You're reading...
Dyslexia Diagnosis

Struggling Vs. Dyslexic Readers


Struggling Vs. Dyslexic Readers

Yes, there is a difference between the two, but most of the time these students are lumped together into one category as if all interventions will be the same for them. Why not? It’s easier, right? But unfortunately the job of intervening and moving students forward with their reading is all the harder if appropriate interventions are not used.

Typical Struggling Reader:

A struggling reader generally struggles with one or two areas of reading, OR has a global reading problem, not associated with dyslexia. If a student’s decoding is fine, he or she is NOT considered dyslexic. If a student has a below average IQ he or she is also not considered dyslexic. A struggling reader is not necessarily a struggling student, and may excel in other areas such as math.

  • Decoding–can decode, but gets stuck on a few types of words or spelling patterns, and easily responds to instruction
  • Sight words–knows quite a few sight words, but may struggle with understanding homonyms, homophones, or homographs.
  • Fluency–may or may not have problems with expression, tone etc.
  • Comprehension–generally struggles with comprehension and most inference-types of questions. Generally can’t find the source of explicit answers.
  • Spelling–may or may not have problems with this, but if a student does struggle, usually responds well to interventions
  • Below average, average or above average IQ
  • Problems with writing–getting started is a struggle as is ending
  • Generally can be brought up to grade level within a year or so with a specific intervention.
  • Reading problems could possibly stem from a poor learning environment whether at home or at school
  • Reading problems could be due to other factors such as: mental health, anxiety, ADHD/ADD, auditory processing disorders, etc.
  • Vocabulary–may lack an age appropriate vocabulary or understanding of words

>> This type of student responds well to a program that covers general reading ability, encourages large doses of paired or independent reading

>> May need an Orton Gillingham based program in order to fill in some decoding/spelling gaps

>> Needs fluency training and a heavy dose of comprehension instruction. Teachers/parents may need to start reading material even further back than what the student was tested at in order to fill in any instructional gaps.

>> Reading should include vocabulary enhancement within the context of reading

Typical Dyslexic Reader

A dyslexic student can be either mild, moderate or severe–depending on the level of decoding and fluency of reading. Most dyslexic students are fairly bright and use compensatory strategies to overcome dyslexia in their own way. They are usually great problem solvers with great visual/spatial skills which they use to help them comprehend reading even when they struggle. Sometimes they also have problems with math (foundational); other times the math is not affected.

  • Problems with decoding–can range from severe to mild–but there is lack of consistency with the words the student can decode. What was taught is easily forgotten
  • Problems with sight words–knows some or many sight words, but often cannot read sight words within context as well as out of context (and even this is inconsistent).
  • Comprehension is affected mostly because of poor decoding skills.
  • Spelling can be mildly to severely affected
  • Fluency can be mildly to severely affected
  • Writing can be mildly to severely affected
  • Average to above average IQ
  • Other family members have reading problems (does not need to be a parent or sibling)
  • Could have other problems (ADHD/ADD, auditory processing often associated), but not always a direct link.
  • May affect basic math skills (learning factors is akin to decoding), but not always.
  • May recognize vocabulary words when read to student, but does not recognize them when found in text due to poor decoding skills.

>> Needs a strong Orton Gillingham based program to teach the fundamentals of sounds, phonics, word formation, sentence formation, etc.

>> An adjunct spelling program associated with the OG program should be implemented for practice

>> Reading should consist of shorter passages and small books to longer passages and longer books (keep passages under 2 pages; keep books under 24 pages)

>> Sight words should be taught within the context of a book using a multisensory system

>> Student will increase fluency with newly learned decoding skills.

>> Needs intensive intervention at least 2 times per week for 1 hour.

Just a little insight into the difference between and often confused idea about Dyslexia and the Struggling Reader.


About Ann Gavazzi

Reading specialist and English teacher with a particular interest in treatment of dyslexia. Also interested in education and education policy at large and current reading research. Owner of the Reading Innovations Center, a tutoring center that specializes in one-to-one tutoring for struggling readers and math students.


One thought on “Struggling Vs. Dyslexic Readers

  1. It’s very easy to find out any topic on web as compared to textbooks, as I found this piece of writing at this website.

    Posted by signs of anxiety | February 27, 2015, 10:14 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: