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Kalilah’s Story

At the end of eighth grade, 14-year-old Kalilah—who has a learning disability and language impairment—was reading on a second-to-third grade level. Kalilah had been receiving services for her disabilities since she was a toddler, but continued to struggle in her public school classrooms, especially with reading and writing. Moreover, by middle school, her academic difficulties were significantly affecting her self-esteem and emotional well-being. Kalilah hated school, would sometimes cry in class, and was teased by her peers because of her reading difficulties. A comprehensive evaluation conducted in the spring of eighth grade revealed that, though she unquestionably had the potential to learn, Kalilah’s foundational literacy skills were severely delayed.

With this evaluation in hand, Advocates for Children helped Kalilah’s mother navigate the system and advocated strongly on her behalf to secure an appropriate high school placement and intensive reading remediation. In fall 2015, Kalilah started ninth grade at a private special education school, paid for by the DOE, where she is receiving evidence-based reading instruction and benefiting from the use of assistive technology (a laptop and text-to-speech software). With appropriate, individualized instruction, Kalilah is finally making progress.

It was very frustrating that she wasn’t getting the help she needed. Now, everything is so great. She’s joined a newspaper club! She never would’ve done that before because it’s all reading and writing. She’s on honor roll now, too. Her reading and writing are so much better. [Last year,] she didn’t want to go to school and used to ask me all the time if she could stay home. That never happens now. She’s excited to go every day.”

Kalilah's mother