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  1. Breakwater
    BreakwaterMay 1,15

    When a child starts school and begins to struggle with reading and writing, it can be a confusing and stressful time for both the family and the student. Most parents are unaware of how to get the most appropriate help for their child from the school. While advocating for a child with dyslexia can be very difficult, there are some dos and don’ts that will help you get there faster.


    listen to your instincts
    ask for an early evaluation
    make sure you do everything in writing
    seek local support
    your research


    allow retention as a means of intervention
    accept “no” for an answer
    believe it when schools tell you that your student will “grow out of it”
    be afraid to use the word, dyslexia
    forget to allow your kids to shine in their area of strength


    Do listen to your instincts

    Every parent knows when something is amiss with their child. And when a perfectly happy, healthy and intellectually capable child goes to school and begins to struggle, it is time to act. If that child has dyslexia, time is of the essence, no matter what anyone tells you. Early intervention and early identification are the key to a dyslexic child’s emotional and academic well-being. So, if your child’s academic struggles are unexpected, it is time to act and advocate for your child.

    Do ask for an early evaluation

    It is extremely common for parents to be greeted with a plethora of myths when they bring up the ‘d’ word. Politely ignore the unfounded myths and request an early assessment for special education services in writing. Then submit that request to the principal. Once complete, the district will either grant or deny the request. Once you agree to the assessment plan, the district has 60 days (check your state ed code) to complete the assessment and hold an IEP meeting. This is just the beginning of a journey, but you need this journey to begin early.

    Do make sure you do everything in writing

    According to Pete Wright, a well-known attorney who represents children with special educational needs, “If it didn’t happen in writing, then it didn’t happen.” Document every conversation with a follow-up email. All requests should be in email and copy yourself so that you know the email went through. Buy a binder and begin filling it with any and all correspondence and testing.

    Do seek local support

    This is an exciting time to be part of the dyslexia community, and you are definitely not alone. Contact your local Decoding Dyslexia group or local branch of the International Dyslexia Association for local resources, support groups, conferences and camaraderie that is so important during this process.

    Do your research

    Both you and your child have rights. Dyslexia is real and students with dyslexia have a right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Read the book, Overcoming Dyslexia, and Wrightslaw, and visit these links to learn as much as you can about dyslexia:


    Do not allow retention as a means of intervention

    Retaining a child who is struggling to learn to read and write is making the assumption that the child needs to change when it is actually the instruction/intervention that needs to change. Do not allow retention. Instead, insist on a research-based intervention and accommodations.

    Do not accept “no” for an answer

    Schools are notorious for denying the existence of dyslexia. Because you know your child better than anyone else in the world, do not take “no” for an answer. If you know that dyslexia is the probable cause for academic difficulties, you need to act early and often.

    Do not believe it when schools tell you that your student will “grow out of it”

    The myths that continue to be pervasive in schools are used to placate and even patronize parents–and they are unfounded. Students never grow out of dyslexia. They are born with dyslexia, and they will always have dyslexia. However, with early intervention and identification, they do not need to struggle.

    Do not be afraid to use the word, dyslexia

    Dyslexia, dyslexia, dyslexia. Keep using the word in conversations with the school. If a school tells you they do not work with students with dyslexia, or they don’t acknowledge dyslexia, you can politely remind them that dyslexia is a qualifying condition under the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) eligibility category.

    Do not forget to allow your kids to shine in their area of strength

    Kids with dyslexia are not broken and there is nothing wrong with them. They just need a different type of instruction. In fact, kids with dyslexia shine in so many other areas that is imperative that they be allowed to show these strengths on a daily basis.


    Early identification and intervention is the best-case scenario for a student with dyslexia. Parents and caregivers hold the key to making sure that happens. By trusting your instincts, doing your homework and holding the school accountable for following the law, you can ensure your child with dyslexia receives the Free and Appropriate Education he or she deserves. Dyslexia is real.

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