and did not sign it. We
agreed to meet at the end of October. Should I sign the IEP and be
grateful for two days of Wilson? I am tired of fighting with them. I
feel like giving up but my son is too important.


Dear Kate:

You’re right – your son is too important. You can’t give up. From your
description, it does sound like your son has dyslexia. After 2.5 years
of special education, he made 1.0 year of progress in reading. The fact
that he made so little progress is evidence that the method being used
with him is not working.

Unfortunately, school culture prevents school staff from realizing that
sometimes, parents really do know what their children need. To get your
son the kind of help he needs, you need to have an independent expert
who can say that your son needs a program that is “structured,
systematic, sequential, repetitive and phonologically based.” Most
schools give outside experts some credit for knowing what children need.

To find an expert who understands the educational needs of dyslexic
children, contact the International Dyslexia Society (800 number)

The International Dyslexia Association has an excellent web site.

IDEA-97 places schools under increased pressure to use educational
programs that work, i.e., that have a track record of success. “What
works” for dyslexic children are reading programs that are based on
Orton-Gillingham principles.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Unfortunately, your experience with the resistant teacher is not
unusual. If your son’s teacher was trained in “whole language,” she may
not know how to do anything else. It’s better that you know this.

We are building a Special Education Advocate’s Bookstore on our web
site. We asked other attorneys, advocates and experts to recommend books
for the Bookstore. Here are some books that have been recommended:

“Educational Care” by Mel Levine. Recommended by everyone!

“Dyslexia: Theory & Practice of Remedial Instruction” by Diana Brewster
Clark and Johanna Kellogg Uhry

“The Dyslexic Scholar” by Kathleen Nosek.

You can find these and other good books in the “Learn About Education”
section of our bookstore

It’s strange that school districts so often resist using
Orton-Gillingham programs – one district even referred to O-G as a
“cult.” O-G programs are not new.

Did you know that Pete has dyslexia? In second and third grade, he had
Orton-Gillingham remediation. Every day after school, he had one-on-one
tutoring by Diana Hanbury King - for two years. He also attended a
summer residential program. This was in the early 1950s – more than 40
years ago!

BTW: we have added the new Second Circuit decision in Bartlett v. New
York Law Examiners to the Law Library. The Bartlett case was about
reasonable accommodations for a dyslexic person who took the bar exam.
The decision was issued on September 14, 1998.

Dear Pete and Pam:

Thanks for your advice. I spent time today contacting organizations that
could recommend evaluators who understand the needs of dyslexic

Paul was screened at a school in Seattle that uses the Slingerland
of Instruction. Slingerland is one of the organizations that I called
about recommendations for an independent evaluation.

I also called every resource teacher in our district to find out what
methods they use to teach dyslexic children. It seems that most of them
are using different programs. It is up
to the teacher to decide what method to use or whether to use any
at all.

I had some success. One school uses Slingerland for their resource
students. Another school uses the Wilson Reading System. Perhaps I can
move my son to another school if I cannot resolve the IEP issue.

I have done a great deal of reading from your web site and plan to order
your advocacy package.

I am trying to maintain a good paper trail. I made a chart of my son’s
progress based on the test results on the Woodcock-Johnson
Psycho-Educational Battery-Revised for the past three years. I have kept
copies of all paper work sent to the school by me and received from the

I hope we will be able to resolve our differences, but I want to be
prepared if we cannot. I want to thank you for your quick reply to my


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Copyright 1998 Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright. All rights

The resources at this site are copyrighted by the authors and/or
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not be redistributed for commercial purposes without the express written
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reproduced in any form.

Pete and Pam Wright,
The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008,
Deltaville, Virginia 23043.