How many of your students have dyslexia?
The answer may surprise you: Researchers estimate that dyslexia affects between 5 and 12 percent of the U.S. population — and as many as 80 percent of students who struggle with reading.
If you find that statistic startling, you’re not alone: It wasn’t until 2017 that New York State clarified that a diagnosis of dyslexia could be used in classifying students with a learning disability in order to determine eligibility for special education services and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
“School officials have been afraid to use the word ‘dyslexia,’” wrote Jo Anne Simon, a New York State Assembly member, in a New York Daily News op-ed in 2017. “[This] deterred schools from offering students the proper and legally mandated support, and education schools from preparing future teachers [in] how to recognize the problems.”
Research has found that the differences between dyslexic and typical readers are evident as early as 1st grade and the gap persists into adolescence. Some early signs of dyslexia include an inability to recognize rhyming patterns (like cat, bat and rat), failure to associate letters with sounds and difficulty recognizing letters.
“At its core, dyslexia is a problem accessing the sound of spoken language,” says Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a professor of pediatric neurology and a nationally recognized expert on dyslexia.
Direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics can help students with dyslexia make connections between phonemes — or the sounds of language — and graphemes, their written equivalents. But in many reading curricula in recent years, phonics instruction has become less robust.