Kindergartners are starting the new school year with bright eyes and big ideas. They’ve had their screenings for vision and hearing, but there’s one screening that hasn’t had the same attention.
One more screening should be added to that list, says Nora Schlesinger, a Kennesaw State researcher and literacy educator. That is dyslexia, a learning disorder that involves difficulty in processing individual sounds, making letter sound connections, and learning to read.
In the state of Georgia, Senate Bill 48 may soon be the answer. SB 48 requires education agencies to screen all kindergartners for dyslexia. The legislation also calls for screenings of any first- through third-graders exhibiting signs of dyslexia and for training teachers in methods to teach children with dyslexia.
“I think this law will result in a lot of preventive care for children because of the earlier detection of dyslexia and the higher level of teacher training,” says Schlesinger, an assistant professor of reading education in Kennesaw State’s Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education. “It makes a big difference when a child is identified as dyslexic in kindergarten and can start receiving intervention versus a child in fourth grade who finally is identified.”
As a researcher of dyslexia, she knows the signs of a reading disability. Her own son, now 30, was diagnosed with dyslexia.
“I started fighting this battle 20-some years ago for my son, and it’s still happening,” she says. Georgia’s SB 48 won’t take effect until the 2024-25 school year, but the anticipation is growing.
Schlesinger says many youngsters can succeed in school with tutoring or specialized programs, but if parents and educators are not keyed into the signs of dyslexia, they’ll easily overlook the disability, she says.
Assessments at the kindergarten and early elementary level and a common language among school districts – that is, having specific definitions of dyslexia and related terms – are setting things in motion on dyslexia diagnosis.
This new frontier may also help parents who may not have the money to pay for specialists or private schooling to provide the tutoring.
“Learning to read shouldn’t depend on your parents’ socio-economic status,” Schlesinger says. “We should be providing that opportunity for all of our kids.”
“Learning to read shouldn’t depend on your parents’ socio-economic status.”Nora Schlesinger, assistant professor of reading education at Kennesaw State University
Consistent terminology will serve educators in the classroom and parents in helping to create individualized education plans (IEPs) to receive help with their learning disability.
“As recently as last year, teacher candidates have said to me, ‘My mentor teacher tells me that I’m not allowed to say ‘dyslexia,’” Schlesinger says.
School districts that have resisted acknowledging dyslexia as a concern can no longer shy away from the elephant in the room.