I recently worked on accommodations for a child with Dyslexia and his 504 plan and wanted to share some thoughts for success in school for all those with Dyslexia. A 504 plan for those with Dyslexia is helpful in providing the services to cater to the individual needs of the student.
First let’s start with the simple definition of Dyslexia: “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence”. People often believe IEP’s are superior to 504 plans. In actuality, both serve completely different purposes but what matters is that both are legally enforceable. A child with Dyslexia can usually have his or her needs met with a 504 plan as a 504 plan is meant to assist with accessing the curriculum. What is needed therefore are modifications and/or accommodations to allow the child to access the curriculum the same as a child without Dyslexia. These accommodations can assist in interpreting words, letters and other symbols.
Here are some accommodations that have been successful with students with Dyslexia.
- Orton Gillingham Instruction
- Provide an additional set of textbooks for use at home
- Provide audio recordings of books, including textbooks. Reading for students with Dyslexia is a cognitive task. For a child with Dyslexia, reading and decoding text can be so difficult that they are not truly comprehending what they are reading. This accommodation allows for true comprehension of the text. Learning Ally is a great resource that provides a large library of human-read audiobooks, including literature, popular fiction and curriculum-aligned titles giving every student equitable access to grade-level content. Highlighted text provides a multi-sensory reading experience that enables readers to easily absorb content.
- Text-to-Speech Technology. Again, Learning Ally is a valuable resource for this accommodation. Pre-exposures of reading materials. Allow the student to take reading materials home before the reading material is read in class. Also, have any key vocabulary words listed. This will allow for the student to practice the passage ahead of time. Provide the student notice in advance of larger reading assignments. This allows the student ample time to successfully work the assignment to the best of his or her ability.
Writing Expression Accommodations:
- Speech-to-text software. Dragon Naturally Speaking software is an excellent resource for written expression accommodations.
- When the assignment calls for mastery of content and personal reflection, allow the student to submit an audio-recorded version of a written assignment.
- Allow use of a laptop computer or an iPad.
- Spelling Accommodations
- Provide use of Orion Gillingham Instruction and spelling devices.
- Do not grade spelling errors on written assignments.
- Reduce number of spelling words for assessments.
- Do not deduct points for handwriting mechanics, such as letter size and formation.
- Handwriting Accommodations
- Provide student with an outline of teacher’s direct instruction. It is very difficult for a student with Dyslexia to focus on a lecture and simultaneously take sufficient notes. It is important to provide the student with the main points of the instruction.
- Allow student to tape record lectures
- Provide student with wide-ruled paper if necessary
- Do not deduct points from an assignment that appears sloppy as many children who are Dyslexic frequently have subpar handwriting, a problem that continues into adulthood.
- Allow use of a keyboard for handwriting tasks. An AlphaSmart portable keyboard, iPad (or any tablet), or a laptop computer are excellent options to use in the classroom.
- Do not ask the student to copy information from a textbook, overhead projector, chalkboard, or Smart Board. Provide this information to the student in advance.
- Allow use of a calculator
- Allow use of a multiplication chart
- Allow use of math manipulatives for multi sensory learning
- Allow use of an iPad or other tablet
- Allow additional time to complete assignments
- Reduce the amount of homework and determine a certain amount of time to be spent on homework each night
- Check for understanding prior to assignment homework.
Student Assessment Accommodations:
- Additional time to complete the assessment
- Assessments given in a small group setting
- Assessments given away from distractions – this is especially important for students with ADD
- Additional breaks during assessments
- Allow student to demonstrate mastery of content by answering questions orally
- Shortened assessments
- Provide plenty of pre-exposure to the concepts covered on an assessment. It is important to adequately cover the concepts to be tested, as well as do frequent checks for understanding prior to administering the assessment.
- Modify assessment format – Administering assessments that contain short answer or essay questions will be very difficult for students with Dyslexia. A better format might be fill-in-the-blank questions with a word bank, matching the question with the correct answer by drawing a line from one to the other, or multiple choice type questions IF there are no more than 2 choices.
Visual Processing Accomodations:
- Enlarge print
- Use of colored overlays for classroom assignments and assessments may be helpful to reduce processing strain.
- Use of highlighters to color code assignments and assessments to categorize content and minimize visual distractions.
Always remember no one knows your child better than you do. Make sure to meet with your child’s teacher to convey your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Ask the teacher to consult with your child before asking them to read aloud or write something in front of the class. Discuss ways to eliminate any chances of embarrassment. It is also important the teacher does not ask your child to grade the assignments or assessments of their classmates as this too can lead to embarrassment and possible shaming.
It important to be aware of what accommodations have worked for your child in the past and what have not proven to be successful. Share these findings with your child’s teacher. If something is not working and your child is struggling, request a meeting when necessary to make changes to your child’s 504 plan. A 504 plan for a student with Dyslexia is fruitless unless the accommodations are appropriate to meet the individual needs of that student.
Don’t give up and best of luck!