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Senate Passes Bill To Help Thousands Of Students With Dyslexia

Jul 25, 2018 06:18AM ● By Theresa Gilman

State Senator Barbara L’Italien

(Editor's Note: the following information was provided by the office of State Senator Barbara L’Italien.)

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill today to help thousands of students in the commonwealth who suffer from dyslexia.
Dyslexia affects one in five children in the commonwealth, and learning disability screening procedures are inconsistent from district to district, and sometimes even within districts themselves. Consequently, many families struggle to get a proper diagnosis of dyslexia and thus cannot advocate for the appropriate services needed to ensure their child can learn to read and succeed in school. An Act relative to students with dyslexia, sponsored by Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) puts in place the systems to create early screening protocols critically necessary to improving early literacy and achieving reading proficiency by 3rd grade for all students statewide.
“I first filed this bill after meeting Ethan, a young boy in my district who has dyslexia, and his family. I quickly learned that our current laws and education system do not adequately serve our students with dyslexia,” said Senator L’Italien, who brought with her to the Senate floor stories from children all over the Commonwealth who have struggled with dyslexia. “Most families in the stories I read today have spent countless hours, thousands of dollars, and many sleepless nights trying to get their kids the education that every child deserves. The Massachusetts Senate took a big first step today toward finally supporting thousands of students who just want to be able to learn alongside their peers, enjoy school, and go on to find success in life. Education is the greatest equalizer, and that starts with learning to read.”
“Many children suffer in silence because their dyslexia goes undiagnosed or is incorrectly treated,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation will lead to an improved understanding of dyslexia by providing tools to train educators to identify the signs of dyslexia so our children don’t struggle unnecessarily. We owe it to every student to provide them with the support they need to lead productive lives and achieve their full potential.”
When caught early and at the appropriate time, students with dyslexia can receive specialized instruction and learn reading strategies so they do not fall behind their peers. The longer a student has to wait for a diagnosis and try to learn to read without these interventions, however, the harder it will be for them to catch up. This often results in longer-term self-esteem and other issues.
Once students with dyslexia learn strategies to read with their dyslexia, they can go on to succeed independently without future supports, saving the commonwealth millions of dollars in special education costs.
An Act relative to students with dyslexia sets up laws, regulations, and a system to support all students with dyslexia by: 
  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in consultation with the Department of Early Education and Care, to issue guidelines to assist districts to develop screening protocols for students who have at least one indicator for dyslexia or another neurological learning disability
  • Adding identification of dyslexia and other neurological learning disabilities to the goals of the early literacy panel
  • Tasking the early education panel with creating action steps to implement research-based recommendations from experts in early language and literacy development for student screening and teacher preparation for students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.
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