History (Backup)

1920 – 1949: Foundation of Understanding & Birth of an Organization

Samual Orton

Samual Orton

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) is the oldest organization dedicated to understanding and advocating for individuals with dyslexia.  The IDA was born in the 1920’s from scientific and evidence-based approaches with direct roots to Dr. Samuel Orton’s pioneering studies that helped lay the foundation for the field of reading research and multisensory teaching.  The IDA was formally organized in 1949, when after Dr. Orton’s death, a group of former associates including  [NAMES HERE], established The Orton Society “to carry on his work in the study, correction and prevention of reading and speech disabilities.” While, the name was updated twice since this time, our organization endures and remains true to the Dr. Orton’s original mission and purpose.

1950 – 1979: Centering a National Debate

During the postwar period, the Progressive Education movement gained increasing influence and began to shape educators views on the nature of reading instruction. As the debates heated up, the IDA adopted an ideologically neutral stance, preferring to focus instead, on research. The public debate reached a heightened pitch in 1955 when Rudolf Flesh published, “Why Johnny Can’t Read, and What You Can Do About It,” a critique of the then-popular practice of teaching reading by sight (“look-say” method).


Jeanne Chall

In 1961 the Carnegie Corporation of New York called on renowned researcher, IDA standard bearer, and Orton Award winner, Jeanne Chall to review the controversy. In her landmark book, Learning to Read: The Great Debate, published in 1967, Chall found methodology (early decoding), rather than ideology was of paramount importance, especially for children of lower socioeconomic status. As Dr. Orton and Anna Gillingham described many years earlier, for a beginning reader, knowledge of letters and sounds had more influence on reading achievement than the child’s tested mental ability or IQ.

As researchers gained a better understanding of how people learn to read, so too, did they begin to reach consensus on a standard definition of dyslexia. Within a few years, The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other institutions moved toward an accepted definition. To mark this important milestone and acknowledge the growing acceptance of the term, we changed our name to The Orton Dyslexia Society.


1980 – 1999: Research, Ideological Neutrality

Pricilla Vail

Pricilla Vail

Remaining true to it’s research-based origins, the IDA helped center national dialog while purposefully avoiding false dichotomies and firebrand rhetoric. The IDA’s focus, remained, as it always was, on supporting individuals with Dyslexia. Meanwhile, in the educational community, the debate sparked by Flesh in 1955 lead to what the popular press called the “Reading Wars,” and, in turn, the Whole Language movement in the 1980’s. During this period, advocates for multi-sensory, evidence based reading approaches were subjected to considerable scrutiny by spirited policy makers. Undeterred, IDA luminaries including Reid Lyon, Pricilla Vail, and many others continued to publish dozens of books, give hundreds of lectures, and work tirelessly to reach thousands of determined parents and educators while providing a balanced scientific backdrop for a national dialog.

To highlight the IDA’s core mission, avoid confusion, and underscore our organization’s international reach, in 1997 we changed our name to The International Dyslexia Association.

During this period, IDA luminaries including [NAMES HERE] continued making important progress in [RESEARCH HERE] with important milestones in [MILESTONES]


2000 – Present:  Structured Literacy in the Digital Age

In 2000, the NICHD National Reading Panel issued landmark report aligned with IDA evidence-based research.

Parent movements leveraging social media drive public policy and increasing demand for trained teachers. The IDA definition of dyslexia is being used in states across the U.S. to form the basis of public policy.

In the digital age, illiteracy is not an option; with a solid track record advocating for individuals with dyslexia, supplying foundational research, codification of the definition of dyslexia, centering national debate, the IDA is focused on helping shape reading instruction in American classrooms.

The IDA published its Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading which puts a fine point on what evidence shows to be the best way to teach reading both for students with dyslexia an for all other students as well. We call this approach “Structured Literacy,” and explicit, systematic, multi-sensory approach that focuses on giving student the ability to decode the words they encounter in learning to read.

As part of this campaign, IDA has begun accrediting universities that prepare their graduates to teach reading in accordance with the Structured Literacy method. More recently, IDA began work on a certification exam that will provide credentials to teachers who have the knowledge and experience to bring Structured Literacy to the classroom. Finally, IDA is working to share evidence of the effectiveness of Structured Literacy in improving reading skills and help school districts find and train teachers who can bring this approach into their classrooms.

Today IDA membership exceeds 10,000 teachers and professionals, teachers and parents. We have 41 branches in the U.S. and 21 global partners across the globe. Our annual international conference has grown to several thousand strong meeting of diverse participants from all corners of the globe.