MTSS, or a Multi-Tiered System of Supports, is an increasingly popular framework that provides targeted, comprehensive, explicit, and systematic support to students, to improve their academic performance. It’s a proactive approach to education, focusing on early prevention and intervention by establishing support tiers that cater to the specific needs of each student.
How does MTSS work? Students are grouped into different tiers, or levels, of support, depending on their individual needs and struggles, both from an academic and a behavioral standpoint. Tiers range from universal interventions, which cater to all the students in the classroom (Tier 1), to individualized, in-depth, intensive intervention (Tier 2 and Tier 3). Data and data-driven instruction and intervention play a big role in MTSS, as do regular student assessments, collaboration and interaction between students and educators, and communication between parents and educators.
But how can MTSS support students with dyslexia and help them unlock their full academic potential?
One critical advantage of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports is that it allows educators to identify student strengths and weaknesses early, which in turn enables them to intervene at the first signs of a struggle. This means that teachers can assess students and pinpoint the areas where they excel and where they struggle, and they can notice the early warning signs of learning disabilities such as dyslexia. MTSS is focused around early and constant screening, allowing teachers to identify the students at risk for dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and other challenges. In the case of dyslexia, early intervention can have a big impact, and significantly improve long-term outcomes. Universal screening for dyslexia should include things like phonemic awareness, word reading, alphabetic principles, and rapid automatized naming. Teachers can use these screening tools to identify how much a student struggles, and where they need help, and situate them in the appropriate tier of support to make sure they get the best education possible for their needs.
Tiered, structured, explicit and systematic instruction is essential to pinpoint the students at risk for dyslexia or other reading challenges as early as possible in the classroom. MTSS helps achieve just that. Strong Tier 1 instruction ensures that all the students in your classroom get the best possible education, and that they have access to the resources they need to thrive. By teaching and implementing phonics as early as possible, teachers can ensure that gaps in language processing, understanding, and development are covered. All students in Tier 1 should benefit from the principles of explicit instruction, even if they are going to also receive Tier 2 or 3 instruction separately. Tier 1 should be inclusive and focus on developing critical reading skills for all students; it should serve as the foundation towards reading fluency, with Tier 2 and Tier 3 offering additional, more individualized instruction where needed, including Orton-Gillingham instruction, assistive technology, and other evidence-based interventions. This tiered system ensures that no student feels left out or marginalized, and that they can continue learning alongside their Tier 1 peers while receiving extra support in Tier 2 or 3.
Because MTSS is so well-structured and focused on systematic instruction, keeping track of the support students are making is much easier. One of the principles behind MTSS is constant progress monitoring, a process in which each student is assessed to see if they are responding well to the interventions or if the teaching strategy needs to be tweaked. Supporting students struggling with dyslexia is essential to see whether the strategies applied are working for the individual student, or if more support needs to be provided through Tier 2 or Tier 3. Where a student is stagnating or not making enough progress with their dyslexia challenges, educators will need to provide more intensive, targeted support, and increase the individual time spent working with the student every week, to ensure that they master the basics of phonics and phonemic awareness.
Social and emotional support
Children struggling with dyslexia or other learning disabilities like dyscalculia or dysgraphia can end up feeling a lot of frustration, anxiety, emotional distress, and they can become isolated from their peers. The struggles related to reading and writing can significantly impact their self-esteem, their relationships with other students, and their behavior at home. Reading can become an anxiety trigger for them, instead of a relaxing activity for them to enjoy for the rest of their lives. MTSS provides emotional and social support for struggling students, as well, providing support and guidance to ensure that children don’t lose confidence in their abilities and their self-esteem. In an MTSS environment, teachers can work with counselors, educational therapists, and other specialists as needed, to provide wrap-around support for children dealing with dyslexia in the classroom.
MTSS also prompts the use of UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles to help children with dyslexia overcome their challenges. UDL is a teaching approach that aims to accommodate the specific needs of all students, regardless of their particular challenges. It goes beyond traditional instruction, focusing on flexibility and inclusivity and use of additional teaching resources, like assistive technology, text-to-speech software, audio support, and more. UDL in the framework of MTSS can provide additional resources and tools for educators to support students struggling with dyslexia and other reading disabilities, depending on the specific needs of each student.
If your student or child is struggling with dyslexia or other reading disabilities, and you’re not sure how to provide the best possible support for them, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Da Vinci team of experts and get a professional opinion.