Legislation

With up to 20 percent of the general population affected by dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities, laws calling for early and effective intervention have been sweeping the country state by state in recent years. Legislation is viewed as a critical step in addressing the impact reading disabilities have on the lives of students diagnosed with them, and the nation as a whole.

Dome of a state house

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As the struggles associated with dyslexia affect all aspects of life, Wilson supports state and federal legislative initiatives as a means to alter the course of a student’s education, self-esteem, and personal and career goals.

All but a few states now have dyslexia laws on the books, largely due to the grassroots advocacy of parents. By late 2018, more than two dozen states had passed legislation specifically calling for early screening of young children. While several states are in the early stages of implementing these new laws in public schools, others are leading the way by requiring appropriate student remediation and professional learning for educators.

In 2011, the nonprofit organization Decoding Dyslexia was created by parents in New Jersey who were concerned about the limited access to educational interventions for students with dyslexia within the public education system. Since then, chapters have spread to all 50 states.

Decoding Dyslexia chapters advocate for five key policy goals:

  • A universal definition and understanding of dyslexia;
  • Mandatory teacher training on dyslexia, including recognizing warning signs and appropriate intervention strategies;
  • Mandatory early screening for dyslexia;
  • Mandatory dyslexia remediation programs, which can be accessed by general and special education populations; and
  • Access for students with dyslexia to appropriate assistive technologies in the public school setting.

As a result of recent legislation, a growing number of states have adopted comprehensive handbooks or guidelines that define dyslexia and the effective teaching and learning methods that help students with this learning disability achieve literacy. Examples include:

Dyslexia laws by state can be found on several websites, including:

National Legislation to Support Dyslexia Research

The READ Act (Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act) was signed into law in February 2016. This legislation requires the National Science Foundation to devote at least $5 million annually to support research on the science of specific learning disabilities, including the following related to dyslexia:

  • Early identification of children and students with dyslexia;
  • Professional learning about dyslexia for teachers and administrators;
  • Curricula development and educational tools for children with dyslexia; and
  • Implementation and scaling of successful models of dyslexia intervention.

At least half of the allocation will be for research focused specifically on the science of dyslexia.

Prior to the bill’s enactment, Barbara Wilson was invited to testify before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing on September 30, 2015. Her testimony in support of the bill and the video recording of the hearing can be found on the Committee’s website. (Please note the video begins at the 1 hour and 14 minute mark.)