As a school leader, one of your most important roles is to promote a culture of high expectations for all learners. This means that the school administrators, staff, and students are all expected to learn and grow because everyone gets better when working together. Real progress happens when everyone is on the same page and focused on solutions with a growth mindset.
Our blog last week discussed some of the components of a dyslexia-friendly school. In this article, we are going to go a little bit deeper into the types of instructional and performance accommodations that should be in place to ensure that students with dyslexia needs are proactively addressed by implementing a model based upon prevention instead of intervention after the student has struggled to learn to read.
Let’s start with what the data says about dyslexic students.
“15-20% of the population may exhibit some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words, and four percent of this population will have what would be described as severely dyslexic symptoms. This means that, on average, in a class of 30 students, there are at least three to five students with dyslexic-type difficulties. For one or more, it will be severe, requiring specialist intervention and access arrangements for assessment.”
And 80% of students with learning disabilities are dyslexic, and half of these students perform three or more grade levels below peers in key skills.
This does not mean these students will qualify for special education, but they will likely struggle with many aspects of academic learning. That’s why it’s important to embrace the science of reading, structured approaches to literacy instruction, and the gradual release of responsibility which is systematic, explicit, and direct instruction in reading, writing, and language.
Dyslexic Students: Prevention and Intervention
Students will not outgrow dyslexia; it is a lifelong disability. When dyslexic students are provided with research-proven practices and evidence-based strategies, they can learn to read and write at proficient and advanced levels.
Prevention is the key, and that starts with early identification with access to a multisensory, structured language approach that is systematic and explicit. Some students may also benefit from access to special education accommodations and modifications to ensure they succeed in school and beyond.
Many individuals with dyslexia need one-on-one help so that they can move forward at their own pace. In addition, students with dyslexia often need a great deal of structured practice and immediate, corrective feedback to develop automatic word recognition skills.
What does instructional accommodation look like in the classroom?
Explicit and Direct Instruction – most commercial programs and materials do not have embedded systematic, explicit, and direct teaching procedures. Teachers will need to build in systematic, explicit, and direct teaching within their lessons by implementing a gradual release of responsibility approach to teaching dyslexic students how to read, see the following approach using the “I do it, We do it, and You do it,” teaching model explained below:
- “I do it” explicitly teaches the concept and skill, models, and demonstrates evidence-based instructional strategies.
- “We do it” together through guided practice and corrective feedback.
- “You do it” independently by applying the newly learned concept or skill.”
- Measure, review, and monitor Ensure that every student has an achievable reading target, set goals to engage readers, and review reading assessment data to determine whether the student is making adequate progress.
Routines and Rituals – a structured approach to literacy benefits all students, but students with reading challenges are more successful in classrooms designed with them in mind. Students need structure, and daily routines to know and do what is expected of them.
Repeat Directions – some students with learning disabilities or at risk for reading failure may have difficulty following directions, and by simply having them repeat directions, processes, procedures, or steps in their own words can help them to process the information that they are expected to master. Provide students with an opportunity to work in small groups to take turns sharing the content or skill learned when the teacher is unavailable. The following suggestions can help students understand directions:
- when directions contain several steps, break down the directions into subsets or bite-size chunks.
- simplify directions by presenting only one step at a time, write each step on the whiteboard, and restate the information orally.
- written directions can be tricky, so you must ensure that students can read them independently, understand the words and comprehend the meaning of words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Daily Review of the previous learning or lesson taught is extremely important to ensure that students have processed and mastered the content and can connect information with prior knowledge.
Dyslexia-friendly schools are inclusive environments that ensure every child has access to evidence-based core reading instruction, intervention programs, supports, appropriate accommodations, and modifications to help students with learning disabilities succeed.