When You Feel Like You’ve Failed Your Child

As I have mentioned here before, my second oldest son Jordan who is 10 has a learning disability in reading. It is quite severe and for years I have fought with the school to get him tested and to get him the help he so desperately needs. The problem is, in the public school system, that is often easier said than done. For years I have gone into countless appointments at the school begging them to do more. Each time I have been reassured that they are implementing great measures to help him improve. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I truly felt like I failed my son though.

The Back Story

Jordan started displaying problems with learning in kindergarten. At the time, he was taken from one class and placed halfway through the year in the room of this new teacher who did not have control of the students. Every time I went in, there was no learning taking place, just running and screaming. He left kindergarten without even knowing his letters and I would not let them retain him. That summer, my mom and I worked hard to get him to were he needed to be for 1st grade.

In 1st grade he struggled more, but they would not agree to have him tested until the end of his 1st year in 2nd grade. Even though I had begged all through 1st and 2nd grade to have him tested, he was forced to repeat 2nd grade and halfway through his second year in 2nd grade the testing finally took place. It revealed that he did indeed have a learning disability and he was given an IEP plan that was supposed to put interventions into place to help him improve. These interventions apparently included being taken a few times a week for a small reading group with the ESE teacher. A good step, but not enough to help him improve when his teacher that year insisted that he could get good grades if he would just TRY. The problem is, he was trying. He was trying his best, but constantly being told at school that he wasn’t.

Where We Are Now

Jordan started 3rd grade this year and things looked better. He was placed into a class that had children who also were struggling and was with a teacher who actually understood that he had a disability. She would work with him one on one at times and in small groups and he was being taken to a reading group everyday. Still, his math teacher insisted he “wasn’t trying”. Where he had previously worked at grade level in math, he was falling behind because the entire curriculum was word problems! Towards the end of the year his reading teacher had a baby and was replaced with someone who once again said he was not trying and could pass if he TRIED. Now, we are faced with sending him to a summer reading camp, which they want to use as a loophole to pass him onto 4th grade even though they know he is not ready for it. Why? Because they don’t care. They care about their numbers, but not about him as a child.

I cannot let him be passed onto 4th grade when he is still at a 2nd grade reading level. When he was working below grade level all year long this year, how can I let him be passed on? Jordan is devastated. He knows what it would mean to go back and yet again watch a set of friends move onto the next grade while he is held back again. He knows what it is like to be the oldest kid in the class and to have his brother who is two years younger be in the same grade as him. I want nothing more than to say he can go to 4th grade, but I know that that would only cause more problems for hims academically when he can’t pass 3rd grade work yet. A one month reading camp isn’t going to change that.

As I watched tears roll down his cheeks yesterday I realized I had failed my son. I had failed to make the school do all they should have done. If they were doing what they are supposed to, he would be making more progress, instead of barely making it into a place where they could use a loophole to pass him to the next grade. We are considering homeschooling for next year to see if  me working one on one with him can help him further improve, because quite frankly, I am tired of fighting with principals and teachers who just don’t care or don’t want to accept the severity of his problem.


  1. We are currently 'fussing' with our teen's teachers because we just can't get them to keep us in the loop about his work and progress. I know we're doing all we can from out end – but it's hard to not feel like we've failed somehow. We've been battling with the whole 'get him through – or make sure he knows the material first'. Hard decision to make.

  2. I'm so sorry that you guys are going through that. My son had learning issues and did poorly throughout school. In college he soared! And yes, we held him back early on.

  3. I feel for you with all my heart. I have 2 children in public school ranging from 4th and 6th grade. I also have a 3 year old that i put in a preschool program 2 days a week. I have always encourage my children to do their best in school. And I made a decision before my eldest started that I am their primary teacher and I send them off to school to get the basic education they need and socialization then they come home for me to explain further what the teachers do not have time for in class. California has been hit hard with larger class sizes and fewer teachers. My fourth grader has a class size of 32 and 1 teacher and no aide. They spend 45 minutes each subject learning new materials everyday. The children that do not understand are then left behind and confused while they are forced to move forward to new topics. My daughter struggle through reading during 2nd and 3rd because her 1st grade teacher passed her to move on even though my daughter did not fully understand how to read and comprehend what she was reading. The summer after 2nd and 3rd was nothing but reading out loud to me everyday .. yes she hated me for making her do work instead of playing outside during the mornings and early afternoons (I treated it like it was school days, 3pm was when she could play outside). Now she is reading at her current level and enjoying Hunger Games and Harry Potter trilogy. —- I can blame the school system. But I have to tell myself that they are not as important or as knowledgeable as I am with my children. I can make a change. I can make a difference. Going through the system is so draining that I feel that it is a waste of my time. .. I started doing the Dick and Jane books with my daughter at 2nd grade. Simple. Precise. Then we moved on to other Kindergarten books. So that I can reteach the basics and fundamentals of reading to her. I hope this helps.

  4. I understand how you feel. There are so many times that I feel like I have failed my son. You want to do everything you can, but it's not always possible. Sometimes, you have to accept that. Other times, you charge right in and fix things. It's difficult to accept that you can't always fix everything for your child.

  5. You just wrote my story with my daughter word for word. They wanted to hold her back since kindergarten and I never allowed it. Finally in 5th grade I gave in and let her be held back. They tested her in her 1st year of 5th grade and was found to have no discrepancy. I had her tested again last year and she has a severe disability that went unnoticed the first round of testing. She is now thriving at a continuation high school and going into the 10th grade.

    The school psychologist is really helpful and I feel the IEP team really considers what I have to say. My daughter is given modified work because even though she's in 10th grade she can only do 4th grade work. The school is required to modify the work and give you child what they need. If they can't offer it then they need to bus your child to a school that can give them what they need.

    Please don't let your boy fall through the cracks like my daughter did. It makes me so mad that it took until the end of 9th grade for them to finally give her the help she needs.

    In fact we just had an IEP meeting last week with the people from the big high school with 2000 kids and they wanted to put my daughter into all mainstream classes when she has been in all resource classes for months. We (the IEP team) decided to keep her put because it's what works for her.

    You don't need to hold him back. Force the school into giving him what he needs. Besides kids with an IEP can stay in school until they are 22. Let him be the oldest later and be a kid right now 🙂

    I can give you loads more advice on the IEP system and getting what he needs if you need it.

  6. I am so sorry. 🙁 We had to that with my daughter in kindergarten, it was not a great experience.

  7. I have a teenager who just finished his first year in high school, nearly failing math. Unfortunately, I'm awful at math and unable to help him in the least. It makes me feel terrible. I'm sorry you and your son are dealing with this and I hope that better days are ahead.

  8. There's a lot you can do yourself. Why not implement your own reading program? Find books that might interest him and read out loud to him and then have him read out loud to you. Have him memorize some fairy tales then go on to some larger pieces. Have him write out full sentences from some of the words he's learning. A friend of mine has been a public school teacher for thirty years. She said that the new programs are't working and more children aren't learning to read and can't understand the programs. One teacher said most high school graduates are only reading at sixth grade level. Don't count on the public schools or anyone. It's really your responsibility in the end. I ended up educating all my five children at home. It takes time and patience. But what's more important than your child? We used the writing road to reading by Spalding. It gave my daughter the head start she needed If you think the public schools care about your children then they really have you fooled.

  9. I am so sorry. I totally understand what you mean. My son in the Florida school system was tested, had an IEP in elementary school and they took him out of it in middle school. He is having a hard time in sixth grade and one of his teachers just talks about how he doesn't try but part of me feels it is his learning disability and he has a hard time changing from class to class. However since they took him off the IEP after 5th grade they will not test him again unless a teacher recommends it and his teacher says she does not feel that his his problem.

    I don't understand why they can't test just to make sure and why we have to fight to get even that done.

    I am so sorry for the both of you to have to go through the ordeal.

  10. I am so sorry you are going through this, I can imagine how hard it is to feel like you are doing everything you can. You are your son's #1 advocate, and I am sure are doing the best you know how to do! ((Hugs))

  11. So – I absolutely am not relying 100% on the schools. I work with him on a daily basis. My mother and I have worked with him endlessly every summer and it is the only reason he makes progress before starting each school year. I would never say it is the school's responsibility solely, but if that is where I am sending him and he is promised an equal education to meet his needs, then he should be getting it.

    I am not a lazy parent who does not help my child. We have tried reading programs, reading aloud, taking turns, memorization, repetition drills and games, The four hours a week I spend with him on spelling words are the only reason he passes those tests. I am not trained to educate a learning disabled child and don't think there is anything wrong with me expecting the school to utilize the tools they have to help him further when the help is clearly available just not given.

  12. I am sorry your schools don't do more. My son and daughter were both behind last school year and they really worked with them. My son is where he should be and my daughter is excelling now. Big hugs and stay on them mama.

  13. Hugs. having a learning disability and struggling with classes and subjects is never easy on a child. I hope you can find a uncompromisable solution to help him excel. I wish I had some answers for you. Perhaps a tooter?

  14. As I read this I heard my own story in there. I pulled my twins out of school in the middle of the year. My boys are very shy and because they didn't jump up and down yelling out the answers the school said that they "weren't ready" to move on and that we would be looking at holding them back at the end of the year. They said that they would not pass the CRCT and wanted them on a 504 plan. They already had them on IEP and in small groups. They wanted to hold one of them back after 1st grade and I refused. I now have happy homeschoolers who are flourishing. If you can do it, it is beyond worth it! We use Time 4 Learning (time4learning dot com) it is all online and interactive. Very good for the ones who struggle with "regular" schoolwork. Good luck to you! Remember no one is going to do what's best for him better than you can!

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