Research findings show that up to twenty percent of the general population in the United States has dyslexia and/or other language-based learning disabilities.
Over the past decade, more laws that call for measures to support these learners and address related issues have been enacted. Legislation is a critical step in addressing the impact reading disabilities have on the lives of students diagnosed with them. Forty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have enacted dyslexia laws.
Largely due to the grassroots efforts and advocacy of families, legislation calling for changes across state, district, and school levels are being put in place to better meet student needs. In 2011, Decoding Dyslexia, a non-profit organization, was created by families in New Jersey who were concerned about the limited access to educational interventions for students with dyslexia within the public education system.
While some Decoding Dyslexia families were able to access private tutoring for their children, they realized socioeconomic status prevents many families from accessing these kinds of services. Over time, Decoding Dyslexia members shifted from simply getting school personnel to acknowledge dyslexia as a learning disability to advocating for legislation to address policies to better serve all students.
Since the initial efforts of these New Jersey families, Decoding Dyslexia chapters have spread to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several other countries. These chapters advocate for laws addressing five key policy goals:
- A universal definition and understanding of dyslexia;
- Mandatory teacher training on dyslexia, including recognizing warning signs and appropriate intervention strategies;
- Mandatory early screening for dyslexia;
- Mandatory dyslexia remediation programs, which can be accessed by general and special education populations; and
- Access for students with dyslexia to appropriate assistive technologies in the public school setting.
Current State of Legislation
According to the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL), dyslexia laws requiring early screening to detect characteristics of dyslexia and/or language-based learning disabilities are now in place in 41 states. Along with early screening, 32 states require students receive interventions to address their learning needs. Various aspects of dyslexia laws by state can be found on several websites, including:
Wilson supports state and federal legislative initiatives to improve the course of a student’s education, self-esteem, and personal and career goals.