My son, age 11, was just diagnosed with severe dyslexia a few months ago after years of struggling in school. He is currently getting ready to enter middle school and I am trying to figure out how to develop good study habits and even how to tackle organizing and setting up a good homework routine for him. Is there information available to show me specifically how to organize and use tools that will help him learn to self advocate for his age group? I am in overwhelmed. Also, is there a way to find therapists in my area that could help him and myself work through our frustration regarding our school’s lack of education on or ignorance of dyslexia? We're both mad and trying to get over it. My son was tested in 3rd grade by the school and we were told he was fine. We do not live in an area that gives us alternative options for schooling. We need to forgive and move forward.

Dr. Pierson's Response: 
I am so sorry that your son (and you) are having such challenges to get his dyslexia identified and then to get the service he needs. He is going to need good intervention that is research-based and is explicit and systematic. I know how overwhelming it can be to figure out what that should look like. I've got a lot of information here about what good intervention looks like.

Regarding the interest in finding practitioners in your area, I typically refer people to the provider list from the International Dyslexia Association for their state. If there is a reading specialist in your area, maybe reach out and inquire if he or she could meet with your son a bit over the summer and then Skype during the school year. My colleague at 3LI skypes with a high schooler from CA and that has been quite successful. Here is some information about credentialing.

In addition to teaching your son basic skills such as sound and letter(s) combinations, common phonograms, and the six syllable types, you'll want to be sure that the practitioner understands how the curriculum changes at middle school. Your son needs to learn how to tackle longer words, so work on base words, morphological roots, prefixes, and suffixes is important.

He also needs to learn strategies to comprehend different types and increasing amounts of text as well as writing for different purposes. In addition, your son would most likely benefit from being trained to use text-to-speech software/apps to have information read aloud to him, as well as dictation software (speech-to-text) so that he can dictate his ideas and then edit them. For example, the Kindle Fire will read text aloud. I have a number of programs listed here. Inspiration is a good one for writing, for example; and Ginger software is a good one for spelling. Here are the apps as well. On a related note, he should read the text while he listens to the audio. We know that the more one reads, the better reader one becomes.

Relative to organizational skills, I've got a bit of information here. The practitioner should be able to guide you relative to this area as well.

I am assuming that he will now get an IEP in the schools, but maybe not. I have seen kids who, despite being quite dyslexic, do not qualify for services in the MI public schools. That said, you should be aware of his (your) rights under IDEA (which is federal law). He needs a plan in place that addresses his specific needs so that he succeeds. If he doesn't qualify for an IEP, then hopefully he’ll qualify for a 504 Plan. He definitely needs accommodations and modifications, which would be spelled out either in the IEP or 504 Plan.

I would also suggest you connect with Decoding Dyslexia (you can find them by state on Facebook). This is a grassroots group of parents that is 'taking the nation' -- and they are all about advocacy and awareness. Hopefully, someone can help you find a good clinician and deal with the schools. You might also want to read this piece written by a former parent. She has some really good advice!

Last, I'd suggest reading some of the Success Stories on DyslexiaHelp with your son. He needs to understand that he is smart (he's made it this far without the help of anyone understanding his dyslexia....) and he can be successful. And, Dr. Michael Ryan's Letters to a Dyslexic might be helpful. Michael is a dear friend and he walks the walk -- he is a successful dyslexic. You could look those over and see which ones might be appropriate for your son right now.

I know that this is so challenging, especially given that he was not properly identified when he was younger. There is nothing you can do about that anymore, so, as you noted you just need to move forward (difficult as that may be). Hopefully, I've not overwhelmed you more with all of this information and some of these suggestions will be of help to you. Don't hesitate to ask if I can offer any other ideas or answer any questions.