A diagnosis of dyslexia or a similar learning disorder prompts a stream of questions. What does dyslexia mean? Why does my child have it? Where does it come from? What can we do about it? 

Virtually all of the families we see at Reading Success Plus have such questions, and rightfully so. Dyslexia is not widely understood, and much of what the average person can tell you about it is, quite frankly, wrong.  Misinformation can cause unnecessary anxiety, even panic, about a condition that can be managed. Misunderstanding can lead to parent-child conflict, contentious relationships with teachers and school administrators, and missed opportunities for growth. One of our missions is to give parents and students the information they need to understand their disability, cope with the day-to-day stress it creates, and ultimately overcome it. 

One of the best tools we have for this is our coaching program. Our tutoring program for dyslexia, which uses the Barton Reading and Spelling System, provides the tools to improve performance in school or workplace. But coaching adds an extra dimension to this effort, says Anne Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus, by changing mindsets to be more positive, improving skills, and facing the challenges that accompany dyslexia or other learning obstacles.  Coaching can provide insights that will change the way parents, students, and adult clients think about dyslexia, learning, and even life. 

Building understanding

Lawrence Kloth, the other co-founder of Reading Success Plus and Anne’s son, says coaching benefits parents and students. 

“Our goal for coaching is to help the child succeed in school,” he says. “For parents, we want to help you understand how your child thinks and operates and learn how you can best equip them to be a more successful student. 

“Student coaching has similar goals. We want the child to buy into the program so they can become a better student. We want them to have a better understanding of dyslexia, of who they are and how their mind works. We want to address their weaknesses, but it’s important that we help them see their strengths, too. Our kids hear all about their shortcomings, but they also have a lot of strengths that they should recognize and celebrate.” 

While RSP usually works with K-12 or college-age students, we also offer coaching for adults who may be facing challenges in the workplace (or life in general) because of difficulties with reading and spelling, writing, or math.  Coaching sessions can be in-person or online.

How to start 

Getting started with coaching is a four-step process. 

  • Take part in a free 20-minute consultation. Here, you can share your goals so we can better determine what services to offer, and whether the coaching sessions should involve the student, the parents, or both. After this conversation, the client can decide whether to continue the process. 
  • Set up a plan. You explain what you want, we explain our ideas, and if everything meshes, we jointly develop an outline to move ahead. 
  • Hold the first coaching session.  One or two meetings may be enough, or the process may be open-ended, depending on your needs. 

The most successful coaching happens when the goals are well defined. They could be very narrow – writing a college application essay, for example – or they could be much broader. Here are some of the most common topics of our coaching sessions. 

Special education advocacy 

For students in special education programs, preparing an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan “is a huge piece of the educational puzzle,” Lawrence says. These programs can give struggling students the tools they need to thrive. That success is more likely when the parents understand the process and when they make sure the school’s plan matches the child’s needs. 

But for most parents, the IEP/504 process is confusing and intimidating. Most parents aren’t familiar with special-ed jargon and lack the knowledge or experience to evaluate the school’s proposal.  RSP can explain how the process works and what results you should expect. We also can help prepare you to make your case to the school.  

“We’ll determine what you want, then make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed and make sure you understand what the proper plan for your student should be,” Lawrence says.  

Anne points to the importance of preparation. “We want to have everybody ready and on the same page prior to meeting with the school,” she says. “We’re talking about the parents, the child and the coach.” 

In addition to preparing for the meeting with the school, Anne can attend as an advocate for the student and the family, as she did when Lawrence was a student. They understand how important it is for families to have someone standing with them. 

“That support is crucial,” Lawrence says. “It can be very intimidating to walk into the room with the principal, special education department, other people all in there. We can talk to the school if the family is uncomfortable, or we can help the family answer questions. 

“Parents shouldn’t feel like it’s 10 against one in those meetings. We can be your advocate.” 

Understanding the student 

Coaching also can have a significant impact within the family by helping parents understand how their child functions and to see the source of their academic difficulties.  

“It’s tough for parents to understand how their children with dyslexia or ADHD function.” Lawrence says. “These kids’ brains operate differently from what parents might expect. Parents don’t understand how their struggling child’s mind works, how they operate in and process the world. It’s outside the parents’ experience.” 

Coaching allows parents to work with someone who does know how these children function.  Anne and Lawrence’s professional and personal experiences with learning disorders can help parents view these struggles through their children’s perspectives.  

“Say you have a left-brained parent and a right-brained student,” Anne says. The parent may be telling the student that their study habits must be X because that’s what worked for the parents, when in fact, they really need to be Y because the student learns in an entirely different way.” 

This misunderstanding can put parents and their child on a collision course, butting heads over study habits, homework, grades, how the child spends free time, and more.  

“We want to avoid that as much as possible,” Lawrence says. “We can explain how the child’s mind works, why their learning style is different, and give them study techniques that have proven results.” 

Leading the child to self-understanding 

Coaching also can help students understand their struggles and how their brain processes information. 

“A lot of students don’t know how their brain works,” Lawrence says. “It’s important for them to understand that. Their futures depend on them knowing they are a visual learner or have ADHD, and how to manage that in a classroom or a work environment.” 

Students also need to understand that their difficulties in the classroom don’t mean they are “dumb.”   

“We want the child to understand dyslexia and ADHD,” Anne says, “to understand how their brain works and, basically, why they are different, because kids know when they are different. But they’re different in a good way. They are exceedingly bright. They need to know their strengths, and they need to know their weaknesses.” 

Building self-advocacy 

With self-understanding comes self-confidence. A confident student not only will have healthier self-esteem, but will be better equipped to advocate for themselves, in school or on the job. 

“Parents really can only advocate for them through middle school, maybe a little bit in high school,” Lawrence says. “But in high school, students really have to start advocating for themselves. It’s getting them comfortable with themselves and how they learn the best and using that knowledge to get what they need.” 

That means understanding what accommodations are available and how they would help you. Then you can justify to the school or your employer why you need them. 

Accommodations are not just available in schools. By law, workplaces must provide certain accommodations to workers with disabilities. Coaching can help adults get what they need on the job. 

“If someone needs accommodations to do their job, we can help them through that process to they could go to their boss with that knowledge and research,” Lawrence said. “Then they can make that presentation to the boss so they can do the job to the true best of their ability.” 

Get on the same team 

“People need to go to coaching because everybody is different,” Lawrence says. “Every person with dyslexia is different, and every parent is different.  They need information about those differences so they can be best equipped for any obstacles and that there is an understanding between the parent and child.” 

Family relations will be much smoother when these differences are understood. 

“Parents need to say, ‘OK, this is the way my child learns best, so that’s what they need to do to succeed,’ instead of, ‘This is the way that I think, and my child should be that way, too,’” Lawrence says. “It’s all right to think differently.” 

Suddenly, everybody is on the same team. 

“That’s the point of coaching,” Lawrence says, “to help them build a relationship and to understand themselves more, too. 

“We have fantastic resources out there. I want people to take advantage of that. I want to give people the opportunity to make their lives better.” 

Anne concludes: 

“It’s been 25 years that we’ve been working on this, learning about and understanding dyslexia. It’s just nice to be able to pass that on.” 

Reading Success Plus has offices in Grand Rapids and Troy. It offers one-on-one tutoring online or in person in reading, math and writing, as well as personal and family coaching. You can get more information at readingsuccessplus.com. To contact us, call 833-229-1112 or go online to https://readingsuccessplus.com/#contact