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The Policy Piece of the Dyslexia Puzzle

Why would there be a “policy piece” to the dyslexia puzzle? Well, if you have a dyslexic child you’re likely to be affected by government policies in several ways.

First of all, you might have already found that it is difficult to get your child's school to use the word “dyslexia.” Schools treat dyslexia as a medical issue, that is, as a strictly medical diagnosis of a condition over which they have no direct control. In that sense, dyslexia is treated like a broken leg, or asthma, or 20/200 vision in one eye, all matters that, while they must be accommodated by school personnel, are not primarily the school’s problem.

To avoid using the word dyslexia, schools must find some other way (within the bounds of existing law) to tell you that your child isn’t learning to read as easily as his peers but without telling you that he’s probably dyslexic. And trust me, they know that he’s dyslexic. They see case after case after case, most presenting similarly. In smaller, rural schools, the experienced teachers even know which kids are most likely to be dyslexic because they taught the parents a couple of decades earlier. Remember, dyslexia runs in families, and experienced teachers are often well aware of this.

So, how does the school let you know that your child is in trouble? Eventually they test his reading skills and report the results to you. Of course, you want something done about it. That’s when you find yourself confronted with policies again, this time federal ones.

In this section, The Policy Piece of the Dyslexia Puzzle, I will try to explain what you are running up against when you try to get your public school to do something about your child’s obvious reading problem, regardless of whether they are willing to call it dyslexia.

The next page, The Discrepancy Model, explains the situation in public schools as of about 2008. Then the following page, Response to Intervention, explains what you could face in coming years, as schools in many states adjust to a recent change in the federal law governing special education.

Later pages will deal with school-level and state-level policy changes that could help dyslexic children achieve their true academic potential, a potential that I believe equals the potential of non-dyslexic children.