Q:

My almost 9-year-old son is in third grade at a private school. His grades are excellent, he scored in the 96th percentile overall on his recent IOWA tests and does well in school. He does have a mild case of ADHD and is on a low dose of daily medication to help him focus, which has been helpful for him.

We had him tested this month at a learning center because we have noticed that he has trouble with reading comprehension. He is an excellent reader and loves to read things he enjoys. However, he has been having difficulty in reading comprehension in school and with homework assignments that deal with reading a passage and answering questions.

The center laid out a tutoring plan for him that will cost in excess of $5,000. Of course we will do whatever is necessary to help our child succeed in school and life, but $5,000 is not easy to come by, especially since we pay private-school tuition. Are there other tutoring options for kids with this problem? What do you think of corporate learning centers? -- Worried

A:

If children don't understand what they read, they really aren't readers. At the third-grade level, the focus is changing from learning to read to reading to learn. Your son needs to master different techniques for reading, as comprehending stories is different from understanding social studies and science textbooks. Fortunately, your son is just starting the second semester of third grade and has plenty of time to pick up these skills.

Before signing up for this or any learning-center program, we would begin by finding out what help is available at his school. By law, all private schools are under the umbrella of their local public school district. The public school district must provide services, if needed, to private-school students with learning disabilities. The public school will need to send out its school psychometrist to retest your son, as they can't accept scores from private school testing.

You should call the public school district and request that your son be tested. You will also need to fill out paperwork with information that will include test scores from the standardized tests he has taken and his grades. If he does not qualify to have an IEP (Individual Education Plan), you can request that a 504 plan be written up by the public school. While waiting for the public school to test your son, investigate whether any help is available at his school.

Corporate learning centers as well as private tutors can both offer your son help with his comprehension. We would look for more reasonably priced help than the program that tested your child.