This week on Dear Jonah, we’ll answer a parent question about why a teacher won’t give a dyslexic student more time in class to complete assignments.
Parents often ask me questions about how they can best support their child with what they’re learning. Many feel they aren’t doing enough, or aren’t doing the right thing, to help their child succeed. I see a lot of these questions more than once, so I’ve decided to collect them and post them here for other parents to read, in case that advice is helpful.
All my advice is based on my own experience from almost 10 years of working with students with learning differences, and on my M.Ed. training at Villanova University.
from PH: why won't the teacher give my dyslexic student more time to complete assignments?
Hey Jonah, hope you’re doing well.
I’m worried about [my high schooler with dyslexia]. There was an incident at school today where the teacher gave the class a reading assignment and [my kid] was given the same amount of time to complete it as everyone else. Well, big surprise as a result they didn’t finish it and now she’s upset because she’s going to get a bad grade.
We’ve been trying to get the school to give her more time on assignments, but it seems like the teachers aren’t following through. Do you have any ideas on how to approach this? Do I call the office or the teacher directly?
I’m sorry to hear [your high schooler with dyslexia] isn’t getting the support she needs at school. It sounds like the teacher isn’t providing the appropriate accommodations to support her learning needs.
I get the appeal of calling the office in this situation, and I even get the appeal of showing up in person and giving them an earful. In some cases I think that’s a good idea. But in this case it sounds like it’s the teacher’s decision, and the office probably won’t even know what’s going on–you’d have to educate them and walk through all the steps with them before anything happened. It would likely be a few conversations to see some change.
So I think you’ll get better results, faster, another way. My first suggestion would be to schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher and the school’s special education coordinator to discuss your concerns. Just send an email to both of them at once and tell them you’re concerned about today’s incident and you want to talk. Assure them it will be short and you just want to work with them to make sure [your kid’s] needs are being met.
Bring documentation of [your kid’s] diagnosis and any recommendations for accommodations that have been made by the healthcare provider or educational specialist who made the diagnosis (I forgot where you got that done, but if it was [local practitioner] I know she gives great notes, so bring those). Explain the challenges your child is facing and ask for specific accommodations.
In my experience, you’ll get better and faster results by speaking with the teacher and with a collaborative attitude than you will going through the office.
If the teacher really isn’t willing to provide appropriate accommodations, you may need to advocate for [your kid’s] needs. That’s the time to contact the office, or even the [school district’s] special education department or reaching out to an advocacy organization that specializes in supporting students with learning disabilities. I know a few. They may be able to provide guidance and support in navigating the educational system and advocacy.
In case you haven’t heard this lately, I’ll remind you: [your child] has the right to an equal education under the law. She has the right to receive accommodations and support that meets her individual needs. I’m sure the school will work with you on this, but if they won’t–let me know. I have some ideas about next steps.
I find that most cases of teachers not granting accommodations in class are due to oversight or teacher-overload-panic, not malice. It’s very rare that a teacher doesn’t want to see a child succeed, and to help them get there. And if that’s really the case… yeah, time to get the district involved.
It’s also important to have documentation and know your child’s rights–knowledge is power. If a teacher won’t give a dyslexic student more time on assignments, but you think it would help, make sure you have the documentation to back that up (even if it’s obvious). It makes everything go faster.
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