The New Jersey state legislature recently passed two new laws aimed at helping dyslexic children. One establishes the definition of “dyslexia;” another requires that all school teachers receive extra training in reading instruction, including dyslexia. A third law, which will establish a pilot program for dyslexia intervention, is still pending.
A similar law was passed earlier this year in Arkansas, and another bill defining dyslexia is now pending in Pennsylvania.
These laws are needed because parents in many states are often given contradictory and inaccurate information when seeking help for a child who is struggling in school. Sometimes they are told that dyslexia is a “medical” diagnosis, not something that the school can help with, despite the fact that “dyslexia” is among the specifically enumerated disabilities listed in the federal special education law (IDEA). Worse, some parents are told by teachers or school administrators that there is no such thing as dyslexia; or perhaps they are simply told that their school prefers not to use that word. The net result is that parental efforts to seek help are frustrated, as they get caught in a cycle of what one father called definition dysplacia.
The New Jersey law adopts the following definition of dyslexia:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”
The definitions included in the new Arkansas law and the Pennsylvania bill are similar.
For information about all state laws concerning dyslexia, and regularly updated information about new legislation, visit the Dyslegia Legislative Tracking Site.