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lamolina

Diagnosed with math processing disorder, now what!?

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Can you all help me figure out what to do with this new diagnosis? It is my just turned 14 year old who has been struggling with math over the past couple years.  We finally did testing and the psychologist diagnosed her with a processing disorder, specifically in math. 

 

She is home this year but plans to attend the local high school next year where she will have to take algebra. I need help and recommendations on what to do with her this year to get her ready. She is weak on place value, decimals, fractions, long division, and anything with beginning algebra. 

 

She is super creative and quite good at grammar, vocab, geography, history, etc. I know she won't be a math major but I need to make sure to help her as much as I can this last year at home.

 

Any thoughts or help...please!

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Hmm. Math processing disorder. Do they mean math disability, also called dyscalculia? DS13 has several kinds of processing issues, plus a math disability, but I haven't heard of anything specifically called a math processing disorder before. Could they mean a learning disability in math, plus slow processing?

 

Was this diagnosis through the school system? If not, and you are in the US, I highly recommend starting the IEP process this year, while you are homeschooling, so that she can have an IEP in place right away when she starts school next year.

 

From my experience with DS and math, I'd say you may want to focus on two things:

 

1) Moving forward in a prealgebra* math curriculum, as best as you can. What have you used so far, and what level is she?

 

2) Listing out the areas of specific trouble (as in your post), and target them with in-depth instruction to mastery and regular review.

 

You may want to have two math sessions per day -- one to work through your chosen math program, and a second session (maybe 20-30 minutes per day) of targeted skill practice.

 

* I say prealgebra only because you mention she will have to take algebra in ninth grade, and she needs to have exposure to the prealgebra concepts, even if she is working at a lower level during her targeted skill practice. But it can be tricky to move forward if she has significant gaps. Are you 100% sure the high school does not offer a prealgebra level for students with math LD and an IEP?

 

It's possible that they do not. We did some high school research this spring and found that some school districts have everyone in algebra, no matter whether they are ready for it or not, while others have prealgebra or what they called algebra prep at one school.

 

Have a frank conversation with the special education department at the high school she will attend. Find out what they do for students who cannot pass algebra. Does your state have an end of course algebra exam? What do they do if students cannot pass it? We asked these kind of questions (and more) when we met with schools, and we found that some schools had more satisfactory answers than others.

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Thank you! 

Well, I think she said math processing disorder and she didn't feel like it was dyscalculia because she said her basic math facts were good and she has a good grasp on numbers. I still wonder if that is the actual diagnosis though? She did fine up to about 6th grade math and then when it got harder she could no longer keep up. She can follow a basic formula but I have the sense that she really doesn't know the why behind any of it.

 

She has been doing Saxon and was in Course 2 last year and failed the second half. She attends a homeschool hybrid program. 

 

The testing was not through the school district but the psychologist did recommend an IEP for next fall, how do i go about getting that set up now?

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The newer definitions of math learning disability (or "Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics") are a bit broader than the definition of dyscalculia, so it's possible to have a learning disability in math but not to have dyscalculia.

 

Math learning disability is basically low performance in math due to a specific difficulty with number sense, more general processing deficits (working memory/processing speed), or a combination of the two. Dyscalculia would refer to a math learning disability when there is an impairment in number sense present, and it sounds like the psychologist is using the term "math processing disorder" to describe a learning disability where that specific impairment doesn't exist. 

 

I take it you're still waiting on a formal report from the psychologist? Try not to stress about the diagnosis until you have all the information, and if anything isn't clear in the report you can always go back and ask the psychologist for clarification. At that point, the report can support your IEP request. I would go ahead and ask the school about their IEP process now, so you can move forward as soon as you have the report in hand.  

 
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Here is how to start the process for getting help from the public school.

 

First, know the law. You can search your state guidelines on the internet. I highly encourage doing this, so that you are educated about the process. It can seem complicated, and you want to know your rights as a parent and your daughter's rights and not just depend on the school to do the right thing. You can (and should, in my opinion) also read the federal guidelines for special education, called IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). All states must follow the federal laws. Some states may have their own statues, but legally they may not be more lax than the federal laws.

 

Consider buying this book: https://www.amazon.com/Complete-IEP-Guide-Advocate-Special/dp/1413323855/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504227426&sr=8-1&keywords=nolo+guide+to+iep It is really excellent, and it's better to have your own copy, instead of getting it from the library, so that you can make notes or mark it in as needed.

 

While you read up, go ahead and request evaluations from the school. As Meg said, your report from the psychologist is an important document, because it provides evidence of disability. Do you know when you will get the report? You want to have that report for the first meeting you will have with the school. What you are requesting is for the school to evaluate your child, due to suspected learning disabilities. All schools must evaluate all students in their district, whether they are enrolled in the public school or not, under the Child Find act (you can google this, too). Note, however, that schools are NOT required by federal law to provide IEPs for students who are not enrolled. Each state has it's own guidelines regarding whether they will write IEPs for unregistered students.

 

To request evaluations:

 

1) Write a letter to the special education department of the local public school, stating that your child has been diagnosed privately with a math disability, and that you are requesting evaluations from the school. You can hand deliver this letter to the school office. If you choose to mail it, you may want to use certified mail or return receipt or whatever it is that the post office does these days to deliver a letter and then report back to you that it has been received by the recipient. Knowing that it has been received is crucial, because the date of receipt starts the clock for the school's response.

 

2) The school has 30 calendar days (not working days) to hold a meeting with you to discuss the request. At this meeting, you will present the evidence of disability. This means giving them a copy of the psych report. Also, it would be wise to ask her math teacher from last year to write a letter stating that s/he agrees that the child struggles in class more than is typical, and that s/he suspects a disability. This is important, because the law requires input from a classroom teacher during the process. Having a teacher state that a disability is suspected backs up what you are saying as the parent. If you cannot get a teacher from her school to do this, write up a report yourself, as her head homeschool teacher, that details her struggles and what has been done to help her, and how she has responded. The reason this is important is that the school must determine that the problems were not caused by lack of instruction (this can seem insulting, but it is the law).

 

At this meeting, the school will go over all of the information you can provide, and then they will either say YES this child is suspected of having a disability, and we will evaluate her, or NO there is not enough evidence of disability. (The school does not have to "suspect" a disability just because they have been presented with a psych report; they want to know that the weaknesses are problematic in the classroom).

 

The school will decide what areas of need will be evaluated and will check them off on a form. Make sure that you check off everything that might apply. For example, if there are fine or gross motor skill lags, the school has to do an OT evaluation. If speech or social skills are lagging, they must do a speech evaluation (*note that social delays are covered under the speech category; this is easy to forget to check off). They can test for attention/ ADHD, and so on. There are many tests they can do, but they will only do whatever gets checked off on the form, so the decisions at this meeting are really important.

 

It can be really helpful to have someone else go with you. A spouse or friend. If your school seems like it wants to be difficult to work with, you are allowed to take an advocate who knows the law.

 

3) Once they agree to evaluate, the school has 60 days (calendar days) to conduct testing and gather data. They will want to observe her in class. If you are homeschooling, you can ask if they can come to your home, or ask what other options they offer. Give them samples of her work. Within 60 days, there will be a second meeting, where they will present you with the results of their evaluations. They will either say that she qualifies for an IEP, or they will say that she does not. Again, even if she qualifies, they may not be required to write one for a homeschooler.

 

4) If she qualifies for an IEP, and they are going to write one, they have another 30 days to complete the IEP document. The IEP will list the areas of disability and will include goals to work on, as well as accommodations and modifications that she is entitled to. If you end up getting an IEP, research more about the kind of goals/accommodations/modifications that are common for kids with her issues, so that you can give your input about them.

 

Remember, parents are equal members of the IEP team. We are allowed to offer opinions and suggestions, and we are allowed to disagree with what the school proposes. It's not just that the school creates a report and you sign off on it. You are an active part of the process.

 

The NOLO book and information you can find online will give you more detail. You can always ask follow up questions on the LC boards, as well. Quite a few of us have been through the IEP process.

 

 

Edited by Storygirl
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Thank you more than I can say. I am truly clueless about this. I do have the official report, she emailed me a copy tonight. It says she has a math disorder with a specific ICD code. 

 

I have to say it looks quite overwhelming!

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One more piece of advice: Don't tell the school that your daughter will be enrolling for ninth grade. It will be very tempting for the school to DENY evaluations, saying that they need to observe her in their classroom first, because they can't be sure she has had proper instruction. Some schools just won't cooperate with the IEP process until homeschoolers have been enrolled in school for a period of time. The legal loophole is that stipulation in the law that they have to make sure that the student has been taught properly.

 

This can happen. It happened to me, and it was shocking.

 

They have to conduct the evaluations for homeschoolers, so just go through the process as homeschoolers. Don't mention enrollment until after the evaluations have been completed.

 

Then, you can say, "We've decided that we want to enroll her in school for next fall; can we write an IEP now, so that her class placement and intervention services can be determined before the start of the school year?"

 

Just my opinion.

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It can seem overwhelming. And it is emotional. It can be challenging process.

 

But it's important to get it done before the first day of ninth grade, because you want her to be placed in the correct class with the correct intervention plan in place from day one. You want her to receive the proper support, so that she won't flounder. And if they do have a non algebra class for kids with math LD, and if you think that is where she should be placed, it can be in her schedule from the beginning.

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You may not feel like doing this, but some people do make a post on the LC board, where they list the score reporting from psych testing. You might get some more specific suggestions for how to help her from other board members. And you can always erase the details later, for privacy.

 

Just wanted you to know that. Those reports can contain so much information that it can be hard to process.

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Are you planning to change her math instruction or hire a tutor? 

 

Did the psych do full testing, like with IQ testing? Because if he did, it will come back with processing speed, working memory, etc. So not only do you have issues to go back and work on in the math (with a tutor or with materials like Ronit Bird or whatever), but you also could do some cognitive work. Bumping her working memory might help her hold those steps for the math. It would be worth working on a bit.

 

The other thing is that by hiring a math tutor you're demonstrating RTI (Response to Intervention) and able to take that to the school for the IEP process. 

Edited by OhElizabeth
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I agree with OhElizabeth and meant to add something to the posts I made yesterday.

 

Are you keeping her in the hybrid school for 8th grade? To be frank, I would not recommend it, unless they have a system for addressing learning disabilities, or unless you can both opt out of their math class and retain enough free time (without homework assigned by those outside teachers) to be able to focus a lot on math at home.

 

If she absolutely must go to school this year, and you know you will be going to public school for 9th grade, you really might consider just enrolling her this year. That way she can be in the school system while being evaluated, so that the school can employ all of their resources (including classroom observation and collection of data and input from teachers) toward making a solid IEP for her.

 

I know I touted the importance of having the IEP in place before 9th grade, and I stand behind that. But starting public school in 8th without an IEP in place yet does have it's advantages. Both for your daughter adjusting to the school setting before grades start affecting GPA next year, and for the school to get to know her.

 

I have found that the more our teachers and intervention teachers know my kids, the better the IEP process goes.

 

I would not consider enrolling her this year, though, if your school is really terrible about working with kids with disabilities. There are those schools around, sorry to say.

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Story is right. The reality is the ps is going to flub the entire first year of enrollment going through the IEP process. An entire year. And then it's on her high school record and messing with her emotions.

 

If you pull her from the hybrid for math and hire a private tutor with experience with math disability and do that for a semester, then in January you go ahead and make your formal, written request to the ps for evaluation for an IEP. Look at your state dept of ed and get the legal timeline, but it's 120 days, start to finish. So by making that formal request, while it's the same time as everyone else, you're at least assuring your dd the legal protection of the process being completed BEFORE she enrolls. And by paying a tutor, you've established that her issues are NOT due to lack of instruction. 

 

As a homeschooler, you're more likely to face the assumption that the issue is lack of instruction and be told to wait while they observe. If you do that while she's newly enrolled, it's going to take the entire freshman year. You want to shortcut that by giving them evidence that she's struggling IN SPITE of adequate instruction and IN SPITE of stepped up intervention with a private tutor.

 

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I hope what I've said is not confusing. I'm writing out of my own experience.

 

1) DD15 was in a school in third and fourth grades, where she attended for two day and had assignments for the three days at home. In our case, the work load was heavy and left little time for me to add anything in for her. They also did not make modifications for those who had learning challenges. Maybe your school is different.

 

2) When my younger kids switched from homeschooling to brick-and-mortar school in fourth and fifth grades, they did not have IEPs in place until March, even though I submitted the request for evaluations before school even began, back in August. There is a whole story involved that I won't go into, but it was really challenging, both for me to get the school to agree that their problems were not due to lack of instruction (even though we had neuropsych reports diagnosing the disabilities), and for my kids to adjust to the school setting without the support in place that they need.

 

That's why I suggest making sure you have that IEP in place before school starts in ninth grade, so you don't have to go through what we did. Because your daughter is an older age than my kids were, the transition may be even rougher for her.

 

It's a balancing act. If she can have a good IEP in place before starting school, the need for that adjustment period in eighth grade may not be as important.

 

In your case, I would really dig into what they offer for math instruction. Algebra in ninth grade may be a poor choice for her. But the school may not be willing to consider an alternate math placement without having worked with her first in eighth grade. I would push for details from the school about what they do for math intervention for 9th grade students with LD.

 

Earlier this month, a poster here on the LC boards was really upset, because her IEP was in the works but not yet in place before high school started. And her daughter was getting a really poor math placement in a class that was way beyond her level, because, if I remember right, they put her in algebra. The mother was taken by surprise and didn't know what to do, and the school said there were no other options.

 

Make sure you know what the high school offers. There are different levels of help and intervention offered around here, varying widely from school district to district, even in neighboring areas. There is enough difference in what is offered that we are planning to move to a different public school district before DS hits high school age.

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If you decide to do as OhElizabeth suggests and hire a math tutor for this school year, maybe you should consider contacting your local school to see if any of the teachers do afterschool tutoring.

 

Two benefits to this idea: your daughter gets tutoring, and someone from the public school becomes familiar with her needs and can contribute information (the school calls it data) during the IEP process. It would be harder for the public school to say that she was lacking instruction, if she were getting instruction from one of their own.

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So I looked into the high school's math where she will be going.  All freshman take algebra. The school uses a block system and algebra is usually only half the year (crazy!) but a student can also take it spread out over a whole school year where it counts as 2 classes instead of just one. I have no idea how this affects grades.

 

Currently this year she is only taking science and history at the hybrid school. I did not want to her repeat the same math class there again and that was the only option they had for her. 

 

i don't even know what the school will consider her, as the hybrid school is actually accredited which makes it look like a private school. But she is only part time there, so officially she is like a part time private school student and part time homeschooler?

 

I'm not sure starting this year at the middle school would work, as school has already been going for a month so she would start out very behind.

 

How would I go about finding a tutor with experience in math disabilities?

 

Thank you all for your help and input!

 

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If you find a certified OG (dyslexia, reading) tutor, that tutor will either have a math tutor on staff or know of one. It's common for kids with dyslexia to need both.

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I'm not sure starting this year at the middle school would work, as school has already been going for a month so she would start out very behind.

 

This is not a logical statement. She's behind right now, and she's going to be even MORE behind next year.

 

What you really ought to consider doing is just calling your ps and asking to talk with the principal. That person will tell you who your contact person is, but you might be surprised and find them very nice. And they can tell you what they could make happen. Some schools get money for partial enrollment, so they would LOVE for you to enroll, even for just one or two things. No matter what, they are legally bound, by federal law, to evaluate. 

 

So you call them up, tell them you just got back results from a psych saying learning disabilities, and you need options. 

 

Just talk with them, kwim? They have to eval, and you need to know what your school can offer. 

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Maybe you did this, but you can ask for a meeting with the special education coordinator at the high school. We did this at three different school districts, and all were willing to sit and meet with us and talk over their services and give us a tour. At the high school, even though DS was only in sixth grade at the time. We told them we were researching school districts and what they had to offer for students with learning disabilities, and we got appointments, no problem.

 

Talking with the principal is a good start, but you can meet with the special ed department.

 

If you meet with them, you may find out there are more math options for students with disabilities than were first presented to you. Maybe not, but there is some hope.

 

For example, if algebra is really the only level available, it may be possible to get a co-taught class, where there is an intervention teacher in the class along with the general math teacher.

 

Some schools also offer a math intervention study hall, so that the student has two periods per day to work on math.

 

There will also be a "resource room" level of math, for students who cannot work at the regular level. In some schools, the resource room classes are really only for students with severe needs or intellectual disability (we have a friend, for example, whose 17 year old son cannot do simple single digit addition, and he still has math in high school). In other districts, the resource room has students who have a greater mix of abilities.

 

Sometimes the school will not offer this information if you just call up and ask, but if you ask probing questions, you can find out.

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