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CASE STUDY – Riad : Is This Child Mislabeled?
Riad Hamui, a third-grade student and refugee from Syria, spoke limited English. He has witnessed war first hand, having seen his father killed, and his mother maimed. His education prior to immigrating to the U.S. has been sporadic at best.
A week before school was scheduled to start, Harry Simms, the principal at Oakwood Elementary, was busy at his desk. The school secretary entered his office and said, “There are some people here to see you, I think they want to enroll a student.”
Harry stood up and welcomed the visitors, two women and an-eight-year-old boy.
“I am Byona Hamui and this is Riad ,” said one of the women haltingly.
The other woman quickly added, “I am Byonas sister-in-law, Trina. I am here to interpret for her because she speaks only French and Spanish but very little English. She would like to enroll Riad in the school.”
“Thanks,” responded Harry. “Ask her to tell me about Riad .”
Trina translated as Byona talked. “Riad was born in Syria and his development was completely normal, just like the other little boys of the village. He was getting ready to begin school when the trouble began. He is now a very quiet young boy, but he has seen more than most children. There were bomb explosions in our village and several of our relatives were killed.  His father and I made plans for two years to leave our country. When we got to the border, there was trouble with our papers and the guards tried to detain us. My husband told us to run but when we did, they shot and killed him.  I was injured so seriously that I lost my arm. Riad saw all of this.”
Mrs. Hamui continued her story of the family’s struggle for freedom. “We made our way to Spain where we stayed for a while then went to France and stayed with relatives outside Vichy. Riad was ready for his first year of school, but he did not attend until the beginning of the second year due to my extended hospital stay. During his schooling in France, he did not speak the language very well and received no teaching of how to read. At that point, Riad, his sister, and I traveled to America to join my brother.”
Harry did not know how to respond to such a tragic story. He decided simply to welcome Riad to Oakwood and assure Mrs. Hamui the school staff would help him adjust to his new environment.
Riad was placed in a third grade class based on age and received additional services from the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) program. Riad made very little progress over the next few months. He was essentially a non-reader and showed little aptitude in the LEP class. Riad s teacher suggested to Mrs. Hamui that perhaps Riad had a learning disability that should be explored with testing. Mrs. Hamui rejected that possibility, stating that she felt that Riad would catch up as he became more proficient in speaking the language.
By the end of the year, Riad had not caught up. He was still struggling with the language and had made very little academic progress. Mrs. Hamui reluctantly agreed to have Riad tested. When the testing was complete, she met with Riad s teachers, the principal, and the school psychologist. The school psychologist read the evaluation results. “Riads score on the Leiter (a nonverbal intelligence test) was 105. On the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Cognitive Abilities, he scored at least 2 standard deviations below the mean in the areas of auditory processing, short term memory, comprehension knowledge, and fluid reasoning. He scored in the average range in: long term processing, processing speed, and visual processing. On the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement, Riad scored 2 standard deviations below the mean in reading, written language, and knowledge. He scored in the average range in math.”  The school psychologist then turned to Mrs. Hamui and her interpreter and said, “What all of these tests show is that Riad has a learning disability and would benefit from individualized and small-group instruction for part of the day in a resource room.” Everyone around the table nodded in agreement except Riads mother.
Mrs. Hamui said, “I think Riad is just having trouble picking up the language. At home he does fine. He seems so intelligent to me.”
“He is intelligent, Mrs. Hamui, but he has a learning disability that is holding him back. We can help him overcome that disability and achieve his full potential. He will also continue to receive services in the LEP class,” the psychologist responded. Mrs. Hamui really did not perceive unusual characteristics at home and did not understand what she was hearing. However she felt pressured and finally agreed to the placement.
Riad made limited progress in the fourth grade in spite of his new placement. The fifth grade, however, proved to be a true success story for Riad . His new resource teacher in his learning disabilities class, Mrs. Evans was in her third year of teaching. She was impressed by the diversity of the students at the school, including a large population of children of Syrian descent.  She became interested in finding out as much as she could about the culture and background of her students in order to develop a relationship with them. She developed an especially close relationship with Riad.
Mrs. Evans worked with Riad in a resource pull-out program for two hours every day. She also went into Riads classroom three times each week for language arts in order to provide him with additional support. Riads proficiency with the oral component of the English language increased as well as his reading skills. The combination of resource room instruction and an inclusive language class was proving to be effective. Riad  had risen from a non-reader to a second-grade level in oral language and reading comprehension. His math skills were even higher.
Mrs. Evans observed firsthand Riads rapid intellectual growth. She noted that when Riad  was introduced to a new word and its definition, he was able to retain that knowledge. She pondered on how a learning-disabled student could do so much so quickly. Although Riad was still a quiet child and hesitant to become involved in detailed English conversations, he was very comfortable when talking socially to his Syrian peers.
Mrs. Evans became concerned about Riads learning disabled diagnosis. She decided to check out his records in the school office. As she read his file, she discovered that the initial testing was done in English and Syrian, but Syrian was used only if Riad indicated that he did not understand what was being said. She thought of the gains Riad had made this year and the trauma he had experienced. “Just how valid were the evaluation procedures for a child so young, so traumatized, and struggling with the language?” she thought to herself. “Should I question the schools evaluation procedures? Im new here and up for tenure this year. I dont want to cause any waves by questioning the judgment and authority of the psychologist and the administration. But, I also dont think a child should be mislabeled.” She continued to ponder the situation as she closed Riads file and handed it back to the secretary.
Discussion Questions:
1.    If you were Mrs. Evans, how would you approach the situation? Cite special education laws that Mrs. Evans can review to better understand Riads situation.

2.    What teaching strategies might Mrs. Evans have employed to bring about the changes she observed in Riads achievements?

3.    Explain the ways in which Riads testing was biased based on IDEA. Use your text and Internet to cite appropriate special education laws.

4.    What are some possible reasons why Riad scored 2 standard deviations below the mean in reading, written language, and knowledge but in the average range in math? What issues should be further explored that might help the school better understand some of Riads educational challenges and how best to meet his needs. Use your text and Internet to cite appropriate laws.

5.    Was a special education placement appropriate for Riad? Cite specific reasons for your response based on both law and experience. Use your text and Internet to cite appropriate laws.

 

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