Your child has just received a diagnosis of dyslexia, a language-based learning disability. You don’t know much about this complicated word except that dyslexia entails switching letters and numbers around. So … what do you do now?
Dyslexia is defined by the International Dyslexia Association as a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills, such as spelling, writing and pronouncing words.
Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives. However, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in a typical instructional environment. And in its more severe forms, it will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations or extra support services.
- talk about the diagnosis
- expect a clear explanation
- meet with teachers
- follow through
- capitalize on your child’s strengths
- believe your child needs to be “fixed”
- overlook the importance of tutors and educational therapists
- be afraid
- allow a diagnosis to become an excuse
- fail to take action
Now is the time to lift the veil of mystery and discuss exactly what the practitioner found from your child’s rigorous testing.
Use age-appropriate language with your child as you explain the diagnosis. Try the following: “Remember all of those tests you took with Dr. Neuropsych? Well, she looked at all of the information we gave her, as well as all of your answers and talked with your teachers. She understands how you learn best and figured out ways to make school a little easier. Now we can get some help!”
The field of special education is full of labels and acronyms that can feel overwhelming and scary. Make sure you take the time to sit down with your practitioner and have him/her go through the evaluation page by page.
Be sure you understand what the numbers mean and what each diagnosis means. Beyond that, you want him/her to help you understand how the diagnosis affects your child within the school setting.
If you don’t feel confident in your understanding of the evaluation, ask questions. If your questions have been answered, and you go home and think of more, ask additional questions until you feel like you can explain it to anyone who asks.
Organize a meeting with your child’s teachers and the practitioner. He/she should explain the findings to the teachers and administration, so that everyone is on the same page in their understanding of your child.
Ask the practitioner to create a summary sheet for teachers. This should include the diagnoses, definition of diagnoses, how it may affect your child’s performance in school and recommendations on how to support your child. If your practitioner does not feel comfortable or is unable to do this–and you are working with an educational therapist–your educational therapist can perform this task.
Often, parents take the first step in trying to figure out what is happening with their child’s ability to learn. Make sure you don’t stop here.
Take your list of recommendations and start at the top. Do one thing at a time–or maybe two–and see what works best for your child. Remember that each learning profile is unique. Therefore, there is not just one prescription. Some recommendations will take time to see results, such as educational therapy, psychiatric treatment or an intensive reading program. But others, such as accommodations, might be helpful immediately.
Everyone has strengths and challenges, regardless of learning differences and disabilities. The advantage of receiving a diagnosis is that you have been given a definition of your child’s challenges, and you will have a list of recommendations of how to help.
Remember that you know what your child likes to do and what he/she is good at. Capitalize on these strengths. While your child will be busy with educational therapy, tutors or reading programs, it is also important to make time for the things that will allow your child to build self-esteem and feel successful. This is critical because failure has already been well within your child’s grasp.
Be skeptical of any program that guarantees a cure, a fix or grade-level performance. Dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities are not a disease. They are not something that needs to be cured. Additionally, there is nothing broken about your child, so nothing needs to be fixed.
Instead, look for a solution that caters to your child’s individual learning profile and tailors to his/her brain’s wiring. Help your child find the necessary tools and strategies needed to be successful.
While tutors are critical members of a team, it is also important to hire a trained professional to remediate specific skills that come along with different diagnoses. Educational therapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists are just some of the individuals who can provide the remediation that your child needs.
Educational therapists can truly help a child learn how to learn, while helping him/her come to terms with learning challenges. Tutors can be great assets because they provide necessary homework help during a sometimes tense situation at home. It is not uncommon for parents to reached their boiling point as they try to assist their children with homework. And tutors can help when parents feel fed up.
There are so many things to be fearful of in life, but a learning disability is not one of them. While this might be new territory for you, keep in mind that your child will be successful with the right support.
Don’t feel afraid to be your child’s advocate and be “that” parent. Don’t sit back and hope the system will do the right thing for your child. The system is overloaded, pressed for time, and bogged down by laws and limitations. Consequently, you must be involved and be the squeaky wheel.
If you are feeling uncertain about how to do this or what you are asking for, get in touch with an advocate, special education consultant, education therapist or another parent who has been down this road. Support is out there and you have many rights. Don't feel paralyzed.
In order to have a diagnosable learning disability, your child must have an average to above average IQ. In other words, your child must be capable of learning and possess intellect. Therefore, this diagnosis does not preclude your child from school work. Yes, you will need accommodations and maybe the occasional modification. But never let them say, or hear you say, “Joey can't because he has dyslexia.”
Keeping your expectations high–but realistic–is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. Kids want to succeed, please you and get a pat on the back from their teachers. Help them make that happen by giving them the tools and support necessary to achieve in spite of their learning hurdles. Who knows, these hurdles could become the very reason they succeed, just like Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, Albert Einstein, Channing Tatum, Stephen Spielberg and Whoopy Goldberg.
Act early and do not listen to the teachers who say that children develop in their own time. Research has shown time and time again that early intervention is key. The early years of school are where children develop their self-esteem, sense of curiosity and much of their problem solving skills. When learning issues stunt this growth, school becomes an impossible mountain to climb.
The gift of an early diagnosis may be the key to avoiding phrases such as, “try harder” or “my son will not read for pleasure.” As human beings, we avoid what we know will lead to failure. Let’s help them not avoid school.
Receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia–or any other learning disability or difference–can be jarring. When our children are born, we have ideas of what they will become and what they will accomplish. Slowly, as we see kids begin to struggle, many parents wonder if they can be self-sufficient learners. No need to wonder! The answer is yes. With the right support, success is within their grasp.