To get ready, I prepare folders, make enough copies of the testing results so everyone at the meeting can reference the scores as I explain the results, and make sure I have my favorite pen for signing the permission form for those that qualify for dyslexia therapy along with enough copies of the Dyslexia Handbook for Parents ready to distribute. All my ducks are in a row and I am fully prepared for the meetings so they can run like clockwork.
With the testing done, identifications all made, and prep for the meetings complete, my brain has already begun working on arranging students into sweet little groups, setting my therapy schedule for the next school year, recommending class placement – I’m even thinking about making therapy folders, notebooks, and the supplies I'll need for the fall. I have the luxury of knowing and preparing – and yet, parents are still wondering. For some, it has been many long weeks since they signed consent for testing. Some become impatient and send emails asking when they will know. Some pump their kids for clues, “Did you see Mrs. Scott today?” The waiting and wondering only pumps up the emotion.
And – that’s the one wild card that can catch me off guard; the one factor that I can’t predict…the huge range of emotions parents share when they get the news – either way. So – I prepare for the unexpected and just when I think I can’t be surprised – well, you guessed it – I am! This is a sample of what I’ve encountered just this week:
- The “I just won the lottery!” celebrating parent
- The parent that celebrates is the easiest. They are relieved and sometimes overwhelmed that you “found” dyslexia. They realized that something was off and some are even reluctant to bring it up to the teacher because they want to be wrong. They hope you will tell them that their child is bright (even smarter than average) and that you can wave a magic wand and fix it. Most are just grateful that you can identify the problem and have a targeted intervention to help.
- The “Whatever – where do you want me to sign,” couldn’t care less parent
- This parent, if you are lucky to get them to come in for a meeting, is likely not on the PTA board, they rarely enter the school let along volunteer, and they just don’t want to be bothered. They would prefer that you send home the permission form for them to sign which may take a few attempts before you get it back. They will not generally be supportive of their student with homework nor will they attend future 504 meetings. They will generally let you work with their child – just don’t expect them to be involved.
- The “It’s because I’m a horrible mother/father, right?” guilty parent
- This parent needs lots of reassurance (and tissues) and information about dyslexia. They need for you to tell them it’s not their fault – that dyslexia is a difference in the way the brain operates – a part of neurodiversity. Reassurance usually helps and the parent is generally appreciative that intervention is available to help.
- The “But they need help! Now what am I going to do?” pleading parent
- This is a HARD situation. There are usually tears and tons of questions. When the results indicate that dyslexia is not present – that the reading struggles are not a result of an underlying phonological deficit, they are perplexed and anxious about what will happen next. They quickly project to their child dropping out of high school and lacking any kind of meaningful future. Reassurance is key in this case, too. Just because dyslexia was not identified now – doesn’t mean that it won’t be identified in the future. Assuring the parent that a watchful eye on student progress will occur and if retesting is indicated – that the door hasn’t closed and you can still reconsider.
- The “It’s about time – I knew it all along,” indignant parent
- This is the parent that questions why it took so long for testing to take place and why their child did not receive services years ago. They often demand extra services and every accommodation regardless of appropriateness for their child. They would prefer a private therapist be provided because their child deserves it..
- The “No – not my kid!” parent in denial
- This parent doesn’t care what the testing says – they don’t want a “label” and they don’t want their child to receive special treatment of any kind. They don’t want anyone telling them there is something wrong with their child. They refuse to hear that yslexia is not a “something is wrong” but rather that the child learns in a different way and needs to be taught to the way they learn. (I often wonder why they consented to the testing!) This parent will often seek private tutoring from places like Sylvan that do not have a curriculum or trained tutors to appropriately support dyslexic students. They’d rather pay big $$ and subject their child to many years of inappropriate intervention than have their child receive services at school. I have even offered the contact information for private dyslexia therapists which have been refused by the parent. I would rather have them seek private therapy than go somewhere that doesn’t know how to help kids with dyslexia. But, going to a private dyslexia therapist would be admitting something is wrong – and they can’t (won’t) accept it.
Regardless of the initial reaction, MOST parents come around. MOST welcome the support for their child. MOST will even embrace that their child is dyslexic and want to learn more about it and be the cheerleader their child needs to overcome the obstacles in their academic path. They just need time to process what you tell them. They need gentle reassurance that it will be alright. They want to know that their child can still achieve their dreams – and reach a level of success the parent envisioned for their child when they first held them in their arms. They need compassion, understanding, acceptance, and reassurance that YOU – the dyslexia therapist – have the training, expertise, experience, passion and determination to make sure their child will be OK.
Every parent is different just like very child is different. AND – most parents display reactions from more than one category. I have come to realize that I have to enter each meeting with an open mind and heart to expect the unexpected because, just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.