Literacy experts answer educators’ 10 most pressing questions about dyslexia

Erin Ryan, Senior Writer, NWEA, [email protected]

In Dyslexia: What every educator should know about the most common learning disability, NWEA literacy experts Tiffany Peltier and Cindy Jiban took an evidence-based look at dyslexia. Here are their answers to some of the questions we received after the webinar. You can read more on the NWEA blog, Teach. Learn. Grow.

  1. Is dyslexia about more than phonological processing?

Tiffany: Yes. Research shows many students also have deficits in orthographic processing.

  1. What if my school says they don’t test for dyslexia?

Tiffany: Use the terminology used in federal law when describing your students and seeking support for them: specific learning disability (SLD) in basic reading skills or reading fluency.

  1. How are language retrieval and receptive language issues classified?

Tiffany: Researchers describe word reading difficulties as dyslexia and language impairments as development language disorder. In schools, these are typically classified in federal special education law under speech or language impairment (SLI).

  1. Is dyslexia more common for English language learners?

Cindy: Struggles with decoding in English can be particular to the complex orthography of English. So, a student can show less decoding difficulty in another language than they experience in English.

  1. What is the best way for a seventh- or eighth-grade student to practice decoding?

Tiffany: If you can use screening or assessment data to create small groups of students who have similar decoding needs, spending time in those groups daily would help them.

Cindy: It’s important for all students to have access to grade-level, complex texts. One way students who are struggling with decoding can access that is to do repeated readings.

  1. How could the average classroom teacher use the information found on the MAP Reading Fluency reporting dashboard?

Cindy: When a student is flagged on a screener, that should guide which students get more intense intervention and in what area.

  1. How are MAP and DIBELS different?

Cindy: MAP® Growth™ focuses on reading comprehension. DIBELS and MAP® Reading Fluency™ focus more on foundational skills.

  1. Does NWEA have screener tools available for middle school students?

Cindy: MAP Reading Fluency includes grade-level text, appropriate through fifth grade. We have some schools who assign middle school students through eighth grade to MAP Reading Fluency.

  1. Are there any free and evidence-based resources you recommend?

Cindy: There’s a lot of enthusiasm right now around a new resource at the University of Florida Literacy Institute. The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) also offers a guide called “Foundational skills to support reading for understanding in kindergarten through 3rd grade.”

  1. I’m a school administrator. How do I help my teachers learn more?

Tiffany: One strategy is high-quality professional learning opportunities around early word recognition, like “Phonological and Phonemic Awareness.”