Responding to Feedback from our Dyslexia Work Group Meeting

A Note from NCIL

On October 1 and 2, 2018, NCIL hosted a meeting featuring experts in the fields of dyslexia research, advocacy, and instruction. The goal of the meeting was to obtain feedback to inform NCIL’s work specific to dyslexia for the upcoming years.

NCIL convened a group of individuals, each with their own expertise related to dyslexia. Researchers including Drs. Guinevere Eden, Jack Fletcher, Nadine Gaab, John Gabrieli, Mark Seidenberg, and Sharon Vaughn offered their perspectives related to dyslexia and the brain, the science of reading, and effective, evidence-based instruction and assessment. Parent advocates including Laura Schultz and Karleen Spitulnik from Decoding Dyslexia Maryland, and Kristin Kane from both Decoding Dyslexia Virginia and the Virginia Parent Educational Advocacy Center provided feedback on the most pressing needs of students with dyslexia and their families. School and district leaders, including Lydia Carlis, Ben Powers, and Jennifer Ralston, spoke to important considerations for reaching educators, professional development strategies, and impacting change in schools.

During years 1 and 2, NCIL has focused specifically on translating research related to evidence-based practices for students with literacy-related disabilities, without a singular focus on dyslexia. Although we have generated and packaged resources that are relevant to stakeholders interested in dyslexia, NCIL will dedicate resources in the coming year to develop and package evidence-based tools that will focus specifically on dyslexia that are easy to use by educators and families. The major reason for convening the TWG was to provide initial feedback on these new dyslexia tools and resources we intend to develop in years 3 and 4 and to provide ongoing feedback to products and tools as we develop them.

At the meeting, several themes emerged:

  1. Increased focus on translating dyslexia research. Members stressed the need for an increased focus on “translating” dyslexia research for educators. Our work group members emphasized that the science on effective reading practices for students with dyslexia exists. Research has established the best ways to identify and teach students with dyslexia and we need to get that information into the hands of teachers. Perhaps more importantly, we need to deliver the information in a way that ensures it will not only be seen by teachers but will actually be used in classrooms. 
  2. Targeted dissemination to multiple stakeholders. We also heard that it is important for us to think carefully about how we can most effectively disseminate information to a range of stakeholders. We were asked to more explicitly communicate how people can use our products, create smaller chunks of information that are more digestible, put related resources together in easy to access packages, and vary dissemination strategies and products according to audiences.    
  3. Generation of new products. Work group members had several ideas for products that NCIL should develop. Our experts were clear that there is a pressing need for us to focus on screening and identifying students with dyslexia, particularly in the early grades. We also heard that we should create more products that describe features of effective classroom instruction for students with dyslexia and that we should create readily available checklists on different topics. More generally, work group members encouraged us to re-purpose existing high-quality materials as much as possible and to rely less on text-based products with extensive technical language.
  4. Outreach and strategic partnerships. An important theme was around improving NCIL’s outreach through strategic partnerships.  NCIL has spent considerable time developing partnerships, but more work is needed in this area. We heard that parent advocacy groups are critical partners. Work group members also suggested that we develop products and resources that involve collaboration across multiple organizations, and that we partner with individuals or groups who have large audiences and can help amplify our message.
  5. Many students with disabilities struggle with reading. Finally, work group members emphasized that while it is critical for us to focus on dyslexia, we need to remember that we are charged with supporting all students with or at risk for literacy-related disabilities.

Here at NCIL, we have spent the past two months discussing this feedback in detail. Our main focus has been discussing methods and approaches for incorporating this feedback to make the products and services that we are developing more useful and relevant to users. To that end, using expert feedback as a springboard, we have identified several next steps for our work:

To start, we plan to develop a series of online modules for general and special education teachers and school psychologists. These modules will address critical topics such as:

  • Understanding dyslexia
  • Screening for dyslexia
  • Identification of dyslexia
  • Effective classroom practices for students with dyslexia

Our goal is to present evidence-based information around these topics in a way that is interactive, succinct, and immediately applicable.

  • In the next year, we will develop a set of checklists designed to help general and special education teachers and administrators select evidence-based tools for students with dyslexia. The first two checklists will address 1) considerations for selecting an evidence-based dyslexia screener and 2) considerations for choosing an evidence-based intervention.
  • We will work to make our existing tools and resources more useful and relevant. To start, we’ll incorporate clear instructions on how each of our products can be used, including how a product can be used in combination with other resources. We will also improve and expand our Resource Repository by creating collections of existing resources from NCIL and other sources around specific topics, and we’ll chunk information from our modules and tutorials into smaller units.
  • Moving forward, our focus will be on developing and disseminating more interactive resources that do not rely heavily on technical language. We will focus more on the use of video and audio, and less on text to convey information.
  • Our work on the ground with state and district partners will continue to focus on screening and identifying students with dyslexia, effective classroom practices for students with or at risk for literacy-related disabilities including dyslexia, and intensifying interventions for students who do not respond to effective classroom instruction.
  • We will continue to partner with critical family-focused groups such as Decoding Dyslexia and Parent Training and Information Centers. We will also collaborate with dissemination partners, including Public Television affiliates, who can help with the production and distribution of high-quality materials.

The advisory group made clear- we have our work cut out for us, particularly around issues related to students with dyslexia. But, we are up for the challenge. We will continue to work with experts and stakeholders to discuss exciting improvements in the products and services we are delivering.

Dyslexia Workgroup