Special Education Services for Students with Dyslexia

In FCPS, students with dyslexia usually receive special education services under the category of Specific Learning Disability.


The process for consideration of special education eligibility begins by a referral to the Local Screening Committee (LSC) initiated by an educator, a parent or guardian. Often this referral is based on concerns regarding:

  • Weak performance in areas of reading, spelling, or writing that is unexpected for the student’s age/grade.
  • Characteristics or markers of dyslexia indicated by assessments, family history, or observations.

At this meeting of the LSC, information and data about the student’s progress in academic areas is shared and reviewed. A decision is made whether formal testing is necessary to address concerns relating to a possible disability. The assessment battery that is considered by the committee may include a psychological evaluation, an educational evaluation, a sociocultural evaluation as well as sometimes other related evaluation components.  No evaluations are conducted unless there is written, parent consent. See the section entitled, “Continuum of Assessments for Dyslexia” for additional information.

Upon completion of evaluations, the LSC and the parent(s) will reconvene to review all results and complete the process for determining whether the student qualifies as a student with a disability. The eligibility committee will use the FCPS “Basis for Committee Decision” (BCD) forms to discuss and review the criteria for any areas of eligibility the student may be suspected to qualify for. Students with dyslexia often are considered for the area of specific learning disability (LD).  Due to Virginia Regulations and FCPS Procedures, the LD criteria includes three components for eligibility:

  • Exhibits pattern of underachievement
  • Demonstrates processing disorder
  • Requires specially designed instruction

A pattern of underachievement can be established by consulting multiple data sources. Students with dyslexia may have developed compensatory strategies, leveraging comprehension skills to mask decoding and fluency difficulties; it is recommended that direct assessments of these skills be examined. Spelling difficulties are related to dyslexia as well, and spelling inventories and writing samples may be important data sources. Finally, students with dyslexia may exhibit difficulties at home that are less evident at school, so data should be collected about student difficulties with homework, test preparation, and other assignments.

The comprehensive evaluation results will be reviewed for the next eligibility criterion, a processing disorder. Students with dyslexia most frequently exhibit decoding, spelling or fluency difficulties that stem from a phonological processing disorder. In fact, phonological difficulty is a defining characteristic of dyslexia (see the section entitled, “Definition and Continuum of Dyslexia.”) Other processing disorders can also contribute to reading difficulties (e.g., rapid automatized naming, processing speed, working memory.)

Another eligibility criterion states that the student must require specially designed instruction as a result of the specific learning disability that cannot reasonably be provided solely through general education. Specially designed instruction is more than short term participation in a specialized reading program. The federal law, IDEA, defines specially designed instruction as adapting, as appropriate, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of the student that result from the disability; and to ensure student access to the general curriculum. A student may have dyslexia and may require accommodations and interventions, but not necessarily require specially designed instruction.

Parents who disagree with an eligibility determination have the right to appeal a decision made by the eligibility committee. The Due Process & Eligibility office can assist parents and staff when conflict arises regarding eligibility decisions. See the FCPS Procedures for Implementing Special Education for more information. 


For students found eligible, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be developed to address the special education and related services the student will receive during the year. Services in special education will be addressed through an IEP for students with dyslexia who qualify.  Services will differ from student to student depending on the identified areas of weakness and severity of the dyslexia.

The distinguishing characteristic of dyslexia as one of the types of specific learning disability is a specific weakness at the phonological level, resulting in difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling.  If this is a specific area of need, the IEP team will propose targeted goals and specially designed instruction to address weaknesses in decoding, spelling, fluency, and/or writing. Likewise, the IEP will address goals in areas beyond literacy, if deemed appropriate for that student.

The IEP team, which includes the parents or guardians, reconvenes each year to report on progress and set new goals, propose hours of service and delivery options, and discuss accommodations. See more information in “Accommodations for Students with Dyslexia.” An IEP may indicate the need for Assistive Technology. See “Assistive Technology for Students with Dyslexia” for more information.

As appropriate, the student can be included as a member of his or her own IEP team. Learn more about the rationale for this involvement in the section entitled, “Self-Advocacy and Voice for Students with Dyslexia.”

The FCPS online dyslexia handbook provides information and resources to FCPS schools and parents alike as they support students with dyslexia.

© 2017 Fairfax County School Board. All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact the FCPS Department of Special Services, Office of Special Education Instruction, Willow Oaks Corporate Center, 8270 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031.