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Holly Strickland

Dyslexia refers to a learning disability that affects reading and writing.  What dyslexia is, what causes it, and what can be done about it are commonly misunderstood topics. For example, a commonly held belief is that dyslexia results from seeing things reversed. When in fact, dyslexia is not due to a problem with vision, but rather a problem within language.

Although much remains to be learned about dyslexia, remarkable progress has been made in our understanding as a result of decades of research.


Dyslexia is defined in Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-602 as a learning disability that is neurological in origin, characterized by difficulties with accurate and fluent word recognition, poor spelling and decoding abilities that typically result from the phonological component of language. These characteristics are often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities. This definition is borrowed from the most widely accepted current definition of dyslexia that is used by the International Dyslexia Association:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”


Response to Intervention (RTI) is designed to ensure all students receive effective, research-based instruction to meet their needs. RTI frameworks combine prevention and intervention with ongoing assessment in a school-wide system to identify students’ instructional needs and appropriate learning supports.

The most common implementation of RTI is through a multi-tiered system of support using a combination of screening tools, effective classroom instruction, intervention, and data-based decision making to support all students within a school. Within each tier, students receive instruction using scientifically based reading research. Students who make insufficient progress in initial tiers of instruction are provided more intensive and specific intervention to better meet their needs.

Tier I: Core Instruction

Tier I Core Instruction focuses on providing effective, research-based instruction to all students in general education and provides the foundation for successful RTI. Tier I, or classroom instruction, focuses on the essential, grade specific reading standards across content areas and should meet the needs of the large majority of students, allowing them to successfully meet grade level expectations. High quality, effective reading instruction is paramount prior to screening for and identifying students who may need Tier II intervention.

As part of Tier I, all students are screened on reading measures to determine instructional needs and identify students with risk factors or reading deficits. Results may indicate a student needs supplemental intervention support in addition to Tier I instruction.

Tier II: Enrichment/Extension/Intervention

Teachers will administer Common Formative Assessments (CFA) to students 2-3 times during a unit of study.  Based on the assessment results, teachers will place students in the appropriate targeted intervention (Enrichment/Extension/Intervention) based on the needs of each individual student.

Unless extraordinary circumstances exist, students placed in Tier II interventions will remain in the intervention until the student has met the expectation of mastery in each area of deficit.

Tier III: Intensive Intervention

Students who continue to struggle with skills in reading and/or fall further behind in reading achievement despite the increased support provided by the supplemental Tier II intervention, will be assessed and determined if the student is at least 1 year below grade level.  Continued failure to reach grade-level expectations may result in a school-based decision-making team recommending entry into a Tier III reading intervention based on the needs of the student.  Schools should continue to communicate and include parents in the decision process.

Students requiring a more intensive intervention (Tier III) may receive additional instructional time outside of the regular classroom.  Screenings will be administered to determine if (1) the student models characteristics of dyslexia; (2) if the student needs extra support targeted toward decoding and comprehension skills.  Students receiving Tier III intervention also receive frequent and ongoing progress monitoring.

If screening indicates characteristics of dyslexia exist, then the student shall be provided dyslexia intervention services (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-603).  Dyslexia intervention may occur at Tier III. Dyslexia intervention is a general education component of RTI. In Tier II and Tier III, teachers continue to track student learning, establish goals, plan instruction, and make appropriate adjustments to instruction based on student progress toward achievement of state standards. Referral for Special Education may occur if a student fails to make adequate progress.

Tier III Interventions

  1. Take Flight
  2. Sonday System
  3. Connections


Early identification of students at risk for reading difficulties is critical in developing the appropriate instructional plan.  Initial screening measures consist of short, informal probe(s) given to all students to identify those at risk or at some risk for not meeting grade-level standards. Screeners should be administered with fidelity to include without limitation, phonological awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skills, rapid naming skills and encoding (A.C.A. 6-41-603).

Who should be screened?

According to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-603, a school district shall screen

1.   Each student in kindergarten through grade two (K-2);

2.   Kindergarten through grade 2 (K-2) students who transfer to a new school and have not been screened;

3.   Kindergarten through grade 2 (K-2) students who transfer from another state and cannot present documentation that the student has had similar screening;

4.   A student in grade three or higher experiencing difficulty, as noted by a classroom teacher.


1.   Students with an existing dyslexia diagnosis.

2.   Students with a sensory impairment.

The screening of students shall be performed with fidelity and include without limitation (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-603):

1.   Phonological and phonemic awareness;

2.   Sound symbol recognition;

3.   Alphabet knowledge;

4.   Decoding skills;

5.   Rapid naming; and

6.    Encoding skills.

The initial screener as defined in the Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-603 includes the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) or an equivalent screener. Additional screening assessments will need to be administered to measure components that are not measured by DIBELS or the equivalent screener.

If the screener under subdivision (a)(1) of the law shows that a student is at risk, or at some risk then a Level I Dyslexia Screener shall be administered (Aarning?

4.   Are there secondary characteristics of dyslexia evident in reading comprehension and written expression?

5.   Does the student have strengths that could be assets? Are there coexisting deficits that may complicate identification and the response to intervention and may deserve further assessment and intervention?


A dyslexia diagnosis is not required for a school to provide dyslexia intervention services, however a parent or legal guardian may choose to have an independent comprehensive dyslexia evaluation for the student. Parents are responsible for selecting the qualified individual to perform the comprehensive dyslexia evaluation and must cover the cost. The school district shall consider the diagnosis and provide the student with interventions determined to be appropriate by the school district (A.C.A. 6-41-604).

 This evaluation must be conducted by Licensed Psychological Examiner, School Psychology Specialist, Licensed Speech Language Pathologist, Certified Dyslexia Testing Specialist, or Dyslexia Therapist (A.C.A. 6-41-604 (a)(2)(C)).


Supplemental, intensive reading interventions for students with dyslexia should be individualized and focused on the student’s area(s) of primary difficulty. Instruction for students with dyslexia includes a multisensory approach that includes reading, spelling, and writing as appropriate. Components of effective dyslexia intervention include instruction in phonemic awareness, graphophonemic knowledge, the structure of the English language, linguistics, language patterns, and strategies for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension.

Students with characteristics of dyslexia should receive an appropriate, specialized dyslexia instructional program that·

  • Is delivered by a professional who has completed training in a specific dyslexia program. (Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-41-602; 6-41-605)
  • Provides systematic, research-based instruction (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-602)
  • Includes instruction that is multisensory addressing two or more sensory pathways during instruction or practice (A.C.A § 6-41-602)
  • Provides instruction in the essential components of reading in a small group or individual setting that maintains fidelity of the program that includes phonemic awareness, graphophonemic knowledge, structure of the English language, linguistic instruction, and strategies for decoding, encoding, word recognition, fluency, and comprehension (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-602)

Instructional Approaches Meeting the Criteria for Dyslexia

  1. Sonday System
  2. Take Flight


Once it is determined that the initial screener indicates a student is at-risk or at some risk for reading failure and a student does not adequately respond to intervention, a dyslexia screening process shall begin to determine if characteristics of dyslexia are present (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-603).

The Level I Dyslexia Screening is a process of gathering additional information that should include progress monitoring data, work samples, formative literacy assessments, and additional dyslexia screening tools. Classroom instruction should provide appropriate differentiation and interventions tailored to meet the child’s individual needs.

The Level I Dyslexia Screening process shall include documentation of the components of literacy to include phonological and phonemic awareness, sound symbol recognition, alphabet knowledge, decoding skill, rapid naming skills, and encoding skills. The determination of existing characteristics should be based on multiple sources of data.

Level 1 Screeners

  1. Phonological Awareness Skills Test (PAST)
  2. CORE Phonics Survey
  3. AR-RAN
  4. DSA or Writing Samples

The Smackover-Norphlet School District will determine the appropriate Level 1 Screeners based on the age/grade of child.


The Level II Dyslexia Screening is a more detailed process for identifying a pattern of strengths and weaknesses documenting the characteristics of dyslexia. Norm-referenced, diagnostic assessments designed to measure the underlying cause, characteristics, and outcomes should be administered to identify the characteristics of dyslexia. The specific skills to be tested include phonological awareness, rapid naming, word reading, decoding, fluency, spelling and reading comprehension.

The Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children created the Characteristic Profile of Dyslexia to aid in school-based identification of dyslexia. This profile provides five questions to consider when identifying student with characteristics of dyslexia. The questions are:

  1. Does the student demonstrate one or more of the primary reading characteristics of dyslexia in addition to a spelling deficit?
  2. Are the reading and spelling difficulties the result of a phonological processing deficit?
  3.  Are the reading, spelling, and phonological processing deficits unexpected? Does the student demonstrate cognitive ability to support age level academic levels?


Dyslexia Interventionist means a school district or public school employee that is trained in a dyslexia program.

No later than the 2015-2016 academic year, a school district shall have individuals to serve as dyslexia interventionists. Ark. Code Ann. 6-41-607 (d) School districts may utilize the following personnel who have been trained as dyslexia interventionists: a dyslexia therapist, dyslexia specialist, reading interventionist, certified teacher, tutor or paraprofessional under the supervision of a licensed teacher. The licensed teacher who is supervising the tutor or paraprofessional must be trained in the dyslexia program(s) the district is using.

“Dyslexia therapist” is a professional who has completed training and obtained certification in dyslexia therapy from a dyslexia therapy program defined by the Department of Education.

Dyslexia Interventionists

  1. Dyslexia Therapist (RTI - Tier III)
    • Program:  Take Flight
  2. Paraprofessionals Under the Supervision of a Licensed Teacher (RTI - Tier II)
    • Programs:  Sonday System
    • Professional Awareness

Professional awareness is key to early and appropriate referrals for dyslexia evaluations. In addition, comprehensive instructional programs for students with dyslexia are dependent on informed and knowledgeable teachers, interventionists, and therapists. The law requires that no later than the 2014-2015 school year, each teacher shall receive professional awareness on:

  1. The indicators of dyslexia; and
  2. Evidence-based interventions and accommodations for dyslexia. (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-608).

The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has approved a course offered through ArkansasIDEAS online professional development portal ( This course, Dyslexia: A Three Part Professional Development, meets the requirements of the law.


A student suspected of having dyslexia or related disorders who is unable to make adequate academic progress may be referred to special education for evaluation and possible identification as a child with a disability within the meaning of IDEA 2004.

Under Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-601 et seq., LEAs are required to provide dyslexia intervention services to all students who exhibit the characteristics of dyslexia, including students with IEPs. For students with IEPs, the committee should determine, based on the student’s individual needs, the setting where appropriately trained personnel will provide dyslexia intervention. The intervention may be delivered in the general education setting, the special education setting, or in a combination of the two.

Special Education Practice in the Smackover-Norphlet School District

At least one special education teacher on each campus has been trained in Sonday System and is able to provide services to students with an IEP.


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Contact Information

Smackover-Norphlet School District
#1 Buckaroo Lane
Smackover, Arkansas 71762

Normal operating hours are 7:30am till 4:00pm Monday thru Friday

Summer hours are 8-4 Monday thru Thursday

Phone: 870-725-3132
Fax: 870-725-1250