Dyslexia resources & accommodation information for parents

Dyslexia Resources for Parents — Explore classroom accommodations and learn practical tips for helping your student with dyslexia succeed in school.

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What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the ability to process language, including reading, spelling, writing and speaking. People with dyslexia have difficulty learning how speech sounds relate to letters and words, also referred to as decoding. Despite its impact on learning, dyslexia does not affect overall intelligence. Students with dyslexia can succeed in school with appropriate accommodations and emotional support.

Common accommodations for students with learning disabilities

Accommodations are changes that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities in ways that are more accessible to them. Accommodations do not change the curriculum content or target skills that a student learns, nor do they lower performance expectations or reduce learning. They make the content more accessible by changing the way information is presented or how a student is expected to respond.

Accommodations are not modifications. Modifications change what students learn; they alter the level and difficulty of material a student is expected to complete. Both accommodations and modifications are included in students' IEP. Learn more about the difference between accommodations and modifications in special education learning.

Considering the needs of the individual when designing accommodations ensures equal access to learning opportunities and provides a level playing field in the learning environment. It's important that accommodations are not only reserved for testing but are in place throughout the learning process to allow for full classroom participation.

There are four broad categories of accommodations for students with learning disabilities. Some of these categories are more or less common when tailoring accommodations to students with dyslexia specifically.

  • Presentation accommodations allow students to access learning materials that do not involve reading standard print and presented in a standard format.
  • Response accommodations provide students with alternative ways to demonstrate their knowledge and skills to complete activities, assignments and tests.
  • Setting accommodations facilitate a positive and productive learning space.
  • Timing and scheduling accommodations include how long, when, or in what portions a student completes tests or other assignments.

Accommodations for students with dyslexia

The following accommodations and strategies may be helpful for students with dyslexia. Some of these can be done easily at home, and some require coordinating with your child's teacher. Many strategies involve understanding how people with dyslexia learn best and structuring coursework accordingly. Providing access to appropriate accommodations for students with dyslexia enables them to learn the same content as their peers, without having to struggle against a learning process that does not suit their academic needs. For instance, without accommodations, a student with dyslexia may spend so much cognitive effort trying to read individual words that they do not have remaining brainpower to comprehend and retain the overall meaning of the text.

  • Accommodation Type
  • Examples
  • Presentation accommodations for dyslexia

    Presentation accommodations for dyslexia often involve using visual strategies designed to help isolate pieces of text and draw attention to important information. Large sections of dense text can be difficult for people with dyslexia to scan and parse quickly.

    • Increasing font size in learning materials (books, worksheets, or other handouts)
    • Reducing the number of items per page
    • Adjusting the contrast between text and background color — avoid black text on a white background.
    • Focusing on one line of text at a time by blocking the rest of a page with cardstock, bookmark, or ruler
    • Highlighting key information in a text to draw attention
  • Conceptual Strategies

    Further presentation accommodations can involve conceptual strategies that make assignments or assessments less daunting by breaking them into smaller pieces. These tactics can boost focus and avoid overwhelming your student.

    • 'Chunking' assignments into sets of steps or smaller pieces. This can include using checklists, providing
    • Organizing worksheet content in order of difficulty by placing problems in order from easiest to hardest; scaling content can reduce frustration
    • Pre-teaching new vocabulary or providing a glossary of key words required for the topic.
  • Response accommodations for dyslexia

    Remember that assistive technology can be a great help, particularly for employing response accommodations. Assistive technologies are tools that allow dyslexic students to absorb and respond to information while reducing the friction of challenging formats like handwriting.

    • Text -to-speech software or a reading pen to assist during reading assignments
    • Speech-to-text tools that allow dictation instead of writing
    • Writing aids like electronic dictionaries, spelling checkers and grammar checkers for writing assignments and assessments
  • Timing and setting accommodations for dyslexia

    Dyslexic students can often suffer from low confidence or reduced self-esteem because they feel they can't read or write quickly enough. Eliminating time pressure can help students focus on giving their best response.

    • Providing additional time to complete a task, allowing for increased processing time
    • Using handouts like lesson outlines, prewritten notes, or transcripts instead of requiring traditional note-taking
    • Pairing up students to study together so that they share the writing/reading load
    • Reducing distraction by testing in small groups or in a separate location
    • Using multiple, shorter testing sessions to break up a long assessment
    • Adjusting lighting and noise to reduce over stimulation
  • Memory and comprehension strategies for dyslexia

    Memory and comprehension strategies can improve understanding and retention. Dyslexic students may find accessing information easier when it is presented in a non-textual format.

    • Using a variety of sensory modes to give instructions and introduce information — speaking, reading, visual stimulation
    • Simplifying instructions by employing shorter phrases with key words to communicate the main idea
    • Repeating instructions to give students more time to process and remember them
    • Summarizing information at regular intervals to check for understanding
    • Using audiobooks to enable access to grade-level texts; try audiobooks from free online libraries.

How supports students with dyslexia

  • engaging instruction illustration
  • Engaging Instruction
  • Use a variety of sensory modalities to introduce information with engaging visuals, audio narration transcripts and more.
  • flexible timing illustration
  • Flexible Timing
  • Self-paced learning creates a comfortable, personalized environment — students can engage at their own pace.
  • organized coursework illustration
  • Organized Coursework
  • Multiple choice responses for lesson, chapter and course assessments check understanding at grade level without the need for a written response.

How helps your child learn  

  1. sample lesson math word problems
  2. Engaging, short videos from subject-matter experts break learning into bite-sized chunks
  3. Audio narration syncs with visual aids to introduce information using a variety of modalities
  4. Summary segments at the end of each lesson repeats and reinforces concepts
  5. Closed captioning allows students to read along as they listen
  6. Video speed control lets your child process information at their own pace
  7. Lesson transcripts reduce the need for traditional note taking
  8. 5-question multiple choice quizzes with unlimited attempts check for understanding and promote content mastery
  9. No time limits allow for language processing time and frequent breaks in quizzes
  10. Automatic progress tracking in all courses
  11. Avoid distractions using the app to learn anywhere your child feels comfortable
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Frequently asked questions about dyslexia

How common is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability affecting language processing. It is estimated that 70-90% of people who struggle with reading have some form of dyslexia. In fact, it is thought that between 5 and 15% of the US population have dyslexia. Many people with dyslexia go undiagnosed, even into adulthood, therefore determining an accurate figure for the prevalence of dyslexia is challenging.

What causes dyslexia?

The causes of dyslexia are not fully established, however it appears to be associated with genes that affect reading and language processing in the brain and environmental risk factors.

Your child may be more likely to have dyslexia if:

  • There is a family history of dyslexia or other learning disabilities
  • They had a low birth weight or were born premature
  • They had ear infections early in childhood that affected their hearing
  • There was exposure during pregnancy to nicotine, drugs, alcohol or an infection that may have altered brain development
  • There are differences in parts of the brain that enable reading such as Broca's area and Wernicke's area

What are the signs and symptoms of dyslexia?

The signs and symptoms of dyslexia will differ between children. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has additional information about the signs of dyslexia. Common symptoms of dyslexia for different stages of a child's development are listed below.

Children with dyslexia who have not yet started school may:

  • Have a speech delay
  • Learn new vocabulary slowly
  • Form words incorrectly (reversing sounds or confusing similar sounding words)
  • Have difficulty distinguishing left from right
  • Struggle remembering colors, letters and numbers
  • Repeat or omit short words like and, but and the
  • Struggle playing rhyming games

School-age children and teenagers with dyslexia may show signs such as:

  • Reading below grade level
  • Difficulty processing spoken language
  • Problems identifying similarities and differences in words
  • Slow reading speed
  • Reluctance to participate in reading activities
  • Struggling to find an appropriate word when answering questions
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Mispronouncing words
  • Difficulty learning a foreign language

What tests are used to diagnose dyslexia ?

There are many language proficiencies that an educational psychologist or health professional will review to diagnose dyslexia. Testing for dyslexia will detect weaknesses in your child's reading and language processing.

Some examples of language skills that may be tested for are:

  • Phonological awareness: the ability to recognize and use the sounds of spoken language
  • Decoding: understanding how speech sounds relate to letters and words
  • Reading comprehension and fluency: the ability to accurately read a paragraph aloud and understand what was read
  • Rapid naming: the ability to quickly and easily name common letters, numbers, objects, and colors on a page.

There are many standardized tests that are used to evaluate all aspects of the reading process. Many of these assessments for dyslexia use a game or puzzle format to make your child feel more comfortable. The evaluator will look at the findings from all the tests and identify your child's individual challenges with reading and language processing. If testing indicates your child has dyslexia, they may be eligible for instructional and testing accommodations.

How do I help my child with dyslexia enjoy reading?

Reading can become a source of frustration for children with dyslexia. Working with your child at home to encourage them to read for pleasure can help them build on the strategies they have learned at school without the pressure of the classroom. Here are some approaches to help your child enjoy reading.

  • Encourage all reading. Books, graphic novels, and magazines all require utilizing reading abilities. Any type of reading counts as practice and will help them hone key skills.
  • Create a home library. Help your child organize books into different categories and select a book they wish to read from the shelf.
  • Seek out high motivation material. Finding out what engages and excites your child will provide them with material they are interested in and give them greater motivation to keep reading.
  • Take it in turns. Read a sentence or paragraph out loud and then swap.
  • Read their book aloud to them. This can help your child decode the language while they follow the text as you read aloud.
  • Model persistence. Show your child the value of discipline and perseverance when completing a challenging task; use this to model the attitude you want them to show while reading a difficult text.
  • Make enjoyment the goal. When you are reading with your child, make enjoyment the focus of the activity. Be mindful not to overcorrect mistakes.
  • Encourage discussion. Ask questions about characters in the book. This will help your child feel involved with the text and develop their reading comprehension.
  • Use audiobooks alongside the text. Combining auditory and visual stimuli to help them identify and decode language while still accessing the content.
  • Find books with film adaptations. If your child has a favorite film or TV show that is an adaptation of a book, encourage them to read the associated book.

What test-taking accommodations do students with dyslexia use?

Students with dyslexia all struggle with language processing, however there is variation in accommodation needs between students. Your child may need more than one of these accommodations to do their best on assessments:

  • Access to additional time to complete assessments,> allowing for increased language processing time
  • Provide a quiet room to avoid auditory distractions
  • Dictate to a scribe or use text-to-speech software for long form responses so assessment is focused on content mastery and not spelling or reading fluency
  • Write answers in question booklet rather than on a separate answer sheet to mitigate vision processing issues
  • Answer questions using a computer with a spell checker to avoid downgrading due to spelling errors
  • Offer alternative response methods, for example, verbal response, circle an answer or point to an answer
  • Have fewer questions on each page to be able to focus on one question at a time
  • Permit students to read questions aloud to help students decode the content of a question before answering it
  • Allow bookmarks or a ruler to help focus on a line of text when reading.

Accommodations routinely used in the classroom should also be used in assessments and tests. There could be times when these accommodations are not permitted during state or district exams. Conditions differ between states and districts, however accommodations prescribed on your child's IEP and 504 plans should be accessible.

How can I help my child with dyslexia at home?

There are a number of instructional strategies, tips, and tricks that can help you support your dyslexic child's learning at home, whether you are a homework helper or a full-time homeschooler. As well as helping your child with language processing difficulties, helping your child with emotional struggles associated with dyslexia is vital to their well-being and academic success.

Instructional strategies for dyslexia

  • Use multi-sensory techniques like incorporating manipulatives and finger-writing
  • Encourage reading in subjects your child enjoys
  • Help memorize concepts using mnemonic devices
  • Assist with planning by breaking assignments or projects into smaller chunks

Emotionally support your dyslexic child

  • Recognize their strengths
  • Model and encourage persistence
  • Encourags self-advocacy
  • Promote teamwork
  • Assume responsibility
  • Use humor
  • Focus on your child's successes

Is dyslexia a vision problem?

Vision or eye problems are not a cause of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects the way the brain connects sounds to letters and words. It can make it difficult to recognize words, read long portions of text, or read quickly. The difficulty doesn't originate in a dyslexic person's eyes, but in the processing areas of their brain. Students with dyslexia may struggle with reading comprehension, as well as spelling and writing. Common symptoms, like mixing up letters in a word, confusing letters like b and d , and seeing "floating text", can be caused by the different ways dyslexic people scan text.

Does dyslexia qualify for an IEP?

Yes, a student with dyslexia may qualify for an Individual Education Program (IEP) - this is because dyslexia is included under the category of "Specific Learning Disability" in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ( IDEA ). Schools are obligated to provide support and access to an appropriate education to eligible students with disabilities that are included among the thirteen types listed in the law. Not all students with disabilities qualify for an IEP. Parents who wish to get an IEP in place for their child with dyslexia can request an educational evaluation from their school, if the school has not already initiated it. The educational evaluation will determine if the dyslexia is severe enough to require an IEP.

How do I talk to my child's teacher about dyslexia?

  1. Schedule an appointment. Ask for adequate time to discuss your child's needs with their teacher. This meeting should be long enough to have a constructive discussion while being conscious of the teacher's limited time; 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient.
  2. Share knowledge about your child and dyslexia. You both have valuable information about dyslexia and your child as an individual. Sharing your combined knowledge, learning materials, and articles can establish a platform for constructive conversation.
  3. Discuss successful and unsuccessful strategies. Interventions that work for one child won't necessarily work for every child. Discuss implemented strategies and their outcomes — for example, reading aloud to a peer may work for some students but cause your child anxiety.
  4. Be direct about your child's needs. Without being critical, be specific about accommodations your child needs to access assessments and learn effectively.
  5. Demonstrate the impact of dyslexia on your child's work. Present samples of writing from previous assessments or class notes to show your child's teacher where your child is struggling. This will give more context and assist the teacher in providing appropriate accommodations.
  6. Recognize your child's strengths. It takes time to build effective working relationships between children and teachers. Sharing your child's strengths and interests reminds the teacher that dyslexia is only one element of who they are.
  7. Share your child's IEP or 504 plan. If your child has a 504 plan or an IEP, provide their teacher with a copy so they can implement the advised accommodations.
  8. Acknowledge the school's expectations. Reiterate that you expect your child to meet the school's academic expectations, with the support they need to do so.
  9. Ask how you can support from home. Keeping approaches consistent between school instruction and home support can help reinforce language strategies for your child.

For further information on building a constructive relationship with your child's teacher, see The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity's advice on preparing for your first school meeting .

What organization and study strategies are best for children with dyslexia?

Here are some examples of organization and study strategies to help your child manage their time:

  • Verbally summarize a lecture or lesson as soon as possible after class
  • Use a stopwatch to keep track of the time spent on a task or activity
  • Use a planner to track when assignments are sent and when they are due
  • Use highlighters to pull out important information in their notes
  • Use color coding to visually represent different subjects or categories in notes.
  • Use graph paper to clearly organize math problems on the page
  • Join a study group to discuss learnings and practice skills
  • Start projects and assignments by making a plan to tackle components in chunks

Dyslexia resources for parents

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