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Parents: Get Involved; Judging Reading Potential

October 22, 2009
By Marge Eberts and Peggy Gisler

Question: My 8-year-old stepdaughter is an only child. While at home, she is very relaxed and keeps herself busy playing, reading, etc. Her teachers at school think she has an attention problem and is a little hyperactive. We have never seen this behavior at home. What do you think?

-Possible Problem

Answer: Your stepdaughter's teachers say she has an attention problem and is a little hyperactive. They are describing two of the three major characteristics of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The third characteristic is impulsivity. According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, these behaviors need to be excessive, long-term and pervasive to meet the diagnostic criteria for this disorder. They also need to appear before age 7 and continue for at least six months. Plus, they must create a real handicap in a child's life in two areas, such as school, home, homework or social setting. Much of this doesn't appear to be true for your stepdaughter. Nevertheless, you probably should visit the organization's Web site ( to learn more about this disorder.

The next step is for you to visit the child's classroom. Observe carefully her behavior as well as that of the children around her. Are they keeping her from paying attention? Is she mimicking their behavior? Try to get a feel for what is happening in the classroom.

Then it's time for a talk with the child's teachers to find out what needs to be done to improve the child's classroom behavior. It could be helpful for the child to be moved closer to the front of the room or to use a study carrel for some class work to help her focus easier on what is being taught. Maybe she just needs to sit closer to better-behaved children.

Be sure to find out if your stepdaughter has any academic problems requiring extra help. If so, find out how you and the school can help her.

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Question:Last year, in second grade, my son's reading fluency was below grade level. The school put him in a special reading class. Currently, he is receiving reading instruction in the regular third-grade classroom. He also has a tutor who says he's now reading on grade level. The school says he is a very bright little boy with a vocabulary at the sixth-grade level. Should I continue having him work with the tutor? He really likes her.

-Special Help or Not

Answer: Reading on grade level is a good thing. However, the brighter a child is, the greater the reading potential. Students with above-average intelligence are expected to read above grade level. What we're talking about is something called "reading expectancy."

There are a variety of reading-expectancy formulas that can be used to predict the level that your son should be reading on. You might ask the school to do this. We suspect that he should be reading beyond the third-grade level.

Keep the tutor, if you can afford to do so. Have her test and then focus on the areas that cause him trouble until he becomes a very proficient reader handling material above grade level.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of Mahoning Valley Parent, Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-03295, or log on to, or e-mail



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