Ensuring that students with dyslexia learn effectively

Skye McLennan discusses how with whole of school support, students with dyslexia can thrive, both in and out of the classroom.

Children with Dyslexia are less likely to finish school or go to university. They are also at greater risk of developing mental health problems and ending up in prison. However, some children with Dyslexia thrive, and it’s schools that make the difference. ‘Harry’ is one of these students. His whole school came together to provide support in five key areas, which allowed him to reach his potential.                      

Quality whole-class teaching and monitoring

Harry’s Reception teacher used a structured synthetic phonics program for the whole-class literacy instruction, giving him the best chance of success from the start. The other Junior Primary teachers used the same program so that literacy instruction was integrated across the school. Harry’s teacher identified that he was progressing more slowly than his peers because they were carrying out regular structured screening.                      

Early and continued evidence-based intervention

Toward the end of Reception, Harry was enrolled into an evidence-based small-group intervention program. The intervention was run by a highly-trained staff member who delivered the program with fidelity. They gave him a carefully selected decodable reader to take home daily, to practise and consolidate his learning. In Grades 1 to 5, assessment data showed that his reading skills continued to lag, so his intervention continued.                           


In Grade 2, Harry’s teacher began providing accommodations (verbal instructions, and text-to-voice software), and developed an Individual Learning Plan with input from Harry and his parents. She encouraged Harry to sit the NAPLAN, and arranged for special provisions.

Wellbeing supports      

In Grade 6, a transition meeting with the high school was arranged. In Grade 7 the school counsellor helped Harry build self-advocacy skills. Each year, along with other students, Harry was given awards to recognise areas of strength, including language-based projects.                      

High expectations

In Grades 11 to 12, Harry was granted special provisions for exams (extra reading time; access to a Reader/text-to-speech software). His careers advisor encouraged him to consider University pathways.

Harry graduated with excellent grades, effective learning strategies, and confidence in his abilities.  

This article was written by Skye McLennan, Director of Psychology at SPELD SA. Skye and her colleagues at SPELD SA help schools build their capacity and confidence in supporting students with reading disorders by providing consultations, workshops, and resources.  

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