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Reading Problems and ADHD

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Q: I have a 14-year-old stepson who has ADHD. He is in a Resource Program in our public school system. He failed the seventh grade and is in summer school. I have been helping him with his homework and have discovered he can only read approximately on a second-grade level. He does not get any extra help at school during the summer session. How can I catch him up? It seems the school system has just been passing him up to the next grade.

A: It sure does, and it's a good thing that you identified the problem while there's still time left to do something about it. If he has never been evaluated for a learning disability, ask the school to do that NOW! You should contact the administrator of special education or the building principal. Unless the special education staff is around in the summer, they may not be able to do testing until the fall. You can choose to have your stepson tested at a learning disability clinic at a local hospital (Contact the state branch of the Learning Disabilities Association, or by a private psychologist (contact the Board of Psychology in your state for a referral).

If your stepson has had reading problems all along and no one in the school has referred him for evaluation in the past, they've got some catching up to do. I would ask them to hire a tutor trained in reading disabilities or learning disabilities to work with him this summer. If he is reading at the second grade level, he's unlikely to be successful in summer school, unless they read EVERYTHING to him. You can get all of his books on tape by contacting Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. This may take some time, but at least you'll have a way to get knowledge into his head, even if his reading skills are low. Incidentally, if your stepson's math computation (not word problem-solving) skills are higher than his reading skills, this is an indication that he is bright enough to learn, and that he should benefit from the right kind of teaching.

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Jerome (Jerry) Schultz is the founding clinical director of the Learning Lab @ Lesley University, a program that provides assessment, tutoring, and case management services for children with learning challenges. Schultz holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, and has completed postdoctoral fellowships in both clinical psychology and pediatric neuropsychology.

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