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An illustration of a teacher, outlined in blue, standing in front of a blackboard teaching a child, outlined in orange. The board is filled with phonemes.
(Dan Carino
How Are Teachers Trained To Help Students With Dyslexia? Many California Educators Want Change
A growing number of teacher-educators are getting on board with the idea that the best way to teach dyslexic students is also the best way to teach all students.
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Barbara McAuliffe, an expert in helping struggling readers, has been saying she’s going to retire since 2008. But on a particularly arid August morning, here she stood in an air-conditioned room at the University of La Verne, demonstrating how to gauge students' grasp of the relationship between letters and the sounds they make.

Audio Version: How Are Teachers Trained To Help Students With Dyslexia? Many California Educators Want Change

McAuliffe, joined by two other experts, guided educators enrolled in the university’s dyslexia teacher-training program.

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Most of the teachers at the orientation were from the West Covina and Pomona unified school districts. They’re working toward a one-year certificate that will enable them to serve students in grades K-12.

To do so, they’ll have to provide 60 tutoring sessions to a student with dyslexia or other reading challenges. A handful of teachers have already earned their one-year certificate, and were here as part of a multi-year program that will certify them to train other educators. They’re required to provide 600 tutoring sessions.

Collectively, the teachers and instructors are part of a movement to transform the way reading is taught in California, so as to ensure that no student is left without this indispensable skill.

The teachers here are being trained in structured literacy, a type of early reading instruction that calls for the “explicit,” “systematic,” “cumulative” and “diagnostic” teaching of key elements:

  • phonology, which encompasses the ability to distinguish and manipulate sounds
  • sound-symbol association (letter–sound relationships) 
  • syllables 
  • morphology (think: root words and affixes) 
  • syntax 
  • semantics

McAuliffe stood before the class with a set of cards. Each one contained a letter or group of letters that represent a phoneme, the smallest unit of sound in speech. (The word “bat,” for example, has three phonemes: /b/, /æ/ and /t/.) The hefty deck also had more complex sounds, like the consonant blend /dr/ in “dream.” Teachers in the one-year program will use these cards to assess their students.

Two women sit around a table, with their laptops, purses, water bottles, cell phones and other essentials sprawled before them. They are looking up at two other women. On the far left, one of them is explaining something, gesturing with her hands.
Barbara McAuliffe, left, and Marga Madhuri, a professor at the University of La Verne's college of education, pause to check on two teachers in the dyslexia teacher-training program.
(Carolina Menéndez
University of La Verne)

“Make sure the card is flat on the table when you’re doing this,” McAuliffe instructed. “It shouldn’t be wiggling around. And remember: the student should be sitting directly in front of you.”

McAuliffe and the teachers practiced as a group. One by one, she pulled a card from her pile and showed it to the class, calling out the corresponding phoneme. The teachers repeated after her.

“Feel the sound in your mouth,” said McAuliffe. “Pay attention to where your tongue is.”

The teachers will do the same with their students, making note of what students know and what they need to learn. McAuliffe encouraged the teachers to talk with their students about the assessment.

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“Let the kids know what you’re doing,” she said. “Ask them: ‘Do you know why you’re here?’ Tell them: ‘You’re helping me gather information so I can be a better teacher.’”


What Is 'Structured Literacy'? And Why Do Advocates Support It?

Structured literacy is not the only kind of literacy instruction that includes phonics. However, structured literacy is far more thorough than “whole word” or “balanced” literacy approaches, experts say. Other key features include: lots of student–teacher interaction; prompt, corrective feedback; and the use of books that target phonics patterns taught in the classroom.

Structured literacy also emphasizes cumulative practice and ongoing review. The goal is for students to retain their reading skills and reach the point where they become automatic. This matters because inaccurate or halting reading (reading without fluency) can undermine students’ comprehension. Poor spelling can likewise limit their ability to express themselves.

There are many approaches under the “Structured Literacy” umbrella, including the Wilson Reading System, Direct Instruction and the Orton-Gillingham method. The latter is what’s being taught at the University of La Verne’s college of education. The La Verne approach McAuliffe is teaching combines phonics lessons with students’ sense of sight, sound and touch to help them learn oral and written language skills. (A teacher, for example, might have students write letters in a small sandbox, then have them name the letters and say the sounds they make.)

Studies show that teaching students about the sounds in words, and how those sounds match up to written letters, can benefit all students. Plus, because structured literacy hones in on phonological skills, decoding and spelling, it’s especially well-suited for students with dyslexia.

For these reasons, dyslexia advocates nationwide are pushing for classroom instruction that’s attuned to how the brain learns to read, with an emphasis on phonics instruction. Among teachers and researchers, this instruction is said to be rooted in “the science of reading,” a comprehensive body of research that encompasses neurology and psychology.

In 2017, the California Department of Education issued detailed guidelines for working with students with dyslexia. These guidelines signal that, “whenever possible,” reading instruction for students with dyslexia should incorporate structured literacy. They also make clear that the success of students with dyslexia is the responsibility of all educators — not just special education teachers. The guidelines also call for ongoing teacher preparation, before and after they enter the classroom.

But compliance with these guidelines is not mandatory. As a result, structured literacy is not the norm in California classrooms.

'Is What You're Doing Working?' Why Many Teachers Want To Change How Literacy Is Taught

What Are The Requirements For Teachers To Learn Structured Literacy?

In recent years, parents and dyslexia advocates have pushed lawmakers and school officials to make this type of reading instruction a requirement and to make sure teachers understand it.

Today, at least 14 states mandate some form of dyslexia training for aspiring educators, including Oregon, Illinois, Florida and Texas.

More than half of the country requires training for teachers who are already in the classroom.

California has neither requirement in place yet. But the political winds are shifting.

Melanie Jones-Moreno and Shaye Smith are special education teachers in the West Covina Unified School District, located in L.A. County’s San Gabriel Valley. Both teachers have master’s degrees and several years of professional experience. Still, when their district gave them the chance to enroll in the University of La Verne’s certificate program, they didn’t hesitate.

Is what you're doing working? Is it reaching every student? Because if it's not, then something has to change.
— Shaye Smith, special education teacher, West Covina Unified

“I did not feel equipped to teach all the needs that were in my classroom, especially students with dyslexia,” said Smith. “And so I gladly took it, and I've learned a lot.”

For her, coming to understand how the brain learns to read has been illuminating. She’s learned which areas of the brain are activated in skilled and struggling readers, and how reading instruction can change those activation patterns.

“It’s not just what you’re teaching,” Jones-Moreno added. “It’s how you teach it, how students are being engaged — that’s what’s powerful.”

Jones-Moreno and Smith have both earned their one-year certificates, which means they’re authorized to teach students with dyslexia and other struggling readers. Now they’re part of a multi-year program that will equip them to train their colleagues.

“We want kids to read, that’s the goal,” said Jones-Moreno. “I hope it catches on and more people adopt it. We're interested in getting more teachers trained, because it's good stuff.”

For teachers who are hesitant about shifting toward structured literacy, Smith posed the following questions: “Is what you're doing working? Is it reaching every student? Because if it's not, then something has to change.”

Two women sit across from each other at a table. One is holding up a flashcard with the letters -mp. A sheet of paper with many lines and boxes lies between them, along with a pile of flashcards.
Some of the teachers who've already earned their dyslexia teacher-training certificate come back to learn how to train their colleagues.
(Julia Barajas

What Do California’s Credential Programs Teach Future Educators About Literacy?

What gets practiced in the classroom may ultimately come down to how universities prepare teachers.

At Cal State Northridge, candidates working toward becoming special education teachers, reading specialists or educational therapists are tasked with tutoring local students with mild to moderate disabilities, including those with dyslexia. These services are offered through the university’s Special Education Literacy Clinic. They give candidates hands-on experience with “real kids, real families [and] real challenges, with very close feedback and supervision from faculty,” said Sue Sears, a professor in the special education department. She’s been training future teachers since 1990.

Sears is also part of the UC/CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning, composed of leading experts in brain research and faculty from UCLA, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State L.A. and Cal State Northridge. These campuses are updating their curriculum to incorporate the California Dyslexia Guidelines. Together, they’re developing training modules to help prepare generations of future educators.

Within the collaborative, Sears leads a task force composed of 12 other researchers and teacher educators who are focused on teacher preparation. They come with experience in early childhood through 12th grade, in general, bilingual and special education settings.

The task force has been meeting since the summer of 2020. Since then, they’ve shared, examined and revamped their course syllabi to emphasize — for all students — the kind of explicit instruction that’s a hallmark of structured literacy.

“I'm hoping that new teachers will come out with a strong understanding of why foundational skills are important, but that they’ll also be able to embed those skills in a really rich, comprehensive literacy program,” Sears said. “If [students] don't see themselves in books, if they don't get immersed in a really good story, if they don't see the value of reading to learn new information, then they're not going to read.”

What Are The Limits Of Structured Literacy?

Julie Washington, a professor at UC Irvine’s school of education, agrees that structured literacy is beneficial for most students. But “it’s not a panacea,” she said, especially for helping children from different cultural and language backgrounds.

"When structured literacy is implemented with fidelity, it really helps kids learn how to break the written code," she said. "And that is the first step to learn to read, but only the first step."

Washington’s research focuses on language variation, more commonly referred to as “dialect.” Specifically, she examines how dialect in African American children impacts their reading and writing. She’s also a consultant on the development of a digital assessment tool at the UC San Francisco Dyslexia Center.

Because of a laser focus on the building blocks of language, Washington says, structured literacy can risk overlooking whether students derive meaning from text.

And, she said, any literacy approach needs to respect a student's identity.

The science of education has to include diversity, diverse language, cultural language, the development of language within cultures.
— Julie Washington, professor, UC Irvine

"One of the things that we have done in this country with a lot of populations, including African American kids who speak dialect, and bilingual kids who speak Spanish, for example, is to try to eliminate the use of those home and community language systems," she said. "Every child has to learn general American English, in order to read and write. But the way we do it is really important. I don't believe eliminating people's dialects or eliminating people's language is the way to do it."

In her view, structured literacy “doesn't really address the differences that we see in the development of reading that are impacted by language variation and bilingualism.”

Washington said that no form of literacy instruction is going to be perfect, and that the history of how schools in the U.S. teach reading shows that there has never been a one-size-fits-all solution.

"Kids are not coming to school and replacing their language with something else. They're extending what they already know about language, to include the language of school," she added. "And when we eliminate what they're already doing, and what they already know, we don't give them the opportunity to scaffold what they currently know to include what they're trying to learn."

A lot of discourse around language comprehension and reading disorders like dyslexia is informed by students who come from families with means — often upper or upper-middle class, often white. But to teach reading in California, she said, requires understanding of "African American kids, Spanish-speaking kids, Korean kids, Filipino kids."

"The science of education," Washington said, "has to include diversity, diverse language, cultural language, the development of language within cultures."

Why Is There Resistance To Structured Literacy?

Kai Greene and Susan Porter, both in the special education department at Cal State Dominguez Hills, are also part of the UC/CSU collaborative.

One of the team’s broader goals, said Greene, is for teachers to become familiar with the symptoms of students who are at-risk for dyslexia. Time and time again, he said, he’s come across families whose children did not get the services they needed until fourth or fifth grade.

Greene and Porter also aim to help educators think beyond screening and early identification.

“Sadly, many students go all the way to middle school or high school without ever receiving the proper support,” said Greene. “Their needs need to be addressed as well.”

Your students need to read, they need to write, they need to be able to talk about their experiments, share their findings or write a report.
— Kai Greene, professor, CSU Dominguez Hills

Porter noted that the majority of students with disabilities spend most of their time—more than 80% of the day—in general education. In light of this fact, she believes all teachers should be equipped to integrate students with learning disabilities into their classrooms.

In a secondary general education setting, Greene added, those who teach subjects like science or history might resist incorporating the California Dyslexia Guidelines, assuming that the responsibility falls on those who teach language arts.

“But your students need to read, they need to write, they need to be able to talk about their experiments, share their findings or write a report,” he said.

George Ellis, who teaches a course titled “Multilingual Learners, Language and Literacy” at UC Berkeley, has come across similar attitudes.

Elementary school teachers, he observed, “are like, ‘Yeah, we totally see this, we need it.’” In contrast, “sometimes the single subject teachers will come in saying, ‘Why do I need to know about language and literacy in math?’”

“But once we get into it, they realize that language and literacy is the underpinning of all math. So I think it's one of those things that they may not think they need until they understand it at a deep level,” he said.

Ellis would like to see effective literacy instruction in all single subject programs, not just for future English teachers. “But at a level that's appropriate for what they're teaching,” he added.

“There are many tiny, little fixes that single subject teachers can take into account to make their classrooms more accessible for students who have difficulty reading,” he said. For example, if a teacher has a lesson on photosynthesis, she can easily post the term, broken up by syllable. “That makes it a lot easier to read.”

“It's a skilled teacher who can bring those things together, [who] doesn't make them look like a conflict,” said Porter, the assistant professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Revamping Teacher Education And Credentialing

Aside from the UC/CSU collaborative, California is in the process of implementing Senate Bill 488, which will require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to revise statewide teaching standards, ensuring that they incorporate evidence-based teaching of foundational reading skills, including “phonological awareness, phonics and word recognition.” Governor Gavin Newsom approved the bill in October 2021. Effectively, it adds a seventh standard to the teaching profession, projected to be made public come fall.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is also at work on new teacher performance expectations that include knowing how to identify and work with students with dyslexia. These will apply to candidates in the multiple subject credential, who are aspiring elementary school teachers; the single subject credential in English, for future middle and high school teachers; and the education specialist credential, for those who are interested in special education. The new standards might also be applied to a proposed early childhood education specialist credential.

Ellis is part of a working group that’s making sure Senate Bill 488 is properly implemented. Prior to becoming a teacher educator, he taught kindergarten in the northern California city of San Bruno for almost two decades. Ellis now serves as director of UC Berkeley's California Reading & Literature Project. In this role, he collaborates with local school districts to support the implementation of evidence-based reading initiatives.

Ellis also leads professional development for educators around the science of reading; language and literacy instruction; reading comprehension instruction; the California Dyslexia Guidelines; and Spanish-English biliteracy transfer.

“I think we're at a really critical point with teacher prep when it comes to learning how to teach reading in general, not just for dyslexia,” he said.

To improve how reading is taught in California, he added, we need to revamp not just the courses, but the entire system that produces teachers.

“Teacher prep programs are where a lot of people want to focus, because that's the teacher's first point of entry,” he said. “There's this whole other part of the system we need to focus on as well.”

Pre-service teachers, Ellis noted, are paired with master teachers. In his view, colleges of education need to improve how they vet the latter.

“You could be learning the latest on dyslexia in your teacher prep program, but then go into a classroom where your master teacher is teaching an outdated curriculum,” he said. “And when they ask you to take over for a month, you're going to teach the curriculum they asked you to write, even if it may be at odds with what you've been learning in your teacher prep program.”

We've spent over $300,000—and it's absolutely outrageous that we have to do that— to ensure that our kids can get through their school years with some self-esteem left.
— Caylin Wade, volunteer, International Dyslexia Association

New teachers also partake in two-year induction processes. Currently, teachers aren’t required to make literacy their area of focus during this time. Introducing a literacy requirement to the induction process could really help, said Ellis.

“After you've been teaching for a year, you have a very different perspective than you did before you started," he said. "So if you were to go into your second year of teaching, and you focus your induction on improving your literacy instruction, that could be a whole nother way that we tighten up how we teach reading.”

Ellis also believes that colleges should retrain induction mentors, who, traditionally, are retired teachers. “They may be awesome, all-around teachers, but they may not have the deep literacy knowledge that will be required for the new teaching standard from SB 488,” he said. To get these mentors up to speed, he recommends that they be required to receive additional training in literacy instruction.

“It's not a one-shot, silver bullet solution,” said Ellis. “What we're teaching in teacher prep, we need to come back to in the induction. We need to come back to that throughout [the time teachers are] in service, so there's a through line in a teacher's career that doesn't end with teacher prep.”

And to get effective literacy instruction to stick, everyone at a school needs to be on board, including administrators and teaching assistants.

For administrators, he’d like to see a reading boot camp to ensure they all have a base level knowledge around effective reading instruction— “nothing super long, because admin have so many hats to wear,” said Ellis.

Parents also need updated information and guidance. Often, families don’t find out about effective literacy instruction until their child has an issue at school, he added.

“A lot of the dyslexia movement is parent led, but it's led by a certain type of parent,” said Ellis, alluding to those who have the means, savvy and language skills to navigate school systems. “And I think we may be missing our mark with educating parents globally around effective literacy instruction.”

Ellis suggests that schools take note of when families are most often on campus, then offer spaces where they can learn how to best support their children, including “how to read a book to a kid, or how to ask questions about comprehension.”

Helping People Understand Dyslexia

Caylin Wade is the mother of three children, two of whom have dyslexia. After years of fighting with her local public school district, she decided to enroll her children in private schools. Wade worries about families who don’t have the means to guarantee that their children’s needs are met.

She volunteers with the So-Cal Tri-Counties branch of the International Dyslexia Association, which serves San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange Counties. Wade is the group’s president.

She joined more than 250 people in responding to an LAist callout that asked people to share personal experiences with dyslexia.

“We've spent over $300,000 — and it's absolutely outrageous that we have to do that — to ensure that our kids can get through their school years with some self esteem left!” she wrote.

To cultivate empathy for people with dyslexia, she and her fellow volunteers regularly host “dyslexia simulations” for educators and families.

On a Saturday earlier this August, they ran two sessions at the Corona Public Library, both open to the public. In a room just off the children’s area, where walls are covered with paintings of lush citrus groves, the volunteers walked participants through activities meant to show them what it might be like to be a student with dyslexia in a typical classroom.

The participants gathered around a table. Then, the volunteers put up small, three-panel dividers around them, like at a test center. The panel facing the participants had a mirror. Wade then distributed paper and golf pencils. The sheets contained two large stars, one inside the other, like a Russian nesting doll. Participants were tasked with adding a third star in between. But they could not look directly at the page. Instead, they had to guide their eyes with the mirror before them.

It seemed like an easy task. It wasn’t.

In another activity, participants were asked to write the letters l-m-n-o-p, again with the mirror as their guide. Participants visibly struggled, especially with the letter o. The volunteers pretended to be classroom teachers and walked around the table, complimenting participants whose work was legible. With kind tones of voice, they told participants who were struggling the most that they could “practice a little more during recess.”

Two women stand behind dividers, both wearing reading glasses. One is holding up a sheet of paper with two stars and some scribbles.
Members of the So-Cal Tri-Counties branch of the International Dyslexia Association show participants how they fared using a mirror to guide their penmanship.
(Julia Barajas

Finally, Wade took a small deck of cards and reviewed the letters d, b, q and p with students. “What’s this letter?” she asked participants. That part went smoothly.

Then she had the participants read a passage where the words appear backwards and the letters are out of order. (Many students who are not dyslexic may reverse letters, but it is a useful example for the exercise.) Wade asked the participants to read some sentences aloud. Most of them managed to do so, but without fluency. Then, Wade asked questions about the passage to gauge their comprehension. That was a flop. The participants were so focused on reading accurately that they paid no attention to the story.

After each activity, participants were asked to reflect on their experience by responding to questions like: “How did you feel while you were trying to trace the mirrored object?” and “How did you feel towards the facilitator?” Most participants described feeling frustrated with themselves. Some even wanted to quit.

How Can Teachers Change A Colleague’s Mindset?

For teachers who’ve already gone through the credentialing process, there are dozens of professional development opportunities to help them learn about the science of reading. This includes sporadic seminars, one-time workshops and self–paced online courses.

All of these are a good start, said Leslie Zoroya, a project director in reading and language arts at the L.A. County Office of Education. But, in her view, teachers need to engage in ongoing dialogue with their colleagues.

Zoroya runs 10-month programs on the science of reading, open to teachers across the county’s 80 school districts. “We dole it out in little pieces so that they can learn about it, go try it, practice the strategies, see how it fits,” she said.

The program does not promote any particular curriculum or textbook. Instead, teachers walk through components of early language development and its connection to later literacy. They also learn what research says about how the brain acquires reading.

Her program also dispels misconceptions. “The science of reading sometimes gets a bad rap,” she said. “People think it's 90 minutes of drill-and-kill phonics, and that's not what it is.”

We ask so much of [teachers]. We pile it on. They have to be everything to every individual kid.
— Leslie Zoroya, project director, L.A. County Office of Education

Aside from the monthly sessions, the program offers office hours, where teachers can pop in and troubleshoot with experts.

Like Ellis, Zoroya believes all educators need to know about the why behind this work. And so, in addition to training for teachers, the county office offers programs for administrators, literacy coaches and teaching assistants.

“Every piece of the system needs to be in place,” she said, so that all the educators at a school site have a shared understanding around reading.

Adalid Sánchez is a special education teacher in LAUSD with nearly a decade of experience. He supports the integration of structured literacy and the science of reading in teacher prep programs, especially if it means that more students will get the support they need early on.

“But that energy needs to be matched at the school level,” he said, with funding for training and supplies, time to implement new strategies and support for teachers to make it work.

Zoroya agrees. “We ask so much of [teachers],” she said. “We pile it on. They have to be everything to every individual kid.”

For her, equity means that all teachers will feel equipped to do their job well.

Part 6: Through The Cracks

LAist reporters Mariana Dale, Robert Garrova, Jill Replogle and Kyle Stokes, and engagement producer Adriana Pera, contributed to this story.


Learn More About Dyslexia
  • I want to know more about dyslexia ...

    • California Dyslexia Guidelines — Comprehensive guide from the California Department of Education to help educators and parents identify, assess and support students with dyslexia.
    • International Dyslexia Association — membership-based organization that hosts conferences and workshops, and publishes self-assessments and fact sheets on everything from the neuroscience of dyslexia to how to apply for accommodations on college entrance exams. It also publishes some resources in Spanish.
    • International Dyslexia Association, Los Angeles Branch — hosts teacher trainings, conferences, and provides grants to support dyslexia programs in local schools. Published fact sheets on dyslexia in English and Spanish.
    • California Dyslexia Initiative Free Webinar Series — hosted by the Sacramento County Office of Education and funded by the California Department of Education. Also publishes professional development resources for teachers.
    • Learning Disabilities Association of America: Comprehensive informational resources for parents, educators, and adults. Recommendations for helpful apps, programs, and teaching materials. Also provides advice for folks who have just learned they might have a learning disability.
  • I want to know more about laws regarding dyslexia and special education ...

    • AB-1369: California Dyslexia Guidelines — under the guidelines, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction is required to provide technical assistance in implementing the guidelines to parents, teachers, school administrators and faculty members in teacher training programs.
    • SB-237: Dyslexia Risk Screening — this bill has not been passed.
    • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — IDEA requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities. The federal IDEA website has resources for families, including information on individualized education plans (IEPs) and dispute resolution.
  • I want to connect with other parents or dyslexia advocates ...

    • Disability Rights California — engages in legal and policy advocacy, and publishes resources for individuals with disabilities and their families.
    • Decoding Dyslexia CA Parent Support Groups — Decoding Dyslexia, a grassroots organization made up of families affected by dyslexia and educators, has parent support groups that meet regularly across California.
  • I want to go to college ...

Terms To Know
  • Dyslexia Terms

    • Phonemes: The smallest units of sound that make up words. For example, while the word “car” is spelled with the letters c-a-r, the phonemes involved are “/k/” and “ar,” or /kar/.
    • Phonological awareness: An individual’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of oral language. It is the understanding that spoken language can be divided into smaller units (i.e., words, syllables, and phonemes) and that those units can be identified and manipulated.
    • Phonological processing: The ability to understand, mentally store, retrieve and change speech sounds. Someone with a phonological processing deficit has a hard time segmenting written words into smaller parts.
    • Decoding: A skill used to break words down into syllables and phonemes.
    • Fluency: In reading, fluency refers to the ability to read a text accurately and quickly, focusing on comprehension instead of decoding.
    • Dyslexia: A learning condition that affects how a brain processes language, which usually manifests itself in difficulty reading. People with dyslexia often have trouble recognizing letters and understanding how combinations of letters create the sounds that make up our language.
    • Dyscalculia: A learning condition that affects a person’s ability to do math, and can make math take longer. Dyslexia can also affect math.
    • Dysgraphia: A learning condition that involves difficulty with writing — handwriting, typing, and spelling. Like dyscalculia, dysgraphia has a high rate of co-occurrence with dyslexia.
  • Education Terms

    • IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Federal law that requires students with disabilities to have access to a “free and appropriate education,” including additional services or accommodations.
    • IEP: Individualized Education Plan. A plan developed by a support team to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under IDEA and who is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives their education in the least restrictive environment. Children receive a support team that also includes a child’s parents and at least one special education teacher and usually a general education teacher; a school district representative; and other various experts and representatives as necessary.
    • Specific learning disability (SLD): One of the 13 disability categories identified in the IDEA. If an individual has an SLD, it means they can have trouble understanding or using language, spoken or written, that may make it difficult to listen, read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations. Dyslexia qualifies as a specific learning disability.
    • Multi-Tiered Systems of Support: A series of gradually escalating responses to students struggling in class. This is an umbrella term for the many options for services available to school districts, and is focused on all students, not specifically students in special education.
    • Neurodiversity: The idea that all brains interact with the world differently, supporting the notion that there is no one “right” way of neurological thinking or behaving.
  • Sources: California Dyslexia Guidelines, U.S. Department of Education

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