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School in 2020: Advice from a Special Education Reading Teacher

Tell us a little about you:

I am a special education reading teacher and a licensed professional counselor. I have taught at the middle school level for six years.  Additionally, I have moderate ADD, which allows me to relate to my students in a unique way.  

What are the best ways to help my child get ready for school?

In-person: While this is a stressful time, it is important not to get worked up in front of your children. It's not fair to them. Try your absolute best to stay positive and supportive.  

Online:  Teachers are working extremely hard to create the best possible online learning environment for your child. This is a new experience for us all, so be patient with the process. Remember to check in with your child and ask if they need any help. Articulating struggles can be difficult, particularly for older students. 

What tips do you have for the optimal home learning environment?

In most cases, the fewer distractions, the better. However, music is typically not a disturbance for dyslexia and ADHD/ADD students. For some, games and movies playing in the background are not an issue either. They have unique minds that require stimulation of the right side of the brain (listening to music, coloring, drawing, etc.) while simultaneously working with the left side of the brain to complete their school work. Your child knows what works best for them. 

My child struggles with being online. What do you suggest?

Most students with dyslexia, ADHD, and ADD struggle with online learning because there are too many directions.  I recommend reviewing the teacher's instructions and breaking them down for your child. Students with learning difficulties are incredibly smart individuals, but they are unable to focus on complicated things for too long.  Simplifying the instructions will make a very big difference for your child. 

What if my child is having a hard time focusing on school work (whether online or with homework)? Do you have any simple tips to start with?

Play music! Studies have shown that playing music while studying can aid in endurance, memorization, and boost one’s overall mood. However, use an instrumental version if lyrics are interfering with your child’s ability to process information. You can find instrumental versions of any type of musical genre on most streaming services or YouTube. 

Listen to your child. When children are struggling, they may initially say everything is hard or that it is too much. However, keep the conversation going and try to narrow down the problem. Sometimes the solution can be something as simple as reading the assignment out loud.

Utilize online resources.  There are a variety of Google Extensions and other helpful resources on the internet. For example, the Read Aloud extension will read the text on the screen for your student. The Co:Writer extension helps with spelling and grammatical errors. Take time to read articles and educator blog posts for the most up to date ideas and popular apps. 

How do I talk to my kids about school once it is open for in-person classes?

Honestly, this depends on your feelings about face-to-face learning. If your child is old enough to have a conversation with you about it, make sure that you listen to how they feel. You may have already decided what you want your child to do, but don't discount their thoughts and feelings about going back.

How can parents/caregivers support school professionals?

Prayers and patience. As I mentioned earlier, no one has ever been in this type of situation before. Districts are changing protocols and systems daily. Teachers and administrators are working harder than ever before to keep up. We desperately need grace and understanding as we get our bearings. 

What else would you like us to know?

The dyslexic, ADD, and ADHD student population can have incredibly low self-esteem.  Be sure to acknowledge your child's intelligence and how hard they work. Don't try to make them fit into the "ideal student" role. You will set them up for success by praising the unique way their brain operates. 


Chanley Wickboldt, MS, LPC-Associate, Special Education Reading Teacher


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