Specially Designed Instruction - Reading & Mathematics


The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) through the TTAC network provides resources and professional development on evidence- based and High-Leverage Practices (HLPs) for teachers and school divisions to support the learning and development of literacy skills for school-age children.

Two primary literacy initiatives, the Multi-Sensory Structured Language Program (MSLIP) and the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM)™ are currently underway.

High Leverage Practices in Special Education (HLPs) and Literacy: Both literacy initiatives model elements of the type of instruction identified by the Council for Exceptional Children’s High Leverage Practices. Several examples are given below:
When Orton-Gillingham is used as a tier 2 or 3 intervention we assist teachers to use assessment to guide the formation of instructional groups.  Through the analysis of student data, which includes the students’ present level of performance or baseline, and the clarification of short - and long- term goals, we promote specific, direct, explicit scaffolded instruction. As needed, we assist teachers to modify or adapt materials. Multi-sensory activities promote student engagement. The Learning Strategies Curriculum of the Strategic Instruction Model is designed for diagnostic, prescriptive, scaffolded instruction. Instruction is intensive and explicit. A self-monitoring component serves as a motivator.

The Initiatives:
MSLIP: The multi-sensory structured language approach training is a response to the current demand for teachers who have the skills and knowledge to address the issues of dyslexia among students with specific learning disabilities.

The following links are to the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE’s) website that relate to directly dyslexia:

SIM: The Strategic Instruction Model consists of Learning Strategies (LS) and Content Enhancement Routines (CER).Strategies were designed to provide 1:1 or small group, direct, explicit instruction to students with learning disabilities. Content Enhancement Routines promote direct explicit instruction and higher order thinking, and were developed to be used as tier 1 instructional supports in inclusive classrooms where there is a range of student skills and knowledge.

Assistive Technology for Literacy

Disabilities that challenge students’ abilities to read and/or produce text can have a negative impact in many areas of their educational experience. Assistive technology tools that support reading and writing can give students access to content while they continue to receive literacy instruction and develop their literacy skills. Some of these tools are already present on classroom laptops, tablets, and other devices.

The Assistive Technology Tools in Schools Booklet (Assistive Technology Network, Virginia Department of Education) includes a section with Assistive Technology for Literacy resources and includes the following references:

Judith L. Fontana, Ph.D.



Mathematics instruction in the inclusive classroom, as well as in self-contained classrooms, must incorporate effective Tier 1 math instruction and provide specially designed instruction (SDI) for students requiring it. SDI should support students with disabilities’ access to the general curriculum, is individualized and will look different for students with different strengths, needs, and abilities while meeting goals and objectives included within individualized education programs. SDI in mathematics will often incorporate high leverage practices in its design and delivery.


Mathematics Resources from the Virginia Department of Education
This web page offers professional development resources, mathematics instructional resources, technology and mathematics resources, and links to professional organizations, as well as to math updates.

Assistive Technology for Math
The Assistive Technology Network of the Virginia Department of Education has compiled tools for math that can support students with disabilities in a number of ways. These tools make abstract concepts more tangible with manipulatives, allow for the creation of graphs, expressions, and calculations, and provide auditory feedback. Some of the recommended tools  to support students are:


Diane Loomis, Ph.D.