PART 2- Chasing the Dream: Who Pays to Teach my Kid to Read?

Isabella looking surprised
You want me to pay!

Early on in most relationships, it can be a bit murky deciding who should pay for dinner regardless of who is the bread-winner. Eventually, it works itself out although it can continue to be a source of frustration if both parties are not forthright or comfortable with the situation. If your kid has significant learning or reading issues then who is responsible for paying for all of the recommended services?

The Independent Evaluation

When it became airtight evident that our daughter was not progressing or progressing inconsistently, with confidence I requested an independent evaluation from the school district. Perhaps I could have or should have done this earlier, but I bristled at the idea of our daughter sitting through six weeks of assessments. The kid is continuously pulled out of school and all the sitting! She’s a kid. She should be running around.

When kids miss school for learning assessments, they are counted as absences!

Additionally, I felt a bit ill about potentially doling out a few thousand dollars if the school district turned down the request. Many of my friends had requested an independent evaluation through the school or district and were denied or decided just to pay out-of-pocket. I want to make it clear that I am not an expert on Wright’s Law and cannot comment on the legalities of any of this. There are people more in the know that may have more informed things to say about our rights to an independent evaluation, and how to navigate the probable loopholes on both sides.

In our case, the school district was footing the bill, and there was no challenge getting their blessing. Admittedly, the documentation was undisputable, but still, for families not used to getting good news from the school district, getting the green light for the assessment so quickly was thrilling! I’ve written in previous blogs about the impact that the results of the neuro assessment had on our family, but there’s another twist. What about all of the money spent on the assessment and the potential financial implications of the results of the assessment?

Who Pays to Teach My Kid to Read?

The district just spent a few thousand dollars to have an expert recommend potential solutions. Thank you for this! The highly educated and paid expert recommends a private school for language differences, homeschooling, or the most widely accepted, research-backed multi-sensory interventions. Radically these solutions, most notably the private school, is the cost to keep our daughter dreaming. So, now what?

If a district spends a few thousand dollars on an independent evaluation shouldn’t there be specific criteria they follow to accept, reject or mildly disagree with the recommendations or is the assessment just protocol and the results up to the whim of the school district to support or comply?

I’ve heard stories of schools where the recommendations are blatantly ignored. Thank heavens we did not have that experience, but there is no doubt that there’s an elephant in the room-private school for reading differences, amongst others. Perhaps the current intervention, READ 180, needs to be tried before the school considers the “gold-standard” intervention or maybe private school will never be an option unless we work with an educational attorney. There are no clear paths in this world.

The Journey Continues

The next post will look further at who pays to teach my kid to read, and why the potential solutions continue to remain elusive.

Part 1-Chasing the Dream: When School Choice Seems Like the Only Option

They say the cobbler’s children have no shoes and that’s a little how I felt when it became apparent that our daughter had a reading disability, difference, gift or however you are most comfortable hearing it described. While I’ve personally had to work really hard to simply be adequate at many things, nothing has ever come easier to me than learning to read and write. In second grade, I remember hiding behind the bookcases in the back of the classroom to read and avoid math and other subjects that were less appealing to me at the time. Surely my daughter, whom I had read to incessantly, would also be a good reader. Even though she’s adopted, my constant reading must have marked her in some way- not the case. At least in the context of being the precocious reader I was expecting.

age 4 writing her name for the first time
Isabella writes her name for the first time.
Writing Isabella
At the age of 4, it is not unusual for the letter B to be backwards.

Wondering How to Dream

Our daughter reads emotions better than I could ever hope to. If being dyslexic really is a gift then perhaps one of her talents is that instead of reading words she can read people. She would be great working a room at a convention. She is athletic, artistic and mechanical. She is social and talkative when she wants to be, but she can’t easily read words. She just can’t. Because she can’t read words, it’s hard for her to believe that she is smart. When most of the world does something with minimal effort that’s so hard for you, it’s difficult to believe you can achieve. So, when the headmaster of a private school for reading disabilities/differences asked us why we wanted our daughter to attend his school, my answer was twofold:

1. The neuropsychologist who provided our independent evaluation specifically recommended two private schools for language disabilities, and, naturally, we chose the one closest to our house. OK. Perhaps we put a little more thought into it, but we had heard good things about the school, and it seemed to be well thought of by the dyslexia community in our area.
2. We want her to dream about her future!

Dreaming about what you want to be when you grow up seems little to ask, but how can our daughter dream when she perceives herself as less than her peers in so many academic areas. As parents, the message we are hearing is that a traditional middle school and high school will be challenging to get through, and her diploma options could be limited. She could be like some of the more famous dyslexic people like Richard Branson, Henry Winkler  or even Cher, and break through all of the barriers and overcome the obstacles, but we’re not willing to bank on it. Those beautiful people are really the exceptions.

I don’t think my daughter really knows how to dream anymore. It ended by third or fourth grade when the academic gap became apparent. Right now, the only way we can teach her to dream comes with a cost.

Cher is a great role model as someone who has overcome a learning difference and become a major success.
Cher is one of the most famous celebrities with a reading difference.

The Hornet’s Nest

Our daughter goes to a private Montessori school with services at a public school. We love the Montessori school, but, in fact, we are public school advocates at heart. Yet for many reasons, the public education system just never worked for our daughter. I have not entirely given up on it, but sometimes families like ours need other choices for our children to be properly educated. Our daughter has a severe reading difference, and a neuropsychologist pointed out to us that she cannot easily learn in a traditional school environment. Even so, we are not carte blanche for school choice. It is way too complicated of an issue to present as black or white. Like other families in our situation, we are just singularly focused on getting an education for our daughter that will allow her to dream, and we are unwilling to accept that we have to pay for it.

The Cost of the Dream

So, our family, along with many others, carries the torch of the dream, often resulting in gut-wrenching and wallet-emptying choices. Stay tuned for Part 2 to read more about the cost of the dream.