Back-to-school commercials look so joyous on TV: Parents happily buying supplies and kids giddily choosing new backpacks. But for children who have dyslexia, the commercials might look a little different. They might depict parents reviewing IEPs and 504 plans and prepping their kids to be resilient and think positive. Here are things that families can do now to help plan for a smooth and productive year.

Make an appointment with your child’s general education teacher.

–    Most teachers do not have correct information about dyslexia. Start by emailing your child’s teacher two short videos: a TED-Ed video called “What is Dyslexia” and a writing simulation video to help them understand the day-to-day emotional toll of dyslexia. Encourage teacher(s) to watch both before the meeting.

–    If you have an IEP or a 504 plan, bring it to the meeting to review together. Focus on accommodations and explain how they help your student.

–    Share your journey. What has your student been through? How has he responded to school? Do you pay for outside tutoring? Make it short, but powerful.

–    Share writing samples from the previous year so the teacher is prepared for your child’s current understanding of the English writing system.

–    Spend some time dispelling myths about dyslexia. Dyslexia is not a visual or auditory processing issue. Students with dyslexia have difficulty processing written language. They need multisensory, explicit instruction in how the English writing system works. They do not need interventions that are designed for the visual system or “brain-based” programs.

–    Print out FAQs from the International Dyslexia Association {link to www.dyslexiaida.org} and take them with you.

Teach your student to be his own advocate.

–    Kids with dyslexia need to learn early on that there is nothing wrong with them. They need to hear the message that they must be taught differently than 85-90 percent of their peers. When they internalize this, they can begin to advocate for themselves.

–    Spend the last couple weeks of summer talking about what is in your student’s IEP and how to speak respectfully to teachers about his individual needs.

 

Notes for middle and high school students:

  • It’s important to make an appointment with the team if your teen has an IEP.
  • Create a cover letter for each teacher, summarizing the IEP or 504. Teachers have up to 200 students per day—this could be a helpful “cheat sheet” for them.
  • Middle and high school students should attend the meeting, share their journey and explain why accommodations are necessary.
  • If the student (and teacher) is willing, encourage him to do a short presentation to the class about dyslexia.

School can be a very stressful place for kids with dyslexia, but when you are prepared and take steps to partner with the school, school can become a place where your student thrives.

 

Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Ed.D., is a co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute and the author of the book Dyslexia Advocate! How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia within the Public Education System.