Australian Dyslexia Association Inc.(ADA) - Solutions for those who learn differently

What instruction is appropriate?

Teachers are the key to unlocking the learning potential of all students, dyslexia is no different.
A teacher must be trained and qualified in how to accurately identify students who are struggling with written language and know how to effectively teach reading and spelling to all children.


'Dyslexia may take many forms, but dyslexics have one characteristic in common: they can learn and they can ‘make it’ in society if properly taught.'
What Instruction is Appropriate?
Individuals with dyslexia or a related difference require explicit, direct and systematic instruction in both oral and written language. (National Reading Panel 2007) (Australian Dyslexia Working Party document 2010) (National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy 2007)
Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) includes the principles of scientific reading research but goes one step further with addition of the multisensory component. The multisensory component is what makes MSL differ to other traditional reading and spelling programs. The MSL Orton Gillingham approach is considered the golden standard and assists ALL children including children who have been identified with dyslexia or a related diiference.
Effective MSL Instruction includes:

Explicit Instruction: Must directly teach the alphabetical principle (letter-sound system)

Systematic Instruction: Has a definite logical sequence of concept introduction,ordered from simple to more complex.(Synthetic)

Structured, Multi sensory: Structured and Multi sensory delivery of language content is characteristic of effective instruction.

Flexible: Since dyslexia occurs on a continuum a specialised teaching approach is best,rather than a program or method which does not allow flexibility.

Diagnostic Teaching: The teacher continually assesses their student's ability to understand and apply learned concepts. If it is discovered that a previously taught concept is confused,it is retaught.

Individuals with dyslexia may require instruction of greater intensity and duration than typically developing readers and writers.

Cognitive-Dual Route Approach: Instruction needs to consider lexical and non-lexical pathways and the cognitive and linguistic processes involved in learning to read.

Visual recognition instruction is required: Irregular words are estimated to make up 10% of the English language. Many of these words occur in early reading experience. Irregular words need to be taught directly and explicitly. Ample exposure and practice is required to strengthen the visual memory "word bank" for irregular words both for reading and spelling.

The big five, effective reading instruction needs to be implemented by a trained teacher and include:
Phonemic awareness
Phonics (synthetic) No experimental/mish-mash phonics!
Accuracy and Fluency
As well as writing and spelling.

A Multisensory Structured Language Approach contains all the above elements.

The National Reading Panel (NRP), The Australian Working Party Documents, The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL) and the International Dyslexia Association (US) all support explicit, direct and systematic instruction which includes all five components.

What is Multisensory Teaching?
Multisensory techniques are frequently used for students with dyslexia and related differences. Research has indicated that all learners learn and remember best when learning is multisensory.Multisensory teaching techniques and strategies stimulate learning by engaging students on multiple levels. They encourage students to use some or all of their senses (auditory,visual,kinesthetic/tactile) to:
Gather information about a task;
Link information to ideas they already know and understand;
Perceive the logic involved in solving problems;
Learn problem-solving steps;
Tap into nonverbal reasoning skills;
Understand relationships between concepts; and

Learn information and store it for later recall.

Teacher Training is Vitally Important
Because Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) Instruction is a specialist undertaking teachers and therapists who provide this instruction need to be effectively trained and supervised in the use of the selected approach. There are a number of specifically named methods and programs derived from MSL principles and there is evidence that many of these 'Structured Literacy' approaches have been highly successful. The MSL Matrix can be accessed on the ADA's global partner IDA website:

Scientific and evidence based research informs educators of the best teaching approaches for students with dyslexia and related differences now we need to ensure that education and science come together in the classroom so that all children inclusively can benefit from a well trained teacher.

What is MSL? A snap shot: Click here

The ADA does not endorse one program or method but supports a direct, explicit, structured language based approach with the additional of a multisensory component for teaching those with dyslexia or a related difference.


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Judith R Birsh
IDA Fact Sheets
National Reading Panel (What Works)
Louisa Moats (IDA Perpsectives)