Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon and Senator Martin Golden Announce the Unanimous Passage of Bipartisan Dyslexia Bill

June 21, 2017

Albany, NY – On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon (D-Brooklyn) and Senator Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) announced that the Assembly and the Senate unanimously passed dyslexia legislation A8262/S6581 that will improve awareness of and understanding of dyslexia, a common learning disability, which will in turn help more students learn to read and be successful students. The bill is supported by a coalition of advocates, students, parents, educators, and individuals with dyslexia, including several legislators who shared their personal stories about dyslexia.

For decades, school districts believed that schools were not allowed to use the word “dyslexia” in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), but could use only the broad classification “Learning Disability” from the federal Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA). However, federal regulations contained no such restriction and no similar restriction existed in connection with other IDEA disability classifications; schools freely named specific visual or mobility impairments, such as macular degeneration, or muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy. While the U.S. Department of Education has issued regulatory guidance clarifying the ability to use this term, this has still been an area of confusion.

This bill 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 learn to read and be successful students.

Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said, “This legislation will lead to improved understanding of dyslexia because it will provide accurate guidance to school districts and assist schools in targeting language-based interventions, helping more children learn to read and become successful students. For far too long, there has been inadequate attention to dyslexia and confusion about the ability of schools to even use the word ‘dyslexia’ in IEPs. With a clear focus on the identification of dyslexia, schools will be able to effectively identify and treat this common learning disability that affects an estimated 15% of the population. When children’s learning needs are properly identified, educators will be in a better position to teach them, and children who currently struggle in silence will be able to shine. Thank you to all 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 high 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 passage 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 boosting 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 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 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 bill 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 hope New York joins 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, affecting 1 out of every 4 children. Students with dyslexia can be helped in our public schools if provided the science-based instruction, training and education that has 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."

Approximately 15% of children have dyslexia, a brain based learning disability that makes word recognition, spelling and reading success a very difficult task. About 85% of children with learning disabilities have dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability in children. Yet, most parents, teachers, and administrators have trouble recognizing its symptoms.