Over the past decade, parent advocacy groups led a grassroots movement resulting in most states adopting dyslexia-specific legislation, with many states mandating the use of the Orton-Gillingham (OG) approach to reading instruction. Orton-Gillingham is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive approach to reading for students with or at risk for word-level reading disabilities (WLRD). Evidence from a prior synthesis and What Works Clearinghouse reports yielded findings lacking support for the effectiveness of OG interventions. We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effects of Orton-Gillingham reading interventions on the reading outcomes of students with or at risk for WLRD. Findings suggested OG reading interventions do not statistically significantly improve foundational skill outcomes (i.e., phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, spelling), although the mean effect size was positive in favor of OG-based approaches. Similarly, there were not significant differences for vocabulary and comprehension outcomes for students with or at risk for WLRD. More high-quality, rigorous research with larger samples of students with WLRD is needed to fully understand the effects of OG interventions on the reading outcomes for this population.
Current State of the Evidence: Examining the Effects of Orton-Gillingham Reading Interventions for Students With or at Risk for Word-Level Reading Disabilities
Stevens, E. A., Austin, C., Moore, C., Scammacca, N., Boucher, A. N., & Vaughn, S. (2021). Current State of the Evidence: Examining the Effects of Orton-Gillingham Reading Interventions for Students With or at Risk for Word-Level Reading Disabilities. Exceptional Children, 87(4), 397–417. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402921993406
Cerebellar function in children with and without dyslexia during single word processing
Sikoya M. Ashburn, D. Lynn Flowers, Eileen M. Napoliello, Guinevere F. Eden. Cerebellar function in children with and without dyslexia during single word processing. Human Brain Mapping, October 9, 2019. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.24792
New brain imaging research debunks a controversial theory about dyslexia that can impact how it is sometimes treated. The cerebellum, a brain structure traditionally considered to be involved in motor function, has been implicated in the reading disability, developmental dyslexia, however, this 'cerebellar deficit hypothesis' has always been controversial. The new research shows that the cerebellum is not engaged during reading in typical readers and does not differ in children who have dyslexia. In the long run, these researchers believe the findings can be used to refine models of dyslexia and to assist parents of struggling readers to make informed decisions about which treatment programs to pursue.
The Effects of Special Education on the Academic Performance of Students with Learning Disabilities
Schwartz, Amy Ellen, Bryant Gregory Hopkins, Leanna Stiefel. (2019). The Effects of Special Education on the Academic Performance of Students with Learning Disabilities. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-86). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: http://www.edworkingpapers.com/ai19-86
Does special education improve academic outcomes for students with disabilities? There is surprisingly little evidence to guide policy and answer this question. This paper provides an answer for the largest disability group, students with learning disabilities. The researchers used data from the New York City schools to track the academic performance of more than 44,000 students with learning disabilities over seven years. Test scores for students with learning disabilities improve after they are classified into special education, and the gains are greatest for students who entered special education before they reached middle school. Overall, students who began special education services in grades 4 and 5 "were more likely to be placed, and remain, in less restrictive service settings" than students who began later, the researchers found. The findings suggest that support services that help students remain in the general education classrooms may be particularly effective for students with learning disabilities.
Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention
Elizabeth Huber, Patrick M. Donnelly, Ariel Rokem & Jason D. Yeatman. Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention, Nature Communications volume 9:2260 (2018).
Using MRI measurements of the brain’s neural connections, or “white matter,” researchers have shown that, in struggling readers, the neural circuitry strengthened — and their reading performance improved — after just eight weeks of a specialized tutoring program. The study is the first to measure white matter during an intensive educational intervention and link children’s learning with their brains’ flexibility. After eight weeks of intensive instruction among study participants who struggled with reading or had been diagnosed with dyslexia, two of those three areas showed evidence of structural changes — a greater density of white matter and more organized “wiring.” These findings demonstrate that targeted, intensive reading programs not only lead to substantial improvements in reading skills, but also change the underlying wiring of the brain’s reading circuitry.
How Myths About Learning Disabilities Rob Many of Their Potential to Succeed and Contribute in School and in the Workplace
How Myths About Learning Disabilities Rob Many of Their Potential to Succeed and Contribute in School and in the Workplace (2018). White paper by the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Myths about learning disabilities rob many of their potential to succeed and contribute in school and in the workplace. This white paper states that with appropriate intervention and support, all children, including those with learning disabilities, can have the tools and resources they need to live their best possible lives. This will result in many more individuals with learning disabilities acquiring the adaptive skills needed to seamlessly integrate their use of assistive technology and other supports into the performance of their jobs.
Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities
Swerling, Louise Spear. Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities (January 23, 2018). Teaching Exceptional Children: Volume: 51 issue: 3, page(s): 201-211. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059917750160
A key feature of structured literacy (SL) includes, “explicit, systematic, and sequential teaching of literacy at multiple levels — phonemes, letter–sound relationships, syllable patterns, morphemes, vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and text structure. SL is especially well suited to students with dyslexia because it directly addresses their core weaknesses in phonological skills, decoding, and spelling. If implemented in Tier 1 instruction and tiered interventions, SL practices may also prevent or ameliorate a wide range of other reading difficulties.
The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5
Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.
This report summarizes the latest facts, figures, and information about individuals with learning disabilities in the U.S. The report focuses on six key areas: understanding learning and attention issues; identifying struggling students; supporting academic success; social, emotional, and behavioral challenges; transitioning to life after high school; and recommended policy changes. The report also includes state snapshots that highlight key data points and comparisons to national averages in areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.
The role of part-time special education supporting students with reading and spelling difficulties from grade 1 to grade 2 in Finland
Leena K. Holopainen et al, The role of part-time special education supporting students with reading and spelling difficulties from grade 1 to grade 2 in Finland (April 25, 2017). European Journal of Special Needs Education (2017). DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2017.1312798
The reading skills of children with reading and spelling difficulties (RSD) lag far behind the age level in the first two school years, despite special education received from special education teachers. Furthermore, the spelling skills of children who in addition to RSD had other learning difficulties also lagged behind their peers in the first two school years. Small group education and a moderate amount of part-time special education (approximately 38 hours per year) predicted faster skill development, whereas individual and a large amount of special education (more than 48 hours per year) were related to slower skill development and broader difficulties.
Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Glimpse of the Livescribe Pen and Its Impact on Homework Completion
Harper, Kelly A; Kurtzworth-Keen, Kristin; Marable, Michele A. Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities: A Glimpse of the Livescribe Pen and Its Impact on Homework Completion. Education and Information Technologies, 2017, Vol. 22(5), p.2471-2483.
This research article looked the effectiveness of an assistive technology tool, the Livescribe Pen (LSP), with an elementary student identified with dyslexia over a one-year study with teachers, parent, and child. While the LSP was primarily utilized for curriculum accessibility and an audio tool to promote academic independence, the study's findings reveal its impact as an assistive technology on both academic successes for children with disabilities as well as non-academic gains. These included an increase in independence, more time for social activities, and the ability to develop strategies for homework success. Most importantly, the academic team and the parent reported a sense of higher aspirations for this student; ones they had not thought possible previously. Finally, the study revealed two elements critically important for students with disabilities. Those are the importance of fostering communities of support and the importance of self-determination.
Designing an Assistive Learning Aid for Writing Acquisition: A Challenge for Children with Dyslexia
Latif, Seemab; Tariq, Rabbia; Latif, Rabia. Designing an Assistive Learning Aid for Writing Acquisition: A Challenge for Children with Dyslexia. Studies in health technology and informatics, 2015 Vol. 217, pp. 180-8.
This article highlights the benefits of using the modern mobile technology features in providing a learning platform for young dyslexic writers. An android-based application is designed and implemented to encourage the learning process and to help dyslexic children improve their fundamental handwriting skill. In addition, a handwriting learning algorithm based on concepts of machine learning is designed and implemented to decide the learning content, evaluate the learning performance, display the performance results, and record the learning growth to show the strengths and weaknesses of a dyslexic child. The results of the evaluation provided by the participants revealed that application has potential benefits to foster the learning process and help children with dyslexia by improving their foundational writing skills.
Dysfunction of Rapid Neural Adaptation in Dyslexia
This study suggests that people with the reading disability dyslexia may have brain differences that are surprisingly wide-ranging. Using specialized brain imaging, scientists found that adults and children with dyslexia showed less ability to "adapt" to sensory information compared to people without the disorder. And the differences were seen not only in the brain's response to written words, which would be expected. People with dyslexia also showed less adaptability in response to pictures of faces and objects. That suggests they have "deficits" that are more general, across the whole brain, said study lead author Tyler Perrachione. He's an assistant professor of speech, hearing and language sciences at Boston University. The findings offer clues to the root causes of dyslexia.
Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice
Burr, E., Haas, E., and Ferriere, K. (July 2015). Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Regional Educational Laboratory at WestEd.
This review of research and policy literature — aimed at district and state policymakers — distills several key elements of processes that can help identify and support English learner students with learning disabilities. It also describes current guidelines and protocols used by the 20 states with the largest populations of English learner students. The report informs education leaders who are setting up processes to determine which English learner students may need placement in special education programs as opposed to other assistance. The report acknowledges that the research base in this area is thin.
Achievement Gap in Reading Is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists through Adolescence
Ferrer, E., Shatwitz, B.A., Holahan, J.M., Marchione, K.E., Michaels, R., and Shaywitz, S.E. (2015) Achievement Gap in Reading Is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists through Adolescence, Journal of Pediatrics, November 2015,167 (5):1121-1125.
The subjects were the 414 participants comprising the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, a sample survey cohort, assessed yearly from 1st to 12th grade on measures of reading and IQ. Statistical analysis employed longitudinal models based on growth curves and multiple groups. Results from the study indicated that as early as first grade, compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores and verbal IQ, and their trajectories over time never converge with those of typical readers. Researchers concluded that the achievement gap between typical and dyslexic readers is evident as early as first grade, and this gap persists into adolescence. These findings provide strong evidence and impetus for early identification of and intervention for young children at risk for dyslexia. Implementing effective reading programs as early as kindergarten or even preschool offers the potential to close the achievement gap.
Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities
Connor, C., Alberto, P.A., Compton, D.L., and O'Connor, R.E. (February 2014) Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research.
This report describes what has been learned about the improvement of reading outcomes for children with or at risk for reading disabilities through published research funded by the Institute of Education Science (IES). The report describes contributions to the knowledge base across four focal areas: assessment, basic cognitive and linguistic processes that support successful reading, intervention, and professional development.
On the Importance of Listening Comprehension
Hogan T.P., Adlof S.M. & Alonzo C.N. (2014) On the importance of listening comprehension, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology June 16 (3):199-207.
The simple view of reading highlights the importance of two primary components which account for individual differences in reading comprehension across development: word recognition (i.e., decoding) and listening comprehension. This paper reviews evidence showing that listening comprehension becomes the dominating influence on reading comprehension starting even in the elementary grades. It also highlights a growing number of children who fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills, primarily due to deficient listening comprehension skills (i.e., poor comprehenders). Finally we discuss key language influences on listening comprehension for consideration during assessment and treatment of reading disabilities.
Intact but Less Accessible Phonetic Representations in Adults with Dyslexia
Bart Boets et al. (2013) Intact But Less Accessible Phonetic Representations in Adults with Dyslexia. Science 6 December 2013: 342 (6163), 1251-1254. [DOI:10.1126/science.1244333]
People with dyslexia seem to have difficulty identifying and manipulating the speech sounds to be linked to written symbols. Researchers have long debated whether the underlying representations of these sounds are disrupted in the dyslexic brain, or whether they are intact but language-processing centers are simply unable to access them properly. This study indicates that dyslexia may be caused by impaired connections between auditory and speech centers of the brain. The researchers analyzed whether for adult readers with dyslexia the internal references for word sounds are poorly constructed or whether accessing those references is abnormally difficult. Brain imaging during phonetic discrimination tasks suggested that the internal dictionary for word sounds was correct, but accessing the dictionary was more difficult than normal.
Don’t DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency
Fiester, L. (2012). Don't DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency. Commissioned by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
About 2.4 million children across the nation have been diagnosed with learning disabilities — but how successful is the U.S. education system in teaching these students to read? This new report provides a far-reaching overview of the history and progress in understanding and meeting the needs of children with dyslexia, as well as the persisting challenges that must be overcome, to ensure that all students can read proficiently by the third grade. The report also highlights best practices and examples of solutions that are already working in communities. Based on interviews with nearly 30 experts, the report includes a collection of recommended actions for advancing this movement. See Executive Summary.
Human Voice Recognition Depends on Language Ability
Perrachione, T., Stephanie Del Tufo, S., Gabrieli, J. Human Voice Recognition Depends on Language Ability. Science 29 July 2011: 595.
The ability to recognize people by their voice is an important social behavior. Individuals differ in how they pronounce words, and listeners may take advantage of language-specific knowledge of speech phonology to facilitate recognizing voices. Impaired phonological processing is characteristic of dyslexia and thought to be a basis for difficulty in learning to read. The researchers tested voice-recognition abilities of dyslexic and control listeners for voices speaking listeners’ native language or an unfamiliar language. Individuals with dyslexia exhibited impaired voice-recognition abilities compared with controls only for voices speaking their native language. These results demonstrate the importance of linguistic representations for voice recognition. Humans appear to identify voices by making comparisons between talkers' pronunciations of words and listeners' stored abstract representations of the sounds in those words. Related article: Study Sheds Light on Auditory Role in Dyslexia.
Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision
American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Ophthalmology, Council on Children with Disabilities et al. (2009). Pediatrics 2009;124;837-844; originally published online Jul 27, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/124/2/837.
This joint statement of pediatric ophthalmologists and pediatricians concerned with learning disabilities states: most experts believe that dyslexia is a language based disorder. Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended.
May, T.S. (2006). Dissecting Dyslexia. BrainWork, the Neuroscience Newsletter from the Dana Foundation.
Genetic differences in the brain make learning to read a struggle for children with dyslexia. Luckily, most of our brain development occurs after we're born, when we interact with our environment. This means that the right teaching techniques can actually re-train the brain, especially when they happen early.
Remediation Training Improves Reading Ability of Dyslexic Children
Progress in Understanding Reading: Scientific Foundations and New Frontiers
Stanovich, Keith E. (2000). Progress in understanding reading: Scientific foundations and new frontiers. New York: Guilford Press.
From a nationally known expert, this volume summarizes the gains that have been made in key areas of reading research and provides authoritative insights on current controversies and debates. Each section begins with up-to-date findings followed by one or more classic papers from the author's research program. Significant issues covered include phonological processes and context effects in reading, the "reading wars" and how they should be resolved, the meaning of the term "dyslexia," and the cognitive effects and benefits of reading.
Repeated Reading and Reading Fluency in Learning Disabled Children
Rashotte, C. & Torgesen, J. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 180-188.
This study investigated whether improved fluency and comprehension across different stories in repeated reading depend on the degree of word overlap among passages and whether repeated reading is more effective than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading. Non-fluent, learning disabled students read passages presented and timed by a computer under three different conditions. Results suggest that over short periods of time, increases in reading speed with the repeated reading method depend on the amount of shared words among stories, and that if stories have few shared words, repeated reading is not more effective for improving speed than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading.
Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention
Elizabeth Huber, Patrick M. Donnelly, Ariel Rokem, Jason D. Yeatman. Rapid and widespread white matter plasticity during an intensive reading intervention, Nature Communications Vol. 9, Article number: 2260, 2018
Using MRI measurements of the brain’s neural connections, or “white matter,” researchers from the University of Washington showed that, in struggling readers, the neural circuitry strengthened — and their reading performance improved — after just eight weeks of a specialized tutoring program. The study focused on three areas of white matter — regions rich with neuronal connections — that link regions of the brain involved in language and vision. The study is the first to measure white matter during an intensive educational intervention and link children’s learning with their brains’ flexibility.