Dyslexia and Scientifically-Based Reading Instruction

Understanding The Complexities of Reading To Guide Instructional Practices

To understand Dyslexia, it is essential for educators to understand the cognitive processes involved in reading. Reading is not natural. Therefore, it must be explicitly and systematically taught. The Simple View of Reading is the belief that reading consists of two interdependent parts Decoding and Language Comprehension (Gouch & Tunmner, 1986).

By understanding the Simple View or Reading, it is easier to understand the challenges dyslexic students experience.

Source: Amplify

"Numerous studies have indicated that students who receive early systematic phonics instruction have better reading comprehension at the end of the second and third grades (Foorman, Francis, Fletcher, Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998; NICHD, 2000).

This is because they can accurately read the words, and being able to read the words provides the oral language system with the input needed for comprehension.

Poor word reading means that the oral language system often receives inadequate input for comprehension."

- David A. Kilpatrick in Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties states

How does your curriculum align with the Reading Rope? How are teachers using the Reading Rope to understand the challenges of struggling readers?

  • The Reading Rope consists of lower and upper strands.
  • The word-recognition strands (phonological awareness, decoding, and sight recognition of familiar words) work together as the reader becomes accurate, fluent, and increasingly automatic with repetition and practice. This is when students "lift" words off the page without effort.
  • The Word Recognition strand is where most dyslexic students struggle.
  • The language-comprehension strands (background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge) reinforce the word recognition strand, The strands weave together with the word-recognition strands to produce a skilled reader.
  • This does not happen overnight; it requires instruction and practice over time.
  • Source: Scarborough’s Reading Rope: A Groundbreaking Infographic

Structured Literacy benefits ALL students. It is important to support instructional practices that build a solid foundation for all learners based on the design of our brain to process both oral and written language.

Tier 1 Instruction

Scientific Based Reading Instruction-More Than "Just Phonics"

Structured Literacy is an approach to reading instruction that can be beneficial not only for students with reading disabilities, but also for other at-risk students including English learners and struggling adolescents (Baker et al., 2014; Gersten et al., 2008; Kamil et al., 2008; Vaughn et al., 2006).

(Source: International Dyslexia Association)

Excellent webinar featuring Dr. David Kilpatrick that can be used for professional development. It includes a video and handouts for teachers.


  • Structured Literacy in combination with a content rich curriculum in grades K-3 can provide ALL students the necessary foundation to succeed in reading.
  • Early screening and progress monitoring are essential to help struggling readers, especially dyslexic students
  • The multi-modal practices of a structured literacy curriculum helps build the necessary cognitive processes for students to learn the alphabetic code.
  • Decodable books in the early levels help students practice and transfer skills from their systematic and explicit phonics lessons.
  • It is vital for dyslexic students who did not receive structured literacy to receive evidence-based interventions to address the core deficits that impact decoding, fluency, and encoding skills from a highly qualified teacher or literacy specialist.
  • It is also important to address the strengths of dyslexic students through best practices in the general education classroom.
  • Structured Literacy does not mean phonics only. Structured Literacy should be incorporated into a curriculum that also builds content knowledge to aid vocabulary and comprehension. In the early grades, this is done through read alouds.

Tier 2 & 3 Interventions

Understanding Reading Challenges with the Simple View of Reading

Types of Reading Difficulties

  • Dyslexia-Adequate language comprehension, but poor word-level reading skills. Intervention must include multi-sensory explicit systematic phonics. Guided reading and Three-Cueing do not address the core deficits for a dyslexic student.
  • Hyperlexia-typically have language-related deficits that keep them from comprehending what they read.
  • Mixed-Type-weaknesses in both language comprehension and word-level reading (intellectual disabilities or speech language impaired).
  • 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.

Source: Source: David A. Kilpatrick Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties

Source: David A. Kilpatrick Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties

Appropriate Reading Interventions for Dyslexic Students

Orton-Gillingham and Orton-Gillingham Based Reading Interventions

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.

Orton-Gillingham Approach

Matrix of Multisensory Structured Language Programs

(Note: We do not officially endorse programs. We endorse evidence-based practices).