November 14, 2016

Stuck in the Maze: An 8th Grader’s Dyslexia Plea

Guest blog by Victoria, Junior High Student in Texas, Miss Teen America contestant, Learning Ally member

In her own words …

Victoria at Miss America Teen I have spent my life battling dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, sensory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, developmental vision, and specific learning disorders. I believe students can overcome disabilities without having to bang their heads against the table for someone to listen.

I am writing to help others like me. Countless opportunities were missed when class pull-outs were denied because I didn’t have a label. Did any of the labels I just told you about matter? Any one of them could have been called a rock. It took years to get all my rocks (labels). It doesn’t take a geologist to know a rock.

Imagine being fit for a triathlon, but needing someone to hold your rocks while you swim. Meanwhile, a man in a suit with his arms crossed is looking down at you saying they will only hold them as soon as your head is under the water long enough to prove you failed and will drown. That was my life.

For me, a pull-out at school was time from a para-professional to explain materials or re-read information for understanding and answer questions. In the perfect world, it’s a certified staff, but sometimes it’s just a caring person that can hold my rocks while the people that could help are tangled in red tape.

They didn’t need to fully know me to offer a pull-out. Instead, the school gave me a counselor for stress. By 6th grade, my tests showed 99.8% of students could read more fluently and 94% more accurately than I could. The school labels and procedures cost us all a fortune.

The system did eventually work for me. I am now an 8th grade honor roll student with no modifications. The process was brutal, but we NEVER GAVE UP.

There are so many laws and so little common sense in our “wait for failure model”. We were told, “Coordinated Early Intervening Services under the 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA allows local education agencies up to 15 percent of their IDEA funding Part B Sections 611 and 619 funds to provide scientifically based CEIS to children without a disability in grades K-12.” So, the money was there.

Victoria on StageI needed a caring para to keep me from drowning until they understood me. The current guidance emphasizes whether “the child is not achieving adequately”, meeting “state-approved grade-level standards”, and “underachievement is not due to lack of appropriate instruction.” We paid dearly privately to NOT fail. The sacrifice for that was not getting help until labeled.

This underfunded system is broken at the foundation because it prioritizes assistance to students not achieving at grade level standards. What about kids like me studying countless hours refusing to give up on finding a geode in my rock-pile?

We don’t think it was time well spent for anyone. Help my voice be heard. We need to strengthen early intervention funding to screen for developmental delays and not exclude hard working students during the identification process for getting para-professional assistance. There are kids stuck in the maze.

Learning Ally LogoLearning Ally is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping students with print disabilities, like dyslexia, succeed. We provide over 82,000 human narrated audiobooks, a teen self-advocacy program, and regular webinars for parents, students and teachers. Find out how you can get involved by visiting: LearningAlly.org/Get-Involved 

 

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– Jules Johnson


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