House bill calls for dyslexia point person in school districts

By Louis Llovio

Richmond Times-Dispatch 

School districts across the state could soon have a point person in place to deal with students with dyslexia.

Legislation pending in the House of Delegates, and approved by House Appropriations Subcommittee on Elementary & Secondary Education Tuesday, would require every School Board to employ a dyslexia adviser.

The bill, HB2395, would make sure that districts had a reading specialist in place trained in how to identify and the address the condition. The specialist would also be trained in “accommodations and teaching techniques for students with dyslexia or a related disorder and to serve as an adviser on dyslexia and related disorders.”

The subcommittee approved the measure unanimously.

“This is going to ensure that they have the training in dyslexia to be the point of contact for parents and teachers who have questions,” said Del. Benjamin L. Cline, R-Rockbridge, the bill’s sponsor.

The new legislation follows a bill last year that required new teachers to receive training in identifying and dealing with dyslexia.

This year’s bill is an extension of that and is meant to give parents and teachers someone to talk to.

“A lot of people are confused about whether they are seeing signs or not,” Cline said.

Lorraine Hightower, a parent advocate with Decoding Dyslexia Virginia and chair of Loudoun County Public School’s Special Education Advisory Commission, said some larger school districts already have dyslexia specialists on staff.

These specialists “advise the districts on appropriate interventions, accommodations,” she said. “And that’s just what we’re trying to do, is to create those opportunities for other school districts.”

The Dyslexia Research Institute says “10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every 100 dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, dyslexia “is a learning disorder characterized by difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words.”

It is common in children and occurs in kids who have with normal eyesight and intelligence. Students with dyslexia can succeed in school with tutoring or special education programs, according to the clinic.