Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Theme Editors' Introduction: DYSLEXIA LEGISLATION PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Theme Editors' Introduction: DYSLEXIA LEGISLATION PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

Article excerpt

The first dyslexia laws in the United States were passed in Texas in 1985. This historical event was accomplished, in large part, thanks to the efforts of Tincy Miller, the parent of a son with dyslexia who became a tenacious advocate for dyslexia legislation in Texas. Given her influential position on the Texas State Board of Education and the knowledge that she had acquired about dyslexia from her training as an Academic Language Therapist at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, Texas, she had the power, the knowledge, and the motivation to improve the quality of education of all children in Texas. See http://www.region10.org/interactive-dyslexia-handbook/i-dyslexia-law-history/ for a complete de-scription of the history of Tincy's journey. Thanks to these initial efforts in the area of dyslexia legislation, many students with dyslexia are getting the services that they need to overcome the struggles that have plagued these otherwise often very bright and creative individuals in states across the United States.

The current issue of Perspectives on Language and Literacy (Perspectives) attempts to provide the reader with not only a broad perspective of current dyslexia legislation across the United States and background on the importance of the early identification of dyslexia and teacher training, but it also provides the reader with recent examples of successful grass roots efforts in this area and ways to address teacher education that do not require legislative action.

It is important for the reader to understand that there is no universally accepted definition of dyslexia. Although Tolson and Krnac (this issue) base their discussion of the early identification of dyslexia on the NICHD definition of dyslexia adopted by the IDA Board of Directors in 2002, this definition of dyslexia has not been universally accepted by those in the dyslexia community. The term dyslexia means many different things to different people across the United States and around the world. As is evidenced in the Youman and Mather article, states in the United States have addressed dyslexia legislation from different perspectives. While some states have passed dyslexia laws that use the term dyslexia in a general way to refer to students who are struggling in reading, other states use the term dyslexia more specifically to refer to students who have been identified as dyslexic. It is important for the reader to understand that the term dyslexia does not refer to something like measles that someone either has or does not have but that dyslexia occurs on a continuum more like obesity, where the line between obese and not obese may be drawn in different places. Common characteristics of dyslexia such as problems with phonological awareness, rapid naming, spelling, decoding, and reading fluency, not only occur on a continuum of severity but occur in different patterns across individuals. In other words, each common characteristic of dyslexia may or may not be present in an individual who has dyslexia. The reader is directed to Louise Spear-Swerling's article in the Spring, 2015 issue of Perspectives for an in-depth discussion of this issue.

The first article in this special issue on legislation, "Dyslexia Laws in the USA: An Update," by Youman and Mather, provides an update on the status of dyslexia laws in the United States as well as a summary of dyslexia laws across the country that highlights differences among the state laws and regulations. The authors document which states have recognized the existence of dyslexia, have implemented measures of early identification, have acknowledged the well-established need for dyslexia services, and provide state resources such as dyslexia handbooks. In the article, the authors make it clear that ample variability exists in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia across the United States. The authors also provide useful tools including both a table and map of recent legislative efforts across the United States that also indicates which states have resource guides and handbooks on dyslexia. …

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