Explaining Dyslexia to Your Child
Helpful Guides about the IEP Process for Parents
The purpose of this page is to provide resources to help parents and guardians understand the IEP process. Getting the IEP can be a challenge, but it is also important to ensure the student's needs are addressed through the IEP process. It is very common for a child to receive an IEP, but receive ineffective interventions. DDRI is hopeful with the passage of the Right to Read Act, that schools will build more knowledge and awareness about early literacy and dyslexia to empower their teachers to empower all students.
Requesting an IEP Meeting
Preparing for the IEP Process
Preparing for the IEP Process
Step 1: Watch the video above for helpful tips on how to advocate for your child. We highly recommend watching this video before attending an IEP meeting.
Step 2: Review these resources to become familiar with the IEP process:
Dyslexia in Schools Assessment and Identification
RI Personal Literacy Plans Guidance (students performing below grade-level in reading will be assigned a Personal Literacy Plan. Typically parents get a letter stating their child is receiving a Personal Literacy Plan. You should ask for a copy of this plan, what needs have been identified, and what supports are being provided).
Step 3: Family Data
Collect writing samples
Create a specific list that describes the patterns of concern-mixes up the sounds in words, confuses letters and sounds in writing, uses picture cues or sentence cues to identify unknown words (these are the strategies poor readers use when they cannot recognize a word with automaticity), gets stressed going to school, fears reading out loud
Schools will provide their own data. When reviewing an IEP form, this is referred to as their present levels of performance.
Step 4: Assessments/Testing
Schools cannot require RTI be done first to delay an evaluation.
Parent tips-many dyslexic students struggle reading nonsense words, blending (combining the sounds in words), segmenting (breaking the word down into individual sounds), and elision tasks (deleting a sound in the word like remove "r" from cramp you get camp). Spelling errors also are a red flag (always ask for tests that include encoding (spelling). Some dyslexics also may struggle with Rapid Automatic Naming which often impacts fluency and word retrieval.
Questions to ask:
Does the team agree that my child was provided effective classroom instruction?
Does the data show that (child's name) has difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition characterized by poor decoding skills and spelling skills?
Does the data show the (child's name) has characteristics of a specific learning disability in basic reading and/or fluency (dyslexia)?
Make sure to request that these questions and answers get added to the notes of the IEP.
*You should also request Speech Language Assessments. Some students with dyslexia also have Developmental Language Disorder
Resources on Assessments: Learning about assessments is really important to feel prepared at the IEP meeting. Data talk can become very intimidating and overwhelming.
If a school states your child is at F& P or DRA reading level or an IRLA level ask for the diagnostic scores that measure the sub-skills of reading. It is important to see how well your child is performing on each of these sub-skills. If children have weaknesses in the essential components of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, print concepts, background knowledge), it will impact reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is an OUTCOME of the sub-skills in reading. Your questions about dyslexia will not be addressed by F&P BAS or IRLA.
Schools cannot diagnose dyslexia; however, they CAN identify characteristics of dyslexia to qualify the student for an IEP under the section Specific Learning Disability (SLD) in basic reading and/or fluency. Schools can use the term dyslexia. If you use the word diagnose at the meeting, the team may become resistant.
Helpful Guide to Understanding Screening versus Diagnostic Testing
Assessment in Depth (explains different types of reading assessments)
If you do not feel the school's evaluation was comprehensive, you can request an independent educational evaluation at cost to the district. The district may give you names of evaluators, but you do not have to use those listed. As long as the cost of the person you select is comparable, the district should accept. Page 9 of the RI Procedural Safeguards details the process.
How to request an IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation)
Step 5: Writing IEP Goals
For each area of weakness identified in diagnostic testing, there should be a goal. A common mistake is for schools to write a goal based on comprehension, when the real struggle is phonemic awareness and decoding. If this happens at your meeting, direct the team to the following resource on RIDE's website. The appropriate diagnostic data is really important to write goals. The following links help to explain this process. Writing strong goals is important! Remember needs drive goals. The resources below are great guides for parents (and teachers). It is also important for team members to identify your child's strengths!
Questions to Ask:
Do we have goals for all the needs identified in testing, teacher, and parent feedback (review your original concerns)?
Will the interventions include explicit instruction by a highly qualified teacher that is diagnostic, cumulative, and prescriptive? (Make sure any technology programs are only additional practice and not the primary intervention).
How will the team determine appropriate intervention time to match my child's individualized needs? (some schools prescribe a common amount of time for interventions despite the individual needs of students),
If my (child's name) is also getting reading support in RTI or MTSS, how will the case manager and reading specialist coordinate and communicate their efforts to support (child's name) goals? (Note: If you child is gettting help via, RTI, they should still have a reading goal. Without the goal on the IEP, you do not have any legal protections).
Checklist for Foundational Skills
Writing SMART IEP Reading Goals
Step 6: Progress Monitoring and Interventions
Schools are required to progress monitor, as a member of the team you can request bi-weekly data to see if the intervention time, strategy, and intensity is enough.
Ask for baseline data or the placement data if they are going to use a program. For example, if the school is using Wilson ask for the WADE Assessment data.
The success will depend on teacher knowledge, appropriate time, practice and the goal of working toward mastery (not covering a lesson and moving on). It is OK to inquire about the teacher's experience and training regarding the intervention.
If a program is being used, check to see if it is Structured Literacy or OG-based.
Common Challenges: Teachers not provided training in the intervention, the intervention time is created based on school schedule and not the individualized need of the student (it is always helpful to look at the recommended time frame if a program is being used). DO NOT ACCEPT LLI as an intervention, if you go to What Works Clearing House and read the research listed, it shows 0 growth in alphabetics (phonics or foundational skills). Your child should not be using context clues as a strategy for decoding. That is used for trying to decipher vocabulary meaning. Your child needs to be taught the code to mastery.
If your child meets the goal on the IEP, the team should evaluate other needs. If your child achieves mastery in the foundational skills (decoding), they may benefit from additional support to improve their reading. Reading Interventions for Grades 4-9
Federal Definition of Specific Learning Disability
School can say dyslexia. On an IEP, dyslexia is also referred to as Specific Learning Disability in Basic Reading (decoding issues) or Specific Disability in reading fluency (decoding or RAN issues).
Sec. 300.8 (c) (10)
Statute/Regs Main » Regulations » Part B » Subpart A » Section 300.8 » c » 1
(10) Specific learning disability—
(i) General. Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.
(ii) Disorders not included. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
Source: Individuals with Disabilities Act
Writing IEP Goals
For each area of weakness identified in diagnostic testing, there should be a goal. A common mistake is for schools to write a goal based on comprehension, when the real struggle is phonemic awareness and decoding. If this happens at your meeting, direct the team to the following resource on RIDE's website. The appropriate diagnostic data is really important to write goals. The following links helps to explain this process.
Checklist for Foundational Skills
Writing SMART IEP Reading Goals
Dyslexia & The Law
Federal guidance Letter on Dyslexia-Print this copy if your child's school states they do not say the term dyslexia. Note, the special education category SLD Reading refers to Dyslexia.
It's the Law: The Essential Components of Reading
Why Doesn't Every Teacher Know the Research on Reading Instruction?
What to do if your kid's school is not teaching reading right?
How American Schools Fail Kids with Dyslexia
Rethinking How Students with Dyslexia are Taught
This Man is Searching For a Link Between Illiteracy and Racial Bias
(Note: We do not officially endorse programs. We endorse evidence-based practices).
Finding the Right Starting Points
Introduction to Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties
Matrix of Multisensory Structured Language Programs
Dyslexia in the General Education Classroom
Four Things all Educators Should Know About Dyslexia
What you Must Know About Structured Literacy Programs
Dyslexia (Specific Learning Disabillity) By Sally E. Shaywitz and Bennet A. Shaywitz
Popular Programs Do Not Align with Scientifically-Based Reading
Is it a Good Idea To Teach The Three Cueing System?
LLI as a Reading Intervention-"no discernible effects on alphabetics (foundational skills needed for decoding) for beginning readers."
Does your child's school use Lucy Calkin's Reading & Writing Workshop? Read her letter about how this program effects dyslexia (She admits dyslexic children should receive OG/OG-Based interventions
Helpful Websites and Organizations
International Dyslexia Organization
National Center on Improving Literacy
Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan
National Center for Learning Disabilities
Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy
Helpful Education Terms/Glossary
Common Signs of Dyslexia (Can be translated in Spanish)