Early Screening for Dyslexia Legislation is a life changing opportunity!
Massachusetts legislators will consider Dyslexia Legislation this year and we are asking you to share your experience with your legislators at the State House.
At age 5, before formal reading instruction, students with a neurobiological predisposition to a reading disability called dyslexia can be validly and efficiently identified as "at risk for dyslexia". Researchers who have already demonstrated the validity and efficiency of screening in a 5 year National Institute of Health funded study, here in Massachusetts, tell us that the screening can take less that 30 minutes. States like CT, NJ, RI, and NH have already passed dyslexia legislation.
Early indicators are highly effective. All students need the foundational skills for reading and the screening will help teachers use interventions that target those pre-reading foundational skills like phonemic awareness, rapid automatized naming, and letter sound knowledge that a student needs. Dyslexic students will demonstrate deficits in these early indicators at age 5 and can begin effective evidenced based instruction while it is most effective, before and while learning to read.
This is a ground breaking idea since many people mistakenly believe that dyslexia can not be identified early. Current neuroscience research tells us that not only can we identify at age 5, but that early indentification and intervention is a much more effective way to help these students. Learn more about this research here:
The "Paradox of Dyslexia" has been that students are not identified until they fail, but interventions are most effective before they fail. The failure and stress of trying to read without the needed intervention results in stress and anxiety for our youngest students before they have a chance to learn to love school. How real is this stress? Watch the video with Dr. Roberto Olivardia below to learn more about the social emotional factors of dyslexia.
Currently in Massachusetts thousands of students are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade state assessments, MCAS or PARC. We know they are struggling but have not identified which students are at risk for dyslexia. Eventually, Massachusetts identifies many students after reading struggle and failure as needing services, but does not have a system to consider dyslexia before the stress of failure and the process of advocating for a full evaluation, wasting years.
First students must struggle and fail, sometimes through multiple tiers of instruction. Then students are classified with various less accurate terms. Most parents report that without an outside evaluation some schools refuse to even discuss dyslexia as a possibility. How can they get the help they need sooner and specific to the actual disability dyslexia?
Dyslexia is neurobiological, students with dyslexia arrive at kindergarten and first grade and are not ready to learn to read without early direct instruction. These students can be easily identified with a screening process that includes: 1. Phonemic Awareness (PA),
2. Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) and 3. Letter Sound Knowledge (LSK). Current early intervention rarely includes what is specifically needed for dyslexia.
Dyslexia is well researched and known to be neurobiological and evidenced based interventions are also well identified. You can learn more about that here:
Statistically, according to the National Institute of Health and neuroscience research, dyslexia is the most common and well researched cause of reading failure. So the majority of students that make up the students with disabilities line are most likely students with dyslexia.
Nevertheless in Massachusetts, dyslexia is not considered until after a child is failing. Students with dyslexia are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Schools often refuse to use the word without an outside evaluation. In most cases, schools use the more broad term Specific Learning Disability (SLD). This broad term has frequently been determined to be subjective and used differently in various districts across the state. Other areas are also used subjectively. In Review of Special Education in the Commonwealth, Report Commissioned by Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education it is reported that clear more specific identification would improve services. Instead we learn that in our state:
"local school districts are given substantial flexibility in their interpretation of these specific disability categories. In some cases, this appears to result in children with the same underlying issues receiving different disability labels in different school districts. This represents a potential impediment to the effective delivery of services to children and also presents challenges for our analyses. Based on what appears to be the relative diagnostic subjectivity for certain disability categories across the Commonwealth, we combined – as described in Part 1 of this report – children in the Specific Learning Disability, Health and Communication disability categories into one ‘High Incidence’ disability category in some of the analyses reported below."
Families, teachers, researchers and students of the Commonwealth would all benefit from more clarity. Dyslexia is defined and well researched by the National Institute of Health. Congress in the recent READ Act, in IDEA and ADA laws mentions dyslexia specifically as a particular disability under the SLD broad category. Providing this definition would be very beneficial.
The Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education issued Dyslexia Guidance in October 2015 informing states that there is no reason to avoid the specific disability name, dyslexia and also that when using SLD category the actual disability may inform decisions on how to provide services. Decoding Dyslexia has adopted the hashtag #SayDyslexia to raise awareness that naming dyslexia can guide better, more effective delivery of services.
Please complete this form to let us know who has been contacted so we can have other legislators and staff follow up.
For the Massachusetts House use this link: goo.gl/forms/W04xYxCxie1NIeG82
For the Massachusetts Senate use this link: goo.gl/forms/ES3F02dZ7jTITImF3