New Jersey Reading Task Force Hear Our Voice

On April 30th, 2012 I drove to Trenton, New Jersey along with a friend to give my testimony to the New Jersey Reading Task Force. The task force is an 11-member group appointed by Governor Chris Christie to research current services available to New Jersey’s students who struggle with learning to read.  The task force members have been meeting monthly to conduct research, share ideas, form recommendations and reach out for information.They are suppose to report back to the governor with recommendations to identify practices and strategies to help students struggling with reading, and spread awareness of them to teachers and school districts. It is estimated that about 20 percent of the population have some type of reading disorder, and about 85 percent of students with learning disabilities struggle to read.

In any event, I wrote up my testimony which I felt would be very unique. I mean I knew their were other children out there who had struggled like my children did, year after year in public school however, after listening to all the other testimony I did not realize just how many commonalities my family would share with other families here in New Jersey. The testimony was heart wrenching.

One man stood up and announced that this was the first time he was admitting he had Dyslexia. He said 30 years ago when he attended public school he was placed in a self contained class where he was physically abused by the other children. When he was “smart enough” to get out he was emotionally abused by his typical peers.

Another father stood up and said, We hear about Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison who supposedly had Dyslexia and even spent some time in New Jersey but what about the darker side of all the people who are in jail or commit suicide which is much more common.

A brave public school special education teacher stated, We get no training in reading from our universities.

Another elementary school teacher stood up and said her daughter was diagnosed with Dyslexia. She stated of course she trusted the school and the teacher being she was in the same profession when they told  her daughter would be okay. However, she broke down in tears because her daughter was not being served in the public school which eventually forced her to leave her career as a teacher to help her child.  I let out a sigh. I too had  given up my career in order to advocate for my children. Ultimately, this created an abundance of financial stress and strain on our family as my husband works double and triple jobs in order to pay our bills each month. It also lessened our family time together.

A father stood up who stated he had been advocating for his children with Dyslexia. He was surprised when DYFS showed up at his door. Then he found out this was a tactic schools used against parents who advocated strongly for their children. Another sigh from me. Yes, at one point DYFS had also been called on me too. The charges unfounded.

Another parent stood up and said, Every child who needs services deserves them, not just the children with loud parents and high paid lawyers.

Yet another public school teacher stood up and said, Children with Dyslexia are being poorly served by schools. The fault lays at the college level.

A recently retired special education teacher of 32 years who went on to become a learning consultant and who was also in charge of the professional development in her district stated, I have EXCELLENT teachers who say they feel less than prepared to teach reading. She also said statistics show that only 15 percent of teachers are using all the elements necessary to teach reading.

A husband and wife stood up to tell how they had to sell their business and take another mortgage on their home in order to get their child the appropriate services. The public school had claimed their child only had an IQ of 81 and thus the reason the child was not learning. After only one year in the private school the child could read and was re-tested using the TONI-3, the child’s IQ was now measured at 127. The mother stated, Yes it can happen that quickly for a child.

A father stood up who had calculated the mileage he had driven to therapy for each of his three children with Dyslexia. One child 120,000 miles, another 100,000, and the last child a total of 90,000. Oh how I could relate to each and every one of these stories.

One mom stood up and talked about a certain reading curriculum being used for her daughter who had Down Syndrome and Dyslexia. She said, Children should be able to read all words, not just Edmark words. ( Edmark is a program that uses a whole-word approach to reading instruction geared on children memorizing certain words.)

Another parent said because New Jersey uses the outdated discrepancy model ( The IQ-achievement discrepancy model assesses whether there is a significant difference ( 22 1/2 point)  spread between a student’s scores on a test of general intelligence (e.g., an IQ test such as the WISC-IV) and scores obtained on an achievement test (e.g., the Woodcock Johnson Achievement Test). The IQ-achievement discrepancy model was traditionally used to identify children with learning disabilities.) that parents need to live in fear that their children’s own progress will punish them.

But for me the MOST powerful testimony came from a high school aged brave red headed boy who said, I struggled to read  when I was young. My teacher told me I needed to read the way that I speak. I wanted to. I did not know why I couldn’t. “BY THIRD GRADE I LITERALLY THOUGHT OF ENDING MY LIFE.” I later found out that I have dyslexia and an IQ of 125.

My eyes welled with tears. I know life is unfair but to me this is uncalled for.  We do have the research. We need to put it in action for the sake of our children and future generations. There are so many suffering. It is unnecessary to continue to torture these children and torture the families who love them.

The task force will continue to accept written statements until  May 30, 2012. They can be mailed to :  Reading Disabilities Task Force, Office of Literacy, NJDOE, P.O. Box 500, Trenton, NJ 08625-0500.

http://www.state.nj.us/education/news/2012/0413rdtf.htm

A copy of my testimony can be found below:

Good Evening! My husband and I have three children, two formally diagnosed with Dyslexia, the most severe form Double Deficit and our other son, a severe auditory processing disorder a common symptom of Dyslexia.
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What I can tell you is this, all of my children have IQ’s in the high average to above average range. However, I’m going to speak the most about my eldest son since this was the first time we sought services to address his Dyslexia.
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My son Anthony was placed in the “multiply disabled” class with children with Autism and Down’s Syndrome due to what was later discovered to be his profound dyslexia . However, I believed my son was very capable and was convinced by my research that Anthony was severely dyslexic. I began to question his placement and wanted him tested for Dyslexia. I was informed he was too young, schools in New Jersey don’t test for dyslexia, etc.., etc… I was given many excuses but I continued to research on my own. Upon entering kindergarten in the public school system my son scored in the 84% in his overall academic knowledge however, as time passed his scores began to plummet as he struggled to read and could not have the same access to learning as his peers.
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Nobody could explain why a child with an IQ in the high average range at one point be reading in the second percentile? But according to my findings the school’s eclectic approaches were not proven to be effective which was certainly  the case for my son. Additionally, my son did not have access to appropriate “assistive technologies” to level the playing field  for students with dyslexia verses their peers.
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After my first due process hearing it was decided that my son would be given the “Project Read Program” with a teacher who was trained in the program. However, the teacher’s training was limited and the program was not implemented with fidelity. Needless to say, this led to a seven year battle with the school district. And unfortunately, there is  a great injustice between the power and resources that schools have verses parents.
Seven years later I did finally obtain a private placement for my son Anthony at a school with teacher’s who had specific training in Orton Gillingham based reading programs, who implemented the programs with fidelity and who gave access to assisitive technology. However, this did not come without years of severe emotional and financial stress on my family and a toll on my health. And although I earned more money than my husband I was forced to give up my career eventually to make sure my children had one important basic right met, the right to be able to learn.
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Unlike so many our story has a happy ending. My son Anthony is on a College Preparatory Track where he continues to earn Honor Roll.  He is also an excellent athlete despite the fact he was never really able to participate in sports as a younger child due to all of the supplemental services and therapies that his parents had to provide after school. These past two years my son participated  on swim team in his home district, earning a varsity letter in his Freshman Year and recently was a NJAC qualifier for the All-Academic Team which means the student-athlete must maintain an overall grade average of 85 besides being a top athlete. My son also passed various certifications in order for him to obtain a job doing swim instruction and coaching and has been working steady for over one year now. My other two children are following in their brother’s footsteps although my middle child was never even identified despite my requests for him to be evaluated. He was eventually classified after I filed for due process. He too eventually ended up in a private school also for children with learning disabilities. My youngest I home school. I could not go through it again. He was just tested in March with standardized testing and scored above average to superior in every category. Even reading which is proof it can be done. Thankfully NONE of my children are heading in the direction of the statistics which  is certainly MORE common.
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Furthermore, in New Jersey a child who has Dyslexia may not even qualify for any services because districts are using antiquated formula’s based on a 22 1/2 point spread between achievement and IQ. The truth is a child with Dyslexia that may not qualify for services under this formula will still most likely need Response to Intervention using a systematic direct multi sensory scientifically based program. Let me point out this does not constitute a district sending their teachers for three day trainings and claiming they can now implement a program such as this with effectiveness. I know all of this from my personal experiences. There are also educator’s, parents and children who are out here frustrated. We need to ensure that we WILL provide the training, tools and education to make these individuals successful.  Learning disabilities will NOT and do NOT correct themselves. As a parent I am excited to see a Reading Task Force developed and I know there is so much research out there to guide us. Please do not let our children be just another statistic. Thank you!
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50% of all students in special education in the
public schools have learning disabilities — 2.25
million children;Source: U.S. Dept. of Education 1992
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75% – 80% of special education students identified
as LD have their basic deficits in language and
reading;
Source: National Institutes of Health
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35% of students identified with learning disabilities
drop out of high school. This is twice the rate of their
non-disabled peers. (This does not include the students who are not
identified and drop out); Source: National
Longitudinal Transition Study (Wagner 1991)
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60% of adults with severe literacy problems have
undetected or untreated learning disabilities; Source: National
Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center 1994
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50% of juvenile delinquents tested were found to
have undetected  learning disabilities; Source:
National Center for State Courts and the Educational
Testing Service 1977
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Up to 60% of adolescents in treatment for substance
abuse have learning disabilities: Source: Hazelton
Foundation, Minnesota 1992
.
62% of learning disabled students were unemployed
one year after  graduation; Source: National
Longitudinal Transition Study (Wagner 1991)
.
50% of females with learning disabilities will be
mothers (many  of them single) within 3-5 years of
leaving high school; Source:  National Longitudinal Transition
Study (Wagner 1991)
.
31% of adolescents with learning disabilities will
be arrested  3-5 years out of high school.
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copyrighted 2012; danadogooder and DMT
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Haters or Secret Admirer’s?

I’ve been told over the years people are jealous of me. I find the notion crazy. I certainly don’t have the hardest life. But life hasn’t been too easy for me either. Matter of fact, I’ve had so many trials and tribulations. My biggest accomplishment, I’ve survived it all. I guess I was naive’ but I am starting to think it might be true, People ARE jealous of me. It was a hard concept for me to swallow because when I see good things happening for people it sincerely makes me feel good. In the past few months I’ve loved seeing one of my old high school friends take a fabulous trip to Europe, the birth of numerous babies, someone buy the home of their dreams, etc… Another thing is I also don’t have the biggest house, a lot of cash, a lifestyle of the rich and famous but I am starting to understand the type of jealousy I am experiencing. People are jealous of my attributes: The ability to be outspoken. The ability to do what is right even when it is hard. The ability to walk into a room with an opinion other than the rest of the group. The ability to stand in a room where I am not liked. The ability to be the one who has always been willing to take the bullets for the greater good. Truth is I am now starting to realize after forty four years, I think you wish you had the courage to be more like me!

copyrighted 2012: danadogooder and DMT

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From Special Olympics to Meet of Champions!

When Jane Havsy of The Daily Record contacted my son for a phone interview she never knew how much that would mean to our family. Of course, any parent is excited when their child makes the newspaper for an accomplishment but for us it was extra special. Why? Because little did she know Anthony was once in the Special Olympics and a multiply disabled class and now heading to the Meet of Champions which is the most prestigious high school meet in the state of New Jersey with his relay team!

Backing up just a bit The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. From this organization groups have formed locally all the way to internationally. The Special Olympics in Belleville, N.J. where Anthony participated in November of 1999 was an event created which allows Special Education students to compete in Olympic-style competitions.

Ironically, the ribbons from the Special Olympics which I had not seen for years I came across while doing some closet cleaning just three days before my son had headed to the Meet of Champions. Additionally, I also found the brush I used many times to brush my son’s sensitive skin due to his Sensory Integration Dysfunction and the Visual Schedule we used to help him keep us focused and on task to help him live as independently as possible. A chill shivered down my spine.

Moreover, in 2001 when our family moved to Rockaway, N.J.  Anthony was placed in the “multiply disabled” class where the expectations were very low. However, I believed my son was very capable and was convinced by my research that Anthony was severely dyslexic among having ADHD, Expressive Speech Delays, Sensory Integration Disorder,  fine motor delays not to mention his working memory which fell in the second percentile. In any event, this led to a seven year battle with the school district and hundred’s of thousands of miles driven to almost every therapy you can imagine. You name it, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, neuro feedback therapy, vision therapy, Linda Mood Bell Reading program, etc… We did it all.

Our family also had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way too but this story is about my son. He is the real hero because he put the time in and he worked hard. What is hard for the average person can be up to one hundred times harder for him. But amazingly not only has he done the hard work it takes but usually it is also accompanied by his smile that can light up a room.

Anthony is now a sophomore and continues to make honor roll. He also passed a very tough examination to become a swim coach this past summer and made silver times as an individual in every swim stroke in his first year of year round competitive swimming and second year on the Morris Hills High School Swim Team. It is also believed to be the first Morris Hills relay of either gender to ever qualify for the Meet of Champions.  

In closing please remember these powerful words,

“You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”
― Richard Bach 🙂

Yes, From Special Olympics to Meet of Champions. You can make your dreams come true too!

copyright 2011; danadogooder and DMT

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Nic’s Ass Was Here!

Last Tuesday my friend and I were having a conversation. She thinks my family needs more sleep. Granted, there may be some truth to this on some occasions but I can only long for the days that my boys fall asleep early. Matter of fact, they are rarely tired even after a long day at school and the long commute to the private school they attend for children with learning disabilities and ADHD. (The youngest I home school.)  So as a mother of three boys my job, Wear them down with some good ole fashioned exercise.

The exercise of choice in this house is SWIM although my boys do others as well, cross country running, basketball, track, etc… But swim is year round now. A great lifelong healthy sport. Regular swimming builds endurance, muscle and is a great cardio-vascular exercise with the least amount of stress on your joints. My two elder boys have suffered with Osgood-Schlotter Disease (OSD) during the running season which is a condition that causes severe pain towards the top of the shinbone. This condition is very common in athletes between the ages of ten to fifteen because at this age the bones grow rapidly and the tendon may not be lengthening at the same rate. The result is extra tension where the patellar tendon attaches to the bone. When you combine this tightness with increased activity such as running you get knee pain. Therefore, swimming is our preferred choice of sport. Plus my boys are great swimmers.

Therefore, I try to have my boys swim as much as possible. My middle son is the only one who usually gives the hardest time about going. However, once he gets there he is great. But many days he whines that he does not want to go. He claims he doesn’t get enough free time, etc… Last Tuesday was one of those days. He started, “I’m tired. I need a break.” His brothers actually agreed today. I thought to myself, “My friend is right, the boys need a break, they need sleep.” I felt guilty. I decided to let them stay home so they could relax.

Shortly after I could hear the boys horsing around. They were playing basketball in their bathroom. They have one of those hoops to shoot their dirty laundry in (it is rare that I find clothes in the basket though)! So instead of using it for its intended purpose they have a smaller size ball and they have full fledged basketball games in the bathroom. I hate it. Sounds like the whole room will cave in. But I was tired myself (usually swim serves a dual purpose, they swim and I get to relax). So tonight I would not get my hour quiet time relaxing in my car prior to going to watch them swim the last hour. I decided I would head to my couch and possibly watch a little t.v. which is a rarity for me. I was tense from all the crashing and bashing I heard going on though. I desperately tried to ignore it! The last CRASH occurred and then silence. I thought that it did not sound good but maybe they went back to their X-Box or the computer. Ahhh, silence at last…..

Shortly after, my little and my middle appeared. They looked scared and ghost white. They said, “Mommy we have something to tell you.” They proceeded to say they had put a hole in the wall. I said, “How big?” They answered,”REALLY BIG!” I remained eerie calm. I went with them to look as they explained. They had been playing basketball. Victor left the bathroom. Nic decided to be funny and jump on his brother’s back. Victor was spinning around with Nic on his back and decided to do a creative kind of wrestling move and smashed his brother into the wall. They were  having so much fun and laughing. It was horseplay. However, the laughing stopped as soon as they realized, Nic’s ass was stuck in the wall. They got quiet but couldn’t help to still let out a giggle here and there. My eldest son had to help Nic. He had to literally remove Nic’s ass from the wall. I glared at the hole.

I calmly turned and looked at them and said, “You will NEVER miss swim again.” I then said, “Now you need to go tell your Dad what you did and then go straight to bed!” ( Even though it was barely 8 p.m..) I walked with them to the basement and they told my husband. Somehow he remained his composure too and just said, “The hole will remain there till the day we sell the house.” I thought to myself, Great, was he serious? I knew he really didn’t need another thing to do. He works hard day and night these days just so we can live here and so that we can pay almost $500 a month for the boys to swim. He also is our handyman so anything goes wrong with the furnace, house, car, etc…. he does it. The man is tired. He just turned 50. He didn’t really need another thing to do.

The boys went straight to bed and they did not dare come out of their room. They probably were relieved and thought they had gotten off pretty easy.

The next day during breakfast I reminded them of the damage and how hard mom and dad work to keep things nice, I proclaimed this was at least $500 worth of damage. We’d probably have to replace the entire wall, etc… I wanted it to sound very drastic so they would continue to repent for what they had done. At that moment, my little one informed me, “No mom you just have to cut out the piece of drywall and patch it.” I asked him where he got this idea from? He informed me that him and Victor had looked it up on YouTube, how to fix a hole in the wall prior to them reporting the incident to me. I couldn’t help but laugh. Then my teen chimed in, “Mom, it was pretty funny having to remove Nic’s ass from the wall. He was really stuck in the wall.” He began to laugh. We all laughed.

That night in bed, I repeated the story to my husband of how the boys had actually looked on You Tube of how to fix the hole in our wall prior to them gaining the courage to come tell us what they had done. He even had to laugh. Just twenty four hours later we could all laugh about it. And to my surprise my husband gathered the materials and tools needed that Saturday after along with our son Nicolas. He taught our son who is the one we actually home school a real live hands on lesson.

As a matter of fact, they both had a really good time making the repair. I’m just hoping the boys don’t get any bright ideas of breaking something on purpose just to have some Daddy and Me Mr. Fix It Time. In the meantime, I will never forget, “Nic’s Ass Was Here!”

copyrighted 2012; danadogooder and DMT

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Happy Ground Hog Day! 6 more weeks on winter and who knows when my Ground Hog Day will end! 🙂

danadogooder

Did you ever see the movie Groundhog Day? The guy wakes up on the following day after Groundhog Day only to discover that it’s Groundhog Day again, and again, and again. He eventually realizes that he is doomed to spend the rest of his life doing the same things, seeing the same people and places everyday. I really can relate to this lately.

I wake up between four and five in the morning each day. I wander to the kitchen. Yes, the raid has occurred. Open kitchen cabinets, drawers, dirty plates, empty popcorn bags, etc… left over from the late night snacks. I start to clean the mess. I also wipe down the stove and counters. I place the teapot on the stove in order to heat the water to make myself a cup of tea. I empty the dishwasher. I start some laundry. I feed the dog. I visit…

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Why it is better to raise boys than girls!

Why it is better to raise boys than girls!

Boys may be more active and physically demanding but after having three boys these are my top 20 of why boys are better than girls! 🙂

1) Well after all boys were created first!

2) They are less whiny or no whining at all if you are my boys!

3) They can pee in a gatorade bottle while mommy is driving!

4) They don’t need to change their bathing suit ten times in a day and can remain on the beach happy all day!

5) They aren’t bitchy!

6) They are easier to please!

7) They only require the bare necessities!

8) They don’t tie up the phone line!

9) They’ll squish bugs!

10) They are fearless!

11) They love their bodies, especially their penis!

12) They don’t turn into teenage girls!

13)They don’t always want, want, want….

14) They cost less money to raise!

15) Bruising, blood and broken bones don’t phase them!

16) Scars are something to be proud of!

17) They don’t send naked photos of themselves to people’s cell phones!

18) Boys usually respect their mom’s more…

19) Boys can entertain themselves better! (Resort to penis if all else fails!)

20) Make them Mama’s boys and they’ll stay by you forever….

copyrighted 2012: danadogooder and DMT

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The Reader’s Choice (Top 10 for 2011)

These were my most frequently read blogs for the Year 2011.  It was also my first year blogging.  I wrote 115 blogs in all.  I certainly did not blog as much as I wanted  but it was a good start. I would recommend reading the Firstborn blog in chronological order as it is my son’s story following the chain of events and timeline as they occurred.  Although I’ve written about a variety of subjects the Firstborn blogs seem to top the charts. At this point I am not even half way through his story but hope to finish it in the next year or so. Keep Reading and Have a Healthy and Happy New Year!

The desire to write grows with writing. — Desiderius Erasmus

Firstborn: The Independent Educational Evaluation

 https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/firstborn-the-independent-educational-evaluation/

 ADHD: To Medicate or Not

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/adhd-to-medicate-or-not/

 Firstborn: More on Double Deficit Dyslexia

 https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/263/

 My Firstborn

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/my-firstborn/

“Race to Nowhere, The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture!” My review and personal interjections!

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/259/

Firstborn: The recommendations!

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/firstborn-the-recommendations/

Firstborn:The Scary Man

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/firstborn-the-scary-man/

Firstborn: The evaluation by the Developmental Behavioral Optometrist

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/firstborn-the-evaluation-by-the-developmental-behavioral-optometrist/

The Burning Bed

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/the-burning-bed/

Firstborn: Teacher Checklist

https://danadogooder.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/firstborn-teacher-checklist/

Copyrighted 2011; danadogooder and DMT

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