"Ask the Advocate" is our forum to bring you answers to questions that are timely and important to families of students with disabilities. I will ask Lorraine Hightower, Dyslexia Advocate & Consultant, your top questions and bring her answers to YOU!
The new school year is right around the corner! What advice do you have for parents to help their child start the school year off right?
Parents are in all different stages of their child’s education and need advice specific to their situation. Today, I will share essential advice for parents who have an IEP in place for their child, as well as those who do not have the protection of a formal plan yet. Be sure to read on for the advice that pertains to you! First, I’ll start off with a piece of advice that I believe is helpful for everyone.
Create an introduction letter to give to your child’s teacher.
Let’s face it, teachers are busy and they have many children in their class with many different needs. We want it to be as easy as possible for our children’s specific strengths and needs to be noticed and addressed. An introduction letter will help your child stand out and be noticed from the very start.
A great introduction letter includes:
🌟 Bright and colorful design to grab attention
🌟 A picture of your child
🌟 Your contact information
🌟 Dyslexia resources
🌟 Bullet points that are easily scanned
🌟 A personal note
There are many benefits to using our sample introduction letter for your own child.
Providing the letter to the teacher opens up an opportunity to have a conversation and build a relationship with the teacher at the very start of the year.
The personal note allows your child to share their feelings about school and what works best for them.
In just a glance, the teacher can see your child’s accommodations and motivators to help your child avoid frustration in the classroom.
Unlike an IEP that can be many pages long and filed away in a drawer, this one-pager allows teachers to access the most important information about your child easily.
It provides a full picture of your child from your point of view~ allowing you to share all of the things that make your child unique.
If you use our sample letter, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know how it worked for your child and if it helped build a relationship with their teacher. You can reach us at email@example.com.
You mentioned having specific advice for starting off the school year right if your child has an IEP. Can you share those tips with us?
If your child has an IEP, you have access to a school team that is empowered to make important decisions for your child. This team includes many of the stakeholders who are involved in your child’s education: teachers, administrators, and specialists. Your child’s school team has the power to hold meetings to discuss your child’s needs, their progress towards their annual IEP goals, any necessary revisions to their goals as well as determine appropriate services and accommodations.
The good news is that parents are equal members of the IEP team. That means that parents can call a meeting with the school team at any time to discuss any of the topics I mentioned above. Many parents believe that they only “get” one IEP meeting a year, but that is not the case. To start off the school year and ensure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning I recommend convening the school team.
Call an IEP meeting with the school team at the start of the year.
Things to discuss at this IEP Meeting:
1. Present Levels
Review with the team all of your child’s present levels of performance. Specifically, for children with dyslexia, we want to make sure we have an accurate assessment of their reading level, reading fluency, and spelling performance, along with any other areas of concern. This is especially important if your child has worked with a private tutor over the summer or received Extended School Year (ESY) services from their public school.
Given your child’s present levels in their areas of need, the IEP team should set goals for where they expect the child to be, given that they are receiving effective remediation services, in one year’s time.
3. Services & Accommodations
Discuss with the team how the services and accommodations that you’ve agreed upon will be implemented this next school year. Ensure that the way the team intends to provide instruction will be effective to make sufficient progress in closing their achievement gaps. For students who have multi-year achievement gaps in reading, talk with the IEP team about assistive technology tools that can effectively allow your child to access the grade level curriculum and show what they know.
IMPORTANT!! Don’t forget that whole language and balanced literacy approaches do not work to teach children with dyslexia how to read. Your dyslexic child’s remediation services must use a structured literacy approach. See the graphic below for exactly what that means.
4. Progress Monitoring
Make a plan for how you will monitor your child’s progress towards those goals you set in step two throughout the school year. Think about how you will organize the data you receive from the school and what approach you will use to interpret that data.
Having this “4 step IEP discussion” is not always easy for parents. They often feel unsure of what questions to ask or how to show what their child needs. Parents have told us that they feel like they are at the mercy of the school team to determine what is right for their child. Unfortunately, as a professional Education Advocate, I have seen school teams, time and time again, make decisions based on staffing or what they believe they can provide instead of what is in the best interest of the child and what they are obligated to provide under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
As an advocate who specializes in dyslexia, I am honored to personally advocate for clients and guide them through every step of the special education process, helping to create an educational plan that is right for their unique dyslexic child. At the same time, we understand that hiring a personal advocate is not for everyone.
Therefore, to help empower parents at the IEP table, my team and I have created The Dyslexia Advocacy Advantage. This self-paced online course is designed not only to help educate parents about dyslexia but to guide them through each of the steps I mentioned above resulting in meaningful discussions at the IEP table. Upon completion of this online course, parents will understand what an appropriate and effective education plan (or IEP) should look like for their child’s unique needs.
Our unique program walks parents through understanding their child’s dyslexia and how it affects them, interpreting their own child’s data, and using that data to determine services and accommodations that are appropriate for them. You won’t be learning theory~ you’ll apply what you learn to your very own child! It even includes a Quarterly Progress Monitoring Checklist to ensure that your child’s progress stays on track.
One of our past participants said, “You guys thought of everything! The resources are so helpful in creating a personalized plan and gave me the practice I needed to get it right. I feel confident about what I know and what I can ask for from the school.” We want you to feel confident too!
Click the image below to enroll today!
Do you have any advice for parents who suspect their child may have dyslexia but don’t have a formal plan in place?
Yes- take action now! Many parents are encouraged by schools to wait and see if their child improves, or they are told it “just hasn’t clicked yet”. Since the shutdown of schools during Covid, many schools have explained away lack of progress or an achievement gap as a “Covid Slide”. While this may be true in some cases, one cannot assume it to be true. A wait-and-see approach wastes your child’s precious time and allows them to fall further behind their peers.
If you suspect your child has a learning disability like dyslexia, request an evaluation from your school right away.
Your school district has an obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to evaluate and identify students who have learning disabilities and provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
If you suspect dyslexia or any other learning disability, write a letter to your school requesting an evaluation of your child. Include in that letter examples of the problems your child is experiencing and how those problems are affecting them. Even if your child has good grades, if you suspect that something is wrong, request an evaluation. Grades alone are not a determination of the impact your child’s learning disability could be having on them. Be prepared with multiple data points that show your child’s struggle and need for an evaluation.
Below are some possible data points you can share with the team:
Standardized testing results
Classroom tests (before reteaching or retakes)
Videos of your child working or reading aloud
Tutor or teacher reports
Reports of social-emotional wellbeing
Sometimes it isn’t easy to know if the signs or problems you are seeing indicate dyslexia. I’ve created this free download for you, The Top Ten Signs of Dyslexia Parents Often Miss. Dyslexia shows up in many different ways! I encourage you to click the link or the image to download that resource.
If these signs remind you of your child, please request an evaluation so that your child can begin receiving the special education services they need. The special education process is slow, so beginning right away is essential to getting your child the help they need as soon as possible. With the right services and support, children with dyslexia can succeed in school, thus building the confidence they need to thrive in school and in life!
Are you worried that your dyslexic child is falling behind in school? Are you ready to see your child learn and thrive? If so, we can help! My advocacy practice has helped countless families transform the lives of their children, and create more peace and harmony at home.
While it isn’t always easy, it CAN happen, and we will support you every step of the way. Find out how we can help your family during a complimentary Discovery Call. We would love to talk with you about your child and how we might make a difference for your family!