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Back-to-School: Four Sticky Situations…and How to Handle Them

teaching-dyslexia-boy-stands-at-chalkboardYou and your child are gearing up for (or have just started) the new school year, and it’s probably an exciting but somewhat anxiety-ridden time for both of you. Rest assured that this is true for most families dealing with the challenges of LD. Certain scenarios can create unusually sticky situations, but you can navigate them if you’re armed with knowledge, a proactive spirit and a can-do attitude. Here are some examples of sticky situations as well as steps you can take to create a better outcome for your child.

Concern: Your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) but is in a new school (or simply a new grade level) this year. You’re worried about how well the IEP will make the transition along with your child. Will the new school and/or new teacher honor it?

Take action: If your child is moving to a new school but you didn’t have a “transition meeting” with your child’s IEP team at the previous school, request a meeting to take place before the start of the school year and no later than the end of the first week of school. If you’ve moved to a new state, your child’s new school district must provide an education comparable to that of the previous district until a decision is made to adopt your child’s IEP from the previous school district, or to develop and implement a new IEP that meets the applicable requirements pursuant to IDEA and your state’s special education rules. Learn more about your child’s rights if you move to a new school in the same state or to a different state.

Even if your child is moving to the next grade level at the same school—and will have a different teacher—you may be concerned. Academic pressures increase from one grade level to the next, and teachers have different attitudes and approaches to teaching. In this case, be proactive and set up a meeting with the new teacher(s) early in the school year. Together you can review your child’s IEP, you can explain what helps your child learn best, and answer any questions the teacher has. Depending on your child’s age, you might include him or her in the meeting. After all, the new teacher will now become a member of your child’s IEP team too!

Concern: Your teenager insists on handling his own IEP meetings and decisions.

Take Action: Your teen’s independent spirit is a good thing since a teen with an IEP should be advocating for his own needs and leaning less on his parents. That said, few teens (with or without disabilities) have enough knowledge and maturity to handle important decisions independent from adult input—particularly from their parents. Try to gain your teen’s trust and convince him that you can help guide him in managing his IEP.

Back-to-School Tips From a Teen With LDA Florida teen with dyslexia says it pays to be proactive with her teachers from the very beginning of each new school year…because it can help prevent some sticky situations. Here’s how she starts the school year:

  • I write a brief email to all of my teachers the first week of school, explaining that I have dyslexia, what it is, and strategies that will help me succeed in their classes.
  • I arrange to meet with all of my teachers to discuss what I could improve on and what they can do to help me succeed in their classes.
  • I talk to my teachers one-on-one after class about difficulties I’m having understanding the curriculum and asking them to explain things that I don’t understand in class.

As a result, she says, “My teachers have told me that doing these things has helped them better understand me, my dyslexia, and how we can work together.”

Concern: Your child is worried about being teased, rejected, and bullied by the kids at school. She wants to make friends and stay safe from bullies but lacks the confidence and social skills to do so.

Take action: Take your child’s concerns seriously. Children with LD often need extra help learning social skills, just as they need special help with academics. Not only do they miss or misread social cues, they can be easy prey for bullies. If your child expresses social anxiety, learn how to help her develop social skills and be well-informed and proactive in working with your child and her school to prevent bullying.

Concern: Your child attends a private school and has a new teacher who refuses to learn about your child’s LD and how to address it.

Take Action: If you haven’t already done so, put together a packet of information to share with the teacher, including articles like, What are Learning Disabilities?, Learning Disabilities: What They Are, and What They Are Not, and Learning Disabilities: Sorting Fact from Fiction. You might also go to your state’s department of education website and look into the teacher’s certification/endorsements. If you can’t find a teacher’s profile, call the department of education directly and ask to speak to an employee in the Office of Professional Development/Teacher Verification. (Use our Resource Locator to find the contact information for your state department of education.) Understanding the teacher's training can help you understand where he’s coming from, what you may want to educate him on regarding your child’s needs and how they are best addressed. Before you approach the teacher and school administrators to advocate for your child, make sure you know about special education options for students in private schools.

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