Act 69 of 2014
The “D” word in Pennsylvania is not as taboo as it used to be. Dyslexia is finally getting the legislative limelight it deserves in Pennsylvania. The state has recently passed legislation that will help schools identifystudents’ struggles with dyslexia earlier in their academic careers, which can lead to more effective early interventions. Given that dyslexia is best treated with early and intensive interventions, this is potentially good news for students in Pennsylvania.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), dyslexia falls under a specific learning disability. A specific learning disability is “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.” (Emphasis ours; to read the full text of IDEA, click here.)
Act 69 of 2014, (24 P.S. §17-1701-C), the Dyslexia Screening and Early Intervention Pilot Program, sets up a pilot program targeting early literacy intervention in Pennsylvania. The program will use early screening and multi-tier support systems and evidence-based intervention to support students who have possible risk factors for early reading difficulties and dyslexia. The program focuses on problems such as naming letters and symbols, remembering sequences, and phonemic awareness.
The program will operate for three years, beginning in July 2015. At least three school districts will participate in the program, according to the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network in the Bureau of Special Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.
New Jersey also recently passed laws about dyslexia. They include the A3605/S2442 Dyslexia Screening law, A3608 Definition of Dyslexia Law, and A3606 Professional Development Law. The screening law can help stop young children from falling through the cracks by not being identified early. If they aren’t screened early, they miss out on crucial interventions. The definition law is important because “districts can’t tell [parents] that dyslexia doesn’t exist in NJ anymore because now it does … officially. That may not sound like much to some people, but for those who were told to their faces that dyslexia doesn’t exist, this is huge!” according to the Decoding Dyslexia – NJ website. Finally, the professional development law will require teachers to receive two hours of training per year in the field of reading disabilities.
Should you have any concerns about your child’s learning or processing, please reach out to your school team or us for some guidance.