Language Based Learning Disability Program


The Andover Public Schools are committed to providing an inclusive, targeted, and supportive environment for students who require specific and intensive remediation due to significant language based reading disabilities.


Andover Public Schools offers developmentally appropriate Language-Based programming from grades 2-12. The Language-Based Program is an instructional model designed solely for students with dyslexia and/or language-based learning disabilities. These students have average to above average reasoning skills and require a multi-sensory approach to support their reading, writing, listening, speaking and organizational skills.  In all content areas, through a language-based team teaching approach, students are provided with consistent instructional methodology which is highly structured and focuses on oral and visual modalities to support language processing and production.  Study and executive functioning skills are emphasized throughout all classes.  This model allows for reinforcement of strategies across all content areas: English, math, science and social studies.  In addition to these language-enriched classes, students receive specialized reading instruction and assistive technology consultation geared toward their individual needs.  The overall goal of the language-based program is to continue to develop literacy skills and strategies while providing supported access to grade level curriculum.


The consultation and admissions team will include one psychologist, the Director or Assistant Director of Student Services, middle or elementary Special Education Coordinator(s), one Speech-Language Pathologist or Special Educator, and one independent expert consultant. The purpose of the team is to:

  • Review referrals from IEP teams
  • Review individual student programs across elementary schools to ensure students are receiving targeted instruction and make a referral to the program if needed
  • Review progress data
  • Establish transition supports for students exiting the program



  • Average to superior cognitive abilities
  • Difficulty with organizing language—specifically with verbal tasks
  • May include memory deficits
    • Working memory
    • Efficiency of storage and retrieval
  • May include low processing speed
  • May include auditory discrimination/speech perception deficits (eg. Particularly fricative devoicing and place of articulation)
  • May include history of phonological processing disorder


  • Receptive language higher than expressive language
  • Listening comprehension is average or above average


  • Developmental lag in phonemic awareness
  • Difficulty decoding words
  • Difficulty mastering and/or efficiently retrieving sight words
  • Poor reading fluency
    • Automaticity, accuracy, prosody
  • Comprehension consistent with reading level
    • Comprehension challenges due to inaccurate and/or inefficient decoding/dysfluency
  • Persistent spelling deficits
  • Challenges with applied syntax and written composition (ie., structure and organization, not content)
  • May present with sequencing challenges
  • May have difficulty memorizing and efficiently using math facts and applying sequences in multi-step math problems
  • Older students may experience vocabulary deficits

 Entrance Criteria

A Diagnostic Profile will be completed for each student evaluated for Dyslexia and/or Language-Based Learning Disabilities to ensure consistency across evaluations and coordinated evaluation protocols between special educators, SLPs, and School Psychologists.

  • History of average to superior cognitive abilities
  • Primary Specific Learning Disability in the area of reading and writing
  • SLD in reading consistent with, but not limited to, double deficit dyslexia (weaknesses in phonological awareness and rapid naming)
  • Average receptive language skills
  • Student does not present with significant behavior or emotional concerns
  • Referral Information:
  • Annual review data
  • DIBELS and/or MAP data
  • Current IEP services
  • Completed referral form with evaluations attached (Psychological, Academic, Speech/language)

Exit Criteria

The purpose of the Language Base Program is to provide intensive remediation so students can both access and participate in the general curriculum. The admissions team will meet to review student progress. Students demonstrate readiness by:

  • Accessing grade level text through a combination of reading, digital technologies, and compensatory strategies
  • Proficient decoding skills
  • Producing written language within the average range with or without digital technologies
  • Applying strategies, showing increased independence and self-confidence as a learner
  • Understanding his/her strengths and needs as a learner and self-advocating effectively with adults and peers

Readiness is determined by a student’s IEP team. When students are ready, the team will work to develop a transition plan.


The Language Based Program offers developmentally appropriate curriculum and instruction designed to support student strengths, address challenges, and foster independence through the development of personal learning strategies. We remediate and support reading, writing, speaking and listening and we address all components of language development from structure to meaning.

The Language Based Program offers a combination of regular education classes supported by Language-based Program staff and trained regular education teachers, and separare special classes taught by program specialists.

Regular Education/Content Classroom

  • Special education staff support
  • Speech-Language Pathologist consultation
  • Vocabulary Instruction
  • Consistent strategy routines such as graphic organizers and note-taking systems
  • Visual supports such as reference notebooks and visual strategy reminders
  • Technology “toolbox” of core accessibility tools

 Language-Based Classroom

  • Low student to teacher ratio
  • Certified Special Education Teacher(s)
  • Related Services consultation and direct services
  • Reading Tutorial program
  • Academic Skills program
  • Ongoing program consultation by experts in the field of Language-Based Learning Disabilities
  • Multi-modal instruction in the areas of decoding, vocabulary development, reading comprehension, writing, note taking, organizational skills, and spelling.
  • Assistive Technology consult


The following instructional values underlie our teacher-student-parent partnership:

  1. We believe a child’s growth mindset is important for their academic success. We strive to create an environment where students feel empowered to take risks and become confident learners and self-advocates.
  2. We believe a diagnostic, prescriptive and multisensory approach will allow us to capitalize on each child’s strengths and address each child’s academic needs.
  3. We believe students should never have to choose between remediation and access to the rich, diverse, interesting, and challenging curriculum enjoyed by their peers. We are committed to providing appropriate accessible instructional materials and digital tools to accommodate students’ ongoing challenges in efficient information processing.


The Language Based Program provides specialized decoding and comprehension programs incorporating language-based instruction. Core methodologies can be described as:

  • Multisensory—instruction uses the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways in the brain simultaneously
  • Explicit—Direct and unambiguous—teachers directly explain and demonstrate each concept, rather than relying on incidental exposure
  • Sequential and cumulative—Skills are sequenced in small hierarchical steps—the organization of instruction follows the order of the language, progressing methodically from easier to harder skills so that each step builds on and strengthens subsequent steps 
  • Diagnostic and mastery-based--Teachers base instruction on continual assessment of each student’s retention and application of skills and continue teaching each skill until students have developed automaticity
  • Scaffolded—Supports are structured for success and eventual independence
  • Strategy-based—Predictable learning sequences across content
  • Structured—Tutorials follow a predictable pattern and include drill, expressive and receptive practice with multiple modalities, introduction of new concepts using multisensory representations, and practice and application of new skills receptively and expressively. Classroom instruction includes supports for the organization of time, materials, and language.


Cognitive strategies are tools and methods to facilitate the organization and application of new information, to integrate new information with what we already know, and recall the information or new concepts when needed.  A strategy can be used across content areas in similar situations. By automatizing the strategy, students become more independent and efficient in their own learning. These strategies may include using a visual model or sentence frame to plan before writing, structured ways to organize and record what you have already learned on the topic of study, consistent frameworks for how to take notes, or creating sequence chains for main events in a story. Research has shown that teaching learning strategies, including which strategies to use in different situations, is highly effective with students who have language based learning disabilities. The most effective strategies are used consistently over time, are coherent and simple enough to be internalized, and multi-purpose so they can be applied across content. Core strategies and organizational systems include:

  • Students use a universal planner to record homework, reminders and notes (Middle and High)
  • Students use a structured binder system to organize content material (Middle and High)
  • Students use a reference notebook system for immediate access to learned skills and strategies
  • Students use consistent graphic organizers mapped to text structure
  • Students use a structured, 2-column note-taking system (Middle and High)



The Elementary program includes small group reading tutorials and a small group skills-based ELA class incorporating structured writing instruction. Students will be included and supported in content area classes (Math, Science, and Social Studies).

The Language-Based program staff is comprised of two dedicated special education teachers, a dedicated speech-language pathologist, paraprofessionals, and language-strategy trained content teachers.


The Middle School program includes small group reading tutorials and a small group skills based ELA class that includes leveled, uncontrolled text literature study and structured writing instruction. Students will also participate in an Academic Connections class for study skills and executive function strategies. Students will be included and supported in content area classes (Math, Science, and Social Studies) and encouraged to use strategies and supports learned in Academic Connections.

The Language-Based program staff is comprised of a dedicated special education teacher, paraprofessional, language-strategy trained content teachers, reading teacher, and consultation from a  Speech/Language Pathologist.           


  • Most reading tutorials run for a class period, though the IEP Team may determine otherwise. Students are broken up into groups of no more than 3 and move through stations targeting decoding/encoding, reading fluency and reading comprehension. Reading tutorial sessions follow a prescriptive lesson format utilizing methodologies from Orton-Gillingham, Wilson or Lips and vary depending on individual student need.
  • Sample Lesson Plans:
  • Curriculum Tutorials and Language Based Classroom
  • Systematic Vocabulary Instruction


The high school offers a model of three co-taught, language-based content classes (Math, Science, Social Studies) and small-group English and Academic Support classes for students continuing to require more intensive language-based instruction.   The small group English class includes leveled, uncontrolled text literature study and structured writing instruction.  The dedicated Academic Support class reinforces skills learned in the other program classes and emphasizes executive functioning and work management skills.  Students may also receive other specialized services they require, such as specialized reading, reading comprehension support, and/or speech/language therapy.  

Depending on need, students may also participate in a hybrid language-based model whereby certain classes are delivered within the traditional general education curriculum and others are delivered via the language-based program. This model will be available for grade nine in the fall of 2018. The overall goal of  language-based services is to continue to develop literacy skills and strategies, while providing supported access to grade level curriculum.

The Language-Based program staff includes dedicated general and special education teachers, reading specialists, an instructional assistant, and consultation from a speech/language pathologist.


Core instructional programs are described below. Teachers may choose to add other interventions as appropriate, and not all interventions/methods are appropriate for every child or every developmental level. Interventions are targeted at reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Orton-Gillingham: Orton Gillingham is a methodology, not a program. The Orton-Gillingham method has long been accepted as a sound research-based methodology for children with dyslexia.

LiPS: The Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing program is used with students who have difficulty with the discrimination of speech sounds. Auditory discriminations deficits can interfere with the application of speech sounds to letters and letter combinations. There are several similarly articulated consonants in the English language that can be difficult to discriminate. There are also several vowel sounds. When discrimination deficits are not addressed before children learn to decode, problems and confusion can persist, even when high quality research-based programs are used.

Wilson: Wilson is an Orton-Gillingham program with a specific scope and sequence and built-in curriculum-based measurements that teachers can use to track progress. Wilson is designed to be used individually or in small groups.

Lexia Core 5: Lexia is an adaptive computer-aided instruction program designed to provide mastery-based practice in phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Lexia is used as supplemental practice and not replacement for direct Tier III instruction.

Story Grammar Marker: The overall structure and organization of a story, called a story grammar, plays an important role in the development of oral language and literacy skills. According to the American Speech- Language and Hearing Association, language-based comprehension intervention involving oral narrative may improves reading comprehension and written expression. Story Grammar Marker is endorsed by our consultants from the Tufts Center for Reading and Language Research.

Framing Your Thoughts: Syntactic processing refers to the rules for constructing sentences, including grammar, grammatical functions and usage. An understanding of language function, or syntax, is critical for an understanding of sentence construction and complexity. Grammar is essential for fluency and fluent comprehension of text. Children with language-based learning disabilities can have difficulty with writing because they experience delays in spelling and sometimes language function/syntax, particularly in applied situations such as writing. These challenges can impact written production, organization, and meaning. Framing Your Thoughts is a direct, multisensory approach to basic writing conventions. Teachers use the method to teach word use in sentences and paragraphs. Teachers use symbols, movement, and manipulatives to represent the various functions words in a sentence. Children learn to design basic sentences and expand them into interesting, complex sentences and paragraphs using the visual models.

Project Read Report Form (coming soon): The overall structure of a piece of informational text, called a text structure, plays an important role in the development of language and literacy skills as well as the acquisition, organization, and application of new content information. There are five basic text structures under which most expository text can be organized: compare and contrast, cause and effect, order or time-sequence, problem-solution, and description. Report Form is an explicit, multisensory method for understanding how to extract the main idea of a piece of expository text, how to organize key facts, and how to use the information in the context of its overall text structure 

Landmark Writing: At AHS, students with language-based learning disabilities work with the Landmark Writing program, originally authored by Andover High School special education department coordinator, Jean Tarricone. The Landmark model employs sentence frames in a highly structured and increasingly complex format. 

Read Naturally: The Read Naturally program combines three research-based methodologies for the development of reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension: teacher modeling, repeated reading, and progress monitoring. In Read Naturally Strategy programs, the student monitors reading progress through graphs showing the student's fluency and comprehension performance on each story.

Frye Instant Words: Sight words are words that cannot be decoded such as ‘said’ and/or words that must be recognized instantly. The Fry word list is a list of the most commonly used words in rough rank order. Amazingly, 50% of all English text is comprised of the first 100 most frequently occurring words and their variants (Fry, 1980). The rapid recognition of sight words is essential for fluent reading.


All students in the program utilize their personal device to access TextHelp and Learning Ally. An Assistive Technology Specialist provides consultation to the program and ongoing training for staff. Key technology tools support student learning as well as input/output demands. The chart below includes a “core toolbox” of accessibility and output tools, but other software may also be used according to student need and teacher lesson design.



Grade Level


Read Naturally



Fluency and connected text practice

LEXIA Core 5



Decoding and connected text practice


Input and Output


A multi-functional tool for screen reading, highlighting, vocabulary, study skills, structured note-taking

Learning Ally



Audio books




Audio books




A tool for managing written output demands and for taking notes


Annual Review Assessment

Annual review assessment includes a phonics/word structure inventory (eg., WIST), a reading level assessment (eg., QRI-VI), a fluency assessment (eg., DIBELS, Read Naturally), and accuracy and comprehension measures assessed using selected subtests from the Woodcock-Reading Mastery-III and GORT-V (rate and accuracy subtests).