Missouri House, Senate create “Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.”

Students will be able to benefit by 2016.

According to the Kansas/Missouri Branch of The International Dyslexia Association, 70 to 80 percent of people with poor reading skills are likely dyslexic. One in five students, or 15 to 20 percent of the population, has a language-based learning disability.

Dyslexia is the most common.

Dyslexia is defined as one of a group of disorders that “involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.”

“Dyslexia is caused by a difference in brain structure, it is present at birth and it is most often hereditary,” Betty Judah, owner of the Dyslexia and Learning Disability Center, Inc., said. “Incoming and outgoing information gets scrambled as it travels between the senses and the brain. It does not affect one’s high level of intelligence but it does impair one’s ability to learn, retain and relay information.”

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. Symptoms of dyslexia include lack of awareness of sounds in words, difficulty with word identification, difficulty with spelling, difficulty expressing thoughts both in oral and written form, and poor sequencing of numbers or letters in words, among others.

Students with dyslexia are, as such, no less intelligent or capable. They simply require help.

It is this help that a new bill, HB 921, is looking to bring to Missouri students.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, introduced HB 921 in conjunction with Sen. Scott Sifton’s, D-St. Louis County, introduction of SB 548, which, together, create the “Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.”

“Burlison, Wood and Sifton have been working hard on behalf of kids with dyslexia in Jefferson City,” according to a Decoding Dyslexia Missouri news release.

The task force requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to employ a dyslexia specialist who would oversee professional development programs for schools by 2016, and would also aid in the creation of a Dyslexia Resource Guide.

In order to be considered, this specialist would need a minimum of three years of experience in screening, testing and treating dyslexia.

In addition to this provision, Wood and Sifton introduced HB 731 and SB 468, that will require each public school to implement testing for dyslexia and related disorders and provide treatment.

This legislation comes in the wake of a string of other dyslexia-oriented provisions.

“There are several pieces of proposed legislation related to dyslexia,” said Nancy Bowles, the spokesperson for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “At the present time, there are no specific statewide initiatives related to dyslexia. Many students who have dyslexia may be receiving services under Special Education or Section 504, and some may be helped by local Title I programs.”

In February 2014, Burlison was able to add dyslexia to the special needs section of HB 1614. This bill, known as “Bryce’s Law,” establishes a scholarship fund for students whose needs are not being met by public schools.

“Under Bryce’s law, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be required to oversee the establishment of a scholarship fund and will also approve and monitor scholarship-granting organizations in the State,” Decoding Dyslexia Missouri said in a news release. “DESE will also be required to set up a website with a list of resources for parents.”

The provisions set out in HB 1614 as well as HB 921 will see regulations written over the next year.

Students will be able to benefit as soon as 2016.

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