Accommodations for Students with Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia often have the cognitive capacity to learn grade level content, but their reading and writing difficulties get in the way. There are some accommodations often recommended for students with dyslexia.

Why are Accommodations Important?

For the student with dyslexia, it can feel as if the world of school is barred by the locked gate of text. Most subject matter knowledge is accessed by reading and communicated through writing. Accommodations can provide the key to unlock this gate so that the student can be successful in school.

Classroom accommodations are designed to allow students with dyslexia to have access to the same material during instruction and meet the same academic expectations as their peers. Testing accommodations are important to ensure that a student’s knowledge is being assessed, not their ability to communicate that knowledge in writing, or to read the test items themselves.

Reading fluency is impacted for the majority of students with dyslexia and often an important accommodation is extended time, or extra time, for classroom assignments and tests. It is important to have consensus on the meaning of extended time and how much extra time is necessary in order for the student to meet the course requirements.

Accommodations vs. Modifications

Accommodations are not the same as modifications. Classroom accommodations change how a student learns the material, while modifications change what material is to be learned. Testing accommodations change how a student expresses his or her understanding of material, while modifications change what material is tested. For example, dictating answers to an essay test would be an accommodation, but requiring only a portion of the content be assessed via essay would be a modification.

Because reading and writing tasks take longer and are more frustrating for students with dyslexia, modifications may be appropriate to consider as well. For example, some students with dyslexia may benefit from reduced reading and writing workload at school or for homework.

The importance of classroom and testing accommodations and modifications can increase as students’ workload increases; these supports are essential for student success in secondary school. Modifications and accommodations should be revisited often as students with dyslexia progress through school, their literacy needs shift, and the demands of their classes change.

Suggested Accommodations for Students With Dyslexia

While there are a variety of classroom and testing accommodations for students with learning disabilities, the following are recommended to consider in order to address the specific needs of a student identified with dyslexia. NOT ALL ACCOMMODATIONS are appropriate for all students—the individual needs of the student are considered when selecting which accommodations are appropriate.

Type of Accommodation

Examples (not an exhaustive list)

(Many of these accommodations are described in “Assistive Technology for Students with Dyslexia.”)

  • Picture schedules
  • Visual representations of classroom directions
  • Access to the teacher’s notes or a classmate’s notes
  • Audiobooks (e.g., Learning Ally, Bookshare)
  • Text-to-Speech tools (e.g., NaturalReader, Read&Write for Google Chrome, Reading Pen, Voice Dream Reader App)
  • Speech-to-Text tools (e.g., Dragon, Siri, voice recognition software)
  • Audio commenting for written work (e.g., Kaizena, Responsive Voice)
  • Note taking supports (voice recorder, Microsoft One Note)
  • Computer/tablet/smart phone for written assignments, audio book access, apps and accessibility features
  • Software to check spelling, capitalization, and sentence structure
  • Spelling dictionary 
  • Graphic organizers, both teacher- and student-made
  • Calculator for computation facts
  • PDF Readers (e.g., KNFB reader)


  • Maintaining classroom routines and schedules
  • Simplified directions containing key words and delivered one step at a time
  • Repeating directions and checking for oral language comprehension of presented information
  • Pre-teaching new and important concepts or vocabulary
  • Providing written information to avoid copying from the board
  • Reviewing content daily
  • Providing opportunities for hands-on learning; pairing tactile learning with text
  • Providing opportunities for small group teaching
  • Providing visuals of letters and numbers (i.e., letter and number strips)

Classwork, Homework, and Testing

  • Read on demand or read aloud for classroom assignments and assessments and/or standardized tests
  • Extended time for classroom assignments and tests
  • Providing frequent breaks from academic and testing tasks
  • Administering tests orally
  • Providing options for response during testing (i.e., multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, allowing the student to respond orally rather than in a written format)
  • Providing options for skill demonstration (e.g., posters, oral reports, blogging, slide presentations, video presentations)
  • Completing classwork with a partner
  • Separate testing space
  • Scribe to record dictated responses


Student Role in Accommodations Planning

Regular discussion of these accommodations and their effectiveness for the student are important ways to ensure their continued appropriateness. In some cases, students may not consistently choose to access the accommodations he or she is provided. Teachers need to document a student’s refusal to access identified accommodations and communicate that refusal with the student’s family.  The team may need to reconvene to discuss the impact of this refusal if it happens routinely.

If the student plays an active role in meetings, he or she can share his or her thoughts and experiences with the supports provided, and suggest changes based on what is needed and helpful in each setting. 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 to 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.