Although it sounds too good to be true, high-quality, research-based intervention strategies can reduce and possibly prevent many reading difficulties, even some symptoms of dyslexia. As individuals practice and improve their reading skills, their brains’ inherent plasticity improves neural connectivity and mental efficiency. In other words, using intervention strategies backed by credible research can increase skills and, in effect, grow your clients’ brains.
Explicit and Systematic Instruction
Learning to read involves a specific sequence of developmental stages, from pre-reading to advanced reading. Thus, effective reading instruction should follow this sequence to build and integrate reading skills, leading to automaticity and confidence. The body of research into best practices for dyslexia intervention is rapidly growing, so instructors and professionals have many options for specific evidence-based interventions. Rather than suggest specific intervention activities, here’s a sequential list of topics for explicit instruction.
Phonological and Phonemic Awareness
Phonological and phonemic awareness involves an individual’s ability to perceive and manipulate the sounds of words in their primary language. As part of instruction in the earliest stages of reading intervention, phonological awareness refers to oral language, which is a core problem in dyslexia. Interventions to develop phonemic proficiency include segmentation, phoneme (sound) blending and sound manipulation activities.
Phonics and Word Recognition Skills
Phonics, or letter–sound skills, are the most recognizable reading skills for educators and non-educators alike. Phonics and word recognition interventions should follow mastery of phonemic awareness and include instruction and practice in basic decoding and spelling. With practice in phonics and word recognition, students can build a repository of sight words for reading and writing.
Morphological Awareness and Skills
Morphological awareness refers to recognizing the separate components of meaning within a word, such as prefixes, suffixes, roots and base words. The research demonstrates that direct or explicit instruction in these word segments, combined with reading texts, improves students’ fluency, accuracy and word-level reading.
Other Evidence-Based Considerations
Multisensory literacy approaches, such as musical training, drawing letter shapes in sand or other materials, or using craft supplies to shape letters, can support instruction and encourage student excitement. Additionally, research supports small-group instruction, where students of similar skill levels work together to improve fluency and comprehension.
Accommodations for Learning and Testing
While evidence-based instruction can mitigate many of the challenges that students with dyslexia face, classroom accommodations can extend the benefits of these strategic intervention practices. When students have various access points for instructional materials and information and multiple ways to demonstrate their learning, they develop confidence and self-efficacy. Educators can support these outcomes further by adjusting the learning or testing environment, including extended time limits for reading assignments. Other standard accommodations instructors might employ include:
- Quieter spaces for learning and testing
- Verbal instructions
- Extra breaks to teach students self-pacing
- Assistive tools or technology, such as large print texts, timers, graphic organizers, or text-to-speech or speech-to-text programs
- Offering the option of oral presentations and oral test responses
The best evidence-based instruction comes from the best evidence-based assessment. Learn more at WPS about how to help kids succeed in school using Tests of Dyslexia (TOD™).