Dyslexia and Reading Instruction in the U.S.
Dyslexia legislation has been passed in 42 states in the United States, legislating dyslexia awareness, early identification, effective intervention and/or teacher training standards.
“Dyslexia Laws in the U.S.A.: A 2018 Update” summarizes : "Today, as of March of 2018, 42 states have dyslexia-specific laws, and, among the states that have passed laws, most have updated their education codes to clearly define dyslexia and provide guidelines to school districts on how to identify dyslexia and provide evidence-based interventions. Ten states now have a dyslexia handbook and one state has a resource guide, and the term dyslexia is now an integral part of parent-teacher conferences, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 504 plans, and the school community as a whole".
In 2015, the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education clarified that “there is nothing in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations or IEP documents”.
In September 2014 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology hosted a hearing entitled “The Science of Dyslexia”. There is an archived webcast of this very interesting discussion with presentations by politicians, scientists and citizens.
Decoding Dyslexia is a grass-roots parent movement started in the U.S. with branches in each of 50 states. There are now branches of Decoding Dyslexia in Canada as well.
A number of states have published Dyslexia Handbooks, Guides or Reports:
- Alabama - Alabama Dyslexia Resource Guide (2016)
- Alaska - Alaska Legislative Task Force on Reading Proficiency and Dyslexia (2019)
- Alaska - Dyslexia Science is Reading Science for All (n.d.)
- Arizona - Specific Learning Disability-Dyslexia: A Technical Assistance Document to Support Families and Teachers (2017)
- California - Dyslexia Guidelines (2017)
- Colorado - Dept of Education Dyslexia Fact Sheet
- Colorado - Dept of Education Dyslexia Handbook (2020)**NEW**
- Connecticut - SLD/Dyslexia Assessment Resource Guide (2016)
- Connecticut - Approved Menu of Research-based Grades K-3 Universal Screening Reading Assessments (Rev March 2017)
- Indiana - Dyslexia Toolkit (2021) **NEW**
- Illinois - The Dyslexia Guide (2019)
- Kansas - Structuring Guide for Reading (2018-19) Documenting the structures necessary to begin the implementation of a Kansas Multi-Tier System of Supports and Alignment (MTSS)
- Maryland - Report of the Task Force to Study the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program (2016).
- Minnesota - Navigating the School System When a Child is Struggling with Reading or Dyslexia (2015)
- Mississippi - Mississippi Dyslexia Handbook (2002)
- New Hampshire - A Resource Guide for Dyslexia and Other Related Disorders (2016)
- New Jersey - The New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook (2017)
- Oregon - Dyslexia Legislation SB 612 Additional Information for Districts
- South Dakota - The Dyslexia Handbook for Teachers and Parents (2010)
- Tennessee - Understanding Dyslexia A Guide for Tenessee Parents and Educators (2016)
- Texas - The Dyslexia Handbook (2014)
- Washington - Implementation Guide: Early Screening of Dyslexia (2020) **NEW**
The U.S. Common Core Standards provide Reading: Foundational Skills that are to be mastered at each grade. For instance, the Grade 1 skills include print concepts, phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition, and fluency. The Grade 1 phonological awareness requirements are:
- Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).
- Distinguish long from short vowel sounds in spoken single-syllable words.
- Orally produce single-syllable words by blending sounds (phonemes), including consonant blends.
- Isolate and pronounce initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in spoken single-syllable words.
- Segment spoken single-syllable words into their complete sequence of individual sounds (phonemes).
"5 Questions Parents and Educators Can Ask to Start Conversations About Using Terms Like Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, and Dysgraphia" This document was prepared by eleven diverse national organizations, including the National Association of School Psychologists, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Learning Disabilities Association of America and the National Center for Learning DIsabilities. They came together to explain the different terms used to describe various learning difficulties, including specific learning disability and dyslexia, so that parents and educators can work together to provide the instruction, services and support eery child needs to succeed.
Dyslexia and Reading Instruction in the U.K.
"Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent work reading and spelling.
- Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
- Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
- It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
- Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention".
The U.K. National curriculum for English for stages 1 and 2 explicitly outlines the components for literacy instruction - Word Reading, Reading Comprehension, Spelling and Handwriting, and Writing - composition, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation instruction. For example, here are the explicit components of the Word Reading instruction for Level 1:
- apply phonic knowledge and skills as the route to decode words
- respond speedily with the correct sound to graphemes (letters or groups of letters) for all 40+ phonemes, including, where applicable, alternative sounds for graphemes
- read accurately by blending sounds in unfamiliar words containing GPCs that have been taught
- read common exception words, noting unusual correspondences between spelling and sound and where these occur in the word
- read words containing taught GPCs and –s, –es, –ing, –ed, –er and –est endings
- read other words of more than one syllable that contain taught GPCs
- read words with contractions [for example, I’m, I’ll, we’ll], and understand that the apostrophe represents the omitted letter(s)
- read aloud accurately books that are consistent with their developing phonics knowledge and that do not require them to use other strategies to work out words
- re-read these books to build up their fluency and confidence in word reading.
Dyslexia and Reading Instruction in Australia
The Australian Federation of SPELD Associations (AUSPELD) has published a document "Understanding Learning Difficulties - A guide for parents".
The document discusses dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, diagnosis, intervention, working with the school, assistive technology and supporting a child with learning differences. It has an interesting table evaluating different reading programs.
AUSPELD is a member of the International Dyslexia Association Global Partners Program.
Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA) is an association of teachers and other professionals dedicated to assisting
students with learning difficulties through effective teaching practices based on scientific research both in the
classroom and through individualised instruction.
LDA has released a Position Statement that calls for "reading programs that follow an explicit structured approach to the teaching of reading that includes as an integral part of the teaching program specific instruction in phonology (phonological and phonemic awareness), sound-symbol associations (letter-sound correspondences), as well as syllable structures, morphology, syntax and semantics (the structure, use and meaning of words) as a basis for developing accurate and fluent word reading and reading comprehension. Such programs conform to the definition of ‘structured literacy programs’ as adopted by the International Dyslexia Association in July 2014, and place emphasis on the importance of learning the alphabetic code and the twin processes of blending and segmenting as the basis of learning to read".
**NEW** The New South Wales has recently released (2021) two documents about evidence-based practices in reading; one for Kindergarten to Year 2, and the other for Years 3 to 8.
NSW has also brought in a Kindergarten Literacy Assessment, a Year 1 Phonics Screening Check (like the UK) and other diagnostic assessments (see this page).