+ Adolescents and Adults with Dyslexia: It’s Never Too Late

other topics: use search box

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has issued a paper titled “Information and Resources for Adolescents and Adults with Dyslexia — It’s Never Too Late.”

Beginning in grade 4, skilled reading is necessary in order to achieve in all subject areas.  As we grow and mature, more and more is expected of all of us.  But for individuals with dyslexia, the demands of school and the workplace are especially great.

It is often assumed that students above the third or fourth grade have acquired sufficient decoding skills and that the struggles they continue to have are simply related to comprehension difficulties.  But older dyslexic students still have problems with word recognition.  Because they haven’t benefitted from years of reading and targeted instruction, they are often held back by lack of vocabulary, background knowledge and this is a huge component of their comprehension difficulties.

It can also affect their ability to spell and write, making it difficult for them to express their knowledge and ideas accurately.

Although it is often assumed that after grade 4 individuals who can’t read are beyond the age for direct instruction and should be offered accommodations and technology only, a wealth of evidence shows that intensive, high quality literacy instruction works well for these individuals (Alliance for Quality Instruction, 2006).

In other words, it’s never to late.  But it’s essential to find an instructor who is not only experienced but also properly trained.

Identifying and Addressing Instructional Needs

If an individual hasn’t yet established sufficient word level skills by 4th grade, direct instruction is necessary.  According to the Center on Instruction (2008), “Under the right conditions, intensive and skillful instruction in basic word reading skills can have can have a significant impact on the comprehension ability of students in the fifth grade and beyond.”

The Center on Instruction’s report of research findings indicates the following key recommendations for teaching word study to older students:

  • Teach older students to identify and break words into syllable types
  • Teach when and how to read multisyllabic words by blending the parts together
  • Teach them to recognize irregular words that do not follow predictable patterns
  • Teach them the meanings of common prefixes, inflectional endings, and roots.  (Instruction should include ways in which words relate to each other — for example “trans” in transfer, translate, transform, transition)
  • Teach how to break words into word parts and to combine word parts to create words based on their roots, bases, or other features
  • Teach how and when to use structural analysis to decode unknown words

Factors for School Success

First and foremost, an older student should have skilled instruction in what a  validly administered evaluation has shown to be his deficit areas of reading and writing.  To progress to more advanced levels, the following matters should be considered:

  • Tutors in subject areas
  • Accommodations, such as extended time and/or oral exams
  • Modification of assignments
  • Reduction of course loads
  • Guiding of students to majors in which they have personal strengths
  • Reduction of class sizes
  •  Technology, such as text readers, smartpens, spelling and grammar checks

Factors for Job Success

It is not simply individuals with dyslexia who struggle with reading and writing demands in the workplace.  Research has shown that nearly 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills needed by employers.  But when addressing these needs, do not forget that dyslexic students need particular accommodations.

Offer training and other written materials in accessible formats; restructure job tasks.   Make sure there is assistive technology (text reading systems, reading pens, speech recognition systems, and portable word processors that have spell and grammar checks).

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended in 2008 (ADA) is a federal civil rights law designed to prevent discrimination and enable individuals with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of society.

The ADA protects an individual’s right to request reasonable accommodations for the hiring process and on the job.  A key principle of the ADA is that all individuals with disabilities who want to work and are qualified to work must have an equal opportunity to work.

To be protected under ADA, you must have a disability as defined by the ADA, and you must be able to do the job you want or were hired to do, with or without reasonable accommodations.

While there is no question that early intervention is the best way to help students get on track, it is never too late to help older students and adults make progress and succeed.

With proper evaluation and appropriate instruction, as well as accommodations, adolescents and adults can achieve their goals in the workplace.  They can make their own unique contributions to the workplace and society.


Alliance for Excellent Education (2006), Adolescent Literacy. [Fact sheet].  http://carnegie.org

Achieve, Inc. (2005).  Rising to the Challenge: Are high school graduates prepared for college and work? Washington, DC: Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. / Public Opinion Strategists

Kruidenier, J, Partnership for Learning (Project), RMC Research Corporation & National Institute for Literacy (US). (2002). Research-based principles for adult basic education reading instruction. Washington, DC: Partnership for Reading

Torgesen, J K; Houston, D D; Rissman, L M; Decker, S M; Roberts, G; Vaughn, S; et al (2007).  Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center for Instruction, Portsmouth NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.


All About Adolescent Literacywww.adlit.org. This website is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Ann B and Thomas L Friedman Family Foundation.  It is directed to educators and parents of struggling adolescent readers and writers.

Alliance for Excellent Education: www.all4ed.org/.  The Alliance for Excellent Education is a policy and advocacy organization dedicated to transforming high schools so that every student graduates and is ready for postsecondary education and success in life.  Two of the Alliance’s key reports are  “Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy” (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004) and “Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools” (Graham & Perin, 2007).  

Americans With Disabilities Act  http://www.ada.gov/workta.htm or call the toll free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY).

Bookshare  www.bookshare.org  Bookshare offers approximately 90,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals, and assistive technology tools.  Bookshare is free for all US students with qualifying disabilities, thanks to an award from the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

Carnegie Corporation’s Advancing Literacy Initiative  www.carnegie.org/literacy/index.html The Carnegie Corporation’s Education Division began an Advancing Literacy initiative in 2003 to affect adoescent literacy policy, practice, and research.  Publications include “Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success;” “Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools;” and “Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy.” 

Center on Instruction  www.centeroninstruction.org/index.cfm The US Department of Education sponsors The Center on Instruction, whose parent group is the RMC Research Corporation from Portsmouth, NH.  Included in their publications is the second edition of the “Effective Instruction for Adolescent Struggling Readers,”  a revision of the 2008 version.  This version presents information based on findings  from “Interventions for Adolescent Struggling Readers: A Meta-Analysis with Implications.”

source: this information is taken from an IDA fact sheet, prepared with the assistance of Barbara A. Wilson.  IDA is the International Dyslexia Association, http://www.interdys.org; or email info@interdys.org.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards  614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com



Comments are closed.