We're so excited about this new book rec find! From the Amazon book page: "When planning a child's Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is vital that parents and educators are involved in collaborative decision making. This book offers parents of children with autism and other disabilities a unique way of approaching and tackling the problems that can arise relating to the provision of special education services. Taking a structured, cooperative approach to IEPs, the easily applicable six question process enables parents to determine the needs of their child and obtain the services required by asking key questions during IEP meetings. Explaining the approach through real life scenarios and issues, this book demonstrates how to achieve effective collaboration with school personnel, ensuring the child receives the appropriate and necessary educational program and services. Providing a practical, structured approach to IEP planning for parents and offering insight into the parental perspective for educators, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone involved in IEP meetings."
This press release was originally published on January 22, 2015. WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Dyslexia Caucus today announced its 114th Congress leadership with Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) serving as bipartisan co-chairs.
“I am delighted to welcome Congressman Smith, who has been a leader in Congress on this important issue, as Caucus co-chair,” said Brownley. “As the mother of a daughter with dyslexia, I understand all too well the challenges that these uniquely talented and gifted individuals face. By bringing together individuals with dyslexia, community advocates, scientists, educators, and policymakers, the Caucus can play an important role in raising awareness about dyslexia, which affects millions of Americans. I hope the Caucus can help ensure that dyslexia is better understood and earlier identified, so that students are provided the necessary resources and accommodations to reach their full potential.”
“I am pleased to lead this important caucus with my colleague, Congresswoman Brownley,” said Smith. “As a member of this caucus and chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I have realized the importance of continued dyslexia research as well as the need for early detection and intervention in our schools. My hope is that this caucus will continue to play a key role in educating our colleagues in Congress and the public about dyslexia. Changing the way we approach dyslexia – as possibility rather than disability – can enhance opportunities and brighten futures for millions.”
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States, impacting Americans from all walks of life at all ages, including Members of Congress, their families, and thousands of their constituents. As many as one in five Americans struggle with dyslexia or other learning disorders. According to a November 2011 Government Accountability Office report (GAO-12-40), many students with learning and other disabilities, including dyslexia, are not receiving accommodations, such as extended testing time, required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they take high stakes examinations such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, or US Medical Licensing Examinations and others.
The Dyslexia Caucus was founded as a bipartisan task force dedicated to increasing public awareness about dyslexia and ensuring equal educational opportunities to students with the disorder.
We're taking our show on the road this week with an exciting presentation and Camp Show in the Farmington Valley near Hartford, Connecticut. One of the greatest things about Camp Shows is the opportunity to provide "on the ground," free public instruction to a new, diverse audience. Why Connecticut? The parent of a beloved camper invited us, that's why! Read about this parent's observations of her son after Camp Spring Creek in the following press release. If you'd like to host a Camp Show in your area (and see Susie!), just call our office and let us know.
Dyslexia Awareness & Camp Show
West Hartford, Connecticut – January 21, 2015 – Nationally known dyslexia advocate and camp director Susie van der Vorst presents on early intervention, signs, and solutions.
Camp Spring Creek, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is an academic and recreational camp supporting dyslexic children ages 7 to 14. Invited by a local West Hartford family whose child attended the camp, co-founder and director Susie van der Vorst will discuss early intervention practices, signs, and solutions for parents, teachers, and administrators. van der Vorst will also facilitate a brief discussion of Camp Spring Creek and take questions from the audience. The event is free, open to the public, and welcomes children.
According to van der Vorst, with support, people with dyslexia often lead lives of accomplishment. Some of the most successful people in history had dyslexia, including Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Walt Disney. “So many people with dyslexia are misunderstood,” said van der Vorst. “But just look at the wonderful role models we have! Many succeed in spite of their education. Imagine how they’d be if they had been instructed in the ways that they learn best.”
One of the most highly effective methods for such instruction is the Orton-Gillingham approach. It teaches the structure of language using multisensory techniques that lead students to see, hear, and write a concept at the same time. Processing a single concept in many different ways allows dyslexic kids to grasp skills they cannot learn using traditional methods. It’s that approach that drew West Hartford’s Toutain family to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where Winston could attend 1 of only 3 residential camps in the United States accredited by the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators.
“We knew dyslexia was a possibility for our son Winston because his father and paternal grandfather have dyslexia. It was important to ius to try and find something that could help, that would also be accredited,” said mother and West Hartford resident, Lesley Toutain. “My husband and I talked with Winston about how being dyslexic doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, simply that he has to find learning strategies that work for him. But I don’t think that really took hold until he was in an environment where all the kids were in the same boat. Camp Spring Creek was an extremely positive experience for him.”
The academic program at Camp Spring Creek includes one-on-one tutoring using the Orton-Gillingham approach, keyboarding and writing classes, one hour of reading aloud each day to camp staff, and one hour of study skills. Optional math remediation or enrichment is available. The activities offered by the program include wood shop, art, swimming, orienteering, and waterskiing. There are also field trips to explore the surrounding Blue Ridge landscape and culture. “We often see students make two to three years worth of progress during a six to eight week session at camp,” said van der Vorst. “Our approach is designed to target a child’s individual strengths and weaknesses and help them excel. But we also recognize the value of keeping kids active throughout the day. These kids can’t learn as well if they’re stuck behind a desk. The learning needs to be hands-on so that they can get multiple senses involved.”
The info session will be held Wednesday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Saint James’s Episcopal Church, 1018 Farmington Avenue, in West Hartford. For more information, call (828) 766-5032 or visit www.campspringcreek.org.
Today's blog features inspiring individual Sheneen Daniels. Dr. Sheneen Daniels is the Director of the Clinical Division for CReATE, a unique private practice specializing in the provision of evidenced-based evaluations and the implementation of applied clinical research. At CReATE, she manages all clinical, administrative, programmatic, supervision, and training for a team of doctoral-level psychologists, graduate students, and other clinicians. She is a licensed psychologist with over 15 years experience in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health and neurodevelopmental disorders and conditions. Dr. Daniels currently holds a position as Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with primary duties as Consulting Psychologist to the UNC TEACCH Autism Program (Asheville Center). Camp Spring Creek: You have conducted thousands of psychological evaluations, many for children with learning differences such as dyslexia. Based on your experience, if there was a message you could give to others about how these children experience the world, what message would that be?
Sheneen Daniels: Well, I think the main message would be that children with dyslexia are as unique and diverse as children without dyslexia, and although it is very important to identify dyslexia early in development, I think it is just as important to identify the strengths and gifts of children early as well. I have seen children with dyslexia who are socially gifted, masters at constructing things with their hands, unbelievably musically talented, stellar math students, or athletically gifted; the list goes on and on. Every child has a gift and it is important to identify and build upon these strengths, particularly as you are addressing the child’s challenges with reading and/or school in general. The second most important message is to instill hope with understanding. When parents first receive a diagnosis of dyslexia for their child, sometimes it can be overwhelming and they may believe the diagnosis will be a barrier to their child’s long-term success. The child may have started to feel demoralized as school is a big part of a child’s life and receiving a diagnosis may make them feel as if something is inherently “wrong” with them, rather than understanding that his/her brain may just process information differently. However, with the right intervention, support, and a focus on the child’s strengths, children with dyslexia can be quite successful and the possibilities are truly endless!
CSC: Your career demonstrates an admirable commitment to both research and meeting the needs of people with neurodevelopmental conditions and disorders. Those of us who don't work in the sciences often carry an image of the researcher as an inaccessible scientist, dressed in lab whites, holding a clipboard, and sternly overlooking his/her case studies. Can you tell us a little bit about how you balance the emotion and the science of your work? Do they have to be separate? Or perhaps more keenly stated, how do you negotiate the balance between passionate interest and emotional investment, with the objectivity that clinical research requires?
SD: I firmly believe that psychological testing is both a science and an art. Science in that it requires hypothesis testing, data collection and interpretation, as well as a strong, understanding of evaluation instruments, statistics, and current research. However, it is also an art, because it requires creativity, experience, and compassion in order to translate the science in a way that will be helpful for a particular child or family. It really doesn’t matter how much knowledge you have about statistics or research if you can’t present the information in a way that makes sense for the ones who need to understand it. On the flip side, you can have a lot of compassion but if you do not really understand how the science informs clinical practice, then your ability to help the child or family is limited. Every clinician will talk about cringe-worthy cases early in their career, largely related to their inexperience, self doubt, or refusal to think creatively or flexibly. For me, the cases where I was unable to effectively communicate and instill hope, encourage exploration, and ultimately inspire the family (or child) to move forward, tend to be my greatest regrets. At this point in my career, I can share so many wonderful success stories with parents and children who are receiving the diagnosis for the first time, and this can be very inspiring for them as well.
CSC: There are many barriers to early intervention, not the least of which is simply awareness of the fact that early intervention is important and can yield successful outcomes for children with learning differences. But I'm thinking about some of the families in our neck of the woods--many of whom would struggle to get a day off of work (losing pay) to take their child to Asheville (gas money) for an assessment they can't afford. What options do these families have or where might your refer them?
SD: The child’s school system can be the best place to start, though there admittedly are barriers in this environment as well. There can be long timelines and the school is not required to test a child just because the parents request it, although making the request is the first step and should be done in writing. Parents should remember that they are their child's best advocate and communicating regarding their concerns and/or their child's progress can be instrumental. Regarding private evaluations, insurance and Medicaid do not cover psychological testing solely for educational purposes or to determine if a child has dyslexia specifically. However, if there is also concern about ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder or other “medical” disorders, then sometimes the testing can be covered to investigate those conditions. Other diagnoses identified during the evaluation process, including dyslexia, could be documented in the process. Another great resource is a university psychology clinic, where graduate students may administer the tests but are closely supervised by licensed psychologists. Western Carolina University, for example, has a great Psychological Services Clinic and comprehensive evaluations are available for a very low price and may even be discounted based on a family’s ability to pay.
CSC: With your degrees, many areas of research were possible for you. What inspired you to focus your career on neurodevelopmental conditions and disorders, or specifically, learning differences?
SD: I have always really liked math and the sciences always appealed to me; however, I also was drawn to pursuing a discipline where I could make a difference in some way. My first semester of graduate school in clinical psychology included both assessment and statistics courses, which I thought were fascinating, though this was not the case for many in my graduate class! I was intrigued by the variability that I saw in how individuals approached certain tasks and what that might tell us about how their brain processed information or where their strengths might lie. I became especially interested in dyslexia after studying Sally Shaywitz’s work, as she was really able to pinpoint brain functioning through functional MRI’s, and helped to clarify a disorder that was previously misunderstood. And not only did her work bring understanding to dyslexia, but the research also showed that with the right intervention (and early!), individuals could actually modify their brain functioning in ways that could help them to become more fluent readers. I felt that her research brought so much understanding and hope and was able to experience this first hand with a young family member of mine. This particular individual was diagnosed at a young age with a reading disability, though dyslexia was never explained to him. He was quite determined, however, and worked hours on his homework every night for years, though he still struggled. By late high school, however, he was quite discouraged and perceived himself to be not very smart (despite having a superior IQ!). He was conditionally accepted to a local university but had no intention of seeking out support services due to self consciousness and very low expectations for success (he did not believe he would make it past the conditional enrollment period). Around this time, I was nearing the end of my graduate studies and encouraged him to get an updated evaluation with a clinician who had an understanding of dyslexia. The result was truly remarkable. Once he understood that dyslexia meant he had isolated weaknesses in phonemic awareness, spelling, and a slow reading speed -- but that he was quite bright and capable of succeeding in college, his motivation, determination, and expectation for success returned. He subsequently took advantage of support services and accommodations in college and went on to graduate and become a successful professional in the financial field, earning prestigious credentials. This experience highlighted for me, firsthand, the importance of understanding both limitations (i.e., disorders, such as dyslexia) BUT ALSO strengths and how to apply this knowledge towards developing a success-oriented plan for the future.
We're pleased to announce that Susie has been featured in the September 2014 issue of Western North Carolina Woman, a much-loved print publication in the region with worldwide readership on the web. Please read this up-to-date interview with Susie on the future of education and, if you're moved by some of what she says, consider sharing this link with your friends, teachers, and colleagues. We're overjoyed to be featured! Here is the link to the article in full: http://www.wncwoman.com/2014/09/03/teaching-creativity-an-interview-with-susie-van-der-vorst-on-the-future-of-education/.
Pete Wright is an attorney who represents children with special educational needs. In second grade, Pete was diagnosed with learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. He was fortunate—his learning problems were identified early. His parents obtained intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation for him by Diana Hanbury King. Pete's determination to help children grew out of his own educational experiences. While attending Randolph Macon College, Pete worked in a Juvenile Training School as a houseparent. After graduation with a degree in Psychology, he worked in another Juvenile Training School and ultimately was honored as Virginia's "Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year." During that time, Pete was also attending evening college in a graduate psychology program at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1977, Pete graduated from T. C. Williams Law School at the University of Richmond. In 1993, Pete successfully represented Shannon Carter, a child with dyslexia, before the U. S. Supreme Court. (510 U.S. 7) This landmark, 9-0 decision, resulted in the Carters, and many parents since, being able to recover the cost of their child’s private, Orton-Gillingham, special education tuition. We were honored to interview him. Camp Spring Creek: It’s been so moving for us to review and share your story over the past week and half with our readers, so let us begin by saying “thank you” on behalf of all parents, children, and advocates in the learning differences field. We’re thrilled that your grandson will be joining us at camp this summer. We know that dyslexia is genetic and that both you and your grandson have been diagnosed with it. Were you the first to recognize this learning difference in your grandson? What do you hope he will gain from Camp Spring Creek?
Pete Wright: No. Both my son and daughter-in-law recognized these issues early on, in part because of knowing my history and my son’s own personal experience with LD in his early elementary years. My grandson’s biggest issue is more dysgraphia than anything. He is very, very bright and yet, because of the dysgraphia, and being so far behind his peers, he feels very inadequate and it’s having an adverse impact on his self-esteem and perception of self. I’m hoping that, as his written language skills improve and increase, the self-esteem and emotional issues that relate to that will dissipate.
I can tell you from my own personal experience and having worked with so many kids since the ‘60’s, that children with dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, often feel stupid because of their inadequate skills and they get depressed. When that happens, many individuals recommend counseling and therapy. I disagree. I have always taken the position with my clients that we have to teach the youngster how to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic and the self-esteem will improve, the depression will go by the wayside, and things will turn around. Almost always, that has been the case.
CSC: You were diagnosed with dyslexia before it even had an official name in the United States. Now, as a result of your work and Wrightslaw, “dyslexia” is much more of a household word and many parents of children with learning differences now understand that their children have a legal right to equal education opportunities. We’ve come a long way. That said, you’re still hard at work. What do you see as some of today’s greatest remaining challenges in the LD advocacy and legal rights world?
PW: I was actually diagnosed with Strephosymbolia, also known at that time, as Word Blindness. (See my YouTube video about Strephosymbolia and Dr. Orton.) Strephosymbolia was the word used by Dr. Samuel T. Orton on July 25, 1925 when he presented the concept to the American Neurological Society. Strephrosymbolia later became known as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.
From a legal perspective the word “dyslexia” has been in the special education statute since 1975 when the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed. (It is now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, i.e., “IDEA 2004.” The last revision was in 2004.) Even though it has been in the law as a part of the definition of a learning disability since 1975, some special educators and school psychologists around the country deny that it exists or assert that it’s a medical issue, not an educational issue, and it’s not covered by the federal special education law. This tells you that they have not looked at either the law or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which identifies it under “Specific Learning Disorder” subtype, “Impairment in Reading.”
Because of resistance in some school districts, parents have formed Decoding Dyslexia groups nationwide and approached their state legislatures to put the word in the state statute, define it, and also define the nature of services that children with dyslexia are supposed to receive. As a result, a number of states have since passed statutes that define dyslexia and spell out what needs to be done. The definition used by most of these states, word for word, tracks the definition used by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA).
The big challenge will be to change the outdated beliefs of many special education administrators and school psychologists in the bureaucratic sector and also those in the trenches working with the kids—getting them to accept that they do have to teach children with dyslexia the proper way so that the children will learn how to read, write, spell, and do arithmetic. Using talking books, having others read textbooks aloud to the child or having others write for the child, becomes the focus, that is to provide modifications and accommodations, rather than teaching the critical reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling skills. Sadly, it is often rooted in the belief that, because the child has dyslexia, the child cannot learn how to read or write, spell or do arithmetic. The heavy reliance on modifications and accommodations does not help the child in later years, once they’re out of school and employed.
CSC: Many famous dyslexics have been interviewed about their struggles with early education and have moving stories to share about how they finally moved past their learning differences and were able to see them as learning advantages. Did you experience a similar pivotal turning point in your own education? If so, please tell us about that moment or realization:
PW: In 1952, at the beginning of my second grade year, I was totally illiterate. I could not read, write, spell, or do arithmetic. My parents were told that I was uneducable and that nothing could be done. They were also told that I was mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. Fortunately a private evaluation identified me as having “Strephosymbolia" and my parents were told to find someone skilled in teaching children using the approach created by Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham. They found Diana Hanbury King who tutored me, every day, one-on-one, after school, using the Orton-Gillingham approach, for two years. Her goal was to get me two years above my age and grade level. Several years later, when I was in the sixth grade, I was tested and my scores were at the eighth grade level.
The changes in me were slow, over two years, during almost all of the second and third grades. Thus there was not a pivotal turning point, or “eureka” moment or realization. I simply learned how to read, write, spell and do arithmetic, at a level surpassing that of my peers.
Diana Hanbury King is now considered to be one of the top experts in the world. Years after working with me, she founded The Kildonan School in Amenia, NY. Last year my grandson spent several days with her as she worked with him and my daughter-in-law. Since then, every day, he works on the exercises Diana created for him and we have seen great progress. It is hard work for him. I remember my own experiences with her and how hard the work was. She is a task-master and has very high expectations. My grandson has become quite aware that putting in the time and working hard is generating great benefits. As expected, at first he complained, but as he saw his own changes in legibility of the written letters, numbers and words, and increased typing speeds, he has become self-motivated.
On another note, there’s a lot of talk about the gift of dyslexia and that dyslexics think outside the box and I agree. But Diana Hanbury King has a different stint on that and she has absolutely nailed it! In December 2012, she spent several days with me and my wife Pam at our home in Deltaville, VA and I did a YouTube interview of her in which she discusses her theory. All parents of children with dyslexia need to see it. It will surprise you and you, too, will agree. I won’t give away her theory here. Seeing it is believing.
CSC: There are so many resources online that are helpful, but the Internet can also be a dizzying place for a parent looking into his or her LD child’s educational rights. For a parent just starting out, what top three links can you share to help them understand their rights and options?
PW: In all honesty, there is nothing that is comparable to our website. We have more traffic than the US Department of Education. We have almost 100,000 subscribers to our online newsletter. If you research something related to special education law, so often Google will take you back to our wrightslaw.com website. Between our Wrightslaw: Special Education Law book, our Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy book, and our Wrightslaw: All About IEPs book, we have sold almost a half million copies. In my Wrightslaw training programs, (about 25 per year), I tell parents that they have to read our From Emotions to Advocacy book three times. The first read is an emotional roller coaster for the parents. The second read they can digest it and highlight and take notes. The third read is the synthesis of the second read and putting it all together.
Note: This article was originally published in the Winter 1994 issue of Perspectives, the Journal of the Orton Dyslexia Society, now known as the International Dyslexia Association. It is written by Peter W. D. Wright, Attorney at Law, Deltaville, VA of Wrightslaw and reprinted with permission. For more about Peter, see our previous blog post featuring his educational experiences as a child with dyslexia and ADHA in the 1950's education system and stay tuned for his forthcoming interview on our site. The case of Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter was set in motion by four distinguished members of The Orton Dyslexia Association - Helene Dubrow, Diana Hanbury King, Roger Saunders, and Linda Summer. In 1953, Orton member, Diana Hanbury King tutored a severely dysgraphic, dyslexic and hyperkinetic youngster. During the next summer, that eight year old boy attended Helene Dubrow’s camp at the base of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont where he continued to receive intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation from his tutor and counselor, Roger Saunders, another Orton member.
Remediation with Diana King continued through the next academic year. Later, Diana King founded the famous Orton-Gillingham based Kildonan School, which is located in Amenia, New York. Dr. Roger Saunders founded the Jemicy School in Maryland and became one of the most prominent psychologists in the field of dyslexia.
Thirty years later, in 1985, another Orton member, Linda Summer began working with Shannon Carter, a severely depressed fifteen year old. Shannon had been misdiagnosed by the school system as a "slow learner," who was "lazy and unmotivated." Despite an average to above average IQ, Shannon was functionally illiterate. Linda Summer discovered and diagnosed Shannon’s dyslexia. She insisted that Shannon needed a self-contained classroom to remediate her disabilities. The public school refused to provide this and proposed to give Shannon three hours a week of special education. Her parents refused this. As members of the Orton Dyslexia Society, Mr. and Mrs. Carter attended state and regional conferences. When the school refused to educate Shannon, the parents placed her into Trident Academy, another Orton-Gillingham based program. The parents sought reimbursement for the cost of the tuition at Trident Academy and took their case to court. Eventually, Pete Wright, a Richmond, Virginia attorney and former pupil of Diana Hanbury King and Roger Saunders, represented Shannon.
Pete Wright argued Shannon’s case before The U. S. Supreme Court on October 6, 1993. Three generations of Orton Dyslexia Society (now known as the International Dyslexia Association) members were present during oral argument. While Pete argued Shannon’s case, Roger Saunders and Shannon Carter watched from the audience. On November 9, 1993, thirty-four days later, the Court issued a unanimous decision on behalf of Shannon Carter and affirmed the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Emory and Elaine Carter sought a more intensive program – and the school refused to provide this, in part because no such program was available in School District Four. After losing both a due process and review hearing, Shannon’s parents took their case to the U. S. District Court where they prevailed. On appeal to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the school system changed tactics. They argued that Trident Academy was not a certified approved school. Dr. Lucia Karnes, a member of the Orton Dyslexia Society, helped to set up Trident Academy. The public school argued that because Trident was not an "approved" school, the parents should not be reimbursed, even though the private school provided Shannon with an appropriate education. The Fourth Circuit upheld the trial court’s decision. In making their argument, Florence County School District Four followed the rationale and the rule of law that existed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
In that Circuit, a trial judge found that The Kildonan School provided a youngster with an excellent education and that there was not an appropriate education available either within the public school or on the state’s list of approved schools. Because of the prior Second Circuit precedent, the trial judge expressed concerns that he could not rule in favor of the child. The judge said that although the parents obtained an appropriate education for their son, it was not free.
In Carter, the Fourth Circuit took a different position. If the school system defaults on its legal duty to provide the child with an appropriate education and if the parents obtain an appropriate special education for their child, then the child’s education should be free -- regardless of whether the school was on an "approved list." (South Carolina did not have any pre-existing list.) Because of the "split" between the Second Circuit and Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in the Carter case. School officials hoped that a favorable decision in Carter would reduce the costs of special education.
The U. S. Supreme Court did not agree. They gave short shrift to the "financial catastrophe" arguments raised by the seventeen states and dozens of educational organizations that filed briefs against Shannon. Legal scholars were surprised at the speed with which the Court reached its decision. Carter was considered a stunning victory for parents of handicapped children. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Trident Academy provided Shannon with an excellent education and that the public school program was "woefully inadequate." Children with handicaps are entitled to a continuum of educational alternatives, including self-contained and residential programs. Schools that provide fixed rigid programs directed by staffing convenience are ill-advised to draw lines in the sand, provide inadequate programs, then suggest that parents "take it or leave it." Parents may reject the school’s proposal, secure an education privately, then present the school with a bill and collect in the end.
This was the outcome in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, a case set in motion by the involvement of four distinguished members of The Orton Dyslexia Society - Helene Dubrow, Diana Hanbury King, Roger Saunders, and Linda Summer. Children with all types handicaps, disabilities, and learning differences benefit from the work of The Orton Dyslexia Society, now called the International Dyslexia Association.
(Note: Click here to see a YouTube video portion of Pete's Keynote at "Decoding Dyslexia Day - Richmond, VA and stay tuned for our next post--an interview with Peter Wright himself.)
Note: Today's blog post is an excerpt from "The Untold Story" written by Peter Wright of Wrightslaw and is the first in a 3-part series exploring the inspiring story of one man's personal experiences with dyslexia, from student to nationally known advocate. We'll follow Peter through his early years all the way to his landmark Supreme Court victory that has made a positive difference for thousands of children that have learning differences. We'll conclude this series with a new interview with Peter himself. Read here and stay tuned! In 1951, my kindergarten teacher told my parents, "Peter does not listen to his teachers, does not respond to school rules and definite directions . . . listening and doing are necessary requisites for first grade." The following year, my first grade teacher said, "He makes most of his numbers backwards . . . I am having a little trouble understanding Peter; he is a nice little boy, but he does not appear at all interested in first grade . . . I know he has a good mind."
Later, teachers said that, "He is fussy, too free with his fists." "I am quite disappointed in Peter . . . He does not pay attention to directions and he has to be spoken to frequently for talking." (Next marking period) "Peter continues to disappoint me . . . He does not do his best at all times because he does not keep his mind on his work and wastes a great deal of time . . . I hope he will try to improve before the closing of the school year as he is a capable boy."
At different times, I was labeled as borderline mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. During my public school career, I was never viewed as having college potential so I was placed in the general track, where I took touch typing for two years (when it was called typing, not keyboarding).
Who is Pete Wright? For the special educators in the audience, I was one of your children.
From elementary school to the third grade, I reversed not only my spoken speech, pasghetti, for spaghetti, concepts, over under in out, and reading and writings were filled with reversals. I also had what was called "mirror writing".
My teachers told my parents that I could do well if I would only try harder. I had ants in my pants and could not sit still. I was eventually diagnosed as having strephosymbolia and word blindness. These are labels for what we now call Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
I received extensive individual tutoring every day after school in 1953. In 1954 I attended a residential camp. I continued one-on-one tutoring the next year. I was prescribed Dexedrine and took that through elementary and junior high school years as a means to reduce the hyperkinetic behavior.
The tutoring technique used with me in 1953 is what is known today as the Orton-Gillingham multi-sensory, visual auditory, kinesthetic tactile approach to language learning. My tutor was Diana King who later founded the Kildonan School and is referred to in several of the cases that preceded Carter.
I attended Washington D.C. public schools and, by the end of the 11th grade had a strong D+ average. My parents sent me to a small New England prep school with student teacher ratio of 6 to 8 students per class where the professors were aware of my dyslexia.
After graduating from that school, I attended Randolph Macon College in Virginia and worked in Virginia’s juvenile training schools and juvenile courts. At the same time I attended Virginia Commonwealth University and took 30 graduate credit hours in psychology, intending to become a psychologist. I needed a practicum which was hard to do while working full time.
While working as a probation officer, I became involved with the Orton Dyslexia Society and the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (now LDAA). Many of the youngsters that I worked with in the training schools and juvenile courts had undiagnosed, unremediated learning disabilities. I used educational remediation to reduce delinquent behavior and spoke at the National Conferences of the ACLD and Orton Dyslexia Society about LD and juvenile delinquency in 1974 and 1975.
Later in 1975 I attended Law School and immediately became involved in special education litigation after passing the Bar. By the early 1980’s I was handling a large number of special ed cases and in the Fall of 1984 was a primary speaker at the National Orton Dyslexia Annual Conference which was held in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I held a training session for lawyers and parents about special ed law and actual trial tactics in the litigation of special education cases.
That led to my talking to parents and educators at the North and South Carolina Annual Orton Conference in the spring of 1985 at Wingate College, North Carolina. Shannon Carter’s parents were in the audience. Who is Shannon Carter? Stay tuned for next week's blog post about her landmark Supreme Court case...