Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mama Bear Awakened

There’s a reason it is ill advised to get between a mama bear and her cubs. One of my daughters is dyslexic and as such she receives extra time on tests. It takes her longer to decode in both reading and math. As a junior in high school she is scheduled to take the ACT test, the college entrance exam accepted at most schools in our state, but a call from the school counselor indicated that she might not get extra time on the ACT. The extra time is an accommodation that is allotted to her because of her learning disability (LD).  She has already been approved to take the AP exams and the SAT test with accommodations.

 In those early years in elementary school she had an IEP, an individualized education plan, which was in place until she reached grade level achievement in all academic areas, thanks in large part to her own motivation and some innovative and excellent teachers. These days, she has a 504 Plan, which means she is performing at or above grade level, but still requires extra time. As parents, we have been vigilant in safeguarding this protection for her. Extra time is just that, if you don't know the material, extra time does you no good, the 504 Plan makes sure she is not punished because it takes her longer to decipher language.

After several phone calls to and from the school counselor, and much fretting on my part, it was decided that the school counselor would submit the request for ACT accommodations with the 504 as supporting documentation. We will have to wait about a month to hear from the ACT people. If she is denied, the school will reevaluate her at their expense in time for her to take the ACT with accommodations in June.

While ultimately Mama Bear did not need to resort to her instincts to rip, shred and maim to protect her young, she sure was on high alert and ready to pounce if necessary. This whole incident brings to the surface the fact that as parents we need to be advocates for our kids always. Learning disabilities are sometimes not obvious and can be difficult to diagnose. My sister is a school principal so she was a big help when we were first learning about dyslexia and LDs back when my daughter was in the third and fourth grades, but there are many more resources now. Here’s one if anyone needs a place to get started and it offers information for elementary through college ages. I still refer to it often
It's been my experience that school staff cares deeply about the wellbeing of kids, but they are busy, stressed, over-burdened, if your child has a disability; especially one that is not visually obvious, you need to be their primary advocate and make sure your kiddo is getting what they need to participate fully and successfully in an academic setting. It's also important that as parents we hear what teachers are saying about our kids, and not be in denial about the possibility of an LD. I'm no expert, but everything I have read and every professional I've talked to has said early intervention is a major key to a successful outcome.


  1. Hang in there--both you, and your daughter. She's lucky to have you.

    1. Thank you. Ultimately I know all will be well, even if she only ends up taking the SAT. That mother instinct to protect will always be present however.

  2. Being an advocate in the grade school years is so important -- in many areas, testing for learning challenges is only paid for during those years. I'm always saddened when I have a student in my university classes who has never been diagnosed but obviously struggles with a learning disability. Testing at that point can be prohibitively expensive yet the accommodations can make a huge difference in being able to complete the work successfully.

  3. I agree, we were fortunate to be able to address these issues beginning in elementary school. Early intervention is key. With all the budget cuts that schools are facing these days it wouldn't surprise me if more kids slip through the cracks.

  4. I hope you don't mind, but I've tagged you for a meme. Rules are posted over at my place.