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News & Press: Legislation & Advocacy

It's Time to Address Dyslexia

Thursday, January 7, 2016   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Professional Educators of Tennessee
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This past October was designated as ‘National Dyslexia Awareness Month. Despite a renewed focus by state and national leaders, educators and parents have been frustrated by the progress made in addressing this disability. Yet, most educators were unaware of the recognition. It is time we address this disability. 

Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader due to a difficulty in getting to the individual sounds of spoken language, which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and often, learn a language. In 2014, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a statute that had two components on its face. The first provided a definition of “dyslexia”, according to TCA 49-6-306, and in TCA 49-10-1 as follows: For the purposes of this chapter and chapter 10, “dyslexia” means a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin and is characterized by difficulties with accurate 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 second component of the act would require the department of education to collaborate with institutions of higher education to formally address dyslexia…, and similar reading disorders by providing educators and teachers training in providing effective instruction for students with dyslexia using appropriate scientific research and brain-based multisensory intervention methods and strategies.

US Senate Resolution 275 identified Dyslexia as the most common learning disability and affects 80 percent to 90 percent of all individuals with a learning disability. The bipartisan resolution stated “an individual with dyslexia may have weakness in decoding or reading fluency and strength in higher level cognitive functions, such as reasoning, critical thinking, concept formation, or problem solving.”

Little doubt that great progress has been made in understanding dyslexia on a scientific level, including the epidemiology and cognitive and neurobiological bases of dyslexia. However, it is important that an early diagnosis of dyslexia is critical for ensuring that individuals with dyslexia receive focused, evidence based intervention that leads to the promotion of self-awareness and self-empowerment and the provision of necessary accommodations so as to ensure school and life success.

Legislation is still very much needed by federal, state and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed. Dr. Chester Goad, as well as Emily Dempster, the President of the Tennessee Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, have helped us understand the significance of identifying, screening, and advocating for students with dyslexia. Representative Joe Pitts and Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham have been champions for students, parents and educators on this issue.

We have heard from a number of our educators that it is important that we conduct early screening, as well as additional screening as needed. In addition, there must be accommodation options for students with reading disorders. This should include a variety of assistive technology, software, and audio books, and these options for services should be included in the student’s IEPs. Educators need dyslexia-specific teacher training that would include completion of a training course in the implementation of multisensory structured language teaching techniques and strategies. This is the “right course of action for our state’s students with dyslexia” according to Representative Pitts. We agree.




Professional Educators of Tennessee is a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.


Arlene S. Richardson, North Stewart Elementary School says...
Posted Monday, February 29, 2016
I agree this needs to be addressed. I'm very interested in helping advocate on behalf of students with dyslexia. In order to receive an evaluation of Dyslexia for my daughter, it was necessary for me to take her to the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at MTSU. She received services/accommodations 1st Grade through Graduate School. She received her books on CD and she used Dragon Speak to write her papers. Because she was afforded this accommodation, she graduated with honors and will soon take a test to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has worked very hard and I'm very proud of her. Her employer allows her to use Dragon Speak at work for lengthy reports. I would like to see this available to all students with Dyslexia. First, we must get them diagnosed by a competent provider.

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