It occurs to me that I haven’t updated you all in a long time on this guy’s progress through school. It’s been quite a fall for us. Early in the year, we received notification that he had been tested for ESL, and his scores were noticeably lower than they were last year. That means that his English is actually less proficient than it was before. Of course, that’s not what it really means, as each year, they test to his grade level, so he was doing pretty well at 1st grade English, 2nd grade English not so much. So we decided it was time to take a little action.
You will recall that Ayub, since arriving in the US at age 5, has not received ANY services from either of the public school districts where he has been enrolled. No speech therapy; we did that through our insurance. No OT; we did that through our insurance (who only paid for eight visits). No paraprofessional. No ESL (because he English was too good). No reading coach. We are lucky that he has had a string of great teachers, but he hasn’t had any additional help.
But this year, I knew he was going to need more. Starting with our first homework packet, there was already reading that was too advanced for him. Even the word problems in math were beyond his reading level. And his handwriting is atrocious. We have known for a while that he needs additional OT help. So, we started some conversations with school. Here are some of the things we were initially told:
- He can’t be tested for speech, because he has only been in the US for three and a half years. It can take 7-12 years to become fluent in a second language. (Hopefully he’ll be in college by then.)
- He can’t qualify for OT unless he has an IEP for speech already in place. (Seriously? What about kids who have ONLY OT issues?)
- He couldn’t be placed in a Title 1 group (special reading supports) because he scored a 20.9 and the cutoff was 20. (Don’t even get me started.)
And then I lost it. Thanks to some great friends, I quickly became an expert on language development in adopted kids. OK, not that quickly and not an expert, but I read a lot of stuff. (I’ll put some links at the bottom in case some of you could also benefit.) I inundated the speech therapist (who was now the lead person in determining all of his services) with more information than she could ever read. She talked to the principal, who agreed to waive his 20.9 score and put him in the reading group anyway. The speech therapist told me she wanted to wait 12 weeks to see if the reading group caught him up to grade level. If not, THEN she would do speech testing. I almost lost my shit. Seriously? We’ve been sitting around for 3+ years of schooling and he hasn’t caught up, and now you want to postpone it 12 more weeks, which is an entire grading period, and would put us into the Christmas holiday. Ummm…NO! I sent her some more research and had two strongly worded phone calls (during which I may or may not have raised my voice). Suddenly, she decided she would go ahead and test him. And guess what? Drumroll…he qualified for speech therapy! He is now receiving speech two-three times per week, receiving a daily Title 1 small group session for reading, and he’s also in a group with the guidance counselor once a week to work on social skills and making friends. We’re meeting again next week to get the findings of the OT, and hopefully, he will qualify for services with her as well.
Now is where I get on my soapbox. Think with me for a moment. What if? What if there was a child with the same issues as Ayub, but the parents weren’t us? What if they believed what their school, the “experts” in education, told them? What if they didn’t have fabulous friends who could point them in the direction of scholarly articles on the topic? What if they found those articles, but didn’t have a high enough education to understand what they meant? What if they thought the school was looking out for their child’s best interest? What if they didn’t raise their voice and subtly threaten to bring an outside evaluation and an attorney to the next meeting? Then that child would likely be sitting in class, falling farther and farther behind.
Why? Why in this age of No Child Left Behind are so many children being left behind?
Some articles I hope you never have to bust out at an IEP meeting:
- Speech and Language Mythbusters
- Sharon Glennen – she is the leading researcher on this topic and has lots of great information. Also search for her scholarly articles. Because I work on a college campus, I had access to these, but definitely worth paying for if you have to.
- A grad student’s research paper – has some great citations that I also read and shared.
- A really ugly website with great information by Dr. Gindis – talks about why internationally adopted students should not be classified as bilingual and why they won’t benefit from traditional ESL programs.