What is Dyslexia?

DyslexicBrain“Dyslexia is included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) as a specific learning disability (SLD). Dyslexia impacts reading, specifically decoding and accurate and/or fluent word recognition and spelling. Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and is unexpected and/or inconsistent with a student’s other abilities despite the provision of appropriate instruction. Dyslexia results from a significant deficit in phonological processing (i.e., a persistent difficulty in the awareness of and ability to manipulate the individual sounds of spoken language).

Typically, students with dyslexia have strengths and cognitive abilities in areas such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, problem solving, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and social communication (e.g., conversation). Early identification and appropriate instruction targeting the underlying phonological processing deficits that characterize dyslexia may minimize its educational impact.”

*Developed by Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) with input from an external stakeholder workgroup (including Margie Gillis) and based on review of applicable literature, the IDEA, and current definitions in use by other states, organizations and legislation.

What is dyslexia? Watch as reading expert Margie Gillis explains what dyslexia is, including signs and symptoms of dyslexia. Hear her talk about why reading is difficult for dyslexic children, and how to help.

Connecticut SLD/Dyslexia Legislation

The state of Connecticut has been a leader in crafting legislation supporting the identification and instruction of students with SLD/Dyslexia and requiring their instructors to have appropriate knowledge and practice.


See CSDE’s SLD/Dyslexia Assessment Resource Guide, created in response to requests from educators and administrators from local education agencies (LEAs) seeking information about appropriate assessment options for the identification of SLD/Dyslexia and other reading-related learning disabilities.

SLD/Dyslexia Services

Comprehensive Reading Evaluations

Literacy How offers Comprehensive Reading Evaluations for struggling readers to help parents determine the best next steps for their child.  To find qualified evaluators for students living outside of Connecticut, Literacy How recommends contacting the local branch of Decoding Dyslexia or other state dyslexia organizations.  Read Evaluating Your Child for Dyslexia.

Read this IDA fact sheet Advocating for a Child with Dyslexia in the Public Education System.

Expert Teaching is the Treatment for Students with SLD/Dyslexia

What reading strategies can help struggling readers? Step inside two public school classrooms to see what effective reading interventions look like for grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers. Margie Gillis, president of Literacy How, explains key concepts—including why multisensory reading instruction benefits students with SLD/Dyslexia.

Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading

IDA_Logo_Brand_Guide1The IDA Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (Knowledge and Practice Standards) “provide a comprehensive research based framework that articulates what all reading teachers and specialists should know and be able to demonstrate to teach reading successfully to all students. The focus of the Knowledge and Practice Standards is the structure of language and its component systems, their connections to design and delivery of instruction, and the complex nature of skilled reading. Such knowledge is critical in teaching those with dyslexia and other struggling readers, but all students can benefit from the Structured Literacy™ approach.”

What is Structured Literacy™?

In addition to teaching decoding skills explicitly and systematically, a Structured Literacy™ approach ensures that students understand the elements of language, including phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax, and semantics. While this approach is beneficial for all students, it is vital for those with dyslexia.  Literacy How offers a Structured Literacy Professional Development Series.

Consulting Services and Support for Special Education

From early identification to effective instruction to appropriate progress monitoring for Adequate Yearly Progress, Literacy How offers services and support to special education teachers and special education departments as they strive to teach struggling readers (i.e., students with SLD/Dyslexia). This support aligns with the Connecticut State Department of Education’s State Systematic Improvement Plan focus on early literacy and reading achievement.

Since 2000, our experienced reading experts have mentored general education teachers to transfer the latest evidence-based knowledge into effective classroom practice to advance the literacy achievement of students at every level.

We believe that special education teachers require the knowledge, tools, and support to ensure that every child learns to read. In fact, we have offered our guidance and expertise to advocate for Connecticut legislation that assists struggling readers and their teachers.

To meets those needs, Literacy How offers a variety of services and coaching support:

  • Needs assessments for Special Education departments
  • Comprehensive Reading Evaluations (Independent Educational Evaluations–IEEs).  See below.
  • Consultation on and interpretation of IEE reports written by Literacy How or other evaluators
  • Assistance in data analysis to target each student’s unique and evolving needs
  • Assistance in creating effective, inclusive data team meetings for all levels of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) to ensure that Special Education is not “siloed”
  • Assistance in differentiation to optimize group instruction
  • Assistance in writing appropriate goals and objectives based on diagnostic assessment data and translating them into effective lesson plans
  • Guidance in developing a progressing monitoring plan including selecting assessments, applying the plan, and interpreting assessment results
  • Guidance in developing targeted professional development and coaching plans to equip and support each special education team member
  • Coaching support in evidence-based instructional approaches so special educators can help their students meet Adequate Yearly Progress, including: A 30-hr Structured Literacy Series with optional coaching support.

Call our office at (203) 239-7323 (READ) to learn more.

SLD/Dyslexia Expert Presentations

Margie Gillis has worked at the policy level through the Connecticut State Department of Education and was recently a member of the SLD/Dyslexia Workgroup.  If you would like Margie to give a presentation about SLD/Dyslexia to your staff, please contact our office at 203-239-7323.

video_iconView these webinars presented by Margie Gillis: Increasing Awareness of SLD/Dyslexia: Implications for Connecticut Educators and Using Literacy Screening Data to Support Students with Reading Difficulties.

SLD/Dyslexia Resources for Teachers and Parents

IndividualReader_08.09.13The 1in5 initiative was created by Learning Ally as an online community where students with LD and the people who love and support them can share their stories (via YouTube), blogs, and resources.

BestColleges.com’s College Resources for Students with Disabilities helps students with dyslexia, ADHD and other forms of LD find campuses equipped with offices and services that address accessibility, accommodation, and assistive technology.

GoodCall’s The Fully Accessible Guide to Paying for College for Students with Disabilities provides disabled students with comprehensive information about how to pay for college as well as scholarships and other information that is specifically helpful for students with disabilities.

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit peer-to-peer network of attorneys, advocates, parents and related professionals dedicated to protecting and enforcing legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families at the national, state, and local levels.

CSDE’s Special Education Publications include best practice resources, eligibility and guidance documents, and parent/family resources.

Decoding Dyslexia is a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system. [They] aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia. Decoding Dyslexia–CT has been instrumental in promoting legislation that supports students with SLD/Dyslexia. Find the chapter in your state.

video_icon“Don’t ‘DYS’ our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency.” The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and Campaign for Grade-Level Reading present a comprehensive report and action plan for helping children with learning disabilities reach grade-level reading proficiency. View the video.

Dragonflyresources offers a Learning Disabilities Field Map “to inform our proactive philanthropy and provide a top-down, spatial view of programs, projects, organizations that serve people with learning disabilities.”

Dyslexiaville is the first media company for kids with dyslexia and other learning differences.  Their mission is to help kids succeed in school and life because of, and not in spite of, their learning differences. Visit YouTube to see their series “Super d! Show”.

Dyslexic Advantage, one of the world’s largest online dyslexia communities, is dedicated toward increasing awareness, education, research into the strengths and talents of dyslexic people.

The Dyslexia Foundation was established to identify and assist children with dyslexia and to establish higher levels of learning through specialized programs promoting better reading.

DyslexiaHelp at the University of Michigan offers resources for professionals, parents, and students with dyslexia.

Dyslexia Society of Connecticut is “dedicated to achieving reading proficiency for all Connecticut residents through evidence-based training for teachers in order to provide appropriate explicit, systematic instruction for students with dyslexia and related reading disabilities.”

Effective Reading Instruction for Students with Dyslexia, Just the Facts, International Dyslexia Association.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with dyslexia, their families and the communities that support them. IDA supports literacy through research, education, and advocacy.  See their Fact Sheets and the New! IDA Dyslexia Handbook. What Every Family Should Know.

Learning Ally is a national nonprofit providing, resources, training, and technology for teachers and schools, and 80,000 human-voiced audiobooks for students with learning & visual disabilities.

LD OnLine is a WETA-sponsored (national public television) website on learning disabilities, learning disorders and differences. Parents and teachers of learning disabled children will find authoritative guidance on attention deficit disorder, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dysnomia, reading difficulties, speech and related disorders.

National Center on Intensive Intervention’s mission is to build district and school capacity to support implementation of data-based individualization in reading, mathematics, and behavior for students with severe and persistent learning and behavioral needs.

National Center on Improving Literacy is a partnership among literacy experts, university researchers, and technical assistance providers, with funding from the United States Department of Education. Their mission is to increase access to, and use of, evidence-based approaches to screen, identify, and teach students with literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia.

National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) connects and parents and others with essential resources, provides educators with evidence-based tools, and engages advocates in public policy initiatives.

Neuhaus Education Center, dedicated to promoting reading success, provides evidence-based professional development to educators, information and resources to parents, and direct services to adult learners.  Read their dyslexia guide, You CAN Help Your Child.

(re) Imagining Reading was developed by Smithsonian Institution researchers to take advantage of e-readers that have been proven to be help some people with dyslexia.

Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities®, co-founded by Margie Gillis, is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the parents of children with learning disabilities (LD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADHD). Parents can sign up for their newsletter, read blogs, tips, and more.

Understood aims “to help the millions of parents whose children, ages 3–20, are struggling with learning and attention issues,” including daily access to free expert advice, resources, tips, and a secure parent community.

Wrightslaw offers accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities, including a newsletter, blog, and extensive advocacy and law libraries.

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity aims to uncover and illuminate the strengths of those with dyslexia, disseminate information, practical advice and the latest innovations from scientific research, and transform the lives of children and adults with dyslexia.


View Embracing Dyslexia, a thoughtful and moving exploration of dyslexia from an insider’s perspective, weaving together interviews with parents, adult dyslexics, researchers, educators and experts to provide an accurate portrayal of a learning difference that affects between 15-20% of the population.

View The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, a documentary that provides personal and uplifting accounts of the dyslexic experience from children, experts and iconic leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson and financier Charles Schwab. Directed by James Redford, the film not only clears up the misconceptions about the condition, but also paints a picture of hope for all who struggle with it. Proving that dyslexia is a neurological issue and not a character flaw, The Big Picture beautifully illustrates that while the condition is an obstacle, it also carries some unique advantages, and ultimately can be overcome.

books_iconRecommended Reading

Emanuel, G. (November 29, 2016) How science is rewiring the dyslexic brain. National Public Radio, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/29/503693391/researchers-study-what-makes-dyslexic-brains-different.

Felton, R., Hook, P. & Lowell, S. (2014). Basic facts about assessment of dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association.

Gillis, M. (December 2018). Chronicles from the Classroom. All teachers are responsible for all students’ success. The Examiner 7:5.

Gillis, M. (February 2018). Chronicles from the Classroom. Teachers must be critical thinkers and informed consumers. The Examiner 7:1.

Kilpatrick, D.A. (2015)  Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Moats, L. & Dakin, K. (2007). Basic facts about dyslexia and other reading problems. International Dyslexia Association.

Learn more about how to teach students with SLD/Dyslexia in these articles by Margie Gillis:  Treating DyslexiaAddressing Reading Issues: Multisensory Structured Language Basics, and Help for an Older Child with Reading Problems.

Brain image retrieved from BrainFacts.org.