Having a child who struggles to learn to read can be a confusing and anxiety ridden experience for any family. It is important to remember that children who struggle to read can succeed both in school and in their adult lives.
If you believe your child is struggling with learning to read and might have dyslexia, being informed about your choices is your first step.
Characteristics and Signs of Dyslexia
Because there is no standardized identification system and disagreement about the definition of dyslexia, various sources report that between 5 and 20% of all students have dyslexia. Below are some resources to help you think more about whether you think your child might have dyslexia:
Partnering with your child’s school
To begin, you should decide if you want to seek services from your public school. In New Jersey, there is a law that requires schools to provide screening, identification and services to those children whose reading struggles rise to the level of requiring special education services. The services from the public schools must be provided at no cost to you and could include specialized reading programs to address your child’s individual needs as well as accommodations to help your child demonstrate his or her talents while improving his or her reading.
If you choose to work with the schools, which is recommended, you may ask for either a referral to the Response to Intervention (RTI) team or for the Special Education Child Study Team evaluation.
In most cases, the RTI team is a first step for gaining access to specialized instruction for your child. Typically, the RTI team is made up of a group of educators in your child’s school who will work with the classroom teacher to provide interventions within the classroom as determined appropriate. The RTI team should then monitor your child’s progress to see if he or she is, in fact, “responding to intervention.” This can often be a sufficient intervention for a struggling student and would avoid the need for special education and labeling. As a parent you should monitor the work of this group to make sure that interventions are being implemented, data on their success or lack thereof is being collected and that too much time doesn’t pass if interventions are not successful.
A note on the confusion of terms: It is important to note that schools do not classify students as having “dyslexia” since that label does not fall within the classification categories identified in IDEA. Rather, should your child be eligible for special education services he or she would most likely be classified as having a “Specific Learning Disability.” The New Jersey laws state that dyslexia would fall within this category. Additionally, when accessing resources, many times you will find useful information under the title of learning disabilities since most students with dyslexia fall within this category in schools. A great deal of confusion occurs when school personnel and parents are talking due to this difference of labels. Please know that when school personnel talk about Specific Learning Disabilities, they are addressing the school term which includes dyslexia.
How do I start?
To begin working with your school, you should write a letter to your school’s principal asking for a referral to the Response to Intervention team or for a Child Study Team evaluation for special education eligibility.
- If you request a referral to the RTI team, you should stay in contact with school about this process.
- If you request a Child Study Team evaluation for special education eligibility, the school must then hold a meeting with you within 20 days of receipt to discuss your child’s issues and whether or not a special education evaluation might be needed. They can also share what other services might be available in your district without the need for special education consideration.
Parent Resource Highlight:
Your rights in the special education process: New Jersey Department of Education Parents’ Rights in Special Education Handbook
Accessing Services Outside of School
If you do not wish to involve the school but want to have your child evaluated, you may choose to have a private evaluation done. You would have to pay for this evaluation yourself. There is some possibility that if a disability is found the school would pay for the evaluation but to pursue this, consulting an advocate or attorney is recommended. If you do choose to have a private evaluation completed, you should choose a state approved clinic to conduct the evaluation. This improves your chances of being reimbursed if your child is found eligible.
Once an evaluation has been done and recommends for instruction have been made, you may choose to hire a tutor for your child. You would also have to pay for this tutoring yourself. The Learning Ally Reading Tutor Network is a helpful resource.
General resources for parents:
- Learning Ally, a leading provider of audiobooks – including the world’s largest library of human-read audio textbooks: www.learningally.org/
- Bookshare: An Accessible Online Library for People with Print Disabilities: www.bookshare.org
- Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: dyslexia.yale.edu/parents.html
- International Dyslexia Association: http://eida.org/
- LD Online for Parents www.ldonline.org/parents
- Decoding Dyslexia: An advocacy organization in support of students with dyslexia: http://decodingdyslexianj.org/resources/
Books for Parents
- Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences, by Thomas Armstrong
- A Parent’s Guide to Special Education, by Linda Wilmshurst, Alan W. Brue
- Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning, by Joyce Cooper-Kahn, Laurie Dietzel
- Negotiating the Special Education Maze, by Winifred Anderson, Stephen Chitwood, Deidre Hayden, Cherie Takemoto
- Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
- The Dyslexic Advantage, by Brock Eide & Fernette Eide
- Learning Ally’s Community Page – featuring webinars, facebook community, and network of specialists
- Learning Ally’s Award-winning mobile app – Link – featuring a library of human-read audiobooks. Students have interactive learning tools geared to help them succeed including: highlighted text synced with the audio narration, speed control, bookmarking, highlighting, and note taking.