R,T, WHAT??   One Little Girl’s Story
By Jody Jones, Kallee’s Mother and Parent Consultant, Utah Parent Center

With her bright blue eyes and her hair down to her belt, she could steal your heart with one glance.  Kallee at 5 years old was smart, happy, always surrounded by friends and at the top of her class academically. Her only struggle seemed to be “baby talk” or the way that she pronounced some of the letters and sounds in her large vocabulary.  She loved meeting with the speech pathologist and was making great improvements.  I knew that her school years would be a breeze!

Kindergarten started out great.  Kallee’s pre-kindergarten testing showed that she was with the top of the class and she was excited to go to school. This didn’t last long.  Within 2 months, Kallee began to hide under her desk, “space out”, or cry on an almost daily basis. Not understanding what was going on, I worked with the teacher and I volunteered in the classroom on a regular basis.  Kallee’s teacher put into place a few accommodations such as moving her to the front of the class and having a good student sit by her to help her with the work and to stay on task.  Kallee also got reading interventions by going to the reading specialist one day a week.  I can now see that this was the first of the many “Response to Intervention” (RTI) strategies tried for Kallee.  

First grade brought out a little girl who would draw horses, angels and unicorns on all of her partially finished assignments.  Art was her favorite subject.  Kallee was now falling behind her peers in the core subjects like reading, spelling, math and science, and she seemed to be losing interest in friends or maybe it was that she just didn’t have many friends.   Kallee now went to the reading specialist a couple of times a week and she worked with a volunteer parent as part of her increased interventions.  In addition to last year’s accommodation of sitting in the front of the class, her teacher also required her to stay in from recess on a regular basis.

Struggling, we felt like the teacher didn’t understand her or her needs.  We met on a regular basis to ask what more could be done for Kallee.  After being told at SEP conference that Kallee was just “lazy and manipulative”, I began to request interventions and strategies that could help her.  I requested that Kallee not miss recess since she needed this break. I suggested that a soft tap on her desk could remind her to focus and work on the assignment and that individual instruction be given again if Kallee seemed to not understand the work. 

In second grade Kallee seemed to slip into her own educational and social world.  She was now in the lowest groups for reading and math and her spelling tests always had more words spelled wrong than right.   She was unable to read a kindergarten level
book without mistakes and she could not successfully complete an AR (accelerated reader) test independently.  Kallee now only had one regular friend.  Day after day she struggled to understand the instructions of the teacher, to stay on task and to complete her work. 

By October, Kallee’s teacher was using specific “Response to Intervention” strategies that included: direct explanation including separate, individual instruction of each assignment being given, teacher modeling where her teacher showed her what was to be done and how to do it in some cases, guided practice where an aide, parent or support staff would take her with a small group and give added help (I started to go in twice a week to help with reading and AR testing.  I would read the question and the possible answers to Kallee’s small group), independent practice to see if Kallee was understanding and retaining certain skills and knowledge, as well as progress monitoring, where very specific data was kept to track Kallee response to each intervention and her progress.  She was also going to the resource room a couple times a week for added support with her school work.  In early December, Kallee’s loving and perceptive teacher approached me and asked if I would agree to have her evaluated for a higher level of specialized instruction and support that could only be given if she qualified for Special Education. She explained that after weeks of watching Kallee’s response to interventions and collecting data, she now felt this was the best and most appropriate next step.  I cried as I readily agreed to the evaluation, explaining that I had been concerned for years. This seemed to be the answer to my heartache for Kallee.

Kallee was evaluated following my signed consent and at the completion of the various testing procedures, a meeting was set to discuss the results.  Kallee qualified for Special Education under the classification of Specific Learning Disability (SLD) based on a combination of the Discrepancy Method (the student’s scores demonstrate that a severe discrepancy exists between the student’s achievement and intellectual ability in one or more area) and her Response to Intervention results.  An Individualized Education Program (IEP) for Kallee was developed and put into place immediately. 

During 3rd grade, Kallee again participated in the RTI process when her lack of on-task behavior became a concern and an educational road block.  Again she was given specific supports, interventions and instruction while the needed data were collected and discussed.  We experienced another successful outcome as a result of the RTI process and she now has a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) in place that, along with her IEP, has allowed her to have success, joy and self-confidence.

Kallee is now in 5th grade.  She still has an IEP and is having great success.  One important part of this experience that stands out for both Kallee and me was the endless love, support and praise from teachers that truly cared about her.