Dyslexia:   What does OSERS say? *


In October, 2015 issued a Clarification Letter on dyslexia (see below).  Like most of OSERS/OSEP’s “clarifications” over the years,  one clarification usually results in a need for an additional clarification or clarifications further down the line.   In this case, OSEP issued a Letter from Ryder to Unnerstall on April 25. 2016 clarifying OSEP’s answer to the following question:

Specifically, you ask whether “a school district, through their evaluation, by a multi-disciplinary team including a school psychologist or a school psychological examiner, may identify a child as having dyslexia under the category of Specific Learning Disability. In other words, can this team diagnose the child as having dyslexia and use this diagnosis as meeting the eligibility requirements under Specific Learning Disability (assuming all of the other conditions are met)?” You express concern that your school district believes that the DCL “only applies to the term dyslexia being recognized if a parent provides an evaluation conducted by an outside agency. In other words the term dyslexia would never come up unless a parent receives an outside evaluation.”

(Added September 14, 2016)

OSERS 2015 Dyslexia Clarification Letter

The purpose of this letter is to clarify that there is nothing in the IDEA that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP documents.

The letter appears to have been well received.   The National Center for Learning Disabilities had previously asked for such a letter and in a Statement by James Wendorf  following its release wrote, “The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) commends the U.S. Department of Education for informing states and school districts in a “Dear Colleague” letter issued todaythat the terms ‘dyslexia,’ ‘dyscalculia’ and ‘dysgraphia’ – which are specific learning disabilities –  can indeed be included on a child’s individualized education program (IEP).

A number of states have specifically addressed dyslexia either through legislation or policy statements.   North Carolina is an example of the latter; its department of education issued a topic brief without any action from the state legislature.  (See “Actions by the States” below).

Since 1975, the IDEA definition of a specific learning disability has explicitly included dyslexia as one of the disabiities included.  Yet over the decades that followed, many schools insisted that dyslexia was NOT a covered disability.    Even though schools have a responsibility to evaluate children at no cost to the parents for Section 504 eligibility, schools have rarely diagnosed children who failed to meet federal requirements as SLD but who might have been eligible for services under 504 as  having a specific learning  disorder (DSM 5) or dyslexia. (Guy McBride, Ron Dumont, and John Willis recommended that schools SHOULD evaluate for specific learning disorders and/or dyslexia in their Best Practices chapter on Spedlaw in NASP’s 2015 Best Practices in School Psychology series.)

The reason for there not being 100 percent overlap between a dyslexia diagnosis and SLD eligibility under the IDEA is  less clear now that schools can use an RTI methodology for identifying students — although the majority of states still permit schools to use the historical discrepancy IQ/Ach  methodology to identify children (a methodology that allowed too many children with real disabilities to fall through the cracks).  Some children with dyslexia, however, may only need regular classroom accommodations, not special education, a prerequisite for IDEA identification.   Or they still just might not meet the  public agency’s criteria for SLD identification.


One of the earliest decisions published was a due process case, Brody v. Dare, NC Hearing Officer, 1997,  won by Peter Wright.  Normally, we don’t report due process decisions because they have no precedential value, but, non precedential or not, it has been viewed untold numbers of times by parents on www.wrightslaw.com looking for guidance on how to prosecute THEIR cases.  Also, the conclusion of law with respect to this NC case has also been applied in court decisions since across the land:

Dyslexia is a learning disability for the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et seq. (IDEA), and a child with special needs pursuant to North Carolina’s Special Education Act, G. S 11C, Article 9 (State Act – See more at: Brody v. Dare Cty, 1997 (Due Process Administrative Hearing)

(The school system lost the case, in part because “At the May, 1996, IEP meeting Ms. Xwas asked by Dr. Felton what she would use to teach word analysis skills. Ms. X told Dr. Felton that she did not have any particular programs or methods in mind. Ms. X could not name any methods or programs to use for providing remediation for James. Dr. Felton was asking Ms. X what kinds of things do you use to teach word analysis skills when you see a student has difficulties in this area. Ms. X simply was unable to give any information about what she would do to provide James with remediation in these areas ”  When defending an IEP with a reading goal, it’s helpful if the teacher implementing the IEP has a background in reading instruction.)

Also see  an 11th circuit decision wherein the court found a school system liable for compensatory education for failing to diagnose dyslexia.  See:  Jarron Draper v. Atlanta Independent School System (11th Circuit, 2008), a case also cited by Perry Zirkel in the article below.  In most of the cases we’ve reviewed, however, the courts have not bothered to explicitly state that dyslexia is a covered disability; they’ve simply assumed it as a given and moved on to address the more substantive issues.


Legal Implications of a Dyslexia Diagnosis *

It would seem that with so many dyslexia support groups and publications on the Internet, coupled with the efforts of several state legislatures, OSEP, and Departments of Public Instruction that nothing more would need to be said about the legal rights of children with dyslexia.  However, in the event that the issue is far from settled in a reader’s particular situation,  there are a number of other resources on the Internet clarifying the dyslexic child’s legal rights.  For a legal review current to 2012 by Perry Zirkel, see:  The Legal Issues of Identification and Interven0tion for K-12 Students with Dyslexia

Some of the court decisions cited by Perry follow.  Where a decision was rendered on a 504 claim, decisions prior to the 2008 ADAAA expansion of rights under the ADA/504 should  be regarded with caution, as their precedents may no longer be valid.  Depending on your perspective, the fact that 504 litigation is relatively rare may be a good or not so good thing.  However, inasmuch as 504 allows parents to sue school systems for damages under specific circumstances (whereas IDEA allows only for compensatory education), those lawsuits seem to be increasing.   See our Damages page for additional discussion on that topic:  Damages (Myschoolpsychology.com)

Links to some of the decisions cited by Perry Zirkel in the article above are provided below:

C.B. v. Special School District Number 1, Eleventh Circuit, April 2011

Janet G. v. Hawaii Dept. of Education, District Court, 2005

Campbell v. Board of Education 2003

D.S.W. v. Fairbanks North Star Bourough School District, Alaska Supreme Court1981

(For our discussion and links to Schaeffer v. Weast and Board of Education v. Rowley, also mentioned by Perry Zirkel, see our Landmark Court cases page at Landmark Court Cases (Myschoolpsychology.com)

Poster-Dyslexia Laws

Dyslexia Laws — Action by the States and their Education Agencies *

At least in part because  of the gap in services between those provided to children who qualified for services as SLD under the IDEA and those children with dyslexia who either did not need special education or meet the public agency’s criteria for SLD,   a number of states have enacted legislation to meet the needs of those children.  Additionally, in many states where statutes have not been enacted, the state’s department of education has issued guidance of its own.  Some of the state definitions appear (from this writer’s perspective) antiquated, so it is worth remembering that if a child qualifies as having a specific learning disorder in reading using DSM 5 criteria, or even if s/he has been diagnosed as being dyslexic when the IDA’s criteria are applied, that student would still be eligible for services under the ADA/504 even if s/he did not meet a state’s dyslexia definition.

This section is devoted specifically to laws and state guidance regarding dyslexia.  When “no guidance found” is reported, that means now guidance regarding dyslexia was found.  Virtually every state, for example, has some law regarding the assessment of reading readiness.  Although the Section 1208 of the ESEA (and as amended by the ESSA) had already listed the five essential components of reading, many states have additional laws requiring schools to address all five components in their reading programs:

  1. PHONEMIC AWARENESS—The knowledge and manipulation of sounds in spoken words.
  1. PHONICS—The relationship between written and spoken letters and sounds.
  1. READING FLUENCY, INCLUDING ORAL READING SKILLS—The ability to read with accuracy, and with appropriate rate, expression, and phrasing.
  1. VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT—The knowledge of words, their definitions, and context.
    1. READING COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES—The understanding of meaning in text.
Must be based on scientifically based research.
Must include classroom-based screening, and instructional and diagnostic reading assessments.
Should provide ongoing, high-quality professional development focused on essential elements of reading.

State Action (if any) on Dyslexia

Alabama: In October, 2015, Alabama passed legislation regarding dyslexia.  According to a parent organization, “Now students will be screened for dyslexia, and then given appropriate intervention, access to assistive technology, and accommodations in the general school population through the Response-to-Intervention (RTI) process, without the need for special education certification. The changes took effect immediately. The dyslexia amendments also establish an Alabama Dyslexia Advisory Council, call for a Dyslexia Resource Guide, mandate that IDA accredited training for teachers be made available, and mandate professional development for educators to equip them to meet the needs of students with dyslexia in classrooms across the state.

Alaska:  No legislature or Education Department guidance found.

Arizona Revised Statute 15 – 701 states that if data on the third grade statewide reading assessment is available and demonstrates that a student scored “falls far below” the student shall not be promoted from the third grade. There are three exemptions in Arizona Revised Statute 15-701. In accordance with the new law, a school district governing board or the governing body of a charter school is allowed to promote a student who earns a score of “falls far below” on the third grade statewide reading assessment only for the following reasons:

  • The student is an English Language Learner or Limited English Proficient who has received less than two years of English instruction; or
  • A student with disabilities has an individualized education plan(IEP), and the IEP-team, which includes the student’s parent/guardian, agrees that promotion is appropriate
  • A student is in the process of a special education referral or evaluation for placement in special education and/or a student who has been diagnosed as having a significant reading impairment, including dyslexia.

Arkansas.  The Arkansas Department of Education provides a video on dyslexia for teachers on YouTube.  Arkansas has passed two bills relating to dyslexia, Act 1268 and SB 33   Of greater utility to the special educator, however, would be the January, 2016 Dyslexia Resource Guide.

Calfornia passed a bill in 2015 requiring “the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop, and to complete in time for use no later than the beginning of the 2017–18 academic year, program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services, as defined, to pupils with dyslexia.”
AB 1369, Frazier. Special education: dyslexia.

Colorado passed a dyslexia law in 2008. CO: Assessment and Identification  The Colorado law required  that “Any technical assistance and training provided shall represent a tiered continuum of intensity for intervention consistent with the response to intervention model that school codistricts are required to implement no later than August 15, 2009, pursuant to rules adopted by the department.”    Implementing Guidance from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) make it clear that in CO ” screening of the five components of reading (including word level reading skills) and providing research-based intervention at the first detection of difficulty should be occurring through an effective RtI process.”  An RTI methodology does not, of course, necessarily mean that in order for a child to receive services, he or she has to advance through all three tiers.  There is no one list of “red flags” that might indicate a need to move a student directly to tier III, but a sample list is provided at the bottom of this page.  States may add additional flags for students suspected of dyslexia, so the list provided is not and should not be regarded as exhaustive.

Connecticut:  Although there are numerous references to dyslexia as being included in the IDEA definition of a specfic learning disability under the IDEA, and some references to Section 504 with respect to testing and classroom accommodations no specific guidance or legislative action was found.

Delaware:  No specific legislative or Education Department guidance found.

Florida:  Although mentioned within the context of IDEA and testing accommodations generally, no specific legislative or Education Department guidance was found.

Georgia:  The Education Department has a web page on Dyslexia and  has issued limited guidance in the form of an FAQ and offers the International Dyslexia Association as its only other recommended resource.  .

Hawaii:  No legislative or education department guidance found.

Idaho:  No specific legislative or Education Department guidance found.

In 2014, Illinois passed HB 3700 incorporating the international definition of dyslexia into the statute, the main purpose of which appears to have been to provide training to teachers in “multi-sensory, systematic, and sequential instruction in reading.”

Indiana:  Only cites OSERS’ 2015 memo as guidance found..

Iowa:  No specific legislative or education department guidance gound.

Kansas:  Although no specific legislative action was found, the Kansas Department of Education has issued several guidance documents for teachers and parents, including Dyslexia: What Families Need to Know,  a Q and A on learning disabilities and dyslexia, and a web page dedicated to explaining the relationship between dyslexia and special education with multiple links to other resources.

Kentucky:  No legislative or education department guidance found.

Louisiana passed its first law in 1992, but its latest revision was in 2012.  LA Definition:  “For LApurposes of this Section, “dyslexia” shall be defined as difficulty with the alphabet, reading, reading comprehension, writing, and spelling in spite of adequate intelligence, exposure, and cultural opportunity.” Louisiana Dyslexia Law 17:2112  (That definition remained unchanged from earlier statutes.) Louisiana’s statutory definition is currently  inconsistent with both the operational definition of a specific learning disability under the IDEA, the criteria for the diagnosis of a specific learning disorder under the DSM 5, and the definition of dyslexia currently adopted by the International Dyslexia Association (and some other states) reported below.  Operationally, the Louisiana Department of Education has written that if a student is evaluated for dyslexia  under 504, “adequate intelligence” may be determined through performance in the classroom appropriate to the student’s age OR a standardized intelligence test.  A Guide to Dyslexia in Louisiana  Also see:  LA FAQs on Dyslexia  “Adequate intelligence,” however, is also undefined.

Maine passed its dyslexia law in July, 2015.  The law, LD 231, did not specify explicit criteria for ME
the identification of dyslexia.  Maine: Dyslexia Law LD 231  It also adopted the
IDA definition of dyslexia.

Maryland: House Bill 278 established a Task Force on dyslexia.  The education department established a Task Force but as of March, 2016, had not published a work product.

Massachusetts  statute S 312 (2015) proposes new screening and interventions for dyslexia but had not as of this writing come out of committee. (it was being supported by a local affiliate of the IDA)

Michigan:  No legislative of education department guidance found.

Minnesota The Minnesota Department of Education had issued a document entitled “Navigating the School  System for a Child Struggling with Dyslexia or Reading.”  It also adopted the definition proposed by the International Dyslexia Association, adding a link to Yale’s Myths (and Truths) About Dyslexia.  The Minnesota legislature had not adopted legislation addressing dyslexia per se, but in October, 2015 passed a statute (120b.12) establishing reading proficiency for all students by the end of grade 3.  The Minnesota Education Department had also issued a 26 page guide for developing a systematic reading program in grades 1 through 3.

Mississippi’s legislature has also passed several bills regarding dyslexia, links to which can bemiss found on their state education department’s page on dyslexia.   Of potentially more relevance, however, is their state’s handbook on Dyslexia. Mississippi: Dyslexia  Also see:  Mississippi Best Practices Dyslexia Handbook  (44 pages)  Mississippi’s guidance document adopts the IDA dyslexia definition verbatim.  The manual states that treatment for dyslexia is most appropriately provided through a Tier II or Tier III intervention within the context of an RTI process.

In 2012, Missouri passed a bill (167.268) that referenced dyslexia.
Missouri: Screening and Intervention Grades 1 – 3
As in many other state laws, the legislature left it to the Education Department to develop materials for schools to use in implementing the law.   It appears from other non-legislative guidance that Missouri schools are relying upon the IDA definition for guidance.

Montana:  No specific legislative or education department guidance found.

Nebraska:  In January 2016, Nebraska’s Department of Education issued its first Technical Assistance Document on Dyslexia (111 pages.)

Nevada:  In October, 2015, in response to AB 215, produced Nevada’s Dyslexia Resource Guide (38 pages), modeling it after Arkansas’s plan.

New Hampshire‘s legislature directed that a committee study the issue and submit a report.   The committee filed their recommendations (non binding) on November 1, 2015.  The Final Report on Committee to Study Policidownloades Which it Determines are Necessary for Dyslexic Students is available for download at:  NH Final Report Pursuant to HB 519   As of August 1,  2016, NH had passed a Dyslexia law requiring school systems to screen and intervene with students with dyslexia.  The law says  “Dyslexia” means a specific learning disability that is: (a) Neurobiological in origin; (b) Characterized by difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities that typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language; and (c) Often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction, and may include secondary consequences such as reading comprehension problems and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge”

New Jersey passed two laws, one defining dyslexia using the International Dyslexia Association’s definition in 2013.  (See the IDA definition below and also see link to IDA under Dyslexia NEW JOrganizations)  The other law (2014) required screening for dyslexia. NJ Definition of Dyslexia    Since several other states have adopted the same definition, it is provided here for the reader’s convenience.   Also see the IDA link to its Fact Sheet on Testing and Evaluation.  The key word differentiating the definition below from the historical discrepancy model requiring that there be a substantial discrepancy between an intelligence and achievement score is the word “often.”  The significance of that change is made clear in the Fact Sheet IDA has issued with respect to Testing and Evaluation at IDA Testing and Evaluation

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Many state education codes, including New Jersey, Ohio and Utah, have adopted this definition. Learn more about how consensus was reached on this definition: Definition Consensus Project.
New Jersey Dyslexia Screening Law

New Mexico: HB 230 requires interventions for students displaying characteristics of dyslexia.  However, no specific guidelines were found.

New York:  Although as of February 2017 no laws had been signed into law,  the legislature had passed a bill that was awaiting the governor’s signature.  A key passage, written in caps, was







North Carolina (Updated 2/2/18.) The NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) distributed  dyslexia guidance in 2015 entitled  a Dyslexia Topic Brief (2015).  

More recently, , the North Carolina legislature passed HB 149 requiring DPI to address dyslexia in the state’s Procedures Governing Programs for Children with Special Needs.  Those changes were added in a Technical Correction in August, 2017.

It has also issued a statement from the State Board and Department of Public Instruction entitled Report on Dyslexia.

In that brief, ECD/NCDPI also cites the IDA definition.  And like some of the states above, recommends treatment/intervention within the context of  a multi tiered NCsystem.  “With the utilization of a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS), including universal screening, students with indicators of risk receive appropriate and timely interventions matched to student need. If a student does not respond to high quality instruction and research-based intervention, then the need for further assessment and/or an evaluation to determine eligibility for special education should be determined.”   ECD guidelines also state that not all children with reading problems will need special education, and not all children diagnosed with dyslexia will qualify as having a specific learning disability.

The DPI website also maintains a web page providing links to a variety of more than 25 potentially helpful links to state and national resources on Dyslexia and Dyscalculia.  Highly recommended.

North Dakota:  No specific legislative or education department guidance was found.

Ohio passed a law 3323.25 in 2012 establishing a pilot project to provide early OHscreening and intervention services for children with risk factors for dyslexia.  The law did not necessarily require that a child be diagnosed as dyslexic to qualify for services but it did define dyslexia in pre IDEA 2004 terms  ” As used in this section, “dyslexia” means a specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin and that is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities not consistent
with the person’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities, which difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language.” Ohio Dyslexia Pilot Program   
Although Ohio and other states using the definition above appear to be supporting the concept that dyslexia is partially defined by a discrepancy between ability and achievement,  Ohio as well as other states that have adopted this definition require their education agencies to consult with the IDA in implementing the law.  The IDA definition does not require that a discrepancy be tested for or identified.

Oklahoma:  Although the OK legislature has approved legislation (Section 70-7001) to establish a teacher training program to teach teachers to teach dyslexic children, no legislative or education department guidance was found.

Oregon:  In 2015, the legislature passed its first dyslexia law, SB 612, equiring the Education Department to hire an expert in dyslexia.  It also required the schools to begin implementation of a screening program for dyslexia.  No additional guidance was found.

Pennsylvania:  PA has implemented a pilot program to address dyslexia and published guidelines on how to screen for dyslexia in response to Act 69 in 2014.

Rhode Island:  In 2012, RI passed the Diagnosis and Treatment Act  (H7541).  “It shall be the goal and purpose of this 7 chapter to require Rhode Island schools to recognize dyslexia and treat the literacy challenges of dyslexic students in a proactive manner; and to establish a working group to develop a 9 comprehensive plan to improve awareness of and strengthen support for persons with dyslexia.”  The Act included a definition of the various components of reading that needed to be addressed; no specific education department guidance was found.  [(A) Phoneme awareness; (B) Sound-symbol association; (C) Syllable types and division;  (D) Morphology; (E) Syntax; (E) Semantics (Comprehension);  (G) Spelling; (H) Fluency;  (I) Written Expression;  (J) Handwriting.]

South Carolina’s Department of Education sponsored a Task Force on Dyslexia, which among other things recommended the legislature act to clarify the responsibilities of public schools in serving children with dyslexia.  The Task Force prepared a sixty page report, but it has been removed from the SC Legislative Website (8/15/2016).

Texas’ Education Code Sec 38.003 defines dyslexia as:

Dyslexia” means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and sociocultural opportunity.

(2) “Related disorders” includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability

South Dakota‘s education department has published The Dyslexia Handbook for Teacher and Parents in South Dakota.  (18 pages).

Tennessee;s legislature, throwing its weight behind those parents who sought services for their children with dyslexia, passed a bill in 2014 entitled “Dyslexia is Real.”  Tennessee bill 2014: Dyslexia is Real

The Texas Education Agency has issued a 182 page Texas Handbook for Dyslexia 2014 providing texguidance to local education agencies on how to address dyslexia.  Texas Handbook for Dyslexia 2014

If classroom performance, teacher observation, and screening information suggest dyslexia, a child need not progress through a multi tiered intervention process before being referred.   An intellectual evaluation is NOT required for identification.

Utah:  The Utah State Board of Education has a web page dedicated to Dyslexia but the resources it provides are limited.  (As of March 9, 2016, the one and only link provided was “dead.”)

Vermont:  No specific legislative or education department guidance was found.

Virginia: As of February, 2016, legislation regarding dyslexia had passed the house and was pending in the Senate.  Virginia’s DOE guidance on Specific Learning Disabilities cites dyslexia as an example of a specific learning disability in reading.

Washington passed its dyslexia law in 2009, directing the Supt. to develop a dyslexia handbook. Their 75 page resource guide can be found at:  Washington State Dyslexia Resource Guide  Their guide says that response to intervention may be used as part of the eligibility determination process.  Washington has adopted the IDA definition of dyslexia quoted in the New Jersey section below as part of its official guidance.  The state of Washington in 2009 also passed a law funding pilot programs to address dyslexia; that statute can be read at Individuals with dyslexia—Identification and instruction—Handbook—Reports.

West Virginia: No specific legislative or education department guidance was found.  Although a bill had been introduced in the 2015 legislative session regarding dyslexia screening, it does not appear to have passed as of 3/2016.

Wisconsin:  No specific legislative or education department guidance  on dyslexia was found.   The only reference found were links to the International Dyslexia Association on its Reading Education Resources page.

.Wyoming in 2012 passed a screening and intervention act for dyslexia that did n

While the education department did issue a four page document describing the relationship between dyslexia and specific learning disabilities, that document did not mention that schools might still have a responsiblity to children with dyslexia not qualifying as SLD under the ADA/Section 504.ot specify a wyparticular methodology  (or criteria) for identifying a child as dyslexic.  Wyoming Dyslexia Screening and Response Law  The Wyoming Department of Education has issued a brief document entitled Reading Intervention and Response in which Reading Difficulties and Dyslexia were equated with “the problems students encounter that are related to the five components of reading: phonological and phonemic awareness, word decoding and phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.”

At least one commenter on the School Psychology Listserv expressed concern that all these laws might be making general education teachers responsible for teaching reading to children with dyslexia.   However, dyslexia has ALWAYS been a covered disability under the ADA/504, and explicitly so after the ADA Amendment Act of 2008.  General education teachers are responsible for teaching children with dyslexia who for one reason or another do not qualify for specially designed instruction under the IDEA whether their respective states say so or not.  And General Education is also responsible within the context of a problem solving model for implementing interventions in Tiers one through three with reading problems using research based, scientific interventions, whether or not that child qualifies for special education or even for services under 504.


NASP Position Paper on SLD Identification *

No discussion of dyslexia and the public schools would be complete without at least referencing the National Association of School Psychologists Position Paper on Identifying Children with Specific Learning Disabilities.  NASP has never suggested that dyslexia does not exist; and its current Position Statement on the Identification of Children with Specific Learning Disabilities does not reference dyslexia.      screening

Early Screening Assessments *

Early screening is essential in addressing reading problems before they become so severe that “catching up” is all but impossible.  Links to vendors are not necessarily to the only vendor (or the cheapest vendor).

Comprehensive Test of Phonetic Processing 2 (a good predictor of potential reading problems in four and five year olds):  This normreferenced test measures phonological abilities and processing skills using three indicators: the Phonological Awareness Quotient (PAQ), the Phonological Memory Quotient (PMQ), and the Rapid Naming Quotient (RNQ). These assess phonological awareness skills, phonological retrieval and memory, and the ability to quickly process and name phonological information. The test also helps to monitor progress achieved by special intervention programs and is normed for children, adolescents, and young adults between 4-24 years of age. Wagner, R., Torgesen, J., & Rashotte, C. (1999).

Test of Early Reading Ability, 3rd Edition The TERA-3 is a direct measure of the reading ability of young children ages 3.6-8.6 years. The TERA-3 assesses children’s mastery of early developing reading skills rather than their readiness for reading.

RAN/RAS:  Rapid Automatized Naming and Rapid Alternating Stimulus Tests  The RAN and RAS Tests are individually administered measures designed to estimate an individual’s ability to recognize a visual symbol such as a letter or color and name it accurately and rapidly. The tests consist of rapid automatized naming tests (Letters, Numbers, Colors, Objects) and two rapid alternating stimulus tests (2-Set Letters and Numbers, and 3-Set Letters, Numbers and Colors). The tests were normed on 1,461 individuals in 26 states; these norms are suitable for individuals from ages 5-0 through 18-11.


Other Reading Assessments *

The Diagnostic Assessments of Reading with Trial Teach Strategies (DAR-TTS): The DAR test is given to ages 5-adult to measure students’ strengths and weaknesses in key areas of student learning with reading, including print awareness, phonological awareness, letters and sounds, word recognition, word analysis, oral reading accuracy and fluency, silent reading comprehension, spelling, and word meaning. The DAR was developed for classroom use, as well as for reading specialists, special education teachers, and other professionals to help students read better, but no special requirements are needed for administration. The test is scored simultaneously with daradministration and DAR ScoringPro, and the test is untimed, generally encompassing about 40 minutes; there are two forms to allow progress measurement with pre- and post-measurement. The Trial Teaching Strategies program is an online resource meant to accompany the DAR test. It provides short lessons that address the student’s strengths and weaknesses from the test. The student or professional can log in and input the DAR results to obtain learning strategies. Florence G. Roswell, Florence G., Chall, Jeanne S., Curtis, Mary E. & Kearns, Gail. (2005). The Diagnostic Assessments of Reading. Chicago, IL: Riverside Publishing. (2006) Trial Teach Strategies

Qualitative Reading Inventory, Fifth Edition (QRI-5): This criterion-referenced test assesses Qualitativereading ability from emergent through high school levels. The test provides graded word lists and
the written passages that are designed to help evaluate the individual’s oral reading, silent reading, and reading comprehension. Raw scores are used to convert results into grade- level scores. The QRI-5 is an excellent measurement to use for gathering pre- and post-treatment data. Caldwell, J. S., & Leslie, L. (2005). Qualitative Reading Inventory-4. Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests Third Edition: This test is used to assess basic skills in reading and comprehension. Its main purpose is to measure several important aspects of reading ability. Itwoodcock tests children in kindergarten to adulthood and the administration takes 40–45 minutes for the entire battery and 15 minutes for the Short Scale. The tests have a Readiness Cluster, Basic Skills Cluster, Reading Comprehension Cluster, Total Reading-Full Scale, and Total Reading-Short Scale, plus a supplementary letter checklist. Norm tables are provided to convert raw scores into W scores, grade-equivalents, age-equivalents, and standard scores. Woodcock, R. W. (1998). Woodcock Reading and Mastery Tests: Revised. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.


Dyslexia Organizations *


International Dyslexia Association
“Dyslexia is a neurological condition caused by a different wiring of the brain. There is no cure for dyslexia and individuals with this condition must learn coping strategies.”   Also the link to the definition quoted above:  IDA Dyslexia Definition  A definition is not much help until operationalized, and IDA does have recommendations regarding how qualified professionals should evaluate and assess for dyslexia.   IDA Fact Sheet:  Testing and Evaluation  Like the Learning Disabilities Association of American, the IDA also has state affiliates.   To see whether  your state has a branch, click here:  IDA Branches


Dyslexia – Learning Disabilities Association
“The severity of this specific learning disability can differ in each individual but can affect reading fluency, decoding, reading comprehension, recall, writing, spelling, and sometimes speech and can exist along with other related disorders.”  The LDA also supports state and local affiliates, the websites for which can be found at LDA State and Local Affiliates (Interactive Map)


Kid Health: Understanding Dyslexia
“Reading may seem easy and automatic for people who master it without difficulty. However, reading is a complex and challenging task for our brains, so we shouldn’t be surprised that so many kids struggle with it”


The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity
“The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity serves as a nexus for research on dyslexia, and is as well a leading source of advocacy and information to better the lives of people with dyslexia.”


Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc.
“Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc. provides tutoring at no charge to children from early elementary through high school who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. Children are eligible regardless of economic status or Masonic affiliation. The positive impact of early intervention on the lives of these children and their families is enormous and inspires our commitment to this program.”  Unfortunately, their services are only available in thirteen states: CT, DE. IL, IN, ME, MA, MI, OH, NY, PA, RI, VT, and NJ and NH


Unproven Interventions *

While there are many research based, scientific interventions documented to be effective in treating dyslexia, unfortunately there are also a number of private practitioners hawking treatments of unproven utility.  For a joint statement from the American Academy of Opthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics see:
Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision   OR
AAP Joint Statement

For another perspective, see Quackwatch for an article on eye related quackery.

 In the interests of fairness, it should probably also be said that virtually any intervention, including sugar pills,  Dumbo’s magic feather, and Irlen lenses will produce positive results for some condition in some person at some time somewhere.   It also should be said that some private practitioners, most notably developmental optometrists, would dispute the conclusion in the two articles cited above.  What is not beyond dispute, however is that both the No Child Left Behind Act and the IDEA require public schools to use scientific, research based  interventions and strategies wherever possible.

Future Legislative Updates *

This page will continue to be updated.  There are several websites purporting to provide current information on state legislative action.   The only website that appears to be continuously monitoring the status of  that legislation, however, can be found at:
The absence of state legislation should not be construed as “proof” that a state has done nothing on the topic; state education departments can issue guidance on their own recognizance , e.g., North Carolina above.   Doing “what’s right” for children doesn’t ALWAYS depend on legislative action.


Off-line References *

For some off-line references, John Willis suggested the following:

Keith Stanovich warned about the consequences of a slow start in reading (even without a disability), citing the Gospel according to St. Matthew 25:29 in his

Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 360-407.

Mark Shinn has been writing about too much testing and too little effective teaching for kids with reading (and other academic) weaknesses since the 1980s, e.g.,

Shinn, M. R., & Marston, D. (1985). Differentiating mildly handicapped, low-achieving and regular education students: A curriculum-based approach. Remedial and Special Education, 6, 31-45.

Those were 30 years or so ago (not counting the Gospel of Matthew, which goes back farther).


John Willis, SAIF, certified SLD teacher

P.S.  See

Hallahan, D. P., & Mercer,  C. D. (2002). Learning disabilities: historical perspectives. In R.  Bradley, L. C. Danielson, & D. P. Hallahan (Eds.), Identification of learning disabilities: Research to practice, pp. 1–67. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

for a discussion of 19th century studies of reading difficulties.

P.P.S.  You also might look at

Rathvon, N. (2004). Early reading assessment: A practitioner’s handbook. New York, NY: Guilford.

It is now a little dated, but the information is still valuable.

red flag

Sample “Red Flags” for moving a student suspected of dyslexia or any other disability to Tier III Interventions *

•Student moves in from another district or area with interventions / services provided in the past

• Student moves in and appears to have had very different instruction, has significant gaps in learning, or comes from an area with different standards

• More specialized assessment data is needed to determine the cause of the problem

• Student has been referred to the PSM Team a number of times and specific strategies or specific instruction has been provided

• Student has had significant medical trauma or mental health concerns or issues

• Below 10th percentile on standardized tests such as ITBS or CBM

• Student requires excessive individualized instruction, re-teaching, and 1-on-1 assistance

• Student does not meet grade level standards and benchmarks in more than one academic area

• Student appears unable to participate in any academic activities

• Student is potentially harmful to self or others • Behavior consistently interferes with learning of self or others in the classroom

• Behavior significantly disrupts classroom functioning

• Severe behavior problems have been seen over time

• Disciplinary / office referrals occur on a regular basis

* Parent has submitted a written referral requesting an evaluation