Group not happy with latest version of Texas Dyslexia Handbook

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The State Handbook with Guidelines on Identifying and Providing Services to Students with Dyslexia is being updated.

In 2017, state lawmakers passed a bill requiring all students to be screened for dyslexia and related disorders at the end of kindergarten and first grade.

“The goal is to try to identify dyslexic students early enough in the process so that they can get the appropriate services,” said Monica Martinez, associate commissioner of standards and support services at the Texas Education Agency.

Martinez said the aim of the manual is to provide more guidance on how educators can implement screening instruments. The project also describes the criteria of what screening instruments should cover, such as recognition of sounds and symbols, knowledge of letters, reading rate and reading accuracy. Specific behaviors should also be documented during the selection process, including the inability to focus on reading, self-correction, guessing, and difficulty pronouncing words left to right.

“The goal is to make sure that all decisions are very student-centered and that they are made based on the needs of each student,” she said.

Rawson Saunders School, based in Austin, is an independent private school that exclusively welcomes dyslexic students. His institute also trains teachers from all over Texas, and many of them are public school educators.

“A key part of the education we provide is training on the law,” said Jamie Nettles, Director of Dyslexia Services. “This new law kind of put a bit more bite into it.”

Their training emphasizes early intervention and the identification of students who may be at risk.

“What we do know is that if we don’t do it early on, the consequences are dire,” Nettles said. “The research is very clear on this point. If a student is still a struggling reader in third grade, he or she is going to be a struggling reader throughout. ”

Remediation can also be quick and expensive. Sometimes screening results also won’t tell if a student might have dyslexia and may put students through the cracks.

“Even students who don’t show difficulty during these screenings can still be dyslexic students,” Nettles said. “Students with dyslexia often have average to above average intelligence. With good classroom instruction and that kind of shaky foundation, these highly intelligent students can sometimes meet examiners’ expectations. ”

But Robbi Cooper, who is part of an advocacy group called Decode dyslexia in Texas, said she wanted to see more details. Cooper is also part of the committee made up of different stakeholders who participated in contributing to the project.

“The policy in the manual really should be clearer on screening,” Cooper said. “By not listing specific breeders, it’s really not useful because it just makes it possible to be almost school by school. Really, we want consistency in what we are looking for in dyslexia. This allows for too wide an interpretation of what types of screenings should take place and when. ”

Martinez said the Texas Education Agency expects to have more information on the types of filters that could be used later this fall.

Another area Cooper wants more clarity on is family rights under federal law. It refers to two federal laws: the Disability Education Act, or IDEA, and Section 504. IDEA requires school districts to identify and assess all children suspected of having a disability. It is intended to complement the student so that they can access services for success in a general education environment. Section 504 is different – it is specifically aimed at protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. These include amenities like audiobooks and extra time for work.

In January of this year, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the United States Department of Education released a report asking the state to take four corrective actions after the agency assessed the lack Texas IDEA Compliance Officer.

The report states in part that the Texas Education Agency “has failed to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the state who require special education and related services are identified, located and assessed, regardless of the severity of their disability ”as required. by IDEA.

The Texas Education Agency responded to OSEP saying that the agency, on direction from the State Board of Education, “will facilitate a review process of the Texas Dyslexia Handbook to clarify the difference between dyslexia-related services, IDEA, Section 504 and response to intervention, and ensure clear focus on the ground, especially with regards to dyslexia and dyslexia-related disabilities eligible for IDEA.

“What it leaves out is informed consent, where parents are given enough information to make informed decisions,” Cooper said after reviewing the draft manual. “Families really need to be clear that they have substantive rights under IDEA that they don’t have under Section 504. One of their primary rights is to be a family member. equal participant in the decision of the educational placement and needs of their child with a disability and this includes dyslexia.

National Board of Education to meet in mid-November review and approve the manual.

Martinez said that during the writing process, the Texas Education Agency learned that teachers need more training. This is the next step after finalizing the manual.

“This will likely be online and in-person training to make sure teachers understand all related laws and the best approach to teaching – teaching reading especially for students with dyslexia,” he said. she declared.

Cooper said that as a member of the editorial board and advocate for the dyslexic community, all stakeholders want a guide that effectively serves parents, educators and administrators.

“It’s really my overriding interest in that, to make sure that no child falls through the cracks,” she said.