Meeting the needs of students with dyslexia

Considering our history as a species, dyslexia is a relatively new phenomenon. If we lived in the days before the printing press, this website would not be needed.

Before the printing press the majority of people did not need to read, and therefore dyslexia didn’t exist. But that is no longer the case. With today’s society becoming increasingly literate and with the increased reliance on technology, reading and writing are all the more important to our development as human beings.

Throughout this website we use the term dyslexia to describe the population who is not learning to read and spell despite competencies in other areas. If you work in an educational setting, you may use different terms such as a specific learning disability or a deficit in reading comprehension, written word decoding, or written expression. We are talking about the same thing.

Given that school is where we go to learn to read and write, dyslexia is not often identified until a child begins formal schooling.  If you are a teacher, it gets your attention—as it should—when a child fails to learn at the pace of his or her peers. It is important that as soon as flags appear, we begin the process to determine what is causing the problem.

A reading deficit impacts learning in all subjects

As you know, in today's society reading underlies nearly all school-based learning. A reading deficit can impact learning in subjects such as math, social studies, and science. A difficulty reading at the level of one's peers is an access issue. Once a student gets behind it is very difficult to catch up. He/She misses learning fundamentals and important information that serve as background knowledge for learning new information.

A reading disability affects a student’s ability to demonstrate what he has learned, particularly when tested using a written exam, which tends to be the practice in our schools.

Students with dyslexia, on the whole, require additional time when reading and writing, and are particularly disadvantaged when given a timed test.

Any or all of these challenges can negatively impact one's sense of self as a learner resulting in poor self-esteem and self-concept. These feelings of inadequacy can last a long time. Early identification is important in order to mitigate this preventable outcome.

In addition, multisensory approaches are key to successfully designing curriculum for dyslexic students. Fortunately for teachers, these techniques have proven successful for all students.

Every day we are gaining new understandings about ways to teach students with dyslexia. We are fortunate to have so many resources at our disposal. By using the information on this website, conferring with colleagues, and attending professional development seminars, we can build our knowledge and skills to successfully meet the needs of students with dyslexia. Success starts here!

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a tiered approach to the early identification and support of students with learning disabilities. To learn more about RTI and how it is implemented, visit RTI Action Network's page, What is RTI?