How states are expanding support for dyslexic students

Experts recommend a structured literacy approach to best help dyslexic students
By: | October 22, 2019
Experts stress that dyslexia is not related to a child's IQ, though these students may need extra supports at school. ( damircudic)Experts stress that dyslexia is not related to a child's IQ, though these students may need extra supports at school. ( damircudic)

New York may begin screening preschoolers for dyslexia as parents in that state and around the country put more pressure on schools to enhance interventions provided to students with the reading disability, the Times Union in Albany reported.

Until last year, New York school officials did not use the word “dyslexia” in individualized education plans for students with learning disabilities. But a law passed last year allows the mention of specific learning disorders—such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia—in IEPs, the newspaper reported.

In Montana, a law passed earlier this year requires school districts to screen all new students, up to second grade. Any student who doesn’t meet grade-level reading benchmarks must also be assessed, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

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In 2017, North Carolina lawmakers mandated more robust screenings as well as expanded training for teachers, according to the Citizen Times. Some counties there have a “dyslexia delegate” to help schools adopt research-based interventions.

“Continuing to bridge the gap between research and practice is the biggest thing that we need to accomplish, because the research really is robust,” Matt Hoskins, assistant director of the Exceptional Children  Division at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, told the newspaper. “It’s just ensuring that the science of reading makes its way to every classroom.”

As October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, Jillian Kaster, a reading coach and a former kindergarten teacher, wrote an op-ed for EdSurge sharing some ideas to guide educators in changing their perceptions of the condition. She wrote that she hoped these strategies would also “help their struggling readers change their perceptions of themselves.”

“Fortunately, having dyslexia has nothing to do with one’s IQ, but no student who struggles to read is going to inherently think that,” wrote Kaster, who didn’t discover she had dyslexia until age 34.

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To best help dyslexic students, many reading experts recommend the structured literacy approach—an explicit and systematic way of taking apart the sounds of words, District Administration reported in its look at how schools are disrupting dyslexia.

Multisensory instruction can also create learning memories in various parts of the brain, Marilyn Zecher, a language therapist, told DA in 2017. This approach uses pipe cleaners, beads, paper cut in sections and manipulatives, to teach numeracy and fractions.

Richard Wagner, associate director of the Florida Center for Reading Research and a professor of psychology at Florida State University, stressed that dyslexia is not correlated with intelligence.

“If you’re reading at a level at which you do everything else, it’s probably not dyslexia,” Wagner told DA in 2017. “If you’re reading below the level at which you do other things, it’s more likely to be dyslexia.”

Some dyslexic students meet the criteria for special education, but even those who don’t may need extra help, experts told DA.

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