Dyslexia, a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts the processing of words and numbers, is thought to affect up to one in five children. While dyslexia is not related to overall intelligence or work ethic, many parents are concerned about the stigma that may be associated with a learning disability. To build partnerships and minimize families’ stress, prepare a strategy for discussing dyslexia and the associated evaluations.
Explain the Purpose and Timing
All parties involved should understand the reasons that support dyslexia screenings. An explanation of the benefits and a discussion of the timeframe is essential, as well as initial screenings early in the year, so students acquire proper support with data-based, differentiated instruction.
Use Appropriate Language
Appropriate language is critical in discussions regarding a child’s difficulties since it can be an emotionally charged experience.
Use Common Language
Clinical and educational terminology has its place, but parents and caregivers can be confused and intimidated when unfamiliar with the jargon. Avoid using acronyms such as RTI without first explaining what a “response to intervention” is and how it fits into the dyslexia screening process. Preparing a glossary of terms is a helpful gesture for parents struggling to learn the terminology associated with their child’s challenges.
Avoid Loaded Words and Phrases
Avoid using the term “disability” to avoid misinterpretation due to its negative connotation. Use loaded medical terms with care and avoid phrases that indicate the “brain working differently,” which can be easily misconstrued and miscommunicated.
Utilize Trauma-Sensitive Communication
Many families have a history of traumatic experiences, so it is helpful to incorporate trauma-informed strategies into communication with all families from the start. The following steps assist in establishing and maintaining a level of mutual trust:
- Offer a variety of formats for information, and ask parents for their preferred methods of communication
- Provide communication in the home language of the family
- Be sensitive to cultural differences and preferences
- Keep personal data confidential
- Communicate with respect and sensitivity
- Set up formal feedback channels
- Create opportunities for choice
- Stay proactive and positive
- Honor schedules and communicate changes in advance
Dyslexia creates academic difficulties but also fosters areas of strength. For example, students with dyslexia often develop effective coping strategies that highlight other abilities. While those struggling with dyslexia may not notice small details, they often excel at seeing the big picture. Assessments such as Tests of Dyslexia (TOD) may help pinpoint an individual’s strengths and areas for improvement.
Discuss Next Steps
Many families feel discouraged by their children’s struggles in school. Identifying dyslexia as the underlying cause can be a liberating experience because it provides the much-needed “why.” Helping parents to feel empowered by explaining the next steps is essential to making the process more palatable with information such as:
- upcoming steps with dates and associated responsible parties
- formation and monitoring of the individualized educational plan (IEP)
- follow-up meeting dates
- contact information for additional questions or concerns
- support network information
Finding an Assessment
The desired outcome of a discussion with parents about dyslexia testing is for the child to receive a comprehensive evaluation. Learn more at WPS about how to help kids in school using dyslexia assessment tools.