Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, Ohio’s public schools will be implementing the requirements of a state law that defines a process for the universal assessment, intervention and remediation of issues related to students with dyslexia. While school districts have always been identifying and intervening with students that have dyslexia, this initiative will standardize the process for all Ohio schools and its requirements may impact your child in the upcoming year. Below are common questions that may arise about this process. If you have further questions about the process or your child’s reading status, please feel free to contact your child’s school.
What is dyslexia?
The state of the Ohio defines dyslexia as “a specific learning disorder that is neurological in origin and that is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities not consistent with the person’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities, which difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of learning.”
Why is Ohio implementing a universal screening process for dyslexia?
In the last 20-years, there has been a focused effort to scientifically unlock the neurological processes related to learning to read and then applying that information into creating more effective reading instruction. The outcomes of this work have been broadly called “the Science of Reading”, since it is based on years of research in the field. Structured reading programs that systematically teach the rules of early reading skills have been shown to be the most effective approach for reaching both typical and struggling readers, but the impacts are most significant when they are implemented early. For this reason, Ohio, and many other states, have adopted a mandatory screening process to identify those most in need of early intervention in this area, with the goal being to apply scientifically-based instruction and intervention during students’ Kindergarten year. Without this identification, the fear is that students will receive less effective reading support and the identification process may be delayed to a point where it takes longer to see improvements.
How will my child be screened for dyslexia?
During the 2023-24 school year, all students in grades 1-3 will be given an individualized assessment of basic reading skills and risk factors related to dyslexia at the beginning of the school year. Midway through the year, Kindergarten students will be screened. In the following school years, only Kindergarten students will be screened at the midpoint of each year. The screening involves a brief skill assessment (each measure is 60-seconds in length) and depending on grade level, would cover skills in the areas of phonemic awareness, letter naming, letter-sound correspondence, real and non-word reading, oral text reading for accuracy and rate and comprehension. Tri-Valley has also chosen to assess rapid automatic naming (RAN) because of its strong association with reading difficulties and dyslexia.
My first grader reverses b’s and d’s. Is there a link between reversals and dyslexia?
While many people identify reversals as a dyslexic trait, that is not the case. Dyslexia is not caused by visual deficiencies, but is a learning difference that affects how the brain receives, processes and responds to language. The fact is that many young students reverse letters regardless of whether or not they have dyslexia and many students with dyslexia do not reverse letters. Reversing letters is typical and fairly common up until second grade. Letters like b and d are the most common because young students often see them as the same and don’t make the distinction that their orientation is important. Your teacher can provide specific strategies to help break that habit when it occurs.
How will I know if my child is considered at-risk for dyslexia?
If a student is seen as at-risk in one or more areas assessed, then a notification of the status will be given to parents within 30-days. This notification will highlight the areas of concern and identify the recommended next steps.
Why was a period of progress monitoring recommended for my child?
Some students may receive a low screening score for reasons not related to dyslexia. For certain students, a lack of experiences, such as preschool exposure, may result in a low score that can be addressed with a structured approach to introducing needed skills. Other students may show a low score in a single area and then exhibit a strong response to strategic instruction and intervention that will help bring them back on-track. A brief period of progress monitoring can help clarify the reading picture for such students, but if they continue to struggle, more intensive assessment and intervention strategies will be employed.
What if my child passed the screening, but continues to struggle and I have increasing concerns about basic reading abilities?
Any parent/guardian/custodian or teacher with the permission of a parent/guardian/custodian, may request a screening measure to be administered for any student in grades 1-6 who has not already been part of the universal screening process.
What if my second-grade child is already receiving reading intervention services and is identified as being at-risk for dyslexia?
Much of the dyslexia requirements will make more sense when viewed through the lens of the year two Kindergarten initiative meant to screen and catch students with dyslexic characteristics. In the first year, a majority of students that will be screened in grades 1-3 will likely already have been identified as at-risk and will have been receiving services within a Reading Improvement and Monitoring Plan (RIMP). A 6-week period of progress monitoring will likely not be appropriate for that group, since they have already been involved in the progress monitoring process at Tri-Valley. What will be required for that identified subset of students will be the application of a Tier 2 diagnostic measure to identify dyslexia risk and identify specific intervention needs.
We just moved into the Tri-Valley school district and my child was already screened at his previous school. Does he have to go through that process again?
It is mandatory to screen transfer students (in grades K-6 from) other schools in Ohio unless information showing their reading status is available for review. For all other students, including out of state transfers, a Tier 1 screening will be administered within the first 30-days of enrollment. If a transfer student is found to exhibit at-risk tendencies on that screener, a period of progress monitoring will not be necessary, but the student will immediately receive a Tier 2 diagnostic measure to identify dyslexia risk and identify specific intervention needs.
If my child is exhibiting markers for dyslexia on the intervention-based diagnostic assessment, does this mean special education support through an IEP will be needed?
Students with markers consistent with Ohio’s definition of dyslexia will first engage in a multi-tiered level of support process that is designed to address identified concerns. At the Tier 2 level, the diagnostic assessment drives targeted interventions that are designed to improve deficit reading skills. Both progress monitoring and continued diagnostic assessments are used to show progress. For students who continue to struggle, intervention efforts will be intensified at the Tier 3 level, with more frequent and/or new interventions utilized. When the classroom instruction required to make progress becomes individualized and intensive and cannot be maintained with general education resources, then disability status could be suspected. For the small percentage of students who reach this level, their instructional needs are well documented and can be adopted readily by a special education intervention specialist.
What if I had my child evaluated by an outside agency and dyslexia was diagnosed?
If a student has received a diagnosis of dyslexia from an outside professional, then you are encouraged to share those results with school staff. An outside diagnosis will not automatically mean that a student will be diagnosed with a disability and receive special education status, especially if the student is engaged in the multi-tiered system of support as described in this process. The district will consider all information while continually working to meet the learning needs of the student.
My child was below the cut-score in the area of RAN Letters. Does that mean intervention is necessary in that specific area?
Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) is the ability to quickly and efficiently recall and say known information. This naming speed skill has been repeatedly shown to be a potent predictor of future reading difficulties, as well as a risk factor associated with dyslexia. When students have both phonological and RAN deficits, they would be considered one of the most at-risk groups of readers. While this information is useful for identifying and tracking students, RAN is unfortunately an intrinsic ability that cannot be impacted by direct intervention (i.e. no training or intervention exists to improve RAN directly). Efforts for this group will be a focus on building accuracy and automaticity in all literacy areas to maximize efficiency when reading.
Where can I get further information about Ohio’s Dyslexia process?
The Ohio Department of Education provides a Dyslexia Supports page, which provides information and helpful resources for school districts and parents. Within these resources is the Ohio’s Dyslexia Guidebook, which expands in detail on the best practices related Ohio’s law regarding the screening, intervention and remediation for children displaying characteristics of, or who have been identified with, dyslexia.
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