Evidenced-Based Intervention Techniques for Dyslexia, Learning Disorders, and ADHD

Students with learning and attention disorders face significant challenges in the classroom. That is why it’s important to seek tutors, programs, schools, and teachers who are using evidence-based intervention techniques and best practices.

It’s important to note that terms like scientifically-based and research-based are distinctly different from evidence-based practices in critically important ways. Scientifically-based research describes the methods used to test instructional practices by providing the general guidelines and research required for evaluating effectiveness. The methods are used in answering what is most likely to work?

Research-based is the broadest of the three terms and describes practices that have been studied in some way but doesn’t necessarily use all the quality indicators of scientifically-based research. It might refer to a single study that has not been replicated, doesn’t allow for an evaluation of cause and effect, uses small numbers of subjects and participants, and includes studies that may or may not have been vetted by a panel of experts. It does not necessarily include a control group or comparison group and isn’t replicated, therefore providing little evidence; in other words, it’s unclear whether the results are likely to be replicated if used in another researcher’s setting. Just because research has been done, doesn’t mean it has been done well, is unbiased, valid, or reliable.

Evidence-based practices are considered type and magnitude of research. Type refers to the systematic way researchers apply an intervention and measure its effectiveness. (The type must be quantitative; meaning the effects of the intervention must be measureable). It must show a clear cause-and-effect relationship with improved outcomes by using a comparison and control group. Magnitude refers to the amount of studies that show a strong, positive correlation between an intervention and improved academic or behavioral outcomes. It’s evaluated by examining the effects of a collection of studies that lead to consensus about the effectiveness of a particular practice.

The following list is comprised of evidence-based practices.

Important disclaimer: Every child is different and their behaviors and needs will also be unique. We suggest tutors, programs, and schools that provide specific, evidence-based techniques and we discuss them with you at the follow-up meeting after the evaluation. This does not mean we guarantee that these techniques will result in a positive outcome in all cases. There are too many variables involved to provide any kind of guarantee of success. We also do not receive any financial or exchange benefit from making specific recommendations. We sincerely want to provide our professional opinion about what may be an effective intervention for your child. This is not a complete list. There are many other effective techniques which we are continually discovering.

  1. Orton Gillingham techniques for dyslexia

This highly structured program introduced the idea of breaking reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds, and then building on these skills over time. It also pioneered the “multisensory” approach to teaching reading, which is considered the gold standard for teaching students with dyslexia. This means that instructors use sight, hearing, touch and movement to help students connect language with letters and words. (Rosen 2016)

Orton–Gillingham also puts a strong emphasis on understanding the “how” and “why” behind reading. Students may explore why the letter s sounds one way in the word plays, and another way in the word snake. Once they know consistent rules and patterns, they’re better able to decode words on their own. (Rosen 2016)


  1. Instruction techniques for dyscalculia (math learning disabilities)

The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project

UCSMP has created a curriculum for students from pre-kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. UCSMP materials, including Everyday Mathematics for Grades preK-6 and seven UCSMP textbooks for use in Grades 6-12 mathematics (Pre-Transition Mathematics; Transition Mathematics; Algebra; Geometry; Advanced Algebra; Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry; and Precalculus and Discrete Mathematics), are being used currently by an estimated 4.5 million students in elementary and secondary schools in every state and virtually every major urban area. (Usiskin) We find that these techniques are appropriate for children with strong visual memory, language, and fluid reasoning ability. They are not as effective with children who are concrete learners and who need foundational memorization of facts and consistent scope and sequence of skills.


 Connected Mathematics

CMP is a problem-centered curriculum promoting an inquiry-based teaching-learning classroom environment. Mathematical ideas are identified and embedded in a sequenced set of tasks and explored in depth to allow students to develop rich mathematical understandings and meaningful skills.


Saxon Math (for elementary age students with math disabilities)

Saxon takes an incremental approach to math, introducing a new skill or principle each day, then reviewing these concepts and skills day after day for weeks. This approach helps build students’ confidence in their ability to “do” math successfully. Students who have used this program receive consistently high scores on standardized math tests. We find this technique to be successful with concrete, sequential learners who need memorization, review, and scope and sequence learning.



  1. Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) for middle and high school students with math disabilities

I Can Learn

A full-curriculum mathematics software solution that is a self-paced, mastery-based technology fully aligned to Common Core State Standards for math grades 5th through Algebra and allows for effective differentiated instruction in a positive learning environment.


Jostens/Compass Learning

Jostens/Compass learning provides an extensive set of assessments which place students according to their current levels of performance and then gives students exercises designed primarily to fill in gaps in their skills.

Accelerated Math

Students must learn to think critically—like mathematicians—in order to master math. Accelerated Math keeps students working—and thinking—to solve a set of 6 problems before they see which ones they missed. The right amount of productive struggle helps students learn.



  1. Writing assist materials for dysgraphia

Stem sentences, essay templates and graphic organizers for dysgraphia: http://storey.weebly.com/graphic-organizers-and-writing-templates.html

They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings (Second Edition) http://books.wwnorton.com/books/webad.aspx?id=4294986798

High School Essay Templates http://writewellapp.com/high-school-essay-templates-and-formats

Elementary School – Sentence generators: http://sentence.yourdictionary.com/ and Stem sentences: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/sentence-stems/

and Handwriting without Tears: http://www.hwtears.com/hwt

  1. Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) for ADHD

“A functional assessment is an approach to figuring out why your child acts a certain way. It uses a variety of techniques to understand what’s behind inappropriate behaviors. This includes looking at non-academic factors that might be contributing to your child’s frustration with learning.”

“Knowing what’s behind inappropriate behavior can help you and the school find ways to change the behavior. The basic idea behind this approach is that your child’s behavior serves a purpose. Whether they’re aware of it or not, your child acts a certain way to get to a desired outcome or goal.”

“A key part of a functional assessment is figuring out what triggers certain behaviors in your child at home, in school and with friends. Sometimes parents and teachers assume they know what’s causing a child’s behavior because they’ve seen other children do similar things. But it’s important to remember that the causes for the same behavior can vary widely among children.” (Morin 2016)

Learn more at: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/evaluations/evaluation-basics/functional-assessment-what-it-is-and-how-it-works

Identifying and effectively using evidence-based practices is particularly important for special educators because students in special education often already have academic or behavioral deficits. Using evidence-based practices with ongoing progress monitoring gives students the best chance at achieving their goals. For an extensive list, The Colorado Department of Education has an excellent .pdf on best practices which can be found here https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/ta_intro_evidencebasedpracticespdf

-Turning Point Team

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