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Confirming a Learning Deficit
Q: Our second-grade daughter was put into a classroom with first- and second-graders at the beginning of the year. We were told the reason for this was that there were too many first-graders. At mid-term we discovered that she was still doing first-grade work and that she's been labeled a special needs student. How can they be sure that she has a learning deficit? She also doesn't talk much. In fact, she did not start talking until she was four years old. What can I do?
A: You need to find out from the school exactly what is going on with your daughter. Ask for a conference with her teacher, the principal, and the school counselor. Make a list of the questions you want to ask, such as: Is my daughter doing first- or second- grade work? Will she be able to go to third grade? Has any screening or testing been done to determine if she has a learning difference? If she has a learning difference, what is the school doing to help her?
Ask the counselor to observe your daughter in her classroom. That way you can get an objective opinion of what is going on with her. If no screening tests have been given to your daughter, ask that they be given as soon as possible. You or your wife would have to have signed consent for any testing done by the school.
Talk with the principal and the counselor about next year. Let them know what kind of teacher you would like for your daughter to have (loving, supportive, etc.). Ask about the possibility of summer to school to allow your daughter to catch up with her classmates.
Also, talk with the speech therapist at the school and with your pediatrician about your daughter's speech delay. She may need speech therapy to help her catch up to her peers.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.