I am so thrilled to have Amy share tips for dyslexia advocacy with you today. Thank you so much Amy, from Mamabearmoms.com for sharing your expertise!
If you have a struggling reader, you may be new to the concept of advocating for your child’s educational needs. Below are five things every parent of a student with reading difficulties should do to properly prepare themselves to advocate for their child’s academic, social and emotional needs.
1.Have Your Child Evaluated! If you have a child who is struggling to read and is not making progress with general education interventions, it is imperative that you have your child evaluated sooner rather than later. Early identification is the key to success! Although the goal is to keep your child in a general education setting as long as possible, children with dyslexia need explicit, multi-sensory instruction that is only offered through special education. In order to be considered for special education, however, the school must first evaluate your child. To get the evaluation process started, you need to simply submit a letter requesting that your child be evaluated for special education. Included in my free guide is a sample evaluation request letter that you are welcome to use to get you started [https://mamabearmoms.mykajabi.com/p/is-my-child-at-risk].The school will then ask for your consent to evaluate your child via prior written notice. Once the evaluation process is complete, the IEP Team will consider the test results to determine eligibility. The evaluation process can take up to 60 school days to complete so it is vitally important to begin the process as soon as the challenges become apparent so you don’t lose valuable time. Please keep in mind, however, that schools cannot diagnose. They can only assess for areas of strength and weakness. In order to get a diagnosis, you would need to consult with a licensed educational psychologist, a neuropsychologist or another qualified medical professional to get a private evaluation. Getting a diagnosis will allow you to get a more complete profile of your child. If there are other considerations that affect the way your child learns, such as executive functioning disorder or ADHD, that will be identified in the private evaluation as well. That way, you can make sure that the IEP addresses all areas of need.
Either way, the evaluation should test all of the following areas: – Cognitive Ability – Phonological Processing – Silent Reading – Oral Reading – Single Word Reading – Rapid Naming – Vocabulary – Spelling – Writing Sample – Family and School History
2.Document Everything – I cannot stress this enough! Documentation is essential when you are advocating for your child’s needs. Without documentation, it is difficult to track progress or lack there of, correspondence and important documents. Start off by getting a large binder. Divide it up into several sections and include copies of student work, school/teacher correspondence, progress reports/report cards, test results, IEPs, (if applicable), etc. Keep in mind, however, that documentation does not always have to take the form of paper. If your child is struggling with homework, fluency or decoding, consider videotaping your child reading so you can chronicle their experience at home. Those recordings can then be offered as evidence of your child’s struggles, especially if you find that the experience described by your child’s teachers differs greatly from your own.
3.Adopt a Cooperative vs. Combative Mindset – Most parents feel that they need to go into Team meetings with fire in their eyes. But, you have to remember that the other members of the Team are people too and they will respond just like people do, when confronted. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be firm, informed and ready to defend your child and your child’s needs, but there is definitely a right and a wrong way to approach it within a Team meeting. If you think that you will have difficulty keeping your composure in the meeting, consider hiring an advocate. Their job is to be your voice and to allow you to maintain a good relationship with the Team. Your advocate can also help you understand what is going on during the meeting and can explain to you what your options are. Whatever you do, do not go to a meeting alone, especially if you are new at this. IEP meetings can be upsetting and overwhelming. It is always helpful to have someone with you to help you feel less alone in the fight for your child.
4.Focus on Needs and Goals – As my mentor, Kelli Sandman-Hurley always says, “needs drive goals and goals drive services”. Every need should be addressed with a goal and every goal should be associated with a service. Each goal should be specific, measureable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.), so there is a particular target in mind at the end of the IEP period. If you feel that the goal is not aggressive enough, you can either partially reject that portion of the IEP, and/or you can request regular progress monitoring so you can determine if an IEP amendment is warranted.
5.Review, Reflect and Strategize! On a fairly regular basis, review and reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t so you can make the appropriate adjustments. When you go into an IEP meeting, put some thought into what it is that you are trying to achieve ahead of time. Make a plan and develop a strategy for getting your child to where he or she needs to be. If your child is not making effective progress with the interventions offered by his or her school, you may need to determine whether the education is appropriate for your child’s needs. There may even come a time when you need to consider moving your child to a private school to get access to better services. This is known as “unilateral placement”.
The key to successful advocacy is education, preparation, organization and strategy. Becoming aware of the terms being discussed, the interventions/services available to your child and the progress achieved will allow you to feel more in control of your child’s academic future and his or her success plan. First and foremost, remember that you are your child’s best advocate and you know your child better than anyone. Becoming an informed advocate will go a long way to securing your child’s future success.
About The Guest Blogger:
Amy Ruocco is the mother of two, a dyslexia advocate and a fierce warrior for dyslexic children. Through her website MamabearMoms.com, she educates parents about the importance of early identification of dyslexia and teaches them how to advocate for appropriate interventions. To get access to her free guide, please visit https://mamabearmoms.mykajabi.com/p/is-my-child-at-risk