How do you treat dyslexia?

Dr Diane Sawyer, who held the Chair of Excellence in Dyslexia Studies at the Tenesse Center for Dyslexia, explains the implications of having dyslexia in this short video:

Diagnosing dyslexia

The purpose of diagnosing dyslexia is to permit the provision of the most effective education.

What are the characteristics of dyslexia? lists key indicators of dyslexia.  However, the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)  states that a person exhibiting a number of indicators against a checklist is not proof of dyslexia and that the only way to verify that an individual is dyslexic is through testing by a qualified examiner or team of professionals. The factsheet, produced by the  International Dyslexia Association (IDA), expends on testing and evaluating dyslexia

In An Introduction to Dyslexia for Parents and Professionals, Hulquist (2006, p. 43) explains that because dyslexia has to do with trouble in reading and spelling there is a difficulty with it being diagnosed before Grade 3 as such difficulties may be due to a developmental delay.  However, there is evidence that early intervention is the key to aiding people with dyslexia to develop the core skill of learning to read.  

To learn more about the process of diagnosing dyslexia  in Australia read Diagnosing dyslexia in Australia or for other countries refer to the information on the IDA website.

Treatment of dyslexia

Students with dyslexia require explicit, direct and systematic instruction in both oral and written language.

The Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA) states that the Orton Gillingham Based Multi Sensory Language (MSL) approaches are the most effective and lists the following as the key points to treating a person with dyslexia:

  • Explicit Instruction Individuals with dyslexia require research-based instruction in all five components of reading:
  1. Phonemic awareness
  2. Phonics (synthetic and analytic)
  3. Fluency
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Comprehension
  • Systematic Instruction has a definite logical sequence of concept introduction, ordered from simple to more complex.
  • Structured, multi sensory delivery of language content is characteristic of effective instruction, read the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) factsheet on MSL Teaching.
  • Flexible: since dyslexia occurs on a continuum a specialised teaching approach is best, rather than a program or method which does not allow flexibility.
  • Diagnostic Teaching: the teacher continually assesses their student's ability to understand and apply learned concepts. If it is discovered that a previously taught concept is confused, it is retaught.
  • Balanced Approach: instruction needs to consider individual strengths and weaknesses based on the processes involved in learning to read.Visual recognition for high frequency words and sight word techniques need to be taught explicitly, with ample exposure and practice in order to strengthen the visual memory for irregular words both for reading and spelling.

The ADA also states that students with dyslexia may require instruction of greater intensity and duration than typical and recommend that a student receives instruction from a professional trained in MSL techniques.  

The video below is a short demonstration of the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction where students are taught spelling simultaneously with reading. Because each student has a different learning style, all lessons are taught by seeing, saying, moving, hearing and touching the concept being taught.

In the book,  An Introduction to Dyslexia for Parents and Professional, Hultquist states that students with dyslexia need not only remedial work but also "they need teachers to adapt and modify what takes place in the classroom in order to bypass the effects of their reading, writing, and related problems" (2006, p. 12).  There are some suggestions for modifications that teachers can make in the section: What can I do to make my classroom dyslexia-friendly?

Key Points

  • There is no 'cure' for dyslexia.  People with dyslexia have to work with their disability and persist with overcoming their difficulties.  Look at the page Living with Dyslexia for more information.
  • A diagnosis of dyslexia can aid the delivery of the most effective education  for the person with dyslexia. 
  • To verify that an individual is dyslexic they must be assessed by a qualified examiner.  The details of the process in Australia can be found on the page Diagnosing dyslexia in Australia and information for other countries can be found on the  International Dyslexia Association (IDA) website.
  • The use of an explicit and systematic instruction of all the components of reading and writing can help a person with dyslexia learn to read.
  • Using a multi-sensory approach to learning can aid a person with dyslexia to decode language, details of this method can be found on the factsheet MSL Teaching.