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June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

6 Pitfalls/Solutions from "Dyslexia in the Schools," an E-Book that Could Change Parent Advocacy

August 18, 2015

A free e-book and guide from an expert on dyslexia, Kelli-Sandman-Hurley, aims to dispel myths about dyslexia. It also cautions parents to be less trusting of school personnel if they suspect their child's reading difficulties stem from this particular reading difficulty. She gives specific advice on how parents can advocate for their child during an Individualized Education Program (IEP) planning meeting in order to avoid delays and to secure the prompt delivery of appropriate services.

Trust Then and Now

While parents in the past may have trusted school personnel "to do the right thing, be properly trained, qualified and equipped to help each and every student that walks through their door," a healthy skepticism applies when dyslexia is suspected. "When it comes to children with dyslexia, this trust can be misguided and mishandled," she writes in the guide that is free to download.

However, there are things parents can do to avoid losing any precious time for their children." Some of her suggestions for parents follow, and other specific advice is found on the website of the Dyslexia Training Institute that she co-founded. Because schools do not diagnose dyslexia, there often are delays that involve third party evaluations that most often are paid for by parents.

  1. A Pitfall: Avoiding an inner voice that something is amiss or agreeing to measures proposed by schools that would delay early identification. Her Solution: Do research and get a second opinion.
  2. A Pitfall: Trusting that the school knows how to help. A Solution: Do research/Get a second opinion. Speak up, ask questions and keep track of everything—including a teacher's training in dyslexia.
  3. A Pitfall: Failing to document all efforts. Her Solution: Put everything in writing! Remember that a student study team (SST) or a "Response to Intervention (RTI)" approach is not a replacement or a parent's request for testing. Delays are grounds for a compliance complaint, so keep records.
  4. A Pitfall: Not knowing how to read the testing. Every parent needs to know what those tests are assessing and what the results mean. Her Solution: Ask questions and know the law "Many schools will only report or dwell on the composite score and ignore the clear deficits that show up in the spelling, fluency, phonemic awareness, and processing speed scores, because they have been overshadowed by the comprehension and writing samples. Remember, the composite is an average and it needs to be picked apart. Most importantly, under IDEA, there no longer needs to be a discrepancy to make someone eligible under Specific Learning Disability."
  5. A Pitfall: Not knowing a spelling-only issue is not resolved by a pencil grip. "I have seen no less than ten parents be offered a pencil grip in response to a student who cannot spell. I am still waiting for a rational explanation to this ‘intervention." Her Solution: Struggling readers need a multisensory, structured, systematic program (usually based on the Orton-Gillingham approach) and possibly classroom accommodations.
  6. A Pitfall: Not using assistive technology (AT). AT is the "great hidden secret" of the school system. Many parents and advocates will not realize that there are many technologies that would be appropriate for students with dyslexia. Her solution: Ask for an AT assessment. Some examples of assistive technology for students with dyslexia are: Speech to Text, Co-writer, Kurzweil, and even raised paper. It doesn’t have to plug in to be assistive technology."

Fear Not

Don’t be afraid that you might irritate the school, Sandman-Hurley advises. "Unfortunately, dyslexia is still a fight in an IEP. Dyslexia does exist. It is real. Tests can identify it. It is not outgrown, she adds. "Parents hold the key to their child’s success when it comes to dyslexia and, hopefully, this information will help navigate the system and get help early."


Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the founder of the California-based Dyslexia Training Institute. She is a published author/researcher of dyslexia and an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. She is the past-president of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.


A federally funded Accessible Educational Materials program supports identified print disabled students, including students with dyslexia, in every state by providing no-cost alternatives to traditional books. Accessible materials with built-in features such a highlighting and text-to-speech tools make learning possible across settings, including more independence accessing classwork and completing homework. To learn more in Virginia, log onto the AIM-VA homepage. In other states, ask a special education teacher or school administrator about AEM under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and an exception to federal copyright law.

Remember to follow AIM-VA on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter at @AIMVirginia and/or follow me @aimnoncat. Subscribe to AIM-VA's new monthly newsletter. Sign up here.

Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.

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"If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book." —

J.K. Rowling