Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in difficulty with specific language skills, including reading, spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Some students with dyslexia may also have difficulty with math, specifically memorizing number facts and correctly doing word problems. 
The primary sign of dyslexia is if students have trouble remembering letter symbols for sounds and forming memories for words. This can also translate into difficulty learning to speak, organizing written and spoken language, spelling, and/or learning a foreign language.
Dyslexia is not the result of a lack of intelligence or desire to learn. With appropriate teaching methods, students with dyslexia can learn successfully.
Two Perspectives on Dyslexia Methodologies
Schools can implement academic accommodations and modifications to help students with dyslexia succeed. Through a 504 plan, this can include more time on tests, help with note taking, modified work assignments, and/or alternate means of assessment.
For students on an IEP, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires that the IEP include “a statement of the special education, related services and supplementary aids and services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to the child.”
We interpret this as clarification by Congress that IEPs must include research-based methodologies. In order to ensure appropriate methodologies are selected, we suggest obtaining a comprehensive evaluation from a private provider who is familiar with dyslexia. That provider can also attend the student’s IEP meeting, explain the child’s disability, how it affects the student’s ability learn, why the student needs a specific program/methodology in order to receive FAPE, and what will happen if the child does not receive the specific program/methodology.
Further, as a member of the IEP team, parents are entitled to sufficient information to determine if the instructor implementing the program is qualified to help the student meet their goals, objectives, and implement the instructional methodology called for in the IEP.
Districts often argue that “methodology” is a school decision that parents can’t dictate. The IDEA does permit many methods and techniques to be used to meet a student’s specific educational needs, and the U.S. Department of Education has stated that “there is nothing in the [IDEA] that requires an IEP to include specific instructional methodologies.” Further, the IEP team must find that the specific instructional methods are necessary for the child to receive FAPE in order for that methodology to be included in the IEP. Of note, an IEP team can also rule out a methodology if there is one or more methodologies that will not allow the student to receive FAPE.
However, like Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for autism, there are evidence-based dyslexia interventions that are more appropriate for students with this profile and a school district’s discretion to dictate methodology must take the efficacy of an intervention into consideration. In short, if the school’s intervention has not been working and an evaluator recommends a Slingerland or Orton-Gillingham intervention like Wired for Reading, schools must consider this recommendation when developing the educational program.
Once a specific methodology has been included in the IEP, the district must ensure that the proposed placement is able to implement the instructional methodology. Additionally, while a district can use any appropriate methodology, it cannot predetermine which methodology it will or won’t use with a given student. So, a specific methodology cannot be “off the table” as a matter of policy, rather the IEP team must have an open mind about what is appropriate to serve the student.
Solid Result Regarding Dyslexia Methodology for a Washington Family
In a recent case involving dyslexia instructional methodologies, the parents first had concerns regarding the student’s speech when he was about 2 years old. The student was diagnosed with cognitive processing delays shortly after he entered fourth grade. After seeking support from the district through elementary school, the student began working with a private tutor, Ms. F, in seventh grade. The tutor had attended trainings through the International Dyslexia Association and had previously been a certificated special education teacher. The student worked with the tutor twice a week for 40 minutes.
Ms. F worked with the student using the Slingerland method as described below:
In February 2019, the family connected with Dr. E to conduct a psychiatric evaluation and educational consultation. Dr. E talked with the Parents and consulted with Ms. F. Dr. E recommended the adaptation of the Orton-Gillingham method, Slingerland approach for reading and delivery of Slingerland by a specialist trained in that modality (among other educational recommendations). Dr. E’s evaluation concluded that this methodology was necessary for Student’s IEP.
Ultimately, the Final Order in this matter found that the student was denied FAPE because, despite having Dr. E’s complete evaluation and recommendations for the Student, the IEP did not include any additional SDI for reading or writing. (The IEP also did not include a requirement that the student be taught using the Orton-Gillingham method, Slingerland approach.) Ultimately, the parents were awarded total compensatory education of 278 hours of reading SDI and 278 hours of writing SDI.
However, the Order goes further and specifically states that the staff who will be providing the compensatory education SDI in reading and writing must be trained to provide the reading and writing SDI in either Orton-Gillingham or an equivalent methodology:
We encourage parents to work with their private providers and IEP team to determine if a specific educational methodology is most appropriate for their student.
Additionally, the team at Cedar Law PLLC is available to answer additional questions.
 71 Fed Reg. 46, 665 (2006)
 20 USC § 1414 (d)(1)(A)(IV)
 Pam Wright and Suzanne Whitney, Methodology in the IEP, Wrights Law, https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.methodology.htm