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Educators & Students with Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia

Useful for elementary and secondary administrators, librarians, classroom teachers, and parents and students with Learning Disabilities



Dyslexia Reading/Spelling disabilities

A neurological language-based disorder

"Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students...usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives..dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment.  From LD Online

The process of reading involves two processes: decoding the written word and comprehending the word. People with dyslexia usually have no difficulty with comprehension; they generally have adequate reasoning skills, vocabulary and syntax. The problem is that people with dyslexia cannot use these skills until the printed word has first been decoded and identified. New advances have documented that people with reading disabilities have a different pattern of brain activity than individuals without reading disabilities. 

From ADA Learning Disability Fact Sheet

Signs of Dyslexia & Related Language Disorders

Signs of Dyslexia & Related Language Disorders

Most will have a cluster of the following signs:

  • Up to 2nd grade: learning alphabet, numbers, days of week; naming objects, low interest in stories or books, delayed speech distinguishing different similar sounds words, repeating instructions or conversations, slow reading, writing, sight words, rhyming words
  • Grades 3-8: understanding instructions, repeating in proper order, staying on topic, naming, small vocabulary, improper grammar, rhyming, cannot read aloud or silently with understanding, cannot guess at unfamiliar words, reading words in correct order, spelling, even the same word over and over, writing, proofreading, expressing ideas in ordered manner, developing ideas in writing, listening & taking notes at the same time; interpreting body and visual cues; developing friendships, poor self-esteem, day to day tasks, apply skills to different situations
  • Seems unable to follow verbal instructions
  • Reluctant to speak, OR
  • Talkative but talk contains little real substance
  • Tells stories badly (sequencing, grammar, descriptors)
  • More grammatical errors than most peers
  • Uses stereotypical language more than peers (cliches, slang, swear words, over-use of certain phrases)
  • Explaining is difficult (whys and wherefores of things)--can't put complex grammar together
  • Abstract language and ideas are difficult--can only deal well with concrete and here-and-now matters
  • Difficulty "finding" words (lots of "ums" and filler words "you know" and "thing" or "stuff")
  • Can't follow sarcasm, jokes, play-on-words, puns, metaphors. Ambiguous language taken seriously
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong place in the conversation and doesn't realize it
  • Does not pick up on social non-verbal cues, facial expressions, gestures--does not realize when the other wants to end a conversation or understand the emotional content of another's words

Problems with School Work

  • Can't complete homework
  • Class discussion is badly handled
  • Trouble gaining information from books, lectures, resources
  • Trouble prioritizing information
  • Trouble knowing what to do first, next, last
  • Following rules of classroom are erratic, difficulty understanding rules or need for rules
  • Poor test performance
  • Can't explain what the problem is or reason for failure of assignment or behavior
  • Trouble with school routines--classroom locations, period length, warm-up routines, after-school help, meetings, remembering what to take home and bring back, backpack and locker is messy
  • Poor at working independently
  • Concentration and attention seem poor
  • Overall poor organization

Problems with Behavior

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Problems establishing or maintaining friendships
  • Loss of motivation, cumulative sense of failure
  • Depression, anger, frustration, withdrawal, aggression
  • Reluctance to participate, including remedial work
  • Inappropriate coping mechanisms: bullying, clowning, copying and cheating, plagiarism, delinquency, truancy, going to the nurse or restroom frequently.


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    Accommodations for Dyslexia

    Dylexia Accommodations

    For use in a mixed classroom:


    • Repeat directions
    • Maintain daily routines
    • Graphic organizers for students
      • An outline, chart, blank web can be filled in by students during presentation
      • Helps with relationships among concepts
    • Step-by-step instructions
    • Voiced spelling as writing on board
    • Combine verbal and visual and written presentations
    • Write key points on board, new vocabulary--read them deliberately
    • Balance oral presentation with visual information and participatory activities
    • Daily review
    • Use of "clickers" is a challenge for students with dyslexia

    Student Performance

    • Change response mode
      • Instead of handwriting, change to underlining, selecting from multiple choices, sorting, or marking
      • Provide extra space for writing on worksheets or boards
    • Encourage graphic organizers
    • Encourage assignment books, calendars
      • Record due dates, activities, timelines for work
      • Homework
    • For math have students turn lined paper vertically
    • Use "cues" to designate important items
      • Asterisks or bullets or smiley faces
    • Design hierarchical worksheets
      • Easier problems earlier for feelings of success
    • Instructional aids
      • Speller, letter or number strips, calculators
    • Display work samples so they know what finished product should look like
    • Peer-mediated learning for review, study, read aloud, labs
      • Pair different abilities
    • Flexible work times
      • Additional time when needed, break time as needed
    • Standing or walking area
      • Back of the classroom