Level Up with Literacy: August 2021 Issue

Level Up with Literacy

August 2021 Newsletter: Understanding Dyslexia

child reads graphic novel in classroom In this issue:

Jackie JacobyJackie Jacoby, SST 1 Urban Literacy Specialist

As educators, we work diligently to ensure we start the year off successfully. Each year comes with new opportunities to learn and grow together as a community. In reality, change can be scary. 

As a former school administrator, I can remember some of the questions and concerns within our community specific to dyslexia. I wanted to take a moment to unpack some of the common misconceptions about the disorder.

Before we unpack these misconceptions, it is important to note that the majority of learners can learn to read effectively without the need for formal educations services, given the right supports. In most cases, when we have systems in place for early identification and use effective evidence-based instruction, we can prevent learning gaps from occurring.

Click the arrow next to each heading to see Jackie’s response.

Misconception 1: Dyslexia affects reading, dysgraphia affects writing, and dyscalculia affects math. They are independent learning challenges.

Studying the meaning of units of words, morphology, can help us make sense of things. Let’s take a look at the Greek and Latin origins of these three words.

difficult / bad / ill




difficulty with words


difficulty with writing


difficulty with counting

Naturally, the literal definition of these words could lead to an assumption or misconception that dyslexia impacts only reading, dyscalculia only impacts math, and dysgraphia only impacts writing. This is just not true. A disability can impact a spectrum of skills across disciplines and various learning spaces.

Most importantly, we need to remember that dyslexia is different for everyone. Dyslexia can impact a learners ability to read, spell, write and speak clearly, all of which are utilized across all learning spaces.

Learn more: Online tutorial from ImprovingLiteracy.org

Misconception 2: Having dyslexia means learners always see letters and numbers in reverse.

As a teacher, you may see students reversing letters and numbers when writing as a red flag for dyslexia. Without a formal screener available for dyslexia, many educators rely on a these types of anecdotal indicators to determine students who are at-risk. 

Developmentally, it is common for young learners to flip and twist their letters and numbers as they begin to write. Learners need repetitive practice to establish alphabet writing fluency. During the first two years of writing instruction, you should see less reversal over time. If you see little progress or consistent reversal of letters and numbers at the end of first grade or around age seven, it could be an indicator of a learning disability. 

Research confirms that dyslexia is not a visual problem, and not all learners with dyslexia reverse their letters. That is why it’s important that educators have quality screening tools and methods available. 

Ohio’s new dyslexia legislation aims to help educators identify dyslexia as soon as possible, ideally years before letter reversal is an identifiable warning sign so the appropriate interventions can be provided to the student. 

Learn more: Dyslexia in the Classroom – What Every Teacher Needs to Know

Misconception 3: Students with dyslexia do not qualify for special education services under IDEA.

Sometimes parents are concerned that their child does not “qualify” for special education services under the diagnosis of dyslexia. But the short answer is yes, they do: dyslexia is included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004).

A few things to note:

  • The term and use of dyslexia *is allowed* in ETRs and IEPs. Dyslexia *is included* in IDEA and its implementing regulation, under the definition of Specific Learning Disability (SLD).  
  • Misconceptions about dyslexia can lead people to believe that it impacts a learner’s intellectual abilities, but dyslexia is a neurological condition, not an intellectual disability.
  • If it is determined by an evaluation team that dyslexia affects a student’s ability to access the general curriculum, dyslexia would be a qualifying condition under the category Specific Learning Disability. 
  • It’s important to remember the main goal of Evaluation Team Reports (ETRs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is to collaborate and make decisions together while meeting the intent of the law.

In summary, if a child’s dyslexia is the condition that forms the basis for the determination of a specific learning disability, the child’s IEP could include specific instructional supports, accommodations, and modifications proven effective for addressing the unique educational needs resulting from dyslexia.

This letter from the U.S. Department of Education explains more      The National Center on Improving Literacy has more information

I hope that clarifying some of the myths and misconceptions around dyslexia will help you start the conversation in your own school or district. As leaders in our districts, buildings and classrooms, how can we proactively prepare our learners, families, and staff for these anticipated changes, specifically with House Bill 436? How can we embed these new requirements into our school improvement and communication efforts? 

Do you have questions or suggestions for future literacy blog topics? Please send your ideas to Jackie Jacoby.

Start here: What is dyslexia?

high school student in multicolored shirt sits with chin on hands

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability caused by differences in the way the brain develops and functions. It impacts specific language skills, including: reading, spelling, writing, and pronunciation.

It can make reading more difficult, but almost all individuals with dyslexia can learn to read with the right instruction.

Learn more about dyslexia in this video from the National Center on Improving Literacy

Ohio’s dyslexia legislation

ohio department of education logo

In April 2021, a new set of laws designed to strengthen dyslexia supports for Ohio students went into effect. These laws establish:

  • dyslexia screening measures
  • professional development identifying dyslexia and teaching students with dyslexia
  • a literacy certification process for teachers
  • the Ohio Dyslexia Committee

Read the full text of HB436          Visit the ODE Dyslexia Supports webpage

Implementation timeline

ohio's dyslexia legislation implementation timeline

The state is providing several years for full implementation of the dyslexia legislation. We anticipate more information, including a Dyslexia Guidebook from the Ohio Dyslexia Committee, to be released in the coming months. We will share more information as it becomes available.

In the meantime, please contact us if you have questions. We can help you begin to prepare for these changes.

See the timeline          Download a timeline checklist to stay on track

Questions to consider

teacher calls on student in classroomAs you continue to use literacy as a lever for school improvement, think about how you will align your goals and planning with the state’s timeline for dyslexia screening and intervention. 

  • How do you start the discussion in your school / district?
  • Who needs a seat at the table?
  • How will you begin to make changes using shared leadership?
  • Where are there opportunities for engaging with families?
  • Which community partners will you ask for collaboration?

How can you align your current school improvement efforts with evidence-based practices that will support all learners in Tier I instruction, meet the needs of students with dyslexia, and follow the legislation guidelines?

Bridge to understanding

group of people greet each other with fist bump

  1. Find your experts: Identify individuals in your district with knowledge regarding reading difficulties, including dyslexia.
  2. Start on the same page: Be sure your district leaders, teachers, staff, families, and students have a common definition and understanding of dyslexia.
  3. Begin the discussion: Consider bringing these individuals together as a community to hold a watch party for the documentary, Our Dyslexic Children.

View the film: Our Dyslexic Children

literacy leaders network adolescent literacy network fall heggerty training
supporting literacy instruction for teachers of students with complex needs Ohio Literacy Academy on Demand state support team 1 pd catalog

reading ways and grant opportunity

The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation will award $15,000 to selected districts in support of disciplinary literacy projects. 

Josh Lawrence and Reading Ways, key collaborators within the Ohio Adolescent Literacy Network (OALN), will assist Region 1 districts with the application process. This is a great opportunity to get connected with Reading Ways to improve adolescent literacy outcomes. Contact Josh Lawrence to get started as soon as possible, as deadlines are quickly approaching.

View grant details          Learn more about Reading Ways          See how a Reading Ways partnership can impact your school


Contact Us

State Support Team 1 logo

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Lynn McKahan, M.S.

419.720.8999 ext. 144

SST 1 Director | School Improvement | Special Education

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Tamie Cruz, M.A.

419.720.8999 ext. 123

PBIS | English Learners | Family-School Partnerships

Ginna Fall

Ginna Fall, M.Ed.

419.720.8999 ext. 133

School Improvement | Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) | Adolescent Literacy

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Heather Gaskins, M.F.C.S.

419.720.8999 ext. 134

Early Childhood | School Improvement | Literacy | PBIS

Jackie Jacoby

Jackie Jacoby, M.Ed.

419.720.8999 ext. 122

Early Literacy | Urban Literacy Specialist

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Deborah Nagel, M.A.

419.720.8999 ext. 135

Regional Early Literacy Specialist

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Aaron Weisbrod, M.Ed.

419.720.8999 ext. 124

Special Education | Secondary Transition | Students with Complex Needs

Level Up with Literacy is a bi-monthly digital publication that provides information and resources to help you ensure all learners have access to high-quality language and literacy instruction and appropriate interventions from birth through grade 12.

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