Legislature sends dyslexia legislation to Governor’s desk

Bill creates early intervention supports critical to ensuring students with dyslexia learn to read on time

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature unanimously engrossed An Act relative to students with dyslexia today to help thousands of students in the commonwealth who suffer from dyslexia.

“I have learned from families in my district that our education system does not have the necessary protocols in place to ensure that all students get a proper diagnosis of dyslexia, and I’m very happy to see this important education equity legislation sent to the Governor’s desk,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton). “This bill allows students with learning disabilities to learn at an equal pace to their peers, and I want to thank my constituents, Nancy Duggan from Acton and Danielle Pimentel from Maynard, and other Decoding Dyslexia advocates for their tireless work on this bill. The bipartisan support for this bill is a testament to the incredible organizing they have been doing for years.”

Dyslexia affects one in five children in the commonwealth, and learning disability screening procedures are inconsistent from district to district, and sometimes even within districts themselves. Consequently, many families struggle to get a proper diagnosis of dyslexia and thus cannot advocate for the appropriate services needed to ensure their child can learn to read and succeed in school. An Act relative to students with dyslexia, puts in place the systems to create early screening protocols critically necessary to improving early literacy and achieving reading proficiency by 3rd grade for all students statewide.

“As a legislator, I have met with parents and their kids who have dyslexia, and have felt the frustration of these families, as their kids needlessly struggle in school,” said Eldridge. “I have also advocated with school district administrators and special education directors, about how to better serve children with language challenges. It is my hope that this legislation will provide an improved education experience for children with dyslexia, reduce frustration from parents, and allow administrators and their teachers to better serve students.”

When caught early and at the appropriate time, students with dyslexia can receive specialized instruction and learn reading strategies so they do not fall behind their peers. The longer a student has to wait for a diagnosis and try to learn to read without these interventions, however, the harder it will be for them to catch up. This often results in longer-term self-esteem and other issues.

Once students with dyslexia learn strategies to read with their dyslexia, they can go on to succeed independently without future supports, saving the commonwealth millions of dollars in special education costs.

An Act relative to students with dyslexia sets up laws, regulations, and a system to support all students with dyslexia by:

  • Requiring the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in consultation with the Department of Early Education and Care, to issue guidelines to assist districts to develop screening protocols for students who have at least one indicator for dyslexia or another neurological learning disability.
  • Adding identification of dyslexia and other neurological learning disabilities to the goals of the early literacy panel.
  • Tasking the early education panel with creating action steps to implement research-based recommendations from experts in early language and literacy development for student screening and teacher preparation for students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

The bill now goes to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature.

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