Assessing & Addressing Dyslexia
Importance of Early Screening
Ending the Dyslexia Paradox
- Screen to identify at risk students in Kindergarten (screening is not a diagnosis). It is important to identify the weaknesses in the sub-skills of reading that impact decoding and oral language skills
- Screens should include: Phonemic Awareness, Phonological Awareness, and Rapid Auto Naming Skills
- 50% of students with dyslexia also have Developmental Language Disorder. Screening for DLD is important.
- Tier 1 Instruction should use a Structured Literacy Approach to teach all children the alphabetic code as a preventative approach to dyslexia (dyslexia never goes away, but the symptoms can be reduced with appropriate instruction and intervention).
Understanding Reading Challenges with the Simple View of Reading
Struggling Reader Profiles
Source: David A. Kilpatrick, Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (Essentials of Psychological Assessment)
- Adequate language comprehension, but poor word-level reading skills.
- Students have difficulty sounding out words and mapping words to their orthographic lexicon (long-term memory for stored words) for instant word recognition as a result of poor phonological awareness. Students also struggle with reading fluency and spelling.
- These students often have poor phonemic awareness.
- Compensator- student displays a mild form of the dyslexic pattern but compensates to some degree with strong language skills, making this problem more difficult to recognize.
- Dyslexia is part of a literacy continuum. Cut off percentages for diagnosis are arbitrary and vary from state to state. A child just above the cut-off will still struggle to read. Therefore, early screening and scientifically based reading instruction are very important to students who struggle with word-level reading. Poor phonemic awareness, a struggle to read non-words, and slow RAN should be considered a warning. "On the Reality of Dyslexia"
- Intervention must include multi-sensory explicit systematic phonics and should included phonemic awareness practice until students gain advanced phonemic proficiency. Guided reading and Three-Cueing do not address the core deficits for a dyslexic student.
- Typically have language-related deficits that keep students from comprehending what they read. These readers can decode words, but struggle with understanding meaning. This may be a sign of Developmental Language Disorder. Learn more:
- The Language Basis of Reading: Assessment and Instruction for Language Comprehension
- School Achievement and Developmental Language Disorder
- Developmental Language Disorder and the Simple View of Reading
- Weaknesses in both language comprehension and word-level reading (intellectual disabilities or speech language impaired).
- Understanding Dyslexia in the Context of Developmental Language Disorders
Dyslexia and the RTI/MTSS Process
Testing and Evaluation
- The article, "Testing and Evaluation" from the International Dyslexia Association website is a holistic and powerful guide on testing and evaluations to help identify dyslexic students. (Click on title to redirect to article).
- SLD/Dyslexia Assessment Resource Guide from the CT Department of Education. Describes testing and evaluations to help identify dyslexic students. These tests help identify core deficits, so appropriate evidence-based interventions can be used for students with dyslexia.
"There is general agreement that specific learning disabilities (SLDs), such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, are heterogeneous disorders that impact skill acquisition and performance in reading, writing, and mathematics. SLDs may coexist with other conditions, including but not limited to communication disorders, disorders of attention, or giftedness."
Things to Consider
- Addressing reading difficulties begins with Tier 1 instruction. K-3 literacy should include structured literacy as defined by the IDA. A systematic, explicit, and multi-sensory approach to reading. Learn more about structured literacy programs.
- Early screening is the best predictor of students who will go on to have reading disabilities.
- Highly trained teachers using evidence-based interventions with fidelity will lead to literacy for all.
- Use the Simple View of Reading as part of the RTI (Response to Intervention) referral Process. RTI remediation strategies often lead to a "wait to fail" reality for dyslexic students. If teachers understood dyslexia and the symptoms, effective Tier 2 & 3 interventions can be easier to implement (intensive systematic multi-sensory intervention).
- If a child is placed on a Personal Literacy Plan (PLP) they should be screened for phonemic awareness and phonological weaknesses before trying any intervention! Guided reading interventions do not address the core deficit for dyslexic children.
- Review Child's developmental history.
- Consider family history of struggling students. Dyslexia runs in families.
- Use the recommended diagnostic tests to identify dyslexia (Note: there is no single dyslexic test! Evaluations should include testing, classroom observations, and curriculum based class work. They all play an important part in identifying a dyslexic student).
- Evaluations for Dyslexia should include: intelligence, oral language skills, word identification, decoding, spelling/encoding, phonological processing, automaticity/fluency skills, reading comprehension, vocabulary (reading and listening task). (Source: IDA),
- Teachers can work with literacy interventionists and instructional coaches to meet the needs of their dyslexic students.
Writing and Encoding Struggles
The greatest tool a struggling student can have is a highly qualified and trained teacher in structured literacy. "A box" is not an appropriate plan without training and coaching support.
LLI as a Reading Intervention-"no discernible effects on alphabetics for beginning readers."
(Note: We do not officially endorse programs. We endorse evidence-based practices).
The IDA Handbook on Dyslexia
This handbook created by the International Dyslexia Association is a great tool to empower teachers and staff about dyslexia. Please share with your child's school. (Click the title to be redirected to PDF).