Dyslexia to the Letter

"Expertise in dyslexia is the result of specific post-graduate education or training and certification, not the result of having grown up with dyslexia, or of knowing other dyslexics."

Last fall, one of my families asked for help in educating the teachers in their school about dyslexia. It took me a couple of months, but I sent them this letter in January. They shared it with the faculty, and it is now being shared more widely within their educational community. I drew from my own experiences as well as several resources, but because it's a personal letter, not a journal article, there is no bibliography.

The letter has been anonymized. I am sharing it with the family's permission in the hopes that it may be helpful to more families and educators.

January 29, 2023

Dear Astor School Teachers,

I am writing this letter on behalf of Ruthie R., a seventh-grade student who has been studying privately with me over the past sixteen months. I am an orthographic linguist — that means that I study writing systems — and a Certified Structured Literacy / Dyslexia Specialist. I’ve attached a more detailed Vita if you’d like more information about my clinical and educational background, but Ruthie and her dyslexia are the reason for my outreach.

First, I want to say how much I admire you for being teachers. I know how hard you work and that you put in many hours outside of the school day. Please know how valuable your work is and how grateful I am that you do it. One of the goals in my work with children with dyslexia and their families, as well as in my consultations with schools, is always to remember that we are pulling the wagon in the same direction. Our shared goal, whether teacher, parent, or clinician, is to equip each child to become a fully literate adult.

As I’m sure you are already aware, dyslexia is a specific, language-based learning disability that affects one’s proficiency with written language: decoding, reading, spelling, grammar, composition, and more. Some of you may also be aware that dyslexia affects one in five people, according to the International Dyslexia Association and other sources. However, many educators still believe (falsely) that dyslexia is rare or that it’s something students can get over or outgrow. With the right intervention, environment, accommodations, and support, individuals can overcome the ways in which their dyslexia interferes with their learning, but once a dyslexic, always a dyslexic. It doesn’t go away, though it can get easier.

Of course, that’s what we all want for Ruthie, so in I would like to offer these key points about working with children with dyslexia:

Terms and conditions apply.