What is the relationship between MTSS and diagnosis of dyslexia? Does MTSS slow down the diagnosis?
A well-designed MTSS system consists of several processes. Universal screening for academic concerns helps to identify students who are potentially at-risk for poor outcomes. Tiers of instruction are designed to offer the appropriate level of intensity of instruction for a student. For example, if screening results suggest that a student is having difficulty with word-level reading (decoding), that student may receive an intervention focused on decoding (Tier 2 support) in addition to the reading instruction they receive in the general classroom.
Progress monitoring within the intervention is important – it allows the teacher to determine if the student is making adequate progress with the support of the additional instruction. A school-based team will collect and review this information to make data-based instructional decisions, another key component of a well-designed MTSS system.
If a student is not making adequate progress, then either movement to more intensive support or a referral for an evaluation with parental consent may be considered.
The data collected through the MTSS process informs an important aspect of dyslexia diagnosis. Universal screening helps the school identify potential concerns early. Depending on the nature of the student’s reading difficulties, an evidence-based, Tier 2 intervention focused on word-level reading may be sufficient for some students to make progress.
One concern with MTSS is that it can be a ‘wait to fail’ model, in which a student must remain within an intervention until enough data shows that they have not responded adequately to instruction. This does not have to be the case. In a flexible, responsive MTSS system, students who present with a performance gap that is significantly below their grade level peers may be referred for more intensive support or evaluation sooner. Parents also have the right to request an evaluation.
National Center on Response to Intervention (March 2010). Essential Components of RTI – A Closer Look at Response to Intervention. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Response to Intervention. http://www.rti4success.org
Evelyn Johnson is a Professor of Special Education at Boise State University and the Scientific Director of Lee Pesky Learning Center in Boise, Idaho.