Dear School Districts: I Beg of You, Please Stop Doing This

May 29, 2015

Dear School Districts:

I know that you are under a lot of pressure these days.  There’s tons of regulation coming down the pike – Common Core, Student Growth Initiatives, PARCC and all sorts of other initiatives.

I really do try and be understanding.  I used to work in public schools and some of my best friends are in school districts, but you’re not making it easy for me based on this one thing that I keep hearing you say to parents – “You need to see a neurologist to determine dyslexia.”

Please, I beg of you, stop saying that to them.

I understand that the ‘D’ word has caused school problems, but the word has been in special education code for many years.  It’s not a new term, even though some people are presenting it like it was recently discovered.  (The fact is you can go back to the 1930’s & 1940’s to see just about everything you need to know about the ‘D’ word.)

Here’s my advice.  Rather than go into a defensive posture and back up in horror when the parent brings up the ‘D’ word, use it as a learning opportunity.  Parents are hungry for good information and welcome being educated.  I will even provide you with a little script right here that can work in most situations when a parent inquires about dyslexia.

You can tell the parent something like this:

“’Dyslexia is a greatly misunderstood term.  When a child has ongoing difficulty with reading, spelling and writing, and the difficulty involves identifying words accurate and fluently,  chances are that suggests a ‘dyslexic pattern.’  This would be particularly substantiated if one or the other parent struggled in these areas as a child.  Dyslexia (reading disability) is not clear cut.  It never was.  There is no one test or marker. Really the better term that is clearer is ‘reading disability.’  In effect, ‘dyslexia ‘and ‘reading disability’ are one and the same thing.”

Understand this, assessment is a process.  There’s no neurologist that I know who does the type of tests necessary.   It’s not their domain.

I would encourage you to use the data you already have on the kid and take some pretty good guesses.  Parents by and large appreciate that.    Look, I have been testing dyslexia for a long time and sometimes I have no idea whether the child has dyslexia.  Sometimes you have to hedge your bets a little.  It’s the nature of the business.

Hope that helps a little.

Your friend,

Rich Selznick

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