A new dyslexia law has got Virginia educators and dyslexia advocates mighty pleased and excited. The new legislation, just signed into law by Governor Terry McAuliffe, calls for teachers to undergo training in dyslexia awareness. Teachers will have to take a single one-hour online course in order to qualify for or renew a license to teach.
Can a brief one-hour virtual lesson for teachers make a difference in the classroom?
Dyslexia experts say yes. Because that one lesson won’t make teachers experts in dyslexia, a reading difficulty affecting one in every five children. That lesson will, however, help teachers spot signs of dyslexia in their students. More to the point, the course will guide teachers in ensuring those children have the support and assistance they need to succeed in the classroom.
New Dyslexia Law: Effective July 2017
The new dyslexia law takes effect beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. Dyslexia experts say the law is important because the earlier children are identified as having dyslexia, the sooner they can begin treatment. The earlier children receive treatment for dyslexia, the more likely it is they will learn to manage their difficulties and go on to read and learn.
Because teachers have not been educated to spot reading difficulties in their pupils, some children with dyslexia fall through the cracks. Some children fake their way through school and life pretending they can read. As adults, they may never find adequate employment.
Why would a person pretend to be literate? It’s a societal thing. We take pride in academic accomplishment. Not being able to read, in that light, can feel shameful.
Which is a shame, because there’s no shame in having dyslexia, a common disability. And there are ways for children with dyslexia to excel in school. They just need to receive help and support.
An Unexpected Difficulty
Dyslexia is defined as an “unexpected difficulty,” which means that people with dyslexia are of normal intelligence. That is why we fail so many children with dyslexia. It’s why these children are not diagnosed and treated.
Teachers look at the student with dyslexia and see a child of normal intelligence, not learning to read. That teacher may think, “This child is not trying hard enough,” or even, “This child is lazy. The teacher may even reprimand the student, or give a negative report to the child’s parents. This leads to shame and feelings of failure in these children. Sometimes the effects of all this last a lifetime.
The new dyslexia law should change all that for the children of Virginia. From next year on, a teacher who sees a bright child struggling to read, will understand the child has a reading disability and needs extra help. The accusations of laziness will be a thing of the past, and so will the shame. There will still be calls home to parents: calls that explain and advise, rather than accuse.
There is nothing shameful about having a brain difference, which is how many experts see dyslexia. The brain simply sees things a different way which makes it difficult to translate symbols into sound. The new dyslexia law will do a great deal to change educators’ perceptions of students who struggle to read. This will, in turn, do a great deal to help children with dyslexia feel good about themselves. Freed from any sense of shame, children with reading difficulties will now feel encouraged to do what they need to do to get ahead in school and in life.
The new dyslexia law is a beautiful thing, almost a miracle. Let’s hope the idea of educating teachers in dyslexia awareness spreads and grows so no child ever has to feel shame for being different in Virginia or anywhere else.