Students with learning disabilities might soon have additional resources thanks to legislation from Senator Aaron Osmond (Republican – South Jordan).
The measure received unanimous approval from the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, and now heads to the House floor.
Osmond’s bill, SB 117 – Interventions for Reading Difficulties Pilot Program, creates a pilot program to provide literary interventions for students in kindergarten through 5th grade who are at risk for or experiencing reading difficulties including dyslexia.
The program would last for three years, costing the state $750,000. The funds would be awarded to school districts or charter schools through a grant process administered by the Utah State Office of Education. A maximum of five school districts or charter schools will be able to participate, each receiving $30,000.
Osmond believes that early intervention for those with learning disabillities will be more beneficial to the child than simply waiting until things get worse. He pointed to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows that invervention that begins in the 1st grade or sooner dramatically reduces the number of children that will have to have remediation later on.
The bill’s House sponsor, Representative Francis Gibson (Republican – Mapleton), spoke about the need for action to help prevent further issues down the road. “The faces of dyslexia, you don’t even know that there’s anything wrong. These are healthy, normal, active young men and young women. Their inability to read leads to lots of behavior issues and other things. It’s not that they’re bad kids, they’re just frustrated that they’re struggling.”
Karee Atkinson, president of advocacy group Decoding Dyslexia Utah, agrees with the idea of early intervention. “Everything we know says that waiting is the absolute wrong approach. A bad reader in 1st grade has a 74 percent chance of being a bad reader in 9th grade. With a bad reader in 3rd grade, it goes up to almost 90 percent. There’s no reason to wait. There’s every reason to move ahead.”
Atkinson said that many teachers are not trained to help children who are suffering from dyslexia. “Our teachers want this knowledge. For the most part, the teachers I’ve spoken to are amazed that they don’t know about dyslexia. I challenge you to speak to the teachers you know and ask if they were taught this in their preservice education. They are not. The science of dyslexia has moved rapidly in the last 25 years, and the education community hasn’t caught up to it.”