August 22, 2017
Brooklyn, NY – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law dyslexia legislation that will improve the lives of thousands of students. A.8262/S.6581 will improve awareness of and understanding of dyslexia, the most common learning disability. This will help more children learn to read and be successful students because when children’s learning disabilities are clearly defined, educational interventions can be tailored to their needs. The bill was supported by a broad coalition of advocates, students, parents, educators, academics and neuropsychologists, and individuals with dyslexia, including several legislators who shared their personal stories about dyslexia.
One in five children have dyslexia, a language-based learning disability that makes word recognition, spelling and reading success a difficult task. But for decades, school districts believed that schools were not allowed to use the word “dyslexia” in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Instead, they believed that only the special education classification term “learning disability” was permissible. However, federal regulations implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) contained no such restriction. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued regulatory guidance clarifying this longstanding and widespread misunderstanding. Nevertheless, it has remained an area of confusion.
This new law instructs the State Department of Education to develop a guidance memorandum for schools consistent with the federal requirements and inform schools that they may include the names of specific learning disorders, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia, in IEPs. This will in turn help schools provide targeted language-based interventions and help more students become successful readers.
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said, “For far too long, there has been inadequate attention to dyslexia. Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder that is neurobiological in origin and is characterized by unexpected difficulties with accurate or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities that are inconsistent with the student’s intelligence, motivation, and sensory capabilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language. Research shows that if students are not reading on grade level by third grade, they only have a 1 in 8 chance of catching up to their peers. This bill will make an enormous difference by getting the right information to teachers so that we can pinpoint the disability early and help these children become proficient readers before they fall behind their peers. I thank Governor Cuomo for recognizing the importance of this bill to thousands of New York’s children who struggle with reading. I also want to thank Assembly Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan for her support of this bill, and all of the educators and individuals with dyslexia who have worked tirelessly to improve our understanding of dyslexia and related learning disorders.”
Sen. Martin Golden said, “Students who are diagnosed with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia require unique and specialized educational learning. Consequently, it is vitally important that the Commissioner of Education provide detailed guidelines to every school district on how to successfully assist students afflicted with these remediable disabilities. It is reported that millions of American students have dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia. Sadly, many suffer in silence because their learning disability goes undiagnosed or incorrectly treated. Incredibly, people with these learning disabilities excel in areas of art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales and sports. A list of such people would include Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Stephen Spielberg, Leonardo da Vinci, Winston Churchill and many other highly successful individuals. I am confident that this bill will encourage the dissemination of proper guidelines and establish educational strategies to help students with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia. We owe it to every student to provide them with the tools they need lead productive lives and achieve great success.”
Assembly Member Herman D. Farrell, Jr. said, “I am glad that people are finally understanding dyslexia. Before I knew that I had dyslexia, I thought I wasn’t smart, but now we know that you can be dyslexic and excel in school and life once you get the appropriate evaluation and support. We also know that dyslexia runs in families and my daughters have dyslexia as well. My youngest daughter attends a specialized school where she is thriving and her self-esteem is high because the teachers are trained in effective methods of teaching such children. Her experience is totally different than mine was. This legislation will help more young people like my daughter be identified, and get the help they need so they don’t struggle unnecessarily and so they can be successful in all of their future endeavors.”
Senator David Carlucci said, “Early interventions have shown to be an effective tool in child development and educational foundation. The enactment of this bill will give thousands of students in New York a level playing field as they grow into their skills at different paces and allow them to become successful students. I applaud everyone’s efforts to do the right thing for children challenged by dyslexia or other learning disabilities.”
“Dyslexia is a disorder that prevents too many children from succeeding at school and being everything they can be with all their God-given talents. If we have the tools to train more educators to identify the signs of dyslexia, then we have a better opportunity to create individual education plans for children who need them and boost their self-esteem so they can reach their full potentials. I thank Senator Golden and Assemblymember Simon for being the lead sponsors for this bi-partisan legislation and thanks to the Governor for signing it into law so we can help more New Yorkers treat dyslexia,” said Senator Jim Tedisco.
Senator John Brooks said, “If such policies had been in place when I was a young student struggling with dyslexia, perhaps I could have reaped the benefits of an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate, associated educational programs. Opening the door of awareness to all educators, school districts and stakeholders is a vital step in ensuring all students have a chance to reach their full potential – regardless of learning abilities. I’m pleased that the Governor has signed this crucial piece of legislation into law.”
“I want to commend Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for her leadership and advocacy in spearheading this bill through the legislature. As someone who struggled with dyslexia as a child, I know that allowing for a diagnosis of dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia on a child’s IEP will help to ensure that the child receives the appropriate educational services that they are entitled to. Proper diagnosis and early intervention are essential to a child becoming academically successful and this legislation will help ensure that happens,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll.
“Because I received the proper remediation and support I was able to accomplish academic feats with confidence and determination. I want the same opportunities for every dyslexic student. I am glad that New York has joined other states in recognizing that Dyslexia is a real disability and kids need real support in the classroom,” said Skye Meredith Lucas, 17, dyslexia awareness advocate, University of Pennsylvania class of 2021.
Lavinia Mancuso of Everyone Reading said, “What a simple and powerful piece of legislation! Parents, teachers and students will be relieved and enlightened to have a more specific and descriptive term for this learning disability. Once a situation is better defined, it can be more effectively addressed.”
Debra Rafferty of Decoding Dyslexia NY said, “Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. Students with dyslexia can be helped in our public schools if provided the science-based instruction, training and education that have been shown to be effective. Our greatest resource to help these children is our teachers. However, we need to enable them with the needed training, education, and awareness of dyslexia. Decoding Dyslexia NY supports this legislation to address this gap in properly understanding and identifying dyslexia. These children need our help. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has found that students who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times as more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. Literacy is the pathway to learning in all areas. We learn to read, so we may read to learn and live productive lives. We applaud efforts by Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, Senator Martin Golden and their colleagues to pass this legislation.”