Each summer, families like ours, with kids with reading and learning issues, have endless debates about our school options for the following academic year.
“What are you going to do about school next year?”
“We’re in due process. Maybe our district will pay for a specialized school.”
“We were moved to another school in the district. We’re hoping that the new school will work out.”
“We’ve accepted that a private school for kids with reading issues is the only way our son will graduate from high school. We’re not sure how we’ll pay for it, but we’ll make it work.”
“We’re trying to understand what services our daughter is entitled to.”
“We’re going to SKYPE with an OG tutor since there aren’t many in our area.”
“What are you going to do about school next year? What are you going to do about school next year?”
It sounds nerve-wracking, and it is since the options are limited and typically a financial burden and a logistical challenge on families. Many families are just stuck taking whatever the school district offers due to cost to come up with a different solution; AKA educational inequities. That alone should be indicative of why we need a tidal wave of change in our educational system. If the best we can hope for is to chatter nervously about our backup plans, then something is awry.
What’s awry, and I’ve written many posts about this very issue, is that we have no guarantee that our kids will be able to be taught the way they need to learn. They might, but a crapshoot isn’t good enough when we are talking about literacy.
So, what are we so scared of at the beginning of a new school year, and why do we need backup plans? Here are a few highlights:
- A new teacher won’t understand our child’s learning difference. Personally, I fear that a teacher will differentiate and maybe modify, but not accommodate.
- The services may not be the right services, and we will have minimal options or alternatives.
- Our kids will shut down and give up.
- Our kids will not progress-similar to reasons 1-3.
- Our kids will be asked to leave the school altogether. This is more common in a private school, but kids also get shuttled from various public schools depending on who is offering what services.
Since these five concerns are just a few of the many worries we have as parents, you can imagine why summer is high-season for deliberating our “what-if’s.” The unknowns are very real, and most of us have been caught off guard enough to know that our alternative plans often become real.
For the last year, I’ve been determined to focus on solutions, even if they are just pie-in-the-sky ideas. The policy change is happening, albeit at a snail’s pace, but at least it’s slugging along. Schools and organizations are educating more teachers, and Teach My Kid to Read, the organization that I founded, is starting to work on open access content and resources for higher education.
All of the progress is fine and good, but I still get back to Plan B. What should we do about school for next year. Knowing that we need some immediate solutions, here are some ideas.
We need a way to maximize the efforts of all of the organization and willing volunteers who are passionate about literacy and making sure that all of our kids learn to read. I’ve met many parents and teachers who want to help, but can’t find an easy way to get involved. There is room for everyone in this complicated landscape.
Early on in our journey, I began a fruitless search for a magical database would provide organized, essential, unbiased information about the best public schools for kids with reading issues like dyslexia. This useful tool would be organized by state, school district, and school and be populated with parent reviews more than statistics. While there are random discussions in online groups and information on private schools, this much-needed database remains a figment of my imagination.
Another innovation that is sorely needed is more camps with school services. Our kids can’t afford the summer slide. We should be talking to community centers, JCC’s and YMCAs, and setting up partnerships for services with existing camps so that all kids with reading differences can have a summer with services outside of a traditional summer school setting within their community. Teach My Kid to Read would be happy to partner with an organization that is willing to take the lead with this initiative.
A soft skill such as learning to forge ahead despite adversity is one of the most critical skills we can teach our kids with learning differences. Similarly, as parent and teachers, being resilient and laser-focused on changing the literacy and dyslexia climate in our country, and even in other countries, might be the most challenging task we have.
What are you doing about school next year? If your kid has a reading difference, do you have an alternative plan? I don’t.