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Ask the Experts

How Can I Help My Dyslexic Child Be Better Organized?

By Eva Ostrum, Consulting Educator


What is the best advice you have for a high school student with a great attitude struggling with the need for strategies to improve organization skills and time-to-study challenges?

This student was diagnosed by the school district as having dyslexia in sixth grade and although it's a borderline case, he can receive accommodations like extended time on tests and not taking off for spelling. Although we've contacted his teachers to let them know I'm not sure they provide these accommodations. He has never been pulled out of class for dyslexia.


A federal law called Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that students with diagnosed learning disabilities, like dyslexia, receive special education services. Your school district should have created what is called an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your son upon diagnosing him with dyslexia in grade six.

That document should have contained specific accommodations that, by law, every teacher must offer him, such as extended time on tests and no deductions for spelling, if those accommodations apply. The school district should have then periodically updated the IEP based on the progress that your son made. You should receive a formal invitation to each one of those meetings as they take place. You get the opportunity to give your input on the IEP and you must sign it.

Your question suggests that you have not attended annual IEP update meetings and it is not clear that you accepted the special education services that the district offered you. You may opt into those services at any time, as long as your son still faces the same challenges that were impeding his learning in grade six. I would suggest that you ask for a reevaluation of your son, that you play an active role in the discussion of his resulting IEP, that you take advantage of any special education services that the district offers him, and that you monitor diligently whether or not his teachers are extending to him the accommodations that the IEP mandates. They must do so to remain in compliance with the law.

You may also want to do some reading about the rights that your child has as a special education student. I would start with the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Web site and with your state Department of Education Web site. Both will have many resources for you to consult. Taking these steps will give your son some much needed academic support and take some of the pressure off you. Good luck!

Eva Ostrum award-winning educator and author, counsels parents and students on the college admissions process and on improving student academic performance.


Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from readers

"I have a question, please. In third grade my child had an IEP an was also diagnosed with ADD and mild Depression. Even though he received services through Special Ed/Resource, he remained several grade levels behind in reading. When he was in the fifth grade a friend said to me, 'I bet he is Dyslexic.' After researching Dyslexia, I realized he had every symptom. I went to the school and asked how they could not have known he was Dyslexic? The response was that they do not test for Dyslexia because Dyslexia requires one on one tutoring and they do not have the resources to provide that service. As it turns out, one of the Resource teachers was certified in the Barton Reading System and I hired her at $40. an hour to work with him twice a week, after school, to address his Dyslexia. After about 18 months of tutoring, his reading is much improved. He is now in the 7th grade and is still a Resource kid and is doing better. I was recently told by an administrator at another District that California Schools are required to provide Dyslexia tutoring but that in an effort to save money, the information is not passed down to staff. Is that true? Prior to investing in Dyslexia tutoring, I had been sending him to SCORE for tutoring and was not seeing any improvement. I look at my $80. a week expense for Dyslexia tutoring as an investment in my child (grandson). Today I advocate for other Grandmothers who are faced with raising their grandchildren and I need to know if the District is responsible for meeting the needs of Dyslexic students. Most of the Grandmothers I advocate for are not in a position to pay for a tutor. Please advise. "