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Dyslexia Awareness Month: Eight expert tips to better support students 

October 30, 2021

By Perry King


Dyslexia, and the inherent struggles that students with dyslexia experience, are front and centre as October marks Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia, one of the most common language-based learning disabilities, occurs in learners young and old, with ranging intelligences and interests.

OISE News asked three faculty—Todd Cunningham, Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream, Professor Esther Geva, and Professor Becky Chen, each based in OISE’s Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development—to provide a short list of tips that parents and educators can use to support students who experience dyslexia.

  1. Dyslexia or learning disability in the area of reading is treatable. Students who receive the early intervention (before the end of grade 3) based on the science of reading could develop reading skills equivalent to their non-disabled peers. 
  1. If a parent or a teacher thinks a student is having reading difficulties, they need to have them evaluated. As early as age 4, reading screeners can be used to indicate if a student is at-risk for reading failure. 
  1. If a student is identified as having reading difficulties, it is essential that they receive immediate intervention. 
  1. For many students, assistive technology will be necessary for them to access the curriculum. Assistive technology is any technology that can help a student with learning challenges such as dyslexia work around their area of weakness. A tool such as can help parents and educators find the right assistive technology tool to support a student.
  2. Second language learners, including English as a second language learners and children attending French Immersion can have dyslexia too. Second language learners are less likely to be identified as having dyslexia because their difficulties are often attributed to their lack of proficiency in English. Children in French Immersion are often moved to the English program where they may get support. We should be mindful of such practices and aim to provide interventions known to help children with dyslexia regardless of the program they are attending, their home language, or cultural differences. 
  3. Kindergarten children can be screened for future reading difficulties with phonological processing measures such as phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, working memory. Children who have deficits in these areas are likely to develop reading problems. Since early identification is key for early intervention, it is not necessary to wait until children start to receive reading instruction to carry out screening.

  4. Once identified, children who have deficits should receive reading interventions. Early interventions can focus on phonological awareness. For children who are already learning to read, it is more effective to combine phonological awareness with phonics.

  5. Children enrolled in French immersion programs can be identified and treated in English, their stronger language, in kindergarten for the purposes of early identification and early intervention due to cross-language transfer between English and French.

For more information about supporting students with dyslexia, visit Dyslexia Canada.


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