NOTE: This post is about Thomas and dyslexia. If you’re curious about other posts I’ve written on the same subject, type ‘dyslexia’ in the search box to the left.
Yesterday I met with the school counselor, district dyslexia specialist, Jr. High principal and Thomas’ reading and history teachers to evaluate Thomas’ ‘service plan’ in regards to spring STAAR testing. STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) replaced the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). The STAAR program includes annual assessments for grades 3–8 in reading and math; assessments in writing at grades 4 and 7; in science at grades 5 and 8; and in social studies at grade 8. There are also some end-of-course assessments for English I, English II, Algebra I, Biology and U.S history, but I’m pretty sure there’ll be another acronym in place before we hit those.
This year Thomas will have to pass reading, math, and writing. We’ve had accommodations in place for a while now regarding reading and math –services such as oral testing, extended time to complete tests and use of a calculator- but we had to tweak the plan a little to prepare for the writing test.
Don’t get me wrong, Thomas is an excellent writer; he just can’t spell. In fact, he would have spelled that last sentence like this: he jst cant spel. If you read his writings aloud, they’re very well thought out and usually funny. Thomas’ spelling is phonetic though and usually only makes sense if you hear it. Dslexea suks!
So, the counselor is looking into the possible spelling/writing accommodations and we’ll amend the plan as soon as possible. The key to accommodations is that the student has to have been using the accommodations all year to be eligible to use them during the test. Other accommodations Thomas is using include preferential seating (which is not on the back row- who knew?), re-teaching of difficult concepts, supplemental materials (occasional use of notes) and a cooling-off period.
That last is key. Thomas has very high expectations of himself and he gets frustrated very easily when he feels that he is not meeting those expectations. We have learned, through much experience, that the best way to slow the building frustration and/or to re-focus when frustration wins, is for Thomas to take a short walk and practice some Lamaze. I’m not kidding- I’ve used more Lamaze trying to calm my children over the past 13 years than I ever did giving birth to them.
So, reading -check , math -check and now, writing -check!