Teaching Dyslexia Sorting through the facts

“I havn’t taught a child with Dyslexia before!?”

“Do we still even use the word Dyslexia?!

“Dyslexia doesn’t exist!?”

“We don’t have to provide anything for students with Dyslexia.!?”

Teachers have you said any of these? Thought any of these?

Let’s clear up a few facts.

Yes Dyslexia does exist.

In my experience as a Dyslexia Advocate and admin of Australia’s largest Dyslexia Support group there is nothing and I mean nothing, more upsetting than for a parent to go to a school with a diagnosis in hand and being told Dyslexia does not exist. We have had principals who have ripped up Dyslexia Fact sheets and binned them in front of desperate parents. Let’s approach Dyslexia with a bit of knowledge and some professionalism!

Dyslexia is a neurological disability that affects the language system and the development of literacy skills. It is defined as a specific learning disorder, more specifically a reading disorder. It is characterised by problems with spelling, accurate or fluent word recognition, working memory, processing speed, rapid automatic naming, reading comprehension, phonological decoding and weak phonemic awareness.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology has shown the neurological nature of dyslexia and identifying differences in the brain structure of people with dyslexia. MRI studies have also shown remediation of the brain structure through appropriate intervention.

Yes Dyslexia is a word still used officially as a term.

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders.” American Psychiatric Association (2017). Teachers and health care practitioners are under the misinformed impression that the term dyslexia is no longer used and has been removed from the DSM-5. This is categorically incorrect. The extensive 2013 revision of the DSM has most certainly NOT dropped the term dyslexia but has made the term more formalised as it is specifically stated in the section on specific learning disabilities (disorders).

DSM-5 includes dyslexia as a Specific Reading Disorder – “Dyslexia is an alternative term used to refer to a pattern of learning difficulties characterized by problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor decoding, and poor spelling abilities.”.(p.67, DSM-5) (APA), 2013

Yes you have taught a child with Dyslexia

Teachers you most certainly have taught a child with Dyslexia before. Because Dyslexia occurs across a continuum and varies in definition the percentage of people affected is often debatable. Some consensus is that it affects around 10% of the population with around 3-5% experiencing a significant impact. Based on statistics you would expect to find 2 to 3 children in every classroom with dyslexia.

Many children are certainly slipping through the net and not being identified, screened or diagnosed. In the early years you might see a child struggling with learning the basics, especially if they have not recieved systematic and explicit literacy instruction. In upper years you might see a child with complicated behaviour and emotional difficulties that has not had the underlying learning difficulty identified. (Please see Fact sheets below for more indicators)

Yes schools have legal obligations

Schools that are not acknowledging dyslexia are failing to adequately meet their legal obligations under the DDA and Disability Standards. Dyslexia is a disability recognised under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 Act. These acts are federal legislation so cover every educational institution in Australia in the public and private sector.

“The definition of ‘disability’ in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) is sufficiently broad as to include dyslexia within the meaning of that term as outlined in recommendation 1. Dyslexia would therefore be covered by the provisions of both the DDA and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 made under that Act. The Disability Standards for Education 2005 clarify the obligations of education and training providers to ensure that students with disability are able to access and participate in education without experiencing discrimination. All Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, as well as all government and non-government education authorities are required by legislation to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005.” Australian Government response to recommendations of the Dyslexia Working Party Report (2012)

“Perhaps the most significant feature of the Education Standards is the introduction of a positive obligation on education providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities.[355] The Standards also impose an obligation on education providers to consult with affected students or their associates in relation to such adjustments.” Australian Human Rights Commission (2017)

Yes students with Dyslexia should be included in the Nationally Consistent Data Collection on Disabilities

Children with dyslexia are included in a school’s collection of data on disabilities, as dyslexia is covered under the Disability Discrimination Act . Schools should be including children with Dyslexia in the mandatory collection of data and outline the adjustments a child has been provided.

“The final report of the Trial of a model for collecting nationally consistent data on school students with disability (October 2011)1, published by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, officially designates dyslexia as a learning disability under the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) with reasonable adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (DSE).”http://www.speldnsw.org.au/images/uploads/Dyslexia_Designated.pdf

Yes it is time all education departments across Australia had a consistent approach to Dyslexia

In Australia the attitude of Education Departments to Dyslexia does vary. Despite the fact that some Education Departments refuse to use the word Dyslexia or mention Specific Learning Disabilites in their policies they must adhere to legislation. Whatever State Departments may say to you every school in every state must meet the legal obligations of the DDA and the Educations Standards. The use of the term Dyslexia has certainly become more formalised in Education Department Documents since I have started advocacy in the space of a few years.

The NSW Educations Standards authority specifically mentions Dyslexia as a disability in the section on Students with Disability.

“Examples of disabilities include:

learning difficulties or disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.” http://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/k-10/diversity-in-learning/special-education/students-with-disability

The Queensland Department of Education States “Some examples of learning disability are: specific learning disorder with impairment in reading (dyslexia)” http://education.qld.gov.au/schools/disability/learning-reading-difficulties.html

The Victoria Department of Education and training has a section on Dyslexia specifically stating the term Dyslexia. “Dyslexia is generally described as a language-based difficulty of neurological origin that primarily affects the skills involved in the accurate and fluent reading of words.” http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/reading/pages/understandings.aspx

South Australia Department for Education and Child Development states “Dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability that predominantly affects a child’s ability to learn to read and write. A child with dyslexia will often make slower progress than their peers when learning to read and write, even when teachers provide special assistance.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 members of the population are dyslexic. This means that teachers are likely to have 1-3 children with dyslexia in each class.” https://www.decd.sa.gov.au/supporting-students/dyslexia/dyslexia-support-school

Times have changed but we certainly have a long way to go. We are moving slowly in the right direction. Over a decade ago before I had my children I taught High School for 10 years in NSW in the Public and Catholic system. I never heard the word Dyslexia mentioned once by a parent, teacher or student. Not once. My daughter started High School this year. She has the word Dyslexia specifically written on her adjustments distributed to all her teachers. In the first week a child in her class, when asked to introduce themselves, stood up and said “I have Dyslexia!”. In her group of 3 new friends 2 have Dyslexia. She no longer feels alone. She feels acknowledged and supported.

We need to as parents and teachers work towards the early identificationand early evidence based intervention of all children with Dyslexia. Until that happens I will not stop fighting. Illiteracy causes too much damage and life as a teen is hard enough without feeling stupid and not being able to read. The fallout of illiteracy affects all of society and is unforgivable. The fact remains it is the prime responsibility of schools to teach children to read.

Please see my daughter’s 2016 video entry for the Red letter competition. The Red Pen shows what it is like to be in a classroom with Dyslexia. Watch it to the end. It is a horror story. https://youtu.be/uNDd7u5qG4k

Please see why previous blog The Dirty D word. Should we use the word Dyslexia? https://dekkerdyslexia.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/the-dirty-d-word-2/

Please see teacher Fact sheets for more information on teaching students with Dyslexia.

Teacher Fact Sheet Secondary School https://www.dropbox.com/s/e5qpkfzzs7ln39r/Teacher%20Fact%20Sheet%20Secondary.pdf?dl=0

Teacher Fact Sheet Primary School https://www.dropbox.com/s/5zc3jl1ljwbxkpx/Teacher%20fact%20sheet%20primary.pdf?dl=0

Please see Dyslexia and the Law Fact Sheet https://www.dropbox.com/s/1sci4cews929j57/Dyslexia%20and%20the%20law%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf?dl=0

For more info DSM-5 and Dyslexia


Australian Government response to recommendations of the Dyslexia Working Party Report ‘Helping people with dyslexia: a national action agenda’. (n.d.). Retrieved Jan 17, 2017, from http://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/09_2012/response_to_dyslexia_working_party_report_online_version.doc#_Toc331669022

Australian Human Rights Commission, Federal Discrimination Law: Chapter 5 The Disability Discrimination Act https://www.humanrights.gov.au/federal-discrimination-law-chapter-5-disability-discrimination-act#5_2_5b

Disability Discrimination Act 1992. No. 135, 1992. Compilation No. 31. 1 July 2016. Act No. 164, 2015. 8 July 2016. Retrieved 1 April, 2017, from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016C00763

Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2017, from http://www.ddaedustandards.info/obligation-to-make-reasonable-adjustments

DSM-5: Frequenlty Asked Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2017, from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/feedback-and-questions/frequently-asked-questions

Identifying Student Requirements and Making Reasonable Adjustments. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2017, from http://www.adcet.edu.au/inclusive-teaching/working-with-students/making-reasonable-adjustments/

Published by

Dekker Delves into Dyslexia

Advocate for the introduction of the phonics check in Australia. Advocate for the teaching of evidence based literacy instruction for every child in every school. The explicit and systematic teaching of Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension. Advocate for Dyslexia Awareness I support reputable organisations such as the Australian Dyslexia Association (ADA), Learning Difficulties Australia (LDA), the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), the FIVE from FIVE Project, and the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction (IFERI) AUSPELD and State-based SPELD organisations, as they all recommend the use of EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENTS/PROGRAMS for learning difficulties. Mum to 2 delightful, amazing and creative kids. Mum to a kid with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia and anxiety. Admin of Dyslexia Support Australia Group, Dyslexia Awareness Australia and Dyscalculia Awareness Australia. Board of Directors SPELD NSW 10 Years a High School Teacher All my opinions are based not only on experience as a teacher, a mum and an administrator of Australia’s largest Dyslexia Support group but on research. I believe in the scientific method and the need for education to meet the same rigorous evidence based standards as the medical profession.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Dyslexia Sorting through the facts”

  1. It seems like we’re sometimes the opposite here in the States. Every child who has difficulty reading MUST have dyslexia. I head up the new process that schools in North Carolina use to determine if a student has a learning disability. I have to speak with people constantly about the difference between just learning slower and being dyslexic. I’m in a constant battle with teachers and parents about how those students learn differently from others and if core instruction was going to work, it would have already. They all want to say every student has it, but they don’t want to do much about it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s