Above, specialized instruction taught one-to-one or in small groups helps students with dyslexia to improve spoken and written language skills.

By Diana Inouye
Coordinator, K-12 Instruction
Division of Special Education

L.A. Unified recognizes October as Dyslexia Awareness Month to further understand how to support our students with dyslexia and to celebrate the many achievements of students and adults with dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, neurobiological in origin and characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor decoding abilities. Students with dyslexia may experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing and pronouncing words. Some may require a special education evaluation, program and support services to address their unique needs.

Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. According to program guidelines issued by the California Department of Education, students at risk for dyslexia are, first and foremost, general education students.

Dyslexia is referred to as a specific learning disability because it can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, may qualify a student for special education, accommodations and support services. Despite possible academic difficulties, individuals with dyslexia have strengths and assets that help them learn, work and achieve in life.

The District’s Divisions of Instruction and Special Education have partnered to form the Dyslexia Learning Group (DLG), comprised of Board of Education members, institutes of higher education, organizations and leaders in the field of dyslexia to delve deep into understanding how to address the educational implications for students with dyslexia.

The group has identified the importance of early identification and appropriate targeted intervention in preventing and remediating academic challenges related to dyslexia within the general education environment.

“It’s an honor to be a DLG member and to work with such diversely knowledgeable experts who share my passion for identifying, assessing and remediating dyslexia,” said Sherry Rubacalva, the L.A. regional leader of Decoding Dyslexia California. “More importantly, I am excited that L.A. Unified, as the largest district in California and a true leader, has developed ground-breaking plans to recognize and address dyslexia which will set an example for all districts in the state.”

Another member of the group is Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson, who co-sponsored the Board Resolution “Recognizing and Addressing the Educational Implications of Dyslexia in LAUSD Schools.”

“It is an honor for me to sponsor and co-sponsor resolutions that help raise awareness about the significant implications for children with dyslexia,” he said. “As a member of the DLG, it is great to see L.A. Unified staff come together to review current policies and procedures and develop strategies to better support our dyslexic students.”

Plans are under way to launch a general awareness campaign for all District stakeholders including K-12 administrators, teachers, local district and central office staff and – most importantly – parents. Teachers will be given professional development on how to identify risk indicators in early literacy development and provide timely interventions within a multi-tiered system of support.

Plans include publication of a new assessment policy, training for school psychologists and the provision of multiple pathways for special education teachers to gain expertise in an evidence-based structured literacy approach for instructing students with dyslexia, identification of appropriate accommodations for instruction and the use of assistive technology supports such as print to speech software for struggling readers in upper grades.

To learn more about Dyslexia, see the California Dyslexia Guidelines, published by the California Department of Education.