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Ensuring that all students achieve their full potential remains a prime motivator for education officials throughout the state, so even small steps in this direction deserve support and praise.
Legislators took such a step in the past session, a step that beginning in the new school year should increase the likelihood children who struggle to read because they are dyslexic get properly diagnosed and appropriate classroom accommodations to meet their distinct needs.
Unfortunately, however, the legislature failed to include money to pay for the additional costs school districts are certain to incur to test and teach these students. This threatens to reduce the impact of the legislation.
The bill passed last session requires that dyslexia be specifically named among the possible learning disorders listed on individual education plan forms. This will serve as a black-and-white reminder to both parents and educators that this too-often overlooked or misdiagnosed disorder that causes highly intelligent students to struggle to read must be considered when assessing possible special education services.
Dyslexia causes everyday struggles for between one and four children in every class of about 24 students, according to data from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. These children find the task of reading to range from difficult to nearly impossible. For some, reading is physically painful and for all it requires more time and effort than it does for their non-dyslexic peers.
While the bill did not make monumental changes in special education procedures, the dire need for even this small step was seen in the numbers who traveled to Hartford to plead for the bill's passage. During an Education Committee hearing, dozens of dyslexic students and their parents told legislators of their frustrations, the bullying and harassment suffered, the diagnostic delays they endure and the foot-dragging from school officials who sometimes contend testing and services are not necessary. In many instances, families spend hundreds of their own dollars to have their children tested and diagnosed.
In addition to trying to save families from some of this anguish, the legislature also moved to ensure future generations of educators more fully understand dyslexia and how to teach dyslexics. The new law requires such course work be added to special education training curriculum beginning a year from now.
Still, the best of intentions remain meaningless if there are no resources with which to implement the law. Indeed, the law has added a question mark to school districts' budget sheets because there is no way administrators can know how much extra testing they may need to do and what type of services they will need to provide.
Add to this the fact that the state never has lived up to promises to fully fund special education costs. Local taxpayers currently can pay in the neighborhood of a quarter of their district's special education costs.
Additional testing and services, no matter how necessary, will only add to this huge financial burden for school districts and, sadly, the cost of services will remain a factor in special education decision-making.