The effort to understand Response to Intervention (RTI) has occupied many thousands of hours and hundreds of position and policy statements, white papers, consensus documents, and research articles. RTI is a process intended to shift educational resources toward the delivery and evaluation of instruction, and away from classification of disabilities. RTI is not a particular method or instructional approach. The success of RTI depends on the timely delivery of research-based instruction by highly qualified instructors. Although RTI can be implemented at any grade level, it is likely that the development of language and literacy skills will be addressed most prominently in the early grades, kindergarten though third grade.
The sheer volume of information that is available on RTI, much of which poses more questions than answers, makes it difficult for parents, educators, and other interested parties to develop a basic conceptual understanding of the process. The following is a brief guide to RTI and reading; it does not reflect how RTI will be implemented in all cases. The guide avoids detail on such issues as the changing roles of school professionals and parents; the need for reallocation of human and economic resources; staff development; or how to choose among methodological alternatives. However, this “nutshell” framework may provide a foundation upon which the interested, albeit not profoundly involved, individual can gradually build a working understanding of the process.
Children may be diagnosed with a disability by a medical provider or by the school district. However, one must understand that being simply diagnosed with a disability is not a guarantee of services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Having a disability is the first question when determining if a student qualifies. The evaluation team must also answer two additional questions:
- Does the disability impact the child’s educational progress?
- Does the child need specially designed instruction (which is the IDEA definition of special education)?
By the time “Mrs. Bailey” contacted a professional to evaluate her son, she had been receiving quarterly progress reports from his public school for five years, telling her that Kevin was making progress toward achieving the academic goals listed in his Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, her observations of Kevin’s homework and the graded school work that came home didn’t match the school’s evaluation, and she wanted a psychologist to provide a “second opinion.” The outside evaluation confirmed his mother’s concerns — he had deficits in math calculation and written expression skills. In fact, Kevin’s written expression skills were severely delayed and fell in the first percentile — meaning that 99 percent of students his age performed better on the test. Naturally, Mrs. Bailey felt astonished, frustrated, and guilty about not realizing Kevin’s lack of progress sooner in his schooling.
Parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) who are receiving special education services receive regular reports of progress on their children’s IEP goals, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). Often these progress reports don’t really provide parents specific information, based on assessment data, as to whether their child is making progress or not.
There are several key factors that can have a positive impact on determining whether or not a child makes real, measurable progress. These include:
- a comprehensive evaluation that identifies a child’s strengths and weaknesses; and appropriately identifies a child’s educational needs
- explicitly stated present levels of performance
- appropriate and measurable goals/objectives
- effective instructional methods, and
- continuous progress monitoring
Ask a parent how their child’s progress toward goals and objectives is being monitored and reported to them, and most often the response is “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know.” As in Mrs. Bailey’s case, it can be years before parents realize that their child is not making progress — or that the achievement gap between their child and his peers has actually widened while receiving special education services. So, how can you really know if your child is making progress? What should you do if you don’t think your child is “making expected progress” toward IEP goals and objectives?
Teachers know that students walk into their classrooms with a wide range of abilities. But teachers try to find ways to meet the needs of all students, including those with learning and attention issues. Here are five common teaching methods.
1. Differentiated Instruction
With this approach, teachers change and switch around what students need to learn, how they’ll learn it, and how to get the material across to them. When a student struggles in one area, the teacher creates a plan that includes extra practice, step-by-step directions, and special homework. Find out more about differentiated instruction.
Was your child recently diagnosed with a learning or attention issue, like dyslexia or ADHD? Would you like some advice from parents who are farther along in the journey?
As part of Understood.org’s Real Parents, Tough Topics series, Understood has brought together four parents of kids with learning and attention issues. Watch their conversation as they each share “What I wish I’d known sooner” about their children’s issues, working with schools and more.
This article from Erica Patino and Understood.org will help you understand what dysgraphia is, which skills are affected by dysgraphia, how dysgraphia is diagnosed, conditions related to dysgraphia, and how you can help your child.
You probably hear a lot about learning and attention issues like dyslexia and ADHD. But chances are you don’t hear much about dysgraphia. If your child has trouble expressing himself in writing, you may want to learn more about this condition.
Writing difficulties are common among children and can stem from a variety of learning and attention issues. By learning what to watch for, you can be proactive about getting help for your child.
There’s no cure or easy fix for dysgraphia. But there are strategies and therapies that can help a child improve his writing. This will help him thrive in school and anywhere else expressing himself in writing is important.
If you’ve heard the term dyslexia and aren’t sure what it means, you’re not alone. People tend to have a lot of questions about dyslexia. Is it a general term that covers many kinds of learning issues? How is it different from (or the same as) a specific learning disability? The answers here can help you develop a better understanding of dyslexia.
What exactly is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a brain-based condition. It causes difficulty with reading, spelling, writing and sometimes speaking. In people with dyslexia, the brain has trouble recognizing or processing certain types of information. This can include matching letter sounds and symbols (such as the letter b making the buh sound) and blending them together to make words.
Kids know how important reading is. They hear it from their parents and teachers starting at a very young age. So when kids with dyslexia struggle with that vital skill, it can create feelings of anxiety.
In most cases, those feelings are passing and limited to situations that involve reading. That might be anything from reading a menu to taking notes for a book report. But sometimes, kids with dyslexia and other learning issues develop a bigger problem with anxiety.
Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia—many different learning issues fall under the umbrella of “learning disabilities.” This video from the National Center for Learning Disabilities describes them. It also explains what issues don’t fall under that umbrella.
Are you wondering if learning and attention issues are causing your child’s challenges in school or at home? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. One in five kids have learning and attention issues. And with the right support, they can thrive in school and in life.
This article from Understood.org provides steps you can take to determine if your child has learning and attention issues, and where to go from there.
1. Know the skills learning and attention issues can affect.
The term “learning and attention issues” covers a wide range of challenges kids may face in school, at home and in the community. These lifelong, brain-based difficulties can cause trouble with reading, writing, math, organization, concentration, listening comprehension, social skills or motor skills.
They’re not just “kids being lazy.” And having these issues doesn’t mean a child isn’t intelligent. Read about what learning and attention issues are and what they aren’t.