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 growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. (International Dyslexia Association, 2002)
Dyslexia varies in degrees of severity and is not indicative of low intelligence or a lack of motivation. With appropriate educational strategies and interventions, individuals with dyslexia can achieve academic success.
Effective Approaches for Students with Dyslexia
PSD's comprehensive literacy program is built using a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), which allows students access to high-quality classroom instruction followed by interventions that increase the time and intensity of instruction.
Here are some key strategies in use in PSD:
- Structured Literacy Programs: These programs are explicit, systematic, and sequential. They focus on teaching oral phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension strategies. PSD's adopted elementary instructional materials have been approved by the Colorado Department of Education as effective, evidence-based structured literacy programs.
- Phonemic Awareness Training: Teaching students to recognize and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound in a language, is foundational for reading and spelling.
- Systematic and Explicit Phonics Instruction: This approach teaches students the relationships between letters and sounds and how to apply this knowledge in reading.
- Vocabulary and Comprehension Strategies: Direct teaching of vocabulary and strategies to improve comprehension can help students understand and retain what they read.
- Fluency Training: Practices like guided repeated reading can improve reading accuracy, speed, and expression, which are often challenging for students with dyslexia.
- Oral Language: Incorporating oral language development into structured literacy instruction not only supports the specific needs of students with dyslexia but also enhances overall literacy for all students. It's a holistic approach that addresses various aspects of language, necessary for proficient reading and writing. It provides a foundation for reading and writing skills. Here's how it fits into the structured literacy approach:
- Phonological Awareness: This involves the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds in spoken language. Activities in phonological awareness, such as rhyming, segmenting, and blending sounds, are key for developing reading skills.
- Vocabulary Development: Oral language activities help in expanding vocabulary. Understanding the meaning of words and how they are used in different contexts is vital for reading comprehension.
- Syntax and Grammar: Structured literacy also includes teaching the rules of language structure. Understanding sentence structure, grammar, and syntax in spoken language helps students make sense of written language.
- Listening Comprehension: Before students can read text, they usually listen to it. Improving listening skills can enhance overall comprehension, both in oral and written forms.
- Narrative Skills: The ability to understand and tell stories is important in literacy development. Oral storytelling and discussing books or stories read aloud help in building narrative skills.
- Expressive Language Skills: Encouraging students to express their thoughts and ideas orally can strengthen their ability to organize and express these thoughts in writing.
- Discussion and Dialogue: Classroom discussions and interactive dialogue about texts promote deeper understanding and critical thinking skills.
- Individualized Instruction: Tailoring lessons to meet the specific needs of each student with dyslexia is crucial. This might include one-on-one or small group instruction based on individual student data and built on strengths with a focus on areas of need.
- Multi-sensory Teaching Techniques: Incorporating visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile elements helps reinforce learning. For instance, students might trace letters while saying the letter sounds.
- Ongoing Assessment and Feedback: Regular assessment helps track progress and provides opportunities for positive feedback, which guides next steps and is important for building student confidence.
- Use of Assistive Technology: Tools like text-to-speech and speech-to-text software can support reading and writing tasks.
All students in PSD are screened for the development of basic reading skills three times per year in kindergarten through third grade. Students who are found to have reading deficiencies are provided individualized, targeted instruction in addition to participating in high-quality universal literacy instruction. For students receiving individualized instruction, progress is monitored regularly to determine the effectiveness of instruction and next steps for instruction. Targeted instruction and progress monitoring are documented on student READ Plans.
Students who need additional support in reading beyond third grade continue to receive targeted instruction and continue to have a READ Plan.
All K-3 teachers and reading interventionists in PSD are knowledgeable about teaching structured literacy and have completed evidence-based training in teaching reading as required by the Colorado READ Act. By August 1 of 2024, all reading interventionists will complete teacher training in evidence-based practices.