The end of the school year in the USA brings summer fun and… summer school. Summer school was something regularly recommended for my two dyslexic children by the public school system. It was written into their IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) and invitations to attend were sent as the school year ended. Summer school was proposed so they would retain skills learned during the school year that could be lost during the long ten-week summer vacation.
I had not encountered this phenomenon across the pond in England, probably because there the school year is nearly a month longer. However, now we have personal experience of summer school and that is what I relate here.
Some years my children have participated in public school summer programs and other years they have not. I cannot recall noticing any particular difference in their abilities between the years they did attend compared with the years they did not attend summer school.
They have also participated in summer programs that have offered intensive remediation. These have been beneficial, although they are also expensive. For instance, one summer my daughter completed 40 hours of the Lindamood-Bell (LiPs) program. Following this I noticed a definite improvement in her reading. More information on this experience can be found in my blog post Reading Methods for Dyslexia.
The drawback is that my dyslexic children do not have fond memories of their summer school experiences. In the words of my daughter, “I wanted to be outside like regular kids, instead of being treated like an idiot.”
I find it unfortunate that students with dyslexia have to spend more time within an education system in which they find themselves at odds, and already struggle. Summer school seems to reinforce their inability to progress effectively within the regular education system. They spend extra time working on aspects of their education – reading, writing and sometimes math – in which they are never truly going to excel. Added to this self-esteem, probably already diminished in a child with dyslexia, runs the risk of being further diminished. After all, other students usually have the summer off. So, for the last few summers, summer school has not been on our calendar!
My son’s special education reading services have been discontinued. Since he was age seven in second grade (he is now thirteen and finishing eighth grade) he has been receiving specially designed reading instruction. This has taken the form of a number of different programs – Orton Gillingham, Wilson Reading System, Read Naturally, Project Read, and others. He has been taught such things as vowel teams, open syllables, closed syllables, and the floss and fizzle rule.
In the public school system, the reading instruction has been provided through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Before reading services could be removed from my son’s IEP, testing had to be completed to ensure that he demonstrated proficiency in basic reading skills and reading comprehension. Services should not and cannot be removed from an IEP without these proper procedures being followed. This is good news for the child.
So, what does this discontinuation of services look like for our family? For my son, it is like being released. When he enters high school in the Fall, he is free to choose and have more subjects in his schedule. For myself, I have to appraise these changes. Sometimes making sense of the test results is a challenge. The testing may give scores and labels such as low average or high average that enable weaknesses and strengths to be spotted, but ideally, being able to compare the recent testing with previous testing gives a better idea of improvements made, or not. It seems that this is how the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT) should be used. Comparing the results of this test with results from the same test taken some years previously, my son’s weakness in reading accuracy and fluency was still evident. Dyslexia never goes away. Perhaps the testing for visual stress later this summer may help shed light on this weakness. On the Woodcock Reading Mastery test my son’s word decoding and comprehension on this test came out in the average to high average range. My understanding of dyslexia is that often reading, or decoding words, can take considerable effort for someone with dyslexia, leaving little opportunity to comprehend the passage just read. I have found that when the hard work of decoding is removed, for instance when I have read the same passage to my dyslexic daughter that she has struggled to read, her comprehension of the passage has greatly increased. However, this does not seem to be the case for my son. He performed very well in both reading and comprehension.
While my son’s weaknesses in reading still exist, when I put these together with the positive feedback I have received from his teachers about performance and progress in school this year, and with the removal of reading support allowing an expansion of subject choices for his final four years of school, I think the discontinuation of reading services is okay. In any case, services can always be reinstated, if needed.