- What is Dyslexia?
- What are the characteristics of Dyslexia?
- What are some common myths about Dyslexia?
- What signs can I look for to know if my child might have difficulties reading?
- What can I do to support my child at home?
- What is the Science of Reading?
- What kind of instruction is best for teaching reading?
- What is the Structured Literacy approach?
Dyslexia is a neurological or brain-based condition impacting reading, spelling, and writing. Students with Dyslexia are intelligent and can have many skills and strengths, such as drawing, telling stories, engineering, and so on. Students with Dyslexia have unexpected difficulty in reading but have strengths in other areas, such as reasoning, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Students with Dyslexia may have higher oral language skills (i.e., higher vocabulary, good to above average articulation, etc.). Additionally, Dyslexia may occur with other conditions, such as speech and language disorders and ADHD. (California Dyslexia Guidelines, 4).
Students with Dyslexia write things backward.
This myth is false. It is not the reversal of letters. Letter reversal is typical for younger children as they are learning. It usually is corrected before the end of second grade. For older children who spell with letter reversals, it is not necessarily Dyslexia. Letter reversals could be due to difficulty remembering how to form the letter rather than having Dyslexia.
Reading problems are caused by visual problems.
This myth is false. Dyslexia is not a vision or visual issue. A large body of research shows it is a problem with language processing at the phoneme (sound) level.
Children will outgrow Dyslexia.
This myth is false. Dyslexia is lifelong. Children don't grow out having Dyslexia. However, they learn skills with evidence-based instruction to overcome the obstacles that their Dyslexia presents with.
More boys than girls have Dyslexia.
This myth is false. An equal number of girls and boys have Dyslexia (Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher, & Escobar, 1990).
Dyslexia only affects people who speak English.
This myth is false. Dyslexia occurs in people of all languages and cultures.
Dyslexics need colored overlays/lenses.
This myth is false. No research or evidence to support this claim. (American Optometric Association, 2004).
Dyslexics can never learn to read.
This myth is false. Research shows that with early intervention, difficulties in reading are likely to be reduced or eliminated. Older readers can become accurate, albeit slower, but can learn to read.
You can read additional information about common myths about Dyslexia here.
A great resource to get an in-depth look at the signs and characteristics of Dyslexia is The California Dyslexia Guidelines.
Common signs that may be present are:
Difficulty reading words with ease.
Difficulty in remembering words newly learned
Slower or labored reading pace due to the need to decode the words.
Difficulty learning letters and sounds.
History of speech delay or difficulty in understanding a child's speech.
Information is understood better when listening to it rather than reading it.
Spelling words phonetically, difficulty remembering high-frequency words.
Avoiding reading or spelling.
Difficulty remembering facts, days of the week, or months of the year.
What should I do if I believe my child is struggling with reading?
If you suspect your child has difficulty with reading, please speak with your child's teacher. They will have more information and can discuss any concerns you may have about your student. By talking with your child's teacher, you can get a clearer understanding of your child's strengths and weaknesses in reading.
Focusing on your student's strengths is essential. Encourage them and let them know what they are doing well. Encourage breaks, read together, and most of all, have fun together. It is also helpful to understand your child's literacy expectations and goals. These expectations and goals vary depending on the age and grade of your child. Difficulties with reading does not mean they have Dyslexia. The first step is to speak with your child's teacher about what skills are realistic for your child to know. Your child's teacher may also have some ideas and activities that can be used at home with your child to support their reading. Additionally, you can find extension activities by developmental age in Chapter 13 of The California Dyslexia Guidelines here.
The Reading League defines this term as a "vast, interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based research about reading and issues related to reading and writing." (The Science of Reading: A Defining Movement Coalition, 2021) The research spans many years and covers topics concerning reading and writing. Some examples of what the research has looked at are issues related to the teaching and instruction of reading, difficulties in reading and writing, and assessment. The Reading League has more information on the Science of reading you can find here.
Research shows that evidence-based literacy programs lead to success in learning to read. Evidence-based or research-based literacy is often called Structured Literacy or the Orton Gillingham approach. This approach is a way of structuring reading instruction in a way that helps people with Dyslexia learn to read. It is not a specific curriculum, and the components are not specific activities. There are lots of curriculums using this approach. However, the main features that these different programs use to frame their teaching all contain the following characteristics:
Direct and Explicit: Skills are taught directly, explicitly, and clearly.
Systematic and Cumulative: A specific scope and sequence of skills are taught, from easiest to most difficult. The lessons build on previous mastery skills that the teacher taught. This sequence in teaching skills is essential before moving on to more difficult ones.
Multisensory: Instruction that uses all learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile).
Prescriptive and diagnostic: As skills are taught, teachers look at data from lesson outcomes and progress monitoring of student performance to provide student feedback and guide instruction.
The International Dyslexia Association stated that, “Structured literacy approaches emphasize highly explicit and systematic teaching of all important components of literacy. These components include both foundational skills (e.g., decoding, spelling) and higher-level literacy skills (e.g., reading comprehension, written expression). Structured literacy also emphasizes oral language abilities essential to literacy development, including phonemic awareness, sensitivity to speech sounds in oral language, and the ability to manipulate those sounds.”
Structured literacy is not a specific curriculum or program. Structured literacy addresses the following skills regardless of the curriculum in a direct, explicit, systematic, and cumulative approach. It involves multisensory teaching throughout and is prescriptive and diagnostic responding to eros and giving feedback immediately, as well as, adapting instruction based on frequent progress monitoring and student responses. The following components are addressed in the approach.
Phonological Awareness/Phonemic Awareness: Understanding the sound structure of our language; how to recognize, manipulate, blend, and segment speech sounds in words.
Phonics/Decoding: Linking the graphemes (letters) to the phonemes (sounds); learning the syllable types in our English system and how to divide syllables.
Orthography: Using spelling patterns and rules in our English system (encoding); integrating decoding and encoding.
Reading Fluency: Building strategies to support appropriate rate, accuracy, and expression.
Syntax: Using correct grammar, sentence structure, and mechanics of our language system.
Vocabulary/Morphology: Building and increasing vocabulary by studying base words, prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
Reading Comprehension: Comprehension strategies and metacognitive processes are part of the instruction to support getting meaning from text. More information is linked here.
This information is taken from The International Dyslexia Association website unless otherwise specified.
Dehaene, S. (2009) Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read. New York, NY: Penguin.
Mather, N. & Wendling, B. (2012). Essentials of Dyslexia: Assessment and Intervention. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Shaywitz, S. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York, NY: Knopf.
Wolfe, M. (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
What is Dyslexia? - Kelli Sandman-Hurley
VIDEO EN ESPAÑOl
Welcome to the Science of Reading - Arizona Department of Education. https://www.azed.gov/scienceofreading
Friedman, Megan. “What Is Structured Literacy? - International Dyslexia Association.” International Dyslexia Association, 21 Nov. 2017, dyslexiaida.org/what-is-structured-literacy
“Instruction of Metacognitive Strategies Enhances Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Achievement of Third-Grade Students.” Reading Rockets, 24 Aug. 2017, www.readingrockets.org/article/instruction-metacognitive-strategies-enhances-reading-comprehension-and-vocabulary.
Lawson, Brandi. “What Is the Science of Reading - the Reading League.” The Reading League, 8 Apr. 2022, www.thereadingleague.org/what-is-the-science-of-reading.
Morin, Amanda. 7 Common Myths About Dyslexia. 6 July 2022,
www.readingrockets.org/article/instruction-metacognitive-strategies-enhances-reading-comprehension-and-vocabulary.Lawson, Brandi. “What Is the Science of Reading - the Reading League.” The Reading League, 8 Apr. 2022, www.thereadingleague.org/what-is-the-science-of-reading.
Morin, Amanda. 7 Common Myths About Dyslexia. 6 July 2022,
Team, Understood. Signs of Dyslexia at Different Ages. 3 May 2022, www.understood.org/en/articles/checklist-signs-of-dyslexia-at-different-ages.
Wierschem, Jenny. “Here's Why Schools Should Use Structured Literacy - International Dyslexia Association.” International Dyslexia Association, 11 Aug. 2022, https://dyslexiaida.org/heres-why-schools-should-use-structured-literacy/#:~:text=What%20Is%20Structured%20Literacy%3F, reading%20comprehension%2C%20written%20expression).