Use of a Scribe as an Accommodation for Dyslexic Students

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As you know I’ve been sharing our experience with our third grade son and dyslexia. Today Miko’s Girl, a Crystal & Co., reader, shares a glimpse of  their story with us, and how her daughter uses a scribe at school as an accommodation tool to assist her with writing as she presses ahead with dyslexia.  

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In some children’s brains, the physical mechanics of writing are so arduous that a child has lost the thought it wants to express long before the body is capable of putting the beginning of that thought to paper.   An older child may be given an Alphasmart, a sort of typewriter that types to the screen, a child whose body is not coordinated enough to type may be allowed a scribe to write for them.   My daughter, C., has been given a scribe as one of the accommodations in her Individualized Education Plan (IEP).   When writing an essay, a scribe may be assigned to her to take dictation.

You may be asking yourself, “What is a scribe?”    A scribe is a teacher or teacher’s assistant that acts as the student’s secretary, writing down every word as the child dictates.   The scribe is not permitted to edit the child’s paper.  A scribe “reduce[s] the impact that writing has on learning or expressing knowledge–without substantially changing the process of the the process or the product.”

(LD Online,

The second questions you may ask is “Why a scribe?”   “Many students struggle to produce neat, expressive written work, whether or not they accompanying physical or cognitive difficulties.  They may learn much less from an assignment because they must focus on writing mechanics instead of content.  After spending more time on an assignment than their peers, these students understand  the material less.  Not surprising, belief in their ability to learn suffers.” 

(LD Online,

Use of a scribe is not a popular accommodation.   My daughter’s two general education  teachers are resistant to the idea.  At the modification meeting for C.’s IEP, the language arts teacher expressed the concern that use of a scribe is unfair to the other children in the classroom. If all children were given a scribe, everyone would be on the honor roll.     Mentally, I countered with if all children had the same issues with writing as my child, they should all be permitted a scribe.   However, as my child has a documented learning disability, it is unfair to her to not be accommodated with a scribe.   This mindset is supported by Wright’s Law  which states, “Modification, adaptations, and accommodations do not provide unfair advantages. They should not make things easier for a child. They should level the playing field for a child. They allow a child with a disability to learn the same things as his non-disabled peers..”    As often happens in IEP meetings, my mouth does not keep up with my mental gymnastics. As the paperwork was going to be updated with the accommodation, a fete accompli, I kept my mouth shut.

Since receiving the accommodation early in the school year, C. has been permitted the use of a scribe once.  On that paper, the teacher indicated that a scribe was used and, I read, the grade was not counted.  Further investigation (read, “I e-mailed the Special Ed teacher.”) resulted in the grade given being raised as her grade was discounted due to the use of a scribe.  So, I’m not so sure how effective this accommodation is as it has not been utilized.  A parent must be diligent in the use of the accommodations in the classroom.

Reviewing the the Wright’s Law web-site on the issue of scribes, taught me it is more important that accommodations given supplement instruction not replace it:

“Schools often suggest readers and scribes for children who do not read or write well. This is appropriate as long as the school also provides reading and writing instruction. Too often, schools provide accommodations instead of special instruction.

Most children can learn to read and write. For these children, it is not appropriate for schools to provide readers and scribes in place of instruction. Schools should provide accommodations to a child with low reading and writing levels while she learns to read and write.

Accommodations supplement instruction.

Instruction and accommodations go hand in hand. They accompany each other.
When children learn to read and write, the need for readers and scribes goes away in the IEP or 504 Plan. When schools provide proper instruction they fulfill the mission of IDEA 2004. They are preparing the child for further education, employment, and independent living.  20 U.S.C. § 1400(d) (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, page. 48)”

Having a child in special ed is a process of constant learning, diligence, and policing.  As I’ve said before, I am ill-equipped for this task but must endure to endure.

While researching this article, I came upon the following Families and Advocate Partnership for Education provides details about school accommodations and modifications: .


Miko’s Girl is a stay-at-home mom to two girls, ages 9 and 10.   Her daughter, C., was diagnosed with a learning disability three years ago.   Since the diagnosis, she has read tons of books, obtained the services of a special education advocate, and became involved with the special education support group for her children’s school.   She is the author of Life in the Micro , a blog on cooking, gardening, special education, and random mommy-hood.


  1. Catherine says:

    Anne is a fabulous special education teacher and my daughter is lucky to have her.

  2. Thanks to the untiring efforts of this child’s parents, her special education teachers and her dedicated general education teachers, this bright, young lady is thriving in 3rd grade. I disagree emphatically with Catherine that her daughter’s teachers resist or even reluctantly provide any accommodation. I’ve never worked with such an open-minded, dedicated staff of teachers who seem ready to do anything under the sun to provide an “even playing field” for my special education students. A scribe has been offered for most arduous writing tasks and her grades have never been downgraded simply because of an accommodation. I am a fierce advocate for my special education students and would not allow that. I hope Catherine and all parents of children with disabilities feel they can use their special education teacher to discuss issues as they crop up. We special education teachers can act as powerful advocates for their children during the school day when mom can’t be there.

    1. My son will be entering 3rd grade this year. He was diagnosed with dyslexia about 3 mos into 2nd grade. What is a scribe? He has a wonderful tutor, but how can I prepare his next teacher for his needs? I want the best for him.

      1. Dawn- the best thing you can do to prepare is educate yourself. Here are some links that will help you.

        4 Excellent Dyslexia Resource Books:

        Accommodations and Modifications You Could Ask For:

        Hold a Section 504 Meeting- How to Organize and Plan for It:

        How to Ask for Accommodations and Modifications:

  3. Are you familiar with any android or ipad apps that could be useful for a 3rd grader with dyslexia?

  4. Piedad Rodriguez says:

    My daughter was placed in (IEP) special education about a two years ago, she is in third grade now and continues struggling with her writing skills. she has problems reading and writing only, but her verbal skills are outstanding. Her special education teacher is helping my daughter so much, that i feel very thankful for her contribution in assisting my child to learn to read and write. Ms M, my child teacher called me this morning suggesting that because she will be having state texts in april that my child could benefit with a scribe while she takes her exam, because she is really good with her words and remembers most details of her readings. I didn’t know exactly what it was to have a scribe, but i just read about it in the computer. My child is very expressive and verbal, she has no problems talking and telling the story or answering questions as long as she doesn’t have to write them down on paper. My question to you is
    will my daughter receive the full credit or proper grading on her 3rd grade level or will she be giving a special number on her text under the program? If you can answer this, I will appreciated very much, thank you.

    1. It sounds like your daughter is in good hands with a well invested teacher.

      As far as the testing and grading, it depends on your state regulations. You will want to ask the administration- principal, counselor, etc.

      Personally, I would call a meeting and include all of those involved in your 504 or Ard. I would ask the question there and get an answer in writing.

      All the best!

  5. Not suggesting you publish this; I just thought you’d like to know it’s “fait accompli” not fete. (Fait from the verb “faire” “to make/do”, while “fête” is a party).

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