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Gifted and LD?
Q: Our six-year-old daughter had a difficult time socially and academically in kindergarten last year. She had trouble learning her ABC's and was at the low end of her kindergarten class. I was even meeting with the school to consider holding her back when, in March, the kindergarten teacher wanted to test her for the gifted program. We did not want to do this, but finally agreed. Her results were at the 98 percentile and she's considered gifted. She ended kindergarten with all A's.
Our daughter started first grade in the new neighborhood school. Her teacher has her at the low end of reading and she's average in math -- even after our work with her this summer. I'm concerned that the difference between her performance and her testing may mean she has a learning disability. I see her struggling to decode words when, in light of her testing, she should be well beyond her performance. When do I know it is time to do LD testing, and what testing do we do?
A: You can begin by looking at "Should I Have My Child Evaluated?" on FamilyEducation.com. You might also want to go to the website for Earobics, the manufacturer of software that helps develop phonological awareness. You can also obtain a free booklet on learning disabilities from the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities. According to this organization, some common signs for learning disabilities for young children include:
Is slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds
Confuses basic words (run, eat, want)
Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d), inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left) and substitutions (house/home)
Transposes number sequences and confuses arithmetic signs (+, -)
Is slow to learn new skills; relies heavily on memorization
Now is the time to ask for an evaluation for a learning disability if you are concerned that your daughter may be exhibiting some or all of these symptoms. The good news is that you have the best chance of treating learning disabilities effectively when you begin specialized teaching at an early age -- first grade is ideal. Testing should include a current I.Q. test to determine potential plus extensive educational testing, particularly including tests for phonemic awareness skills (a sensitivity to how words are put together and can be taken apart). Weaknesses in phonemic awareness can be detected very early and are strong predictors of later difficulties in learning how to read.
Unfortunately, not all "in-school" or "in-district" testing will pick up learning disabilities at this young age. You have a right as a parent to ask for a free evaluation from your local school or school district. Start there, but if you are not satisfied with the results, you may want to seek an independent, private evaluation. Go to the website for the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities and ask for the name of the closest advocacy group in your community. Someone there should be able to walk you through the system and get the information and the help you need. Good luck!
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.