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In this video, Aleczander is reading a predictable pattern book. The book was given to him by Miss Shelley, a dyslexia teacher who was employed by Aleczander’s previous school to give him 12 1-1 lessons during the summer of 2016. Aleczander, who had just completed first grade, received some really bad special education that year. His special education teachers and therapists told his parents and me on more than a dozen occasions (all conversations were taped) that Aleczander was making excellent progress, “more than a year’s worth of growth” was the catch phrase that they doubled down on. That August Aleczander’s parents, egged on by me, threw in the towel and withdrew their son from the public school system. There was just so much abuse that Aleczander could withstand as we fought to get him the special education services he needed. Continue reading
Henry Winkler, author of 17 Here’s Hank books, uses personal life experiences as his literary inspiration for Hank Zipzer, a bright, creative, little boy who knows that, while he can’t read and write like other kids do, he isn’t stupid. Like many children with average intelligence and specific learning disabilities, Henry was often in trouble when he was in school. He had some good teachers and some really bad ones. And, like many other resourceful kids struggling to learn to read and write and above all else, to look normal, Henry, and his alter ego, Hank, developed entertaining and at times outlandish coping strategies. I recently discovered Winkler’s Here’s Hank books, have purchased the first eleven in the series, and am planning to start reading Bookmarks Are People Too! (Scholastic Books, 2015) with Aleczander this week. Continue reading
Just like The Fonz, Aleczander, age 8, has dyslexia. Aleczander also has dysgraphia and oral motor disfluency. The fact that Aleczander is a third grader at Salem Sayers Baptist Academy and no longer attends his public school can be summed up in a few words: These parents were no longer willing to allow their child to be abused by special educators. As Henry Winkler states in an interview with The Guardian, “Even though I was a famous actor, I still thought I was stupid because I’d been told that so many times at school. It was imprinted on me and that’s why I think it’s so important that parents, teachers, librarians, etc don’t even joke about a child being stupid. All children know when something is wrong and they can’t understand something – they never need someone to tell them they’re stupid.” Continue reading
Kids like Aleczander need multi-sensory instruction utilizing Orton-Gillingham time tested methods in order to learn to read and write. In addition to being enrolled in a third grade classroom at a private school, Aleczander was able to attend an after school dyslexia program at the Scottish Rite Learning Center. In January of this school year, he was forced to exit the program due to the fact that his speech continues to be unintelligible to most listeners in connected speech. The good news is that Aleczander really was able to benefit from the dyslexia program and that he is starting with a new speech therapist tomorrow. Our hope is that after intensive therapy for his apraxia, he can re-enroll at Scottish Rite next fall. Please keep your fingers crossed!
Lunch Bunch at Alamo Heights UMC has been going strong for 44 years . . . Last Thursday over sixty volunteers geared up to serve close to two hundred meals to almost two hundred people.
9.1.17 Third Grade Begins
Aleczander, age 8, has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and oral motor disfluency, something speech therapists call apraxia. He’s been struggling to learn to read, write and talk like other boys and girls all his life. He’s a behavior problem, public school teachers told parents. That wasn’t true. Parents, mostly Mom, coddle and indulge him, special education assessment staff and teachers opined. And yeah, as you might imagine, those school staff members sounded condescending as all get out . . . if a person didn’t know better, he or she might believe that the folks at that public school had never heard of reading and writing disabilities that affect more or less ten percent of the population. Aleczander actually has a medical diagnosis that explains why he’s struggling so hard to learn to read and write. Continue reading
November 2015: I met Aleczander when he was halfway through first grade and his parents asked me to help them figure out what was going so badly wrong for him at the public school. Aleczander’s articulation skills were less than those of most two-year-olds, and he was having a difficult day asthma wise when I first met him, but he was sweet and totally compliant with all my requests. I couldn’t understand too many of his words, however, as long as his mother was present and he was able to use gestures and objects, I was able to understand the words he spoke during that assessment session. See a portion of the video assessment report that I created for Aleczander’s mom to take to the school to request services for his obvious speech and learning disabilities. partial November 2015 assessment report here.
Now, over a year later, I believe that my efforts to help only made things worse for Aleczander at his public school. It is true that Aleczander’s IEP team did increase his special education services during his first grade year, however his school continued to deny that he had ANY learning disabilities and to insist that he was able to do grade level look when he was sufficiently motivated to do so. It is very much an understatement when I say that the teachers weren’t overly nice to him, and the kids took their lead from the adults. Aleczander’s situation became increasingly grim as his articulation skills regressed. By May of 2016, Aleczander had developed fluency problems. In other words, he was stuttering; the secondary stuttering characteristics made him look as if he had developed Tourette’s syndrome. The school district continued to insist that “Aleczander has all the sounds he needs” and to state that the stuttering behaviors were simply Aleczander’s way of getting attention. Several weeks before first grade ended, at the same time the teachers were insisting that Aleczander had mastered his goals, made a year’s worth of progress, and was doing just great, a speech therapist friend agreed to provide Aleczander with a pro bono speech assessment. See a portion of May 2016 language sample here.
Fast forward again . . . After a disastrous first grade year (2015-16), Aleczander attended summer school at San Antonio’s best school for learning disabled children–pro bono. Heads up, we have another good news bad news story coming here. . . Aleczander had become so terrified of educational settings that he spent the first week of summer school cowering under the Lego table and the last three weeks telling teachers that no matter what they tried to tell him, or teach him, he knew better . . . “I can’t read!” he wailed. In July, at the end of summer school, the lower school director told Mom, “we love Aleczander, but we can’t help him. He needs intensive speech therapy before he can benefit from academic therapy. And get him to pediatric neurologist ASAP. He looks to us like he might be having petit Mal seizures.”
At this point, three years after they had just moved into the school district with Aleczander already diagnosed as having developmental dyspraxia, Aleczander’s parents didn’t have many options. They were sure of one thing however, Aleczander wasn’t going back to the public school! The private school that they found couldn’t provide the speech therapy Aleczander needed, nor did they have trained dyslexia and dysgraphia teachers. However, the new school’s teachers did know how to determine present levels of performance and base instructional strategies on current levels of functioning. Within a month, Aleczander had learned to trust teachers and his fellow students again. He started to smile– and he made friends. Gradually he got to the point where he could benefit from academic instruction in the presence of other children. He began to learn to read and write. Check out this video, done in May 2017. Aleczander is reading at beginning kindergarten level so he’s still got a long way to go, but he’s finally heading in the right direction. He smiles, he talks, and he doesn’t stutter! See Aleczander reading a CVC word here.
UPDATE to 8.29.17 post
Aleczander, age 7, had been getting speech therapy for his entire first grade school year when this May 2016 language sample was done pro bono by a wonderful speech therapist who used to, but no longer, works for Aleczander’s local school district. A word of caution, it’s a difficult movie to watch, but if you want to see what happens to kids when their public schools treat them as if they are manufacturing their severe learning disabilities for attention, this video sort of says it all. If you want more details on how this
Six months before Geneva did this speech language sample, I did a pro bono baby MIGDAS assessment of Aleczander; Aleczander wasn’t stuttering at all. At that point he still had wonderful spontaneous smiles and facial expressions. (see post of March 2, 2017)
Noelle, the therapist who had been seeing Aleczander in a small group for 30 minutes a week and 1-1 for 15 minutes a week toward the end of the school year, continued to reassure parents that Aleczander was making excellent progress. “He has all the sounds he needs,” Noelle trumpeted loud and long. “He can talk just fine when he slows down and uses his words.” The fact that Aleczander never displayed this skill to parents at home or to others in the community appeared completely irrelevant to school staff. The fact that he’d started stuttering was concerning to no one but family and friends.
It isn’t as if parents had been sitting at home twiddling their thumbs. During Aleczander’s first grade year, they requested additional evaluations in the areas of specific learning disabilities (including dyslexia), autism, gross and fine motor functioning, and speech and language development. Aleczander’s public school completed a Full Individual Evaluation (with speech, OT, PT, and Autism assessments thrown in). The ISDs assessment report stated that Aleczander had no cognitive processing weaknesses, severe academic deficiencies in all areas assessed, and severe behavior problems caused by attention deficit disorder. Per the school system, he didn’t have a learning disability or autism, and his speech skills were those of a child less than three years of age, but the district felt he should have no problem completing first grade work with one group therapy speech session per week, and special educators popping in and out of the first grade classroom to help Aleczander focus and attend to regular curriculum. Parents knew the ADHD thing wasn’t right, but had no idea what was wrong! Continue reading