Specific Learning Disability (SLD)/Dyslexia

“One of the most important conclusions from research is that for children with learning problems, learning is hard work.
A corollary to this finding is that for their teachers, instruction is very hard work and requires an enormous amount of training and support.”
—Semrud-Clikeman, 2005

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) as a specific learning disability (SLD). Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and impacts reading, including decoding and reading fluency (i.e., accurate and/or fluent word recognition) and spelling. It results from a significant deficit in phonological processing (i.e., a persistent difficulty in the awareness of and ability to manipulate the individual sounds of spoken language) and is often unexpected and inconsistent with a student’s other abilities despite the provision of effective classroom instruction.

Typically, students with dyslexia have strengths in areas such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, problem solving, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and social communication (e.g., conversation). Early identification and appropriate instruction targeting the underlying phonological processing deficits that characterize dyslexia may minimize its educational impact.

CSDE Working Definition of SLD/Dyslexia

These brain images of the left hemisphere show different activation patterns of readers with and without dyslexia. While each individual is unique and there are large individual differences, typical readers tend to have more activation in the areas that are important for reading. Individuals with dyslexia tend to show more activation in the frontal regions but weaker in the rear systems.

— Hoeft brainLENS Lab

What Dyslexia
is & isn’t

Watch as Margie Gillis, reading expert and Academic Advisor to Understood.org, explains what dyslexia is, including signs and symptoms of dyslexia. Hear her talk about why reading is difficult for dyslexic children, and how to help.

Identifying & Instructing
Students with SLD/Dyslexia

Comprehensive Reading Evaluations

Literacy How offers Comprehensive Reading Evaluations for struggling readers to help parents determine the best next steps for their child.  To find qualified evaluators for students living outside of Connecticut, Literacy How recommends contacting the local branch of Decoding Dyslexia or other state dyslexia organizations.  

Read Evaluating Your Child for Dyslexia.

Read this IDA Fact Sheet Advocating for a Child with Dyslexia in the Public Education System.

Expert Teaching is the Treatment for SLD/Dyslexia

What reading strategies can help struggling readers? Step inside two public school classrooms to see what effective reading interventions look like for grade-schoolers and middle-schoolers. Margie Gillis explains key concepts—including why multisensory reading instruction benefits students with SLD/Dyslexia.

Structured Literacy: Essential for Some, Beneficial to all

In addition to teaching decoding skills explicitly and systematically, a Structured Literacy™ approach ensures that students understand the elements of language, including phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax, and semantics. While this approach is beneficial for all students, it is vital for those with dyslexia.  Literacy How offers a Structured Literacy Professional Development Series to enhance participants’ tiered intervention or special education instruction.

View these webinars presented by Margie Gillis:


The state of Connecticut has been a leader in crafting legislation supporting the identification and instruction of students with SLD/Dyslexia and requiring their instructors to have appropriate knowledge and practice.

Explore U.S. dyslexia legislation and related initiatives in the National Center on Improving Literacy’s State of Dyslexia .

Wrightslaw offers accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities, including a newsletter, blog, and extensive advocacy and law libraries.

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit peer-to-peer network of attorneys, advocates, parents and related professionals dedicated to protecting and enforcing legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families at the national, state, and local levels.

SLD/Dyslexia Resources

Tap into these resources and excellent organizations dedicated to informing and supporting parents and teachers of students with SLD/Dyslexia. Don’t go it alone. Keep up with the latest
in identification, instruction, advocacy, and student and parent empowerment.