Kindergarten Learning Disabilities: How to Get Your Child Evaluated
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It can be hard enough to come to grips with the fact that your child has a learning disability. When the school seems to be working against you instead of with you, the situation can become even more difficult for students, parents, and teachers alike. But you don’t have to sit back and leave you child’s educational fate in the hands of the school system.
School systems are overwhelmed with an increasing special education population and a limited budget. But as a parent you have rights and so does your child. With a little research and determination you can get your child the services she needs to be successful in school, from the very beginning.
The Kindergarten Waiting Game
There are many learning disabilities that don’t raise an eyebrow until later in school when children are required to do a lot more reading and writing. However, other problems may be evident at a much earlier age. We know from research that early intervention is often the key in helping students with learning disabilities, so why the wait? “First is the rather old fashioned idea that schools shouldn't rush to judge a child, and that supposed learning issues may dissipate as the child matures” says Pam Marquardt, an educator from Oakland, California. “The second reason is that funding for special education has not kept pace with the great increase of students identified with learning disabilities.” So, while the teacher and parent may agree that a child should be evaluated, the school district is often slowing down the process.
Marquardt has observed firsthand that there is little support for the kindergarten teacher who recommends assessment, unless the situation is extreme. One of the ways in which schools make evaluation assessments is based on the child’s academic history. Because this is the student’s initial year in school, teachers have a hard time showing that the child has a history of academic difficulty. Joseph Feldman, founder of Community Alliance for Special Education, an advocacy group in San Francisco, California, calls this the "'Wait to fail environment.' When you combine this ‘lack of documentation’ with the pressure to limit the growth of special education programs, you will find that kindergarten teachers’ concerns are often dismissed by administrative and special education staff as premature."
Work with the District
It can be tempting for parents to get mad at the school and the system for not working harder to help their child and address her needs. However, Feldman urges parents to keep a positive rapport with the district. “Fight for the service, but not the district.” If your child is diagnosed with a learning disability she will be in that system until she graduates, so you want a good relationship with the people that will be providing the services. But Feldman admits, “It’s a hard and delicate balance.”
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