Lawmakers seek ways to identify and treat dyslexia early

Lawmakers seek ways to identify and treat dyslexia early

(Ga.) A Georgia legislative committee tasked with studying how to better serve students identified with dyslexia have proposed more comprehensive screening measures to ensure early detection.

Lawmakers also recommended adopting requirements for current teachers and those working to become educators to receive training specifically tailored to recognizing the signs of dyslexia and other language disorders.

Members of the committee–which included three state senators, the deputy state superintendent and a licensed clinical psychologist and former board member for the International Dyslexia Association, Georgia Chapter–stressed the importance of early diagnosis by implementing measures both student- and teacher-centered.

“Mandated screening for all kindergarten students should be implemented across the state,” committee members recommended in a report released last month. “In addition, the Department should develop required teacher training on dyslexia and other related language disorders.”

Dyslexia involves difficulty matching letters with the sounds those letters, or combinations of letters, make. According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, it is the most common of all neuro-cognitive disorders, affecting 20 percent of the population, and representing between 80 percent and 90 percent of all those with Specific Learning Disabilities.

The signs of dyslexia can appear as early as preschool, and can include difficulty learning and remembering the names of letters in the alphabet; an inability to recognize rhyming patterns such as “cat, bat, rat,” and so on; and regular mispronunciation of familiar words or persistent “baby talk.”

By the time a child reaches first grade, signs may include a lack of ability to sound out even simple words or not associating letters with sounds. Children may also demonstrate reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page, according to the Yale Center site. For example, a student may say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” on an illustrated page with a picture of a dog.

While this may not immediately present as an issue to many educators, those who have been trained to recognize the signs of dyslexia could flag such behavior and call for additional screening to ensure students are diagnosed early enough that they don’t fall too far behind.

The Senate committee’s recommendations call for the Georgia Department of Education to develop required teacher training on dyslexia and related disorders, as well as an informational handbook to expand public awareness of dyslexia, reading and language disorders.

The committee also concluded that the Georgia Professional Standards Commission should create a Dyslexia Endorsement for teachers and staff to help recognize and respond to dyslexia and language disorders.

Other recommendations include requiring:

  • The University System of Georgia to offer a dyslexia and language disorders course for college students who are studying to become teachers, with curriculum that deals identifying early signs of dyslexia such as language delays in speaking and understanding, difficulty learning letters and associated sounds as well as rhyming;
  • Mandatory screening of all kindergarten students for dyslexia, as well as students through second grade who have transferred from a different school or state.

If the recommendations are turned into legislation and passed by the General Assembly, it is estimated that the policies will take effect in 2020.

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