I’m really overwhelmed now! Where do I start?
Do you think your child has dyslexia? We’re here to help. We recommend the following:
Determine if your child has the Strengths and Weaknesses commonly associated with Dyslexia.
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has an excellent list by age group: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/EDU_signs.html
Learning Ally also has a good list: https://go.learningally.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/LA_PotentialIndicators.pdf
Exercise has a free online test you can take. https://www.lexercise.com/tests/dyslexia-test
Get Support. Once you determine that you think your child might have dyslexia, you are going to need support from other parents who have been in your shoes. Visit our Chat Group: Decoding Dyslexia-TN facebook group. This will give you a place of support to ask questions and get answers immediately. We’re here for you!
Start the Process to get your Child Evaluated by School.
If you feel like your child is showing signs of dyslexia, get him or her evaluated! This can be done after age 6. Schools in Tennessee must screen for Dyslexia, but since our screener law is new, it is critical to be proactive. Here are some steps to take:
Step 1:Talk with your child’s teacher. Whether you are in public school or private school, set up a meeting with your child’s teacher to discuss your concerns.Your child’s teacher’s support will mean a lot as you move through this journey. If you are in public school, let your child’s teacher know that you plan to put in a request with the school for an evaluation for services because you are concerned your child may have dyslexia/a learning disability. If your child is in public school, ask the teacher what RTI2 Tier your child is in, request (in writing) your child’s RTI2 screener report plus any progress monitoring data (you have a right to this data). If you are in private school, ask what they do to help students who have learning disabilities, like dyslexia. It is important to note that Private schools are NOT bound under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and are not required to provide services to your child.
Step 2: Ask your teacher for an S-Team meeting. As a part of the S-Team request, specifically ask, in writing, for your child to have a Dyslexia Screener. An S Team is a “Support Team” meeting where you will talk about your concerns for your child. It is like a pre-IEP team meeting. Usually parents, teachers, administrators, school psychologists and maybe a special education teacher will attend. Once at the S-Team meeting, the team (of which you are an important part) may decide to request an Evaluation for a Specific Learning Disability. Your child does NOT need to be in RTI2 Tier 2 or 3 for you to request an S Team, Dyslexia Screener or an evaluation. You have the right under the law. See our page RTI2 and Dyslexia Screening in Tennessee for all the details. It is important to note that the process from requesting an S-Team meeting to getting an evaluation back can take several months. This is a very long process, so be patient!
Step 3: Build Your IEP Binder. Visit our page Building your IEP Binder and begin to gather all the information you will need for your S-Team meeting and the long evaluation process. Collect report cards, tests and class-work examples of your child’s reading, writing, spelling and math. Even video your child reading or writing. This will help you have evidence of your child’s struggles.
Step 4: Learn your legal rights under federal and state special education law.
- Read our pages RTI2 and Dyslexia Screening in Tennessee.
- Print a copy of the Tennessee Dyslexia Guide, Guidance on Public Chapter 1058 from 2016 by the Tennessee Department of Education 2017.
- Visit TNStep.org, wrightslaw.com & understood.org to learn more.
- Print and review two letters from the Federal Office of Special Education Programs and the United States Department of Education: 1) States can and should use the term “dyslexia.” Dear Colleague Letter dated 10-23-2015 and 2) States CANNOT use RTII to delay or deny an evaluation for eligibility under IDEA. Dear Colleague Letter 11-07 dated 1-21-2011.
Step 5: Educate yourself on how to advocate for your child and what you ask for.
- Also see our page 12 Tips to Remember During an IEP Meeting.
- Educate yourself on typical accommodations.
- Consider taking an advocacy class via TN STEP or contacting TN Voices for Children (or another advocacy agency).
- Learn the difference in school pull-out services, accommodations and modifications. These are some words that you will become very familiar with if your child does, in fact, have a learning differences.
- Pull out services usually consists of reading/writing help via a small group and/or one-on-one setting.
- Accommodations are a ramp for learning, such as audiobooks or extra time. These allow your child to do the same work as others, but with a ramp. Think of accommodations as a ramp for a person in a wheelchair. Your child will get to the same place as others, but via a slightly different path.
- Modifications are something to be very leery about agreeing to do. Modifications actually modify the curriculum, such as giving the child easier reading curriculum. This could potentiality lead down a path to not getting a general education diploma in high school, so be very cautious of modifications.
- Ask your school what reading programs they use in special education for students with dyslexia. See our Programs that Work page. Public Schools are required to provide dyslexia-specific interventions for students with characteristics of dyslexia (see the Tennessee Dyslexia Guide above.)
- Connect with DD-TN! We’re here to help! We’ve all been there!
Step 5: Get results back from your child’s screener or evaluation. Depending on what the S-Team decides, you will get results back on your child’s Dyslexia Screener and/or maybe her evaluation if the team deemed it appropriate. There can be a lot of information to digest. Look over it carefully. Remember that public schools do not diagnose dyslexia, but rather “identify” it. Understood.org has a great explanation of Diagnosis vs. Identification. It is worth reading.
Step 6: Work with the school to see what your child needs. If your child is identified as having “Characteristics of Dyslexia” then he has the right under Tennessee Law to have access to a Dyslexia Specific intervention within RTI2. Please see RTI2 and Dyslexia Screening in Tennessee. If your child has a full evaluation and is identified as having a “Specific Learning Disability” (the disability category wherein dyslexia falls), and it “adversely impacts” your student’s ability to access the curriculum, he or she MAY be eligible for Special Education Services. See our Beyond RTI- 504 and IEP page.
Step 7: Consider an Outside Evaluation. Please note private evaluations can be very expensive with some ranging over $1500. Please also note that private evaluations are NOT binding on a school. They are only required to “consider” the findings under the IDEA. If you are frustrated with your schools evaluation or screener, many consider a private evaluation. Here’s a list of some Tennessee private practitioners who can help. We also recommend MTSU’s Center for Dyslexia. If you seek out a practitioner on your own, make sure to ask, specifically, if he/she diagnoses dyslexia (some do not).
Get Your Child in a Dyslexia Specific Program.
If you child is in Public School and your child has characteristics of dyslexia or diagnosed dyslexia, your child must, under the law, receive dyslexia-specific intervention in school even if no IEP or 504 plan is in place. If you are in private school or you are in public school and want to do more, you may also want to consider finding a dyslexia tutor for your child. Specifically ask if your tutor is trained in an Orton-Gillingham or similar methodology. Check out our programs that work page. Remember, there may be good programs that aren’t listed because new OG based programs are developed all of the time. If you have questions about a program, ask on our parent chat and we will assist you.