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Finding State Funding Changes Caleb’s Life

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

A Mother Takes on the System, Her Son is the Winner

Caleb is an eight year old boy who has been diagnosed with executive function disorder, dysgraphia, and attention challenges. Caleb and his brother, Jaden, were born prematurely with significant medical complications. The pediatrician advised their mom, Shandra, that children born prematurely often face lifelong learning challenges. They can exhibit deficiencies with general cognitive abilities, certain aspects of executive functioning and language skills, as well as deficits in attention, and spatial skills.

Shandra was on the lookout for the signs of developmental problems.  And while his brother seemed to progress as expected, Caleb showed challenges in reaching certain milestones. Shandra believed she had an advantage by being able to compare the developments of the two boys. And so she grew concerned when Caleb began falling behind his brother.

Mom Notices a Problem

In K and 1st grade, teachers reported that Caleb was a charismatic and upbeat child. Shandra, however, noticed that Caleb could not keep up with his peers. He struggled with basic language skills like rhyming and letter-sound correlation.

At the end of first grade, Shandra requested an evaluation by a reading specialist. She also requested an IEP to outline a specialized education plan. The process is governed by complex set of laws known as IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. Every IEP is expensive for a school. Not surprisingly, the school was slow to intervene.

Shandra felt that she needed a strategy and effective communication tools to make her case for Caleb. She enrolled in a virtual course to learn the “ABCs” of the IEP and the law as it applied to her state and district.

She is now a trained parent advocate who has helped other parents navigate the special education system.

Mom’s Journey to Funding for Caleb

After a prolonged letter writing campaign requesting help from Caleb’s school Principal, teachers, the Department of Education, the County Executive, the Director of Special Education, the State Compliance Officer, and even the Governor’s office, Caleb began to receive services.

A speech and language therapist began working with Caleb and a literacy specialist administered a reading assessment. The results showed that Caleb was several reading levels behind the norm. The school offered limited remedial interventions, but none that Shandra believed addressed Caleb’s specific needs.  Specifically, Caleb had working memory, phonemic awareness and attention deficit delays. The arrival of Covid 19 complicated matters, as PT/OT services were not available virtually.

While advocating for Caleb, Shandra was educating herself about the “learning to read” process. She learned how important executive function is in the ability to master pre reading skills, like recognizing letters and the sounds they make. Other important skills are the ability to rhyme words and master phonological awareness: the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words. Delays in these cognitive skills were holding Caleb back.

This is a typical diagnosis of a Gemm Learning student. It’s what our program, Fast ForWord addresses.

Enter Gemm Learning

Caleb began working with Gemm midway through first grade. Several of the exercises, like Sky Gym – helped…… Shandra’s goal was improve Caleb’s ability to read, improve reading comprehension and increase his confidence and processing ability. She noticed improvement in his word recognition, analysis and attention.

Shandra received good news from the district that awarded Caleb compensatory hours in accordance with his IEP.

The District Paid for Gemm Learning

Part of the claim Shandra made was about the remedial action she needed to take because the school was not acting.  That included Gemm Learning.

She took the results from Gemm Learning – we do pre- and post-testing – to the school district and said, why wasn’t the school able to do this for him?  The school had no case, and so she received reimbursement for Gemm Learning.  According to the formal language of the district, the Gemm Learning program demonstrated advancement in accordance with the stated goals of his IEP.

Case made, check written.

Shandra lives in Maryland. Her case is representative of what’s possible all over America if you feel the school is not doing a good enough job, and especially where there is an IEP already in place.  Note however, if you live in FL, AZ, NC, TN or MS – funding for home interventions like Gemm Learning is a lot easier as there are local funding plans in place – mainly through funding education savings accounts. More on state funding options here.

if you don’t live in one of those states, and if the district won’t help, there are often local community organizations to call on.  Here is a list of funding ideas.  ideas for homeschool funding here.

Moral of the story

Parents often know children best, but often schools just don’t have the resources or specializations to handle every case.  In those case, parents need to advocate for their child and when they do, funding and other help is often available.

And as we know with Caleb, if a child is able to get the right intervention, a life can be changed.

(Name changed to protect privacy.)


State funding options for home interventions

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