My Child is Struggling, But Everyone Says He is On Grade-Level...

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Is your child in the gray area?

“She has trouble spelling and reading fluently, but she’s doing okay for the most part.”

“He’s about a year behind, but don’t worry, it will click soon…

“She has a hard time with reading grade level text, but she is fine compared to other kids in her class who struggle so much more…”

“I understand he has a diagnosis of dyslexia, but he’s not that far behind…”

I have heard these things said too many times than I care to count and my stomach clenches when I hear the part of the sentence that comes next, “your child does not qualify for an IEP or 504 plan.”

I have been advocating for children for over twenty years and during this time, the students I feel called to advocate for the most are the students who fall into this gray area; they aren’t proficient in the classroom, yet they don’t qualify for special education services for a 504 plan.

These are the students I worry about the most because I feel like they are at the greatest risk of falling through the cracks or having their learning needs go unnoticed and unmet. More often than not, children with dyslexia fall into this gray area.

Students with dyslexia have advanced skills in many areas but also have skills that are severely lacking in other areas. They can compensate due to their high cognitive abilities or perform at a somewhat ‘acceptable’ grade level benchmark. Thus, these students can be missed, misunderstood, and can lose out on the opportunity to reach their full potential.

What you can do if your child/student is falling into the “gray area”

If you are a parent; ask questions, seek feedback, and take action. Ask questions about your child’s growth towards benchmarks and their day to day progress regarding these goals. Seek feedback about their weekly work, reading level, and rate of growth. Finally, take action. If you suspect your child has a learning difference, get answers. Gather as much information as you can about your child as a learner and consider educational testing or an evaluation. This will help you better understand their strengths and areas of weakness. This information will also help you advocate for their needs.

If you are a teacher; educate yourself on the signs of dyslexia, differentiate, progress monitor, and put accommodations in place. Differentiated instruction and responsive teaching are essential to make sure students don’t get lost in this gray area. Concrete supports such as systematic and explicit reading instruction delivered in small group settings, ongoing progress monitoring that identifies and tracks areas of weakness, additional time when needed on assignments and tests, and varied access to reading materials such as leveled texts and audiobooks can make a world of difference in supporting students with dyslexia. Check out our blog: “The 5 Things Every Child with Dyslexia Needs in the Classroom” for more information.

Although teachers cannot diagnose dyslexia, they must be armed with the knowledge of how dyslexia presents itself in the classroom and can impact learning. Teachers need to be able to identify a struggling learner and respond appropriately. Becoming familiar with the hallmarks of dyslexia as well as classroom accommodations that can be put in place to support all students, but specifically, target dyslexic students is a crucial step in making sure students don’t fall through the cracks or get swept up into the gray area.