We are parents and caregivers who originally came together to find ways to support our students with dyslexia but have grown to include support and advocacy for students with other conditions that impact learning.
Each one of us has individual experiences with our children, and together we work to provide mutual support to guide us all in nagivating and advocating for our neurodiverse learners. We don't have all the answers, but we are learning together and sharing what we learn with other families, teachers, and administrators.
These resources are a collection of tools and references that parents have shared with one another over the years. This will be an ever changing resource as we learn more along the way and we welcome your feedback and contributions!
Visit our Dyslexia Parent Group page
Early identification of students is critical and children can be diagnosed as early as 5 years old (some say as early as 4). According to TEA:
The early identification of students with dyslexia along with corresponding early intervention programs for these students will have significant implications for their future academic success. In the book Straight Talk about Reading, Hall and Moats (1999) state the following:
• Early identification is critical because the earlier the intervention, the easier it is to remediate.
• Inexpensive screening measures identify at-risk children in mid-kindergarten with 85 percent accuracy.
• If intervention is not provided before the age of eight, the probability of reading difficulties continuing into high school is 75 percent (pp. 279–280).
Research continues to support the need for early identification and assessment (Birsh, 2018; Sousa, 2005; Nevills & Wolfe, 2009).
In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed House Bill (HB) 1886, amending Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.003, Screening and Treatment for Dyslexia, to require that all kindergarten and first-grade public school students be screened for dyslexia and related disorders. Additionally, the law requires that all students beyond first grade be screened or tested as appropriate.
It is important to note that, while TEC §38.003 requires that all students in kindergarten and grade 1 be screened for dyslexia and related disorders, at the time of the update to this handbook, it was determined there are no grade-level appropriate screening instruments for dysgraphia and the other identified related disorders.
(Above from TEA handbook)
At Zilker, students are identified for further assessment based on Istation scores and teacher/parent observations. Once identified, they receive an initial dyslexia screener. The Child Study Team (CST), which includes parents, teachers, specialists and administration, will meet to review the information and discuss whether to pursue an FIE (Full Individual Evaluation) through Special Education or a Dyslexia Evaluation through 504. Some families will pursue assessments outside of AISD. See the summary from understood.org on recommendations to parents before pursuing an outside evaluation:
It may save you frustration—and money—to work with the school before you even set up a private evaluation. Knowing more about a school’s obligations and what it needs from an outside evaluation is the best place to start. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that an outside evaluation “must be considered” by the school district. But that’s only the case if the evaluation “meets [the school’s] criteria.”
A school evaluation or an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense automatically meets the criteria. A private evaluation may not. That’s because the school doesn’t have control over which type of testing to have done—you do. You can choose the person who does the testing, as well.
IDEA only says schools must consider the recommendations and results. It doesn’t say they have to accept them. However, a school is much more likely to accept the results of testing that meets their standards. That’s why it’s important to find out in advance what those standards are. Many schools also keep a list of approved evaluators that meet their standards, though you don’t necessarily have to use someone on that list.
Scroll down to the bottom of the FAQ to see glossary of terms.
The importance of early intervention cannot be overstated. Intervening early, before difficulties become intractable, offers the best hope for successful outcomes and prevention of long-term deficits. The purpose of screening is to help identify, as early as possible, the students at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties so that targeted intervention can be provided. Screening alone will never improve outcomes for students. The screening must lead to effective instruction for it to be useful. Therefore, once the screening has been administered the next steps are to analyze results, identify level of risk for each student, and make informed decisions. The next steps are broadly categorized as: refer for evaluation, implement targeted intervention, and/or continue with core instruction. (TEA Handbook)
Students are placed in specific progarms based on their age and a 504 or ARD committee recommendations for best fit. Currently Zilker offers the following Dyslexia interventions (from Dyslexia Instructional Programs 7.17.2018):
SRA Early interventions in Reading/lntervenciones in Reading (McGraw-Hill) Grades K-2
SRA Early interventions / lntervenciones in Reading is the AlSD supported Dyslexia Intervention Program for grades K-2. Early Interventions in Reading is a multilevel, comprehensive reading intervention for students at risk for developing reading problems or students with disabilities. SRA Early Interventions in Reading helps teachers identify struggling readers in Grades K-2 and provide them with lessons that build mastery of essential skills through explicit, systematic instruction in five critical strands: phonemic awareness, letter/sound correspondences, word recognition and spelling, fluency, and comprehension.
Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia (Scottish Rite Hospital) Grades 2-12 & Pre-Flight* Grades K-2
Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia is a two-year curriculum that addresses the five components of effective reading instruction identified by the National Reading Panel's research and is a comprehensive Tier III intervention for students with dyslexia. It includes:
Phonemic Awareness - following established procedures for explicitly teaching the relationships between speech-sound production and spelling-sound patterns
Phonics- providing a systematic approach for single word decoding
Fluency - using research-proven directed practice in repeated reading of words, phrases and passages to help students read newly encountered text more fluently
Vocabulary - featuring multiple word learning strategies (definitional, structural, contextual} and explicit teaching techniques with application in text
Reading Comprehension - teaching students to explicitly use and articulate multiple comprehension strategies (i.e., cooperative learning, story structure, question generation and answering, summarization and comprehension monitoring}
Pre-Flight early literacy curriculum covers phonological awareness, letter recognition, and oral language. It can be used as whole group instruction or as tiered support for struggling readers in grades K-2.
REWARDS (Voyager-Sopris) Grades 4-12
REWARDS - Reading Excellence: Word Attack & Rate Development Strategies is a research based, validated reading intervention designed to teach intermediate and secondary students:
a flexible strategy for decoding multisyllabic words
increase oral and silent reading rate and accuracy (fluency)
increase vocabulary knowledge; expand student's knowledge of general academic and academic vocabulary
meanings of prefixes and suffixes
text - dependent comprehension skills
Voyager Passport intervenes early to accelerate learning for students who need supplemental instruction to master priority reading skills and strategies. This blended solution includes:
Targeted instruction in word study, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, writing, listening, and speaking
Differentiation for diverse student populations, including English language learners
Integrated progress monitoring, reteaching procedures, correction support, and online data management
Online reading practice through Ticket to Read interactive, rewards-based learning
Progress Monitoring - more information on Progress Monitoring at Zilker to come soon!
Typically within AISD, a student with just a dyslexia diagnosis receives a 504 vs. an IEP. IEPs are only put in place once you qualify for Special Education services
Both Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans can offer formal help for K–12 students who are struggling in school. They’re similar in some ways but very different in others. This chart compares them side-by-side to help you understand the differences.
Understanding the difference between intervention & accommodations is important when looking to provide the best support for your child. Intervention is generally targeted instruction to improve a certan skill (Take Flight for example), while an accommodation is a change in how information is presented or assessed within the classroom (longer test times for example). An effective student plan should include both accommodations and intervention to help students in areas where they may struggle.
From the International Dyslexia Association:
What is dysgraphia?
The base word graph refers both to the hand’s function in writing and to the letters formed by the hand. The prefix dys indicates that there is impairment. Graph refers to producing letter forms by hand. The suffix ia refers to having a condition. Thus, dysgraphia is the condition of impaired letter writing by hand, that is, disabled handwriting. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing and speed of writing text. Children with dysgraphia may have only impaired handwriting, only impaired spelling (without reading problems), or both impaired handwriting and impaired spelling.
What causes dysgraphia?
Research to date has shown orthographic coding in working memory is related to handwriting and is often impaired in dysgraphia. Orthographic coding refers to the ability to store written words in working memory while the letters in the word are analyzed or the ability to create permanent memory of written words linked to their pronunciation and meaning. Children with dysgraphia do not have primary developmental motor disorder, another cause of poor handwriting, but may have difficulty planning sequential finger movements such as the touching of the thumb to successive fingers on the same hand without visual feedback. Children with dysgraphia may have difficulty with both orthographic coding and planning sequential finger movements.
Does dysgraphia occur alone or with other specific learning disabilities?
Children with impaired handwriting may also have attention-deficit disorder (ADHD)–inattentive, hyperactive, or combined inattentive and hyperactive subtypes. Children with this kind of dysgraphia may respond to a combination of explicit handwriting instruction plus stimulant medication, but appropriate diagnosis of ADHD by a qualified professional and monitoring of response to both instruction and medication are needed.
Dysgraphia may occur alone or with dyslexia (impaired reading disability) or with oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD, also referred to as selective language impairment, SLI).
Why is diagnosis of dysgraphia and related learning disabilities important?
Without diagnosis, children may not receive early intervention or specialized instruction in all the relevant skills that are interfering with their learning of written language. Considering that many schools do not have systematic instructional programs in handwriting and spelling, it is important to assess whether children need explicit, systematic instruction in handwriting and spelling in addition to word reading and decoding. Many schools offer accommodations in testing and teaching to students with dysgraphia, but these students also need ongoing, explicit instruction in handwriting, spelling, and composition. It is also important to determine if a child with dysgraphia may also have dyslexia and require special help with reading or OWL LD (SLI) and need special help with oral as well as written language.
What kinds of instructional activities improve the handwriting of children with dysgraphia?
Initially, children with impaired handwriting benefit from activities that support learning to form letters:
- playing with clay to strengthen hand muscles;
- keeping lines within mazes to develop motor control;
- connecting dots or dashes to create complete letter forms;
- tracing letters with index finger or eraser end of pencil;
- imitating the teacher modeling sequential strokes in letter formation; and
- copying letters from models.
Subsequently, once children learn to form legible letters, they benefit from instruction that helps them develop automatic letter writing, using the following steps to practice each of the 26 letters of the alphabet in a different order daily:
- studying numbered arrow cues that provide a consistent plan for letter formation
- covering the letter with a 3 x 5 card and imaging the letter in the mind’s eye
- writing the letter from memory after interval that increases in duration over the handwriting lessons
- writing letters from dictation (spoken name to letter form).
- In addition, to developing handwriting speed, they benefit from writing letters during composing daily for 5 to 10 minutes on a teacher-provided topic.
Students benefit from explicit instruction in spelling throughout K-12:
- initially in high frequency Anglo-Saxon words;
- subsequently in coordinating the phonological, orthographic, and morphological processes relevant for the spelling of longer, more complex, less frequent words; and
- at all grade levels in the most common and important words used for the different academic domains of the curriculum.
- Throughout K -12, students benefit from strategies for composing:
- planning, generating, reviewing/evaluating, and revising
- compositions of different genre including narrative, informational, compare and contrast, and persuasive self-regulation strategies for managing the complex executive functions involved in composing.
Do children with dysgraphia make reversals or other letter production errors?
Some children do make reversals (reversing direction letter faces along a vertical axis), inversions (flipping letters along a horizontal axis so that the letter is upside down), or transpositions (sequence of letters in a word is out of order). These errors are symptoms rather than causes of handwriting problems. The automatic letter writing instruction described earlier has been shown to reduce reversals, which are less likely to occur when retrieval of letters from memory and production of letters have become automatic.
What kind of instructional strategies improve spelling of children with dysgraphia?
If children have both handwriting and spelling problems, the kinds of handwriting instruction described earlier should be included along with the spelling instruction.
Are educators in public schools identifying children with dysgraphia and providing appropriate instruction in public schools?
In general, no. Although federal law specifies written expression as one of the areas in which students with learning disabilities may be affected, it does not clearly identify the transcription problems that are the causal factors in dysgraphia–impaired handwriting and/or spelling–for impaired written expression of ideas. Some of the tests used to assess written expression are not scored for handwriting or spelling problems and mask the nature of the disability in dysgraphia. Content or ideas may not be impaired. All too often, the poor writing or failure to complete writing assignments in a timely fashion or at all is misattributed to lack of motivation, laziness, or other issues unrelated to the real culprit–dysgraphia. Children who are twice exceptional–gifted and dysgraphic–are especially under-diagnosed and underserved. Teachers mistakenly assume that if a student is bright and cannot write it is because the student is not trying.
(The International Dyslexia Association)
For more on dysgraphia support, see the article form understood.org >
According to Harvard's Center for the Developing Child, "executive function skills are like an air traffic control system in the brain—they help us manage information, make decisions, and plan ahead." These are skills that develop over a lifetime. No one is born with these skills but we all have the potential to develop them. These skills develop through relationships, interactions, games, and our environments. Dr. Peg Dawson and Dr. Richard Guare list 12 specific executive function that students need and use in school: Response Inhibition, Working Memory, Emotional Control, Flexibility, Sustained Attention, Task Initiation, Planning and Prioritization, Organization, Time Management, Goal-Directed Persistence, Metacognition, and Stress Tolerance.
Many people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and/or ADHD may have challenges with executive functioning skills. There are scaffolds, accommodations, and interventions that can support the development and application of these skills.
Executive Functioning Resources:
- Understood.orgHarvard's Center for the Developing Child Harvard's Center for the Developing Child - Activities to Support Executive Functioning Development by Age Dr. Peg Dawson and Dr. Richard Guare - Smart But Scattered Kids
- Executive Functioning 101
In many families' experience, children with dyslexia and other learning differences need additional support outside of school. The cost of providing this additional support can be out of reach for many families so we've tried to include options for families that are affordable and can be done at home (see side bar links for Easyread, handwriting practice etc..)
Some families also work with tutors to help provide extra reading, writing or math support during the year or at home. Attached is a list of CALTs, tutors and intensive reading or math interventions available in Austin. This is a shared google doc so please add any recommended tutors or programs. Tutor & Intervention List
Dibels - The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills® (DIBELS) are a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of early literacy skills. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of early literacy and early reading skills.
FIE—Stands for Full Individual Evaluation, an assessment of your child's abilities to determine his eligibility and needs for special education services. ... IEP—Stands for Individualized Education Program. This is the plan, written by the ARD Committee, that guides the education for a child with disabilities
IEP - The Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services.
Istation - Istation Reading provides computer-based assessment and instruction in reading and writing for PreK-12 students. Students complete game-based lessons and activities led by animated characters while the program generates reports on their progress for teachers, parents and administrators.
504 - 504 plans are formal plans that schools develop to give kids with disabilities the supports they need. These plans prevent discrimination and protect the rights of kids with disabilities in school. They’re covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is a civil rights law. (understood.org)
What More Can I Do To Support My Child?
- Bridging the Summer Gap (Dyslexia Center of Austin)