Excerpts from the Texas Dyslexia Handbook

Chuck Noe, PRN Education Specialist, shares excerpts of interest from the Texas Dyslexia Handbook (available online at https://www.region10.org/r10website/assets/File/DHBwithtabs10214.pdf)

“Texas has a long history of supporting the fundamental skill of reading. This history includes a focus on early identification and intervention for children who experience reading difficulties, including dyslexia.” and determining a student’s reading and spelling abilities and difficulties “In Texas, assessment for dyslexia is conducted from kindergarten through grade 12.”(page 6)

New legislation includes the following:

  • TEC §21.044(c)(2) outlines the curriculum requirement for institutions of higher education for teacher preparation to include the characteristics of dyslexia, identification of dyslexia, and multisensory strategies for teaching students with dyslexia.
  • TEC §21.054(b) & TAC §232.11 mandate continuing education requirements for educators who teach students with dyslexia.
  • TEC §28.021(b) establishes guidelines to districts based on best practices when considering factors for promotion and the student identified with dyslexia.
  • TEC §38.003(b-1) (specific to K–12) and TEC §51.9701 (specific to institutions of higher education) both mandate that a student determined to have dyslexia may not be retested for dyslexia for the purpose of reassessing that student’s need for accommodations until the district/institution of higher education reevaluates the information obtained from previous testing of the student.
  • TEC §38.0031 establishes the online technology tool for students identified with dyslexia.
  • TEC §42.006(a-1) mandates the collection of data for students identified with dyslexia to be reported in the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS).
  • TAC §230.23 requires TEA to provide accommodations for persons with dyslexia who take licensing examinations.”
    (page 6)

Definitions and Characteristics of Dyslexia

“It is important to note that individuals demonstrate differences in degree of impairment.” (page 8)

“Consequences of dyslexia may include the following:

  • Variable difficulty with aspects of reading comprehension
  • Variable difficulty with aspects of written language
  • Limited vocabulary growth due to reduced reading experiences

Common Risk Factors Associated with Dyslexia (page 9)

“Since dyslexia is a neurological, language-based disability that persists over time and interferes with an individual’s learning, it is critical that identification and intervention occur as early as possible.” (page 11)

Procedures for the Assessment and Identification of Students with Dyslexia (begins on page 13)

“Progression through tiered intervention is not required in order to begin the identification of dyslexia.” “Parents/guardians always have the right to request a referral for a dyslexia assessment at any time. (page 14)

“When a referral for dyslexia assessment is made, districts should ensure that evaluation procedures are followed in a reasonable amount of time. Section 504 does not require specific timelines; therefore, it is beneficial for districts to consider the timelines Texas has established for the completion of initial special education evaluations through TEC §29.004(a). The OCR looks to state timelines as a guideline when defining the “reasonable amount of time” should a complaint be filed regarding the evaluation procedures.

State law requires schools to administer early reading instruments to all students in kindergarten and grade 1 and 2 to assess their reading development and comprehension. Students in 7th grade who did not demonstrate proficiency on the state 6th grade reading assessment must be given a reading assessment. When a student is determined to be at risk for dyslexia or other reading difficulties, the parents must be notified and the school must implement an accelerated (intensive) reading program “that appropriately addresses the students’ reading difficulties and enables them to catch up with their typically performing peers.” (page 15)

“The identification of reading disabilities, including dyslexia, will follow one of two procedures. A district will typically evaluate for dyslexia through §504. On the other hand, if a student is suspected of having a disability within the scope of IDEA 2004, all special education procedures must be followed.” (page 16)

“Schools shall recommend assessment for dyslexia if the student demonstrates the following:

  • Poor performance in one or more areas of reading and spelling that is unexpected for the student’s age/grade
  • Characteristics and risk factors of dyslexia indicated in Chapter I: Definitions and Characteristics of Dyslexia

Districts or charter schools must establish written procedures for assessing students for dyslexia within general education. The first step in the assessment process, data gathering, should be an integral part of the district’s or charter school’s process for any student exhibiting learning difficulties.” (page 16)

“Schools collect data on all students to ensure that instruction is appropriate and scientifically based. Essential components of reading instruction are defined in section 1208(3) of the ESEA/NCLB as “explicit and systematic instruction in (A) phonemic awareness; (B) phonics; (C) vocabulary development; (D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and (E) reading comprehension strategies.”

Any time (from kindergarten through grade 12) a student continues to struggle with one or more components of reading, schools must collect additional information about the student.” (page 16)

“Professionals conducting assessment for the identification of dyslexia will need to look beyond scores on standardized assessments alone and examine the student’s classroom reading performance, educational history, and early language experiences to assist with determining reading and spelling abilities and difficulties.” (page 18)

“The school administers measures that are related to the student’s educational needs. Difficulties in the areas of letter knowledge, word decoding, and fluency (rate and accuracy) may be evident depending upon the student’s age and stage of reading development. In addition, many students with dyslexia may have difficulty with reading comprehension and written composition.” “Difficulties in phonological and phonemic awareness are typically seen in students with dyslexia and impact a student’s ability to learn letters and the sounds associated with letters, learn the alphabetic principle, decode words, and spell accurately. ” (page 20)

(The identification of dyslexia is to be made by a committee knowledgeable about the: student being assessed, assessments used, and meaning of the collected data, and knowledge regarding: the reading process; dyslexia and related disorders; dyslexia instruction; and district, state, and federal guidelines for assessment.) [page 21]

“The committee (§504 or ARD) must first determine if a student’s difficulties in the areas of reading and spelling reflect a pattern of evidence for the primary characteristics of dyslexia with unexpectedly low performance for the student’s age and educational level in some or all of the following areas:

  •  Reading words in isolation
  • Decoding unfamiliar words accurately and automatically
  • Reading fluency for connected text (both rate and/or accuracy)
  • Spelling (An isolated difficulty in spelling would not be sufficient to identify dyslexia.) pg 22

“Based on the data, if the committee (§504 or ARD) determines that weaknesses are indicated in reading and spelling, the committee, based on the student’s pattern of performance over time, test profile, and response to instruction, will determine the intervention plan. Refinement of that plan will occur as the student’s response to instruction is observed.” (page 23)

(If a “student with dyslexia is found eligible for special education services in the area of reading, and the ARD committee determines that the student’s instructional needs for reading are most appropriately met in a special education placement, the student’s individualized education program (IEP) must include appropriate reading instruction. Appropriate reading instruction includes the components and delivery of dyslexia instruction listed in Chapter III: Instruction for Students with Dyslexia. If a student has previously met special education eligibility, the ARD committee should include goals that reflect the need for dyslexia instruction in the IEP and determine the least restrictive environment for delivering the student’s dyslexia intervention.”) [page 23]

IDEA regs, 300.309(a)(1) designate the areas of basic reading skills, reading fluency skills, and/or reading comprehension for a learning disability in reading. (page 24)

(“Effective literacy instruction is essential for all students and is especially critical for students identified with dyslexia. High-quality core classroom reading instruction can give students identified with dyslexia a foundation upon which intervention instruction can have a more significant impact.”) [page 26]

“Each school must provide an identified student access at his/her campus to an instructional program that meets the requirements in 19 TAC §74.28(c) and to the services of a teacher trained in dyslexia and related disorders. While the components of instruction for students with dyslexia include good teaching principles for all teachers, the explicitness and intensity of the instruction, fidelity to program descriptors, grouping formats, and training and skill of the teachers are wholly different from core classroom instruction.” [page 26]

“For the student who has not benefited from the research-based core reading instruction, the components of instruction will include additional specialized instruction as appropriate for the reading needs of the student with dyslexia. (It is important to remember that while intervention is most preventative when provided in kindergarten and first grade, older children with reading disabilities will also benefit from focused and intensive remedial instruction.” ) [page 26]

“In accordance with 19 TAC §74.28(c), districts shall purchase or develop a reading program for students with dyslexia and related disorders that incorporates all the components of instruction & instructional approaches in the following sections.”(page 26)

“responsibility for teaching reading and writing must be shared by classroom teachers, reading specialists, interventionists, and teachers of dyslexia programs.” (page 26)

Principles of effective intervention for students with dyslexia include all of the following: Simultaneous multisensory; Systematic and cumulative; Explicit instruction; Diagnostic teaching to automaticity; Synthetic instruction; Analytic instruction. (page 28)

“because effective intervention requires highly structured and systematic delivery, it is critical that those who provide intervention for students with dyslexia be trained in the program used and that the program is implemented with fidelity.” (page 29)

(“It is important to note that in Texas, the approach to teaching students with dyslexia is founded on research-based best practices. The ideas upon which the state’s approach is based are summarized here:

  • Gains in reading can be significant if students with reading problems are provided systematic, explicit, and intensive reading instruction of sufficient duration in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary (e.g., the relationships among words and the relationships among word structure, origin, and meaning), reading comprehension strategies, and writing.
  • A failure to learn to read impacts a person’s life significantly. The key to preventing this failure for students with dyslexia is early identification and early intervention.
  • Instruction by a highly skilled and knowledgeable educator who has specific preparation in the remediation of dyslexia is necessary.” ) [page 30]

“By receiving specialized instruction that contains the components described in this chapter, the student with dyslexia is better equipped to meet the demands of grade-level or course instruction. In addition to specialized instruction, accommodations provide the student with dyslexia effective and equitable access to grade-level or course instruction in the general education classroom. Accommodations are not a one size fits all; rather, the impact of dyslexia on each individual student determines the
accommodation.” (page 36)

(“Accommodations are changes to materials, actions, or techniques, including the use of technology, that enable students with disabilities to participate meaningfully in grade-level or course instruction. The use of accommodations occurs primarily during classroom instruction as educators use various instructional strategies to meet the needs of each student.” [page 36]

“Digital books or text-to-speech functions on computers and mobile devices provide access to general education curriculum for students with dyslexia.” ) [page 37]

Enrollment in Gifted/Talented and Advanced Academic Programs

“A student who has been identified with dyslexia can also be a gifted learner, or a twice-exceptional learner.” “Assessment and identification of twice-exceptional learners can be challenging and requires those vested in the education of these learners to be knowledgeable of the unique characteristics and behaviors demonstrated by these learners. Often the disability masks the giftedness, which places emphasis on barriers to learning instead of the potential that the learner has as a result of the gifted
attributes. Conversely, the giftedness may mask the disability, which may result in the learner’s experiencing gaps in learning compounded by the disability, thus affecting how the learner perceives his or her abilities. (page 38)

Technology Integration for Students with Dyslexia (TEC §38.0031)

(“The research is definitive regarding technology and instruction for students with dyslexia. When students have access to effective technology, their overall educational performance improves.) One of the best ways to use technology is in combination with instruction in reading strategies and processes. Technology is not intended to take the place of quality reading instruction. It should be used in combination with teacher-directed instruction and intervention. Technology should never be used as a substitute for quality instruction; it is intended to supplement, not supplant. In fact, technology shows mixed results in improving phonemic awareness, phonics, and vocabulary, with computer-mediated approaches having no clear advantage over teacher-directed instruction.

(The Technology Integration for Students with Dyslexia online tool is a resource developed to support instructional decisions regarding technology that benefits students with dyslexia.” This resource is at: www.region10.org/dyslexia/techplan. ) [page 39]

Professional Development Relative to Dyslexia for All Teachers

“Research consistently confirms the impact that a knowledgeable teacher can have on the success or failure of even the best reading programs. To ensure that teachers are knowledgeable about dyslexia, TEC §21.054(b) and TAC §232.11(e) require educators who teach students with dyslexia to be trained in new research and practices related to dyslexia as a part of their continuing professional education (CPE) hours.” (page 39)

“According to TEC §21.044(c)(2), all university candidates completing an educator preparation program must receive instruction in detection and education of students with dyslexia.” (page 40)

A summary of the requirements regarding dyslexia that districts must follow are listed on pages 41-42

“Districts shall provide a parent education program for the parents/guardians of students with dyslexia and related disorders. The program should include: awareness of characteristics of dyslexia and related disorders; information on assessment and diagnosis of dyslexia; information on effective strategies for teaching students with dyslexia; awareness of information on classroom modifications and especially of modifications allowed on standardized testing.” (19 TAC §74.28(h))

Important Information Found in the Q&A Section

Can students in kindergarten and first grade be assessed for dyslexia? Yes. “Early reading instruments in grades K–2 assess the emerging reading skills that are key components to the identification of dyslexia. … These instruments serve as an important early screening for many reading difficulties, including dyslexia. When a child does not meet the basic standards of these early reading instruments, the pattern of difficulty may indicate risk factors for dyslexia. A child whose skills have not reached the normative standards of these instruments requires intensified reading instruction and possible consideration for assessment for dyslexia. ( With the decision to assess for dyslexia in a young child (K–1), it is important to note that current standardized test instruments available to school districts are not particularly sensitive to the skill variations for these students. The identification will require data gathering that is not limited to standardized instruments and includes information from these early reading instruments and classroom performance patterns.” )#14

“A student is not required to fail a class or subject or fail the state-required assessment to be considered for a dyslexia assessment.” #18

“Notice of the recommendation to assess the student for dyslexia must be given to the student’s parents/guardians prior to any individualized assessment. Parental consent for individualized assessment is necessary before the assessment process begins. In addition, notice of §504 due process rights must be provided to the parents/guardians at this time.” #22

Can special education assess for dyslexia? “Yes; however, special education assessments are used to determine eligibility under IDEA 2004 and are not specific to identification of dyslexia.”#27

Who administers a dyslexia assessment to a student receiving special education services? The Dyslexia Handbook contains two references related to who is qualified to assess for dyslexia. 1. Nineteen TAC §74.28 indicates that assessment should only be done by individuals/professionals who are trained to assess students for dyslexia and related disorders. 2. Section 504 requires that tests, assessments, and other evaluation materials be administered by trained personnel and conform to the instructions provided by the producer of the evaluation materials. A school district or open-enrollment charter school can determine in its policies and procedures who will conduct the dyslexia assessment. In some cases, it may be the dyslexia teacher; in other cases it may be an educational diagnostician or a licensed specialist in school psychology (LSSP).” #28

“while not required under §504, it is suggested that the parents/guardians of the student be a part of the identification and placement process.” #30

Must an intelligence test be administered in the identification process for dyslexia? “No.” #32

#34 provides a flowchart that shows a process for identifying dyslexia and an appropriate instructional program. (page 70)

“As students progress through their academic careers, grade and course demands change; therefore, students’ need for or use of specific accommodations may also change. Accommodations already in use must be evaluated regularly to determine effectiveness and to help plan for accommodations the students will need in any given year; therefore, documentation of effective accommodation use is important. This information is necessary to support decisions made by the appropriate committee (§504 or ARD), & accommodations are added to the appropriate committee (§504 or ARD) paperwork.” #36

Each campus must provide a dyslexia program at the campus with a teacher trained in dyslexia and related disorders. #37 A locally developed dyslexia program, like a purchased reading program must be evidence-based. #38

“Scheduling specialized dyslexia intervention is a local district decision. … While scheduling can be difficult, school districts and open-enrollment charter schools should maintain recommended program intensity.” #40

“May a computer program be used as the primary method of delivery for a dyslexia instructional program?” “No. Computer instruction to teach reading is not supported by scientifically based reading research.” #46

A student’s dyslexia diagnosis should be considered when making decisions about accelerated instruction, promotion, and/or retention. #47

“Texas does not have a certification requirement specific to teachers providing intervention to students identified with dyslexia. .. It is important that teachers have appropriate training in dyslexia and the relevant instructional components as outlined in Chapter III of The Dyslexia Handbook. Certified teachers who have coursework in the areas of reading and reading disabilities should be considered first for assignment to teach students with dyslexia and related disorders. Licensed dyslexia practitioners or licensed dyslexia therapists may also be considered.” #48

“Continuing education for “an educator who teaches students with dyslexia must include training regarding new research and practices in educating students with dyslexia” (TEC §21.054(b)). Such training may be offered in an online course. Local policy will determine the number of professional development hours classroom teachers are trained regarding the characteristics of dyslexia, its remediation, and accommodations in regular content classes.” #49

“Teachers who provide appropriate instruction for students with dyslexia must be trained and be prepared to implement instructional strategies that use individualized, intensive, multisensory, phonetic methods, and a variety of writing and spelling components. These teachers must also be trained in the professional development activities specific to dyslexia as specified by each district, and/or campus planning and decision-making committee.” #50

“If a student is currently receiving special education services and is identified as needing additional services for dyslexia, does the ARD committee need to document in the ARD report the dyslexia identification process and the instruction specific to dyslexia?” #52

“The ARD committee should document that the student has been identified with dyslexia or that the student has a reading disability that exhibits characteristics consistent with dyslexia. Since there are instructional implications as well as potential accommodations on the state assessment program for students who have been identified with dyslexia, the dyslexia identification should be noted in the ARD Report.

For students with dyslexia who qualify for special education in the area of reading and who will be receiving their reading instruction in a special education placement, the ARD committee must include appropriate reading instruction on the student’s IEP. Appropriate reading instruction includes the descriptors found in Chapter III of The Dyslexia Handbook.” #52

(When a student served by special ed is identified as having dyslexia, the ARD committee must include members with the knowledge of dyslexia, dyslexia evaluation, and interventions required by Chapters II and III of the Handbook). #56

“What additional training does an educational diagnostician or LSSP need to have in order to assess a student for dyslexia?” “While the educational diagnostician or LSSP possesses the underlying knowledge on how to administer and interpret formal assessments, additional training may be needed to better understand the characteristics of dyslexia, increase awareness of the domains to assess for dyslexia, and identify the strengths and weaknesses typically exhibited when a student has dyslexia.” #57 So it is appropriate for a parent to ask about the knowledge and training that the evaluator has.

“If the ARD determines that the student’s reading needs can be met through the regular dyslexia program, then LRE considerations would require the ARD to use the dyslexia lab or regular education dyslexia program rather than a resource setting”. #60

“When students have access to technology, their overall performance improves. Technology tools allow students with dyslexia to be equal participants in school-based learning experiences (TEC §38.0031). Technology is not to take the place of direct and explicit instruction, but to provide access to grade level and course curriculum. The online tool Technology Integration for Students with Dyslexia available at www.region10.org/dyslexia/techplan may provide assistance in identifying appropriate technologies.” #66 Pg. 79

“Is the district required to provide technology devices for §504 students identified with dyslexia?” “No. If the student is able to access the general education curriculum without a specified technology device, and FAPE has not been violated, the district has no obligation to provide the device.” #68

For acceptable accommodations for the STAAR for students with dyslexia “view the accommodation triangle on TEA’s web page and look for specific dyslexia eligibility criteria under each accommodation”. www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/accommodations/staar-telpas/

(“At risk for dyslexia: a term used to describe students who are not making adequate progress in the areas of reading and/or reading development, but who have not yet been identified as students with dyslexia.

The students considered at risk are at the pre-identification level. These students must be provided accelerated reading instruction (intensive, research-based instruction that addresses the reading needs of the student).”) [page 85]

**”Multisensory instruction: instruction that incorporates the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) during teacher presentation and student practice.” (page 88)

**”Progress monitoring: a scientifically based practice used to assess students’ academic progress and/or performance and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction. Progress monitoring can be implemented with individual students or an entire class. Progress monitoring is a quick (less than 5 minutes) assessment that is done frequently (weekly or biweekly) in order to make instructional changes in a timely fashion.” (page 89)

Appendix G: Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities (page 97)