My daughter is in first grade. She has SM and she is not doing very well in school. She is at a reading level of 6. The teacher is very kind and has tried different strategies with her. She has not received any small group instruction or special ed. The teacher doesn’t want to stress her out so she lets her work at her own pace. We have been referred to the EMT process and retention has been suggested. What should we do?


Since I do not know your child, I cannot determine the exact cause of her reading difficulties. However, I can say that SM anxiety can cause a child to have problems academically. A question I have is how are they determining your child’s reading level? Obviously our children with SM cannot always speak or read out loud in class or even one on one with teachers. Has your teacher used home video taping to assess? This would be a good idea. For her to tell you what your daughter should read, then encourage this in your child at home…either with cassette tapes or video taping.

For many children with SM, especially ones with academic issues, retention is not usually the answer. The answer is in the form of accommodations. Perhaps an IEP or 504 Plan to help with her inability to speak in school…an alternative means of communication. Has additional tutoring been suggested over the summer? Are there other academic concerns? How is your daughter socially?

There are many variables to consider before retention should be considered. Holding a child back due to ‘lack of speaking’ and the schools inability to know how to accommodate is not the answer…the answer is in helping to determine WHY your child is having reading difficulties. Is there a learning issue? Or is this the result of anxiety…AND the school’s lack of accommodations to help your child succeed.

Dr. Elisa Shipon-Blum