Legislature Enacts Early Screening for Dyslexia Bill

State Representative Mike Connolly is pleased to announce S.2607, An Act relative to students with dyslexia, is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature after being enacted during informal sessions of both the House and Senate.

This legislation directs the Department of Secondary Education in consultation with the Department of Early Education and Care to assist school districts in developing early screening procedures demonstrating one or more potential indicators of a neurological learning disability, including dyslexia.  The legislation also requires the Massachusetts Early Literacy Panel to include a member of a dyslexia advocacy organization among its membership.

“Too many children have been denied appropriate interventions and have started to doubt their own intelligence simply because their dyslexia wasn’t identified,” Rep. Connolly stated. “Massachusetts has always been a leader in public education, and with this bill, I am proud to say we are taking an important step forward in honoring our commitment to educate every child.”

The science behind dyslexia establishes its neurobiological basis; that means it is due to brain structures and different brain organization patterns. It is not reflected in intelligence. Dyslexic brains are just as "smart" but learning to read follows a different pathway and reading on grade level can and does happen if students are provided with early and appropriate intervention. Most will never need special education after early and structured literacy instruction.

Currently most schools use a more broad SLD (specific learning disability) term that includes dyslexia but only after reading failure and only if exclusionary factors are discounted. Most often expensive outside testing at the parents’ expense is the only way to get an IEP with dyslexia specific instruction. "Language based" classrooms after learn to read years are less effective than the correct instruction at age 5-9.

Last year, Rep. Connolly joined with several colleagues to co-sponsor an early version of this legislation to improve dyslexia screening procedures (H.330), and after hearing from constituents and local education leaders in July, Rep. Connolly submitted a letter of support to the House Committee on Ways and Means urging the committee issue a favorable report so the Bill could move to the House floor for further action. Rep Connolly also joined in collective efforts with his colleagues signing on to a letter to House leadership expressing support for the Bill.

Rep. Connolly would like to recognize the late Representative Chris Walsh for his leadership on this issue along with House Chair for the Joint Committee on Education, Alice Peisch and Decoding Dyslexia Massachusetts for their advocacy.