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Exciting News for the Dyslexia Community!

Last week I had the opportunity to log into a webinar hosted by Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, his wife Dr. Laura Cassidy, and world renowned dyslexia expert Dr. Shaywitz.

Dr. Laura Cassidy, board member of the Dyslexia Resource Center and co-founder of the Louisiana Key Academy for students with dyslexia started the meeting by providing a brief background of some of the issues regarding dyslexia. Soon, she introduced her husband and he spoke about what I'd logged in for - a bill to change IDEA!

IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is the federal law which protects our students with disabilities. The last time a "new" disability category was added under IDEA was 1990 with the addition of autism and traumatic brain injury. Since that January 1990 amendment, the act has been renamed (1990) and a few additions have been made to include broadening developmental disability to age nine, previously age 5 (1990).

Senator Cassidy and his collegues are proposing the 21st Century Dyslexia Act which would ADD DYSLEXIA to the IDEA!

Let's talk about what this could mean for students, then we will look at the bill!

  • Dyslexia would be its own category!!!

  • Every child would be screened for dyslexia in the primary grades, when early intervention could make the most impact!

  • Dyslexia would have an official definition within IDEA!

  • Education dollars will be used to provide interventions for children with dyslexia!

What is Dyslexia?

Dr. Shaywitz gave a wonderful presentation about dyslexia. Some of this information comes from her presentation.

According to the wording in The First Step Act (FSA), the first federal law defining dyslexia: Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Why is this Important?

  • 1 in 5 people have dyslexia.

  • Many people with dyslexia are misdiagnosed, or never diagnosed, leading to frustration with reading and academics.

  • Approximately 50% of incarcerated persons are dyslexic.

  • People with dyslexia make up approximately 80% of students diagnosed with a specific learning disability.

  • Dyslexia is misunderstood. Most people believe that dyslexia is indicative of low intelligence, however this is not true! Most people with dyslexia have IQs that indicate that the person should be a good reader!

  • People with dyslexia often score high on tasks such as: problem solving, reasoning, concept formation, general knowledge, vocabulary, critical thinking, empathy, and comprehension. The following image was shared at the webinar:

The Bill:

21st Century Dyslexia Act

This bill addresses the education of children with disabilities, with a particular focus on children with dyslexia.

Currently, dyslexia is listed as one of the disabilities under the definition of specific learning disability in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This bill instead removes dyslexia from the definition of specific learning disability and establishes a stand-alone definition for dyslexia within IDEA.

Specifically, the bill defines dyslexia for purposes of IDEA as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty in the phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell.

Additionally, the bill requires a local educational agency or other agency, in determining eligibility for or providing an accommodation or service under IDEA, to provide equal access to (1) children from low-income families or from families with low socioeconomic status, and (2) other children.

For more information about the bill, please visit

What it Meant for ME:

After attending the webinar, I spoke with my own dyslexic middle-schooler about what I'd learned. Much to both of our surprise, I burst into tears! I am not a crier, but this hit me so deeply. My precious girl understood exactly why I was so emotional. She knows how hard I fought for her to receive accommodations for her dyslexia. I think she summed it up in her statement, "Now all the kids like me can get the help they need to be successful!"

If you would like to join the effort to make this bill a reality, please let your senators and representatives know what it means to you and to our children!

For more information about dyslexia, visit


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