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Just Effective Teaching

Blog Type:  Teaching Date Posted:  Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Submitted by Bill Barrett

Although it is almost 16 years ago, I can still remember the feeling I had entering my first public school teaching job.  I was hired to teach four sections of 9th grade Civics classes and one section of an 11th grade honors US history class.  Mainstream regular ed and honors classes with a mix of students, some of which were on IEP’s.  This had been my goal at the time…to take my six years of Landmark experience and a graduate degree and attempt to effectively reach a wide audience of students while at the same time continue my work with students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLDs) in a mainstream public school setting. Approaching a class of 28 students, six of whom were on IEP’s (picture a Landmark class with an additional 22 students) made me immediately realize the importance of structuring my approach to make sure my students' skills and organization were up to par.  Content would absolutely have its place, but as a vehicle for critical thinking and most importantly, skill development.  Somewhat because of my inexperience in this setting, I began to fall back on some of the strategies I had learned in my six previous years at Landmark.  I will admit that I first used these strategies to buy myself some time as I began to get to know my students and gain a handle on the needs of my classes.  I had assumed during those first three weeks that I would move on from some of my tried and true Landmark strategies into a different realm of pedagogy more suited to a mainstream public school environment.

What I found out very quickly is that the strategies I had used during my time at Landmark were not just Landmark strategies…they were effective teaching and learning strategies for all student skill levels. As a teacher, the act of doing things such as putting an agenda on the board every day, using multi-modals as opposed to strict lecture, structuring writing through templates and outlines, giving credit for participation and organization, emphasizing test review as much as the test itself, teaching note taking as opposed to only dispensing “important” information, taking time to check on and reward notebook organization and break down specific tasks were strategies that benefited all of my students, not just the students with learning differences.

It remains my belief as an educator that when you assist in helping students acquire and learn the necessary skills with which they can access content knowledge on their own while also rewarding the attributes they bring such as cooperation and self-advocacy, you are providing them with a greater gift…the gift of control.  The ability to see themselves as a partner in the learning process engaged in the development of their own skills and not just an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge.  In the end that doesn’t just represent Landmark teaching – it represents effective teaching, and worthwhile learning.

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Bill Barrett is the director of Faculty Recruiting and Teacher at Landmark School

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Tags:  effective teaching IEP language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning strategies self-advocacy Teaching Strategies

Tips for Parents Who Suspect Their Child Has a Learning Disability

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Friday, September 14, 2018

teacher working with student

By Ann Andrew

Parents know their children better than anyone else and can usually sense if something isn’t quite right with them physically, emotionally, or academically. If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, then it’s very likely there is one. I know this from experience. As an elementary school student, my oldest son struggled in school, particularly with reading. An intelligent boy, I assumed his difficulties stemmed from some sort of learning disability. He was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2011 (my two other sons were subsequently also diagnosed with dyslexia), and since then I have devoted myself to helping students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD). LBLDs fall under the broader category of specific learning disabilities (SLD), and dyslexia is the most common SLD, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

"A child who reads for 20 minutes a day is exposed to 1.8 million words a year."

Be Honest With Your Child

Your child knows they’re different. Don't try to hide what you know or suspect from them. A parent who keeps the information from them leaves the child feeling like the parent is ashamed of the child's learning difference. Your child will also benefit from speaking to a professional (neuropsychologist, school psychologist, therapist with a comprehensive understanding of LDs) once—or many times. Children need to have at least a basic understanding of the science behind how we learn to acquire language—read, and write. They need to hear from as many adults as possible that they are not “broken” or “dumb.”

Early Signs of Dyslexia and Other LBLDs

If you struggled to read (or do math or write), it's quite possible that you also have a learning disability that went undiagnosed. Parents with dyslexia have a 40-60 percent chance of having children with dyslexia—a clear early warning sign that your child may have an LBLD. Your hatred of a subject is probably borne from not being taught in a manner that was accessible to your learning style or disability.

Oral (expressive) language deficit: It’s a warning sign if you have a chit-chatting toddler who is making indecipherable sounds and words or seems challenged by learning new words.

Auditory (receptive) language deficit: Ask questions if a doctor has diagnosed your child with ADHD without addressing the possibility of an LBLD or an auditory processing disorder. Children with ADHD have the ability to process language, while children with an LBLD have a weakened ability in this area. Their slower processing of language impedes their capacity to comprehend spoken language. For these children, it is not an “inattention issue.” To complicate matters it's very common to see comorbidity (the presence of more than one distinct condition) of ADHD and dyslexia together.

Executive functioning deficits: Difficulties with attention, organization, and self-regulation are often comorbid with LBLD.

Social skills deficits: Often excused as “developmental delays,” social skills deficits can also be comorbid with learning disabilities. Ask your child’s preschool teacher if they play appropriately in school. Have they progressed from parallel to cooperative play successfully? Are they well liked by their peers or often misunderstood? Observe your child at school and see how other children interact with them in that setting. Children with dyslexia and other LBLDs can present symptoms of depression, anxiety, oppositional behavior, or disengaged behavior, in school and/or at home, which can be effects of being misunderstood or repeatedly asked to do something they do not have the skill yet to accomplish.

Facts vs Myths

Myth: Boys develop slower.
Fact: It’s not scientifically proven that one gender develops faster than the other.

Myth: We should wait and see what happens with our struggling children. “Teacher so-and-so is really good at helping kids who are struggling to read."
Fact: With early, intensive, and evidence-based intervention and instruction, children with dyslexia and other LBLDs can learn to read like their non-dyslexic peers.

Myth: Accommodations or modifications are sufficient for children with LBLDs.
Fact: Dyslexia and other LBLDs can be remediated. The longer you wait to obtain the diagnosis, the harder and more expensive it is to remediate. Accommodations or modifications without a diagnosis will not unlock your child’s potential.

Myth: People with dyslexia will never enjoy reading.
Fact: Many, many individuals with dyslexia love to read and are voracious readers. A child who reads for 20 minutes a day is exposed to 1.8 million words a year. These words help to foster a love of learning, the belief that you can dream big and achieve those goals, and confidence to make a smooth transition to college, employment, and independent living.

Parent To Do List

No two children share the same learning profile, so there’s no one-size-fits-all path to diagnosis and services. Based on my experience, here are my suggestions on how to navigate the special education landscape.

Initial diagnostic evaluations Obtain a full audiological and full vision evaluation (not a screening by the pediatrician or the school) prior to or in conjunction with any evaluation for LBLDs. Note that some advocates suggest that the child has the vision evaluation before any other testing. In addition, neuropsychologists can test for auditory processing issues and recommend a full audiological evaluation if they feel one is necessary.

If you are going to have your school district evaluate the child, be sure to put in writing that you are requesting the audiological evaluation for hearing and auditory processing be conducted by an audiologist, a vision and visual processing evaluation by an ophthalmologist, and a full neuropsychological evaluation by a neuropsychologist. This will give you a stronger opportunity to exercise your right to these types of professionals as independent evaluators if you feel the district fails to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and complete report for all areas of suspected need.

Note that school districts are required to administer a psychoeducational evaluation on request. Some may also perform a neuropsychological evaluation under certain circumstances. In a perfect world, your district would comply with all of your requests. However, few have the resources to provide the extensive testing your child may need.

You can request that the neuropsychologist observe your child over multiple days and in multiple settings (not just school), as well as attend the IEP meetings to present the report, discuss recommendations, and participate in the formulation of the IEP in the consent request. It’s unlikely that practitioners at large hospitals comply with this request, but some in private practice may.

Also, on the consent form for the neuropsychological evaluation or incorporated by reference as an attachment, document in detail all of your areas of concern—no matter how trivial they may seem. For example, a young child who doesn’t regularly turn when their name is called may have a social, hearing, or processing deficit.

From my personal experience, I recommend that your child have a neuropsychological evaluation administered by an independent neuropsychologist. Check with your insurance company to see if they cover these claims. Many will cover some, but not all, of the expense. In my opinion, this ensures that you are getting the full picture of whether or not your child is making progress, if your child has a disability, if so which one(s), how they should be remediated, at what pace you should expect results, etc.

To make sure that the evaluations are perceived as authentic and representative of the child’s entire presentation, urge private evaluators to observe the child outside of the clinical setting, collect input from the district, incorporate and correlate historical data points, provide exacting recommendations to the extent possible, and attend your IEP meeting to present the report, provide assistance during the eligibility determination, and participate in the IEP development.

Annual progress-monitoring evaluations Many schools will not conduct annual progress evaluations unless they are requested. Some evaluators will ask to see the child one year later to follow up. Schedule it on the day of the initial evaluation. Repeat key evaluations annually to cross check progress.

Tips for the IEP Meeting

Parents are the experts at the individualized education plan (IEP) meeting when it comes to their child, but to be credible we need to be aware of the laws, the academic standards, and the methodologies that will be effective for our child. Here are some tips for your IEP meeting.

  • If possible, bring an advocate to your IEP meetings.
  • It’s okay—even valuable—to record meetings.
  • Don’t sign anything except the attendance page.
  • Do not sign that you have received the meeting notes. You are not required to do so in order to obtain a copy. No matter what you write on the notes, your signature will be represented by the district as your agreement with the accuracy and completeness of what was written.
  • Follow up in writing. Keep records of all correspondence.
  • Invite your principal to attend meetings.

Key Components of the IEP For every accommodation on an IEP, there should be a corresponding IEP goal, which is designed to build the skill that is missing and thus replace the need for an accommodation. Accommodations are never a substitute for teaching.

How IEP goals are measured is one of the most critical aspects of an IEP. Without solid forms of measurements that are quantifiable and standardized in nature, any teacher can say a child is "making progress" while the student is instead floundering or even regressing.  

School district's can and do provide one-to-one special education instruction to students outside of school hours—even on weekends—in order to meet the needs of the student whose parents vigorously advocate.

If your child has met all of their goals and is within average range percentile-wise of grade level, then the IEP is working. Just because a child can see when we put glasses on them doesn't mean we can take away the glasses. It means we continue on the same path of intervention we were on to ensure the continued growth.  

The road for parents of children with a learning disability is very rarely smooth. It requires time, persistence, and patience. Your dedication is well worth the effort when you watch your child(ren) transform from struggling students to thriving, enthusiastic learners. Trust your gut and take action.

Related Resources:

About the Author

ann andrew headshot

Ann Andrew is a parent, educator, and advocate with a passion for helping students with language-based learning disabilities. Cynthia Moore, of Advocate Tip of the Day™, contributed to this blog post.]]>

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Tags:  ADHD auditory processing dyslexia awareness Executive Functioning expressive language IEP individualized education plan language-based learning disability learning differences learning disability neuropsychological evaluation oral language social skills specific learning disability

How to Organize Your Child's IEP Binder

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Byline:  By Amanda Morin

organizing a binder

This resource originally appeared on Reprinted courtesy of ©2018. Understood, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of four posts about navigating the IEP process. Read the other articles: Questions to Ask Before and During Your Child's IEP Meeting5 Important Things to Do After the IEP Meeting, and 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Child's IEP Is Implemented Properly.

Making an IEP binder is a great way to keep information organized and at the ready when you need it.


Making an IEP binder is a great way to keep information organized and at the ready when you need it. An IEP binder can help you prepare for IEP meetings and stay up to date on your child’s progress. This powerful tool can also help you communicate and collaborate with teachers and your child’s IEP team. Here’s what you need to get started:

  • A three-ring binder
  • Six tabbed section dividers
  • A three-hole punch

Organizing an IEP binder with your child’s evaluation reports, IEP, report cards and other paperwork may sound like a lot of work. But this guide walks you through what to gather and where to put it.

Start With the IEP Binder Checklist

Print this IEP binder checklist and put it in the very front of your binder. The checklist has details about what you can put in each of the tabbed sections in your IEP binder. The checklist has another very important purpose: You can update it as you add new paperwork. As your binder grows, this checklist will help you see what you’ve updated and when you updated it.

Tab 1: Communication

Print and fill out a school contact sheet and put it in the front of this section. The contact sheet will help you quickly find and reach out to key people with questions or concerns. Next is the parent-school communication log. Print one out and use it to help you keep track of meetings, phone calls, emails and other important interactions you have with your child’s teacher and school. As you fill out each entry, be sure to note what was discussed and what was decided. The rest of this section is for letters and important emails. Put the newest ones on top, behind the communication log. Why keep printed copies of emails? Having a paper version in your binder means you’ll have it on hand for meetings, so you can easily find and reference what was said. As you file letters and emails in this section, remember to include a brief summary of each one in the communication log.

Tab 2: Evaluations

Start this section with the request or referral for evaluation. After that put in your consent to evaluate. Keeping these two documents together can help you see if the school completes the evaluation in a timely manner. Next comes the school-based evaluation report. (It’s handy to have this in the same section as your request for evaluation, so you can match up each request with the evaluation results.) If your child has had a private evaluation, include that here too. Down the road, your child might have another school-based evaluation. If so, file it as a trio that includes the new request or referral and the new consent form. Put this new set of documents on top of the previous set. Also, in this section, you may want to consider flagging key information with paper clips or sticky notes. Come up with a system that can help you quickly find what you want to discuss with the IEP team.

Tab 3: IEP

It’s a good idea to start this section of your IEP binder with a copy of your rights and procedural safeguards the school gives you. That’s because whenever you go to an IEP meeting, the IEP team will offer another copy. It’s important information. But if you show the school you already have it, you can avoid taking home another big stack of paper! In this section, file your child’s IEP and the prior written notice for each meeting related to the IEP. Many schools attach meeting notes to the prior written notice form. Keep those notes here as well as your own notes from the IEP meeting. The IEP needs to be updated annually. But you may have more than one meeting a year. And if changes are made to the IEP, put the newest plan and prior written notice on top, behind the procedural safeguards.

Tab 4: Report Cards/Progress Notes

The federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), says you have to be updated on your child’s progress toward his IEP goals at least as frequently as you get progress reports on his general education. Keep these progress notes and report cards in this section. And if you want to keep track of your child’s progress on your own, print and use this IEP goal tracker. It can help you monitor your child’s progress toward each annual goal in the IEP.

Tab 5: Sample Work

Use this section to file samples of your child’s homework or classwork that show signs of progress or concern. (This is especially important for work that’s noted on the goal-tracker form.) It’s a good idea to file samples at least monthly. And just like in the other sections of your IEP binder, put the newest stuff on top to help you find the most up-to-date information.

Tab 6: Behavior

In this section, file a copy of the school’s code of conduct. If your child is in middle or high school, his teachers may have also sent home class-specific behavior plans and rules. Keep copies of these here, too. Next comes your child’s behavior intervention plan or behavior contract, if he has one. This is also the place to file disciplinary notices, if your child receives any. Why keep these in your IEP binder? Because your child has additional rights and protection if the behavior he’s disciplined for could be related to his disability.

Consider Including a Supply Pouch

Since your IEP binder will come to IEP meetings with you, you may want to add a zippered supply pouch. Stocking it with some pens and an extra set of sticky notes means you’ll have one less thing to worry about during your IEP meeting. And last but not least, remember that organizing your child’s IEP binder may take some time at first. But once the initial steps are done, it’s easy to maintain! When it comes to overseeing your child’s IEP, the less time you have to spend hunting for paperwork, the more time you can focus on questions to ask before and during the IEP meeting.

About the Author

Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

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Tags:  IEP special education

6 Tips to Make Sure Your Child’s IEP Is Implemented Properly

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Byline:  By Kristin Stanberry

This resource originally appeared on Reprinted courtesy of ©2018. Understood, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of four posts about navigating the IEP process. Read the other articles: Questions to Ask Before and During Your Child's IEP Meeting, 5 Important Things to Do After an IEP Meeting, and How to Organize Your Child's IEP Binder.

Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) has been set in motion. How well is it working? Is the school delivering what it promised? Try these tips to monitor the situation throughout the year.

1. Check in with the teacher.

The parent-teacher conference is a good time to take the pulse of your child’s progress. But you can also check in regularly to make sure your child’s IEP is being followed. Share any concerns based on what you’re seeing at home. If your child spends most of his time in the general education classroom, his teacher will know if he’s being pulled out of class to work with special educators as promised in his IEP.

2. Contact the team leader if the IEP isn’t being honored.

If you think the school isn’t delivering all of the services and supports in your child’s IEP, don’t sit and stew. Be proactive and contact the IEP team leader. Give that person a chance to clear up misunderstandings and correct any problems. The leader may appreciate your alert. If corrective action is required, make sure it happens. Be friendly but firm.

3. If things don’t improve, request a special IEP team meeting.

If you take the steps above but aren’t satisfied with the results, you can request a special IEP meeting. You don’t have to wait until next year’s IEP meeting to iron out any problems. Getting the entire team together may be the only way to put your child’s IEP back on track as soon as possible.

4. Know your child’s special educators and their schedules.

The IEP should state what special education services your child will receive and for how many hours per week. You can ask the IEP team leader for the names of the special educators assigned to help your child. Find out what services they’ll provide and on which days. That way you can casually ask your child, “Did you spend time with Mrs. Smith today?” Your child may tell you a little—or a lot!

5. Read the progress reports.

Your child’s IEP includes measurable annual goals. It should also explain how his progress toward goals will be measured and when this will be reported to you. Many schools send IEP progress reports to parents when report cards are issued. Find out when you can expect progress reports and mark the dates on your calendar. Carve out time to compare the IEP with how well your child is progressing.

6. Watch, listen and read between the lines.

Keep an eye on your child’s homework and classroom test scores. Is the teacher adjusting assignments as noted in the IEP? If so, is your child making progress? Ask your child if he’s getting his accommodations, whether it’s extra time on tests or assistive technology. Talk to your child in a way that suits his age and personality. Listen carefully to what he says—or doesn’t say—about school and learning. Jot down your concerns.

About the Author

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education and consumer health/wellness.

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Tags:  IEP IEP meeting learning parents special education

5 Important Things to Do After an IEP Meeting

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Byline:  By Kristin Stanberry

girl at computer with paper

This resource originally appeared on Reprinted courtesy of ©2018. Understood, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of four posts about navigating the IEP process. Read the other articles: Questions to Ask Before and During Your Child's IEP Meeting, 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Child's IEP Is Implemented Properly, and How to Organize Your Child's IEP Binder.

After an IEP meeting, you need to take care of some details. These can vary from one meeting to the next. Here are five important things to do after an IEP meeting.

1. If you have objections.

After the IEP meeting, write an email or letter to the case manager summarizing what decisions and questions came out of the meeting. Did the school agree to set up another meeting? Do you plan to request a mediation session? By putting that in writing, you make sure everyone is on the same page and get those next steps on their calendars.

2. Review and sign the final IEP.

Review and sign the final IEP. The IEP you and your child’s IEP team discuss and develop in the meeting is a draft. The school or district will finalize the IEP after the meeting and will send you a copy to sign. Make sure you sign it and return it by the deadline they give you. (Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.) To be on the safe side, refer to Understood's checklist of things to double-check before signing an IEP.

3. Express appreciation to your allies.

Send a simple but sincere thank-you note to anyone who attended the meeting with you. Let them know specifically how they made a difference. If this person is a professional who works with your child—and there is follow-up work to do—try to make it convenient. For example, you might offer to stop by their office to pick up records or reports the school has requested.

4. Debrief your child.

If your child didn’t attend the IEP meeting, share how it went. Be sure to mention the positive things people said along with the challenges. Consider your child’s age and maturity as you explain any changes. Describe new supports and services in concrete terms. If your child joined you at the meeting, ask about how she’s feeling. Praise her for things done well. Start planting the seeds of self-advocacy.

5. Update your IEP files at home.

Organize all of the documents that result from the IEP meeting, including a copy of the new IEP. Note any important dates, such as when progress reports are sent out, on your calendar. Place the new IEP, as well as the notes and documentation you took to the meeting, in your files. This is also a good time to reorganize your filing system to make it easier to use in the future.

About the Author

Kristin Stanberry

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education and consumer health/wellness.

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Tags:  IEP IEP meeting learning parents

Questions to Ask Before and During Your Child’s IEP Meeting

Blog Type:  Learning Disabilities Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Byline:  By Amanda Morin

men and women sitting at table meeting

This resource originally appeared on Reprinted courtesy of ©2018. Understood, LLC. All rights reserved.
This is one of four posts about navigating the IEP process. Read the other articles: 5 Important Things to Do After the IEP Meeting, 6 Tips to Make Sure Your Child's IEP Is Implemented Properly, and How to Organize Your Child's IEP Binder.

Even if it’s not your first one, IEP meetings can still be confusing at times. Asking questions can help you be more informed, prepared, and confident as a member of the IEP team. Scroll down to see questions you can ask—both before and during an IEP meeting. Keep in mind that not all of the questions will apply to your child or situation. You can also print out these questions by clicking the view or download link below. You can then keep track of answers on the printout.

Questions to Ask Before and During the IEP Meeting (View / Download)

Questions to Ask Before the IEP Meeting

  • What is the goal of this IEP meeting?
  • Can we create an agenda for this meeting?
  • May I have a copy of my child’s most recent IEP document to follow along as we talk in the meeting?
  • Could you please provide me with prior access to copies of the notes/reports that we’ll be going over?
  • Who at the meeting will be qualified to interpret the results of my child’s independent educational evaluation?

Questions to Ask During the IEP Meeting

  • How does everyone at the meeting know or work with my child?
  • Could you tell me about my child’s day so I can understand what it looks like?
  • Can you explain how what you’re seeing from my child is different from other kids in the classroom?
  • Could we walk through the current program and IEP plan piece by piece?
  • How is my child doing in making progress toward his IEP goals?
  • What changes in goals would the team recommend?
  • Is this a SMART goal?
  • How is this goal measured and my child’s progress monitored?
  • How will my child be assessed according to grade level?
  • Who will work on that with my child? How? When? Where and how often?
  • What training does the staff have in this specific intervention?
  • What does that accommodation/instructional intervention look like in the classroom?
  • What support will the classroom teacher have in putting these accommodations/interventions into place?
  • What can I do at home to support the IEP goals?
  • I’d like to see the final IEP before agreeing to any changes suggested at this meeting. When can I see a copy?
  • When will the changes to his program begin?
  • How will we let my child know about any program changes?
  • Can we make a plan for keeping in touch about how everything is going?
  • May I have a copy of the notes the teacher referenced during this meeting?
  • If I have questions about the information I’ve been given about my child’s rights, who’s the person to talk to for answers?
  • Who’s the person to contact if I want to call another meeting?

Read about important things to do after your child’s IEP meeting. Get tips on how to make sure your child’s IEP is implemented properly. And learn how an IEP binder can help you stay up to date on your child’s progress.

About the Author

Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

more learning disabilities posts

Tags:  IEP IEP meeting parents special education
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