3 Keys to Supporting Students with Dyslexia

October 21, 2021

Brooke McGuire

Ed.D. in Leadership


No longer solely a focus of reading interventionists and special education teachers, students with dyslexia should be on every teacher’s radar. Legislation enforces this requirement, and for good reason. Estimates suggest that as many as one in every five students has characteristics of dyslexia.

In 2021, the National Center on Improving Literacy reported that all but two states have dyslexia legislation, with varying requirements requiring screening, pre-service education, in-service training and intervention. While specific mandates differ state by state, most include three things: universal screening, early identification and intervention, and teacher training.

So, what do each of those requirements actually mean for teachers?

Universal screening: A universal screener identifies students who may have dyslexia. It’s relatively quick and efficient to administer and should be given to all students three times a year. Students who are identified as struggling readers should then take additional diagnostic assessments to determine specific areas of need. To learn more about screening for dyslexia, read the National Center for Improving Literacy’s white paper.

Early identification and intervention: After screening, it’s important to identify signs of dyslexia and implement early intervention. Dyslexia checklists are a good way to look for early characteristics of dyslexia. As for evidence-based interventions, structured literacy is effective in helping both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students build reading skills. Literacy instruction and intervention should be direct, cumulative, multisensory, diagnostic and responsive to the needs of each learner.

Training and education: All teachers should have a common definition and understanding of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific neurological, language-based learning disability. It is genetic and typically manifests as difficulty with reading, writing and spelling. Modifications may not be necessary for all students with dyslexia, but accommodations can give these students the learning environment they need to be successful. When planning accommodations, consider the primary academic objectives and what needs to happen in order to keep a student focused and learning. Consider presenting information verbally and visually, allowing students to demonstrate their understanding in different ways and providing audiobooks or text-to-speech tools that allow students to listen to texts. Find more specific examples of accommodations for students with dyslexia here.

It’s not uncommon for students to struggle with reading. Learning more about dyslexia can help educators better meet the needs of all the different learners in their classroom.

Interested in learning more? Here are some resources to get you started:

American College of Education can teach you the strategies you need to address all the instructional needs of your students. Explore our fully online education programs.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Brooke McGuire
Brooke McGuire, Ed.D. in Leadership

Brooke has taught in a variety of settings, working everything from a service-learning summer program geared toward incoming first graders to a high school program for struggling readers. She's currently the director of teaching and learning at her district.

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