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Texas lawmakers consider bill tweaking how schools screen for dyslexia

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 9:47 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Texas lawmakers are expected to consider a bill this week on the House floor that would reinforce federal law requiring schools to evaluate students suspected of having dyslexia under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Currently, some students are evaluated under the IDEA and later receive special education resources.

Others are evaluated and receive certain classroom accommodations through an alternate Texas-specific pathway known as a 504 plan.

“The bill makes sure that the school follows federal education law by offering that [IDEA] evaluation to parents when a disability is suspected,” Rebecca Holmes with the Kitchen Table Parent Group, which has pushed for the bill, told KWTX.

“We were denied access via an evaluation in second grade, fifth grade, sixth grade and eighth grade,” she said.

She said she supports such an evaluation because of the built-in benchmarks that come with receiving resources under the IDEA.

“You get progress monitoring about how your kid is progressing in reading at every grading period; you have goals individualized for your kid,” she said.

According to the bill, House Bill 3880, after a school evaluated a student under the IDEA, it would have to meet with parents to discuss the results and next steps.

At that point, parents could decide that their kids should receive special education resources or accommodations under a 504 plan — or plot out another strategy.

“The process beginning under IDEA only means that the parents and the school have complete information to then work together as partners to figure out how that child should be served at school, but it doesn’t predetermine any student to be served in particular way,” Holmes said.

However, Shannon Meroney, a consultant with the Texas Academic Language Therapy Association, said that the bill would limit families to one pathway for dyslexia evaluations.

“What this bill would do is eliminate a second pathway that Texas created a long time ago when a lot of teachers and dyslexia specialists realized that this federal system was really not working well for dyslexics,” Meroney told KWTX.

She said that ultimately parents could decide what path they would want to take after an initial IDEA screening, but that draws out the process longer than it needs to be.

“It for sure is going to take three to four months under the regular process,” she said.

She also said that IDEA evaluations are not always conducted by dyslexia experts.

“That can only be done by law by a diagnostician, which is typically a licensed school counselor, and they typically don’t have very much specialized training in dyslexia.”

The bill passed unanimously out of committee earlier this month.

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