It is very common for people to want to choose whether they want to formally disclose their dyslexia, and to whom. This may change over the years and of course depending on particular contexts.
WHY DOES A STUDENT CHOOSE NOT TO DISCLOSE IN HIGH SCHOOL?
Some students may choose not to disclose as they move into their high school years because they feel as if they have become successful in remediating the most difficult steps of reading and want to free themselves from supports.
Others might be outgrowing their need for an IEP and not want to attend pull-out supports once they transition to high school.
It might be that students are outgrowing their need for special education as they enter high school, but at the same time, students should be aware that they could put themselves in difficult situations if they haven’t disclosed and then begin having difficulties.
GREATER DEMANDS IN READING, WRITING, MEMORIZATION, MATH, FOREIGN
The greatest worry with students deciding to not disclose as they make a big education jump (like middle school to high school) is that they don’t really appreciate the changes that they might encounter in high school that can make their educational needs greater and not less. In high school, the reading becomes more complex – with longer words and complex sentence and essay structures. The writing demands increase in all subjects, not just English, and memorization demands and homework may increase dramatically.
Some students are able to do well, waiving accommodations and special education in high school; if problems arise, students can try to apply for accommodations after the school year has started, but they might be sent to the back of a waitlist for testing – and not be assessed until the second part of the year.
Low grades in the 9th grade are not insurmountable obstacles for higher education – especially as admissions committees recognize how common it is to have students who have trouble adjusting to demands in 9th grade. As long as grades improve, their options for higher education are often still wide open.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS FROM FAILURE TO DISCLOSE IN HIGH SCHOOL
Potential problems that may arise are troubles getting back in the system and failing to qualify for accommodations for high stakes college entrance exams. A college counselor needs to check a box on a form to the College Board and ACT saying whether a student applying for accommodations has been receiving accommodations for high school tests; if accommodations are not in place in school, then it may be much harder to get them for college entrance exams.
College entrance exams are also much harder to take for many dyslexic students because the information presented is not within the context of a class or lectures; there may be little flexibility in interpreting questions and answers.
A low GPA may also disqualify students from college sports (NCAA) and college scholarships.
All of these difficulties are not insurmountable for students – but may delay students’ plans and add time to reach their career goals. If some students get poor grades, it may increase their stress and disengagement from school.
SWITCHING FROM IEP TO 504
If students no longer require pull-out instruction in high school, but might benefit by extra time for tests, audiobooks or e-books, and assistive technology.
Most dyslexic students require accommodations in order for test-taking and writing work to match the level of their learning an intellectual ability. Some individuals require accommodations life-long; while others may not require them in their twenties.
TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHY YOUR STUDENT DOES NOT WANT TO DISCLOSE
Why does your student not want to disclose? Do they have a feeling that they have outgrown the need to disclose or receive accommodations? Are there peer issues or a desire to change what supports they were receiving in middle school? Talk over the issue with your student and consider consulting with a tutor or academic coach.
STUDENTS CAN START WITHOUT ACCOMMODATIONS – BUT ACT QUICKLY IF PROBLEMS ARISE
The desire for change might be uncovering something important that could be changed, but the change also does not need to be all-or-none. If student has accommodations “on file”, they may not require extra time or other accommodations for a course depending on what is being asked of them for assignments and tests, but have can request them if suddenly the need arises.
For instance, if suddenly test questions are difficult to process for an advanced English class, it’s easier to meet with a teacher after a test that a student hasn’t been able to finish – and ask to be allowed extra time in a free period or after school.
The only thing that may be involved with the accommodation process in high school is meeting with a school psychologist, providing copies of records, and telling them what you need in school to be successful. The same packet can be given to classroom teachers at the beginning of the school year – and if students feel as if they would like to take their courses without accommodations, then they can start that way. It will be easier to ask for accommodations if the need suddenly arises.
We actually advise doing this (filing for an IEP or 504 at the beginning of the school year, but not necessarily requesting accommodations from a teacher) vs. not making any disclosures. This may provide the greatest flexibility, but also a safety net if needs arise in the new demands of high school.