Talking to Teachers About Your Child’s Dyslexia [Where to Even Start?!]
Takeaway: Dyslexia is an emotionally issue, but here’s how to discuss it productively with your child’s teacher: (1) Give examples of the support your child might need, (2) Gauge the teacher’s experience with dyslexia, (3) Share what you’ve learned from your dyslexia research, (4) Discuss your child’s strengths and potential, and (5) Ask how you can help.
Dyslexia is such an emotionally issue that it’s hard to talk to teachers about it.
What we most often notice about children with dyslexia is that they have trouble reading. There’s more to it than that, though. Dyslexia is a learning difference that affects how a child interacts with language in general. For example, children with dyslexia usually see reversed versions of letters and numbers, have trouble spelling and sounding out unfamiliar words, struggle to process what they hear, and more. And all of this with average or above-average intelligence. Such an unusual mixture of strengths and weaknesses makes it an emotional issue, which is why parents and teachers find it hard to talk about.
But as hard as it is, you really should discuss your concerns and suggestions.
Dyslexia is a nuanced learning difference because it presents itself differently from child to child. Some children struggle but can keep up with their peers, while others need a lot more help. Either way, dyslexia can affect your child’s progress, confidence, and self-esteem if it goes unnoticed. And this is why it’s worth learning how to talk to teachers about it.
So, what’s the secret to a productive conversation about dyslexia? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Your main goal is to have a ‘learning conversation’ with your child’s teacher. I.e., a conversation where you’re both working together to share information/viewpoints and develop a united plan of action. Here’s how you can do that.
1. Share what you’ve observed about your child’s difficulties, with examples.
The teacher won’t know much about your child’s home life. And so, she’s likely missing a lot of valuable information. Share what you’ve learned so that you’re both on the same page about your child’s needs. Remember to be specific and give as many examples as possible. If your child is young, perhaps you’ve seen her struggling to learn rhymes or tell right from left? If she’s older, perhaps she struggles with multi-step directions, understanding the rules to new games, or telling time? The teacher would have noticed part of the problem (like, maybe your child struggles to copy things down from the board?), but these added insights will help her understand your child better.
2. Try to gauge how much experience the teacher has in dealing with dyslexia.
This conversation is about learning from each other, so you’ll want to understand the teacher’s perspective. For starters, you’ll want to know what she thinks about dyslexia in general. For example, does she have any common misconceptions like thinking your child can ‘overcome’ dyslexia by reading more? Or does she feel your child is just ‘being difficult’? (Try not to get too defensive if she does think these sorts of things. You’re just gathering information at this point.) Next, you could ask her about the learning aids your child can use. Perhaps she knows of new techniques and technology you haven’t heard of? And finally, you can explore with her take on supporting your child emotionally. For example, she could encourage her when she’s down, remind her that she’s not ‘stupid,’ and counter her limiting beliefs about what it means to be ‘intelligent’? But remember, this conversation isn’t about showing up the teacher. Rather, it’s your way of gently probing to see if you’re both on the same page.
3. Share what you’ve learned about dyslexia and the accommodations that might help your child.
Now that you know where the teacher stands, you can fill in the gaps with insights from your dyslexia research. This is also where you can address differences in opinion and the possible causes for those differences. For example, you could share things like what you think (if anything) dyslexia says about your child. Or what your fears and hopes are for her. Or your concerns about how dyslexia is handled in schools. You could also share what you’ve read about ‘accommodations’ for dyslexia. That is, changes in your child’s learning environment that can help support her needs. For example, perhaps the teacher can give your child a lesson outline beforehand and summarise key points at the end of class? Perhaps she can hand out written notes (highlighting key ideas and concepts) instead of asking your child to copy things down from the board? Maybe she could let her use speech-to-text software so she doesn’t have to write as much? Or give her more time than usual for reading and writing?
4. Emphasise your child’s strengths and potential. It’s important to focus on these even as you help support her needs.
It’s easy to obsess about your child’s limitations because they’re the ones holding her back. So, take the time to share what excites you about her potential, too. This will help redirect the teacher’s attention to your child’s strengths. For example, is your child caring and empathetic? Or loyal? Or a hard worker? Does she take pride in being independent but can ask for help when needed? Does she work well in groups, share freely, and know how to compromise? You might be surprised to find she has strengths with her language skills as well. Perhaps she’s a great storyteller or loves inventing jokes? Or maybe she’s skilled at connecting new lessons with experiences she’s had? The more of these tidbits you share, the more ideas your teacher can come up with to help nurture your child.
5. Ask what you can do to support the teacher.
Now that you’ve both had a chance to share information and viewpoints, it’s the perfect time to ask how you can help. Remind the teacher that you’re willing to follow up at home with all the decisions she’s made in class. This step helps you both work better as a team and make the switch from school to home more seamless. And, ideally, you’ll write down ‘next actions’ so you can track them and re-evaluate your approach later on.
The goal here is to address your child’s needs. So, if you and the teacher get stuck at any point, consider consulting a specialist.
Sometimes, parents need a bit more support than a teacher can provide. If that’s the case, consider contacting us for help. The Ed Psych Practice offers face-to-face and online assessments, consultation, advice, and problem-solving strategies for parents, nurseries, schools, and universities in London. We have psychologists, paediatricians, and therapists who can help assess your child and offer guidance and support. To consult with us or set up an appointment:
- Phone: +44 (0) 78 3344 7356 / (0) 79 9053 8654
- E-mail: Office@TheEdPsych.com
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