|State Board of Education, October 2015
In October 2015, the State Board of Education met and adopted amendments to the Alabama Administrative code that includes dyslexia in the Response to Intervention (RtI) framework. The changes addressed adopting a definition of dyslexia, appointing a Dyslexia Advisory Council, and addressing the educational implications of dyslexia in the classrooms.
What are dyslexia characteristics?
Dyslexia is a learning challenge that is neurological in origin - it starts in the brain. Dyslexia makes it difficult for students to read and spell, but is not a sign of low intelligence. The Alabama State Department of Education (2015) defines dyslexia as a “learning challenge that is neurological in origin and 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 delivery 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.”
- Dyslexics see things 'backwards' - this is not true. While some students do have visual perception issues along with dyslexia tendencies, reversals are developmental and are not an area of concern until after 2nd grade.
- Dyslexics are not smart - The International Dyslexia Association adopted a definition that states that reading struggles are UNEXPECTED in relational to IQ. Dyslexics often have an average or above average IQ with low scores in decoding, phonemic awareness, and spelling. See link to famous dyslexics here.
- Dyslexia can be cured - While those who have dyslexic tendencies learn to compensate and their reading skills can be strengthened, dyslexia is a life long challenge and can not be 'cured'.
- Dyslexia affects more boys than girls - Research cited on the website of Dr. Sally Shaywitz states that it affects both girls and boys in comparable percentages.
Click on the following links for more information on these changes:
Changes to the Alabama Administrative Code
Resolution by State Board of Education
What is Saraland City School System (SCSS) doing to address these changes?
SCSS believes that a preventative model works best for students with dyslexia tendencies. Saraland is committed to providing the professional development that will prepare our teachers and leaders to effectively support students identified as exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia. Below are some of the changes already in place related to dyslexia:
- All teachers have participated in a dyslexia simulation and an overview of dyslexia provided by the Alabama State Department of Education.
- School personnel have been trained on administering dyslexia screeners (teachers can NOT diagnosis dyslexia, but through screening tools can determine if a structured literacy program will help).
- Interventionists are trained in SPIRE K-5), and Rewards (5-8) which are dyslexia specific curriculums.
- SCSS hired a Dyslexia Specialist, who has completed Multisensory Structured Language Education (MSLE) training and is certified at the national level to assist schools in the implementation.
- Teachers will be trained in multisensory strategies that will address the needs of ALL students, not just those with dyslexia tendencies.
What should I look for in my child?
Dyslexia tendencies range on a continuum from mild to more severe. Experts estimate that 10% or more of our population has dyslexia tendencies. These benchmarks appear in Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s 2005 book, Overcoming Dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz is the co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. You can learn more about the Yale Center and Dr. Shaywitz’s work on dyslexia with her husband, Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, here: Yale Center for Dyslexia
- Children may have trouble with common nursery rhymes
- They may have issues learning and remembering the names of the letters in the alphabet
- Some children may lag behind in verbal skills using ‘baby talk’ longer than their peers or mispronounce common words
Kindergarten and First Grade
- Children may be reluctant or anxious to read aloud
- They may struggle to pronounce simple words like ‘cat,’ ‘map,’ or ‘nap’
- Young readers may have trouble associating sounds with their corresponding letters
Second Grade and Elementary School
- For these students, reading is often slow and laborious
- They may confuse words that have similar sounds like ‘lotion’ and ‘ocean’
- Children in these grades may have troubles remembering dates, names or lists
- Many have a long history of reading difficulties and a family history of reading or developmental issues
- Students may not read for pleasure and find reading aloud difficult
- Young adults have a large capacity for learning and are often very creative, but struggle with traditional testing
What if a student has outside testing with indicators of dyslexia or fails the dyslexia specific screening?
If a student is identified as exhibiting characteristics of dyslexia on the dyslexia-specific screening assessment or has outside assessments that indicate dyslexia, a dyslexia plan (part of the Response to Instruction (RtI) plan) will be written for the student. Decisions will be made concerning dyslexia specific interventions and accommodations to provide equal access to the curriculum. These accommodations/interventions will be developed, monitored and communicated to parents by the school’s Problem Solving Team (PST) as part of the RtI Process discussed in section 3, page 15 of the Alabama Dyslexia Resource Guide.
What dyslexia specific interventions will Saraland City School System use?
Research indicates that mutltisensory instruction works best for those with dyslexic tendencies. Instruction is based upon the research by Samuel Orton, a physician, and Anna Gillingham, a teacher. These strategies are known as Orton-Gillingham, or OG.
- Teachers are being trained in strategies to implement in their classrooms.
- Teachers will use S.P.I.R.E., a structured literacy curriculum, that works for all struggling readers.
- Middle school teachers will use Rewards, a structured literacy reading intervention program.