Educational researchers have built up 30 years of documented evidence on dyslexia. As one of the most prevalent learning disabilities affecting children, dyslexia impacts approximately 15-20% of the population. Despite the widespread incidence of the learning disorder, it is still not well understood.
What Is Dyslexia?
Dyslexia impacts the ability to read and identify the sounds associated with speech and how they correspond with letters and words. Dyslexia is not related to hearing, vision, or intelligence, but to differences in the language-processing parts of the brain. While there is currently no cure for dyslexia, support for those affected by the disorder is best through early assessment and interventions.
Interventions For Dyslexia
Research indicates that data-driven educational techniques and interventions are needed to help students with dyslexia to achieve the same results as their neuro-normative peers. Growth in reading skills can serve to change brain connectivity and structures.
The first step in assisting those with reading difficulties is through explicit instruction. Evidence-based instructional methods to improve reading in dyslexic students include the following strategies:
- Phonemic awareness: Teaching students to identify, blend, manipulate, and segment phonemes (the smallest units of sound) will lead to phonemic proficiency, which is necessary for reading
- Phonics and word recognition: Instruction in spelling and general decoding can assist the dyslexic student in crafting a bank of sight words to remember and recall as needed.
- Morphological skills: A working knowledge of base words, roots, prefixes, and suffixes will help dyslexic students construct and deconstruct words.
Effective instruction for all students, particularly those with dyslexia, should begin with basic concepts and increase complexity with mastery of simple skills. Lessons should also include frequent and consistent feedback. Research supports practice tests to measure mastery levels as students build their skills. The use of small-group instruction with similar-skilled students has shown to be beneficial. There is also a growing body of evidence to support the use of multisensory approaches to build reading skills. Dance, music, and using manipulatives can help connect the physical with the mental, reinforcing instruction and sparking student interest.
Individual Education Plans (IEPs) can be created for students with dyslexia, empowering the school and teachers to accommodate and assist students in accessing the instruction and demonstrating mastery. Some commonly used accommodations to help dyslexic students include the following:
- Assistive tools, including graphic organizers, hand reading pens, mind mapping software, spell-checkers, speech recognition software, and text-to-speech programs
- Built-in breaks to help students with pacing and avoid stress or discouragement
- Extended time to complete reading assignments or tests
- Verbally given instructions
- Oral responses to testing
- Quiet spaces without visual distractions to learn and test
The best designs for instruction and accommodations are only helpful with an accurate diagnosis. Studies suggest that the most effective interventions are those provided in the early, formative years, although researchers agree it is never too late to seek help for dyslexia. Learn more about Tests of Dyslexia (TOD™) at WPS.