Dyslexia Accommodations: How to know what your child needs

By:  Michelle Reeves is the Senior Consultant for State and Federal Programs at Region 8 Education Service Center in Pittsburg, Texas. She assists districts with requirements and instruction.

One of the most frustrating and heart wrenching things about being a parent is when your child struggles in school.  You want to help your child, but you aren’t sure what to do. You look to the school for help.  They aren’t sure about what to do, and a lot of times they believe retention is the answer. I’ve learned over the years that the cliche “knowledge is power” is so true. I have two boys with dyslexia. My journey so far has been one struggle after another, but knowing what the school can provide, how the law works, and possible accommodations allowed by my state has made all the difference in the world.

When my oldest son was identified with dyslexia I began searching for anything that pertained to dyslexia. I wanted to know, learn, and internalize everything about the learning disability.  Coincidentally at the same time I was beginning to entertain the idea of obtaining my master’s degree. One of my friends introduced me to Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Language Therapist Program.  Being a mother with dyslexia, and having a son identified with dyslexia, I knew SMU’s program was exactly what I needed.  The program not only taught me about dyslexia but also how to provide reading therapy to myself and my son.   What a blessing it was to learn everything about dyslexia while earning a master’s degree!

I often reflect back on how this amazing journey has brought me frustration, anger, tears, and overwhelming joy.  Even as I continue to ride this emotional roller coaster I can’t stop thinking about all the other parents and students in the world who are starting the journey, or who are in the middle of it. Being identified and receiving dyslexia intervention is just the beginning of the journey. The next chapter is helping your child survive and succeed in school for the next ten plus years. The word accommodation becomes a lifeline for your child, constantly asking and recommending specific accommodations in order for your child to reach his/her full potential. Generally, the school staff isn’t aware of the possible accommodations that are available to my child or other students with dyslexia.  As a parent and a dyslexia advocate, I’m usually the one providing the information to the teachers and administrators.

As Sally Shaywitz says, “Accommodations level the playing field for our kids.”  Our kids deserve the chance to be successful. Sadly, accommodations are greatly misunderstood and often under utilitized in our classrooms.

The following are statements and questions that I hear in school districts quite often:

  • Can students with dyslexia use accommodations?
  • How long can they use the accommodation?
  • They can’t use that accommodation on state assessments, so they can’t use it in class, correct?
  • It isn’t fair for them (the student with dyslexia) to get to use that accommodation because the rest of the students can’t use it.
  • They are passing, so they don’t need any accommodations.
  • I don’t have time to provide that accommodation.

As I stated above “knowledge is power.” Parents as well as, educators need to learn everything possible about dyslexia and the allowable accommodations. I have listed some tips below that I hope you find helpful as you travel through your dyslexia journey.

  1. Learn everything you can about dyslexia.
  2. Learn how your state addresses dyslexia. For example, in Texas there is The State Dyslexia Handbook that outlines the district and teacher responsibilities for identification and instruction for students with dyslexia.
  3. Learn about your state’s assessments and possible accommodations that are available. In Texas you can go the Texas Education Agency Website and look at all of the possible accommodations and requirements.
  4. Learn everything you can about effective accommodations for students with dyslexia. Check out the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, http://dyslexia.yale.edu/DYS_Accommodations.html and the Region 10 ESC Accommodations http://www.region10.org/dyslexia/information/accommodations/
  5. Learn about 504 law and procedures. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/sec504.index.htm http://www.504idea.org/Council_Of_Educators/CESD_Events.html http://www.greatschools.org/special-education/legal-rights/868-section-504.gs
  6. Talk to your child about which accommodations might be helpful, and have them experiment. Your child will not need every accommodation available, and their accommodations will mostly likely change over time.
  7. Talk with your child’s teachers at the beginning of the school year to ensure that everyone is on the same page. You might even want to provide the teacher with a book, article or other resources that further explains dyslexia.
  8. Develop a healthy relationship with your child’s teachers, principals, counselors, and anyone making decisions about your child’s education. It’s very important that your child observe your effort in building a healthy relationship with the staff.  Being a team and working together is best for your child.
  9. Continually communicate with your child discussing how things are going in the classroom. I encourage my sons to think about the accommodations that they’re receiving. Are they helping? Is there something else that he thinks would work better? What seems to be most helpful? What is not helpful?
  10. Ask questions!  Call your state education agency, regional education service center, parent organizations, and dyslexia training centers.

The journey continues, and I know that there are still challenges to come, but I’m ready. I make it my job and my passion to come to the table with knowledge of dyslexia so that current and future students are not alone!

Copyright © 2016 International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

We encourage sharing of articles from Dyslexia Connection. If portions are cited, please make appropriate reference. Articles may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Click here to request permission to republish articles from Dyslexia Connection or send an e-mail to info@interdys.org for more information.