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Dyslexia Advisory

What is Dyslexia?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, dyslexia is recognized as one of the conditions under the category of specific learning disability, as it is language-based and neurological in origin. 

Dyslexia is distinguished from other learning disabilities due to its weakness at the phonological level. It is often characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding (reading) 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 of dyslexia may include difficulty in reading comprehension of texts and reduced reading experience that can impede background knowledge, vocabulary growth, and writing. 

Dyslexia is Not...

  • Individuals with dyslexia do not see things backwards or reverse letters, as this is a common misconception.

  • Dyslexia is not a visual problem.

  • People with dyslexia do not lack intelligence or talent. 

  • One cannot outgrow dyslexia. 

How does RPS support structured literacy instruction?

Richmond Public Schools uses an explicit structured literacy approach for both core instruction and intervention which is evidence-based, systematic and cumulative, allows for sustained practice, and incorporates defined cycles of progress monitoring and diagnostic teaching. 

Dyslexia Advisor

Per requirements in the Code of Virginia § 22.1-253.13:2(G) (Standard Two of the Standards of Quality), Richmond Public Schools must identify an employee to serve as the “dyslexia advisor” to the district. 

The role and responsibilities of the dyslexia advisor are as follows:

  • Have an understanding of the definition of dyslexia and a working knowledge of (i) techniques to help a student on the continuum of skills with dyslexia; (ii) dyslexia characteristics that may manifest at different ages and grade levels; (iii) the basic foundation of the keys to reading, including multisensory, explicit, systemic, and structured reading instruction; and (iv) appropriate interventions, accommodations, and assistive technology supports for students with dyslexia.

  • Share information and resources about dyslexia with district stakeholders

  • Provide information on the district’s Response to Intervention model 

Please note, the dyslexia advisor is not a decision-maker, does not evaluate students, nor provide services to students who are formally diagnosed with dyslexia. 

Dyslexia Advisory Team

Richmond Public Schools has created a dyslexia advisory team. The purpose of this team is to build the district’s knowledge and capacity about dyslexia by providing resources, recommendations, and best practices to help students with dyslexia. The dyslexia advisory team also provides procedures and support to schools and families in identifying students with dyslexia, as well as the provision of instruction and services for students with dyslexia. 

The dyslexia advisory team consists of the following members: Elementary Reading Intervention Specialist, Early Reading Intervention Specialist, Secondary Reading Intervention Specialist, K-5 English Curriculum Specialist, Elementary Instructional Specialist for Exceptional Education, and the Secondary Coordinator of Exceptional Education.

If a parent/guardian is concerned about dyslexia, please reach out to  Jessica Sarkees, the RPS dyslexia advisor at jgartner@rvaschools.net.

Additional Dyslexia Resources

Virginia Department of Education: Dyslexia

Virginia Department of Education Specific Learning Disability Supplementary Dyslexia Guide: Frequently Asked Questions

International Dyslexia Association: Dyslexia Handbook

International Dyslexia Association: Dyslexia Basics

International Dyslexia Association: What is Structured Literacy?

Center for the Collaborative Classroom: The Effectiveness of SIPPS for Students with Dyslexia

Wilson Reading System (WRS) Instruction

Language! Live Instruction

System 44 Instruction

RPS Science of Reading and Structured Phonics