With appropriate Structured Literacy instruction, students with dyslexia can learn to read, spell and write.
Schools can also implement academic accommodations and modifications to help students with dyslexia succeed. For example, 'accommodations' can allow a student with dyslexia can be given extra time to complete tasks, help with taking notes, and work assignments that are modified appropriately. Teachers can give recorded tests or allow students with dyslexia to use alternative means of assessment. Students can benefit from listening to books on tape and using text reading and word processing computer programs. "Modifications' refers to the modification of curriculum expectations; this is often unnecessary if a student receives appropriate reading instruction/intervention.
Students may also need help with emotional issues that sometimes arise as a consequence of difficulties in school. Mental health specialists can help students cope with their struggles.
When the parent and/or the classroom teacher is concerned about the learning progress of a child:
- Remember that the earlier a learning difficulty is identified, the more likely appropriate intervention strategies are to be successful.
- Always communicate with the classroom teacher regarding your child's progress in school
- Ask to see any reading/spelling/writing assessments that have been done at school.
- Have a clear understanding of your child's strengths and needs.
- Meet regularly to discuss what is being done at school to support your child, progress monitoring and ways in which you can support your child at home.
If a child continues to experience difficulty
- Meet with the classroom teacher, school administrator(s) and special education teacher(s) to identify the issues, further assessment and supports available at the school. Before the meeting, download a copy of the Special Education Advisory Committee Parent's Guide from the school board's website. This document will outline the process for getting further support for your child. This document is unique to each school board and the process involved in getting support varies by school board.
- At the meeting:
- Discuss the child's strengths, needs and how they are being met in the classroom.
- Discuss any reading intervention program offered at the school. Ask for details on how the intervention program is delivered, who delivers it, what is taught and how progress is monitored. The Ministry's Policy/Program Memorandum 8 (2014) specifies that a psycho-educational assessment is not required to access literacy intervention programs. Specifically, it says "The determining factor for the provision of special education programs or services is not any specific diagnosed or undiagnosed medical condition, but rather the needs of individual students based on the individual assessment of strengths and needs (p. 4)".
- Discuss accommodations which may be used in the classroom to assist your child to meet the expectations set out in the Ministry of Education's curriculum. Accommodations could include supports such as special seating in the classroom, extra time for exams, a quiet place to write exams. For older children, accommodations may include the use of assistive technology (computer-assistance) but this should not replace an effective reading intervention program. Teachers may request textbooks in alternative formats (eg. PDF or audiobook) from Alternative Education Resources Ontario (see sidebar).
- "Modifications" could be considered, which are modifications of curriculum expectations. However, this is often not necessary if a child gets appropriate reading instruction and support.
- The school should carry out frequent assessment and re-evaluation of the student's needs and achievements, as shown in Figure 8 of the 'Learning for All K-12' document written by the Ontario Ministry of Education (p. 48).
- An Individual Education Plan (IEP) should be developed for your child, which outlines any interventions, accommodations and modifications. The Ontario government document "Individualized Education Plan" outlines what is in an IEP (p. 6) and the IEP process (Figure 2, p. 10).
- The IEP is a legal document and parents must have input into its development. It must be reviewed on an annual basis.
Alternative Education Resources for Ontario’s (AERO) is a service run by the Ontario Government to provide alternate formats of educational materials from sources like textbooks. The AERO program is available to students who have been diagnosed as perceptually disabled and are enrolled in a publicly funded school or institution. All participants in the AERO program must be registered by an AERO Advisor. If your child is dyslexic and attending a public school in Ontario they qualify for the AERO service. For more information on program qualification, please check with your local school, institution or school board where your child is enrolled, or contact email@example.com.
- A formal Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC) meeting can be called by a principal or by a parent, through written request.
- An IPRC meeting is a formal meeting with the school that is governed by provincial regulation, including appeal procedures. Consult the Parent's Guide or the principal about the process within your school board.
- The purpose of an IPRC meeting is to determine whether or not a child should be identified as 'exceptional', which makes them formally eligible for Special Education resources and/or placement in a Special Education program.
- Educational and/or psychological assessments may be carried out by the school before the IPRC meeting. A parent may also ask to have a psychological assessment done by the school, but some parents choose to expedite the process by having a psychological assessment done through a private psychologist.
- Further information about the IPRC process can be found on the Ministry of Education website.
- A student does not need to be formally identified as 'exceptional' to access special education programs and/or services (as stated in the Policy/Program Memorandum No. 8 2014). Formal identification has legal status under the Education Act (Regulation 181/98), with legally binding procedures, including a formal appeal process.
- Students who are identified as 'exceptional' through the IPRC process must have an IEP.
- Speak to outside agencies and seek support.
- Consider hiring a private reading tutor. Click here for advice on seeking professional help.
- As a parent/guardian, you are your child's best advocate.
- Start and maintain a folder of all letters and materials related to your child’s education.
- Include copies of school files and names and dates of all assessments and results.
- Collect samples of schoolwork that demonstrate your child’s difficulties.
- Collect examples of your child’s unique strengths and natural affinities.
- Keep a contact log of discussions with professionals.
- Keep a log of your own observations.
- Work with your child’s teachers to support your child and develop and monitor the Individual Education Plan.
- Know your legal rights.
- Consider bringing someone (perhaps with knowledge about learning disabilities) with you to meetings at the school. This person can assist with taking notes. Often a lot of information is shared at these meetings and it helps to have someone there as support.
- Write down any questions/concerns ahead of time.
- Be clear and concise about what you want to see happen for your child.
- If you choose to have a psychological-educational assessment done, ensure it is completed by a qualified, licensed psychologist.
- Links to relevant Ontario government documents are available under Resources/Ontario government resources
Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities - If you require exceptional education-related services or equipment, you may be eligible to receive the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities.
Ontario Bursary for Students with Disabilities - You can get funding to help pay for your disability-related educational services and/or equipment needed to participate in postsecondary studies. The costs of a psycho-educational assessment or other disability assessment may also be considered.
IDA's Fact Sheet: Transitioning from High School to College
CLICK HERE for Ontario Government education documents including curriculum, special education, and Ontario Human Rights Commission documents.
This book talks about advocacy within the U.S. school system but there is a lot of helpful content that is not specific to any school system (eg. interpreting assessments, writing meaningful goals in IEPs).