Missouri offers financial help to children with dyslexia

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Local schools need more guidance from state on handling change

Missouri amended Bryce's Law this year to better assist children who have dyslexia.

"Bryce's Law was initially written by State Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis, in an effort to provide scholarships for families of autistic children that would help offset the financial impact and barrier to services that Missouri families were seeking," said Jennifer Edwards, the co-founder of Decoding Dyslexia Missouri, which is a group made up of families who have children with dyslexia. "Last year, Scharnhorst and State Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, added dyslexia to the provision of Bryce's Law for the same reason.

"Families can spend thousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of dollars annually in private remediation for their dyslexic children in order to teach them to read. Since our current educational system fails to properly identify children with dyslexia or offer reading programs that are effective, families have little choice but to solve this problem on their own and at their own expense."

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and scholarship granting organizations will provide the financial assistance to send eligible children to a qualified school or to a clinical trial that involves behavioral interventions.

"A student with dyslexia may become eligible for a scholarship based on a medical or clinical diagnosis based on the C-TOPP assessment as an initial indicator of dyslexia and confirmed by further medical or clinical diagnosis," according to Bryce's Law.

The state's commissioner of education must adjust the scholarship amounts between autism and the other qualifying special needs, which includes dyslexia, starting in 2016--17.

The state has not issued any guidance on specifics concerning dyslexia under the Bryce's Law, said Amy Stephenson, the special services director for the Cassville School District.

"There's a category of autism, but there is not a dyslexic category under the state plan," Stephenson said.

Each principal in the district takes care of the intervention programs for students, such as reading, comprehension or math, she said. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act does not include dyslexia.

The 16 categories of disabilities under the act are autism, deaf-blindness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, deafness, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech impairment, language impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, blindness and young child with a developmental delay.

"The teachers give information to the parents regarding what skills they can help with at home and if there are any outside resources that they can tap into," Stephenson said.

The school district has intervention programs that go all the way throughout the high school level, she said.

According to The International Dyslexia Association: "Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge."

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