Too often, students showing characteristics of dyslexia historically were thought to be unintelligent because they struggled learning to read. Research and wisdom have mercifully changed that perception.

And to that end, Iowa’s educators now have a critical tool at their fingertips to combat dyslexia among students – a neurobiological condition that causes reading difficulties in up to 20 percent of students. Two institutions — the Iowa Reading Research Center in Iowa City and Grand View University in Des Moines – now offer dyslexia endorsements designed to help teachers identify students who have characteristics of dyslexia and provide research-based remedies.

The endorsement is considered to be a game changer on how educators work with students who show characteristics of dyslexia. Those with dyslexia have difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. Students who show signs of dyslexia and don’t receive proper supports likely will have problems with reading comprehension throughout school.

The University of Iowa debuted the dyslexia endorsement in the fall of 2021.

“The endorsement prepares the teachers to help assess and inform instruction for students who are struggling with reading, writing and spelling,” said Nina Lorimor-Easley, assistant director at the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC). “The endorsement also teaches educators how to align district instruction and how to communicate with parents.”

The dyslexia specialist endorsement is a 1.5-year (18 credit hours) endorsement approved by the Iowa Department of Education’s Board of Educational Examiners in collaboration with the IRRC. The endorsement focuses solely on dyslexia and the reading development of students with dyslexia.

“The dyslexia endorsement is a huge advancement for our educators to add another skill to their toolbox,” said Iowa Department of Education Dyslexia Consultant Wanda Steuri. “Dyslexia should never stand in the way of a student’s success.”

Lorimor-Easley said she hopes to see many more educators come forward to receive their dyslexia endorsement.

“The need is there,” she said. “The majority of our universities prepare teachers to teach students who can read. Our teachers are not being taught effective ways to teach students who are struggling. Many of our students have a need that may not be addressed at this point, which has a downward spiral effect on their academics. This endorsement directly addresses that.”