Closing the Dyslexia Gap

By State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem)

Studies estimate that approximately 20 percent of the population is affected at some level with dyslexia. Chances are, you may have a child with this learning disability, or know someone who does. Dyslexia is inherited, it can be detected at an early age, and there are proven, effective teaching methodologies that can help students to overcome it with the right intervention. While students with dyslexia will have it for life, this specific learning disability does not have to impede a child’s ability to succeed at any level.

Currently, there are no systematic dyslexia screening programs in place in our schools. This all but ensures that many students are never properly diagnosed, or are misdiagnosed with other learning disabilities. As a result, such students may never receive the intervention needed to meet their full potential. Up to 20 percent of our children are falling through the cracks.

This session, I authored Senate Bill 217 to close this gap. SB 217 would require each student in grades K-12 to be screened for dyslexia, using a quick, cost-effective and accurate test to detect students who may be at risk and need to be referred for further screening. It will ensure we identify affected students early, with time to intervene, and provide these students with the right intervention.

SB 217 would also require school districts to employ at least one dyslexia specialist, who is trained in specific teaching methodologies for affected students. The specialist can be a trained teacher, special education teacher, or paraprofessional. Furthermore, this bill would create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) classification for dyslexia. Not all intervention practices used for students with other reading disabilities work for dyslexic students, but we know the methodologies that do, and it is critical to get these students the resources that will work for them.

We cannot afford to let any of our students struggle through school, and potentially their lives and careers, without doing something – especially when we know what works. We can’t allow dyslexia to continue to be under-reported and misdiagnosed. The changes outlined in SB 217 will help accurately identify this pervasive issue among our student population, and provide the tools dyslexic students need to succeed.

SB 217 was recently approved by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, and now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

If you have any thoughts or questions on this bill or other issues, please contact me by email at or by phone at 800-382-9467.

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