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Dyslexia – The “Invisible” Disability?

by Pete Wright

I am a special education teacher of 30 years. I have taught every category of students with disability, including autism.  But it seems now that autism is everyone’s main focus. Lobbying groups are huge – they receive everything.  On the contrary, these same advantages are not enjoyed by the dyslexic population of special ed.  Dyslexia is the invisible disability.

The “D” word is often not allowed in schools.  Children are not tested specifically for it and rarely treated. Parents are told their children with receive “accommodations.” No one bothers to remediate them. Or, worthless goals and objectives are placed in the IEP for a “reading disability”.

Students with dyslexia can be completely remediated with the proper multisensory training.  Once they are taught to read by the proper method, they can do anything.  Unfortunately, I have seen these students relegated to “learned helplessness” by systems who just push them through.

You speak our language. I am dyslexic.

I was remediated for two years, one on one, hour a day, 5 days a week, using strict Orton-Gillingham, by Diana Hanbury King,one of the world’s best.  Many years later, Diana founded Kildonan School (  In the summer, I attended Camp Mansfield, founded by Helene Dubrow, one of Orton’s disciples. There I was tutored by Roger Saunders, past president of the Orton Dyslexia Society, i.e., now the International Dyslexia Association.

I had intensive remediation from two who are now considered to be the best in the world.

In the early 70’s when I was a juvenile probation officer, I did several presentations at the national conferences of what was known at that time as the Orton Dyslexia Society and the Association of  Children with Learning Disabilities. I discussed the relationship between Dyslexia, LD, and Juvenile Delinquency.

A Shift in the National Trend

Today, Wrightslaw’s Special Ed Advocate, has over 81,000 subscribers. Easily 80% of the emails we receive about our newsletter and website are from parents of children with autism seeking help, in crisis, or asking questions.  The autism cases are far greater in frequency and number than dyslexia cases.  A shift has occurred.  It was not that way 10 years ago.

In the early 80’s most of my cases were labeling and eligibility issues.  Mid 80’s through early 90’s, cases shifted to tuition reimbursement for private placements of children with dyslexia or LD into private day or residential schools.  My cases pretty much tracked the national trend.

After my US Supreme Court Carter case in 93, tuition reimbursement cases continued. With Lovaas and ABA now being reimbursable, these cases began to increase in number to a virtual flood of litigation that surpassed dyslexia/LD reimbursement cases in great numbers.

Parents in Crisis

More and more of our conferences are organized by parents of children with autism.  We have noticed that parents of children with autism are more obsessional, more driven.  Reason? Our belief is that often their kids were developing normally. Somewhere between 18-20 months of age, within a 2 month timespan, these children lost communication skills, became inward, withdrawn, perseverative, etc. and the parents “lost” their child.  The devastation is incredible.  Parents are driven to “recover” their child.

Parents of children with dyslexia and/or LD may notice speech delay, then reversals, then sequencing and sound/symbol relationship problems. It is slow and the child’s personality is still there.  I know, it happened with my oldest son.  Before he was two, I began with intense speech language therapy.  With both of my sons, I became their Orton-Gillingham tutor.

Bottom line, I agree with your observations. But the reason it may appear there is more focus on autism than dyslexia is because more parents of children contact us because they are in crisis or they want us to do our Wrightslaw training program. Legal cases with autism are more frequent than those involving dyslexia.

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38 Comments on "Dyslexia – The “Invisible” Disability?"


Ask for, in writing, a meeting to refer your daughter for special education eligibility. Bring any and all documentation from doctors that specify the disorders. The school cannot refuse to test her.


My daughter has been diagnosed with OCD, ADD, Processing disorder and a math disability. She did not read until the 4th grade and has 3 siblings that have been diagnosed with dyslexia. Her IQ is fairly high At least 126, but she struggles with gifted work because of the amount of time it takes her to read and process this information. She has three times been denied a 504 because “She is smarter than 90% of her classmates. She may have to leave her gifted classes because she is unable to handle the workload since everything takes her 3 to 4 times as long as her classmates. In every meeting it is agred that she has disabilities and has a hard time, but is denied because she keeps decent grades. Please help, if I can’t bear to walk in her bedroom one more night at 3:30 AM to her crying and begging me to keep her awake so she can finish.


My daughter has dyslexia, she has been on an IEP since 1st grade and is currently in 7th grade. They have allowed her modifications which have helped and her teachers have always tried to work with her and I have appreciated that. But now, thanks to Common Core, she will not be allowed the modifications on the required yearly test. She took the test last year with accommodations, and it stated that she should be allowed accommodations again this next year, but since Common Core will be fully implemented, no accommodations will be allowed. I hate fighting for accommodations on her IEP when it’s not going to matter if they won’t allow them due to Common Core. What can I do?

Critter Sitter of Cary

IEP’s have nothing to do with Common Core, get an attorney


I need someone to review my child’s proposed IEP and the bogus annual measurable goals the school wrote. I need recommendations for specific goals related to dyslexia, what scientifically based programs and how to accomplish it and how they will measure it. Can anyone give me names of people in Ohio? Our child was recommended to have an academic coginitive tutor (with training about dyslexia), but the school thinks the intervention specialist is that person. It is obvious she doesn’t have training nor understands dyslexia! What are we to do?


I am a parent with PDD-NOS on the autism spectrum and severe dyslexia. Trying to get an ed plan that addresses both of these diagnoses is impossible. When people can’t see disabilities they have less compassion and understanding. Also dyslexia is now losing its classification under the dsm -5. They want to put it under the sld umbrella. Children with dyslexia are already being ignored, socially promoted and not given the proper remediation to succeed. what are parents to do? we just allow school districts to push our kids thru or do we keep pushing for change and make schools recognize and remediate this deficit properly to give these bright kids the opportunity to succeed?