Podcast Episode 19: 
Max: A Story of an Individualized Education

Every child is unique and deserves an education uniquely suited to them.  Max was an amazingly gifted child with severe dyslexia.  He also had ADHD and frustrations had led to some minor behavior problems.  He needed an education unlike anyone else.

Audio version: www.DecodingLearningDifferences.com


Welcome to Decoding Learning Differences with Kimberlynn Lavelle. This episode is max a story of an individualized education. So in this episode, I just want to tell you about a student that I had a few years ago named max, his name. Well, actually, max I've just changed it to kind of protect his identity, But he was an interesting kid as Arnold date as are they all.

And I just wanted to tell his story a little bit to show one way of individualizing an education and the need for an education to be individualized. I am a big proponent of every child, not just those with disabilities, but especially those with disabilities need an individualized education. Also those that are gifted kind of outside of the norm. So let's talk about the norm for a second.

If you haven't seen a bell curve, they are, they tell us where most people fall. So most people fall 68% of the population, depending on how, Depending on this Specific statistical model, but in general, most fall within one standard deviation of average. So the 50th percentile is perfectly average. If you flan in the 50th percentile, you are perfectly average.

50% of people are below you. 50% of people are above you or something similar to that. 49% on your side. I don't know, but you're right in the middle. So when we talk about IQ, 100 is that 50th percentile, an IQ of 100 means you are perfectly average and that's fine because you probably also have Jones zone. You probably have zones of genius where you are above average in some area and maybe zones I'm gonna work on it because you might be below average in some areas.

So with whatever we're measuring, we're going to have people that fall in different areas, but most a very large percentage of the population falls in that middle range within one standard deviation and everything in there is considered average. If you're a little bit below or a little bit above your average. So this student max was above average. He was beyond that one standard deviation.

He was about the 65th to 70th percentile in his IQ. He had a high IQ, But most Measures of achievement academics were at least one standard deviation below average. Some were two standard deviations below average. So he was someone who had more than three standard deviations of discrepancy, which means he had a really big discrepancy. It was huge between where he theoretically should be based on his IQ and where you actually was academically was a huge gap.

And it wasn't because he hadn't been attending school. He had been, but he had moved around a little bit and was in a few different schools. So by the time I saw him, he was in second grade. It was part way through the school year, but not, it was about, I think, one trimester into the school year. He came in like late fall and we start early August and he did not know any letters,

any sounds, he nothing. So we, a lot of people would look at him and say that he should be in an SDC class. And this is the problem with SDC. SDC means specialized special day class. So it's the kids who are in a classroom that is designed to have specialized academic instruction all day long in general, those students typically are below grade level,

quite a bit like more than two years below grade level, they're in a place where they aren't able to access the general education curriculum. And they might also feel very badly about themselves and have kind of emotional reasons why they don't really want to be there and feel dumb. So they're in a special day class to work on their skills at their pace and try to bring them up to grade level.

That's the goal. That's the dream. Some students never close the gap. A lot of, you know, depending on a variety of factors, sometimes that gap just keeps increasing over time. Despite various interventions, we're not going to go into that city. The goal always is to close the gap and I do often see kids move from those STC classes into general education classes with some support.

So this is a student who, as a second grader, who, despite a lot of interventions, including special education and various just standard instruction. He did not know any letters or sounds as a second grader. So he's more than two and a half years into school. And by the way, he also went to preschool. So he theoretically should have come into kindergarten knowing it should've learned in kindergarten should have learned it in first grade.

He's in second grade. He hasn't learned any of it, but he's actually brilliant. He is, I would just remembered he didn't come in second grade. He was in third grade, he's in third grade and he couldn't read at all, didn't know any letters or sounds. That was my aha. Cause I remembered which teacher he had and was like,

wait, no, that wasn't second grade. That was third grade. So he came in and he was already in special education. And despite all of these interventions and all of these different things, they had the wrong mindset. I think, I think previous attempts at instructing him was just keep repeating it until he gets it. And this poor kid was definitely getting frustrated.

He was starting to have some behaviors because he was feeling defeated. Like he knew he was smart, but then he didn't know he was smart because he must not be smart if he can't read and everyone else can read. And he was frustrated. So I stood, I was worried that, you know, if he had been in another school that they would have put them into a special day class and he wouldn't have had that same access to his general education peers.

And you wouldn't have had that same access to the general education curriculum, which he understood anything that wasn't actually requiring him to read or spell or write he could do. He could do the math. You could have conversations about all of the stories that they were reading. You could have conversations about the science. He could tell you what to write in a graphic organizer for writing.

He could tell you all about history stuff. He, he was the one who was always raising his hand that had all the answers when it came to any, anything that wasn't directly about reading or spelling or writing. So he, you know, he had this huge intelligence and this huge deficit that the reading was so far below grade level, that it was just a huge discrepancy.

And in third grade at that school, they test all third graders to see if they qualify for the gifted and talented education program gait. They used to only test kids that got recommended. He definitely would not have gotten recommended because he can't read, but he was one of the highest scoring kids on that assessment because it was assessing his IQ and he had a very high IQ.

So he needed a very individualized education and in a public school, sometimes that can be a little bit hard to truly individualize. Luckily with the, that we were given, we were able to provide him with a fairly individualized education. So he would do all of the math lessons with his class, anything science, social studies he would do with his class.

But he has spent a lot of time with me, including about an hour. One-on-one working through a particular program that taught him to feel the sounds in his mouth, the shape of his mouth, how it feels in his throat and telling the difference between sounds, because that was the first step. And then we also had to figure out okay, from there,

what letter is that? What represents that? So it was, it took about a year for him to get through enough of that program, which I don't, I don't want to say the name of the program because I don't in general recommend it for most kids for most kids. It takes way too long to get them to like access it because you have to like learn all these extra stuff.

But with him, I was desperate to find something that would work and I knew about it and it was kind of the recommended for his particular situation. So in his situation, we did that until we could get him to another program that he could move a little bit faster through. We did that. So by the time, and then he, his mother was actually moving at the end of third grade.

So he, and she was going to live too far away to drive him. And I was worried and I told her, don't let them put him into an SDC class because I'm concerned that he won't he'll stagnate. He won't make the same level of progress and they won't teach him the way he needs to be taught. And she could see the progress he was finally making.

So the grandmother lived close by. She sacrificed, they all sacrificed. And he lived with grandma Monday through Friday for a little over a year. So I actually think it was actually the end of third grade. She moved. So we kept him third grade, kept him fourth grade. And, and by the end of fourth grade, when it was like,

okay, grandma's done gonna live with mom. Now. I was comfortable with that because we'd gotten to a point where he was reading. He was at about a second grade level in his reading. So we were still behind, but he could read. And now I felt like whatever they did with him, he had the tools that he could access it and they could do something good.

And the next teacher did call me and I did give her some input and ideas. So, but that's not the whole story. That's just one aspect of it. Right? That's the dyslexia part. He also was ADHD, very hyperactive. It was hard for him to attend. Right. I told you he was with me for an hour at a time.

One-on-one well, I couldn't just do that one program for an hour straight. I had to mix it up. So we would do this before he came in my room. I have three kidney tables and a round table, and then some computers and also some individual desks. So I would set things up in the room in different places that we would go from this table to this table to,

he would do this independently to this. And I had it all set up so that we were only in one place for 10 or 15 minutes. And then we've physically moved to another place where things were already set up and we would work through that. He would also take breaks with like drawing pictures or he would draw while we talked through other things or just have conversations.

And because he was an artist he loved to draw. He also loved animals. He loved participating in class. He loved science. He loved being a helper. He, if, if whenever another student came in, while he was in there, he wanted to help that other kid, he wanted to teach other kids. If you want it to be a leader,

he, he had so much goodness in him. He told me he wanted to be a teacher. He wanted to be a teacher like me, who taught with him, Which of course you want to cry. But like I said, he also had some behaviors that were inappropriate for the school. And while I know it was because he was feeling frustrated,

overwhelmed. He, we needed to do things for that too. So for that, we had now a lot of people use like behavior Charts, I issues with the way it's normally done. But when I asked to do a behavior chart for a kid, I do it my way. So what he had was a chart that basically listed the, the behaviors that he wanted to improve.

Now we had that conversation that it wasn't just, I want you to do this. It was that he also wanted to do that because he wanted to be better at being a student. You know, things like just using respectful words and not shouting out keeping hands to self, things like that. So we had a, like, I think it was those three.

I can't remember exactly, but it was something like that. Like those three. And then he would determine at different points in the day, whether or not he was there, whether or not he had accomplished that goal. And we would have that conversation of, well, how did it go? Did you do that? Yes or no. There was no prize attached to it,

which is the normal thing. Right? You get a sticker if you do it. Right. I decide if you did it right. Sticker or not, or star or whatever, I decide you get it or not. And then at the end, if you get enough stars, then you get a prize. So my take on it is, here's the behaviors that we've had a conversation, we agree that you want to also work on and that we would also like to see. And then we'll just talk about it. Did you do it? Yes or no? Did you not do it? Yes or no. And that's the end of it basically it's is for him to see how he's doing for him to see his own growth.

And he had the intrinsic motivation. He wanted to be the student that other people wanted him to be. And he wanted to be respectful. He had, like I said, he had a huge heart. He, he doesn't want anyone to be upset with him. He just was frustrated by things that were really hard for him. So, so we did all of that,

you know, he, so we had, we had different accommodations for his ADHD. We had different accommodations for the behaviors are kind of a result of that frustration of not being able to do what he should be able to do. Another accommodation that we had for him was that voice typing. So in Google docs, there's a tool, voice typing and the kid can talk,

well, he also had articulation errors. So he also was seeing a speech therapist and the voice typing couldn't understand what he was saying. So he would use it and I would let him, because, because he didn't know that it wasn't right. And he felt good about what he was doing. And then I would have to go in basically when he wasn't looking and correct it,

because while he was also working on his articulation, it was going to become more clear there. And it did improve by the time he left in fourth grade. Yeah. It was much more clear in, and in third grade, I believe kind of herself, the scores are looked for the scores in fourth grade. But in third grade I noticed that his state testing scores,

he didn't just get all ones, which is like the low, which most people would expect, but he got at least twos in everything. And that was because he had an accommodation that everything was read aloud to him. And he had voice typing. Although actually the voice typing. I don't think we used at the time. No, but he did because he was a hardworking,

brilliant child. He wouldn't listen to me as I read it or the, the audio as it read it. And he would figure out which piece he wanted to write about. And he would highlight cause there was that tool in the testing software to highlight. And then he would, you know, use that, use the question and he would use everything.

He knew about phonics ex to fill in the rest. So he, they would be an answer that he had to type out an answer to and it would have to be like an essay and he would write out what he wanted and use all of these different resources to figure out how to say what he wanted to say. And he, it paid off.

He got, he got a good score on that testing now in general, like state testing, if you can just opt out of it, but because it can be so stressful for kids, but if your kid wants to do it great. I just see a lot of stress from other kids, especially those with disabilities. And I'm all for opting out.

But I was impressed by his ability to just focus and work and focus for an ADHD kid. Right? Like he, he was hyperactive and yet when it came time to focus on this, he would, he put in the effort and it was a lot of effort. So I just wanted to tell his story because he is such an amazing kid. And I think it speaks to the importance of not just labeling a kid under one thing,

right? Oh, he can't read these in third grade SDC. Right. And I've seen that or in the other end of, Oh, he has a high IQ gifted put them over there. He's both. He needs, he is both high IQ and can't read, he needs something very individual for him and not just dyslexia. Right. He doesn't just need the dyslexia program.

He needs other things that breach all of, all of the different pieces of who he is. And because he is such an individual person, what I did for him and with him, I've never done for anyone else. There's there's aspects of it that I've done there. You know, there's pieces that are similar, but when the, every child needs something individual,

so that's the point of this podcast. And the story is just to tell the story of an individual unique child and what we did for him. I would love to know what is your child's unique story? Email me Kimberlynn@DecodingLearningDifference.com. And I can't wait to hear from you. I will see you next week!



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