Special Education Services - Dyslexia Resources


Dyslexia Resources for Educators & School Administrators

Dyslexia Definition

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Students with Dyslexia may experience difficulty with any or all of the following:

  • Learning letter names and sounds
  • Phonological processing skills
  • Automaticity of reading
  • Decoding
  • Spelling and writing
  • Vocabulary

(International Dyslexia Association)

Specific Learning Disability Definition

Specific Learning Disability (IDEA 2004): Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) defines a Specific Learning Disabilities or (SLD) as a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

“SLD does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage, or limited English Proficiency.” (IDEA, 2004.34, CFR300.8)

Dyslexia Assessment and Screening Tools

Early identification of students at risk for reading difficulties is critical in developing the appropriate instructional plan. “The best solution to the problem of reading failure is to allocate resources for early identification and prevention.” (Torgesen, 2014). Initial screening is the first step in identifying the students who are at risk for learning difficulties and who may need additional supports. Under the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) all kindergarten through third-grade students must be screened for reading skills. Students in fourth grade and above may be screened as determined by the district. What is a screening assessment?

Initial screening should consist of short, informal probe(s) or measures designed to be:

  • Brief
  • Valid and reliable
  • Evidence-based
  • Used with all students

The purpose of screening and early identification is to:

  1. identify students who are at risk for reading failure;
  2. to provide them with extra intensive instruction; and
  3. to identify any in need of a more thorough and detailed assessment for a more specific identification if the students lag behind peers. (Badian, 2000); (Invernizzi et al., 2005).

Under Oklahoma’s Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), ALL kindergarten through 3rd -grade students must be screened using a State Board of Education-approved screening instrument: Under RSA, K-3 students must be screened three times a year—at the beginning, middle, and end of the year.

Universal Screening is the primary method for the early identification of students at risk of academic or behavioral difficulties. In this model, all students should be screened multiple times per year to ensure all students continue receiving the appropriate level of supports matched to their needs. Screening instruments should have a strong evidence-base for the designed student population and should provide information on benchmark performance, as well as typical student performance. Once a screening measure has identified that a student may be at-risk, some additional assessments may be needed to identify specific skill deficits targeted for intervention. Screening and follow-up assessment data are the basis for instructional and intervention decision-making.

See OTISS for more information on RtI and MTSS visit http://www.otiss.net/.

See the Southern Regional Education Board’s Reading and Dyslexia Screening Components and Instruments chart.

Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy™ is characterized by the provision of systematic, explicit instruction that integrates listening, speaking, reading, and writing and emphasizes the structure of language across the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), the relationships among words (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse. The following instructional principles are hallmark features of a Structured Literacy™ approach to reading:

  1. Instructional tasks are modeled and clearly explained, especially when first introduced or when a child is having difficulty.
  2.  Highly explicit instruction is provided, not only in important foundational skills such as decoding and spelling, but also in higher-level aspects of literacy such as syntax, reading comprehension, and text composition.
  3. Important prerequisite skills are taught before students are expected to learn more advanced skills.
  4. Meaningful interactions with language occur during the lesson.
  5. Multiple opportunities are provided to practice instructional tasks.
  6. Well targeted corrective feedback is provided after initial student responses.
  7. Student effort is encouraged.
  8. Lesson engagement during teacher-led instruction is monitored and scaffolded.
  9. Lesson engagement during independent work is monitored and facilitated.
  10. Students successfully complete activities at a high criterion level of performance before moving on to more advanced skills

Structured Literacy involves explicit, multisensory, systematic, cumulative instruction with continuous monitoring of learning. Explicit instruction is explained and demonstrated by the teacher one language and print concept at a time, rather than left to a child’s own learning through incidental encounters with information. Explicit instruction is “An approach that involves direct instruction: The teacher demonstrates the task and provides guided practice with immediate corrective feedback before the student attempts the task independently.” - (Mather & Wendling, 2012). In multisensory instruction, children learn language concepts by simultaneously using two or more learning pathways to the brain (visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic). Multisensory experiences allow a child to connect to their learning in new ways and build new pathways in the brain. Systematic and cumulative instruction requires that the sequence of instruction begin with the easiest concepts (that the student does not know) and progress to more difficult concepts.

Dyslexia and English Language Learners

Dyslexia appears in all cultures and languages in the world with a written language, including those that do not use an alphabetic script such as Korean and Hebrew. In English, the primary difficulty is the accurate decoding of unknown words. In consistent orthographies such as German or Italian, dyslexia appears more often as a problem with fluent reading – readers may be accurate, but very slow (Ziegler & Goswami, 2005). The signs of dyslexia do not show up later in English Learners (EL); rather, they tend to be identified later. Teachers and even parents may think a child is having trouble with reading because she’s struggling with a new language. A good indicator of dyslexia is if a child has trouble reading in her first language as well as the second language. The best way to evaluate bilingual kids is to give tests for dyslexia in both languages. Then, evaluators can see if a child is struggling with reading-related tasks in just one language, or in both.

Dyslexia and Giftedness

Students can be gifted and have dyslexia at the same time. To succeed, both their giftedness and their challenges need to be addressed. They need to be challenged in areas in which they’re gifted. They also need support in the areas where they struggle, just like any other student with learning or attention issues. Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence. It occurs in varying backgrounds and intelligence levels. With systematic, explicit, and intense instruction and support in reading, many children with dyslexia go on to higher education and are very successful in their careers. Students with above average IQ may mask their dyslexia with their talents; in turn, their giftedness may mask their dyslexia. Students may also look like an average student with good grades masking both their giftedness and their struggles.

Twice-exceptional or 2e is a term used to describe students who are both intellectually gifted (as determined by an accepted standardized assessment) and learning disabled, which includes students with dyslexia. The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) recognizes three types of students who could be identified as 2e:

  • Identified gifted students who have a learning disability
  • Students with a learning disability whose giftedness has not been identified
  • Unidentified students whose gifts and disabilities may be masked by average school achievement.

Effective Reading Instruction

Effective reading instruction must include the evidenced-based practice of instruction in systematic phonics. This means instruction should progress from simple to more difficult tasks while employing the “I do, we do, you do” model. Daily practice should be repetitive and cumulative with individualized feedback. Explicitly teaching, understanding, and recognizing the six syllable types found in the English language is essential.

Early intervention is critical to the success of a student with dyslexia. Assessments of phonemic awareness; letter knowledge and speed of naming; and sound-symbol association can be completed as early as kindergarten. Success, or lack thereof, in these specific skill areas often predicts reading ability in the first and second grades. Research has shown it takes four times as long to intervene in fourth grade as it does in late kindergarten (Lyon & Fletcher, 2001).

Multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) is an inclusive term that addresses meeting the academic, behavioral, and mental health needs of all students. More precisely, it is the blending of academic intervention models (i.e. Response to Intervention) and behavioral intervention models (i.e. Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports). The MTSS framework provides quality core instruction to all students and additional appropriate intervention and layered supports to students identified through Universal Screening measures as “at-risk” for future academic and/or behavioral failure. The primary goal of MTSS is to improve student achievement by intervening early and using evidence-based interventions matched to student needs.

It is also important to remember that the use of a multi-tiered system is not intended as a referral, eligibility, or placement model for Special Education Services; rather, it is a flexible service delivery model designed to increase academic and behavioral performance in areas of need for every student. While data gathered through the use of MTSS can be used in a comprehensive evaluation for special education eligibility, it cannot be used to delay or deny the provision of a full and individual evaluation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). See also OTISS for more information on RtI and MTSS http://www.otiss.net/

Online Resources for Educators

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Dyslexia Resources for Students & Families

The first thing to know is that you are not alone! Many people have a difficult time learning to read. In your classroom, there are most likely four or five other students who also find reading to be very difficult. There are even adults who struggle to read, even some teachers struggled to learn to read. You are not alone!

Dyslexia means to have difficulty reading words. We are born with the ability to speak; we learn it naturally while listening to others speak at home or at school. However, we are not born with the ability to read. It takes work and practice to become a reader. We are all different; you may be better at drawing or at sports, while your friend may be better at music or at math. You have more in common with your peers, but you just learn a little differently. We all have strengths; you are better at something than your classmates.

At school you have a team, a parent, a teacher, or a coach to help you learn to read, and that team, includes you. You are the heart of that team, and it does not exist without you. Learning about your educational difficulties and communicating your needs is called self-advocacy. Self-advocacy is how you can share how you feel, what you need, and what is not working. As an important member of the team, it is important to know your strengths, weakness, and limits. Members of the team are there to help you achieve your goals in school and prepare you for your future.

Learning new things takes time and work, but learning differently does make it harder. Mistakes will happen, learn from them, and keep moving forward. Make sure to celebrate your successes. It is important to know and understand how you learn best. Know what your accommodations are and who your support system is at school to ask for help, this may be a teacher, a counselor, or even a coach.

Books for Students

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Last updated on May 14, 2020