You might remember I did a story last school year about a little boy with special needs who missed his school field trip because he was in a wheelchair. The mom was told the train the kids were taking was not wheelchair accessible. The superintendent from that school district was very open to doing whatever he could to improve how special needs students are treated. Because of that story, other parents have been contacting me about their issues with school districts in the area.
The story we ran tonight on HOI 19 is on "Dyslexia." Here's the original email I received:
"Our third grade daughter was diagnosed with Dyslexia in October of 2007. The school district refused to accept the diagnosis/report and to this date is still refusing to give her a 504 to ensure recommended accommodations throughout the rest of her education in the district. The district itself is taking a very strange attitude towards Dyslexia, officially stating that it may not truly exist and is not a real learning disorder.
Near the end of the school year it had gotten so bad that the teachers at the elementary school were not allowed to use the word Dyslexia and would refer to it as "the D word". I have sent as an attachment a copy of the complaint sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, as well as a copy of the timeline documenting our steps through this process. If you are interested in further info, I have all of the exhibits to the complaint as electronic copies on my computer and could e mail them to you."
HOI 19's Ashley McNamee went to Miriam's house and met her daughter, then went to District 140 and talked to the superintendent. I talked to the State Board of Education. Here's the story we ran:
Like many kids her age, Rachel Meyer isn't necessarily looking forward to going back to school next week. "Usually because I have to do a lot of work, but I do like the lunch," said Rachel, who will be in fourth grade this fall. Her trouble with school became apparent last year when everything from her grades to her behavior changed. "We're talking about a very happy child so when she started coming home crying, saying I can't do this, we had to do something," said Miriam Meyer, Rachel's mother.
She began researching different learning disabilities online until the symptoms of one disability started sounding very familiar. "A tremendous amount of trouble sounding words out and learning how to read," said Miriam. "I immediately suspected dyslexia." Shortly thereafter, Rachel was tested by a nationally certified dyslexia expert and sure enough she was diagnosed severely dyslexic.
When people think of dyslexia they think reading backwards and mixing up letters. Experts say this learning disability is much more than that. The National Institute of Health estimates dyslexia affects nearly one in five children across the country, the majority of which are never diagnosed. "Sometimes the problems look like they're dancing around in my head," said Rachel. Coping with dyslexia has been challenging, but Miriam says surprisingly, the hardest part is getting Rachel's school district to accept it.
"They're just not accepting dyslexia, they're not recognizing dyslexia," she said. Miriam says she approached District 140 in Eureka asking for things like having tests read out-loud, not being counted off for spelling and audio book reports. "We met with the principal and he said there was nothing he could do," said Miriam. The Meyers showed us hundreds of pages outlining complaints they've filed against the school board, the school district, even the Illinois State Board of Education. We've talked to several other District 140 families who all say they're children with dyslexia are being neglected.
District 140 says they are meeting the needs of students. "We look at test scores, we look at how the student is doing in class, input from the parents and if we find the child needs help, we will put them in any special learning program that they need," said Dr. Randy Crump, District 140 Superintendent. The State Board of Education wouldn't talk about this specific case, but they indicated what some parents want for their kids may not be what's best. "Yes, we have, oh no question about it, we've been very happy with how things are," said Crump.
Miriam stands firm saying what the school district is doing for her child is not working and something needs to change. She says, if it doesn't her family will be packing their things and fixing the problem themselves. "We are looking to move, we are looking to move to Tremont because it has a strong dyslexia program in place," said Miriam.
One of the nation's experts on dyslexia says she agrees with the Meyer family. "This school district is so far out of compliance that it's outrageous," said Barton, who founded Bright Solutions for Dyslexia. According to Susan Barton, the district needs to be following a 504 plan. It's the federal civil rights law requiring children with a disability a free and equal public education. District 140 says they do accommodate 504 plans to students who need it. There are over 1650 students enrolled in District 140 Schools through out central Illinois.
Thanks for contacting us! If you know of any help for kids with dyslexia in the area or a school district that has an outstanding dyslexia program, let us know by posting a comment.
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