Hi, I am a mom of a 10-year-old fifth-grade girl who has been diagnosed with dyslexia. We have known since kindergarten that there were learning challenges and have successfully intervened with tutoring over the years. While she is slower with her work, she is able to work at grade level in most areas. This school year her teacher began telling her, in front of me, that accommodations would make her future in middle school harder for her and that they would not benefit her. After addressing the inappropriateness of these types of comments with administrators, she has been allowed to utilize her accommodations (such as typing written assignments, using Bookshare, and various apps on her school-issued iPad). The problem now is that she is angry to be dyslexic because she doesn't like the fact that her teacher is treating her differently from her peers and discussing the accommodations in front of others. What is the best way to rebuild her self-image as a student?


Dr. Pierson's Response: 

I am sorry that your daughter is struggling so, and that her teacher is not more knowledgeable about dyslexia and learning disabilities and how to support these students. I have a few suggestions. One, I am assuming that these behaviors on the teacher's part have been nipped in the bud, i.e., stopped. There is no excuse for singling out any student, particularly one with learning challenges. If that persists, then I'd ask to have your daughter's placement changed to a teacher who is compassionate and has the needed understandings and skill set to work with kids with LD.

Second, your daughter needs to experience her gifts; she should participate in activities that utilize her strengths, whatever those are—athletic, musical, artistic, creative, compassionate, verbal, etc. Experiences in areas of strength bolster one's self-esteem, which can help when engaged in or confronted with activities that involve using areas of relative weakness.

Third, professional guidance may be helpful as well. Your daughter may find it helpful to talk with someone who understands dyslexia, learning disabilities, and the challenges she is up against at school. This could be a psychologist, reading specialist, or tutor. In addition to the accommodations at school, she would most likely benefit from some direct intervention from a literacy specialist or tutor to help her improve her skills. We know that the curriculum changes over the years and research has demonstrated that improvement in reading, spelling, and writing can occur at any age with intervention.

Last, your daughter has one of the best things going for her in you! We know that successful dyslexics refer to that one person who believed in them, and that knowledge helped them get through difficult times. You might want to also share some of the stories of successful dyslexics with her. This may help her see that she has talents and gifts, too.

I hope these suggestions are helpful.