Top 5 Considerations for Students with Dyslexia

New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook published September 2017

  1. What is Dyslexia?
  2. Placement
  3. Accommodations
  4. Assistive Technology
  5. Research Based Instructional Strategies

1. What is Dyslexia?

(N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.3) Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological 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 the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

Dyslexia:

  • Is not caused by low general intellectual ability
  • Is not result of poor instruction, lack of motivation, or lack of reading at home
  • May or may not be related to speech and language struggles
  • Is neurobiological in origin

2. Placement

The placement of a student with a disability is a very individualized decision. Many students with dyslexia can learn with general education students throughout the day with minimal supports or specialized instruction. Others find that out of district schools that specialize in dyslexia instructional strategies is best. Students can display a wide array of ability and should receive a placement that is able to meet their individualized instructional needs. Please remember, according to the law, accommodations and modifications cannot dictate the placement of a student. Understand the various educational settings available and make a decision that will allow for educational growth with nondisabled peers for as much of the day as possible.

3. Accommodations and Modifications

Accommodations and modifications should be tailored to your individual child. There should be no list of supports provided to all students with Dyslexia. Understand your child’s abilities and determine what tools and supports they will need to be successful in their classes. Access to accommodations can help to expose children to more vocabulary, background information, more complex text, higher level thinking and peer interactions.

Some accommodations may include:

  • Abridged version of a book
  • Ability to provide assessment responses verbally
  • Pre-teach new vocabulary
  • Break down tasks into manageable pieces
  • Modify homework assignments
  • Small group instruction
  • Read directions aloud
  • Provide word bank for fill-in blank tests
  • Use of visual aides
  • Outline of lecture in advance
  • Highly structured learning environment
  • Provide study guides and graphic organizers

4. Assistive Technology

Assistive technology can have a very wide definition. High and low tech supports are available to support students throughout the learning process. Examples of low tech supports would be magnified bars and reading bars with colored windows. Many of the higher tech supports can be easily accessible through a laptop or tablet.

  • Text to speech
  • Speech to text
  • Online textbooks and novels (many are at no cost for students with print based disabilities.)
  • Online graphic organizers that transition to outline
  • Citation software to be used when conducting research
  • Online scientific writing supports
  • Pens that will define, translate, record, and read aloud typed text
  • Colored screens to support reading fatigue

5.  Research-based Instructional Strategies

Accommodations and modifications should not replace quality research-based instruction. Popular reading approached such as guided reading and balance literacy are not appropriate instructional models. While they can be beneficial, there must be a component of support explicitly for students with Dyslexia. The structured literacy required for success must be delivered in addition to grade level instruction. The need for reading comprehension, vocabulary development, and background knowledge must still be obtained throughout the educational careers of children with Dyslexia.

 What is structured literacy?

Structured literacy is instruction that is explicit, systematic, cumulative and multisensory.  This type of  intervention emphasizes the structure of language including the speech sound system (phonology), sound/symbol association, the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of word (morphology), the relationships among words (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse. Multisensory instructional strategies involve simultaneous use of visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic sensory systems and/ or articulatory motor components while linking, listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Components of Structured Literacy Include:

  • Phonological awareness
  • Sound-symbol association
  • Syllable instruction
  • Orthography/spelling
  • Morphology (rules used to combined sounds to make words)
  • Grammar/syntax
  • Vocabulary
  • Background knowledge

Common programs that provide this type of instruction are usually adopted by schools. Many structured literacy programs Orton-Gillingham approach, multi-sensory approaches. Ensure that the provider of the specific program is certified by the program developer. It is best practice to request pre and post assessments to determine where your child is advancing and struggling. Many of these programs have the assessment component built into the system. This list only includes a few of the programs and does not provide endorsement. To learn more about specific programs, click here.

Common programs include:

  • Wilson Reading System
  • Barton Reading and Spelling System
  • Lindamood Bell Program
  • Project Read
  • Read Naturally