Dear Ms Smith,
First, I want to say how much I admire you. You see, I am the daughter of a public school teacher, so I grew up
watching her prepare her room, buy supplies out of her own money, and get excited about the students she called "her kids." I know how hard you work, and that you put in many hours after the school bell rings. For that, I thank you beyond measure.
Even so, every year about this time, I begin to feel a tremendous amount of anxiety. You see, I am the parent of a child who has severe dyslexia. And I know that school, sometimes, can be rough for him. Kids who have dyslexia are fish out of water in a written world.
When my son, my oldest child, started pre-school, we had high hopes for school being an easy experience. He had a gigantic and crystal clear vocabulary! We didn't yet know he had dyslexia.
I still remember how I felt sitting in my first parent-teacher conference, in the tiny little pre-school chair, as the teacher showed me my son's written work compared to his peers. She didn't mention dyslexia then, though.
She told me that my son would be "given a gift if I would hold him back one year." I didn't want to do that. All I could think is "my son failed pre-k! How can you fail pre-k? What happens if he is held back again? Why is reading not clicking?"
I also didn't hold him back. After talking to teachers at the local public school, I enrolled him upon their recommendation. They started him in reading intervention, and he did okay. Still, he was behind his peers, but he was doing better.
Or so I thought.
I continued to have parent-teacher conferences, notes sent home about how he is "expected to copy words correctly from the board," and told to "read, read, read!" (which we did, did did!)
It wasn't until 2nd grade when, upon the prompting of a friend, I had him tested for learning disabilities. He immediately qualified for an IEP. We found out that, although he has a gifted level IQ, he also has severe dyslexia. What a roller coaster ride this began!
I went into full research mode. I found out he wasn't placed in a reading program meant for dyslexia, so here we
went. Then I found out how assistive technology helps, so we met again. And on and on and on ....
It's like it never stops. That's because it doesn't. We also pay for outside dyslexia tutoring twice per week. That is on top of the normal homework and extracurricular activities. The research never stops, and we will never be "done" until my bright boy is reading on level with his peers. We will keep pushing ahead.
Will you push with us?
That is my question. That is my worry. That is my fear all rolled into one short statement. I haven't met you yet, but I know the statistics
on kids with learning disabilities are stacked high against us all.
Will you push with us?
- Will he be able to demonstrate that he is one of the smartest kids in the class even though written words hold him back?
- Will you help him use his accommodations to push past that challenge?
- Will you protect his self esteem by not requiring him to read aloud in class unless he has practiced the passage first in private?
- Will you know that he is already working twice as hard as other kids, both at school and at home, just to be behind in reading?
Will you understand how he learns?
My heart begins to lift with hope as I think about his 3rd grade teacher who embraced his audiobooks with all of her heart, and encouraged him to work beyond where he thought he could. And his sweet special education reading teacher, who has made our taxpayer dollars stretch as much as possible to use everything in her power to get him reading. And she has; he is reading! Yes, he's still behind his classmates, but he is not illiterate. And we praise that.
Will you praise with us?
I have very high hopes that you will because I know teachers. I know that while
there are some bad apples out there, the large majority of teachers go into this field not for the pay (ha), but because you love children! That is why we stick with the public school that he loves so very much!
Because I have not met you yet, I have that bit of worry that creeps into my heart as my protective instincts kick in beyond my control.
So when I approach you next week with some apprehension in my eye and ask for that first conference, please understand that it's because I know my son has a long road ahead of him. And you are a big step along that journey.
When my son graduates from high school (a feat that studies say is 4X harder for him than his neurotypical peers), know that I want YOU to be standing there beside me as we hug his neck and cheer him on!
I want you to be the difference for him at school, like I am at home. So, please don't be nervous about that crazy mom of the kid with the IEP who wants to meet right away. I have high hopes that this will be a great year!
is a social media community leader at Learning Ally
. After spending 12 years as a broadcast meteorologist, Jules changed career paths to help children like her own - children who have dyslexia. In 2013, she co-founded Decoding Dyslexia-TN. She's also a graduate of Ron Yoshimoto's Orton-Gillingham International program.
is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit that helps students with print disabilities, such as dyslexia or visual
impairment, succeed. Our library of nearly 80,000 human narrated audiobooks
is just one of many services. We also provide free webinars
for parents, teachers, and students, as well as one-on-one parent phone consultations and a student to student mentoring program. Consider joining