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About Dyslexia

The word dyslexia is derived from the Greek word, dys, meaning
poor or inadequate, and lexis, meaning words or language.

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in

It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor 
spelling and decoding abilities.

These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is 
often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective instruction.

Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading
experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

The disorder varies from person to person and may be inherited.

Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board Directors 2002.


Intervention, Success and Resources

It is important to understand that dyslexia does not reflect an overall defect in language, but a 
localized weakness within the phonalogic module of the brain (the place where sounds of language are put together to form words or break words down into sounds). Equally important to understand is that dyslexic individuals can learn to read despite their difficulties with language. Early identification and treatment is key, however. 

There are many myths about dyslexia.  It is essential to know that people with dyslexia are not lazy. They are usually creative and have high levels of intelligence and achieve high levels of success in their life. 

Most people with dyslexia need help from someone specially trained in using a multi-sensory, structured language approach. It is important for them to be taught by a systematic and explicit method that involves several senses (hearing, seeing, touching) at the same time. 

Many individuals with dyslexia need one-on-one help so that they can move forward at their own pace. In addition, students with dyslexia often need a great deal of structured practice and immediate, corrective feedback to develop automatic word recognition skills. 

For students with dyslexia, it is helpful if their outside academic therapists work closely with classroom teachers. 

In July 2016, the "Say Dyslexia" bill (Public Chapter 1058 of the Acts of 2016) became law in Tennessee. 


The Tennessee Department of Education assembled a Dyslexia Advisory Council that would provide recommendations on how districts would implement the requirements of the bill.  Our co-founder, Allison McAvoy, M.Ed, together with other educational professionals, parents and members of the Decoding Dyslexia-TN have submitted these recommendations and the TDOE published their official guide to the districts yesterday, May 25, 2017. Download a copy here.

A comprehensive review of the components of systematic instruction necessary for students to gain word-level mastery for decoding and spelling can be found in this article by Barbara Wilson: Teaching Total Word Structure: Systematic, Explicit, and Integrated Instruction in Phonology, Morphology, and Orthography

Common Core State Standards and Students with Disabilities, authored by Barbara Wilson is a critical document that highlights key issues related to students with disabilities and provides guidance to both parents and school staff who are assisting students with dyslexia. 

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) fact sheets are convenient, professionally reviewed materials designed to improve understanding and support advocacy. They are frequently used to enrich and supplement IEP meetings, school board discussions and district policy initiatives. 

A summary of appropriate testing and evaluation criteria can be found on IDA's website

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