The International Dyslexia Association (2002) defines dyslexia as "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."
Dyslexia is the most commonly diagnosed reading disability, with severity ranging from mild to profound. Dyslexia affects 15-20% of the population.
MRI imaging has confirmed dyslexic students use different brain pathways to read than typical readers. "Dyslexic readers show a fault in the system—inefficient functioning of neural pathways in the back of the brain" (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2020, p. 78). Neurobiological research shows that intensive, phonologically-based reading intervention can change brain activation patterns, which translates to reading improvements (Kearns et al., 2018). While dyslexia can cause reading challenges, dyslexics often have great artistic, mechanical, visual-spatial, and/or creative problem-solving abilities.
Structured Literacy (aka Orton-Gillingham) is a proven, phonologically-based instructional approach that effectively strengthens reading skills. This approach uses all of the learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile). Structured Literacy instruction is systematic, cumulative, explicit, and sequential, enhancing memory and learning. The five core components of reading are emphasized. These include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Kearns, D. M., Hancock, R., Hoeft, F., Pugh, K. R., & Frost, S. J. (2018). The Neurobiology of Dyslexia. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 51(3), 175-188.
Shaywitz, S., & Shaywitz, J. (2020). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong by American Public Media, 6 part series
What Dyslexia Red Flags Look Like for Different Students in Different Grades by Kelli Sandman-Hurley and Traci Block-Zaretsky (63 min.), a recorded webinar sponsored by Learning Ally.
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