Posts

Summer Slide, Part II

Incentivizing reading can be a great way to jumpstart young learners’ motivation during the summer. Of course, the larger goal is for children and teens to garner intrinsic motivation for reading and learning down the line, but until that point, parents can encourage the practice with small, consistent incentives.

Here are a few examples to get you started with incentivizing young learners this summer:

  • Set up a tally or sticker chart to track that your child reads something every day. Whatever that “something” might be could vary from child to child. Perhaps it’s the comics in the morning paper, or a cupcake recipe for an upcoming family reunion, or the closed captioning or subtitles of their favorite TV show. Whatever the stipulations may be, holding children accountable for tracking their reading is a good way to begin combatting the summer slide.
  • Camouflage research skills by asking for your child’s help. Depending on age, the research questions can begin very simply, such as, “What is the weather going to look like later tonight during your baseball game?” Or, “What are the showtimes for the movie that you want to see this weekend? Are there better options for showtimes at a different theater nearby?” For older learners, parents can encourage middle and high schoolers to research places to visit, local attractions, events, or summer festivals, or even long-weekend options for a mini-family vacation. Guide their research by providing some critical guiding questions and reputable websites for perusal.
  • Research free educational events, activities, or programs in the area over the summer. In addition to many school-sponsored events and resources, the internet has a plethora of free educational websites that allow students to access digital games, tools, and practices from their living room. School and local library websites are great places to start when combing through reputable online educational resources. Many sites, like Scholastic, Flocabulary, NewsELA, ReadWriteThink, and Edutopia allow students to filter the materials based on interests, grade level, Lexile level, text length, etc. Virtual field trips also provide students with opportunities to see and experience locations that may otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Take learning outdoors to utilize the summer weather and natural surroundings. Simple activities such as planting flowers or herbs, visiting a state park or zoo, or starting a neighborhood initiative is a great way to show children that learning takes place everywhere—not just within the classroom. This also allows learners to take an active role in their learning, instead of the typical passive learning that we often see in schools. For older children and teens, parents can encourage financial competency and budgeting by helping middle and high schoolers begin a neighborhood dog walking, lawn mowing, yard sale, or recycling project. In doing this, children a practicing essential skills and strategies, while gaining a sense of independence and responsibility as well. The cash flow is always a great incentive, too!
  • Encourage literacy skills by providing your child with a photo journal for summer activities and travels. Children might use a smartphone or Polaroid camera to capture important memories or events over the summer. Then they can provide written captions, reflections, and other personal insights to accompany the photos. The photo journal also acts as a great memento for looking back on summer memories.

Signs of Dyslexia by Grade Level

According to the International Dyslexia Association, anywhere from 15-20% of the world’s population has a reading disability marked by symptoms of or relating to dyslexia. Since it is a language-based learning disability, dyslexia can impact a child’s reading, writing, and speech in various ways. While the symptoms and signs are vastly different from one learner to another, there are age or grade-specific indicators that parents can make note of for future discussions with doctors, special educators and specialists, if necessary. These are by no means tell-tale signs that your child has a learning disability; however, they could be reason enough to seek an evaluation by a professional.

 

Pre-K

Before kindergarten, many children are just beginning to explore language in all forms. With that exploration comes inevitable blundersyoung learners will mispronounce and misspell words quite frequentlybut this is no cause for concern. Instead, early signs of dyslexia in toddlers and preschoolers are often of the auditory form, meaning that parents will hear these subtle issues before they’ll see it. Listen for the following:

  • Children may tell a story out of order or even retell a story or scenario that does not fit a chronological sequence.
  • They may also lack transition words or phrases, such as first, then, after, later, last, etc.,  when telling a story.
  • Children with early signs of dyslexia may begin speaking noticeably later than their peers. They may speak only in certain situations when prompted and/or only when they feel comfortable.
  • They may forget common words for everyday items or concepts.
  • They may be unable to grasp simple rhyming concepts, even with single syllables, such as dime, time, lime, crime, etc.
  • They may orally mix up syllables for common or everyday words. For instance, they may say “listpick” instead of “lipstick” or “caxi tab” instead of “taxi cab.”
  • They may add unnecessary or nonexistent vowels to consonant blends when pronouncing certain words. Here is what that might sound like:
    • “Fullufy” for fluffy
    • “Beraid” for braid
    • “Gulasses” for glasses
    • “Falower” for flower
    • “Sinack” for snack
    • “Sakunk” for skunk
    • “Teruck” for truck
  • Conversely, early learners may also have difficulty separating sounds, as well as blending them. If a child struggles to distinguish the two sounds in the word “no,” nnnnn—oooo, then there could be a potential problem.

 

Elementary Age

Since children are under somewhat of a language microscope in their early elementary years, dyslexia is more often diagnosed during this time. These are the formative years in terms of reading and writing, which is why it is that much more obvious when a child is struggling with a language disability. Signs include:

  • Difficulties pertaining to phonics, meaning the relationship between letters and sounds; they may pronounce p as b or d.
  • Elementary-aged children may struggle to read sight words, which are high-frequency words that appear in everyday reading and writing. These words are typically abstract and essentially have to be memorized, meaning that they do not have physical images to accompany them or their spelling. The expectation is that students will memorize and recognize these words automatically as they learn to read and write. Examples of some sight words include and, or, the, of, is, with, but, that, by, if, can, were, them, was, has, so, etc.
  • While reading, students may substitute certain words while reading or spelling. These are often synonymous terms or words that are in the wheelhouse of the intended term, such as “mom” instead of mother, or “home” as opposed to house, “kid” instead of child, etc.
  • Some learners may invert numbers or confuse mathematical signs; they may confuse a multiplication sign for an addition sign or a subtraction sign for a division sign, etc. 
  • They may invert letters when writing or reading. This often occurs with letters such as m and w, n and u, p and d, q and b, and s and z.

Self-care for Children

There has been a great deal of talk about the importance of self-care. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a great deal of stress, worry, and unease for all of us. What we don’t hear enough about, however, is how crucial self-care can be for children’s well-being. During this time that adults need to preserve their own mental health and well-being, they must also tend to their children who require the same, if not more, self-care. Like general hygiene routines, children must be instructed on how to take care of themselves—this includes emotional care, too!

 

Youngsters may initially find it difficult to actually place their feelings into a category. This is especially true in the heat of the moment. Instead of clearly articulating their feelings, kids may just lash out, cry, or shut down. When this happens, parents typically scurry to diffuse the situation quickly—rightfully so—rather than attempting an in-depth conversation about recognizing feelings before they erupt. Yet there are proactive measures that can be taken. To ease future emotional moments, try the following:

 

  • Parents can help little ones recognize and verbalize their feelings by explaining the difference between a situation that might make one angry versus scared or upset.
  • Use scenarios that relate to your child’s age and interests and speak about these experiences hypothetically. Use the word “pretend” as your term to signify each scenario as strictly practice for identifying future feelings/emotions.
  • For children that have specific social needs, visuals are helpful when teaching and discussing abstract concepts such as frustration, loneliness, etc. Consider using cartoons or emojis to help children visualize and conceptualize scenarios with particular emotions and facial expressions.
  • Parents can also encourage kids to clarify the level of emotion that they are experiencing with a rating scale of some sort. For instance, a “1” would indicate a mild level of joy, anger, sorrow, etc., while a “5” would signify an extreme level of feelings.
  • As kids get older, parents can encourage more advanced forms of expression, such as journaling, drawing, painting, photography, meditating, etc.
  • For many kids, expressing and expelling pent up emotions comes with physical activities. When children are struggling with stress, frustration, anger, etc., parents can prompt activities such as jogging, roller blading, juggling a soccer ball, kickboxing, dancing, golf, and any other sport or physical activity to release energy, center one’s focus, and mediate aggression.

 

In addition to recognizing emotional triggers, part of self-care involves removal from situations that could be emotionally toxic. Like all social-emotional skills, this comes with practice. For children, it can be especially difficult to speak up and advocate for themselves when they need a break or a breather, but this can be greatly beneficial for mental health and well-being.

 

Therefore, in addition to recognizing one’s feelings, parents will want to encourage children to speak up when they are reaching the emotional threshold. Strategies could include:

 

  • Asking teachers or other adults for a “brain break” when frustration hits. This could be as simple as taking a short walk in the hallway or getting a sip of water to cool down.
  • Creating a hand signal or code word for children who are hesitant to voice their feelings. When kids say this word or give the specific signal, parents know then that he/she needs a moment to himself.
  • Explaining to children that everyone, no matter how social or friendly they are, needs a break from the crowd sometimes. Make them feel comfortable taking that time for themselves to calm down, collect their thoughts, or just be alone for a moment.
  • Similarly, in times of stress, children can find comfort in positive self-talk. But again, this is a learned practice—parents will want to model positive self-talk to demonstrate how it works. If a child is feeling anxious about a competition or test, practice soothing self-talk strategies to boost confidence and lower anxiety. Silent mantras such as, “You will do your best!” “You worked really hard for this!” “Everyone is already proud of your accomplishments!” go a long way when pepping children up.

Visualization for Comprehension

Visual learners will certainly understand thisbut truthfully, anyone, regardless of learning styles, can benefit from utilizing visualization strategies for learning and comprehending. Whether working with young readers or helping to break down and make sense of math problems, conjuring up and discussing the images that correspond to certain topics or concepts can help learners conceptualize what would otherwise be too abstract to comprehend. Below are various strategies that parents and educators can use to help students cash in on their mind’s eye for learning.

  • While reading aloud, ask children to pause at the end of a paragraph, page, or section to participate in an oral recollection of what they have just read. Ask prompting questions, such as:
    • After reading about these characters, how are you picturing them in your head?
    • What do they look like? Sound like? How are you visualizing their actions?
    • Where are they? What does the setting or their surroundings look like? Have you been to a place like that? 
    • Based on what they are doing, what do you think the weather might be like? Can you tell what time of year this is taking place?
    • What descriptive words help you to specifically visualize the story’s plot?   
  • To motivate collaborative discussions and increase perspective-taking, perform the visualization in small groups. Then ask students how the images in their heads might be similar or different from their peers’ images. 
  • Ask students to sketch, draw, or paint a scene from the book/text that they are reading. Stress the fact that this practice is not about artistic skill; it is more about conveying an understanding of the text through images or pictures. For students who are reluctant to draw, ask them to create a diagram using simple symbols or stick figures to represent the actions that they visualized. 
  • Have students swap drawings and discuss the different scenes with questions like:
    • What part of the text do you think your partner drew?
    • Which characters are present? Where are they in the image?
    • Did anyone seem to draw the same scene or section?
    • How are these two scenes depicted similarly or differently?
  • Similarly, ask students to draw or sketch predictions for what they think will happen next in the story. This makes for rich collaborative discussions, and it also provides parents and teachers with an opportunity to check in on comprehension. If a student’s prediction is off the walls, then it’s probably time to reread.
  • When reading math word problems, ask students to pause for a second before beginning their calculations. Prompt them to simply sketch the terms of the word problem using hash marks, symbols, or icons to represent the numbers they will be working with. Encourage students to talk through the problem while sketching; this way teachers can catch and clarify any missteps before students begin the actual math calculations. Visually speaking, a quick sketch helps students to conceptualize the otherwise abstract calculations and helps them to comprehend how the numbers and functions are represented.
  • Parents and teachers can also use manipulatives or tokens to represent math problems. Just like a sketch or drawing, the physical manipulatives help students see the variables while they are physically calculating terms.

Remedies for Reluctant Readers, Part II

When reading for pleasure is not an instinct, it can begin to feel like punishment for kids. This is not where we want to end up. It may not be possible to turn every anti-reader into a little bookworm, but there are plenty of strategies that parents and educators can use to help make the process less cringe-worthy. Additionally, some strategies, when put to regular use, can help students become stronger, more critical readers.

 

Movement breaks

Reading can seem like a rather dull activity, especially for little ones. This is understandable—as reading is a quiet, still, and often solitary task. But it doesn’t have to be. One regular strategy that elementary teachers utilize as a best practice is to incorporate movement breaks when students are expected to read for a length of time. Depending on the reader, a movement break might involve a trip to the water fountain or kitchen to get a drink of water after reading a chapter or section. For others it may involve jumping jacks, a quick dancing brain break, or squeezing a stress ball while reading. Some students also find it helpful to read at a standing desk, on a yoga or balance ball, or on a wobble stool to help engage the body and allow for some rhythmic movement while reading. The key is to allow and encourage reluctant readers to expel energy to keep their minds engaged and focused.

 

Preview for background info

For many students, the dislike of reading comes from the fact that it can be tedious and strenuous, especially for struggling readers. Therefore, offering various reading strategies to students can help ease the difficulty and, in effect, increase engagement. One of these strategies, especially for nonfiction or textbook reading assignments, is to preview the reading and search for background on the topic. 

 

Depending on the reading and the student, this practice will look different each time, but here are the basics:

  • Pay attention to the titles, subtitles, headings, captions, photos, bolded vocabulary terms, etc. Students can garner a great deal of what the text will involve by looking at the text features beforehand.
  • Skim sections of the text to ground their reading; this will help orient readers and allow them to plan ahead in terms of seeing how long the reading will be.
  • For terms or concepts that are totally unfamiliar, students should be encouraged to do a quick Google search to help ground their understanding of the term, concept, or event.
  • Jot down questions while previewing; this helps students begin to engage with the text and practice close reading and critical thinking. The goal is to then revisit and answer or follow up on those questions after reading. 

 

Highlight as you go

Along with previewing as a reading practice to boost engagement and comprehension, highlighting is a common tool for successful readers as well. This practice builds strong, active reading skills and helps visual learners at the same time. Students should be encouraged to mark areas of the text for any of the following purposes:

  • Highlight words or phrases that connect to vocabulary terms or important concepts from class; this visual helps to engrain definitions and understanding into working memory.
  • Highlight main points of a section, chapter, or column of text. This way, when students revisit the text, they are able to identify the key points immediately. 
  • Highlight areas of the text that they find confusing or have questions about. This will act as a visual cue to remind students to follow up with the teacher, do a little more research about the specific topic, ask follow-up questions, etc. 

Highlight answers to any of the questions that they asked themselves at the start of the reading; again, this is essentially the foundational skill for active, engaged reading.

Managing Impulsivity

Children are naturally impulsive to some degree—this is due to the fact that the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is not yet fully developed. In fact, it is not until one’s mid-twenties that the prefrontal cortex reaches full development and maturation. While we educators see varying degrees of impulsivity regularly in the classroom, one main calling card of students with ADHD is a tendency to be impulsive to a larger degree and/or more frequently. As we slowly transition back into classrooms for in-person instruction, children will undoubtedly and understandably be excited and eager to interact. However, it will be just as important as ever to set expectations and utilize strategies that help students monitor and manage their impulsivity.

 

Important things to consider

When it comes to ADHD, it is extremely important to remember that this disorder impacts the way the brain works. This means that hasty or involuntary levels of response are not solely a behavioral deficit; students’ brains are actually hard-wired to react immediately. More importantly, no level of scolding or punishment will help to curb these impulses to act out or speak out. Reprimanding a student with ADHD for a behavior that he or she cannot fully control is not only wrong, but damaging. Therefore, teachers, as much as possible, should control their own impulses when reacting to students who yell out or behave rashly.

 

Another important consideration is the fact that students who are impulsive do not always register or recognize that they are being impulsive. They are often unaware of the disturbance or disrespect that their inadvertent outbursts demonstrate to others. Due to this unawareness, it may be helpful to try a tally chart for one day as a way to show your student the frequency of his/her disruptions. Pose this practice gently—the tally practice should not feel like as though you are trying to show them how “bad” they are. Reassure your student that this is a way to recognize our impulsivity and work to curb it with time and patience. Here’s how it should work: ask your student to estimate how many times he/she calls out during the course of a school day. Then ask him to mark a tally each time he notices that he has spoken out of turn or yelled out; you will keep your own tally as well. At the end of the day, return to the original estimate and ask whether the student still agrees with that original estimation. Then compare tally marks and discuss how or why you two may have come up with a different number of tallies. Is it because you both have differing interpretations of what is classified as “calling out?” Or does your student not always recognize when he is calling out? Again, this is meant to be an open discussion about how we can improve—not a scolding session. 

 

It is important again to lead with understanding and compassion. This is not a conversation to place blame or highlight the student’s struggles. Instead, this is meant to open up a dialogue between teacher and student about how both parties can implement strategies for a more positive classroom environment. Consider also asking the student the following questions:

  • Where in the classroom do you believe you would be most successful and focused?
  • Is there a subtle hand signal or gesture that we could use as a reminder to raise your hand before shouting out?
  • Would a small/discrete sticky note on your desk with participation protocol be a helpful reminder?
  • How many times today do you think you participated using the appropriate protocol vs. calling out?
  • Do you appreciate positive praise in front of others or do you prefer positive feedback privately?

Social Emotional Learning Skills by Grade Level, Part II

As discussed in part one, social emotional learning (SEL) skills have become an even greater focus now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person at school. We all know that academics are just one facet of education; the SEL skills that students learn and develop when in school are just as critical. Some might even argue that these “street smarts” are more important or beneficial than the “book smarts” we acquire in school. That said, distance learning and virtual schooling have certainly created various obstacles for students when it comes to developing and growing their SEL skills. Below is our continued list of specific grade-level SEL standards.

 

Later Elementary Grades (4-5)

  • Students in 4th and 5th grade should be able to assess a range of feelings and emotions connected to specific scenarios, circumstances, and situations. In other words, they should be able to thoroughly describe how they feel and precisely what made them feel this way.
  • Students should be able to maintain control of certain behaviors and/or emotions that might interfere with their focus. For example, if they are feeling stressed about their homework, they should choose to turn off the television and put the phone away until they finish their assignments.
  • Students should be able to articulate interests, goals, and the ways in which to develop the necessary skills to achieve those goals.
  • Students in the later elementary grades should be able to list the necessary steps for goal setting and future achievement while monitoring personal progress throughout the process. In other words, they should be able to take an active role by tracking growth and taking steps to improve along the way. 
  • Students should begin to understand social cues that demonstrate how others are feeling during certain situations.
  • Students should be able to not only recognize others’ perspectives, but specifically describe another’s perspective or stance as well. They should be using phrases like, I understand what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. I might disagree with you, but I appreciate your point of view. That’s not how I interpreted it, but I can see how you may have experienced it differently.
  • Students should be able to engage in positive interactions with people from different backgrounds and those with different opinions and beliefs.
  • In the late elementary grades, students should begin to understand various cultural differences between groups, i.e., they should acknowledge that not everyone celebrates Christmas.
  • 4th and 5th graders should be able to describe various approaches to meeting new people and maintaining friendships while forging new friendships with peers in different social circles.
  • Students should begin to demonstrate self-respect and how to show respect to others, even during conflicts or disagreements; they choose their words wisely as to not offend others in the heat of the moment.
  • Elementary schoolers should begin to understand different social cues and behaviors of others and how they might impact one’s decision making.
  • Once reaching the late elementary grades, children should be able to brainstorm various options for solving a problem and anticipating the different outcomes depending on the situation.
  • Finally, 4th and 5th grade students should be able to identify needs in their school/local environment and perform duties to contribute to these communities. For example, if the cafeteria floor is covered in trash, they will take it upon themselves to help clean up after others.

Social Emotional Learning Skills by Grade Level, Part I

Social and emotional (SEL) skills involve more than just the concepts surrounding educational buzzwords like growth mindset, grit, and self-advocacy. SEL skills are being emphasized at an even greater extent now that students are limited in their opportunities to socialize, collaborate, and communicate with peers in person. Distance learning and virtual schooling have certainly created various obstacles for students when it comes to developing and growing their SEL skills. For this reason, SEL has become an even greater focus right now for school districts, parents, and educators. Besides providing resources for building SEL skills at home, it is equally important for families to be able to determine if children are reaching specific grade-level SEL standards.

 

Early Elementary Grades (K-3)

As expected, the SEL skills required for student success change or evolve as students progress through the grade levels. In elementary school, much of the SEL emphasis is on positive interactions with the world. Children are obviously highly dependent on adults during these years, yet they are beginning to enter their own social spheres with their peers as well.

  • Students should be able to recognize and articulate their feelings/emotions; they should be beginning to understand how feelings and reactions are connected to behaviors.
  • Students should be beginning to exhibit impulse control and regulating their emotions.
  • Early learners should be able to describe their preferences: What do they like/dislike? What are their strengths/weaknesses? 
  • They will begin to articulate personal opinions and needs.
  • Elementary schoolers should be able to identify when they need help and who is in a position to help them in certain situations, i.e., peers, family members, educators, etc.
  • Children should be able to roughly explain how learning is connected to personal growth and success.
  • Elementaryaged students should also be able to set personal goals regarding behavior and academics.
  • Students will be beginning to understand that other people have different perspectives or ways of looking at a situation; they’ll recognize that others may share the same experience, but have varying opinions and viewpoints at the same time.
  • Students will also be able to describe peoples’ similarities and differences.
  • Early learners should be able to actively listen to others’ viewpoints and recognize their feelings while listening.
  • Elementaryaged students should be able to recognize and describe positive traits in others; they’ll be able to give genuine compliments.
  • Students will begin to develop collaborative skills such as how to work/play with peers in constructive ways, how to solve and resolve problems and/or conflicts, and how to receive constructive criticism from others.
  • Young children should be able exhibit the ability to adapt to new or changing situations or environments. 
  • By the time children reach elementary school, they should be able to understand why hurting others is wrong, whether that be physical or emotional hurt.
  • Students should be starting to read social cues and adjust behavior accordingly.
  • Students should be exhibiting sound decision making and weighing right vs. wrong.
  • Elementary schoolers should be able to positively contribute to their classroom environment, including cleaning up after themselves and others, sharing, demonstrating kindness/understanding, and taking responsibility for themselves.

Signs of Dyslexia by Grade Level

According to the International Dyslexia Association, anywhere from 15-20% of the world’s population has a reading disability marked by symptoms of or relating to dyslexia. Since it is a language-based learning disability, dyslexia can impact a child’s reading, writing, and speech in various ways. While the symptoms and signs are vastly different from one learner to another, there are age or grade-specific indicators that parents can make note of for future discussions with doctors, special educators and specialists, if necessary. These are by no means tell-tale signs that your child has a learning disability; however, they could be reason enough to seek an evaluation by a professional.

 

Pre-K

Before kindergarten, many children are just beginning to explore language in all forms. With that exploration comes inevitable blundersyoung learners will mispronounce and misspell words quite frequentlybut this is no cause for concern. Instead, early signs of dyslexia in toddlers and preschoolers are often of the auditory form, meaning that parents will hear these subtle issues before they’ll see it. Listen for the following:

  • Children may tell a story out of order or even retell a story or scenario that does not fit a chronological sequence.
  • They may also lack transition words or phrases, such as first, then, after, later, last, etc.,  when telling a story.
  • Children with early signs of dyslexia may begin speaking noticeably later than their peers. They may speak only in certain situations when prompted and/or only when they feel comfortable.
  • They may forget common words for everyday items or concepts.
  • They may be unable to grasp simple rhyming concepts, even with single syllables, such as dime, time, lime, crime, etc.
  • They may orally mix up syllables for common or everyday words. For instance, they may say “listpick” instead of “lipstick” or “caxi tab” instead of “taxi cab.”
  • They may add unnecessary or nonexistent vowels to consonant blends when pronouncing certain words. Here is what that might sound like:
    • “Fullufy” for fluffy
    • “Beraid” for braid
    • “Gulasses” for glasses
    • “Falower” for flower
    • “Sinack” for snack
    • “Sakunk” for skunk
    • “Teruck” for truck
  • Conversely, early learners may also have difficulty separating sounds, as well as blending them. If a child struggles to distinguish the two sounds in the word “no,” nnnnn—oooo, then there could be a potential problem.

 

Elementary Age

Since children are under somewhat of a language microscope in their early elementary years, dyslexia is more often diagnosed during this time. These are the formative years in terms of reading and writing, which is why it is that much more obvious when a child is struggling with a language disability. Signs include:

  • Difficulties pertaining to phonics, meaning the relationship between letters and sounds; they may pronounce p as b or d.
  • Elementary-aged children may struggle to read sight words, which are high-frequency words that appear in everyday reading and writing. These words are typically abstract and essentially have to be memorized, meaning that they do not have physical images to accompany them or their spelling. The expectation is that students will memorize and recognize these words automatically as they learn to read and write. Examples of some sight words include and, or, the, of, is, with, but, that, by, if, can, were, them, was, has, so, etc.
  • While reading, students may substitute certain words while reading or spelling. These are often synonymous terms or words that are in the wheelhouse of the intended term, such as “mom” instead of mother, or “home” as opposed to house, “kid” instead of child, etc.
  • Some learners may invert numbers or confuse mathematical signs; they may confuse a multiplication sign for an addition sign or a subtraction sign for a division sign, etc. 
  • They may invert letters when writing or reading. This often occurs with letters such as m and w, n and u, p and d, q and b, and s and z.

Parents as Advocates: Tackling Dyslexia

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month—31 days dedicated to building community awareness about learning disabilities in an effort to provide supports for all children. As important as awareness is, however, parents whose children suffer from dyslexia are plenty aware of the struggles their children face on a day-to-day basis. That is why another “A” word can be even more powerful for families—advocacy.

 

No one knows your child better than you do. Keep this in mind when advocating for your child’s needs. In parents’ efforts not to come across as a “helicopter parent,” they sometimes assume it is in their child’s best interest to follow the expert’s lead, avoid making waves, and be passively agreeable. They do not want to be the bulldog. These fears are common, but that doesn’t make them true.

 

You are your child’s greatest advocate, and here’s how to accomplish that:

 

  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, our nation’s special education law, children and their parents or guardians are guaranteed certain protections and rights. Once identified as having a qualifying disability, schools are legally required to provide special education services to your child. Also under IDEA, the law provides parents with something called procedural safeguards, which are put in place so that parents are aware of and have a voice in every aspect of their child’s special education evaluation and IEP process. As part of the process, the school must provide you with documentation and explanation of your rights—STUDY UP ON THESE DOCUMENTS. It is commonplace for IEP meetings to move quickly, with a “sign here if you don’t have any questions” style of rapid wrap-up. It is your job to closely review these documents and to seek clarification before signing anything.
  • Another best practice for advocacy that goes hand in hand with knowing your child’s legal rights is to stay organized. Keep a binder of all necessary documentation regarding your child’s diagnosis and any other evaluative documents that you accumulate as you work through the process. Items such as test results, doctor’s notes and recommendations, educator’s observations, report cards, writing samples, and any data concerning your child’s academic skills should be kept for future reference. The binder keeps essential documents organized and acts as a paper trail of progress and correspondence among your child’s team.
  • It is also essential for parents to be fully prepared for special education meetings. Because of this, the binder’s benefits are two-fold: paper trail and parent playbook [or however you want to define the two benefits]. Of all members of your child’s academic team, you are the person that knows him best, so your seat at the table matters most. Advocating for your child means preparing questions ahead of time and speaking up if they aren’t answered clearly. Meetings tend to move quickly, so request an additional meeting if you haven’t gotten clear answers. Do not assume that the team will automatically clarify for you, so be prepared to ask follow-up questions if needed.
  • The binder is also a great resource for you to use for note taking during IEP or 504 meetings. Not only will you have your own notes to refer back to after the meeting, but the process of taking notes shows that you are actively listening and invested in your child’s special education services. When parents demonstrate this level of involvement and support, it’s the child who benefits.
  • Another helpful advocacy move is to email a summary of the main discussion points that you took away from the meeting afterwards. This keeps everyone on the same page regarding the decisions that were discussed and allows you to share your own perception of how the meeting went. If anything is unclear, your email will start that conversation and provide clarification. In that email, ask about a follow-up meeting so that dates can be arranged and any other necessary steps can be taken.
  • Speak to teachers about your expectations, your child’s expectations, and the school’s expectations. This will prevent any miscommunication and unfortunate surprises. When setting expectations for your child’s success, it is important to be honest, positive, and realistic about the growth that you’d like to see. It will be difficult, but as much as possible, remain unemotional and unbiased about the feedback that you get from your child’s teachers and other professionals—cool heads prevail.