The Dyslexia Handbook is an essential resource — part one
One of the most important resources for anyone associated with dyslexia, including parents, teachers and school administrators is a Dyslexia Handbook.
While not all states have them, dyslexia handbooks are a crucial resource to educators, administrators and parents. Of the more than 25 state handbooks that are in use, one of the most thorough is the one in Texas.
This 83-page booklet is available online and in print. First adopted in Texas in 1986, the Dyslexia Handbook is regularly updated by the State Board of Education. The latest update was made to the handbook in 2021.
Its purpose is to assist school districts and charter schools as they develop procedures and to be a resource for teachers and administrators who serve students with dyslexia.
Intended as not just a guide for teachers and school administrators, The Dyslexia Handbook can also be incredibly helpful to parents and guardians as it outlines the history of dyslexia law and current regulations and rules that relate to dyslexia identification and instruction.
Chapters in The Dyslexia Handbook
Information in the primary section of the handbook is divided into five main chapters consisting of the following:
Definitions and Characteristics of Dyslexia: As its title indicates, this chapter covers the basics of what dyslexia is and how it can be identified. Dyslexia’s primary characteristics are outlined as: Difficulty reading words in isolation, difficulty accurately decoding unfamiliar words, difficulty with oral reading (slow, inaccurate, or labored with prosody) and difficulty spelling.
The Dyslexia Handbook extrapolates those characteristics to provide a list of behaviors and risk factors that educators can use to identify dyslexia in each grade level. Starting in preschool and continuing through college, those behaviors tend to persist and build on each other.
Screening: Early screening – and effective intervention – are crucial for a dyslexic child’s academic success, a fact that the handbook emphasizes explicitly. It also outlines HB 1886, passed in 2017 and amending the Texas Education Code, which mandates that all kindergarten and first-grade students are screened for dyslexia and related disorders and that screening continues beyond first grade wherever it’s appropriate. Additional regulations regarding screening are also outlined. Particularly important for parents, the handbook explains that state law requires that the school district notify parents if a student is suspected of having dyslexia.
While screening is not a formal evaluation, the fact that all kindergarten students must be screened at the end of the school year will help to identify students for whom additional evaluation and screening are warranted. Further screening in first grade is also mandated, both because some students with dyslexia may have been missed and because kindergarten is not mandatory in Texas.
The handbook outlines which skills students should be proficient in during the screening as well as which behaviors may indicate possible dyslexia. A student’s primary teacher is the best option to administer the screening.
While early screening and intervention are the best option for students, the Dyslexia Handbook emphasizes that a student with dyslexia may have reached the higher grades without being screened or identified. For that reason, students can be referred for an evaluation at any time during their school career.
Procedures of the Evaluation and Identification of Students with Dyslexia: This chapter in the Dyslexia Handbook covers the requirements for the next step after screening – formal evaluation. Administered by trained professionals, this formal evaluation will measure a student’s reading proficiency while accounting for other factors, such as socioeconomic challenges or English language learning. Cumulative data, such as classroom concerns, academic progress reports and vision screening with all be collected.
That formal evaluation is particularly important, as it will lead to the child’s eligibility under the Individuals with Disability Education Act, which mandates accommodations as well as an Individualized Education Plan.
Throughout the evaluation process, parents must be notified and consent to the evaluations.
Critical, Evidence-Based Components of Dyslexia Instruction: In the next chapter, the handbook outlines the components of effective dyslexia instruction. Those include phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllabication, orthography, morphology and syntax as well as reading comprehension and reading fluency. It is particularly important that the instruction be delivered using proven methods.
The handbook also outlines the qualifications of dyslexia instructors, including Certified Academic Language Therapists, which are the professionals who work at Dyslexia on Demand.
In addition to outlining what works for dyslexia therapy, the handbook also identifies ineffective treatments, such as special fonts, vision therapy and memory training programs.
Dysgraphia: The final chapter of The Dyslexia Handbook outlines the need for screening and evaluation for dysgraphia, which may be associated with dyslexia. Best described as “a neurodevelopmental disorder manifested by illegible and/or inefficient handwriting due to difficulty with letter formation,” dysgraphia is a distinct disorder that may or may not be present in students with dyslexia.
A wealth on information is also contained in the handbook’s appendices – click here to learn more.