Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Dyslexia Laws in the USA: An Update

Magazine article Perspectives on Language and Literacy

Dyslexia Laws in the USA: An Update

Article excerpt

"Dyslexia is Real" is the title of Tennessee's House Bill 1735, passed on January 23, 2014. This bill follows a long history of legislative initiatives that have been designed to provide various legal protections for individuals with dyslexia. The path has not been easy, but today early childhood centers, K-12 schools, universities, and the workplace in a number of proactive states provide guidelines for the identification and treatment of dyslexia. This article summarizes the current status of dyslexia laws across the country, as presented in Table 1, and provides guidelines for the initiation of change in states that have lagged behind. It is an update to our article "Dyslexia Laws in the USA," published in the Annals of Dyslexia (Youman & Mather, 2013).

As of December of 2015, 28 states had statewide dyslexia laws, 6 states had initiatives or resolutions related to dyslexia, and 14 states had handbooks or resource guides to inform parents and educators about proper procedures for students in public and private educational settings. The laws, particularly those being passed in the last five years, focus primarily upon a) dyslexia awareness, b) pilot programs for screening and intervention, c) teacher training, d) provision of interventions and accommodations, and e) overall rights for individuals with dyslexia.

Dyslexia Awareness

A number of states have spearheaded the recognition of dyslexia as a unique disorder with prevalence rates varying from 5% to 20% among researchers and national and international organizations. This effort to recognize dyslexia is crucial because, unfortunately, the terminology used to describe reading disorders varies across states and settings. Individuals with dyslexia who are diagnosed in school settings fall under the category of "Specific Learning Disability (SLD)," a category within the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA 2004). Individuals with dyslexia diagnosed in clinical settings fall under the category of "Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Reading" as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Both diagnoses include dyslexia as a descriptive term within their definitions, but within school settings, the actual term dyslexia is rarely used in psychological and diagnostic reports. Thus, most parents of children who receive special education services at school under the category of SLD in reading have not been informed that their child has dyslexia. Similarly, if a clinical diagnosis of Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Reading is made in a clinical setting with DSM-5, parents and teachers may not necessarily understand that this label encompasses dyslexia. With the hopes of separating dyslexia from a large umbrella of learning disorders, the states of Alabama, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas, have passed legislation for the recognition of a dyslexia day, week, or month. On such dates, schools and mental health practitioners are encouraged to educate others about the common characteristics of dyslexia, as well as the appropriate accommodations and interventions.

Pilot Programs for Screening and Intervention

Taking existing models for screening and intervention established in states such as Texas, a large number of states have followed suit by passing legislation to fund pilot programs for dyslexia assessment and intervention. For screening and assessment, for example, the state of Pennsylvania passed HB 198 (2013), which established a screening pilot program involving all students enrolled in full-day kindergarten in three different school districts for a period of three years. Assessment areas within the screening process include measures of phonological awareness and rapid naming. The ultimate goal of early assessment is to identify students at risk for reading failure and provide early interventions that will help students succeed in later grades. …

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