what-to-say-dyslexiaAt the start of every term, students all over the world have to get  ready for the spiel they need to say to their teachers in order to get accommodations in place.

It seems especially tough to expect elementary school students to do the talking, but if a parent or friend help coaches, it can be  a positive experience and even empowering.

Here’s a short form:

First Weeks of School – New Teacher

When to Say It and to Whom:
If possible, tell your teacher the first week of classes. Wait until after class is over and plan to follow up with an email if necessary (parents may do this with their younger student at pick-up). We often try to touch base with the teacher first and office second. The school psychologist or disability office may have a pile of students requests to work through

What to Say:
“Hi, I’m (name) I’m looking forward to your class. I want you to know that I’m dyslexic (or I have dyslexia – whichever you prefer) and I learn and do things a bit differently. Here’s a list of things that help.”

At the beginning the of the school term, most teachers are so busy that scheduling appointments or giving them a lot of paperwork might be unnecessary. It’s still good to mention something to them because they will be better prepared when something happens in class that needs accommodating. At this point, you don’t have to say much – and you can follow up by email. If you want to bring your paperwork at the beginning that’s all right too. Want some help?  Check out our Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia Teacher Cards


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Make it easy for the teacher – let them know you’re going through official channels (e.g. school psychologist and disability office)  but that you also know what helps you learn and show what you know.

Send Records by Email:
It’s worthwhile scanning in a copy of the dyslexia testing paperwork because it help in getting the routine of telling everyone who needs to know. Usually comprehensive testing is good for 4-5 years. If you have many teachers – you can even save the e-intro about dyslexia – and just remember to resend it to every new teacher at every semester or quarter change.

Meet with / Copies to School Psychologist or ‘Office’:
In many cases, you’ll need to send your paperwork to the school psychologist or disability / accessibility office at a college or university. They can be your advocate down the line if a teacher doesn’t want to accommodate you or provide other supports that you need.

Know Your Accommodations: 

We usually recommend keeping the requests short and sweet in the beginning. The comprehensive report can have more detail and the comprehensive list is of course important when the 504 or IEP is being approved.

Here’s a Common List of Accommodations for Dyslexia:

Sample Accommodations

  • Option to keyboard all written work
  • 1.5x extra time for exams (You can tell the teacher “I can finish exams over lunch or at the end of the day”)
  • Digital book / audiobook option for science, history, and textbooks (I have Bookshare (free for US citizens – need someone to certify) and can use this with an iPad app like Voice Dream Reader)
  • Because dyslexia affects my spelling, I will need use of a spell checker / other assistive device or program while writing. My work should not be downgraded because of spelling.
  • Teacher notes before lecture / Powerpoints whenever possible
  • Note-taking buddy / Livescribe pen
  • Calculator and Formula Card for Math and Science

Keep things simple the beginning of the school year and realize most teachers will not know which accommodations are appropriate for your student. It’s the responsible of the testing professional to indicate what accommodations and supports are necessary based on test results.

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