my child HAS dyslexia

What Exactly Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia FAQs

Take our quiz to learn about a few frequent misconceptions about dyslexia:

  1. Dyslexia affects approximately what percent of the population?

  1. 3-5%

  2. 10%

  3. 15-20%

  4. 30-40%

Answer: C. Researchers estimate that about 15-20% of the population has a language-based learning difference; of those, about 80% have deficits in reading.

 

     2.  It’s more common for boys to have dyslexia.

  1. True

  2. False

Answer: False.  Boys and girls are equally affected by dyslexia; however, boys tend to be diagnosed earlier and in greater proportion because of disruptive behavior.

 

3. Dyslexia is caused by:

  1. Vision defects

  2. Difficulty with phonological processing

  3. Lack of Omega-3 fatty acids

  4. Laziness

Answer: B. People with dyslexia have a neurological structure that makes it difficult to process the individual sounds of language (phonemes), resulting in less efficient reading, spelling and word finding abilities.

 

4. Dyslexia can be cured by:

  1. Working really hard

  2. Special glasses

  3. Finger writing

  4. Dyslexia cannot be cured

Answer: D.  Dyslexia is a neural difference that is lifelong, but with early intervention, accommodations and access to their “sea of strengths”, dyslexic learners can and do become highly successful in all aspects of life.

 

5. The most common sign of dyslexia is reversing letters like b and d, or words like “was” and “saw.”

  1. True

  2. False

Answer: False.  Many children confuse letters as they begin to read and write; reading from left-to-right goes against our instinct to take in visual information from the center out.  More relevant indicators of dyslexia include family history, difficulty playing with the sounds of language (rhyming, counting syllables, identifying sounds in words, manipulating sounds) and associating graphemes (written letters) to sounds of language.

More FAQ Resources: 

U of Michigan: What is dyslexia quiz 

Link to 13-question quiz dyslexia and pervasive misconceptions

International Dyslexia Association: FAQs  

Substantive answers to a few basic questions

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

FAQs  Easily digestible answers to a variety of questions

 

Understood: FAQs about vision and dyslexia

Excellent explanation of a persistent misconception about dyslexia

 

 
Evidence-based Approaches to Literacy Instruction

Evidence-based means that the approach has proven effective in rigorous clinical trials, as published in peer-reviewed professional journals. 

 

Scientific studies by the National Reading Panel identified these common content areas in effective reading programs: phonemic awareness (ability to recognize and manipulate sounds in words), phonics (ability to associate sounds with written symbols), fluency (quick, accurate and expressive reading/writing), vocabulary and comprehension.  In addition, effective methods of instruction are explicit, systematic, cumulative, multimodal and responsive.  Finally, successful outcomes for dyslexic learners are highly dependent on early intervention, intense instruction, highly qualified instructors and sufficiently long duration. 

 

Here are common terms that refer to effective intervention approaches:

Structured Literacy: an umbrella term used by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) to describe programs that adhere to the content and methods outlined above

 

Orton-Gillingham Approach (OG): an approach that adheres to the sequential, multi-sensory techniques developed by Dr. Orton, Anna Gillingham and colleagues.  OG instructors complete rigorous training to become certified.  Most methods or programs for dyslexia are derived from OG principles.

 

Multisensory/multimodal Instruction: instruction that incorporates visual, auditory and kinesthetic-tactile input to strengthen neural pathways connecting speech to print

 

Slingerland: a classroom adaptation of the OG approach which certifies teachers after rigorous training and demonstration of mastery

 

More Resources:

International Dyslexia Association: Structured Literacy 

PDF Article by literacy expert Louisa Moats explaining principles and components of structured literacy

Orton Gillingham Academy

Link to OG website page explaining the approach and its origins

Additional citations:

Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, J. Overcoming Dyslexia, Second Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 2020, p. 205.

IDA Dyslexia Handbook

 
Where to Find Evidence-Based Instruction

Where to Find Evidence-based Instruction

For private or small-group remediation, look for a therapist or tutor with training and experience in evidence-based approaches such as Orton-Gillingham, Slingerland or Wilson.  See below for a list of programs accredited by the International Dyslexia Association. 

 

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) accredits educator training

Programs that align with its standards for literacy instruction.  Note that this lists accredited training programs, not individual instructors. 

 

Northbridge Academy tutor recommendations  

Call: 415-462-5657 for referrals to qualified private instructors in the Bay Area 

 

Referrals: Educational Therapists

 

IDA: Evaluating education professionals 

PDF article from International Dyslexia Association by expert Nancy Cushen White that includes what to look for and specific questions to ask

Independent schools specializing in dyslexia and language-based learning differences provide effective literacy instruction as part of their curriculum.  An affiliation of such schools named the Independent Schools Network provides a current, searchable list of LD schools across the country. 

In public schools, reading instruction programs can vary widely.  Talk with your child’s teachers about how literacy skills are taught, what type of training they received and whether these align with current best practices. If they do not meet the criteria of evidence-based instruction in terms of content and methods, welcome to the world of advocacy. <local link: Educational Initiatives> 

 

The What Works Clearinghouse

Can provide a starting point for evaluating literacy programs by rating them based on published studies; however Dr. Sally Shaywitz urges caution with WWC recommendations as some rely on inadequate or outdated studies and subjective decisions1.

 

Citations:

  1. Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, J. Overcoming Dyslexia, Second Edition. New York: Vintage Books, 2020, p. 205.

 
Talking to Your Child About Dyslexia

One of the most important ways you can support your child with learning differences is to communicate openly and often.  Choose times and places where you are both relaxed.  You can start a discussion by asking questions about your child’s experience at school, your own experiences, or observations about your child’s strengths and challenges. Use clear, accurate language to explain dyslexia and how it may affect your child.  Be honest if you don’t know something, and use it as an opportunity to investigate together.  Acknowledge challenges and difficult feelings, while keeping the overall tone and message positive.  Most importantly, make sure your child knows they have your unconditional love and support. 

 

Here are excellent articles and scripts for talking about dyslexia:

Understood: 8 tips for introducing dyslexia to your child

PDF article with short tips on what to say and why

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

Talking with your child about dyslexia  PDF article written for parents with anecdotes and examples

Dyslexia Scotland

Explaining dyslexia to children. PDF handout listing talking points, with additional books and resources

Understood: What to do when your child says “I can’t”  

PDF article 

Understood: What to do when your child says “I’m Dumb”

PDF article

Australian Public Broadcast: Dyslexia by Eliza 

Link to three-minute YouTube video with brain-based explanation of dyslexia created by and for school-age children

 
Accommodations for Learning Disabilities

Accommodations help students who think and learn differently access information and demonstrate knowledge in order to meet classroom expectations.  They “level the playing field” for both teaching and testing, allowing students to fully engage in the curriculum.  Accommodations change how students learn, but not what they learn. Modifications, on the other hand, change what a student is taught, what they are expected to learn and how they demonstrate mastery.

 

Accommodations should be tailored to the needs of each student, but typically involve changes in:

  • Presentation - how information is presented. For example, audio textbooks for students with dyslexia

  • Response - how students complete assignments or assessments.  For example, use of spell/grammar checkers 

  • Setting - learning, working or testing environment. For example, use of noise-cancelling headphones during silent work periods

  • Timing/scheduling - For example, extra time on a test or in-class assignment

 

International Dyslexia Association: Accommodations for students with dyslexia

Article by Nancy Cushen White outlining framework for accommodations, list of typical accommodations by type, and links to helpful resources

Understood: Classroom accommodations for dyslexia 

Geared toward teachers to support students with dyslexia, this lists specific suggestions for classroom materials and routines, introducing new topics, giving directions, and completing tests/assignments

ADA Requirements for testing accommodations

Outlines the legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act for accommodations during standardized testing

Understood: The Difference between accommodations and modifications 

Chart with examples for classroom instruction, classroom testing, standardized testing and supplemental curricula

 
Assistive Technology for Dyslexia

Technology has come a long way in supporting people with dyslexia, but it cannot replace foundational language and literacy skills.  Research suggests that older students benefit from text-to-speech assistive technology (AT) to meet higher demands of reading and writing, but that AT may have negative effects on younger students who are still developing these skills.  Elementary-age children need active decoding practice in order to become proficient readers, and text-to-speech does not engage the necessary neural circuits at this crucial developmental stage.1 

 

Evidence-based instruction, such as Slingerland, uses handwriting almost exclusively while students are building skills because recent research has shown that handwriting recruits a “reading circuit” in the brain.2  Moreover, older students show lower cognitive load and better retention of information while taking handwritten notes, as opposed to touch typing.3 

 

That said, AT allows dyslexic learners to access and produce information at a rate that would not be possible without it.  There is a growing variety of options, with exponential possibilities when “app-smashing,” or using more than one app simultaneously.  AT skills should be explicitly taught, consistently reinforced and carefully chosen for specific purposes.

 

International Dyslexia Association: Overview of instructional and assistive technology 

PDF article detailing guiding principles and framework for choosing and using AT

Elisheva Schwartz: 22 assistive technology tools 

PDF with descriptions of apps and links to YouTube videos showing how to install and use

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity: Tools and technology

Link to featured content on a range of technological tools

University of Michigan: Software and AT 

List of software and apps with brief descriptions and links

Citations:

1. Staels, Eva, and Van Den Broeck, Wim. "Orthographic Learning and the Role of Text-to-Speech Software in Dutch Disabled Readers." Journal of Learning Disabilities 48.1 (2015): 39-50. Web.

2. James, Karin H, and Engelhardt, Laura. "The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Functional Brain Development in Pre-literate Children." Trends in Neuroscience and Education 1.1 (2012): 32-42. Web.

3. Shibata, Hirohito, and Omura, Kengo. "[Papers] Reconsideration of the Effects of Handwriting." ITE Transactions on Media Technology and Applications 6.4 (2018): 255-61. Web.

 
Getting Involved to Support Dyslexic Learners

Becoming educated - and teaching your children - about learning differences is a great place to start.  Sharing your knowledge with receptive friends, family and colleagues can raise awareness and understanding, laying a foundation for change.  

 

Visit our Staying Inspired section <local link: Staying Inspired> for resources such as

  • Upcoming Events 

  • Advocacy and Educational Initiatives 

  • Recent Research 

  • Support Groups