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Earlier Intervention Key to New Approach

I love articles and information that help me, as a parent, advocate for my child. It is one of our top roles as moms and dads. Family Times has consistently been a great place to access information to help fine-tune our resource kit as parents. In April, parents found useful information in the article “Something Wrong at School?” by Cary and Tonja Rector, about when their children are facing academic challenges. The article accurately reminded us that early intervention is the best, and as a child psychologist, I could not agree more. I was pleased, therefore, when changes were made to the existing education laws that would allow earlier intervention when a problem is evident. The new regulations allow schools to intervene before a psycho-educational evaluation is able to detect problems in a particular child. The new approach allows schools to see how a child responds to early intervention before a full battery of tests is conducted, an often invasive process. The new approach is appropriately named Response to Intervention, or RTI.

Why was the adjustment made? All too often, the test and model in place for decades ended up as a “wait-to-fail approach.” The tests used in a typical psycho-educational evaluation do not detect learning differences often until third or fourth grade. Without results necessary for special education identification, the child was returned to business as usual in the classroom.

The child was doomed to repeat the same failure again and again in the classroom as these tests often did not reflect real-life work kids do day to day. With RTI, a child is more quickly referred to a building problem-solving team (it is called something different in each district so you should ask) and before a child even has to go through tests that may find nothing, interventions are brainstormed by the team, put in place, and progress is monitored and reviewed often.

If a child fails to “respond to intervention,” more intense services are offered and monitoring continues. Even though formal testing is put off, interventions are in place early. That is the key, right?

It should be noted that at any point in an RTI process, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004 allows parents to request a formal evaluation to determine eligibility for special education. An RTI process cannot be used to deny or delay a formal evaluation for special education.


—Tanya Gesek


Tanya Gesek, Ph.D., is a child psychologist in private practice in Syracuse. Her website is drtanyagesek.com.











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