Education

New Missouri law requires dyslexia screenings and teacher training on the reading disorder

Posted July 6

Missouri students will now be screened for dyslexia under a new law signed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Teachers will now also be required to take two hours of training on recognizing and dealing with dyslexia.

The law was needed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, because "special education laws provide support for those with disabilities. But dyslexia doesn’t generally fall under those laws. Many parents say they can’t get schools to test their children for dyslexia or get services if they have a diagnosis."

In October last year, the Department of Education started a Twitter storm when it felt compelled to issue a statement clarifying that “there is nothing in the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that would prohibit the use of the terms dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia in IDEA evaluation, eligibility determinations, or IEP (Individualized Education Program) documents.”

The Missouri law comes as part of a national push to expand dyslexia awareness and treatment. Among other states, a push is on in Rhode Island.

"We need to take the blindfolds off," Suzanne Arena, president of the Rhode Island chapter of Decoding Dyslexia and a parent of a child who has it, told the Providence Journal. "We are not educating our teachers to know the signs and symptoms of dyslexia. To reach these children, you need the right education, early screening and early intervention."

In North Carolina, a similar push is underway. There, Lisa Eakins, a co-leader of Decoding Dyslexia NC, told the Jacksonville Daily News that “a lot of school systems won’t even use the word dyslexia," and that avoiding the word means missing the diagnosis and failing to treat.

Missouri's push got a boost when a parent of a dyslexic child, Jennifer Edwards, teamed up with dyslexia specialist Noel Leif to start a website and advocacy group, DecodingDyslexia-MO.org. The pair played a major role in lobbying for change, Missouri papers report.

“(The new law) means that we can now use the word dyslexia in public schools, that teachers will be educated on what that means and how to help students with dyslexia, and the state is willing to decide what best practices are,” Edwards told the Springfield News-Leader.

Missouri becomes the latest in a cluster of Southern states to embrace stronger dyslexia policies.

"Mississippi allows parents to apply for a funding voucher for dyslexia remediation outside the classroom," the News Leader reports. "Arkansas has public school screening and intervention and requires each school district to have a dyslexia specialist. Texas, which has led the way in dyslexia legislation, does its own testing and provides a diagnosis."

Email: eschulzke@deseretnews.com

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