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Pacific Faculty Member Helps Write Dyslexia Guidelines

Jan 28, 2019

On October 8, 2015, California Assembly Bill No. 1369 was signed into law, setting into motion the creation of new guidelines to better serve individuals with dyslexia.

Existing California law requires services be provided to children with a specific learning disability, which is defined as "a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or perform mathematical calculations." The bill added "phonological processing" to the definition of "basic psychological processes." The components of phonological processing are often found to be areas of deficit in individuals with dyslexia; thus, this legislation makes it easier to identify students who are eligible to receive services in the California public schools.

"There are many different types of specific learning disabilities," said Dr. Ward-Lonergan. "The vast majority, around 80 percent, are language-learning disabilities, and that is where speech-language pathologists come into play." Identifying individuals who have difficulty with phonological processing can be a key component of supporting their overall academic success. "Typically, an individual with a language-learning disability has average or above average intellectual ability, but because they process information differently, it makes it difficult for them to learn how to read, write or spell," Dr. Ward-Lonergan explained. "They are very bright individuals, and so the difficulty is unexpected." Spoken language (listening and speaking) is the foundation for written language (reading and writing), making speech-language pathologists key players in promoting literacy by facilitating the development of spoken and written language skills.

California Assembly Bill No. 1369 mandated that guidelines be developed and implemented by the 2017-18 academic year. The California Department of Education Dyslexia Guidelines Work Group was made up of 22 individuals who represented each of the stakeholders, such as the California Federation of Teachers. Jeannene M. Ward-Lonergan, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, department chair and professor of speech-language pathology, represented the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA).

Phonological processing refers to the ability to perceive, integrate, store, retrieve, segment and manipulate speech sounds. There are three major components of phonological processing:

Phonological Awareness
The ability to segment words into sounds and syllables and to manipulate those sounds and syllables. Phonological awareness is the single biggest predictor of reading and spelling success.

Phonological Memory
The ability to code verbal information in short-term memory so that it can be stored and later retrieved.

Rapid Automatic Naming
The ability to quickly name items such as colors, objects, letters and digits presented visually. Rapid automatic naming involves the efficient retrieval of information from long-term memory.

The bill was spearheaded by Decoding Dyslexia California. Established in 2013, Decoding Dyslexia is a grassroots movement that currently has chapters in all 50 states. The organization is made up of families, educators and other professionals who are concerned about the limited access to educational interventions and instructional approaches for students with dyslexia in public schools.

Myth | Individuals with dyslexia often make reversal errors, for example reading "b" as "d."

While reversal errors are more noticeable in comparison to age-matched peers, the underlying cause is related to reading proficiency, not dyslexia. When an individual's overall reading ability improves, issues with reversal errors begin to resolve.

Myth | Faulty eye movements are the cause of reading problems for individuals with dyslexia.

Jerky eye movements occur when all types of readers are faced with material that is difficult for them to read. For example, imagine a layperson without a strong scientific background reading an article on astrophysics published in a peer-reviewed journal. Faulty eye-movements are related to the level of reading difficulty and are a byproduct of dyslexia, not the cause. 

Myth | Dyslexia is related to vision problems.

Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin and not caused by vision problems. In the majority of cases, dyslexia is related to a significant weakness in the phonological component of language.


Dr. Ward-Lonergan and Dr. Duthie work with a SLP clientResources

For parents or individuals with dyslexia who are looking for resources or support, Dr. Ward-Lonergan recommends exploring the Decoding Dyslexia California and International Dyslexia Association websites.

For speech-language pathologists and educators, she strongly recommends reviewing the California Department of Education's Dyslexia Guidelines, utilizing the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Practice Portal and reading CSHA's Literacy Position Paper and Resource Guide.

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about the author

Anne Marie H. Bergthold  

Anne Marie H. Bergthold is the Marketing Coordinator for Pacific's Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy.

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