How to Determine If Your Child Needs a Specialized Education

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A child falling behind in school should never be ignored. Approximately 13-14 percent of students qualify for special education services and 50 percent of those students have a learning disability, according to the International Dyslexia Association. A vast majority of these individuals have a primary disability in reading and language processing, such as dyslexia.

A lot of times, students are slow to pick up on things; sometimes it’s just a maturity thing, and they grow out of it,” says Betsy A. Fanning, Head of School at Trident Academy, a school for students with language-based learning disabilities in Mount Pleasant, SC. “But if it persists without improvement, then I think it’s time to move to the next level.”

Trust Your Gut

While it might seem second nature to defer to your child’s teacher in assessing their progress, parents shouldn’t ignore a gut feeling that their child isn’t progressing in school at an appropriate rate,” says Fanning. “What happens typically is that children are struggling at school and parents know it."

Parents are most likely to notice:

Consistent homework battles

Inadequate grades on report cards

Learning regression or lack of excitement about school

Not meeting development benchmarks at the same rate as peers

Low self-esteem or social withdrawal

If a parent has that niggling feeling that something isn’t right, then they should definitely investigate,” she says.

Know the Signs

Indicators that a child might need a specialized program or school do not always follow a perfect bullet list, but there are usually some general signs. Here are a few questions parents should ask themselves:

Is your child reading below their grade level?

Do you need to re-teach in-class material at home in order for your child to understand?

Is your child spending every afternoon with a tutor just to keep up?

Does your child show an understanding of the material, but is unable to express their learning in a traditional written or class acceptable format?

Is your child anxious, angry or frustrated at the thought of school?

Is there a family history of Dyslexia, ADHD or other language-based learning differences?

Take action and access resources

Talking to your child’s teacher about what is happening in the classroom is the first step in aiding your child’s progress. “If you have concerns, request testing to determine why a student is not thriving in school,” Fanning says.

Public schools will provide testing if they also see there may be a problem with the student’s progress. But if the school cannot conduct the testing in a timely manner, a parent should consider having it administered by a private psychologist. “The earlier needs are assessed, the better,” she says, noting children can be tested as young as five years old.

Create a plan for accommodations

Once you have the results of your child’s testing, find out if your child’s school can provide them with the accommodations they need or devise an individualized education plan to meet their needs. Each school district has its own process and it’s important to work with them. “Sometimes it’s a simple plan of finding appropriate outside tutoring,” Fanning says. Other times, more significant accommodations are needed.

Consider a specialized school

If after all of the necessary testing and accommodations have been met and your child is continuing to lag behind their peers, parents should look into a specialized school like Trident Academy – with low student-teacher ratios that employ multisensory instruction, Fanning says.

Trident Academy, founded in 1972, is a K-12 school for children with diagnosed learning differences such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD and Asperger-like attributes located right here in Mt. Pleasant, SC. It is proud to be one of only 14 accredited Orton-Gillingham schools in the nation. The school employs individualized, multisensory, and research-based teaching approaches to prepare its students to transition and thrive academically and socially in conventional learning environments once they leave.

If you’d like more information about Trident Academy, please contact them at 843-884-3494 or