The International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council

Standard for Preparation of Dyslexia Teachers and Therapists

What is Dyslexia?

Definition of Dyslexia

"Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding 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 may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge."

Adopted by the IDA Board of Directors, Nov. 12, 2002. This Definition is also used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Teaching Level and Therapy Level MSLE Course Content

The goal of MSLE instruction is for students to become independent in reading and written expression. In each category of the IMSLEC-specified course content listed below, the teacher or therapist will demonstrate personal competency, provide age-appropriate instruction to students, and assess each skill with pre-, on-going, and post-tests, including written and performance-based assessment.

Check each instructional component included in your training course.

Phonology and Phonological Awareness

Phoneme-Grapheme/Grapheme-Phoneme Association (Alphabetic Principle)

Syllable Instruction



Reading Fluency (accuracy, automaticity and oral reading prosody – to facilitate/support comprehension)

What Is Taught

Phonology and Phonological Awareness:  Phonology is the study of sounds and how they work within their environment. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a language that can be recognized as being distinct from other sounds in the language—the minimal contrastive unit in the pronunciation of the words in one specific language. Phonological awareness is the understanding of the internal linguistic structure of words. An important aspect of phonological awareness is phonemic awareness or the ability to segment words into their component phonemes.

Sound-Symbol and Symbol-Sound Association: This is the knowledge of the various sounds (phonemes) in the English language and their correspondence to the letters and combinations of letters (graphemes) that represent those sounds. Sound-symbol association must be taught (and mastered) in two directions:  visual to auditory (grapheme to phoneme) and auditory to visual (phoneme to grapheme). Additionally, students must master the blending of sounds   into words as well as the segmenting of whole words into individual sounds for spelling.

Syllable Instruction: A syllable is a unit of oral or written language with one vowel sound. Instruction includes the teaching of the types of syllables in the English language. Syllable division rules are directly taught in relation to word structure.

Morphology: Morphology is the study of the meaningful units within words A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language. The curriculum includes the study of base elements, roots, and affixes.

Syntax: Syntax is the set of principles that dictates the sequence and function of words in a sentence in order to convey meaning. This includes grammar, sentence variation, and the mechanics of language.

Semantics (Comprehension): Semantics is that aspect of language concerned with meaning. The curriculum (from the beginning) must include instruction in language comprehension—both oral and written.

Reading Fluency: Reading fluency includes accuracy, automaticity, and oral reading prosody. The goal of reading fluency is to facilitate/support reading comprehension.

How It Is Taught

Simultaneous, Multisensory (VAKT: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Tactile): Teaching incorporates all language learning pathways in the brain (visual, auditory, kinesthetic-motor [tactile]) simultaneously to enhance memory and learning.

Systematic and Cumulative: Multisensory structured language instruction organizes material to follow the order of the development of language. The sequence begins with the simplest and most basic elements and progresses systematically to more difficult elements. Each step is based on what has already been learned. Concepts taught are thoughtfully reviewed to provide practice to strengthen understanding and memory.

Direct Instruction: The inferential learning of any concept cannot be taken for granted. Multisensory structured language instruction requires the direct teaching of all concepts with continuous student-teacher interaction and guided practice.

Diagnostic Teaching: The teacher must be adept at prescriptive or individualized teaching—even when teaching a group. The teaching plan is based on careful and continuous assessment of each individual student's needs. The content presented must be mastered to the level of automaticity and independent functional use.

Synthetic and Analytic Instruction: Multisensory, structured language education programs include both synthetic and analytic instruction. Synthetic instruction presents the parts of the language and then teaches how the parts work together to form a whole. Analytic instruction presents the whole and teaches how it can be broken down into its component parts.

Fluency: Students are taught to group (chunk) words into meaningful phrases as they read (prosody). Strategies to increase reading rate—while maintaining accuracy and prosody (comprehension)—are taught.

IMSLEC is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1995 to accredit training courses preparing specialists in multisensory structured language instruction (Structured Literacy).

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