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Understanding Dyslexia Laws and Policies

An insightful analysis of the challenges surrounding the medical condition

Over the past decade, 37 states have passed new legislation related to identification, remediation and/or awareness of dyslexia in public schools. Even as a sense of urgency for legislative action regarding dyslexia has surged, debates about the nature, definition, diagnosis and remediation of dyslexia still continue. For example, in 2016, two major literacy-related professional organizations, the International Literacy Association (ILA) and the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), engaged in a public debate over definitions of and implications for dyslexia as a learning disability label (see ILA 2016a, 2016b; IDA, 2016). The exchange between these two organizations is only one example of the larger push and pull of controversy and contradiction that surrounds dyslexia-related policies and practices. This creates enormous challenges for families and educators who aim to be fully responsive to student needs in a polarized and complex policy context.

In this article, I describe current trends in dyslexia legislation, consider the significance of current policy and advocacy efforts and discuss the implications of recent state policy changes for educators of students with reading difficulties.

Dyslexia Legislation: A Brief History

Reading instruction has been a focus of state and federal legislation in the U.S. for more than 50 years. Literacy and literacy rates are so often framed as public policy issues that reading instruction—particularly beginning reading instruction—is a popular focal point for education and social reform efforts alike. Though federal legislation in particular had been focused on funding literacy programs, assessments, personnel and materials, legislation related to the teaching of reading has become increasingly specific and prescriptive. At the state level, reading-related legislation specifies everything from how and where teachers are prepared and certified to teach reading, to how and when students are taught and assessed.

Please select this link to download the complete white paper from Rachael Gabriel, University of Connecticut, hosted on the Reading Recovery Council of North America's website.

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