First-marking period conferences did not go well. Perhaps you learned for the first time that your kindergartener or first grader was falling behind their peers. Or maybe you realized that your fourth grader, who has been having difficulty in school for years, isn’t just going to “grow out” of whatever is holding them back. The classroom teacher isn’t giving up, but admits that nothing they have done has had much of an impact.
What now? Most parents aren’t equipped to answer that question.
“How would parents know what to do?” asks Lawrence Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus. “This may all be new to them. They get the news that their child is struggling, and they’re lost. We want to help them know what’s best for their child’s situation.”
Lawrence’s mother, Anne Kloth, the other co-founder of Reading Success Plus, understands these parents’ plights. She went through the same thing when she realized that Lawrence had learning difficulties. He eventually was diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, and dysgraphia, and had difficulties with math. Lawrence graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but that success was built on years of researching his condition and trying various therapies. This experience led them to create Reading Success Plus so other families in similar situations would have an easier time getting help.
Start with the school
As a first step, Anne suggested reaching out to the child’s school to make clear that your child needs extra assistance. Talk to the teacher, the principal, the reading specialist – anyone in a position to help. They may have exactly what your child needs. But unfortunately, Anne warns, “most schools are not going to have anything to remediate dyslexia” – and some won’t acknowledge that dyslexia even exists.
So, ask the schools for help, but start doing your own homework. Plenty of clear, accurate information on dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD and other disorders that affect learning is available online. It might demystify your child’s struggle and offer suggestions for next steps.
Often, the search for a cause of a student’s struggles focuses on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD. It’s a good place to start; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 10 percent of all children in the U.S. ages 6-11 have been diagnosed with ADHD, as have 13 percent of those ages 12-17. This well-known term sometimes is tossed about too loosely, but it is a medical condition that can be diagnosed by the child’s doctor. The doctor, perhaps along with a child psychologist or psychiatrist, can come up with a treatment plan.
If ADHD is a possibility, Anne recommends checking for dyslexia as well. “They now know that of students with ADHD, more than 70 percent of those are also dyslexic,” she said, referring to a Harvard study. “So if ADHD is indicated, then parents need to look for dyslexia.”
Learn the signs of dyslexia
As good first step in learning about dyslexia, check out the Reading Success Plus website. In addition to offering basic information about dyslexia, it has a comprehensive list of warning signs compiled by Susan Barton, creator of the Barton Reading and Spelling System that is used by Reading Success Plus. “If three or more warning signs are displayed,” Anne says, “it could be dyslexia. Those symptoms are so precise and so specific that they don’t really point to anything else. It’s a tool to get parents pointed in the right direction, using what they’ve discovered about their child.”
Anne also recommends KidsHealth’s “Understanding Dyslexia” as a general resource. If you feel your child’s school isn’t familiar enough with the topic, she says you might want to share KidsHealth’s Dyslexia Fact Sheet for Schools with the teacher or principal.
RSP’s comprehensive screening
If this initial research points to dyslexia as a possibility, then skilled help is needed. Dyslexia can only be diagnosed by a dyslexia specialist or psychologist, though pediatricians often know the signs of dyslexia and can guide families to proper help. Reading Success Plus is partnering with pediatricians and psychologists to provide families with a diagnosis. RSP does so by administering phonological processing and oral reading tests that are accepted by pediatricians and psychologists in their diagnostic processes.
“We want to make that comprehensive screening accessible to just about everyone,” Anne says. “Then, if the parents choose to go to the pediatrician or a psychologist, they will take our testing, so that money is not wasted. It’s less costly when we do it, and we can get them help quicker. You have to wait months to see a psychologist now.”
If the screening indicates that the student has dyslexia, parents also could choose to go right into tutoring. For many families, the Reading Success Plus online program is the perfect solution. It offers flexibility, eliminates travel expenses, and provides a learning experience equal to in-office tutoring. But if online tutoring isn’t a good fit for the student, in-person sessions may provide the personal connection that they need.
Lawrence points out that ADHD and dyslexia aren’t the only learning disabilities that parents may have to consider. Dysgraphia, a writing impairment, can interfere with spelling, and cause slow and unreadable handwriting. The International Dyslexia Association explains the disorder on its web page titled “Understanding Dysgraphia.” Dyscalculia, learning disabilities specifically related to mathematics, is explored at dyscalculia.org. That website also offers a checklist of dyscalculia symptoms useful for parents who are exploring their child’s problems. Information on these disorders also is available on the Reading Success Plus website.
Find what’s right for you
Ultimately, parents who look for help outside of their child’s school must be prepared to do some homework, Lawrence says. “Do your own research and figure out who can help you and who is the best fit. Check out the psychologists in the area, read reviews, look at reading specialists and tutors. If you want Reading Success Plus to help guide you through that process, we certainly can. We can just have that discussion with you, we can offer in-person or online tutoring, and we could provide coaching services for you.”
RSP’s coaching service is designed to help parents who feel overwhelmed by their child’s learning difficulties. Coaching can help parents overcome homework hurdles, learn how to navigate the education system, understand accommodations and how to best support their student’s academic struggles. RSP also can help parents prepare for their student’s IEP and 504 meetings and serve as the parents’ advocate in dealings with the school.
“Of course, I’m biased toward what we do,” Lawrence says, “but I’m going to be honest with parents and look for the best option for them. You know, you have a child’s life on the line. So I want to give them the best help possible.”
No matter which path parents choose, Lawrence urges them to be patient. Overcoming these kinds of disabilities doesn’t happen in weeks, or even months.
“Once you figure out the best choice for your child, get that help for them and be patient with the process. They will be successful. You just have to find the right help.”