By Carolyn D. Cowen and Denise Douce
This has been an unusually eventful summer for IDA and other organizations dedicated to helping students with dyslexia and other learning differences.
Dyslexia Hill Day 2015: A Day of Empowerment
First, parents, children, educators, and legislators from across the country gathered in Washington DC on July 14-15 for Dyslexia Hill Day 2015—a two-day forum on behalf of students with dyslexia to promote reform in areas such as early identification and intervention, educator expertise, investment in special education, and research. President Hal Malchow and staff from the home office represented IDA at the event. Various social media channels broadcast and amplified the energy of the day. (To sample, check out #DyslexiaHillDay on Twitter.)
Reauthorization of ECAA: Big Implications for All Students
The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) on July 16 with a bipartisan vote of 81-17, a critical next step in reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or No Child Left Behind). ECAA includes a provision to launch a Comprehensive Literacy Center on behalf of students who struggle with reading, writing, language processing, or executive function due to learning differences such as dyslexia. The House passed its own version of ESEA, called the Student Success Act (HR 5). The next step is for the two chambers to create and vote on one bill, which—if achieved and passed—goes to the President to sign into law or veto.
Congressional Dyslexia Caucus Letter: Use of the Term Dyslexia in IEPs
On July 31, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA)—co-chairs of the Dyslexia Congressional Caucus—and 26 members of Congress sent a bi-partisan letter to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) asking the DOE to guide states and school districts about use of the term dyslexia and the need for evidence-based instruction and interventions.
Themes of identification, intervention, and evidence-based instruction weave throughout the three events above and are echoed in the Dyslexia Congressional Caucus letter. Here is an excerpt:
“On behalf of children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities in our districts, we request that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) issue guidance to states and school districts regarding the use of the term ‘dyslexia.’… Despite the prevalence of dyslexia among students, parents nationwide have discovered that some states and school districts will not include the word “dyslexia” in a student’s Individualized Educational Program (IEP). In many cases, parents have been told that their state does not “recognize” dyslexia; and instead only uses the term ‘specific learning disability.’
“Families in our Congressional districts rely on access to a high quality education for their children with dyslexia. We look forward to your ensuring that the millions of students with dyslexia receive the evidence-based instruction and interventions needed to succeed in school and life.”
See the full text of the letter here. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) and 13 other organizations sent similar letters to the DOE, which can be found here. Reps. Smith and Brownley also recently introduced H.R. 3033, the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act or READ Act, a bipartisan bill to support dyslexia research.
How You Can Help
One of the biggest ways you can help our families who struggle to get help in public schools is to write your own letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging the Department to issue a letter clarifying the rights of students with dyslexia. If your school has told you that it does not recognize dyslexia or that dyslexia does not exist, please share this information with the U.S. Department of Education and describe your struggle to get appropriate instruction for your child. You can write the Department of Education at the address below:
Mr. Michael Yudin
Office of Special Education
US Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Change on the Horizon?
Each of these events is an important step toward helping future generations of children with dyslexia succeed in school and life. Taken together, they are all the more promising and reflect a mounting wave of interest in addressing the needs of those with dyslexia and related learning challenges.
We applaud the efforts of the many movers and shakers behind some of these events: National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), Bipartisan Dyslexia Congressional Caucus, and Decoding Dyslexia. As IDA President Hal Malchow recently said,
“Thanks to Decoding Dyslexia and other organizations in our family, some in Congress are finally paying attention. We passed a better Education and Secondary Education Act. We have legislation on the table. This is a sea change for our movement.”
Watch future issues of the Examiner for updates on these and related events. Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe for free.
Carolyn D. Cowen, Ed.M., Social-Media Editor & Strategist, eXaminer
Denise Douce, M.S., Director of Publications and Communications, International Dyslexia Association
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