Legislation aims to recognize and treat dyslexia earlier

Courtesy of Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon’s Office
Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon helped organize Dyslexia Awareness Day in Albany last week to discuss the success of previous legislation that is now in effect and to push for another bill that would require new training for teachers, administrators and instructors in the area of dyslexia and other related disorders.

Legislation passed last August to issue a memorandum intended to help students with dyslexia get screened earlier and receive necessary resources is coming into effect this summer.

Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn, met with students and adults affected by dyslexia in the Legislative Office Building to celebrate the third Annual Dyslexia Awareness Day and to speak about the memorandum.

The bill (A.8262/S.6581) passed in August 2017 and was spearheaded by Simon and Sen. Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn. The legislation called for the Commissioner of Education to issue a guidance memorandum to every school district and board of cooperative educational services to inform them of the educational needs of students with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia.

Among the families and teachers at last week’s event was Marilyn Bartlett, former Dean of School of Education at Texas A&M University, former Assemblyman John McEneny and Academy Award winner Peggy Stern.

All three have dyslexia. McEneny did not discover he had dyslexia until his then seven year-old son told him what dyslexia was. McEneny avoided reading whenever he could and instead memorized everything. All of his speeches in Albany were recited from memory, and they enabled him to become one of the most well-known people in Albany.

Simon shared Bartlett’s story because Bartlett is shy when it comes to her own case. In 1998, she went to see Simon, an attorney, after being denied extra time on the state law exams. In a landmark case Bartlett v. New York State Board of Law Examiners, then judge Sonia Sotomayor, now a Supreme Court justice, ruled in favor of Bartlett after watching her struggle to read 426 words, taking a total of 11 minutes. Although Bartlett did not want to read in front of anyone, she did so and as a result furthered the awareness for dyslexia.

“Sometimes the things we have to do to advocate for ourselves are really hard,” Simon said.

Now, two new bills are circulating with the support of Simon and Golden. One bill (A.7086/S.2767) would establish a pilot program to provide early screening and intervention services for children with risk factors for dyslexia.

The other bill (A.1480/S.2534) would require the certification or training of teachers, administrators and instructors in the area of dyslexia and other related disorders.

According to research provided by Simon, early signs of dyslexia can be identified before the age of six. She believes this bill will create a program for screening and intervention to help the children from a young age to make the most progress before they fall behind their peers.

The second bill would mirror the pilot program bill by requiring teachers and administrators to have the ability to recognize the signs of dyslexia in a child to provide them with help as early as they can. Research shows if children are not reading on the correct grade level by third grade, they have a one in eight chance of making up for that lost time and getting back on track.

Both bills have been referred to the Education Committee in their respective houses.