Parent Teacher Conferences

Talking to Parents About Dyslexia

Parents want what is best for their children. Stokes Public Schools

As a teacher, you have probably had students with dyslexia in the past. You may know and understand some of the signs of dyslexia: poor spelling, letter and number reversals, problems with rhyming, difficulty sounding out words. When there is a child in your class struggling, you want to help, you want to make a positive difference in their life. As a teacher, you can request an assessment for dyslexia, but first you may want to talk with the child's parents.

Have a Plan

Before asking parents to come for a conference to discuss problems in school, think about the best outcome. Do you want the parents to request a formal evaluation for learning disabilities? Do you want the parents to agree to you requesting an evaluation? Having an idea of what outcome you see as a positive step will help keep the conference focused and professional.

Collect Work Samples

Samples of writing and drawing that are immature or show difficulty holding a pencil or crayon will help bolster your presentation of the problem to parents. You may want to share an unnamed sample of a child's work who is not struggling with the problem, as the parents may have only ever seen their struggling child's efforts.

Be Understanding

It is difficult for any parent to find out there is something "wrong" with their child. Parents that don't understand or have limited knowledge of what dyslexia means may think they you are blaming them in some way for their child's struggles.
They may become defensive, seeing your advice as an attack on either their child or on their parenting skills. Approaching parents sympathetically helps.

Provide Information on Dyslexia

Although it is written to help teachers recognize signs of dyslexia, you may want to print out the article, Recognizing Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom.
You can discuss with parents what types of problems you are seeing that are listed on the page. The guidance office in your school may have additional information, geared to parents, that you can give them to bring home and look over.

Discuss Ways Parents Can Help at Home

The handout on dyslexia probably offers parents some resources and tips for helping a child with dyslexia. Go over different ways parents can work with their child, including what shared reading is and how it helps, how long their child should spend on homework each night and what they can do if he routinely goes over the time limit (for example, write on the bottom of the page that Johnny spent 1 hour completing the assignment).

Set Up a Communication Schedule

If you have requested a parent conference, your student is having problems in the classroom and may be falling behind. Ask the parents how you can best reach them to give them daily or weekly updates. Email is often an easy way to let parents know immediately what progress their child has made as well as inform them of upcoming tests or projects.

Be Sure to Point Out Their Child's Strengths

Beginning a conversation by outlining all of the problems Johnny is having at school is bound to make parents defensive. Try to open the conversation by letting the parents know how hard Johnny tries, how much you enjoy having him in the class or by pointing out areas he excels. After you have discussed the possibility of dyslexia, end the conversation on a positive note by reiterating his strengths.

Explain What is Involved in an Assessment

If you have requested the appointment to ask the parents to agree to an assessment or to let them know you will be requesting and evaluation, let them know what the procedures are. Your school's guidance office should have information you can give the parents on their rights. Make sure you let the parents know you are not diagnosing Johnny with dyslexia, you are requesting an evaluation to determine if he has a learning disability. Explain how, if he is found to have an LD, this can help him in school by providing accommodations. If you do not feel comfortable explaining the procedures, a guidance counselor may be willing to join you and explain what happens. Make sure to include that parents are involved in the process and will be asked to provide information on their child's development as well as information on how he completes homework.

Be Willing to Implement Strategies in the Classroom

Before an assessment is completed, as a teacher you can begin implementing strategies in the classroom that will help. Creating a Dyslexia-Friendly Classroom provides some ideas to making changing in your classroom environment and teaching methods to help students with dyslexia learn. Let the parents know you will be making some changes to help their child immediately.