Currently in the state of Utah, special education accommodates everyone from students with physical disabilities such as deafness or blindness to mental disabilities like autism to learning disabilities like dyslexia and behavioral issues. Learning disabilities like dyslexia may be incurable; however, if intervened early enough, children suffering from dyslexia can significantly improve their learning challenges.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that one in ten children have dyslexia. Individuals with dyslexia are often seen as troublemakers, lazy, and blamed for having a lack of motivation in their studies and responsibilities. In fact, children with dyslexia are gifted, but their minds work differently than others. Their needs should be addressed and they should be taught in the ways easier for them to learn.
The earlier dyslexia gets detected, the better it can be handled. However, most public schools in Utah do not do learning testing, therefore, the kids do not get the much needed help. That leads to them facing constant humiliation and embarrassment for being behind compared to their peers. In addition, even if such kids are sent to special education classrooms, they are lumped together with other special kids with other challenges such as autism or deafness and blindness. Dyslexic kids are likely to benefit if there were classrooms only designated for them, and the teachers were especially trained to accommodate the dyslexic population.
Many states have laws that offer help to dyslexic students within the public schools, but Utah does not have such laws. This could have changed with HB171, Dyslexia Screening in Public Schools, sponsored by Representative John Knotwell. Unfortunately, it never made it out of committee. This bill would have been an important step in accommodating the dyslexic population. The bill requires school districts to put each student through reading assessments and screen for learning difficulties allowing schools to determine the number of dyslexic children and intervene if necessary. This bill also requires the schools to prepare an individualized learning program for the student and address their dyslexia or reading difficulty immediately.
As of now, Utah hasn’t passed any dyslexia laws, making the environment unfavorable for dyslexic children to learn and grow. Although this bill didn’t make it out of committee this year, it deserves another chance in future legislative sessions. It might not solve the conditions entirely, if enacted, but it would certainly allow schools to participate in early intervention and make it easier for kids with dyslexia to learn.