Dyslexia screening to be provided

Legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Ron Dancer that will require public school students to be screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities by the completion of first grade has been signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie.

“Learning and reading disabilities such as dyslexia often impede a student’s ability to learn to read or write, or to do math,” said Dancer (R-Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth). “Left undiagnosed, it becomes very frustrating for teachers and students who have difficulty with spoken or written language, coordination, self-control or attention. The result usually leads to a cycle of academic failure and lowered selfesteem.

“A proper diagnosis and comprehensive assessment is the first step toward increasing a child’s academic and personal success. This measure will provide parents, teachers and students with the tools they need to begin that process.”

The bill, A3605/S2442, directs boards of education to ensure that every student is screened for dyslexia and other reading disabilities no later than the student’s completion of the first grade, beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

The screening will be administered by a teacher or staff member who is properly trained in the screening process for reading disabilities.

If a student is determined through the screening process to exhibit potential indicators of dyslexia, the board will ensure that the student receives a comprehensive assessment. If the diagnosis is confirmed, the board will then provide appropriate intervention strategies, including intense instruction on phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension, according to a press release.

Dancer noted that 15 to 20 percent of individuals have language-based learning difficulties, while an estimated 70 to 85 percent of students who are placed in special education for a learning disability have dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability in children.

Dancer is also the sponsor of dyslexia/reading disabilities bills (A3606, A3608 and AR129) that require professional development instruction and opportunities for public school teachers to assist students who have reading disabilities. Those measures were approved by the Assembly in April.