About 15 to 20 percent of Americans has dyslexia, a disorder that results in slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling and writing or confusing similar words.
But many cases go undetected, making schooling difficult for those who have it.
A new bill that aims to address this issue just passed the House and Senate this week and awaits Gov. Tom Corbett’s signature.
According to Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie), the bill enables the Pennsylvania Department of Education to establish a Dyslexia Screening Pilot Program.
“Basically what this particular piece of legislation does is it launches a pilot program in three locations across the commonwealth in three different school districts, really in an effort to address the need of detection of symptoms of dyslexia and addressing what some of our children are having,” Wiley said.
The goal of the bill is to evaluate the effectiveness of early reading assistance programs for children in the state.
The pilot part program will last three years, after which the Secretary of Education is expected to issue a report to the General Assembly with recommendations - end, continue or expand the project to other schools.
Christine Seppi, Chair of the Pittsburgh region of the International Dyslexia Association, said programs like this could help keep students on track before they get too far behind.
“If you start working with a child in kindergarten, and they get extra support, they can actually be managing along with their peers,” Seppi said. “Whereas if you don’t get to a child until that child is in say third grade, they’re already 2-2 ½ years behind.”
As of now, the programs regarding dyslexia vary from district to district - but this bill, though not a mandate, aims to create one that is mostly uniform throughout the state if the secretary decides on continuation and expansion.
Wiley said he’d like to see the Department of Education choose a variety of schools for the pilot.
“I think that both rural and urban school district together to get a good indication of really what the need is and hopefully in the future we will be able to potentially expand this program to additional school districts across the commonwealth based on the need we find in these three pilot programs,” Wiley said.