When Martha Youman was starting out as a second-grade teacher, every Friday she would stay late after school to make what she called “seat work” for her 30 students— packets to help differentiate instruction for the three levels of learners in her classroom.

“My high-level [students] would get lots of reading passages with reading comprehension questions,” she said. “My medium level would get the same thing, but shorter. And my students at the low level would get things like coloring pages, connect the dots — just things to keep them busy so they wouldn’t act out.”

She said that some students at the lowest learning level couldn’t even write the alphabet yet, so she’d even put kindergarten-style trace-the-letter pages into their seat work.

While the “seat work” kept behavior in check, it was failing as a teaching strategy. Youman, who had been a New York City Teaching Fellow, said she knew that some of these kids were struggling to read, but also knew from class interactions that they were smart. “I kept them busy. Truly, there were interventions they needed, I just didn’t know how to help them,” she said. “I had a master’s in teaching, and didn’t know how to deal with these students.”

Youman now understands that some of her struggling second-graders were most likely dyslexic, with neurobiologically different brains that often fail to read words and sentences without direct, specific intervention.

“I received zero dyslexia training in grad school,” she said. “I received one class in how to teach reading, one in how to teach language arts, how to teach science, how to teach math. But these classes focused more on lesson planning and strategies at a class level. We did not talk at all about kids who can’t catch up, ever. The word dyslexia was never even mentioned.”

After a few years in what felt like “the front lines of a war zone,” she went back to school to pursue a Ph.D. in school psychology, figuring she’d become the expert the struggling kids needed to intervene on their behalf.

It was only after she took a doctorate-level class called “High-Incidence Disabilities” with Dr. Nancy Mather at the University of Arizona did the lightbulb switch on. She learned that reading disabilities affect anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent of students. Youman recalled discussing dyslexia in the class and feeling perplexed. “I stopped and said, ‘Wait, this happens a lot? Then why don’t we know about it?’ ”

The 7- and 8-year-olds who couldn’t even write the alphabet, she discovered, might have been helped if someone had stepped in to find out why—was it a deficiency with roots in the child’s environment, or lack of phoneme awareness? Or a comprehension deficiency, or some combination of any or all of them? Youman quickly decided that this is where she could be useful — to go inside schools and help find the kids who were struggling, figure out what was happening and try to intervene.

Armed with a Ph.D. in school psychology and currently diagnosing disabilities at a middle school in the Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City (near San Francisco), Youman now understands more clearly why she didn’t know then how to help her struggling students: First, she was never trained how to specifically help students become better readers; and second, there are multiple bureaucratic barriers standing in the way of students getting help. For example, until very recently, California law provided 13 disability categories that could qualify students for services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP), but dyslexia wasn’t one of them.*

“When I’m testing a child to decide if they need special education services, I have to say that they have a Specified Learning Disorder, or SLD,” she said, noting that dyslexia is one of the categories buried under the umbrella term SLD. “But that can be confusing for parents if psychologists in one state say your kid has dyslexia. If they were to move to another state and say, ‘We were told our child has dyslexia,’ their new school might say, ‘Dyslexia isn’t a thing here.’”

That’s recently changed, aided in part by advocacy work Youman herself has done to get a new bill passed that addresses dyslexia in schools directly. On October 8, the California state legislature enacted Assembly Bill 1369, which will require schools to assess young readers for dyslexia specifically. The new law, which will make allowances for school psychologists to diagnose a “phonological processing deficit” also known as dyslexia, may seem like a small change, but Youman said its impact on how children can get intervention will be huge.

“With this change, we can actually tell parents and teachers that a child being evaluated has dyslexia,” said Youman. “And we can recommend specific interventions that help at home and in the classroom. Hooray! This change seems very minor, but it is really huge.” Although Youman said that no direct changes have come to schools yet, at least they are on their way. And she’s hoping that just being able to say the word dyslexia will open the doors to more and better changes, including more sophisticated in-school tutoring and teacher training on how to recognize and teach to dyslexics.

Assembly Bill 1369 has helped to clarify the overall SLD category, which Youman described as “messy.” Much of the time, she is forced to rely on her clinical judgement to decide who gets an IEP.

In addition, Youman said that whether or not IEPs actually help depends upon the individual school’s resources, because teachers and paraprofessionals need to be trained on what exercises to do to help students diagnosed with dyslexia, and the best results come from individual instruction. She admitted that in many cases, IEPs don’t really work and many families must rely on private tutors.

Youman wishes that dyslexia intervention had the outcomes of speech and language therapy, a school-rendered intervention she said actually works. “For speech and language therapy, the student sees a trained person. What they do is targeted, one-on-one or two-on-one, and they do a really good job targeting the specific areas of weakness.” But with dyslexia (or SLD), at her school, students are pulled out in groups of 10 to get help with their homework, and that’s the whole of the intervention. And Youman, now an expert in dyslexia, said it’s not enough.

Where is the Training?

In a recent New York Times op-ed titled “Teachers Aren’t Dumb,” cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham at the University of Virginia wrote that many teachers don’t know the basic concepts of reading — ones agreed upon by the National Reading Panel. He cited one study of undergraduates preparing to be teachers, “fresh from their coursework in reading instruction,” in which 42 percent couldn’t correctly define the term “phonological awareness,” the first of the five pillars of reading. In Willingham’s estimation, American schools of education are dropping the ball when it comes to preparing teachers how to teach.

Laurie Cutting, professor of special education and faculty director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic, called the lack of American teacher training in reading “a disgrace,” considering she has yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t want to do right by her students. Yet misinformation abounds. She said teachers who don’t know how to teach reading make a logical, if flawed, observation about it, based on classroom experience: 50 percent of any group of kids are going to “magically” learn how to read. Teachers then may assume that the second half will also magically learn how to read, given enough time.

Cutting said that’s not the case. That second half will struggle and need some direct instruction; within that group, a portion will need a whole lot of direct instruction (perhaps even intervention). The half (maybe a little more in affluent schools) that learns to read as if it were natural can subtly influence how teachers think of reading — which may lead teachers to lean on more holistic views of language, focusing more on enriching vocabularies and exposure to literature instead of phonics.

But the 50 percent who need direct instruction need first to learn how to decode, or be able to match the sounds of letters to print letters in order to form words. Teaching the whole class the basics of decoding will not damage the students who are already reading (Cutting said some research suggests that it might actually make their reading stronger). But direct instruction on exactly how to teach phonemic awareness and decoding to that other 50 percent may be getting short shrift in education schools (think of Martha Youman, with her master’s in teaching, but no idea how to help struggling readers). Dr. Louisa Moats, vice president of the International Dyslexia Association, has called this gap between what the scientific community knows about reading and what teachers learn the “Knowledge Gulf.”  She travels widely, offering whole-school interventions in reading training.

“It really is a disgrace,” Cutting said, “because we know how to do it [teach decoding]. We have these tools, and we know how to teach this part of reading. The other parts are not as easily addressed, like fluency, but we know how to teach kids how to decode.”

Cutting said approximately 1-2 percent of kids will always struggle, but that leaves 48 percent — nearly all of that second half of the classroom — who would be greatly helped with direct instruction correctly administered.

Enriching students and exposing them to literature is a necessary part of learning to read, but only one leg of the triangle model of reading. Cutting explained that in order for reading fluency to happen, students must have strong connections in all three pieces: a semantic representation, or knowing what the word means; an orthographic representation, knowing what the word looks like; and a phonological representation, knowing what the word sounds like.

For many dyslexics, at least one piece of this triangle isn’t represented, sometimes two. But, as Maryanne Wolf wrote in “Proust in the Squid,” the most common deficit among children who can’t read is phoneme awareness: the ability to see letters and sound them out efficiently to form words.

What Individualized Instruction Looks Like

Since each human brain must learn to read on its own, Cutting, along with Brooke Soden, associate director at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Reading Clinic, understand that deficiencies and weaknesses are individual, and often must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

That’s how the clinic tackles reading disabilities: one child at a time. Soden coordinates and manages the clinic, overseeing one-on-one tutoring as well as providing community training to teachers on how to teach reading. Often children arriving at the clinic are the hardest ones to work with, after their parents and teachers have tried everything else, so Soden assesses students to tease out what’s really going on and where their weaknesses are, then works with tutors on individual plans of action for each child. In most cases, the tutoring involves systematic, direct instruction, much of which is a version of the Orton-Gillingham method created to teach dyslexics to read nearly 100 years ago.

Developmental pediatrician Sheryl Rimrodt, who works with Cutting and Soden in helping to diagnose children with both behavioral and reading disabilities, said that since dyslexia doesn’t have any biomarkers to distinguish it, diagnoses are made up of descriptions of what they see happening, blended with the child’s history.

Often, reading problems go hand-in-hand with attention and impulsivity issues like ADHD (Cutting suggested that current research may find a link between the two, having to do with executive function), which creates yet another challenge: Is the child acting out because they can’t read? Or, is it the other way around?

If sorting out the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia weren’t complicated enough, the Vanderbilt researchers mention the most crucial piece for schools and clinics alike: deciding who is going to get special intervention services. The Reading Clinic costs money, even though scholarships are available to the financially needy. And IEPs in schools also cost money; it costs money to train teachers and bring on extra staff to do the crucial one-on-one work necessary to improve dyslexia.

“You have a finite amount of money, and a bunch of kids. The kids who are going to get the services are most likely the ones who are the most severe, or have the most advocates,” Cutting said. “It’s sort of a fundamental fact of life. It’s too bad that we are not able to capture kids early enough to do some remediation so that they don’t have as many word-level problems. It’s too bad that teachers many times aren’t trained in a way that allows those kids to work through their weaknesses, to sound out their words. Because that would benefit all of the kids.”

*Note: An earlier version of this post misidentified “Individualized Education Program” as “Individualized Education Plan.” It also misidentified Youman’s school district as the San Francisco Unified School District. We regret these errors. 

Who Helps Kids With Dyslexia Gain Reading Fluency? 11 November,2015Holly Korbey

  • Eve

    What are some things that parents can do at home to help struggling readers?

    • Robin

      Try “Hooked on Phonics” .

      • Elisa Waingort

        Hooked on Phonics went bankrupt in part because it was ineffective.
        We don’t read word by word and we shouldn’t teach word by word.
        Reading is comprehending. That’s where our focus should be.
        Look up eye moment research and reading.
        You might find some surprising ideas.
        This article is disappointing as it describes old and ineffective ideas about reading.
        I expect a lot more from MindShift than this.

        • Lynne Raiser

          I disagree. Comprehension will not happen if a child cannot first decode. Period. Those old methods still work for kids who need them. Until mapping sounds to letters is automatic, comprehension is impossible. The brain cannot struggle to break the code and understand language at the same time. Years of debunking teaching phonics by reading experts has done so much damage to the 20% of our kids who will not learn it incidentally. The reading wars must stop and a comprehensive systematic approach to reading instruction for these kids must happen. The research on this is clear.
          Google Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. This little booklet should be studied by EVERY teacher. It’s the best thing to come out of No Child Left Behind.

          • Elisa Waingort

            No one is debunking teaching phonics. I said that we shouldn’t be teaching word by word because we don’t read word by word. Google eye movement research, miscue analysis and reading. BTW, a lot of the research you site has been discredited. I think at this point, we need to agree to disagree.

          • Lynne Raiser

            Thanks, Elisa. Please explain how to teach beginners to read if you don’t start with identifying words in some fashion. Do you mean we teach them to read a whole thought first?

    • Marcey

      I use Phonics Pathways by Dolores G.Hicks. It has done wonders for my D kid. I also use it with struggling readers at my church’s tutorial program. Just remember to use it as it says to.

    • groenima

      My three children all learned to read in remarkably different ways and at remarkably different speeds. There’s no one perfect answer to your question, but I found the homeschooling boards at welltrainedmind.com invaluable for suggesting different methods. I went through four different reading programs with one of my kids (Phonics Pathways, often recommended, was a disaster with him!) before I found something that clicked. For him, it was the Explode the Code workbooks, which I think are based on the Orton-Gillingham method. My third child just needed the right early readers–BOB books, followed by books that were more challenging but still accessible.

    • JMFBond

      I think my son probably would have fit into the 1-2 percent who was never going to be able to sound out words by letter sounds. The problem was, he couldn’t hear how they sounded. He mixed up the sounds of letters. For instance, he couldn’t differentiate between the sounds p, d, t, th, v, and f, so memorizing letters and their sounds did not help him learn to read. He had speech therapy because he couldn’t pronounce anything right. The only thing that helped my son learn to read, and we tried multiple things, was to have him memorize phonemes. We used Jan Brett’s phonemes: http://www.janbrett.com/phonograms/phonogram_fc_main.htm

      The interesting thing was, after he memorized the phonemes and started reading, all of a sudden he could pronounce the sounds of words right. Before memorizing the phonemes and starting to read, he would pronounce any words with a “th” sound using p,d,t,th,v, and f. It was like he couldn’t hear “th.” So there was definitely something complicated going on in his little brain.

      He finally started reading when he was six (still in kindergarten). It wasn’t until fourth or fifth grade that he actually was able to start sounding out words, even after being able to read for a good four years or so.

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  • MGrass

    As a former classroom teacher and current teacher educator, I am disappointed that this article places blame on teacher education programs for not preparing teachers to teach dyslexic students. As the individuals cited in the article should know, majoring in education is no longer an option because teacher candidates are required to have an “academic” major instead. As a result, the number of education courses teacher candidates can take is quite limited. I graduated in 1998 when teacher prep programs were less restrictive and I had a wealth of training in diagnosing dyslexia and teaching dyslexic students. In the program I currently teach in, our teacher candidates are only allowed to take one reading course because of all the other “academic” courses they must take. But even with that one course they are well aware of and exposed to methods of teaching students with dyslexia. But one course does not make one an expert. Instead, the authors should advocate for more opportunities for teacher candidates to engage in the course work necessary to understand dyslexia.

    Although the article is informative placing blame on teacher prep programs is unprofessional to say the least and inaccurate and unproductive.

    • Disqus_KB5XElcR1J

      I agree that you cannot place ALL the blame on teacher courses at the university level. However, I present to college education majors what it is like to have a learning disability and the great majority think that dyslexia is when a student mistakes b for d, or g for q. So far from that it is not funny. Seeing young teachers who cannot identify some struggling readers, who know nothing about modifying work or tests, who glaze over or ignore phonics do nothing for our young struggling students. Agreed, it is unproductive to simply place blame on the university level, but if they would listen to what is really going on in classrooms today, their focus might become more accurate especially in the areas of reading, and all students would benefit. Also, state and federal departments of education could make a 180 degree turn around if they could only see the damage that core curriculum is doing to our students. Continuing to have teachers have to learn new curriculum and programs (Singapore math and whole language being examples) only takes away from being able to educate themselves on new discoveries, understand the intricacies of the learning disabled and educate ALL of the students in the classroom. Too bad no one has the guts to stand up to 1- higher education’s status quo and 2- government’s constant battering teachers with additional useless busywork. I applaud the teacher who trashed the useless whole language program and taught phonics. Her students ALL benefitted from her wisdom! Right now, I believe that higher education is where the future of our students successes lie. And THEY have the power to make the changes! Just takes one to start…

    • floyd hall

      There is no bigger waste of time in education that pedagogy classes. That said, it would be nice if there was more and better instruction in this particular area. Grouping kids according to their ability — rather than perpetuating this myth that all levels can be taught simultaneously in one single classroom — would also be good. I mean, if we’re going to take the stigma away, why not just do it the right way and give them the help they need while not holding the rest back?

    • JMFBond

      wait – your response doesn’t make any sense. You say the blame shouldn’t be placed on teacher prep programs, but then you go on to list all the ways that teacher prep programs fail to prepare teachers to teach reading. Perhaps teacher prep programs also need to spend more time on critical thinking.

      • MGrass

        The number of education courses a teacher candidate can take is very limited, not by the prep programs but by the state. When candidates were allowed to major in education they had many more courses focused on teaching reading. One course is not enough. Teacher prep programs are highly regulated – that is part of the problem.

  • Educational leader

    The reason the U.S. has one of the highest numbers in special education is because we see reading difficulties as a deficit with child. Reading is the hardest and most challenging aspect of learning and it’s not a natural process for most. I agree 100 percent that teaching programs on the college level and school systems are not providing the training needed for our talented, and hardworking educators. Every K-3 teacher should have training in Recipe for Reading, Orton Gillingham or Fundations (having all three I favor Fundations) as well as significant training in reading recovery methods, balanced literacy and the writing process. This would enable teachers to meet every child’s literacy needs by selecting from various approaches and strategies to design and implement instruction that is balanced, comprehensive and inclusive. We are all teachers of reading at every grade level but early elementary teachers hold the key to teaching our youngest how to actually read. Learning to read is one of the most challenging and crucial skills learned and students need to be proficient no later than third grade. Teachers need to have a significant amount of literacy training in order to teach reading and writing well and reach every child. This training should not only be provided to our reading specialist but also to all of our k-3 teachers.

  • Trish McRae

    In many states, dyslexia is described as a ‘ reading disorder’ and not as a ‘learning disability’. Specific learning disabilities are addressed on the school level with an IEP or a 504 plan. Disorders require neither, and so parents who are knowledgeable and who can afford to enroll their child in an independent school with an Orton-Gillingham program do. Perhaps this distinction between a ‘disorder’ and a ‘learning disability’ is more about state and district funding, and less about teacher education, diagnosis and remediation?

  • Darlene Petracca-Ruiz

    I am in San Francisco, where can I go to have my son tested for Dyslexia. His school won’t classify him as dyslexia but I know he is.

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    • JMFBond

      Darlene, the school is required, by federal law, to identify students with special needs. If you have requested an evaluation and they have refused to perform it, they are violating federal law. Here is a link with more information: http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,regs,300,B,300%252E111,

    • lyellepalmer

      Go to the school office and request the parental consent form for a comprehensive evaluation regarding his reading problems. Dyslexia is tested as a possibility of a reading disability under the category Specific Learning Disability. By US law, the school has thirty days to complete testing of your son from the date that you sign the request. Do not take “No” for an answer; if the form is not given to you call or visit the district office. You will have to work with the administrator since s/he will be on the multidisciplinary team that will determine your son’s eligibility for services, so be polite and persistent.

      • MB

        There is a 60 day timeline to complete evaluations, not 30.

      • Caitlin Johnson

        And the students needs to be struggling academically. Many parents want an IEP even when their child is at grade level. Special education services are for students who need specially designed instruction. That seems to be getting missed quite often in these discussions.

  • EDU leads must study process!!

    A protocol for finding all children with dyslexia with effective screens for all learning disabilities ought already be in place — so channeling these kids to a well trained resource as early as possible is the only smart fix — can’t assume all teachers can focus on this training — and catching this too late makes for a much harder fix… c’mon educational ‘leaders’, it appears you are VERY behind on this.

    • Collins Sikah

      Very true

  • Alexandra Leavell

    Just to clarify, “phoneme awareness” (phonemic awareness) has nothing to do with the visual representation of sounds. Being able to look at letters, letter patterns, and words and produce the correct sound associated with the graphic representation is phonics. Phonemic awareness, the ability to distinguish and isolate sounds aurally, is an important precursor to “cracking the code” of the sound – symbol relationship, also referred to as the alphabetic principle. However, phonemic awareness and phonics are not the same thing.

  • Angel N Moki

    Thank you for this article. I believe my 13 y.o.granddaughter has dyslexia and I have been having a difficult time getting the school to see this. She has had testing for learning disabilities but according to them there is nothing wrong with her. I see how much she struggles to understand 2 pages of social studies material in order to get the answers to the questions her teacher has given to her. I am at a loss. We can’t afford special tutoring. I’m also afraid her younger sister may have the same issues. Tests have been requested for her but as her teacher told us, as long as her IQ is up there her inability to be able to recognize words and comprehend the passages won’t matter.

    • Dympna

      Obviously it matters! Challenge that teacher she is talking nonsense.How dare she. What type of theory is that; as long as you can use one arm why do you need two? What is she on about! What she is saying is as long as that child is keeping up with the class there is no need to worry and the fact she struggles is not important. I have a very high IQ and struggled life long because of my lack of support and the fact that it was not recognised that I was dyslexic till I was nearly 50. Perhaps that teacher is under the assumption that dyslexics have low IQ’s. Perhaps some have but that has nothing to do with dyslexia. Many have very high IQ’s and struggle like I did as it requires approximately four times the mental effort to achieve the same academic results. This teacher’s ignorance of the facts are preventing your granddaughter from achieving her full potential. Dyslexia is hereditary so it is quite possible that her younger sister also has it. The general guidelines are that if her intelligence is not reflected in her achievements she is being discriminated against. Being able to maintain an acceptable level of inclusion and not excelling to her full potential is hindering her. You say she was tested but you have requested tests. Who carried out the initial tests are they qualified in dyslexic recognition? I would refer you to some of the links given on the comments given on this website as your next step. There is an excellent book called ‘That’s the way I think: Dyslexia, Dysphraxia and ADHD explained’ by David Fulton You can buy it on line cheaply second hand. It is easy to read and I am sure your granddaughter will appreciate it as well as yourself. I suggest that you give it to her teacher and insists that she reads it too! One has only to look at the long list of highly intelligent people that have been diagnosed with dyslexia to also see many of them struggled initially. keep up your fight for her rights. The earlier the recognition the better . Meanwhile you just continue with your support for them both. She is obviously not the only smart one. Keep looking for the help you need for her and you will get it.

  • floyd hall

    Awful lot of name-dropping in this article. That’s usually not a good sign.

  • NicoleGil

    You didn’t know how to help these students with learning disabilities so you gave them connect the dot exercises? Are you kidding me? Take some initiative. You had a master’s degree at the time. Obviously you knew how to research. I have a master’s degree in education, and my first job after graduating involved a large number of learning disabled children. I can’t say I knew exactly how to teach them, but I did my research. I tried several different methods. Some worked, some needed revision, and some things just did not work. The fact that you chose to deal with this by giving them joke homework is just sad. That’s 8 months of learning during a critical time in their development that they won’t get back.

  • Deb Chickadel

    As a teacher of 3, 4 and 5 year olds, phonics is an integral part of our curriculum at my school, UCDS. Focusing on whole words, reading comprehension, as well as building phonemic awareness are essential for all our students. At UCDS we offer an individualized approach to each student’s education. Having the support as an educator to pay attention to each child and how they are progressing, watching closely for areas in which students excel and show great interest as well as noticing where students struggle and need support feels like a win win situation. We plan whole class instruction for phonics as we begin our writing times, and we also pull small groups of students together who are in the same phonemic place. This small group focused instruction targets specific letters and sounds and help students get the direct instruction they need to continue to develop their decoding skills. Thank you so much for continuing to have the brave conversation of determining what each child needs on their journey to reading and helping to elevate individual teachers and schools as a whole. The school where I work is continually looking at each student, watching carefully their growth and development and being responsive to their individual needs. An additional element at my school is the focus and support we have on our own professional development. I’m glad to hear San Francisco is heading in that same direction for kids that struggle learning to read and those who acquire the skills “magically” as well!

    Deb Chickadel

  • PrettyPolishGirl

    Articles like this make me realize how lucky I am. In second grade, my teacher immediately recognized I had some kind of learning disability. I was tested and classified as dyslexic. Because I was classified early in my education I was able to receive intensive help and training to help me overcome my disability. Not only was I able to thrive, I have prospered, I currently have a master’s degree and work in STEM.

  • Carolyn Mixon

    Too many education courses in reading still teach the whole language philosophy and 3-cueing system which has been disproven by current reading science . All teachers would do well to take Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling coursework written by Louisa Moats and leaders in literacy. We should be talking about what teachers of all students need to teach reading, not just the struggling readers.

  • Decoding Dyslexia CA

    From Decoding Dyslexia CA (AB 1369 Bill Sponsor):

    Thank you Dr. Youman for your insightful interview! Decoding Dyslexia CA (www.decodingdyslexiaca.org) was the Bill Sponsor of AB 1369. We are a grassroots movement driven by California families, educators and dyslexia experts concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities within our public schools. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policymakers on best practices to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in CA public schools.

    If you would like to join our movement, please signup on our website and “like” us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DecodingDyslexiaCA)

    AB 1369 will result in two new special education laws in California.
    The anticipated effective date of adding “phonological processing” to the CA Education Code Section 56334 is 1/1/16.

    The new special education program guidelines under CA Education Code Section 56335 are to be completed in time for use no later than the 2017-2018 academic year.

    We wholeheartedly agree with the comments that we need early dyslexia identification and evidence-based intervention and appropriate teacher training! The original AB 1369 had this language in it. You can click on the attached link (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/15-16/bill/asm/ab_1351-1400/ab_1369_bill_20150504_amended_asm_v97.pdf ) and see what was removed from the original bill by groups opposing this legislation.

    We are very encouraged about the dyslexia (dysgraphia & dyscalculia) guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services last week (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/guidance-on-dyslexia-10-2015.pdf)

  • Decoding Dyslexia CA

    From Decoding Dyslexia CA (AB 1369 Bill Sponsor):

    Thank you Dr. Youman for your insightful interview! Decoding Dyslexia CA was the Bill Sponsor of AB 1369. We are a grassroots movement driven by California families, educators and dyslexia experts concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities within our public schools. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policymakers on best practices to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in CA public schools.

    If you would like to join our movement, please signup on our website http://www.decodingdyslexiaca.org and “like” us on Facebook

    AB 1369 will result in two new special education laws in California.
    The anticipated effective date of adding “phonological processing” to the CA Education Code Section 56334 is 1/1/16.

    The new special education program guidelines under CA Education Code Section 56335 are to be completed in time for use no later than the 2017-2018 academic year.

    We wholeheartedly agree with the comments that we need early dyslexia identification and evidence-based intervention and appropriate teacher training! The original AB 1369 had this language in it. You can view the original language on our website under our legislation tab and see what was removed from the original bill by groups opposing this legislation.

    We are very encouraged about the dyslexia (dysgraphia & dyscalculia) guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services last week. You can view the letter on our website homepage “featured posts” section.

  • lyellepalmer

    Note: an IEP is NOT a “Plan”–it is a program. Any writer who is not aware of this distinction needs more reading and experience in the field.

    • Ki Sung

      Appreciate the catch. We updated the post.

  • Collins Sikah

    As a Kindergarten Teacher handling 4-6 years olds, this article and the comments made by the stake holders as been a classroom and eye opener to me.Dyslexia/or difficulty in learning how to read has been a nightmare to learners, parents and teachers in total.In my Country {Kenya} it’s even more challenging because there is no known specialised training and acquisition of skills provided to the teachers to remedy this situation. Some of these children are rendered academic dwarfs and many at times run a way from from school deaming their prospect proper education completely.
    I therefore appeal to education good will ambassadors and friends of children with dyslexia to assist teachers like my self, parents and education personnels in sensitization, training and capacitation to enable dyslexic children enjoy going to school and learning.

  • Diana L. Carter

    We had great luck getting our highly verbal but highly dyslexic daughter up to reading speed by allowing her to listen to audio books starting at age 5 and continuing through her senior year in high school. She used them to fall asleep at night and just for entertainment in her room, memorizing nearly every line of Harry Potter by ear. Although those were her favorites, she listened to many, many books, including high school texts. I feel the language aquisition that the audio experience provided opened up a part of her brain that was struggling with the visual part of reading. The audio books, coupled with our reading to her every night from infancy to age 12, helped build a huge vocabulary and an understanding of how language works. She also had help in school for several years, but I never saw specific benefits. She was reading fluently by the end of fourth grade and surpassed grade level at seventh or eighth grade. Below someone said kids need decoding before comprehension. With a very intelligent kid who can’t process language visually, it’s the other way around. This worked for us (our dyselexic daughter became an award-winning poet and playwright in high school and is pursuing an arts degree in college now) ) and it might work for you.

  • MGrass

    Whole language is a philosophy not a curriculum or method. Here’s a good summary https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_language

  • Caitlin Johnson

    I find this all in all a little frustrating. As a school psychologist, my schools assess and determine eligibility for a learning disability. If the child is found eligible for a learning disability in reading, then we work directly with that student on their reading disability. This new law does not really change anything. People throw around the term “dyslexia” as many different things, but ultimately anyone educated in working with students with special needs should be trained in dyscalculia, dysgraphia and dyslexia. I have no idea what the purpose of the new dyslexia law was except to confuse parents even more.

    • Ellie

      Well stated! This school psychologist agrees!

  • Margaret Diangelo

    Best piece oc advice I got & shared with parents is not to teach tha alphabet as abc but to teach it as soinds beginninh with vowels as short soinds ex: ah b( no uh just lip sound) k d( no uh again) eh f (lip sound) g(throat sound) h(breath soind) etc. children do not need names of letters to succeed at reading but do need sounds they make. Sonday progran & Reading Assist from Delaware great for small group instruction.much success with aopproach in primary grades kdg & 1st as well as remedial 2-3.

    • lyellepalmer

      Excellent point. What is a “cuh-a-tuh? The simple act of asking a teacher to sound out a simple word shown on a card (Bat, Dog, Pop, Bun, Fat, Look, etc) will tell you immediately whether or not this teacher knows how to teach beginning phonics (too many do not).

  • lyellepalmer

    Following graduation, teachers are expected to explore and stack multiple training workshops/courses of methods and other content in order to become a master over the next 10 years. A teacher becomes a professional when continuing education initiative comes from within. The professional development workshops supplied by the district are often of little or no interest to an individual teacher. Look to your own interests, agendas and purposes; where do you want to be in ten years and how will you get there. What would make you feel you are a highly successful teacher? When teaching is more than just a job every day is an adventure (otherwise it can be a drag). Make sure that your goals are bigger than the job. Earning a license/degree in learning disabilities is one of the most powerful tools you will ever have if your goal is to serve the lower half of children in your classes.

  • Dympna

    ‘Difficulties’ ‘disorders’ ‘disabilities’. Is it any wonder that parents do not want to have their bright children stigmatised in this way. If on average one in five children are SUFFERING from the ignorance of the system it needs to be changed. I have read in these comments accusations of where the blame should be and I already know. Blame the lack of understanding of the condition. Change the name to ‘learning anomaly’ or IPA (information processing anomaly) ‘specific abilities’ (which dyslexics have). What ever you like, but a forward thinking approach is needed and needed now before any more long term damage is done to the family’s, friends teachers and wider community of children and adults who are crying out for help and support and who either do not get it or are misunderstood even when they do.

  • Mary Wade

    If the study asked teachers to define “phonological awareness,” it makes sense that so many would fail. The term is phonemic awareness, and it is distinct from phonics. Just wanted to throw that out there. http://www.k12reader.com/phonemic-awareness-vs-phonological-awareness/ That isn’t to say that teacher education programs can’t improve, however–I would have loved more preparation for reaching my struggling students.

  • Melissa Diane

    My 10-year old who has given up on learning:
    well, my daughter only had the opportunity to attend for a month and a half before the Bridgeville EdPlus site closed and I have never seen her this sick, disheartened, and untreated. She was never given the evaluation she was promised, EdPlus knew when they enrolled her their site was closing (despite my repeated questions about that very possibility as she had much anxiety about learning and this was the only other place she ever attended outside her home district), and I have NO school records for any of her time spent there. I am appalled, disgusted, and the fact that they never honored my request to evaluate upon acceptance to the program is a federal law violation. I have a child having multiple panic attacks a day and the other night crying on my shoulder: “mommy..please just let me be dumb. I don’t want to go to school anymore.” You tell me if you heard your child say that you would not be irate, sad, depressed, and feel like a failure as a parent. I came at this decision to move her to EdPlus after a year of research. I have worked with published psychologists at Western Psych, worked on childhood anxiety and depression studies, have training in evaluating children using published structured evaluations under the guidance of Dr. Birmaher, Axelson, and Kovacs. I am a licensed PA guidance counselor; a licensed professional clinical counselor; own a private practice; and can’t get my daughter help for dyslexia in PA? The new dyslexia school opening will never benefit her (she is 10 and in 5th grade). She has such low self-esteem and as much as I have helped other families get the services they need in PA, her “grades and test scores” were “too good” for her to even receive an evaluation. I am lost and I have a child who is sick, depressed, and can’t even function to perform in cyber school (well if you are in 5th grade and at a 2nd grade reading level but intelligent and cute so everyone just gives you good grades) how would you be able to read the material to answer the things you know? My decision to move my child to EdPlus came after much disagreement by my husband and this closure has undone my practice, created havoc in our home, and could be the catalyst for a very disillusioned and illiterate girl. My daughter deserved better.

  • Zenilda Thompson

    http://Www.nild.org, NILD educational therapy is recognized by IDA to be an effective program to help dyslexics!! Youman wishes that dyslexia intervention had the outcomes of speech and language therapy, a school-rendered intervention she said actually works. “For speech and language therapy, the student sees a trained person. What they do is targeted, one-on-one or two-on-one, and they do a really good job targeting the specific areas of weakness.”


Holly Korbey

Holly Korbey’s work on parenting and education has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Babble, Brain, Child Magazine, and others. She lives in Nashville with her family. Follow her on Twitter: @HKorbey

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