Advice about Learning Differences

Parent Q&A

  • Middle school for highly social gifted/LD kid

    (7 replies)

    My kid is entering the 5th grade at a small private school. She has struggled with writing and rote memorization and has received support/handholding but no remediation at the school. Her learning needs evidently run counter to the progressive educational model  so she has floundered and required alot of outside help we can no longer afford .We got her tested by the school district and since she did not bomb the testing, but still met criteria for LD, she was denied services. We have run out of money given we have other kids who need to be educated too.

    She has to take the ISEE this fall to get into private middle school. She is saying no way will she even attempt the essay portion of the test-even if she is allowed extra time and a computer. So, we have a kid with a 99th%ile IQ who has to be literally walked through sentence by sentence to write a paragraph and still has not memorized multiplication tables, but is advanced in math reasoning and is highly verbal.

    I'm  feeling very stuck and hopeless about our kid's education and what to do about middle school. Homeschool is out- I work and my kid is very strong willed and would not learn from parents. She would crash and burn in a public school classroom and is refusing to do the ISEE if she has to write. Luckily she is socially and emotionally well-adjusted, and knows she's smart, but can't find a learning environment that will do the remediation. We can't afford both private school and private remediation and without significant support in the classroom, there's no way she could function in a large class. Help!

    I had a somewhat similar kid, who I sent to a small, private elementary school.  Starting in 6th grade, he attended Berkeley Public Schools -- King Middle School (though any of the 3 Berkeley middle schools would have worked - they are great!) and went on to Berkeley High.  I would encourage you to consider public school for a social child.  Especially for middle school, since those years are more about learning to be a part of society than academic learning.  You may get a very welcome surprise, and your child may enjoy the expanded social circle and challenging, diverse curriculum.

    Your post doesn't say what district you're in but I assume she had an IEP and didn't qualify for services, which can be common for 2E kids, or even other kids depending on what cut offs the districts use.  For 2E kids specifically there is Big Minds Unschool up in Pinole and DaVinci in Alameda. I'm not sure where Baywood is these days. A lot of 2e kids get home schooled and there's a whole community of these families. You could also look at Raskob. This is a school specifically for dyslexia and a lot of kids come in behind academically when they start to flame out in their regular schools because of their LD. The classes are small and are tailored for where the kids are at.  A kid in 8th grade with dyslexia or dyscalculia (math) might be in classes with 6th or 7th graders, and vice versa.  Some classes move faster than others depending on the strengths and weakness of the kids.  There are definitely 2e kids at the school. They're there for remediation, to gain skills, to learn to self advocate, and--this is a big one--to get through middle school in a protected environment.  I have to disagree with one of the posters.  Having good social skills helps but does not protect a child from the side effects of academic failure, especially in middle school.   

    Oh, I feel for you. I want to second what some are saying and also offer one more suggestion:  1. Definitely,  would not take the first "no" as final on IEP and services. A lawyer might be needed. If she can't write without that level of support, she needs services. Anxiety might be an issues. ADHD might be an issue. You do need some really good assessments and help interpreting them. 2. I would also consider public school -- but it might depend on which school. My kid went through Albany Middle and it was pretty much a nightmare. I would not recommend for kids who need anything out of the ordinary. They never seemed to get it. However, this *IS* the kind of support you should be getting from any school: "hmmm, maybe we stop worrying about her multiplication tables. Some kids get them later, and some never get them. She could have a multiplication chart on her desk during tests so she can show her higher order thinking and we'll see how long she needs that". Mine needed it through sixth grade and then suddenly didn't -- no drama, no fuss. I agree that public will allow you t better afford the supports you need to add on. 3. In terms of privates that might work -- Raskob is another option. I have heard great things and wish we had gone there -- might have helped with some skill and confidence building that AMS would not deal with. I wish you the best. Here is what I wish someone told me: Now is the time to deal with this; stop "waiting and seeing". Push, push, push the schools to do what is needed. They need to learn how to work with different kids and you are their teacher. Be polite, be friendly, but be firm.

    Sadly, no matter how good the private elementary school seems, it is absolutely not meeting your child's needs.  It's time to find a new school ASAP for 5th grade.  Is your child dyslexic?  If so, enroll your child in a school that specializes in dyslexia.  You are wasting your money on tuition that is not helping your child.

    Let go of forcing your child to take the ISEE exam.  She is telling you loud and clear that she can't do it.  Listen to her.  Highly competitive middle schools will not be a good fit.

    If you can't afford tuition anymore, then it's time to enroll in public school or charter school.  Get a lawyer or advocate to help you navigate the public school system for special education.  If she met the criteria for LD, public schools can not deny help (but private schools can).  I doubt that your child will crash and burn in public school.  My son sounds very much like your daughter, and he is able to navigate public school, but it is challenging at times.  Being aware of his strengths and weaknesses helps him to ask for help when he needs it without feeling bad about himself.

    Last, let yourself mourn for how difficult it is to educate 2E kids.  They are bright enough that schools like to ignore the kid's challenges or chalk it up to a lack of motivation.  As a parent, you can see your child's potential, and it's painful to watch them struggle needlessly.  Your child needs an alternate path, and it's difficult.  I'm cheering for you and your daughter!  She is lucky to have a parent that sees her amazing strengths and is actively trying to help.

    Homeschool is not sitting at the kitchen table teaching your kid.  Especially not in the bay area.  There are loads of classes and micro schools she could attend while you worked.  Single parents do it, working parents do it.  You might look at Baywood, also look up Jade Rivera as well as Melanie Hayes of Big Minds.  There's also a gifted co-op in Alameda.  That said, I know kids with severe dyslexia who did the ISEE and got into great schools.  

    If you are open to a private school that is different than the rest, you should check out Big Minds Unschool in Pinole. It is a school specifically for children like your daughter - those who are both gifted but have a learning disability or other challenge that makes conventional school very difficult.  Our son started attending the school last year and it has been a huge relief in many ways for him and for my husband and I knowing he is in a place where he is accepted and supported. Families are traveling from Oakland, Berkeley, Vallejo, Pleasanton and more because it is such a unique and caring school! 

    This sounds difficult. Are there really two issues? 1) child has LD not currently addressed by school she's in, and you anticipate the differences only growing/intensifying into middle school, and 2) you can't afford to supplement given private school cost. There may not be a silver bullet here. One approach is to move her to public school ASAP, so you are saving money on tuition that then could be applied to outside services, if the public school denies her in-school services (not sure of the backstory there from your post, but obviously public school districts are required to provide services to children who qualify for an IEP - perhaps your child doesn't quite meet their standard for services). If her social skills are good, like you say, she can weather this transition and hopefully not "crash and burn" especially if she's motivated - understands her situation, that she has differences, and this is one approach to help her work through them. The IEP process has a steep learning curve, so I realize it's daunting, but  I love that my son is getting the services he needs in school, for free.

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  • What to do for a mild learning discrepancy in a child?

    (4 replies)

    My 10 year old daughter has always struggled in school, in all subjects. We had her tested by our school district and privately and both test reveal she has what they are calling mild learning discrepancy but does not qualify for services. Since kindergarten she has struggled. Things that other children just absorb with no effort, frustrates her and I can see she just doesn't absorb it. Has anyone had a child in a similar situation? We want to get her help but don't know what kind. Can anyone recommend something that has worked, what kind of support? Is this just something that she is going to have bear till she's done with school. Obviously, her self esteem is low. She has not yet found something she is really good at to offset the negative affects of her academic challenges. 

    I'd appreciate any thoughts. Thank you

    The districts almost ALWAYS seem to say your child does not qualify! My son struggled too, was told he did not qualify. I requested an outside assessment which showed he TOTALLY qualified, then he received an IEP with modifications. I hired a great Slingerland tutor for him which made huge improvements and did 'Fastforward' by Gemm leaning with him an hour a day. This helped a lot. Do NOT let the district put you  off!!!!  The Slingerland and Fastforward were life savers for him.

    I can say from my experience that hoping and worrying don't help at all, and in many ways make it worse.  If you're worrying a lot, get help for yourself.  Trust me on this.  

    For my daughter, having her enrolled in things that she did succeed at (art, athletics) helped her self esteem. Tutoring was worth every penny- we decided there was no point in saving for college if she wasn't succeeding now.  Counseling helped her with anxiety around testing, I wish we would have done more focused academic counseling, because I think there were some messages about the value of hard work, and the way learning is like a muscle that can be strengthened, a skill that can be developed, that could have been better communicated to her.  But, to have someone try to help her identify what strengths she has, and to create strengths when possible, can make all the difference.  And, there are a lot of intellectual abilities that can develop over time, with support.  Some kids just develop later than others.  Don't let her feel like she's less wonderful because she isn't moving at the same speed as anyone else.  My daughter is great with little kids, creative, loving, and has many strong friendships.  And, she can't remember math facts, or spell worth beans.  Schools are set up to work for a remarkably small subset of kids.  If you can figure out an alternative, it's worth a try!  

    It's not clear what exactly she's struggling with and why from your post, but you could hire an educational therapist, send her to Lindamood-Bell (very expensive), move her to a private school with small class size and more attention, move her to a school specializing in LD.  It really depends on what the problem is.  Has anyone had a child in a similar situation?  Many, many, many kids are like that. Take a look at your kid's test results and see where the problems lie and plot a course from there.  If the information isn't specific you may need to do further testing. 

    If you haven't already done so please have a neuropsychologist do testing so that you can move forward in an informed direction. Then you can proceed with intervention. We started working with an educational therapist early on (wish we had started even earlier). It's well worth the investment!

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