HomeLearning DifficultiesHealth & Development

A conversation with Joyce Bilgrave about dyslexia and parental involvement

An expert who runs camps for kids with dyslexia responds to parents' questions.

By GreatSchools Staff

Joyce Bilgrave, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Durango Mountain Camp for children with dyslexia. She began her career as a teacher more than 40 years ago and since then she has established several camps and schools for students with dyslexia. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Trainers.

This conversation between Ms. Bilgrave and parents of children with learning difficulties about supporting their kids' learning and well-being, originally took place in 2006 on the parent message board hosted by Schwab Learning, formerly a program of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. We feel readers will find much that is useful and important for their own efforts to support their children.

From a broad range of discussions that occurred on our message board during the week, we offer a sampling of parents' questions and Ms. Bilgrave's answers and advice.

Best assessments to measure annual progress

From: SouthOCMom

What assessments are best to measure annual growth for children with Dyslexia? My son has an IEP for SLD in reading and writing. The W-J III Tests of Achievement were used in the initial assessments to qualified him for services. At the first annual IEP I requested that he be reassessed with the same W-J III tests to measure growth. I mentioned to the RSP that I would like these same tests administered for a third time before our annual IEP this year and she said "AGAIN!?" I said yes, because thus far, it's the only formal assessment that's been used to gauge his progress.

Is there a problem with using this test annually? What other assessments can we begin to implement, in addition to observation and work samples, to monitor his progress?

Joyce Bilgrave responds:

There are many, many really good assessments available. The W-J III is excellent, in depth, thorough. Giving it several times is often done, and using the same instruments is a fine way to get comparative scores. Your teacher being surprised at your request is an invalid surprise and I wouldn't hesitate using it again.

Difficulty with spelling

From: Wlmom

My daughter is 8 and in the 3rd grade. She had an IEP for math in 1-2grades, OT for writing problems - she now has great penmanship, no reversals - and on the lines after 2 years of hard work, Reading Recovery for the first semester of 1st grade which helped with her phonemic awareness greatly and her reading ability has skyrocketed. However her spelling is pretty much the same as first grade. I have been told repeatedly "she will grow out of it, she has a late birthday" "she is on target for her age" but when a third grader still is consistently spelling "few" "fuw" and most words are spelled phonetically. Is this dyslexia? or something else?

Joyce Bilgrave responds:

Spelling is almost always much more difficult than reading. It's good that she has good phonetic skills and can spell phonetically. I must disagree with the teachers when they say "she will grow out of it". Spelling does improve with consistent, sequential Multisensory instruction. The good news is that we find that if a child can learn to spell on a 6th grade reading level she can do college work with good dictionary skills.

Comments from readers

"My heart breaks for all the other families, like mine, who have had to fight for appropriate instruction, based off dignostic assessents,where the learning is monitored. Good Luck, finding that! I have spent many hours advocating for such a beast, close to nine years now. Schools don't want to get it."
"my son was tested postive for dyslexia by a psychologist after finding he needed extra time for calculus and advanced (AP) courses. He previously was able to self adjust and therefore we didn't know there was a problem til he was a junior in High School. He was able to advance from 40th (GPA) to 5th in his class from Freshman to Senior. We now need scholarship assistance so he can go to Ohio State. He wants to study Environmental Sustainability. IS there any such scholarship(s) available for him related to dyslexia?"