My son is in junior high. He’s always been a slow reader, but now he’s getting further and further behind with his schoolwork. Could he have a learning disability? There is no RTI program at our junior high school, so he’s not going to get the types of help my younger child is receiving in grade 3. What should we do?
Yes, a learning disability could be one of the reasons that your son is struggling with reading. Another might be that he is, for lack of a better term, just a slow reader! As a student progresses through the grades, the amount of reading they need to accomplish increases dramatically, especially for students who lean toward English and Social Studies and away from subjects like Math and Science (where demands for speed and accuracy of reading narrative are somewhat reduced). Junior high school comes with all sorts of academic and social challenges, and being a slow and labored reader can add a level of frustration.
An evaluation to determine whether your son has a learning disability is certainly an option, but I would suggest a number of to-dos first:
--Sit with your son and ask what specific aspects of reading present the greatest challenges. If all he needs is additional time for reading, have him ask teachers for assigned reading lists in advance of their due dates and help him schedule protected time so he is not overburdened with too much reading all at once.
--Optical scanning software (e.g., Kurzweil 3000) is available to convert print into speech. This is a cool option for some students who enjoy (and can benefit from) listening (and maybe following along, taking notes) rather than having to read pages of narrative themselves.
--A growing library of printed material is available in digitized formats, meaning that they can be downloaded from the Web and listened to on a computer, MP4 player, etc. One example of this option can be found at www.Bookshare.org.
If reading disabilities are an underlying problem, working with a trained reading or learning disabilities specialist in school or privately during after school hours could be very helpful. With regard to RTI at the junior and senior high school levels, there is a growing number of middle and senior high school programs that are successfully using RTI approaches to address the needs of all students, including those who struggle with learning. Visit RTIActionNetwork.org to learn more about these programs, view video of RTI practices in action, and listen to online chats with principals, researcher professionals and practitioners.
Your son might have a learning disability. Possibly he has compensated for it up to now but is currently struggling because he doesn't have any coping strategies left. Your best bet would be to have him tested for a learning disability by an educational psychologist. This could be through your school district. He will receive help with an IEP. A district, by law, helps all students, regardless of age and grade. Your child is entitled to an IEP, even in 8th grade.
Below is a link that is helpful in case you explore the possibility of an IEP. In the event that your son does not qualify for an IEP, you should still be able to ask for a 504 plan, which is a list of accommodations the school can provide to support your son. (For example, he might be able to get assignments ahead of time, receive extended time on tests, have a reduced spelling list, etc.)