BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — At the state Capitol, legislation is pending that could help dyslexic students.
Dyslexia Resource Center (DRC) Board Chair Laura Cassidy said two of State Representative Joseph Marino’s bills focus on literacy.
“There’s very little identification of the dyslexic students,” stated Cassidy.
Presently, if the number of students identified to be dyslexic within a school year is less than 10, that’s how it’s noted. However, Marino’s bill would change that by making it more specific.
“This will mandate that they can at least put a zero, not less than 10,” Cassidy explained.
This bill would help to find out where maybe there’s a lack of screening in certain parishes.
“These kids are in every classroom. They’re in every school,” stated DRC Director Kayla Regio.
Regio and her team just returned from Webster Parish after they out to the DRC for assistance with testing for dyslexia.
“They knew they didn’t have the ability to, or the knowledge, to test those children. So they reached out to the Dyslexia Resource Center and we took a group of us up there for three days and we tested over 100 children,” she said. “They used a screener, a psychometric, really valid screener to screen their kids specifically for dyslexia in their younger grades.”
Mother Kerri Tobin has two children with dyslexia. She has advocated for the passage of the two bills. She believes the legislation would have benefited her kids if teachers decided to screen her oldest.
“His teachers weren’t trained to recognize the signs, and he was very verbal at a very young age. He had a huge vocabulary and he was good at math, so they just sort of assumed like, ‘Oh, he’s smart. So if he can’t read, then it’s just because he doesn’t want to try,'” Tobin explained.
She had to seek outside help to test her children.
“Being in a classroom that was not suited for his needs for that long — it had an impact,” said Tobin. “And we only actually got the evaluation done because I kept pushing for it. People kept telling me like, ‘Oh, he’s fine, you’re just overreacting.'”
“I just had this gut feeling… so we ended up having to seek out private evaluation. And thankfully, at the time, we had insurance that paid for it,” Tobin said.
She said identifying children with dyslexia at a young age can make a huge difference in their future success.
“Once he started getting the appropriate support, things started to get better. And now that he’s okay, things are great. He has really come into himself as a student and he feels good about himself and what he can do,” said Tobin.
“We can alter their life so they can reach your full potential. If we can identify them in kindergarten or first grade, for sure,” added Cassidy.
Situations like this are why Marino’s second bill will have new teachers take three hours of a dyslexia education course in college.
“That’s the first step towards identification and because we have so much knowledge about what to do about dyslexia, we can give these kids hope for our future,” said Regio.
They said supported students turn into more productive adults.