NAVIGATE YOUR SCHOOL
Navigating how school works when your child is dyslexic is a new world for most parents. To ensure your child is benefiting from his/her education and intervention, as well as being provided appropriate supports and services based on individual needs, parents may need to become more engaged than they have before.
The suggestions below will help you approach all of your interactions with the school in a way that ensures clear communication, creates an opportunity to collaborate with educators, and minimizes the chance of misunderstandings.
If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen:
Request and keep everything in writing (evaluations, IEP/504 plans, emails etc).
Communicate by email when possible, and recap all conversations, phone calls, and casual meetings with an email to document the communication and confirm your understanding.
Confirm all denials in writing (denial of evaluation, requested service, accommodation, placement, other requests, etc). If your request is denied because of “it’s not our policy to do that” etc, request the referenced school policy in writing.
Know who to talk to...and who to talk to next:
Familiarize yourself with the chain of command related to any challenges you are having.
Start with the educator closest to the situation and give each person time to respond to your request.
If you do not find resolution, continue to work up the chain of command by copying the next person on successive emails.
Understand how dyslexia is served in public school:
Understand your options / rights as a parent of a dyslexic child in a Texas public school
Prior to School Meetings
Request information 5 school days in advance to set expectations. Requests can include:
who will attend the meeting
any new evaluations
progress monitoring data
drafts of your child’s 504 or IEP that will be discussed
“response to intervention” data if your child is receiving the intervention
your child’s dyslexia file
Example: “Would you please provide all information that will be discussed in our meeting 5 days prior. If the information is not available at that time, I can reschedule the meeting to allow more time for you to obtain the information.”
After you have gathered information for your meeting, use this guide to prepare for a successful meeting!
Identify who in your school meeting has training and expertise in dyslexia and evaluation. An ARD meeting requires “an individual who can interpret the instructional implications of evaluation results” and a 504 meeting requires an individual who can “interpret the meaning of the evaluation data.” Basically, you need someone in your meetings from the school who understands dyslexia and your child’s dyslexic profile shown in his/her evaluations.
This is typically not a classroom teacher, school counselor, 504 coordinator, or special education campus coordinator, but often a dyslexia therapist, Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT), or diagnostician. If you are not sure, ask! It’s imperative that someone from the school attends who understands dyslexia. (See guidance here for IEP meetings and here for 504 meetings (p 32)
Be ready to share specifics about:
- How your child is doing in school and with homework
The support you are providing at home (hours of homework help, tutors, etc)
How teachers are supporting your child well
Areas for improvement
Any concerns / requests you have (See Prior Written Notice section below)
Key points you want to make sure are reflected in the meeting minutes / deliberations
During All School Meetings
Experienced parents record every meeting, and this is routine to the school. Email the school in advance that you will record because they will record as well (and need to have a recorder at the meeting). It’s as simple as, “I plan to record the meeting,” or you can add “so I don’t have to worry about taking notes on everything” or “since my spouse can’t attend” etc. Most phones have a voice memo app, or check out Otter, which does voice recording and transcription.
Don’t Go Alone
There will be many people at the table representing the school / district. Bring a spouse, friend, brother / sister, or educational advocate. This will be a big help during and after the meeting!
Make Sure Documentation is Correct
Make sure that all support provided to your child is documented. You may have a fantastic teacher or counselor going above and beyond, but if the support / accommodations they provide are not documented in your plan, it could be problematic if you or the staff move in the future. Talk to your child to make sure you know all that’s happening so it can be included!
The staff should read the minutes / deliberations for your approval prior to the end of the meeting. If not, you can request this. Compare to the notes you made ahead of time plus any other key items discussed in the meeting to ensure your concerns / perspectives are fully reflected. You can also ask to provide any missing information in the couple days following the meeting.
For students on an IEP, the last page of the IEP asks if you “agree to waive the 5 school day waiting period between the current IPE and the implementation of the proposed IEP.” Typically, parents benefit from saying “no” to waiving the 5 day period so they can review the IEP and ensure all sections are correct before it is implemented. If changes are needed in the 5 days, parents can email the school to request.
After School Meetings, Conferences, Phone Calls, Conversations, etc.
Send a “memo of understanding” to document that you have understood correctly and to have a written record of your child’s educational history.
Example: “I am emailing to follow up on our conversation on XX date regarding… What I understood is …. If my understanding is correct, you do not need to respond as I know there are many demands on your time. However, if my understanding is incorrect, please respond within 5 school days so we can clarify any misunderstandings.”
The steps above are helpful to collaborate with educators, ensure clear communication, and also ensure you have appropriate documentation if a misunderstanding occurs. The steps above also ensure your will be able to protect your child’s educational rights if you need to pursue a more formal means of resolving a disagreement. Visit Disagreement Options page to learn about options to resolve disagreements that are available to all students, those served by an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and those served by a 504 plan.
Links to Learn More
Plan to draft a written opinion following every team meeting. If you do not record your opinion, the IEP team may think you agree with all of the decisions and the IEP. No one will hear your voice. The written opinion is an effective document that tells the IEP meeting story from your viewpoint as a parent. Think of it as a tool, not a weapon. Read more.
Prior Notice specifies that suggestions put on the table must be accepted or rejected, and the IEP team must list the reasons for accepting or rejecting the proposal. Devise a simple form with four columns: one column for Proposal, columns for Accepted or Rejected, and a column for "Reason Accepted or Rejected." If a request is Accepted, a notation is added that states who is in charge of initiating the proposal and a starting date. The parent sees to it that the IEP team states their reasons for accepting or rejecting each proposal.
Book: Emotions to Advocacy
Whether you are new to special education or an experienced advocate this book will provide a clear roadmap to effective advocacy for your child. You will use this book again and again. It includes how to create a simple method for organizing your child's file and devising a master plan for your child's special education. You will understand parent-school conflict, how to create paper trails, and effective letter writing. This book includes dozens of worksheets, forms and sample letters that you can tailor to your needs.
Making an IEP binder is a great way to keep information organized and at the ready when you need it. An IEP binder can help you prepare for IEP meetings and stay up to date on your child’s progress. This powerful tool can also help you communicate and collaborate with teachers and your child’s IEP team.