Over the past several years, laws pertaining to Dyslexia have begun to spring up at both the state and national level. Many of these laws have resulted from a strong and dedicated group of teachers, parents, and advocates. Currently, there are less than a dozen states lacking Dyslexia laws. From Alabama, where dyslexic students are now exempt from the third-grade retention law, to Wyoming, where early assessing and intervention is now required for students, and everywhere in between, new laws are helping students across our nation.
The IDEA (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) lists thirteen conditions that will qualify a student for special education services. Dyslexia is not one of these conditions, but Specific Learning Disability is and Dyslexia falls under this broad category. The IDEA is a national law and each state may interpret it differently. States cannot offer anything less than what is set forth by the IDEA, but states can implement IDEA standards in different ways.
Most states have or are developing specific Dyslexia laws, and that is a good thing since as many as one in five students have Dyslexia. These new state laws aim to provide more detail and support for struggling readers. Some states are running pilot programs, others have gone as far as to provide phonics-based tutoring to Dyslexic students (New Mexico) or even offer Dyslexic students scholarships to schools that provide better intervention and accommodation (Mississippi).
The majority of state Dyslexia laws focus on one of six main things.
- Defining Dyslexia – What is Dyslexia? How is it diagnosed? Who may diagnose it? What criteria must a student meet to be diagnosed?
- 2. Screening – Who should be assessed for Dyslexia? At what age/grade should students be assessed? What screening tools should be used? When should students be reassessed?
- Intervention – What type of intervention should be offered and by whom? How will progress be monitored? How often and for how long should intervention be available?
- Teacher Education – Should colleges and universities require training about Dyslexia? Is there a specific training program that all teachers should undergo?
- Accommodations – What accommodations best suit students with dyslexia? How should accommodations be implemented in the classroom and on tests? How are they determined?
- Funding – Who is responsible for funding additional screening, interventions, and professional development?
While Dyslexia laws are becoming increasingly prominent throughout the United States, advances are still needed in the areas of research, early identification, remediation, and accommodation.