So often, in the work that I do with parents regarding their kids, there comes that squeamish point, where the parent asks the inevitable dreaded question…
“So, what do we do about it?”
Why it’s dreaded is there is almost never, and I mean never (at least from my point of view), an easy answer to that question.
The answer depends on so many variables too numerous to list.
As part of the answer, I’ve lately been talking to parents about the “Pyramid of Fantasy.”
The pyramid is my way of breaking parents in to the reality of how it all works and what they can expect in the “real world.”
It goes something like this.
“Well, let’s talk about something I call the Pyramid of Fantasy. At the top of the pyramid is what would be seen as the ideal, it’s the unicorn portion of the pyramid – basically it doesn’t exist. Like in my mind’s eye, your child ideally needs intensive individual remediation with a teacher who is highly trained and experienced in the research supported methodologies to address his deficits. Probably this intensive individual (i.e., one-on-one) instruction would take place five days a week, an hour to an hour and a half a day over the next few years. The problem is, while this scenario I describe is what I would say is the ideal, it’s a fantasy. It doesn’t exist anywhere in the world that I know, but his problems are significant and that’s what I would like to do about it”
“Moving down the pyramid, the school may be able to deliver a very small group (no more than three or four equally-matched kids) on a daily basis using the research-supported methods. It’s not the most ideal (the fantasy), but it’s not bad.”
The problem is that level of the pyramid is also often not easy to receive either. We’re still mostly in the fantasy zone. The school may not have sufficiently trained teachers and they generally don’t do much “pull-out” instruction these days.
The next level down in the pyramid is pretty much the zone of possibility and reality – what you are likely to be offered if your child is classified. If the child is classified as eligible of special education (many are not who are struggling, I might add), he is likely to be offered “In-Class Support.”
As far as I can tell, In-Class Support is the state of the art these days in special education in terms of the pyramid of fantasy. What it represents is making sure that someone is close by your child in the deep end of the pool, keeping an eye out so he/she doesn’t go under water since he really doesn’t know how to swim.
Within this level of the pyramid, it is likely that you need to take some other action to gain a sense of control, by seeking help on the outside – usually in the form of specialized tutoring. If you are really working toward the ideal, twice-weekly tutoring would be recommended, but often due to finances and schedule, such a scenario is not possible and you need to consider moving down the pyramid some.
The point of all of this is not to depress you, but to ground you in reality. It’s possible that somewhere an absolutely ideal answer exists to the, “so what do we do about it, question.” But giving parents the unicorn fantasy of what to do, is not helpful, so I emphasize the interventions that may not represent the ideal, but are more realistic and attainable.
When your child is struggling, strive to get the best, ideal interventions delivered as intensively and individually as possible, but keep the pyramid in mind.
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Dr. Zelznick, I truly enjoy reading your weekly blogs. You are “right on” all of the time and give so much support to families. I experienced that pyramid with our granddaughter. The school followed your “fantasy pyramid” and we knew it wasn’t what she needed. After a long battle with her school, we had her privately tutored in the Orton-Gillingham Program. Prior to that, we hired one-on-one tutoring which helped but didn’t meet her needs. Wasted money in my opinion. She has been classified but these classified students need more than that, like you stress in your blogs. One year after completing the Orton-Gillingham program, she made the A Honor Roll this year and has finally met success! I forgot to mention that you evaluated her 3 -4 years ago and gave us valuable insight into her needs. You’re the best advocate for children with special needs.
Wow!!!!! Thanks, Anne Marie. Glad the blogs resonate with you and happy that things have worked out well with your granddaughter. Please give her my best. I remember you guys. Stay in touch.