Families and Schools as Partners

Families and schools can be partners in supporting students with dyslexia.


We know from over 30 years of research that families have a major influence on student achievement (Butler & Edmonson, 2009; Fan & Chen, 2001; Hill & Tyson, 2009).  The more families support their children’s learning and educational progress, the more their children tend to do well in school and continue their education.

Families are sometimes at a loss for how to support their family members with dyslexia. Families may have trouble understanding why reading and writing are so difficult for otherwise successful children. Often, the signs of dyslexia can be confusing as family and schools strive to figure out the source of difficulty. Parents and guardians who partner with the school during evaluation, identification, and intervention processes are able to shed more light on the needs of their children for whom this disability is sometimes called the “hidden disability.”

The work it takes to get their children the help they need can feel like a full-time commitment but families have partners in these efforts: FCPS educators. Families can consult the FCPS Parent Resource Center for books, resources and workshops about dyslexia. See the section entitled, Dyslexia Resources for additional print and web resources.

The most important partner in this journey is the school. Families can reach out to schools in partnership to support their children with dyslexia. Students succeed academically and socially when families and educators work as partners through cooperative and collaborative relationships. Remember that the child’s experience at home is an important data source to be shared with the school team.


Students succeed academically and socially when families and educators work as partners through cooperative and collaborative relationships.

If families are unsure where to start in working with the school they can view on of our Family Guides to Dyslexia or our Dyslexia Resources (includes Regional Points of Contact for Dyslexia).


It is important that families and educators alike remember that the student with dyslexia is so much more than his or her reading disability. Often, dyslexia can take a toll on a student’s self-esteem (see the section entitled, Social Emotional Impacts of Dyslexia). Students with dyslexia often have many strengths that should be celebrated and emphasized throughout their school and home experiences (Scruton & McNamara, 2015).

Here are some strategies for families and educators to create a positive support system for students with dyslexia.

  • Encourage a positive self-image
    • Celebrate successes
    • Focus on strengths
    • Minimize homework stress by setting time limits, providing breaks, and discussing homework accommodations with the school
  • Instill a love of learning
    • Read aloud or listen together to books of high interest
    • Use games to reinforce learning
    • Share in the joy of learning
  • Reward the effort, not just the end product (e.g., working hard for an hour on editing vs. producing an error-free essay.)
    • Build in extra time to avoid anxiety
    • Break larger assignments into smaller parts to instill confidence
    • Acknowledge that school work may be difficult
  • Find a balance between appropriate intervention to improve skills and accommodations to promote learning
    • Does the student need extra time on tests?
    • Would assistive technology resources be appropriate?
    • Are audio books available?
    • Can typing or dictating an assignment ease frustration?
  • Talk about dyslexia in a positive way
  • Encourage self-advocacy skills
  • Involve the student, as appropriate, in IEP and 504 plan meetings
  • Discuss accommodations and ask for student input

For more information about how to empower students with dyslexia, see the section entitled, Self-Advocacy and Voice for Students with Dyslexia.

Students with dyslexia struggle with reading and writing tasks. Here are some concrete ways families can support these students at home.

  • Define the purpose of “reading” as making meaning from text.
  • Praise students for making improvements in their word reading skills.
  • Make reading a positive experience. Read together and hold discussions about the meaning of the text.
  • Expose students to books that might be above their decoding level through audio books and reading to them. See Assistive Technology for Students with Dyslexia for a variety of sources of audio books that can be used at home as well as at school.
  • Show students that they can be their own problem solvers. Practice these skills.
  • Work on decoding by finding appropriately leveled books in collaboration with students’ teachers. Use high interest materials such as newspaper sports pages, cookbooks, and graphic novels.
  • Support academic talents that are not reading-based.

Butler, C. & Edmonson, S. L. (2009). Fostering resiliency: Making schools a better place for students with dyslexia. In Achiles, C. M., Irby, B. J., Alford, B., & Perreault, G. (Eds.), The 2009 Yearbook of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (109-118). Lancaster, PA: DEStech Publications.

Fan, X. & Chen, M. (2001). Parental involvement and students’ academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 13(1), 1-22.

Hill, N. E. & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: A meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental Psychology, 45, 740-763.

Scruton, H. & McNamara, J. (2015). An interactionist approach to learning disabilities. International Journal of Education, 7(4), 43-52.

The FCPS online dyslexia handbook provides information and resources to FCPS schools and parents alike as they support students with dyslexia.

© 2017 Fairfax County School Board. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact the FCPS Department of Special Services, Office of Special Education Instruction, Willow Oaks Corporate Center, 8270 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031.