Why Classroom Teachers Can’t Do More for Your Smart but Struggling Student

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Parents of smart but struggling readers often feel lost, frustrated, confused, and overwhelmed.  Coming to terms with your child’s specific learning needs can be an arduous task.  However, just as we attempt to gain information when physical health is at risk, it is with this same persistence that we encourage parents to gain an understanding of how to best support their child who has a learning difference.  Schools often recommend more practice using the same instruction, and more of the same does NOT work. 

There are three main reasons why classroom teachers can’t do more for your smart but struggling student: 

  1. A majority of classroom teachers are not taught how to teach scientifically based reading methods

The most common approaches to reading instruction in U.S. schools are inconsistent with the science of how humans learn to read. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), only 37 percent of elementary and special education programs appear to be teaching scientifically based reading methods to preservice teachers. Furthermore, the NCTQ August 2018 publication Databurst listed Florida as a state that does not require a sufficient test of the science of reading
for either elementary or special education teacher candidates. 

At the Learning Loft, we are committed to continuous professional development in the science of reading. We are Scientific Learning Fast ForWord®️ Providers. Fast ForWord®️ products were developed through university-based neuroscience research. Familiarity with neuroscientific theory and research application is required for implementation of these products. Due to their neuroscience basis and the complexity of implementation, only qualified professionals may become Scientific Learning providers. 

  1. Classroom teachers cannot deliver continuous one-on-one instruction

Science has proven that explicit, systematic, sequential programs that teach phonemic awareness and phonics are the most successful ways to teach ALL children to read and is essential type of instruction for struggling readers.  Research also proves that if there appears to be a struggle, it is best to deliver these programs One-on-one. It is no secret that class size, time constraints, lack of funding, and lack of resources all lead to an unrealistic expectation for One-on-one intervention in a classroom setting. In addition to higher levels of explicit and intensive instruction, struggling readers require emotionally and cognitively supportive instruction. 

At the Learning Loft we provide social, emotional and executive skills coaching as the foundation of our program. We tackle frustration, handle the “not enoughness” and instill a growth mindset. Then we teach students how to set and reach goals while advocating for themselves along the way.

3. Most classroom teachers can’t get a smart but struggling student extra support in a timely manner and sometimes not at all

Many smart but struggling students are so smart that they develop compensatory reading strategies, and their grades and test scores may not reflect their struggles. There are many excellent classroom teachers that understand these students will eventually hit a learning wall, but their current performance does not qualify them for help right now. A “wait and see” approach arises and that is detrimental for the student. Sadly, the classroom teachers’ hands are tied. 

If you suspect you have a smart but struggling reader, you may consider getting a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation, on your child, by an evaluator who has expertise in dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities (SLD).  When you are ready to get your child professional reading help, here are some important questions to ask:

  • Do you specialize in learning differences (SLD, Dyslexia, APD, etc.)?
  • Do you use an Orton-Gillingham approach? Which system do you use? How long have you used it? (If they don’t know what Orton-Gillingham is, they are not qualified to work with your child.) 
  • Do you screen students to make their phonemic awareness skills are adequate enough to begin an Orton-Gillingham system?
  • If the student fails the phonemic awareness screening, what do you do?
  • Have you ever worked with an anxious/frustrated/upset child? If yes, how do you help them handle their feelings during learning sessions? 
  • Will you collaborate with my child’s school? 
  • Have you ever accompanied parents to an I.E.P. meeting? 
  • Can you assist in creating I.E.P. goals accommodations? 
  • Do you offer homeschool support? (For parents who homeschool or are considering homeschooling)
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