IEP. SLD. 504. FAPE. Navigating special education services in the public schools requires learning a new language. Need a translator? Here are a few tips and tricks gleaned from Kelli Sandman-Hurley's book Dyslexia Advocate! How to Advocate for a Child with Dyslexia Within the Public Education System. This book provides a step by step guide to advocating for your child with dyslexia.
1. Get a binder. A thick one. When you are trying to have your child found eligible for special education services - and even after your child starts receiving these services, you should document and date everything. Keep samples of your child’s school work, copies of report cards, print outs with testing results, and emails. For those kids who appear to be doing okay in school but homework requires a lot of time and guidance, Sandman-Hurley recommends keeping a homework log. Make a simple table and document the name of the homework assignment and how long it took the student to complete it.
2. Embrace the D Word. Although schools in our area have made great strides in acknowledging dyslexia, it still confuses parents when schools say things like, “We don’t test for dyslexia.” Let me clear that up: public schools do not diagnosis dyslexia - or any other condition for that matter. Instead, they test to determine eligibility under specific categories. Basically, students with dyslexia qualify for special education services because Dyslexia is listed under Specific Learning Disorder (SLD) which is the term you will see and hear when talking to schools or reviewing paperwork. While the student’s eligibility category will be listed as “Specific Learning Disability,” Sandman-Hurley encourages parents to have the specific condition of dyslexia documented in their child’s paperwork as well. This will help the teachers and professionals who work with your child understand her learning profile better than the vague, umbrella term “Specific Learning Disability.”
3. The more goals the merrier! The vast majority of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), that I see for students with dyslexia have only 1 goal for reading, but most students with dyslexia have many needs when it comes to reading! Sandman-Hurley points out that needs should drive goals. A dyslexic student likely needs a goal to address weak phonological processing, poor decoding, poor spelling, and a slow reading rate. If your child needs it, make it a goal!
4. Send a handwritten thank you note. Appreciation goes a long way. Acknowledge a job well done by a particularly helpful teacher or administrator because it helps establish a sense of partnership between you and the individuals that spend the majority of the day with your child and are tasked with helping her overcome her learning challenges.
The terminology, abbreviations, and reams of paperwork can make the process of overseeing your child’s special education services seem daunting. Read Write offers advocacy services for those parent who want a knowledgeable professional on their side. We help parents advocate for their students through consultations, reviewing documents and attending school meetings. We would be honored to help guide you through the process. A knowledgeable parent is a powerful tool!