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US DOE Issues Dyslexia Guidance


The full letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

Decoding Dyslexia letter to US DOE OSERS requesting affirmation that there is no prohibition against using the term “dyslexia” in an eligible student’s IEP.

Highlights of the Dyslexia Guidance Letter:

The purpose of this letter is to clarify that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluations, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents.  (paragraph 1)


OSERS reminds SEAs and LEAs about previous guidance regarding the use of MTSS, including RTI, and timely evaluations, specifically that a parent may request an initial evaluation at any time to determine if a child is a child with a disability under IDEA (34 CFR Sec. 300.301(b)), and the use of MTSS, such as RTI, may not be used to delay or deny a full and individual evaluation under 34 CFR Sec. 300.304-300.311 of a child suspected of having a disability.  (paragraph 4)


In determining whether a child has a disability under the IDEA, including a specific learning disability, and is eligible to receive special education and related services because of that disability, the LEA must conduct a comprehensive evaluation under Sec. 300.304, which requires the use of a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the child.  (paragraph 5)


Stakeholders also requested that SEAs and LEAs have policies in place that allow for the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia on a child’s IEP, if a child’s comprehensive evaluation supports use of these terms…. Therefore, OSERS reiterates that there is nothing in the IDEA or our implementing regulations that would prohibit IEP Teams from referencing or using dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia in a child’s IEP.   (paragraph 6)


In implementing the IDEA requirements discussed above, OSERS encourages SEAs and LEAs to consider situations where it would be appropriate to use the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia to describe and address the child’s unique, identified needs through evaluation, eligibility, and IEP documents.  OSERS further encourages States to review their policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that they do not prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in evaluations, eligibility, and IEP documents.  Finally, in ensuring the provision of free appropriate public education, OSERS encourages SEAs to remind their LEAs of the importance of addressing the unique educational needs of children with specific learning disabilities resulting from dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia during IEP Team meetings and other meetings with parents under IDEA.  (paragraph 7)


  • SEA = State Education Agency
  • LEA = Local Education Agency
  • MTSS = Multi-Tiered System of Supports
  • RTI = Response To Intervention

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While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

Dyslexia, Language Processing Problems, & Reading (4 of 4)


While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

Connecting the dots

It was not until I started reading From Speech to Print by Dr. Louisa Moats that I was able to fully make the connection between speech problems, reading, and dyslexia.  Language is the crucial, underlying skill required for reading.  If there is a breakdown anywhere in the processing of language, reading will be impacted.  And this is when I  started to understand the connection between speech/language problems and reading.

Unlike most teachers, speech language pathologists are trained to work with those who have a breakdown in the processing of language.  Their training is much more than just correcting articulation problems, it also encompasses many concepts including expressive and receptive language, syntax, semantics, grammar, and the identification of where the breakdown in language processing is occurring.   They are trained to be both diagnostic and prescriptive.  And their training is agonizingly (well for me) detailed in not only the phonemes of the English language, but also in the movements required by the mouth to make these phonemes and the effects that the surrounding phonemes exert on and alter the phonemes by them.

This understanding of phonemes is the key to cracking the code of learning how to read because the deficit in phonological processing is the most common cause of reading difficulties in dyslexia.  People with dyslexia do not have an ear for the sounds of speech and sometimes need to be taught explicitly how to distinguish between the phonemes.  For example, there are phonemes that are produced in the same place in the mouth, but one is voiced while the other is unvoiced.  These phonemes are:  b/p, d/t, g/k, v/f, z/s, th (this)/th (thistle), sh/zh, j/ch (as in chop).  If a student cannot perceive the differences in these sounds, but recognizes these sounds are produced in the same place in the mouth, the student may interchangeably use the grapheme associated with either the voiced phoneme or the unvoiced phoneme.  A teacher that is trained in structured literacy will pick up on this clue from the student’s spelling and will diagnostically and prescriptively adjust the lesson.  If the student is confusing the graphemes v and f, the teacher will acknowledge to the student that while these phonemes are produced in the same place in the mouth, the teacher will explain the difference by having the student touch his/her voice box while saying /v/ and feeling the vibration and then having the student say /f/ and the lack of vibration.  The targeted practice will continue to ensure that this concept is understood so the rest of the lesson can continue.  This is what is meant by diagnostic and prescriptive and unfortunately many teachers of reading do not have this depth of knowledge about the structure of language.

Another common cause of spelling errors is the phonological overlap caused by co-articulation that Louisa Moats explains in (painstaking) detail in the book From Speech to Print.  There were exercises for the reader to analyze common spelling errors.  As I was reading this, I could not help but think that this is the type of information speech language therapists are trained in, and that this information would be extremely helpful to teachers in explaining why certain spelling errors are made.  Two examples that were given of misspelled words were jrs and chrane.  Because the mouth is rounding in anticipation of pronouncing /r/, some students perceive a different sound in the preceding phoneme.  The correctly spelled words should have been dress and train, but that is not what the student perceived.  The /r/ also has a huge impact on vowels that precede it, and in structured literacy this is taught as a separate syllable type, the r-controlled syllable.  Vowels, by the way, are among the hardest for people with dyslexia to identify and to distinguish between, and this is one of the reasons why dyslexia becomes more apparent when analyzing the patterns of errors and difficulties.

Speech language pathologists can also help those individuals whose dyslexia is not primarily caused by a deficit in phonological processing.  My younger son also received speech therapy starting at the age of 3 like his brother. Unlike his brother, who primarily had articulation problems, my younger son’s problems stemmed not only from an expressive language disorder, but he was also a slow processor.   When he was about 2.5 years old, I became concerned that he had a hearing problem because whenever I said anything to him, he frequently responded “what?”  He had his hearing tested several times, but everything checked out ok.  Around this same time, he was starting to talk more, but he was typically very vague.    It was not uncommon for him to say things like “I want what I had tomorrow” in response to me asking what he wanted for breakfast.  When he was evaluated, the speech language pathologist explained that because he was a slow processor, he needed extra time to process what was said and to process his response.  She said not to repeat myself assuming that he didn’t hear me, because it would interfere with his processing.  She also explained that he had problems with word retrieval.  The speech language pathologist worked with him on correctly labeling items and also on direction words.  In hindsight, she was trying to organize his mental filing cabinet for words.

He also struggled with learning to read, but not to the same degree as my older son, as he seemed to intuitively understand the alphabetic principle, but his comprehension was just not there.  My older son, even though he could not decode words, somehow got the gist of what he was reading, while my younger son seemed to be able to decode most words, but he could not answer questions about what he had just read.  The combination of being a slow processor along with problems in rapid automatic naming impacted my younger son’s ability to comprehend what he was reading.  As Dr. Paula Tallal succinctly described in her testimony for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing on September 30, 2015 for the READ Act,

children with language-based learning problems are operating on the equivalent of dial-up speed, while good language and reading skills require a child to operate on the equivalent of high-speed internet.” (approximately the 1:33:40 – 1:35:00 minute marks)

For me, the journey to understanding what dyslexia is and the required intervention has been a long process in connecting the dots.  I don’t have a background in education or speech/language development.  I had a very narrow understanding of the role of speech language pathologists in that their primary focus was correcting articulation problems.  I thought dyslexia was a problem with seeing letters backwards, and this myth is what led me to learn more about dyslexia because this was the one symptom that I recognized in my older son: letter reversals.

I have come to the conclusion that language disorders run in my family.  Both of my children started speech therapy by the age of 3, as have 4 out of 6 of my nieces and nephews.  My siblings have the advantage that I have been through this process of connecting the dots and I try to explain how their children’s patterns of errors and difficulties in language may impact their ability in learning to read.  Not only do parents need someone to connect the dots of how underlying problems in language can impact reading, but teachers need this information as well to better understand their struggling readers in order to better meet their needs.



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While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

Dyslexia, Language Processing Problems, & Reading (3 of 4)


While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

While we do not endorse any specific program or method, we thought this was a great visual depiction of dyslexia and the underlying problems that often go unnoticed and unaddressed.

A different approach to learning language.

After my son was identified as having dyslexia in 3rd grade, I decided to take training classes from Fellows in the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE) so I could better understand his needs to better advocate for him.  Orton-Gillingham (OG) is an approach to reading instruction developed by Dr. Samuel Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist, in the early 20th century.  The AOGPE was founded in 1995 by a small group of members from the Orton Society (now known as the IDA) and it is the only organization “authorized expressly to set and maintain professional and ethical standards for the practice of the Orton-Gillingham Approach and to certify teachers and to accredit instructional programs that meet these standards”.  (Please note, that in July 2014, the IDA started using the term “structured literacy” as an umbrella term to identify the type of reading instruction based on the Orton-Gillingham approach and which is described in The IDA’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading.)

I learned in OG training that dyslexia is a word of Greek origin, with dys meaning difficulty, and lexia meaning words/language and that it falls under the umbrella of language disorders.  I also learned that language comprehension and expression problems in young children are often associated with later reading difficulty.  Again, I am reminded of the warning from my sons’ speech language pathologist.  I also noticed that the OG definition of dyslexia encompasses more than just phonological processing deficits.

The one concept that was stressed during my OG training is that for those individuals with dyslexia, it is language information that is the problem, especially written language, and they need more help in recognizing, sorting, and organizing the building blocks of language for use.  The following acronym, STRIPS+A was used as it pertains to language:

  • Storage – difficulty getting information into long term memory
  • Transferring or applying information from memory to various activities
  • Retrieval of information from long term memory
  • Integration of information and how the parts fit into the whole
  • Pattern recognition
  • Sequencing information
  • +
  • Abstract concepts – difficulty remembering and understanding

Time was spent learning about getting information into the brain through the senses of seeing, hearing, and doing, and how to help the student become more aware of how they learn and the reasons why things are done so the student has an understanding of how the pieces fit together.  I learned that for many students with language problems, their files for words are not well organized and they need help in sorting, organizing, and filing words and language concepts in the mental filing cabinets of their brain so they can more quickly and accurately retrieve language based information.

OG instruction involves the explicit and systematic teaching of the approximately 44 phonemes in the English language with their corresponding grapheme.  OG instruction starts with the smallest building block, the phoneme, and builds up to the smallest unit with meaning, the morpheme, and also includes the explicit and systematic teaching of decoding, encoding, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and thinking skills all expertly woven into each lesson and each lesson builds upon the concepts taught in the previous one.

Another hallmark of OG is the diagnostic and prescriptive nature of these lessons in that the instructor is constantly monitoring the student’s progress and addressing the student’s errors by adjusting the teaching strategies to meet the needs of the individual.  This requires considerable training and in-depth knowledge about the structure of language, and it is this type of training that is sorely lacking from the majority of teacher preparatory programs, even those whose focus is on reading.


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neural signature for dyslexia

Dyslexia, Language Processing Problems, & Reading (2 of 4)

neural signature for dyslexia

Highlights of Recent Research

In the past decade, much research on dyslexia has been conducted, and the most revealing of this research has focused on the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which has proven the existence of dyslexia.  This research has shown that the brain is wired differently in those individuals with dyslexia.  Rather than using the left hemisphere where the processing of language occurs, people with dyslexia use an inefficient pathway and rely more on the right hemisphere and the frontal lobe when reading.  Research is also proving that with specific instruction, the brain can be “rewired” to use the more efficient pathways that those without dyslexia use when reading.


Dr. Kenneth Pugh

Dr. Kenneth R. Pugh, President and Director of Research, Haskins Laboratories, was the keynote for the Northern Ohio Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (NOBIDA) 2014 conference.  The most interesting take away for me was his statement that Orton-Gillingham (OG) results are now confirmed by neuroscience.  Dr. Pugh explained that the left hand posterior system appears to be unstable but trainable in young at risk readers, and there is now evidence that appropriate training has a normalizing effect on the neurobiological trajectory in emergent “at risk” readers.  This appropriate training, or treatment protocol, is a 5 step plan (unscripted) and individualized to include:

  • letter-sound associations
  • phoneme manipulation
  • reading words
  • reading text
  • assessment


Dr. Maryanne Wolf

Dr. Maryanne Wolf theorized in the book, The Proust and the Squid, that there are 3 subtypes of dyslexia. The most common of these subtypes is a deficit in phonological processing and this impacts the ability to decode words. This is the basis for the IDA’s definition of dyslexia.  People with this subtype of dyslexia simply have a harder time processing the individual sounds that make up spoken words and they have a harder time mapping the sound (phoneme) to the written letter(s) (grapheme).

To put it simply, people with a deficit in phonological processing do not have an ear for the sounds of speech and have difficulty distinguishing the sounds of speech, especially similar sounds.  People without dyslexia are more attuned to the sounds of speech and can be compared to the ability of musicians to identify by sound the musical notes that are played and to identify when a wrong note has been played.

The 2nd subtype of dyslexia she theorized is a deficit in rapid naming. People with this subtype of dyslexia will have normal phonological processing, but their fluency and comprehension will be affected by the retrieval of language based information. These are the people that will have problems with word recall, either by saying the wrong word or the word is “on the tip of their tongue”. This affects fluency because it takes longer to retrieve language information. This also impacts comprehension because sometimes the retrieved language information is wrong, such as either retrieving the wrong definition or wrong word, either of which can change meaning.

The 3rd subtype of dyslexia is double deficit: deficits in both phonological processing and rapid naming. This subtype is the least common and the hardest to remediate.

Research from neuroscientists at MIT and Stanford/UCSF now supports Dr. Maryanne Wolf’s theory on the 3 subtypes of dyslexia by showing different patterns of brain activation when reading and rhyming words.  Children with a deficit in phonological awareness only, rapid naming only, or difficulty in both areas each showed different patterns of brain activation and connectivity as revealed by MRI.  (Source:  Functional neuroanatomical evidence for the double-deficit hypothesis of developmental dyslexia, 2014.  Elizabeth S. Norton, Jessica M. Black, Leanne M. Stanley, Hiroko Tanaka, John D.E. Gabrieli, Carolyn Sawyer, Fumiko Hoeft.)


Dr. Louisa Moats

Dr. Louisa Moats, in the webinar Wanted: Teachers with Knowledge of Language (Upper Midwest Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, February 18, 2014; Education Week, March 26, 2014) stated:

“One of the key aspects of the definition of dyslexia that we commonly use are that poor readers with the symptoms of dyslexia are typically, and notice that word typically, are not wired for phonological processing and/or automatic word recognition. And why do we use the word typically? Because there are students who experience reading difficulties that don’t necessarily involve overt problems with phonology, but that involve fluency in text reading and/or that involve access to critical language constructs that enable them to comprehend, so reading difficulties are not simple, and they tend to be more complex than we want them to be. (minute mark 6:55-7:58)

Reading difficulties should be differentiated. Dyslexia often is associated with problems with phonologically based word recognition, but the reality is that dyslexia also includes a subgroup of fluency based problems and problems with memory for words so that words are not recognized quickly and words are not recalled accurately for spelling.  And we have underestimated both the prevalence of that subtype and the difference in methodologies that are required for that subtype. And then language comprehension problems overlap with these so that many students who deserve the label of dyslexia often have co-existing problems with language comprehension, with language processing, with language expression and that is why the word dyslexia is such a good word because it means difficulty with language. So if what we are talking about, whether it is in more specific terms or more general terms, pertaining to all of the kids who struggle with reading, and that is a very large proportion, at least 1/3, it is much more than the 5-10% as ever getting the label dyslexia. If we, as professionals, are going to be ready to really teach this population in a way that they can learn and we can move them ahead and facilitate their progress with this otherwise difficult thing, we need to be prepared to help all of these subgroups and identify all of these subgroups.”  (minute mark 19:05-21:00)


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dyslexia reading

Dyslexia, Language Processing Problems, & Reading (1 of 4)


dyslexia readingBoth of my children required speech therapy starting at 3 years of age, one for primarily articulation errors and the other for primarily an expressive language disorder.  I remember the speech language pathologist commented that many kids with speech problems later have problems learning to read.  I didn’t really understand this connection between speech/language problems and learning to read, and in hindsight wished she would have taken the time to connect the dots for me because both my boys struggled with learning to read.  I couldn’t help but feel like I failed them in the sense that had I understood the connection between receiving speech therapy services and reading, that maybe I would have addressed their difficulty in learning to read sooner.

So what is the connection between speech and language problems, reading, and dyslexia?  Let’s first take a look at the definitions of dyslexia.


The Definitions

The World Health Organization defines dyslexia as “a disorder manifested by difficulty learning to read, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and socio-cultural opportunity.”

The Health Council of the Netherlands defines dyslexia as “present when the automatization of word identification (reading) and/or word spelling does not develop or does so very incompletely or with great difficulty.  The term automatization refers to the establishment of an automatic process.  A process of this kind is characterized by a high level of speed and accuracy.  It is carried out unconsciously, makes minimal demands on attention and is difficult to suppress, ignore, or influence…” (Source: Dyslexia: Definition and treatment. The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands, 1995.)

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) defines dyslexia as “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 with reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”  Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12. 2002.  This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Ohio defines dyslexia in the Ohio Revised Code 3319.80 (B) (1) as “a specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin and that is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities not consistent with the person’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities, which difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language.”

Based on the definitions above, it seems that the common underlying theme is that dyslexia is a problem in reading and spelling.  To complicate matters, the symptoms of dyslexia vary from person to person which seems to justify the belief of many in the educational system that dyslexia is a vague term.  It is true that no two persons’ experiences with dyslexia are exactly the same and this is due to an individual’s strengths compensating for the individual’s weaknesses.  Not only does this make the identification of dyslexia difficult, but there is no single test or score that identifies dyslexia.

The key identifier of dyslexia is unexpected in relation to an individual’s ability.  The general pattern of dyslexia is average to above average in understanding concepts but low in skills.  Dyslexia becomes more apparent when looking at the patterns of errors and difficulties.  Margaret B. Rawson, past president of the Orton Society (now known as the International Dyslexia Association, IDA) and author of The Many Faces of Dyslexia, succinctly described dyslexia as:

  • The differences are personal.
  • The diagnosis is clinical.
  • The treatment is educational.
  • The understanding is scientific.

Rawson elaborates further:

“Dyslexic students need a different approach to learning language from that employed in most classrooms. They need to be taught, slowly and thoroughly, the basic elements of their language – the sounds and the letters which represent them- and how to put these together and take them apart. They have to have lots of practice in having their writing hands, eyes, ears, and voices working together for the conscious organization and retention of their learning.”


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For more information on the history and definitions of dyslexia, please read Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention.

Resolution to Designate October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month


Senators Cassidy (LA) and Mikulski (MD) have submitted S. Res 275, a dyslexia resolution:

Calling on Congress, schools, and State and local educational agencies to recognize the significant educational implications of dyslexia that must be addressed and designating October 2015 as “National Dyslexia Awareness Month”.

Whereas dyslexia is -

  1. defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader; and
  2. due to difficulty in getting the individual sounds of spoken language, which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and often, learn a language;

Whereas dyslexia is the most common learning disability and affects 80 percent to 90 percent of all individuals with a learning disability;

Whereas an individual with dyslexia may have weakness in decoding or reading fluency and strength in higher level cognitive functions, such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, or problem solving;

Whereas great progress has been made in understanding dys- lexia on a scientific level, including the epidemiology and cognitive and neurobiological bases of dyslexia; and

Whereas early diagnosis of dyslexia is critical for ensuring that individuals with dyslexia receive focused, evidence- based intervention that leads to the promotion of self- awareness and self-empowerment and the provision of necessary accommodations so as to ensure school and life success…

Please see the draft of the resolution:  CassidyMikulski Dyslexia FINAL


Please contact your Senatators and request they co-sponsor S. Res 275.

Thank you!


Dial Up Speed vs High Speed Internet and Reading


Below is an excerpt from testimony given by Dr. Paula Tallal at the Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing for H.R. 3033, The READ Act:

There is ample research that demonstrates that the factors that cause reading failure begin well before the child enters formal education. This research has shown that even in infancy, the precursors to reading failure can be identified reliably in the form of slow and inconsistent auditory processing. This auditory processing constraint cascades over the early years of life, disrupting the development of distinct phonological representations in the brain, oral language, and ultimately reading.

Processing the individual sounds or phonemes inside of words is the fastest thing the human brain has to do. In order to learn to read, a child must become aware that words are made of individual phonemes and it is these sounds that the letters represent. This process is called phonological awareness. Decades of research has demonstrated that failure to become phonologically aware is at the heart of reading failure. Put simply, when it comes to auditory processing, children with language learning problems are operating on the equivalent of dial up speed, while good language and reading skills require a child to operate on the equivalent of high speed internet.

Traditional tools for teaching reading, regardlessly of how expertly or how often they are applied, will not work for most struggling readers until these more foundational skills are remediated.  (approximately the 1:33:40 – 1:35:00 hour:minute marks)

“Children with language learning problems are operating on the equivalent of dial up speed, while good language and reading skills require a child to operate on the equivalent of high speed internet.” ~ Dr. Paula Tallal


Tell Your Story!


Equality is about sameness, it promotes fairness and justice by giving everyone the same thing. BUT it can only work if everyone starts from the same place. In the example on the left, equality only works if everyone is the same height.

Equity is about fairness, it’s about making sure people get access to the same opportunities. In the example on the right, because of varying height, each person gets what he needs to remove barriers to participation.

~ Source Unknown.

The one thing that has been stressed by the Representatives’ aides is that parents need to tell their story of why we need dyslexia supported in the educational system. Please send emails, make phone calls, and fill out the following online petitions that give you the opportunity to tell your story. Teaching children to read is a general education issue, not a special education issue alone. Teachers need professional development in understanding dyslexia and how to better accommodate and teach students with dyslexia.

Surprisingly, the most opposition to Cassidy’s amendment came from the disability community as they felt that the amendment was raising dyslexia above all over disabilities. The disability community appears to want to treat all students with disabilities equally, but treating everyone equally does not provide fairness as described in the graphic above. Even among the disability community there is a general lack of understanding of what dyslexia is, and that the disabling effects of dyslexia can be prevented by providing early identification and appropriate, evidence based instruction in Structured Literacy.

What other disability can, for the most part, be “prevented” solely by educational instruction?  Not only is Structured Literacy crucial for the success of students with dyslexia and other underlying language learning problems, but it improves the literacy skills of ALL students.  Why would anyone not want to improve literacy skills for all students?

An example of a mom telling her story: The Simple Message I Brought to Congress: My Son’s Story

Online petitions with the opportunity to tell your story:


Also, please consider contacting the National Parent Teacher Association. Below is an excerpt we received in response to a letter sent questioning why they opposed the Cassidy dyslexia amendment:

National PTA did not support a couple of Senator Cassidy’s amendments because they singled out dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities over the other 12 disability categories in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA provides definitions of 13 disability categories, including “specific learning disability” which dyslexia falls under. National PTA believes special treatment or consideration should not be provided to children in any one specific disability category at the exclusion of the other categories defined in the IDEA. PTA has long believed that every child—regardless of his or her disability—has the right of access to a high quality education and must be provided with the instruction, services and resources that will enable him/her to reach his/her full potential.

We remain committed to ensuring that all students with a disability have access to, and receive the resources and supports that they need.



For more information, please see:


Dyslexia and the DSM-5


This post comes courtesy of Steve P. Dykstra, Ph.D., Psychology.  He is a founding member of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition and a member of the Wisconsin Read to Lead Task Force.

I ran into this issue again and I wanted to share some facts with people regarding the use of the term “dyslexia” and the DSM-5.

The popular narrative has been that the DSM-5 got rid of dyslexia as a diagnosis, or dropped the term in a way that harmed those who advocate for others with dyslexia.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the people repeating these claims have never seen a DSM and if they have, they never read it.  As far as I can tell, this version of reality was popular for a time on social media and lots of people have accepted it as true.

The DSM-5 uses the term Specific Learning Disability, and then requires a second code to specify the nature of the disability.  One of three options is to code “with impairment in reading.”  That is the preferred way to use the DSM-5, however, it specifically states in that same section:

“Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.” (p.67, DSM-5)

Dyslexia is an acceptable, equivalent, alternative name for the same condition.

The popular narrative also implies that the condition was called “dyslexia” previously, but the DSM-5 changed that in the latest version.  I have the previous version of the DSM and it didn’t use the term dyslexia anywhere, either as the preferred term or as an alternative.  Older versions I’ve found were the same.  The popular narrative that dyslexia is being eliminated as a term is wrong.  The current revision has not eliminated the term.  If anything, it has become more acceptable and formalized.  The DSM-5 diagnostic standards for SLD with impairment in reading are excellent and reflect the latest advancements in the field.  Dyslexia has not been weakened or gone away in the DSM-5.

Some groups and individuals have used the false but popular claims about the DSM-5 to argue that we shouldn’t be talking about dyslexia, or that dyslexia is an old and misleading term.  They’ve tried to argue that the best practice now is to diagnose SLD without being more specific, and to avoid a focus on reading and what we used to call dyslexia.  These groups and individuals are either ill-informed or willfully ignorant.  In either case, they’re wrong.  If you encounter any, I hope these few facts help you brush them aside. 


The DSM-5 is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition and is published by the American Psychiatriac Association (APA).  It is primarily used for diagnosis codes for insurance and billing purposes.