Helping the struggling student succeed: what parents need to knowWhen I learned that one of my children was not learning to read because of a learning disability I had several reactions. The first was skepticism. Because he was obviously intelligent, he must not be trying hard enough, right? Realizing the fallacy of this thinking (all of us really WANT to be successful), I changed tactics and became Super Mom.
By: S.E. Livingston, Duluth Budgeteer News
When I learned that one of my children was not learning to read because of a learning disability, I had several reactions. The first was skepticism. Because he was obviously intelligent, he must not be trying hard enough, right? Realizing the fallacy of this thinking (all of us really WANT to be successful), I changed tactics and became Super Mom. I researched with a maniacal frenzy and began to work with that boy to “fix” him. I thought his success was in direct correlation with the intensity of my desire to help.
But after years of our child’s laboring over learning to read and making slow progress, his father and I realized that he needed more experienced help than we could give him. Who knew what to do? The schools? The doctor? A private tutor? We didn’t know where to start, whom to talk to or even the right questions to ask. What we needed was a class or workshop geared toward parents who need some assistance in navigating the confusing world of learning disabilities.
On Saturday, July 28, there will be such a workshop for parents who are looking for guidance in helping their children realize their potential. “Helping the Struggling Student Succeed: What Parents Need to Know” is jointly sponsored by a local group called PASSED (People Advocating for Student Success in Education) and Vineyard Education Ministries.
This workshop will focus on the learning disabilities of dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADD. Parents and teachers who attend will garner basic information on what these common disabilities consist of and what research is saying about effective teaching methods.
Dyslexia, according to the International Dyslexia Association (www.interdys.org), is a neurological learning disability characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition and characterized by poor spelling and decoding abilities. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (www.ncld.org), dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult and can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. The Attention Deficit Disorder Association describes symptoms of ADD including, but not limited to, distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Any one of these disabilities can make learning a defeating, discouraging experience. None of them “go away” and special care needs to be taken to understand these challenges.
Deb Dwyer, reading coach and a PASSED co-coordinator, stated that the motivation for the workshop began when she and Elise Pechek, head of Vineyard Educational Ministries, found that they couldn’t keep up with the cries for help from parents of struggling students.
“We hope to give parents the tools to help them drive their child’s educational bus” says Dwyer, who is a private reading coach and who tutors reading in the Duluth public schools. “There are lots of things that parents of kids who are struggling need to know, but the information is overwhelming. We want to help them figure out where to start.”
Some of the topics to be covered in the workshop will be how and where to find assessments, what terms such as “IEP,” “504,” and “accommodations” really mean, and what parents should do if their opinion and the school’s opinion are not the same.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the workshop will run until 3:00 p.m. at the Vineyard Church (1533 W. Arrowhead Road, Duluth). The cost is $15, and lunch is included. There will be several speakers, including Tom Strewler, former 5th-grade classroom teacher and special education teacher. Strewler is also a board member of the Upper Midwest Branch of the International Dyslexic Association. Melissa Watschke, disability coordinator from the College of St. Scholastica, will be a panel member. And a psychologist from Arrowhead Psychological Clinic will be speaking on some of the aspects of dysgraphia, dyslexia and ADD.
If you want to attend “Helping the Struggling Student Succeed: What Parents Need To Know” call the Vineyard Church to register at (218) 525-3462. If you have questions and need more information, contact Elise Pechek at firstname.lastname@example.org or Deb Dwyer at email@example.com or (218)340-7393.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.