LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD FOR KIDS WITH DYSLEXIA

Submitted by: Senator Barbara L’Italien, State Senator for Andover, Dracut, Lawrence, & Tewksbury

Barbara L'Italien picture

Children with dyslexia often go without the essential support they need in order to succeed in our traditional public schools. Although research shows that when students with dyslexia get the method of instruction early in their educational careers they frequently become very successful students, Massachusetts does not provide  specialized training, teaching strategies, or evaluation process for teachers of students with dyslexia. Additionally, many educators have not been taught how to recognize the early signs of dyslexia. The result is that thousands of children with dyslexia suffer in silence after being labeled below-average or lazy. These children do not get to enjoy learning in the same way their peers do, and their fear of constantly asking for help with deciphering words can result in long-term effects on their literacy.

The need for legislative action is clear. The demand for dyslexia-specific instruction far exceeds the number of seats available at the Landmark School.  Providing accessible methods to help teachers better understand how to instruct students with dyslexia should be a priority, as should early evaluation of students who show signs of dyslexia.  We want all students to work at grade level, and we know that kids with dyslexia can do this if they are properly supported.

For these reasons, I have sponsored a bill (S.312) to address the special education needs of children with dyslexia.  The bill has four important components: (1) an optional endorsement for teachers who wish to be trained in teaching strategies for students with dyslexia, (2) adding a standardized definition of dyslexia into our special education statute, (3) a requirement that schools provide early evaluation of young students showing signs of dyslexia, and (4) a requirement that students with dyslexia have access to teachers who have earned the dyslexia endorsement.  This bill is not perfect or all encompassing, but it has begun a statewide conversation on the importance of providing high-quality instruction for students with dyslexia and how to best equip our hardworking educators with the tools they need to help children with dyslexia succeed. I want to honor our children and educators that advocate for students with dyslexia through this bill. We will use their experiences and the research to advance dyslexia education in our schools and ensure children with dyslexia excel in their educational careers.  If you agree that this legislation is needed in our Commonwealth, I encourage you to contact my office to discuss how you can help advocate on behalf of this issue.

Barbara L’Italien is the mother of four children and is the State Senator for Andover, Dracut, Lawrence, & Tewksbury.  Her career in advocacy and public service also includes eight years as a State Representative and Government Affairs work in the State Treasurer’s office and at the Arc of Massachusetts.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    Such important work. Thank you!

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  2. Laurie Liatsos says:

    Hooray for change!!! Thank you.

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  3. Tammy Malbraaten says:

    My brother has Dyslexia, So when my son struggled with reading I requested Screening, The School DIst. declined, saying I was a teacher and they would not check until 3ed grade. By then he had a very negative attitude about reading. Minnesota

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  4. odenfamily says:

    I am an educator and mother of two daughters with dyslexia. I would love to join your crusade. Please let me know how I can help here in California.

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  5. Michelle says:

    As a parent of a child with ADHD and Dyslexia ,in the Massachusetts school system, I’ve seen first hand not only the lack of SPED departments to accept a diagnosis of Dyslexia but also provide adequate services. My child has been called lazy, inattentive, puts in no effort, etc. I’ve seen his self esteem crumble under the poor direction of uneducated teachers as well as a general misconception of what Dyslexia entails.

    My son was fortunate enough to attend a private school for children with specific learning disabilities for two years. In those two years he caught up in his reading, we were three years behind in reading ability in Massachusetts public schools despite receiving reading specialist assistance 3xs a week, perform math at above grade level and show an interest in subjects such as history and science. He went from a D student to all As and Bs. The funny thing is, none of the teachers at this school has received any special education on how to deal with dyslexia, the administration gave the students and teachers the ability to be creative in the teaching so that all students could learn. Each student had an individualized instruction book suited to their learning but all followed the same curriculum as their public school peers. They were subject to the same state mandated testing and yet all were thriving, successful students with confidence.

    Is the solution to really give a teacher another certification that not only all students won’t have access to (if only the English teacher in 7th grade is certified, should my so be expected to continue to fail math? What happens in 8th grade?) or is it really to give teachers back the ability to teach instead of following a strict regimented schedule not all students can follow?

    Deuce to financial circumstances I’ve been unable to enroll my son in the private school this year, however, I did not expect such an up hill battle again with the public school system. Why is his diagnosis of dyslexia not recognized 2.5 years later by the current school system? Do you suddenly grow out of dyslexia like asthma? Did his brain suddenly start rearranging itself at age 14 so he no longer has it? I’m baffled and confused as to why there is another up hill battle and why my son needs to fail school this year while proving again it’s not his laziness or inability to pay attention that is causing this A & B student to fail once we moved back to public schools.

    This bill needs to do more for those students who has been recognized with a disability and encourage the schools to put into place better and faster services to help those children. I see where you were trying to go, unfortunately it’s just not enough.

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  6. Kathleen Gelsomini says:

    Hallelujah!!! It’s about time we get the ball rolling to make public schools aware of the need forour children with dyslexia. Through repeated request of Core evaluations from the public school system, my son was repeatedly labeled as lazy and not committed to his education as a fourth and fifth grader! We need our public schools to be educated as to how to identify dyslexia In our children. I am beyond pleased to know of this proposed legislation. Thank you!!

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  7. Dysgraphia says:

    Thank you for all of your efforts! Dysgraphia is a similar process to dyslexia. Children go undiagnosed and are instead have negative feedback that they are unmotivated, and inattentive, as their written work does not demonstrate their verbal knowledge and contains grammatical and spelling errors. I would really like to see dysgraphia added to laws, support groups, and teacher trainings, as well. The psychological toll of undiagnosed dysgraphia is profound on young teens.

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