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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
75% – 80% of special education students identified
as LD have their basic deficits in language and
Source: National Institutes of Health
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)
60% of adults with severe literacy problems have
undetected or untreated learning disabilities; Source: National
Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center 1994
50% of juvenile delinquents tested were found to
have undetected  learning disabilities; Source:
National Center for State Courts and the Educational
Testing Service 1977
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.
copyrighted 2012; danadogooder and DMT

About danadogooder

Happily married for 20 years except when he is pissing me off! ' Mommy of 3 boys, a yellow female lab named Curious, 2 kitties Trouble and Kornelia, and bird and fish! Yes, we have a Zoo! Love to cook, entertain, and travel. I give new meaning to, "You can't fight city hall" Cause I fought worse, "Yes, The Board of Ed! " I live in a houseful of ADHD, Dyslexia, Auditory Processing, Sensory Integration and Allergies!!! I love being a Mom, to have fun and am always joking around! My job titles are: Wife, Mommy, Advocate, Friend, Maid, Cook, Self Employed Business Owner among many others!
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1 Response to New Jersey Reading Task Force Hear Our Voice

  1. dana says:

    This blog hits home on so many levels for our family. The proverb, “Can a fish climb a tree?” sums up our experience trying to work with our district. The ignorance, negligence, isolation and ineffective practices of our public school’s special education team forced our family to leave the district with scars that will always be present. Scatter skills ditto sheets (including coloring sheets for pull-out replacement classes?), numerous changes in methodologies without measurable means, and “orton-like” programs that made no sense to a Dyslexic heirarchy of language lead to an inevitable breakdown. Our daughter’s ability to read came quickly with her tutors but was confused by her special educaiton replacement teachers and tested her endurance. By 3rd grade, exhaustion of feeling different, “weird and stupid” on a daily basis was the final blow. It was then we recognized that our public school’s teaching deficits were greater than our daughter’s learning deficits. We had no choice but to leave at our own expense to preserve her sense of self. This painful journey could have easily been eased by bringing reading and math specialists into the school for the morning so that the gap in learning would not have grown as it did.

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