Advice on Speaking with Child's Teacher

My 8-year-old daughter is dyslexic as well as inattentive ADHD. She attends a private school and is on an ISP. After reviewing her recent report card, she broke out into tears at the low marks she received. She was especially heartbroken over getting the lowest possible marks in two categories: “listens/follows directions” and “shows effort.”

Do you have any recommendations on how to address this with the teacher? I feel as though her work does not always represent the amount of effort that she puts into it. This is a child who is tutored all summer long and after school during the school year. She works extremely hard to try and keep up, and I just want to make sure the teacher understands how hard she works.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I feel for your daughter. It seems her teacher is unaware of the challenges for a student with dyslexia, not to mention her ADHD, in the classroom.

I highly recommend having the teacher read A Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. It's a wonderful story about the transformation of a student with dyslexia after she is assigned to a teacher who understands her profile of strengths and weaknesses (i.e., figures out that she cannot read). You should read it with your daughter. Buy a copy for the teacher as it is a wonderful book to read with the entire class.

Here is a piece I wrote for teachers.

It seems like, from the report card, that your daughter is not getting her accommodations, particularly relative to her ADHD needs. You might also meet with the teacher, the principal, and your daughter's support team about how the report card devastated your daughter to come up with a plan so that your daughter receives 'high marks' in those categories on the next marking period. Above all, her self-esteem needs to be preserved. Use the sandwich technique -- "I really appreciate ___________. My daughter needs this to change____________. Again, I really appreciate your effort in ________.”

I might also meet with the principal separately and suggest some professional development for all of the teachers since your daughter will be moving on to the next one. I find, in my work with the schools, that most teachers have not been trained in teaching the student with dyslexia, so just don’t know. And, teachers want all students to succeed.

I hope you are able to make some inroads at the school and that your daughter has a report card that better reflects her effort.