Special Education/dyslexia and autism


My 7 year old son has a diagnosis of moderate autism (verbal)and learning difficulties and attends a school for moderate learning difficulties. We have just had a consultation with his teacher who is quite concerned over his reading and writing skills. He does not recognise his letters/phonics and has also had problems recognising numbers, can only recognise his name, cannot read at all. He can write his name after continued daily practice for a couple of years now,but everything else has to be copied and then cannot be read. He has a lot of problems forming his letters. His teacher has said that he often writes letters backwards and his writing is very disordered. She has spoken with the head of department and feel that he is likely to be dyslexic. His teacher said he cannot be assessed until year three and that she is not trained to teach a child with dyslexia. In the meantime he continues to make very little progress and I am quite concerned by this. He brings reading books home and phonics activities but it all feels like such a waste of time and he is loosing confidence. He gets stressed the minute I suggest we look at his book or do an activity. He has a much younger sister who reads confidently and writes very well and he knows he is older than her. I just don't know what to do to help him. He doesn't seem to be able to learn phonetically. He will very quickly read a book rote using the pictures but when you remove the pictures he cannot read a single word. In one book it just had one letter all the way through but later when I wrote the letter down he couldn't tell me what it was. Any advice would be welcome please?

Dear Sharon, Thank you so much for writing to me and for using this service at allexperts.com. Your question has several parts, so I will try to take them one at a time. I will accept a follow up as needed.

It sounds like your child needs a re-evaluation to determine if he is a child with Autism and Specific Learning Disability. Part of this assessment includes the school providing an evidence based reading and writing program, to determine his response to interventions. See the federal law guidance here:


It is unfortunate to hear that the teacher says she is not prepared to teach a child with Autism and LD. This is common and she will probably need help from the Board of Education instructional specialists and administrators to get someone to provide interventions, collect data, and do the evaluations.

It is not true that the evaluations can only be done every three years. In fact, the school can do evaluations yearly or even more often, if you and the school agree. See the federal guidance here:

So I would advise you to write a letter formally requesting re-evaluation and assessment for specific learning disability. Copy the language from the law I have provided, and also formally request evidence based intervention for reading and writing while the evaluations are being conducted. He is considered to be a child with a suspected specific learning disability and is having frustration because of his lack of skills, which is affecting his progress and education. If the school refuses for some reason, write me and I can guide you.

In my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book, you will find sample letters you can use to request evaluation and other actions by the team.


The evaluation should include psychological assessment to figure out how he best processes information. Some children do not learn to read phonetically; some children read with whole words. But either way, your child's IEP should contain goals in all areas of reading: phonemic awareness, fluency, decoding, comprehension and phonics (spelling). Technology can be a great tool for repetition and practice. It probably also needs to include consideration of occupational therapy assessment for writing and letter formation.

Remember that any time the child is not making sufficient progress, the team has to meet to figure out why and put evidence based interventions into place so he can make progress.

Lastly, I would not get into conflicts with your child at home over homework. Homework should be able to be completed individually.

I hope this answer helps you advocate for your exceptional child's education! Thank you again for writing and I wish you the best!

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); B.S.in Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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