By: Christy Borman, M.A.
Whether an individual has a recent diagnosis of dyslexia or experiences persistent reading difficulty, it is imperative to implement intensive, evidence-based instruction, specifically designed for language remediation. Consideration of an individual’s age and severity of symptoms should guide an approach to support an effective remediation plan.
Dyslexia is a disorder that is rooted in weaknesses with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Struggling readers respond positively to a Structured Literacy Approach, which emphasizes highly explicit and systematic teaching. According to The Learning Disabilities and ADHD Network website, “The term ‘Structured Literacy’ was coined and trademarked by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), and refers to reading instruction and programs that are informed by, and delivered consistently with, the Science of Reading research as their foundation.”
Parents should inquire about structured literacy instruction provided at their child’s school. Some schools may integrate this approach in the regular classroom setting or within small groups. Teachers or reading specialists need adequate training and instructional support to ensure that the instruction is delivered with fidelity.
Structured Literacy elements include:
- Sound-Symbol Association
- Syllable instruction
- Morphology (meaningful word parts)
- Syntax (Structure of sentences)
- Semantics (meaning)
The presentation of Structured Literacy must be:
- Systematic and cumulative
- Diagnostic and responsive
- Hands-on, engaging, and multimodal
The school-parent team should meet to establish an intervention plan that will outline the instruction to be provided, by which individual, and to establish the frequency and duration of the intervention. It will be important for this team to review the child’s progress regularly (every 6-9 weeks) and revise the intervention plan as needed.
For students with more significant deficits that impact their ability to make adequate progress within a traditional educational setting, the family may consider enrolling the child into a specialized school program for students with learning disabilities that integrates intensive instruction and supports within a small group setting daily.
Individualized Supplemental Remediation
Parents are encouraged to seek out a reading specialist to provide one-on-one language therapy to supplement literacy instruction at school. According to Sally Shaywitz, M.D. in her book, Overcoming Dyslexia, “A child with dyslexia who is not identified early may require as much as 150 to 300 hours of intensive instruction…if she is going to begin to close the reading gap between herself and her peers,” (p. 284).
Known as the “Gold Standard” in literacy instruction for language-based learning differences, in particular dyslexia, is the Orton-Gillingham methodology. This structured literacy approach was developed through research nearly a century ago and continues to be the most influential intervention designed for remediating the language processing problems of children and adults with dyslexia.
At home, parents provide a third level of support. This can be done by reinforcing concepts and practices implemented at school and through private tutoring. Talk with the teacher and/or the reading specialist to determine what skills and activities you can implement at home. In addition, reading aloud text that may be above your child’s current reading ability and stopping to talk about unfamiliar vocabulary will help promote critical vocabulary and general background knowledge that some dyslexic readers may be unfamiliar due to reading deficits.
Resources and References
Shaywitz, S. & Shaywitz, J. (2020). Overcoming Dyslexia (2nd ed.). Vintage Books.