Seven-year-old Noah Head is learning how to write in cursive, but like many children his age he would rather play outside than work on schoolwork. His mother, Kim Head, said that he excels at athletics and enjoys a lot of outdoor activities.
Kim said that many children who have dyslexia like Noah stand out in athletics and the arts. Dyslexia is a brain-based learning disability that makes it hard to read, and often children have a hard time learning if the dyslexia is not addressed or recognized.
Kim is part of the group who started The Dyslexia Project, a community organization operating under the nonprofit, Community Connections. The Dyslexia Project works to educate people on the symptoms of dyslexia and share proven treatments to help children with the condition thrive.
“To reach all kids in a classroom, you have to teach them to read before they can read to learn,” Kim said. “We need to identify the kids with Dyslexia and then give them skills they need to be successful.”
Children like Noah learn best by breaking everything down, “almost decoding the language,” Kim said.
Through networking with teachers and professionals within the state, Kim has been part of what she described as a “grassroots effort” to get legislation on the books that would help identify and aid dyslexic children in the public school system.
“It’s a shift in education reform,” she said.
Several other states have laws on the books regarding dyslexia. Texas’ education code, for example, states that “students enrolling in public schools in this state shall be tested for dyslexia and related disorders” and “the board of trustees of each school district shall provide for the treatment of any student determined to have dyslexia or a related disorder.”
Senate Bill 33 is currently going through the Arkansas State Capitol. The goal behind the bill is to ensure children with dyslexia get what they need from the public school system to be successful students. The bill would require screening for dyslexia and related disorders in public school students in kindergarten through second grade, and then the schools would have intervention and treatment options for those students.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, is the bill’s sponsor, and she said the bill has been received well by her fellow legislators.
“There are several members who have expressed support and wish to be a cosponsor,” she said.
Elliott said in her 30 years as a high school teacher she saw students struggle and sometimes wondered if dyslexia was behind the problems.
“Generally, I believe we should provide every student whatever accommodations and interventions necessary to make sure all student have the ability to meet their potential,” she said.
A similar bill failed in 2010 because of the fiscal impact. Elliott said this year’s bill has an “excellent chance” of being passed and they are working through the technicalities of developing the services lined out in the bill.
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