While we appreciate and support all efforts to raise awareness regarding the negative impact that ADHD and other Specific Learning Disabilities can have on one’s education and life, our primary focus is on dyslexia. Our hope is that since H.Res. 456 (Calling on schools and State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed) is focused solely on dyslexia that it will lead to further legislation resulting in dyslexia becoming a separate category under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Currently, dyslexia is listed as an example under the category of Specific Learning Disability in IDEA, but this unfortunately is not addressing the needs of students with dyslexia. The main issue is that schools do not diagnose, but only evaluate to determine if a student is eligible for services under IDEA. More often than not, schools do not use the term dyslexia, rather, they say a child has a reading disability in the areas of decoding, fluency, and/or comprehension. This results in schools not appropriately identifying the needs of the student and not providing appropriate remediation to the student. There is so much research about dyslexia and what works for students with dyslexia, from the appropriate, evidenced based instruction, to accommodations and technology, that is just not being provided and sometimes flat out denied by schools. Not only is this denying students with dyslexia a free, appropriate, public education ( FAPE), it is also denying them of their civil rights to an equal access to an education. Lumping dyslexia under the category of Specific Learning Disability allows schools to get away with not using the term dyslexia, and this denies students with dyslexia the evidenced based programs and tools they need for a meaningful education
designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living
as stated under IDEA Section 1400(d)(1)(A) .
Dyslexia is by far the most common of the specific learning disabilities, affecting 1 in 5 people. In The NICHD Research Program in Reading Development, Reading Disorders and Reading Instruction by G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., former Chief of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, stated
converging evidence from longitudinal, population-based data indicate that at least 17 percent to 20 percent of children have a significant reading disability”, “or 1 child in 5 will experience significant difficulties learning to read well enough to utilize reading to learn and for enjoyment.”
There is strong converging evidence for a genetic cause of some types of reading disability with deficits in phonemic awareness being the greatest hereditary factor.”
Of those students that have qualified under IDEA for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), approximately 80-85% qualified for having a disability in reading. To put this into perspective, according to the National Institute of Health, ADHD affects 3-5% of all children and autism affects 1.36% of children (or 1 in 88). In contrast, dyslexia affects up to 20% of children. While some may argue that there is no need for dyslexia to be listed as a separate category under IDEA because it is a specific learning disability and tends to be comorbid with other conditions such as ADHD, deficits in other areas can be supported, but it is the lack of evidence based, explicit, systematic, structured language instruction that is detrimentally disabling for those with dyslexia and this is why dyslexia needs to be its own separate category in IDEA.
For further information, please refer to Drs. Sally & Bennett Shaywitz review of the differences between H. Res. 456 and H. Res. 623.