Mastering the ability to read, spell, and write is fundamental to achieving academic success. Students with dyslexia struggle with those skills despite receiving the same classroom instruction that benefits most students and having adequate intelligence.The Houston Independent School District is committed to providing students identified with dyslexia with instruction that is individualized, intensive, and includes phonetic methods and a variety of writing and spelling components as outlined in the Texas Education Agency’s Dyslexia Handbook.
The International Dyslexia Association Definition of Dyslexia
Most current definition: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate/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.
- Adopted by the IDA Board, November 12, 2002.
- This definition is also used by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), 2002.
Let’s break it down:
Specific learning disability – research has indicated specific cognitive characteristics related to dyslexia.
…that is neurological in origin – dyslexia results from differences in how the brain processes information. Specifically, functional brain imaging has demonstrated a failure of the left hemisphere posterior brain systems to function properly during reading.
Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities – students with dyslexia will demonstrate difficulties identifying real words (word recognition) and pronouncing nonsense words (decoding); the student’s ability to read fluently is also a major characteristic as well as difficulty with spelling. This is in contrast to the popularly held belief that the major characteristic is the reversal of letters, words and numbers.
These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language – making the connection between oral language and the letters/sounds that represent language in written form requires an awareness that all words can be decomposed into phonologic segments (i.e., the word bat can be broken down into three phonemes or individual sounds – b, a, and t). Research findings have been consistent in confirming that in young school-age children as well as in adolescents, a deficit in phonology is the strongest and most specific finding related to dyslexia.
That is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities – unexpected in relation to the student’s: oral language skills, the ability to learn in the absence of print, intellectual functioning, or strong math skills in comparison to reading skills.
…and the provision of effective classroom instruction – if the child has been identified as at-risk for reading failure in kindergarten and first grade, have they been provided with effective instruction in order to develop proficient early reading skills? The lack of response to scientifically informed instruction is one factor that differentiates severe reading deficits from reading failure resulting from inadequate instruction. Early intervention is critical…students who receive appropriate instruction show changes in how their brain processes the information so that it resembles that of non disabled readers. Research has found that effective early interventions have the capability of reducing the expected incidence of reading failure from 18% of the school age population to 1 – 5%.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge – because students with reading difficulties typically do not read the same amount as non disabled readers, it may impact their vocabulary development as well as their exposure to information learned by reading.
[Source: A Definition of Dyslexia by G. Reid Lyon, Sally E. Shaywitz and Bennett A. Shaywitz; Annuals of Dyslexia, Volume 53, 2003]
A few quick facts about dyslexia:
- The word dyslexia comes from the Greek language and means poor language.
- Dyslexia is a life-long status, however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life.
- Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or a desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods dyslexics can learn successfully.
- Early identification and treatment is the key to helping dyslexics achieve in school and in life.
(Source: The International Dyslexia Association)
The following are the reading/spelling characteristics of dyslexia:
- Difficulty reading words in isolation;
- Difficulty accurately decoding unfamiliar words;
- Difficulty with oral reading (slow, inaccurate, or labored);
- Difficulty spelling.
The reading/spelling characteristics are most often associated with the following:
- Segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds in words (phonemic awareness);
- Learning the names of letters and their associated sounds;
- Holding information about sounds and words in memory (phonological memory);
- Rapidly recalling the names of familiar objects, colors, or letters of the alphabet (rapid naming).
Consequences of dyslexia may include the following:
- Variable difficulty with aspects of reading comprehension;
- Variable difficulty with aspects of written language;
- Limited vocabulary growth do to reduced reading experiences.
For more information:
- Visit the International Dyslexia Association for answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- View/download the Texas Education Agency's Dyslexia Handbook (available in Spanish soon).
Just a few celebrities & other important figures with dyslexia:
- Erin Brokovich
- Stephen J. Cannell
- Tom Cruise
- Thomas Edison
- Danny Glover
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Nolan Ryan
- Charles Schwab
- Jackie Stewart
- Henry Winkler
- MANY more...
(Source: The International Dyslexia Association)
The Texas Education Agency is pleased to announce the launch of the Twice-Exceptional Children and G/T Services website. The Twice-Exceptional children website is designed to provide administrators, educators, and parents with practical resources for identifying and serving the twice-exceptional learner. Twice-exceptional students are those who perform at - or show the potential for performing at - a remarkably high level of accomplishment when compared to others of the same age, experience, or environment and who also gives evidence of one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility.
The website is organized into sections that focus on the life of the twice-exceptional learner: student, school, and family/community. The website provides a comprehensive view of the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical needs of twice-exceptional learners. It includes a framework for identifying twice-exceptional learners and provides tools and resources districts can use to inform local policy and develop a plan to meet the diverse needs of these students.
- Twice-Exceptional "Myths vs. Facts" Quiz
- Twice-Exceptional flowchart to aid in the assessment and identification of students
Instruction for Students with Dyslexia
School districts may purchase a reading program or develop their own reading program for students with dyslexia and related disorders as long as the program is characterized by the descriptors found in The Dyslexia Handbook [19 TAC §74.28(c)].
Descriptors related to evidence-based instructional components:
- Phonological awareness – "Phonological awareness is the understanding of the internal sound structure of words. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a given language that can be recognized as being distinct from other sounds. An important aspect of phonological awareness is the ability to segment spoken words into their component phonemes" (Birsh, 2011, p.19).
- Sound-symbol association – Sound-symbol association is the knowledge of the varies speech sounds in any language to the corresponding letter or letter combinations that represent those speech sounds. The mastery of sound/symbol association (alphabetic principle) is the foundation for the ability to read (decode) and spell (encode) (Birsh, 2011, p.19). "Explicit phonics refers to an organized program in which these sound symbol correspondences are taught systematically" (Berninger & Wolf, 2009, p. 53).
- Syllabication – "A syllable is a unit of oral or written language with one vowel sound. The six basic types of syllables in the English language include the following; closed, open, vowel-e consonant-e, r-controlled, vowel pair (or vowel team), and consonant-le (or final stable syllable). Rules for dividing syllables must be directly taught in relation to the word structure" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
- Orthography – Orthography is the written spelling patterns and rules in a given language. Students must be taught the regularity and irregularity of the orthographic patterns of a language in an explicit and systematic manner. The instruction should be integrated with phonology and sound-symbol knowledge.
- Morphology – "Morphology is the study of how a base word, prefix, root, suffix (morphemes) combine to form words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a given Language" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
- Syntax – "Syntax is the sequence and function of words in a sentence in order to convey meaning. This includes grammar and sentence variation and affects choices regarding mechanics of a given language" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
- Reading comprehension – Reading comprehension is the process of extracting and constructing meaning through the interaction of the reader with the text to be comprehended and the specific purpose for reading. The reader's skill in reading comprehension depends upon the development of accurate and fluent word recognition, oral language development (especially vocabulary and listening comprehension), background knowledge, use of appropriate strategies to enhance comprehension and repair it if it breaks down, and the reader's interest in what he or she is reading and motivation to comprehend its meaning (Birsh, 2011, pp. 9 and 368; Snow, 2002).
- Reading fluency – "Reading fluency is the ability to read text with sufficient speed and accuracy to support comprehension" (Moats & Dakin, 2008, p. 52). Teachers can help promote fluency with several interventions that have proven successful in helping students with fluency (e.g., repeated readings, word lists, and choral reading of passages) (Henry, 2010, p. 104).
Descriptors related to instructional approaches:
- Simultaneous, multisensory (VAKT) – "Multisensory instruction utilizes all learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, kinesthetic-tactile) simultaneously in order to enhance memory and learning" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19). "Children are actively engaged in learning language concepts and other information, often by using their hands, arms, mouths, eyes, and whole bodies while learning" (Moats & Dakin, 2008, p. 58).
- Systematic and cumulative – "Systematic and cumulative instruction requires the organization of material follow order of the language. The sequence must begin with the easiest concepts and progress methodically to more difficult concepts. Each step must also be based on elements previously learned. Concepts taught must be systematically reviewed to strengthen memory" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
- Explicit instruction – "Explicit instruction is explained and demonstrated by the teacher one language and print concept at a time, rather than left to discovery through incidental encounters with information. Poor readers do not learn that print represents speech simply from exposure to books or print" (Moats & Dakin, 2008, p. 58). 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, p. 326).
- Diagnostic teaching to automaticity – "Diagnostic teaching is knowledge of prescriptive instruction that will meet individual student needs of language and print concepts. The teaching plan is based on continual assessment of the student's retention and application of skills" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19). "This teacher knowledge is essential for guiding the content and emphasis of instruction for the individual student" (Moats & Dakin, 2008, p. 58). "When a reading skill becomes automatic (direct access without conscious awareness), it is performed quickly in an efficient manner" (Berninger & Wolf, 2009, p. 70).
- Synthetic instruction – "Synthetic instruction presents the parts of any alphabetic language (morphemes) to teach how the word parts work together to form a whole (e.g., base word, derivative)" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
- Analytic instruction – "Analytic instruction presents the whole (e.g., base word, derivative) and teaches how the whole word can be broken into its component parts (e.g., base word, prefix, root, and suffix)" (Birsh, 2011, p. 19).
Talking about dyslexia…
"For me, dyslexia is not a disability. The unique strengths and characteristics of dyslexia allow me to think 'outside the box'. Until I was taught the Orton Gillingham approach, I did not have the basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills necessary for success."
— Peter W. D. Wright, Attorney for children with Special Needs
Listed below are possible accommodations for the §504, or Admission, Review, Dismissal (ARD) Committee of Knowledgeable Persons to consider for a student with dyslexia. This is not an exclusive list.
Textbooks and Curriculum
- Provide audiotapes/CDs of textbooks and have student follow the text while listening
- Provide summaries of chapters
- Use marker or highlighting tape to highlight important textbook sections
- Assign peer reading buddies
- Use colored transparency or overlay
- Review vocabulary prior to reading
- Provide preview questions
- Use videos/filmstrips related to the readings
- Provide a one-page summary and/or a review of important facts
- Do not require student to read aloud
- Talk through the material one-to-one after reading assignments
- Shorten assignments to focus on mastery of key concepts
- Shorten spelling tests to focus on mastering the most functional words
- Substitute alternatives for written assignments (posters, oral/taped or video presentations, projects, collages, etc.)
- Provide a computer for written work
- Seat student close to teacher in order to monitor understanding
- Provide quiet during intense learning times
Instruction and Assignments
- Give directions in small steps and with as few words as possible
- Break complex direction into small steps—arrange in a vertical list format
- Read written directions to student, then model/demonstrate
- Accompany oral directions with visual clues
- Use both oral and written directions
- Ask student to repeat; check for understanding
- Use worksheets that require minimal writing
- Provide a “designated note taker;” photocopy another student’s or teacher’s notes
- Provide a print outline with videotapes and filmstrips
- Allow student to use a keyboard when appropriate
- Allow student to respond orally
- Grade only for content not spelling or handwriting
- Have student focus on a single aspect of a writing assignment (elaboration, voice, etc.)
- Allow student to dictate answer to essay questions
- Reduce copying tasks
- Reduce written work
- Allow student to use a calculator without penalty
- Use visuals and concrete examples
- Use grid paper to help correctly line up math problems
- Present information in small increments and at a slower pace
- Take time to reteach if student is struggling to understand
- Read story problems aloud
- Break problems into smaller steps
- Provide opportunity to test orally
- Allow student to type responses
- Read test to student
- Evaluate oral performances more than written
- Avoid penalizing for spelling errors, reversals, etc.
- Go over directions orally
- Permit as much time as needed to complete tests; avoid timed testing
- Read test materials and allow oral responses
- Separate content from mechanics/conventions grade
- Provide typed test materials, not tests written in cursive
- Allow student to respond on tape, with a typewriter, or by dictating answers to a tutor for assessment
- Allow tests to be taken in a room with few distractions
- Reduce reading assignments; keeping concepts that have been taught
- Accept work dictated by student to a parent/tutor
- Limit amount of time to spend on homework; have parents verify time spent on assignments
Talking about dyslexia…
"Never let dyslexia be an excuse for not achieving success. Chart your course and work to make your dreams a reality. Once you do that, there is nothing to ever hinder you."
— Carolyn McCarthy, Former member of U.S. House of Representatives
Books About Dyslexia
- All Kinds of Minds by Mel Levine, M.D.
- Basic Facts About Dyslexia & Other Reading Problems by Louisa Cook Moats, Karen E. Dakin
- Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print—A Summary by Marilyn Jager Adams
- Dyslexia, Fluency, and the Brain by Maryanne Wolf
- Dyslexia: Theory and Practice of Instruction, Third Edition by Diana Brewster Clark, Joanna Kellog Uhry
- English Isn’t Crazy! by Diana Handbury King
- Helping Children Overcome L.D. by Gerome Rosner
- Homework Without Tears: A Parent’s Guide for Motivating Children To Do Homework and To Succeed in School by Lee Canter, Lee Hausner
- How Dyslexic Benny Became a Star: A Story of Hope for Dyslexic Children and Their Parents by Joe Griffith
- Informed Instruction for Reading Success: Foundations for Teacher Preparation by The International Dyslexia Association
- Josh: A Boy With Dyslexia by Caroline Janover
- Keeping A Head in School: A Student’s Book about Learning Abilities and Learning Disorders by Mel Levine, M.D.
- Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students with Learning Disabilities and AdHD Give You the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution by Jonathan Mooney, David Cole
- Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, 3rd Edition by Judith R. Birsh (Ed.)
- My Name is Brain Brian by Jeanne Betancourt
- Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at An Level by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.
- Parenting a Struggling Reader by Susan L. Hall, Louisa C. Moats
- Proust and the Squid, The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf
- Reading Assessment: Linking Language, Literacy, and Cognition by Melissa Lee Farrall
- Reading David: A Mother and Son’s Journey Through the Labyrinth of Dyslexia by Lissa Weinstein, Ph.D.
- Revealing Minds: Assessing to Understand and Support Struggling Learners by Craig Pohlman
- Smart Kids with School Problems: Things to Know & Ways to Help by Pricilla Vail
- Speech to Print by Louisa C. Moats
- Straight Talk About Reading: How Parents Can Make a Difference During the Early Years by Susan L. Hall, Louisa C. Moats
- The Difficult Child by Stanley Turecki, M.D., Leslie Tonner
- The Many Faces of Dyslexia by Margaret Byrd Rawson
- The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child’s Learning Disability by Larry B. Silver, M.D.
- The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia by Regina Richards
- The Tuned-in, Turned-on Book about Learning Problems by Marnell Hayes
- The Voice of Evidence in Reading Research by Peggy McCardle, Vinita Chhabra
- The Worst Speller in Jr. High by Caroline Janover, Rosemary Wellner
- “What’s Wrong with Me?” Learning Disabilities at Home and School by Regina Cicci
Dyslexia Resources for @HOME Instruction
Please visit the HISD Dyslexia Resource Website for engaging applications and opportunities to practice rerading skills.
812 W 28th Street
Houston, TX 77008
Director. Office of Intervention
Senior Manager, Dyslexia Services and Section 504