Families and Schools as Partners

  • The signs of dyslexia are often confusing as family and schools work to figure out the source of difficulty. Guardians who participate in a partnership with the school during the process of evaluating, identifying, and creating an intervention plan for the student are able to contribute in very meaningful ways. Guardians can share information on how the child developed prior to their school years as well as become their child’s advocate. By being an advocate, guardians can voice the child’s needs when the students is unable to express themselves or understand their own needs. With the school and the guardians working together, the students’ individual needs can be met. Guardians may be able to offer insights on the needs of their children on what is sometimes called the “hidden disability”.

    “Allowing a student with a hidden disability (ADHD, Anxiety, or Dyslexia) to struggle academically or socially when all that is needed for success are appropriate accommodations and explicit instruction is no different than failing to provide a ramp for a person in a wheelchair” - author unknown

    Students can be successful both academically and socially when families and teachers work as partners.  As the student’s needs change all involved will need to stay in communication. 

    A study of adults with dyslexia regarding their experience as children revealed important common ideas about what a child with dyslexia may need from his family and teachers. According to this study, “participants recognized the importance of being self aware of dyslexia. This acceptance of their disability enabled them to identify and use personal strengths in their quest for success. Recognizing personal strengths, having a positive support system, and developing compensatory strategies were all building blocks related to success for the adult with dyslexia” (Nalavany, Carawan, and Rennick 2011).

    Participants stated that the following were most important to them:

    • Support in exploring, developing, and understanding their strengths

    • Support and understanding of the extra time and work traditional academic tasks can require

    • Support in helping others, including teachers and peers, to understand dyslexia as a challenge that does not solely define a person 

    • Support using alternative methods to access information

    Tips For Positive Support

    It is important that families and educators alike remember that the student with dyslexia is so much more than their reading disability. Often, dyslexia can take a toll on a student’s self-esteem. Students with dyslexia often have many strengths and talents.  These should be emphasized throughout their school and home experiences. Parents should remember that children with dyslexia are very capable of succeeding in school and can achieve success in a wide variety of professions.  It’s important to know that while dyslexia impacts learning, it is not a problem of intelligence.

    Strategies for families and educators to create a positive support system for students with dyslexia:

    • Encourage a positive self-image
      - Celebrate successes
      - Focus on strengths
      - Minimize homework stress by setting time limits, providing breaks, and discussing homework
        accommodations with the school

    • Instill a love of learning
      - Read aloud or listen together to books of high interest
      - Use games to reinforce learning
      - Share in the joy of learning

    • Reward the effort, not just the end product (e.g., working hard for an hour on editing vs. producing an
      error-free essay). Strategies include:
      - Build in extra time to avoid anxiety
      - Break larger assignments into smaller parts to instill confidence
      - Acknowledge that school work may be difficult

    • Find a balance between appropriate intervention to improve skills and accommodations to promote
      - Does the student need extra time on tests?
      - Would Assistive Technology resources be appropriate?
      - Are audio books available?
      - Can typing or dictating an assignment ease frustration?

    • Talk about dyslexia in a positive way

    • Encourage self-advocacy skills

    • Involve the student, as appropriate, in IEP and 504 plan meetings

    • Discuss accommodations and ask for student input

    Specific Academic Supports For Students

    Students with dyslexia struggle with reading and writing tasks. Here are some concrete ways families can support these students at home:

    • Define the purpose of “reading” as making meaning from text

    • Praise students for making improvements in their word reading skills

    • Make reading a positive experience. Read together and hold discussions about the meaning of the text

    • Expose students to books that might be above their decoding level through audio books and reading to them. Sources of audio books that can be used at home as well as at school

    • Show students that they can be their own problem solvers. Practice these skills

    • Work on decoding by finding appropriately leveled books in collaboration with students’ teachers. Use high interest materials such as newspaper sports pages, cookbooks, and graphic novels

    • Support academic talents that are not reading-based