CAHELP eNews - September 28, 2017

Brain mapping and screening for dyslexia

Dyslexia Screenings

With the dawn of a new school year, schools throughout California are joining a growing number of states adopting and implementing dyslexia screening guidelines. Assembly Bill 1369 (AB 1369) now requires California schools to identify students with dyslexia and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services for those students.

Dyslexia is defined by the International Dyslexia Association as a "specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities." In the United States, the prevalence of dyslexia in children is believed to be approximately 5-8%. Additionally, an estimated 80% of children who are in special education are diagnosed with reading learning disabilities.

While many myths exist around what dyslexia is, one thing is true-- dyslexia can have a vast impact on the academic development of a child. For children encountering early reading difficulties, the reading task becomes laborious, frustrating, and one to avoid. This leads to a significant reduction in exposure to text, thus reducing the opportunity to practice reading. Educators understand that academic failure can easily lead to socioemotional issues, which can later trigger behavioral concerns.

What do these new requirements mean to you as a teacher? The intent of California's dyslexia mandate is to establish a process by which educators can ensure the early identification of students at-risk for dyslexia and gather information to guide teachers in the design of specific interventions, particularly in the primary grades. Additional benefits of dyslexia screenings can include:

  • Protect children's intellectual and emotional growth
  • Build and maintain parents' trust
  • Avoid time-consuming and frustrating struggles down the road
  • Reduce costly referrals to special education
  • Avoid the "wait and fail" approach

The identification and delivery of instruction for children with dyslexia is best accomplished within a multi-tiered system of support in which all children receive evidence-based instruction in reading, procedures of identifying children at-risk for reading difficulties exist, targeted small group intervention based on identified deficits is available, and continuous progress monitoring is conducted.

The expertise of the teacher is key to student success. What can you, as a teacher, do for students facing reading deficits? Teachers can ensure students' success by providing effective screenings and subsequent reading instruction that targets the recognized five pillars of reading: phonological awareness, phonics/decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. In addition, you can be certain that your instruction for children with dyslexia includes an approach that is evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential.‚Äč

If you would like to learn more about dyslexia signs and symptoms, classroom strategies, and screening and diagnosis practices, the International Dyslexia Association has developed Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (url: as a resource to inform teachers. In addition, the Desert/Mountain Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) is providing Dyslexia: Signs, Symptoms, and Supports training. Participants will gain an understanding of dyslexia and brain functions, learn how to conduct dyslexia screenings, and identify reading interventions to assist students with this condition. Visit the Desert/Mountain SELPA to learn about this course and others available.

As with any new mandate, AB 1369 has the potential to create ambiguity and anxiety as school personnel struggle to understand dyslexia and its implications in the classroom, and begin to strategically draft a plan of action to meet the new requirements. Inversely, AB 1369 also presents you, the classroom teacher, with an excellent opportunity to reevaluate your practices and ensure that all children have access to evidence-based reading instruction and that safety measures are in place to guarantee children have access to early, targeted interventions.


Hale, J. & Fiorello, C.A. (2004).  School neuropsychology: A practitioner’s handbook.  NY:
The Guilford Press.

International Dyslexia Association. (2010). Knowledge and practice standards for teacher of reading. Washington, DC: Author.