What is Dyslexia?
“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/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 the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
International Dyslexia Association definition and the definition adopted in Tennessee HB 1735 / SB 2002
Dyslexia Online Resources
Click here to be redirected to online resources for Dyslexia.
What do I do if I am concerned that my child might have Dyslexia?
Contact your student's principal and share your concerns about your child. They will provide information regarding screening and what comes next.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.
What causes dyslexia?
The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and functions. Moreover, most people with dyslexia have been found to have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, a key factor in their reading difficulties. Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, students with dyslexia can learn successfully.
How widespread is dyslexia?
About 13–14% of the school population nationwide has a handicapping condition that qualifies them for special education. Current studies indicate that one half of all the students who qualify for special education are classified as having a learning disability (LD) (6–7%). About 85% of those students have a primary learning disability in reading and language processing. Nevertheless, many more people— perhaps as many as 15–20% of the population as a whole—have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words. Not all of these will qualify for special education, but they are likely to struggle with many aspects of academic learning and are likely to benefit from systematic, explicit, instruction in reading, writing, and language. Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People with dyslexia can be very bright. They are often capable or even gifted in areas such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports. In addition, dyslexia runs in families; parents with dyslexia are very likely to have children with dyslexia. For some people, their dyslexia is identified early in their lives, but for others, their dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.
What are the effects of dyslexia?
The impact that dyslexia has is different for each person and depends on the severity of the condition and the effectiveness of instruction or remediation. The core difficulty is with word recognition and reading fluency, spelling, and writing. Some individuals with dyslexia manage to learn early reading and spelling tasks, especially with excellent instruction, but later experience their most debilitating problems when more complex language skills are required, such as grammar, understanding textbook material, and writing essays. People with dyslexia can also have problems with spoken language, even after they have been exposed to good language models in their homes Dyslexia and good language instruction in school. They may find it difficult to express themselves clearly, or to fully comprehend what others mean when they speak. Such language problems are often difficult to recognize, but they can lead to major problems in school, in the workplace, and in relating to other people. The effects of dyslexia reach well beyond the classroom.
How is dyslexia diagnosed?
Before referring a student for a comprehensive evaluation, a school or district may choose to track a student's progress with a brief screening test and identify whether the student is progressing at a "benchmark" level that predicts success in reading. If a student is below that benchmark (which is equivalent to about the 40th percentile nationally), the school may immediately deliver intensive and individualized supplemental reading instruction before determining whether the student needs a comprehensive evaluation that would lead to a designation of special education eligibility. Some students simply need more structured and systematic instruction to get back on track; they do not have learning disabilities. For those students and even for those with dyslexia, putting the emphasis on preventive or early intervention makes sense. There is no benefit to the child if special instruction is delayed for months while waiting for an involved testing process to occur. These practices of teaching first, and then determining who needs diagnostic testing based on response to instruction, are encouraged by federal policies known as Response to Intervention (RTI). Parents should know, however, that at any point they have the right to request a comprehensive evaluation under the IDEA law, whether or not the student is receiving instruction under an RTI model. A comprehensive evaluation typically includes intellectual and academic achievement testing, as well as an assessment of the critical underlying language skills that are closely linked to dyslexia. These include receptive (listening) and expressive language skills, phonological skills including phonemic awareness, and also a student’s ability to rapidly name letters and names. A student’s ability to read lists of words in isolation, as well as words in context, should also be assessed. If a profile emerges that is characteristic of readers with dyslexia, an individualized intervention plan should be developed, which should include appropriate accommodations, such as extended time. The testing can be conducted by trained school or outside specialists.
What are the rights of a person with dyslexia?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define the rights of students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. These individuals are legally entitled to special services to help them overcome and accommodate their learning problems. Such services include education programs designed to meet the needs of these students. The Acts also protect people with dyslexia against unfair and illegal discrimination.